Religion, religious scriptures
Given below is an English translation of Savarkar’s assorted views on religion and religious scriptures
The different connotations of the word ‘dharma’
Like the English word ‘law’, the word ‘dharma’ has taken on different connotations. Its original wider meaning is ‘law’. The dharma of any object upholds its existence and regulates its behaviour. It is in this sense that we refer to the dharma of nature, the dharma of water, the dharma of fire and so on…This wider meaning led to use of the term while describing the laws governing other-worldly objects, irrespective of whether these laws were verifiable or not! The term ‘dharma’ gradually encompassed the mutual relation between Heaven, hell, reincarnation, god, individual (soul), creation and the like. In fact, the word ‘dharma’ soon came to be almost exclusively used in its other-worldly connotation.
…The actions of human beings in this world were thought to affect his existence in the hereafter. So ‘dharma’ came to also mean that which upheld his life in the hereafter. In the past, the rules that governed worldly relations between individuals and nations were also termed ‘dharma’. This is clear from terms such as dharma of war (yuddhadharma), dharma of governance (rajdharma), dharma of conduct (vyavahaardharma) and the like. (1934, Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.309-310)
What is Sanatana dharma (*lit: the eternal code)?
Those laws of nature that have been experimentally vindicated and have stood the test of time verily constitute Sanatana dharma.
We have yet to experimentally gain knowledge of the hereafter. As such, this subject is still in the realm of speculation and it would be inappropriate to either confirm or reject its existence. None of the religious scriptures that offer various explanations of the hereafter are divinely inspired but have been composed or inspired by human beings. Their explanations lack proof and hence they cannot be said to be timeless and eternal.
The worldly conduct, ethics, practices and laws of human beings may be regarded as beneficial or otherwise solely on the touchstone of benefit to humankind. They should be adhered to and amended also on that very touchstone. It is neither possible nor desirable for the code of human conduct in this ever-changing world to be Sanatana (*timeless). As the Mahabharata says, “hence, decide your conduct according to prevailing conditions.” (1934, Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.315-316)
I am well aware that we have not fully comprehended this Sanatana dharma, these laws of nature at the present moment and are probably unlikely to ever do so. What we think we have understood could well be rendered false in future by the march of science. Surely, newer ideas will be added to our existing state of knowledge. (1934, Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.311)
When we append the word term ‘Sanatana’ to ‘dharma’, we apply it to the principles and philosophies that expound the nature and the mutual relation between God, individual and creation (ishwar, jeev and jagat). For the nature of the First principle (aadishakti), the First Cause of creation and the First Laws are truly Sanatana, eternal and have stood the test of time. The principles expounded by the Bhagwadgita and the Upanishads regarding these may be sanatana. For it is beyond human power to change the nature of the First Cause. They are as they are and will always remain so. (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.442)
Sanatana Dharma does not die if rituals are changed
Actions are necessarily mortal and time-bound for they are by and for humans. Hence, Sanatana Dharma will not die even if the entire corpus of rituals, what to speak of caste distinctions, is changed. It is beyond the power of the human race what to speak of a handful of reformers to destroy Sanatana Dharma. It is doubtful even if it within the power of God to do so! (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.442)
All religious scriptures are man-made
A close scrutiny of the Vedas as well as the Muslim Quran, the Christian Bible and the Jewish Old Testament and the Book of Moses makes it clear that the so-called divinely written or sent religious scriptures are man-made. No doubt, these scriptures have unprecedented historical and literary value. It is also admissible that these scriptures are a treasure house of words, worthy of respect and deep study…But they are not literally true. Several stories (in them) are purely imaginary! What does not stand the test of scientific reason ought to be verily discarded even if it appears in the Vedas, Avesta, Quran, Bible, Book of Moses and the like. It is not true that an age of yore is necessarily an age of truth! It is incorrect to think that everything that is ancient is necessarily sacred and worthy of worship. (1936, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 4, p.579)
No religious scripture is valid for all times
I do not consider any religious scripture to be unchangeable and valid for all times. I hold the shrutis, smritis (* shrutis literally that which is heard and understood refers to the Vedas and are considered to be the most authoritative texts in Sanatana dharma; the smritis are the lawbooks and manuals of Hinduism, and they have lesser authority than the shrutis) and such other scriptures in utmost reverence and gratitude not because they are inviolable holy scriptures but because they are of historical value. I shall apply the test of present day science to all the wisdom and ignorance present in these scriptures. Only then shall I unreservedly practice and update what is essential for upholding and rejuvenating the nation! (Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.364)