Is There a Need For Religious Reforms in India?

I have often wondered about people having issues with other people’s religions and cribbing about how religions should be reformed.
These thoughts comes to me everytime a Trupti is stopped from praying in a Shani Mandir or a Jamida is objected upon for leading the Friday prayers.

Should religion be reformed? Does it need to be reformed? When you are trying to reform a religion, does that not mean that you are actually saying, “My way is better than yours”? Isnt that exactly what those people say too?

From what I understand, religion is nothing but a school of thoughts and a way of life. Yes, all religions are a way of life. A prescribed diktat in which one who follows those diktats leads his life.
In most cases these suggestions or diktats, on how to live your life, are written down and those written words become the guidelines of those who choose to follow those guidelines.

Now, why is it that someone who does not want to follow those guidelines have a urge to change those guidelines? Why not just alienate yourself from those guidelines and form your own?

Let me share with you an experience from my life. Quite a few years back I had visited a temple in Ganpati Pule. There was a long line for the “Darshan” and I dutifully stood in the line waiting for my turn. My Mom was a few people ahead of me and reached the door of the inner sanctum before I did. She bowed and put a Rs. 50 note in the donation box. The priest gave her a big shiny motichoor ka laddoo. When I reached the place, I bowed and then stretched my hand for the inevitable laddoo. The priest motioned that I need to put something in the donation box if I wanted a laddoo. I kept my hand stretched and the priest just glared at me. I was told to move ahead. And yes, I didnt get a laddoo.
Thats okay, this is not about laddoos. I dont even like motichoor laddoos. But what did register in my mind was that, if I could not put some money in the donation box, I wasnt getting any “prasad”.
Discriminatory?? Ofcourse. Objectionable?? Sure.
But I did not object. I did not object, I did not raise a hue and cry about it. I understood that this is how these people wanted to practise their religion. And thats perfectly fine with me.
What I did do, is that I stopped going to Temples. I stopped going to these places. I refused to accept such discrimination.
I did not try to reform them. Why? Because that is THEIR religion. I can choose to accept or reject it, as much as they can choose to accept or reject it and follow it in their own way.

Instead I found my own God…..within myself. Thats the God I pray to and thats the God I believe in.

And that is what I firmly believe in too. Your God is within yourself. You dont need to go find it in any other place, all you have to do is look deep within yourself and you will find it.
And once you find it within yourself, you wont need to go about objecting about how other people follow their religion.
You dont have to object against why women are not allowed to pray inside a Shani Mandir. The women can make their own Shani Mandir and pray inside it.
You dont have to object against why women are not allowed to lead the Friday prayers. The women can go ahead and pray in the way they want to and lead in the way they want to.
If someone wants to follow them, they will. If someone doesnt they wont. It does not make a difference.
I have hardly found religious practices, however regressive, as objectionable, as long as they are not imposed upon others and as long as they are not causing a damage to those around them.

Trying to reform a religious practice of a religion that you dont follow, is like going to someone else’s house and telling him to rearrange his living room furniture according to your whims and fancies.

Why should he do it? Its his house. Its his business. You can always choose to exit from the house. The only reason to raise your voice against it is if you are forced to stay in that house and are not allowed an exit route. Then you start protesting. Otherwise ….. walk out of the house.
Religious practices confined to the ones who follow that religion are perfectly okay. It is the imposing of these practices which is not okay. It is the coercive acceptance which is not okay. These things need to be objected upon.
So, I dont see why I need to object if women are not allowed to pray in a Shani Temple. I dont see why I need to object if someone says a woman cannot lead a Friday prayer.

But I do see a reason to object if a woman is stopped from worshipping the God that she wants in a place that she controls. I see a reason to object if a woman is stopped from leading a Friday Prayer. I see a reason to object if death threats are issued to such women scaring them from following their wish.

Follow the religion that you want. Follow it in the way you want to. Reject the practices you find regressive, but respect the rights of others to follow them as long as you are not forced to follow them yourself.
Disclaimer: This article is just me speaking out my mind loud. This article does not intend to offend the religious sentiments of any particular religion. This is my personal view and this article does not intend to impose it upon others. You can choose to accept it or reject it and follow whatever it is that you want to follow, just don’t try to force it on me 😉

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