Hindu Revivalism

At the root of all-pervasive problem of the crisis of character is the decline of religion. I wish to voice my serious concern over the state of Hinduism as it is found in practice. For the educated class, and more so for the young, it has no meaning except for certain ceremonies which are performed without faith to conform to social customs. For some important sections of the Hindu community, piety or religiosity is only a means to obtain divine sanction for unethical behaviour, such as black-marketing, tax-evasion, profiteering, etc. For the mass of Hindus, religion means nothing more than a few mythological tales, crass superstition, some taboos and empty observances.
Religion as a formative, humanizing, ennobling force hardly seems to have survived. The great movements of religious reform of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have spent their driving force. The outer dead shell of Karma kanda is all that seems to be left of Hindu religion, and nothing or little of the inner core. In its outward form our religion still sanctions the hierarchy of castes, even the crime of untouchability.

Between word and deed there are contradictions that balk the imagination. It is not uncommon to meet the catholicity of Vedantism in words accompanied with the most narrow-minded caste observances in deeds. We talk glibly about the tolerance of Hindu religion, yet do not raise an eyebrow when men, women and children are butchered for belonging to another religion. Only recently, no less than a hundred murders were committed because, to begin with, a non-Hindu student, while protesting deep reverence for one of our departed national leaders, refused to garland his bust on the ground that his religion forbade every form of idol worship.

There is a good deal of current talk about Hindu revivalism. I believe firmly that for Hindu society, revival is essential if it is to put forth its best and reach its height of achievement. But the revivalism now taking place will push Hindu society further backward, and may incidentally destroy even what we have of the unity of our nation. The Hindu religion is a strange mixture of good and bad, sublime and low, the most emancipated thought and bigoted obscurantism. What happens to the future of Hindu society depends upon which of these strains are to be selected, nourished and propagated.

Source: From the Convocation Address, Delhi University, December 23, 1966.