At a time where India was facing social, economical and political reform it was absolutely vital that Hindu religion and culture developed in a way that would not only preserve Hinduism but also withstand foreign religious and social criticism. Reform at this stage was inevitable but more important was the nature of this reform. The key aim was to enhance and preserve the development of Hinduism and so different people reacted to this in different ways depending on their faith and key ideas.
Ramakrishna focused on spiritual development and allowed a liberal view of God.
One main theme that was reinforced by Ramakrishna was his desire to see in God in all. Ramakrishna believed that true self-realisation only came when everything was transformed into a manifestation of God. I have now come to a stage of realization in which I see that God is walking in every human form and manifesting Himself alike through the sage and the sinner. God in the form of the saint, God in the form of the sinner, God in the form of the righteous, God in the form of the unrighteous. For Ramakrishna all the religion led to the same destination. This has become one of the modern principles of Hinduism today. Ideas such as these have allowed Hinduism to stand the test of time and allow many different ways of thinking to be absorbed into Hinduism and therefore survive the wave of western influence.
However Daynanda imposed a monotheistic belief in God and relied only on the Vedas as being truly authentic. Daynanda fiercely opposed any foreign influence unlike Ramakrishna who was more tolerant and absorbed external influences. It is not good to feel ones own religion is correct claimed Ramakrishna is his response to Hinduism.
Two key areas that both Ramakrishna and Daynanda significantly differed on were the use of idols. According to 1Klaus Klosterimeir Ramakrishna felt that images were also a manifestation of God. 2He particularly worshipped Kali as a divine avatar of the Mother Goddess and had many visions of her. For him the murti came to life through his dedication and sacrificial offerings. Daynanda felt that he was justified in worshipping idols since the Hindu epics and puranas are full of instances where many devas and human beings obtained favours from God after worshipping Him in a particular image. For example, in the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna does not condemn worshipping gods in various forms, though He advises his devotees to worship the Supreme Self. (VII. 23). This would be considered in line with the true traditions of Hinduism which gives unlimited choice to its followers to approach God in whatever they choose to worship Him.
3However, Daynanda strongly opposed idolatry, as he believed that God is omnipresent and thus cannot have an image. According to him idols were both meaningless and distracting. The average pujari may be led to believe that the statue is God, which undermines the omnipotence of God. Clearly the human body is the real temple of God. The Divine Being resides in the human heart.
Furthermore, according to historians, the Vedic Aryans did not worship idols though they invoked various gods through performance of sacrificial rituals. The practice came into existence probably during the later vedic phase when many new tribes were incorporated into the Aryan society and some of their practices including the worship of idols were accepted by the former as an acceptable form of divine worship. The practice became popular definitely by the Mauryan and post Mauryan period when idols and temples started appearing in various parts of India. The Guptas were great worshippers of Vishnu and built many temples in His honor.
Both felt that the current caste system was not fair and needed to reform. Ramakrishna believed that if a Hindu developed his mystical side and practised bhakti worshipped. This would lead to the natural eliminatation of the caste system and ones ego since everything was a manifestation of God and class struggle no longer exists. Lovers of god have no caste On the other hand, Daynanda did not want to abandon the caste system altogether but felt that it needed to be re defined. This means that those with Knowledge and good works should be the true Brahmins. In contrast the nature of Ramakrishna reform was based on mystical experience whereas Daynanda bases caste on peoples actions rather than belief.
A key difference between the nature of reformation of Ramakrishna and Daynanda was their attitude on acquiring knowledge. For Ramakrishna knowledge was secondary to loving God. Maya conceals knowledge from man. It is through ignorance man forgets God and fails to achieve union with God. 4Ramakrishna specifically states that woman and gold are the main distraction from gold..
The Bhagavad gita gives its own verdict on this subject, The self is the enemy of the self and the self is also the friend of the self. The outer self is an enemy of the inner self when we become attached with the external world, turn selfish and egoistic and it is a friend when we become selfless and detached innerly. Daynanda proposes that the only way to become selfless is through bhakti. However for Daynanda, samadhi with God cannot be achieved until one attains Jnana. This can be done through self-realisation and possessing qualities as perfect knowledge, perfect dharma, prefect development¦
According to Daynanda women should be particularly educated as they should be able to run the household efficiently. Dayananda was well aware that originally in the Vedic period there was equality of men and women but it was in the later Aryan period after 300 B.C., domination by the Brahmins (the priestly class), the growth of the caste system and other factors led to social decline. Child marriage became the norm, wives were expected to worship their husbands, barren women were thrown out of their homes and widows were not permitted to remarry. It is evident that the nature of Daynanda reform concerned social and political matters. It was only through practical steps such as erasing old-fashioned customs and through education that Hindus could truly realise what is the truth and start to progress.
It is important to highlight that even though Ramakrishna advocates the equality of women his reasons are very different. Ramakrishna has shown the source of that respect for women, not as economic entities; not as political entities but respect for women born out of a feeling of worship, full of adoration for the divine power within them. Ramakrishna believed that it was only through goddess worship could women be treated in a non-sexual way.
Daynandas primary concern was not only religious but also political. For him Hinduism was not only about a monotheistic faith deriving from the Vedas but also felt that Hinduism should define a nation. Hindusim needed to answer some vital questions in order to reform in way that protected the Hindus culture and heritage. The question being what did it mean to be an Indian Hindu? To answer this he imposed Hindi as the national language whilst pushing aside the other languages such as Urdu, Persian, Punjabi and Sohaili. Dayanada believed that language was a prominent was of preserving the religion. For example the constant use of religious terminology would strengthen Hindu ideas. The consequence of this resulted in a strong outbreak of Hindu nationalism.
In constrast to this Ramakrishna was an activist as such and did not come purely for the political freedom of India, or merely for the economic or social upliftment of this country. He came for the welfare of the whole of humanity. Whereas Dauynanda felt that language was the key method id promoting Hindu nationalism Ramakrishna felt that it is only when we learn to respect ourselves as individuals that we shall be able to rise as a nation. It is only the self-respecting man who knows how to respect others The core of these teachings was that India can only foster true nationalism when it self realisation is cultivated.
In conclusion the nature of reformation differed between Ramakrishna and Daynanda depending on how they viewed Hinduism. For Ramakrishna, the nature of reform needed to be directed towards the re discovery of the self. Whereas for Daynanada, the nature of reform concerned social and political reform in order to preserve the real Hinduism.
Therefore it can be seen that the nature of Ramakrishnas reform was a much more tolerant, plural and liberal one. However it did nit contain all the elements for a reformation that preserved Hinduism. Daynandas nature of reformation directed Hindu to the original truth and stripped off all the extra features that were restricting the progress of Hinduism. He advocated the education of women, belief in one God and re defining of the caste system. This was all very appropriate since he thought that religion has much more to offer than just a system to channel religious beliefs. This shows that the nature of the reform was very important since reform itself was inevitable anyway.
1 Klaus Klosterimeir
3 Gyln Richards. A source book of Hinduism
4 Glyn Richards. A source book of Modern Hindusim
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