Sri Sri Ravi Shankar February 16, 2007
Laws have failed to change the attitude of people, and contemporary religious leaders have done precious little to remove the prejudices and bring about reconciliation. In the past, Maharishi Dayanand, Sri Basavanna in Karnataka and Ramanujacharya in the South have taken up the cause of the oppressed. Ramanujacharya put tripund/tilak and gave janeu (sacred thread) to thousands of Dalits and made them Brahmins. Basavanna vigorously fought against the caste system and brought together people of all castes into the path of bhakti.
Maharishi Dayanand dented the caste system through his brilliant and eloquent dialogues and speeches. He fought against prevalent superstitions. Thanks to him, thousands of Dalits could access the knowledge of the Vedas and the yagyas. He also created many purohits from among the Dalit community...As Maharishi Dayanand, Sri Aurobindo and many others have rightly pointed out, religious practices have drifted away from their philosophy.
It is unfortunate that people without proper knowledge of the scriptures simply quote from the Manu Smriti, which is only a code of conduct given by a king and has nothing to do with the Shrutis, Vedas or the Upanishads. It is time to honour the philosophy and discard the unscrupulous practices. Instead, people have discarded the philosophy and allowed the unscrupulous practices to continue.