While adherence to the tenets of our religion entails certain inconveniences in our workaday life, following the rules of the dharmasastras,people feel, creates difficulties in social life. On this pretext reformers want to change the sastras.
Unfortunately, they are not aware either of the truths on which the dharmasastras are founded or their ultimate purpose. By "social life" they-the reformers-do not have in mind anything relating to the Self. They take into account political orders that keeps changing every now and then, the sciences, trade and commerce, fashion, etc. If our worldly existence alone were the objective of social life, the rules pertaining to it would also be subject to change. But our scriptures do not view social life as having such an objective alone. They (the sastras) are meant for the Self, for the Atman, and their goal is our release from worldly existence. That which has to do with mundane life is subject to change but not the truths relating to the Self. The injunctions of the sastras have the purpose of establishing changing society on the foundation of the unchanging Truth; they cannot be subject to change themselves.
If our goal were but a comfortable and happy life in this world, matters concerning social life could be changed now and again. But ours is an exalted goal and it concerns the Self. The rules of worldly life are in keeping with this high purpose and they cannot be changed according to our convenience. The sastras do not regard happiness in this world as of paramount importance. They teach us how we may experience joy in the other world even by suffering many kinds of hardships or discomforts here. So it is not right to seek changes in them to suit our worldly existence.
The views of the reformers must have been shaped by our present system of education and so it is no use blaming them. In other countries no contradiction exists between their religion and their system of education. Unfortunately, the schools established by the British in India had nothing to do with our religion. People were compelled to take to Western education for the sake of their livelihood. Soon a situation arose in which they came to be steeped from childhood itself in an alien system of instruction. They had therefore no way of developing acquaintance with, or faith in, our ancient sastras. And, since they were kept ignorant of their scriptures and their underlying purpose, they persuaded themselves to take the view that the sastras could be changed according to their convenience.
Our youngsters are exposed to the criticism of our religion and our sacred texts from a tender age. They are told that the Puranas are a tissue of lies, that the sastras help the growth of superstition. How can they have any attachment to our faith, to its rites and traditions?
Faith in religion and God must be inculcated in people from their childhood. They must get to know about great men who lived and continue to live an exemplary life true to the tenets of our religion. Faith in the works of the seers must be instilled in them, works based on the experience of the seers themselves, experience beyond a life of sensation, and pointing the way to spiritual uplift. They must also be helped to believe that the rsis formulated the sastas in such a way as to make worldly happiness and social life subservient to the advancement of the Self. Only then will people recognize that the rules of religion have a far higher purpose than the comforts and conveniences of temporal life.
For a general background, please see here