Monday, 2 January 2017

Why temple entry - MK Gandhii

A Harijan worker writes:(The letter is not translated here. The correspondent had argued that the activities for promoting the welfare of Harijans would do more harm than good to the
Harijans, since the temples were not the dwelling places of God but breeding grounds for vice. The sanatanist Hindus, while ill-treating the Harijans, had done one good thing indirectly by keeping the Harijans out of these temples. Gandhiji, therefore, was ill-advised in seeking the help of law to win temple-entry for Harijans.) 

This letter has been written with a pure and good intention and it reflects the views of some, though not of many youths; so I publish it. To my mind there is nothing but excitement in this letter. The writer has no proof to justify what he has said about temples.

Perhaps he has not visited Kashi Vishwanath, Puri and Guruvayur. Even if some malpractices are prevalent in these temples, the Hindu pilgrims and visitors are unaware of and untouched by them. One gets there what one goes in search of. A father will look upon a woman as his daughter, her husband as his wife, her son as his mother and a sensualist as his victim. Should the father, the husband and the son forsake that woman because of the sensualits? I have been to the
temples at both Kashi Vishwanath and Puri. I must admit that I was not inspired by faith to visit them, but I had seen innumerable innocent souls going there with devotion. I did not pity them, but I fell in love with them and I could understand their devotion. These numerous devotees had no idea whatever of the malpractices prevalent in temples. One must bear in mind that wicked acts take place secretly and only a few people have knowledge of them. Devotees attribute perfection to God.

The devotees’ God is full of innocence, that of non-devotees full of faults. The Krishna of the innumerable Hindus is a perfect incarnation. To the critics Krishna is immoral, a gambler, a liar and so on. The mind alone is the cause of bondage and of deliverance. The young correspondent must know and understand this eternal truth. Just as human beings cannot think of the at man without the body, similarly they cannot think of religion without temples. The Hindu religion cannot survive without temples. There is corruption in the temples; it may be in some persons but not in all. An idol is a stone to one who merely goes through the ritual of worship, but to a true devotee it is all life. There is room for reform in the temples. It is not proper to demolish them. Demolish the temples and you destroy religion.

Moreover, the putrefaction that has set in is not to be found in
all temples. It is not there in many temples in villages. The many superstitions prevalent among the villagers have no connection with the temples. Temples are veritable museums of the cultures of different religions. In old times, God dwelt in the temple and godliness too; it housed a school, a dharmasala; and it was the place where the leading people of the locality met together. Such temples are still to be found in many places. Harijans have set their hearts on
temples to such an extent that they build their own temples of sorts. We discern their helplessness in these temples. As long as the Harijans cannot enter the temples of caste Hindus, their helplessness will never end, their Hinduism will remain incomplete; in spite of being the sixth finger of Hinduism, they will only remain uncared for. No Hindu should doubt that the first and all-comprehensive sign of their admission into Hinduism is temple-entry.

It is the height of ignorance to believe that the Harijans have fared well by remaining outside the temple. By remaining outside the temples, they have remained outside everything. And even today the attempts made by the sanatanists to keep them out of the temples suggest that they want to perpetuate their exclusion.The letter in question makes sad reading despite the noble views expressed in it. It depicts the pitiable condition of sophisticated modern youth. Young people may perhaps be angry at this statement and may believe that people like me deserve to be pitied. But my experience clearly shows how ignorant they are.

I have visited many temples in my childhood. That did not at all have any bad influence on me. Today I see many of my friends going to the temples. They know nothing of their shortcomings, but they are aware of the vices of the temple-goers. They are quite untouched by those vices. I do not consider it a mark of greatness that I do not visit temples. I feel no need to go to temples; hence I do not visit them. To secure temple-entry for the Harijans does not necessarily mean taking them into a temple. Those will visit it who wish to. Those who go there will not get a stigma and those who do not may possibly lose something.

Now a few words about the law. In the same heat of excit-ement in which the writer has condemned temples with little or no justification, he has here also exposed his ignorance. In spite of having some acquaintance with me, he did not ponder over the fact that, if I who depend the least on law believe in the necessity of it in respect of temples, there must be some potent reason for it. Now he may understand that reason. Today the law says that not a single temple is open to the Harijans and a trustee who opens it for them is liable to punishment. In the circumstances, if we do not demand a law to do away with such a state of affairs, the temples will never be thrown open to Harijans. The help of the law is indispensable. A bad law can only be abolished by a good law. There is no other way at all.

Here we have not sought the interference of law but the doing away of such interference. Those who concede that a law is required even to nullify a bad law can understand that the movement is to get enacted for the Harijans a law of that type.
[From Gujarati]
Harijanbandhu, 19-3-1933

No comments:

Post a comment