Were most social reformers in India against brahminism or against Hinduism itself?

From Kabir, Guru Nanak, Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar, perriyar etc. Where they against Brahminism or against Hinduism itself?

Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:

Thank you for the A2A.
I don’t really know whether the personalities you have mentioned were actually ‘against Hinduism’ itself. Probably many of their actions and discourses gave an impression that they probably were.
My own perceptions about these people have changed over the years. As Sruti Srinivasa Ragavan has aptly written, all these individuals were fighting the ‘system’ for certain specific causes. And why did they fight? Because one of the underlying principles of Hinduism itself is to question. Unless one questions something one does not understand, one could never attain knowledge about it. Nobody would spoon-feed you with the help of a manual on how to live your life. That is precisely what these ‘reformers’ did. They questioned the system. They questioned traditions. And arrived at conclusions based on what they perceived…which may be the truth or otherwise.
A very disturbing discovery I made recently was about what Swami Vivekananda had written about Kerala society. As a Malayali myself, it was a painful read for me. The ignorance in his message was appalling. How I wished I could turn back time and meet him and tell him that there is so much more to it. Nobody bothered to make him understand. He had come from a different environment. And our culture was a shock to him. And he took everything at face-value and wrote one of the most scathing reports ever about Kerala, that has gone down into history books because it was written by THE Swami Vivekananda. I remembered standing at the entrance of the Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram and looking at the inscription of Swami Vivekananda’s address on the archway. I remembered how impressed I was. Was this the same man, I asked myself. I copy-paste the words of the inscription here…
It is in love that religion exists and not in ceremony, in the pure and sincere love in the heart. Unless a man is pure in body and mind, his coming into a temple and worshipping Shiva is useless. The prayers of those that are pure in mind and body will be answered by Shiva, and those that are impure and yet try to teach religion to others will fail in the end. External worship is only a symbol of internal worship; but internal worship and purity are the real things. Without them, external worship would be of no avail. Therefore you must all try to remember this.
People have become so degraded in this Kali Yuga that they think they can do anything, and then they can go to a holy place, and their sins will be forgiven. If a man goes with an impure mind into a temple, he adds to the sins that he had already, and goes home a worse man than when he left it. Tirtha (place of pilgrimage) is a place which is full of holy things and holy men. But if holy people live in a certain place, and if there is no temple there, even that is a Tirtha. If unholy people live in a place where there may be a hundred temples, the Tirtha has vanished from that place. And it is most difficult to live in a Tirtha; for if sin is committed in any ordinary place it can easily be removed, but sin committed in a Tirtha cannot be removed. This is the gist of all worship — to be pure and to do good to others. He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, or creed, or race, or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.
A rich man had a garden and two gardeners. One of these gardeners was very lazy and did not work; but when the owner came to the garden, the lazy man would get up and fold his arms and say, “How beautiful is the face of my master”, and dance before him. The other gardener would not talk much, but would work hard, and produce all sorts of fruits and vegetables which he would carry on his head to his master who lived a long way off. Of these two gardeners, which would be the more beloved of his master? Shiva is that master, and this world is His garden, and there are two sorts of gardeners here; the one who is lazy, hypocritical, and does nothing, only talking about Shiva’s beautiful eyes and nose and other features; and the other, who is taking care of Shiva’s children, all those that are poor and weak, all animals, and all His creation. Which of these would be the more beloved of Shiva? Certainly he that serves His children. He who wants to serve the father must serve the children first. He who wants to serve Shiva must serve His children — must serve all creatures in this world first. It is said in the Shâstra that those who serve the servants of God are His greatest servants. So you will bear this in mind.
Let me tell you again that you must be pure and help any one who comes to you, as much as lies in your power. And this is good Karma. By the power of this, the heart becomes pure (Chitta-shuddhi), and then Shiva who is residing in every one will become manifest. He is always in the heart of every one. If there is dirt and dust on a mirror, we cannot see our image. So ignorance and wickedness are the dirt and dust that are on the mirror of our hearts. Selfishness is the chief sin, thinking of ourselves first. He who thinks, “I will eat first, I will have more money than others, and I will possess everything”, he who thinks, “I will get to heaven before others I will get Mukti before others” is the selfish man. The unselfish man says, “I will be last, I do not care to go to heaven, I will even go to hell if by doing so I can help my brothers.” This unselfishness is the test of religion. He who has more of this unselfishness is more spiritual and nearer to Shiva. Whether he is learned or ignorant, he is nearer to Shiva than anybody else, whether he knows it or not. And if a man is selfish, even though he has visited all the temples, seen all the places of pilgrimage, and painted himself like a leopard, he is still further off from Shiva.
It is the same man who wrote that Malabar is an asylum for lunatics! 😦
Most of these reformers, in my opinion, did not go deep enough into the tenets of Hinduism before they set out demanding a change. For them, the immediate problem right in front of them had to be tackled. Or at least what they perceived to be ‘a problem’.
I will tell you a little story of sorts. My dad’s ancestral home is in a quaint village deep in the heart of rural Kerala. It is a perfect example of old-world charm…paddy fields all around, a huge 250-year old house, orchards of coconut palms, banana trees, mangoes, etc., a 5-cow strong cowshed and lots of greenery all around. Now my dad’s family was the ONLY property owning family in the village. The rest of the people were their serfs and their families, who worked on our fields and orchards. My dad tells me that these serfs were never paid in money for their services. Everything was in kind – three meals for the worker and his/her family, all household expenses were borne by my dad’s family (birth, death, marriage,etc.), clothes to wear were provided, everything you could possibly think of. And everybody lived in harmony. Nobody complained. Nobody shouted slogans. Nobody called strikes. Everyone was content. Then came in the social reformers – religious, political, sociopolitical, etc. And everything was toppled. And now nobody is happy. Everyone is perpetually complaining about everything! The social reformers did the right thing by ‘awakening’ these people, as per their claims. But did they even see the damage that they did in the long run? What they have created is a chronically unhappy generation who never finds true happiness in anything. All you hear are complaints and cribbing 24×7. They might argue that this is for the ‘betterment of society’. Has society really become any better? No. We have more caustic individuals among us than ever before. The fight for social equality has grown to unimaginable levels.
So while the social reformers appeared to have changed or fought to bring about significant positive change in society, the result of their actions may or may not be what they intended it to be. There are definitely things that have gone very wrong.

Were most social reformers in India against brahminism or against Hinduism itself?


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