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The fundamental basis of Hinduism is a conception of God which is at least as lofty as that to be found in any other religion. But time, which develops the physical sciences of the human race, degenerates its spiritual sciences. So India has cluttered up the primal purity of its faith with a miscellaneous assortment of customs which cramp and devitalize the people. Stupid and cruel practices do not become less stupid and less cruel because they receive the sanction of religion. Caste, purdah, early marriage, untouchability, extravagant expenditure on marriage, the unfair laws of inheritance, the countless idiotic duties prescribed by priests, and a host of minor stupidities of which the absurdly exaggerated notion of cow-dung's value is a single sample--these do not help India, they hinder her. They have become embedded in the religious culture of the country and only an iconoclastic ruthless hand can extract them. I am not suggesting that India should throw her faith overboard. I am simply suggesting that this extraction should be made despite the fanatical opposition of priests and the outcries of orthodox old fools. I am the last man who would like to see India turn atheist, like Russia. It is because I love the lofty philosophy of the Upanishads and the inspiring records of India's great Seers that I would like to see the vile superstitions which batten parasitically upon the life-blood of the people driven from the land. I would like to see a new Hinduism arise, purified and set free from its diseases. I would like to see the people unchain themselves from the idiotic custom-prisons into which they have been forced by unspiritual priests who have substituted the letter for the spirit, external ceremony for internal faith. I would like their doped condition to come to an end and the attitude of self-reliance to run like fire throughout the country.

-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 2: India > # 139

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