Religion, religious scriptures
The different connotations of the word ‘dharma’
The actions of human beings in this world were thought to affect his existence in the hereafter. So ‘dharma’ came to also mean that which upheld his life in the hereafter. In the past, the rules that governed worldly relations between individuals and nations were also termed‘dharma’. This is clear from terms such as dharma of war (yuddhadharma), dharma of governance (rajdharma), dharma of conduct(vyavahaardharma) and the like. (1934, Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.309-310)
What is Sanatana dharma (*lit: the eternal code)?
Those laws of nature that have been experimentally vindicated and have stood the test of time verily constitute Sanatana dharma.
The worldly conduct, ethics, practices and laws of human beings may be regarded as beneficial or otherwise solely on the touchstone of benefit to humankind. They should be adhered to and amended also on that very touchstone. It is neither possible nor desirable for the code of human conduct in this ever-changing world to be Sanatana (*timeless). As the Mahabharata says, “hence, decide your conduct according to prevailing conditions.” (1934, Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.315-316)
All religious scriptures are man-made
A close scrutiny of the Vedas as well as the Muslim Quran, the Christian Bible and the Jewish Old Testament and the Book of Moses makes it clear that the so-called divinely written or sent religious scriptures are man-made. No doubt, these scriptures have unprecedented historical and literary value. It is also admissible that these scriptures are a treasure house of words, worthy of respect and deep study…But they are not literally true. Several stories (in them) are purely imaginary! What does not stand the test of scientific reason ought to be verily discarded even if it appears in the Vedas, Avesta, Quran, Bible, Book of Moses and the like. It is not true that an age of yore is necessarily an age of truth! It is incorrect to think that everything that is ancient is necessarily sacred and worthy of worship. (1936, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 4, p.579)
No religious scripture is valid for all times
I do not consider any religious scripture to be unchangeable and valid for all times. I hold the shrutis, smritis (* shrutis literally that which is heard and understood refers to the Vedas and are considered to be the most authoritative texts in Sanatana dharma; the smritis are the lawbooks and manuals of Hinduism, and they have lesser authority than the shrutis) and such other scriptures in utmost reverence and gratitude not because they are inviolable holy scriptures but because they are of historical value. I shall apply the test of present day science to all the wisdom and ignorance present in these scriptures. Only then shall I unreservedly practice and update what is essential for upholding and rejuvenating the nation! (Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.364)
Once we descend from the outer space of non-dualism onto the firm ground of dualism then it is impossible to accept that the principle of welfare of all living beings literally means welfare of every living being…The expression ’Sarvabhootahite rataha’ (lit: ‘to strive for or engage in the welfare of all living beings’) merely states the broad principle but mainly means ‘to strive for or engage in the welfare of the greater number of humans’.
The science of ethics has to rely on utilitarianism while choosing one out of two actions as being correct. (1925, Kesari, 04 August)
Sri Krishna was the first acharya (preceptor) of utilitarianism
I used to believe and say that utility is the ethical code and underlying principle on the basis of which we should found and justify our revolutionary movement. Drawing from several incidents related to Sri Krishna in the Mahabharata, I used to prove from his speeches, teachings and actions that Sri Krishna was the first proponent, nay the first preceptor of utilitarianism. Sri Krishna showed how to practice it. He justified, indeed it is possible to justify all his actions on this one principle. (1947, Majhya aathvani or My reminiscences, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.1, p.206)
What is ethics or good attribute?
…Any thought or deed that is beneficial to human life may be termed ethical or meritorious. Whatever runs contrary to the same may be termed as unethical or harmful…In other words, human life is the touchstone of ethics. (1940, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.60)
When does truth become untruth?
Welfare of humanity is the sole litmus test of all good attributes. In other words, that which results in overall human welfare is truth, good attribute and dharma (*righteousness). But that ‘truth’ which punishes the innocent and spares the guilty is no truth, it is untruth or bad attribute. (1947, Majhya aathvani or My reminiscences, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.1, p.247)
Compassion is the highest sentiment
Of the various noble sentiments that are responsible for the stability, happiness, contentment and glory of the human race, compassion is the foremost. What a mother is to her child, so is compassion to society. (1936, Ksha kirane or X rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.239)
The origin of compassion for all living beings
Just as compassion for humankind is innate to humans, so too compassion for all living beings springs from a natural feeling of empathy and sympathy. Those whose horizons of compassion have broadened enough to include all animals gave compassion the pride of place as the highest human attribute. Compassion for humankind broadened initially to compassion for select animals and finally in the case of tender-hearted souls to compassion even for the most violent animals such as tigers and lions. (1936, Ksha kirane or X rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.241)
The Hindu nation’s experiment in compassion for all living beings
Many great souls have to date, implemented the principle of compassion for all living beings with great determination. Such great souls who practiced compassion for all human beings to the extent possible, have taken birth in many evolved societies. The Hindu nation has been in the forefront in regarding compassion not as merely a high-flown principle but something that is to be practiced in each living moment. This grand experiment played by the Hindu nation in this regard, unparalleled as it no doubt was, must be termed as praiseworthy, noble but an utter failure! (1936, Ksha kirane or X rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.241)
The Hindu nation’s experiment of practicing compassion or nonviolence to the extreme proved to be totally impracticable. The sacrifice, privations and penance that people suffered in carrying out this experiment is surely a tribute to humanity. The hardships faced by them have no parallel anywhere in the world. Their perseverance and kind-heartedness cannot be adequately lauded. And the failure they finally met with may also be termed in a sense, as a success. For they settled once and for all the question whether absolute compassion is possible and the limit to which it can be practised. Failure in any experiment is also a success. (1936, Ksha kirane or X rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya,Vol.3, p.241)
Cow-protection and cow-worship
Gratitude to the cow is consistent with the Hindu trait of compassion towards all living beings
…That we should look upon that extremely useful animal (cow) with the same affection as for a family member is no doubt in keeping with humanism. To protect and sustain the cow is our personal and familial duty. At least in the case of Hindusthan, it is also our national duty.
…To have a feeling of gratitude towards an animal that is so useful to us is particularly consistent with the Hindu trait of compassion towards all living beings. (1936, vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.340)
Do genuine cow protection
…Without spreading religious superstition, let the movement for cow protection be based and popularized on clear-cut and experimental economic and scientific principles. Then alone shall we achieve genuine cow protection like the Americans. (1934, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.171)
The cow should not be the emblem of the Hindu nation
The cow is but a milch symbol of the Hindu nation. By no means should it be considered its emblem (*Savarkar’s exact words are: gaay hi hindurashtraachaa ek dugdhabindu! Maanbindu navhech navhe!). The object of worship should be greater than its worshipper. Likewise, a national emblem should evoke the nation’s exemplary valour, brilliance, aspirations and make its people superhumans! The cow exploited and eaten at will, is an appropriate symbol of our present-day weakness. But at least the Hindu nation of tomorrow should not have such a pitiable symbol. (1936, Ksha kirane or X rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.237)
The symbol of Hindutva is not the cow but the man-lion (*Nrsinha or Narsimha is considered the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was half-man, half-lion).
The qualities of god permeate into his worshipper. Whilst considering the cow to be divine and worshipping her, the entire Hindu nation became docile like the cow. It started eating grass. If we are to now found our nation on the basis of an animal, let that animal be the lion. Using its sharp claws in one leap, the lion fatally knocks and wounds the heads of wild mammoths. We need to worship such a Nrsinha. That and not the cow’s hooves, is the mark of Hindutva. (1935, Ksha kirane or X rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.167)
The non-Hindus should discard their hatred for the cow and do genuine cow protection
…The religious character that Hindus have given to cow protection howsoever naïve is not symptomatic of cruelty. This is because protecting animals such as cows and buffaloes that are extremely useful to man have an objective of safeguarding human interests. But the religious fanaticism of those non-Hindus whose religion itself is based on hatred for the cow is not only naïve but also cruel. They have no right whatsoever to mock at the Hindus.
There is an overdose of gratitude, compassion, notion of all living beings being one in the cow worship of Hindus. But the cow slaughter indulged in by non-Hindus has an excess of cruelty, ungratefulness and demonic (asuric) taking of life. It is not religious madness but irreligious wickedness. For this reason, these non-Hindus should discard their ‘religious’ cow hatred and consider cow protection done for economic reasons to be their duty. (1935, Ksha kirane or X rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.171-172)
Religious vows and observances
How should vows and observances be selected?
The objectives of vows and observances are self-purification, reaping the fruits of actions and obtaining blessings for the hereafter. All these objectives can be met by service to humankind. If one were to select those vows and observances which directly benefit humankind, our society and nation and which instead of reinforcing ignorance and superstition in man further his knowledge and happiness, one can obtain this-worldly fruit of benefiting our nation and humankind and at the same time obtain blessing for the hereafter by pleasing the gods. (Samaj Chitre or portraits of society, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.2, p. 702)
Service to man is service to God
…The righteousness of yagnas (*sacrificial fire), charity and penances stems from their ability to uphold society. Man (Nar) is the ultimate manifestation of the Divine (Narayan). Which yagna, which vow, which penance other than that of serving humankind can please the gods? (1935, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p. 338)
Advice to women
Oh women, Hinduism will live and become victorious only if this Hindu nation lives, survives and becomes victorious. Hinduism will surely die if this Hindu nation were to die, if this Hindusthan becomes ahindusthan (lit: land of the non-Hindus). If Hindu women truly wish to observe religious vows, under the present circumstances, these have to be necessarily those that directly benefit this Hindu nation. Do such service on a regular basis! Give away riches, labour, food and if need be your honour and your very lives for this most beloved Hindu nation! That is the dharma (* righteousness) for both this world and the hereafter. Vows and observances are to be judged on this touchstone! (Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.4, p. 307)
Reinvent those vows that are based on superstitious beliefs
…Those vows that have no material benefit and are solely popularized on the basis of Puranic fables should be reinvented and given a different form. (Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.4, p. 298)
Which vows need to be observed?
…In the present circumstances, vows should directly serve the Hindu nation or humanity. They should alleviate the sufferings of the wretched and the meek. Vows should involve physical or economic hardships and should result in direct service of the nation. These are the vows that should be observed by Hindu saints and commoners. (Ksha kirane or X rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p. 157)
Which vows need to be discarded?
Those vows whose presiding gods and their descriptions have been rendered totally false by today’s experimental science should be discarded. In ancient times, certain incidents and lifeless objects were considered as living gods purely due to the ignorance regarding the science of creation. Those vows which were popularized merely to appease such gods should be considered worthy of rejection in the present time. (Samaj chitre or portraits of society, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.2, p. 703)
It is foolishness to say that I shall perform Satyanarayana puja if God blesses me
(*Satyanarayana puja is performed by devout Hindus on any auspicious occasion, usually in the Hindu month of shravan. It is usually performed as thanksgiving for blessings received; story of Satyanarayana narrated by Sri Vishnu to the rishi Narada in the Reva khand of Sri Skandapurana)
To hope that God will do what is good for me; to say that I shall perform satyanarayana puja if God blesses me is downright silly and utterly false. For if it is god whom we thank for saving us from a calamity, who brought that calamity upon us in the first place? The samesatyanarayana, the same god! (1934, Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.296)
The ultimate aim of all politics was formation of a world state. Nationalism, according to him should be consistent with humanism. “The Hindus will become free and will liberate the world for the protection of equality, kindness and the righteous people’’ wrote Savarkar, in “aika bhavishyala”,
Savarkar held that all scriptures are man made and not God sent and one should look at them not in a literal but historical sense. All were made in a particular stage to promote human welfare. We should look not only at them but even at notions of very primitive tribes like the Andamanese with a similar view.
"Which is the true Sanatana Dharma?" In short, Savarkar says, "It is impossible to live acording to Manusmriti today because times have changed and the rules in the book are not applicable for all times...Manusmriti, just like any other religious text, contains many contradictions. If we regard Manusmriti as divine, we cannot explain the contradictions. However, if we regard it as a historical document, we can easily explain the contradictions. Savarkar openly differs with several things recommended in the Manusmriti.