Six orthodox rules in Hinduism broken by Swami Vivekananda. Liberalization of Hinduism (shifting from orthodox to liberal). Very few know about it and without these, we would have lost our glory.
Six major orthodox rules in Hinduism were broken by Swami Vivekananda. This was a shift of Orthodox Hinduism to liberal one in the nineteenth century. We can appreciate his contribution if we evaluate his work based on the circumstances and situations of the society during that time.
1. Buddha’s compassion:
People are very creative while worshipping and invoking God on stones and images. But when it comes to poor and downtrodden, they escape by saying it is their Prarabdha(past life Karma), so they should suffer. And God will take care of them, why should we? There are many scriptures (smritis) mentioning the donation to priests to gain Punyam. Rarely do these inspire to donate to poor and downtrodden? More peculiar to it, they distinguish Vyavaharika and Paramarthika reality. They say Vyavaharika reality is Maya(false), and there will be difference and division among people and we need to accept suffering due to it. Mostly they apply this logic to other’s suffering, not for their own.
Swami Vivekananda criticized these attitudes of people. He said God is present in everybody’s heart. So service to mankind is service to God. He insisted on serving the living God present in the human temple. Don’t waste your energy in stone temples. He said intellectuality should go with Buddha’s compassion. He further goes ahead quoting his Guru Sri-Ramakrishna “who are you the insignificant, crawling on earth, to show compassion to others? Not compassion, rather worship the poor through service, the living God.”
2. Caste breaker:
First time in Indian Hinduism history Swami Vivekananda allowed Sudra (the 4th varna) to join as monks in asram and worship in the temple. Even He initiated two hundred untouchables into Gayatri mantra in Kolkata and converted them into Brahmin. Earlier Veda, Upanishads study were prohibited for Surda. Smriti holds that Veda is not to be read in the vicinity of a Sudra. “His tongue is to be slit if he pronounces it; his body is to be cut through if he preserves it.”Swamiji broke this tradition and published Upanishads for the access of all.
It was not a simple task to break this old age tradition. Swamiji was highly criticized in time by orthodox Brahmins and many of his good friends deserted him. But He did not care for the consequence and decided to clean Hinduism single-handedly without any fear.
3. Women freedom:
Earlier women were not allowed to chant Veda and to join as a monk. They were considered impure due to menstrual cycle they incur. Swamiji removed these two rules and allowed women to chant Vedic manta. He also established a separate women asram specially dedicated for women. Even today in most of the women of the orthodox temple priests are not allowed. But Swami Vivekananda initiated a lot of women disciples including women from foreign countries to conduct worship with Vedic chanting.
He took a lot of pain even to convince Indian women that they have equal eligibility for all Vedic rites. His famous disciple sister Nivedita helped him to train Indian women to overcome these superstitions.
4. Travel overseas to a foreign land:
During the time of Swamiji, going to a foreign land like USA and UK was considered as a sin. If you travel then you will lose your caste and will be out of Hinduism. Swamiji is the first Hindu monk to travel outside of India. Earlier only Buddhist monks went out of India. No Hindu monk had crossed the sea because of above fear. Swamiji even used to eat with foreigners and made many disciples in foreign lands including women disciples. But he got the punishment. On return from the USA, Swamiji was not allowed to enter into Dakshineswar Kali temple in Kolkata where his Guru stayed for thirty years.
Only due to Him currently, many monks are able to travel to the foreign land to spread Hinduism without any violence. Interestingly Supreme Court took Him as a model to give a historical verdict on foreign travel. Regarding the prohibition of the government on a person’s going abroad(specially IITian) the court discussed the importance of travel across the world as said by Swami Vivekananda.
- Vedanta in common:
Vedanta is the last part of Veda, known as Upanishads. Earlier Upanishads were studied only by monks in the forest. Those texts were not published outside for common house-holders. Swamiji decided to spread these texts in common masses and published these books with the help of his foreign devotees. Even He had to fight with orthodox Pundits during that time to get original manuscripts. Today very few have access to Upanishads and very few know that Upanishads are the original scripture of Hinduism.
6. Influential freedom fighter:
Swamiji was both a religious leader and a patriot. Usually, monks in the traditional sense never bother about social issues. Swamiji was exceptional in this case. Though he was a monk dedicated to religious reform, He inspired many freedom fighters in due course. Few famous names are Subhas Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajagopalachari, Bal Gangadhar Tilak etc. His notable book “Lectures from Colombo to Almora” was so popular that, all freedom fighters in jail had one copy with them to ignite the patriotism in their mind. The situation was such influential that, British govt wanted to ban and close Ramakrishna mission. It was saved due to the divine intervention of holy mother Sarada. She clarified British people that this is a religious organization and nothing to do with politics.