Copyright
Sitanath Tattvabhushan.

The philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 online

. (page 3 of 23)
Online LibrarySitanath TattvabhushanThe philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 → online text (page 3 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


teachings. This is what repels many Brahmas from
the system. They are opposed to all special personal
influence in religion. But apart from the truth or
error of the doctrine, I do not see anything repug-
nant or opposed to the spirit of Brahmaism in the
idea of a particular form of it being identified with
a particular individual. If that particular individual
is set up as an authority to be blindly followed, as
one to whom private judgment is to be sacrificed,
then, indeed, is such teaching to be pronounced as
quite opposed to the spirit of Brahmaism. But
though Mr. Sen has done much, I admit, to foster
blind belief and discourage free thought, and though
isolated expressions might bs quoted from his utter-
ances to the effect that he should be blindly followed,
I do not think he made any systematic attempt
to get recognised as a prophet to be blindly followed.
Though he did not reason out his system, he may be
supposed to have commended it to the free judgment
of the public and left it to be accepted or rejected
according to its inherent reasonableness or unreason-
ableness. If, therefore, the New Dispensation com-
mends itself to the spiritual instincts or the intellect
of some Brahmas, even though it is not a reasoned-
out t system, I do not see that its followers can rea-
sonably be set down as a body of blind believers in



PERSONAL INFLUENCE IN RELIGION. 2

a prophet or a system of teachings any more than
the followers of any scientific or philosophical system
accepted in the same way. What I object to as a
fundamental error and as opposed to the spirit of
Brahmaism, is the presentation of any form of it in
an unreasoned dogmatic fashion ; and of this, Brah-
mas who are not New Dispensationists are as much
guilty as those who are. This way of preaching
Brahmaism fosters blind belief and checks the
growtlr'bf free thought indifferently, whether the
m preached be the New Dispensation or any
other form of Brahmaism. Undue personal influence,
such as coerces the intellect of those subject to it,
whether that influence comes from Kesavchandra
Sen or any other Brahma leader or teacher, is un-
doubtedly exerted and perpetuated by such preaching,
even though the personal nature of the influence may
not be recognised or admitted. And the extent and
harmftjlness of this influence are proportionate to
tfce power and ability of the person from whom
it emanates. It has often seemed to me that the
reason why Brahmas outride the pale of the
New Dispensation are less exposed to the evil effects
of such undue personal influence, is not that the
teachers of the New Dispensation are appreciably
more d< than some of the teachers of other

forn i, but thiit after Kesavchandra

Sen we have not had any Bnihma leader of towering
genius, such a one as can exert any very deep
intl i his brethren. Let but such a leader

arise, and I have little doubt that he will be as



26 LECTURE I

blindly followed by many as Mr. Sen is supposed to
be followed by the New Dispensationists. The safe-
guard against the evil complained of is not to check
the growth of personal influence, which, if exerted
in the proper way, is a healthy factor in the growth
of religious life, or to perfect our constitutional
system, which, however good and necessary it may
be, cannot arrest the growth of personal influence
and should not be allowed to check it, even if it
could ; but to change the prevalent mode of preach-
ing Brahmaism, to change it from its present dog-
matic form to a rational one, to appeal, not to blind
unreasoning faith after the fashion of the old systems
which we profess to have outgrown, nor to traditional
beliefs received without examination and criticism
and hiding their true nature under the imposing
name of "Intuitions," but to universal Keason, to
the scientific faculty, which receives nothing, even
though it be a fundamental truth, without examina-
tion and criticism, and to Philosophy, which, as the
unifier of all sciences, as the embodiment of the
fundamental principles e of all knowledge and belief,
is the only final authority on religious as well as
other matters. It will be seen, from what yet re-
mains to be said of the later development of Brahmic
doctrines, how the Brahma Samaj is slowly moving
towards the goal I am pointing to. However, after
what may seem to be a little digression, but which I
have purposely interposed, I return to the notice of
Mr. Sen's last stage of doctrinal development, and
have to add, to what I have already said, that his



MB. SEN'S PRO- VEDANTIC TENDENCY. 27

early philosophical dualism was greatly modified in
his latter days, so much so that in his "Brahmagito-
panishcul" and '* Yoga, objective and subjective," he re-
cognises, in a manner, the essential unity of the divine
and the human spirit, and in one of his sermons corn-
prised in the volumes entitled " Sevaker JVivednn,"
he sees a meaning, which to me seems the true
meaning, of the Vedantic doctrine of nirvdn mukti,
at Which the Maharshi had shuddered and which he
had rejected as un-Brahmic. Mr. Sen recognises
that there is a stage of spiritual development at
which the human soul really sees itself spiritually,
not naturally, merged in the Supreme Soul and be-
comes one with it. This pro- Vedantic tendency
culminated in a declaration in the Liberal newspaper
of the 7th June, 1885, shortly after Mr. Sen's death
and, therefore, presumably made in the spirit of his
teachings, a declaration which runs thus: "Our
Ketura to the Vedanta f we need not say very much
flpon our Return to the Vedanta. This is a known
fact. The foundation of Brahmaism was laid upon
the ('i>a-iii.<firi<l*. Although we have advanced, the
alation remains the same." However, though
Mi Sen's early dualism was thus modified, his
IntnitionUm showed no sign of modification ; and
with the exception of Pandit Kalisankar Kavi raja's
Brahma Dim nun I'ijndn" JJij'i, which deserves only
a bare mention, his church made no later contribu-
tion to the philosophy of I 'iahmai>iu. The writings
of such eminent scholars us Pandit Gaurgovinda
idhyaya and Babu (ririshchandra Sen have,



28 LECTURE I

indeed, done valuable service in bringing the Hindu
and the Muharnmadan scriptures within the com-
prehension of educated Bengalis, but they have made
no substantial contribution to laying the philoso-
phical foundation of Brahmaism.

However, coming now to the Brahmananda's
contribution to the Brahma mode of sddhan or spirit-
ual culture, we find him, unlike the Maharshi, to
have left an elaborate system of such Sddhan in the
two books by him I have already named and in his
Brahma Dharmer Anusthdn, his utterances, with the
utterances of other leading Brahmas, in the three
volumes of Dharmasddhan, and in his sermons from
the Brahma Mandir pulpit. As this system must
occupy us at some length in future lectures of the
present series, I must pass by it with only one
remark on what seems to me Mr. Sen's most import-
ant contribution to Brahma sddhan, our present form
of worship, the form whicE is, with minor 1 varia-
tions, used in the public services of both the Bharat-
varshiya and the Sadharan Brahma Saniaj and also
by many Brahmas in their private devotions. The
good which this form of worship, comprising what
may be called the three fundamental movements of
the soul towards God, namely, drddhana, adoration,
dhydn, direct communion, and prdrthand, prayer,
has done to the spiritual life of the Brahma Samaj,
seems to me incalculable.

I now come to Mr. Sen's scheme of social reform ;
and under this head I shall briefly notice four points.



MB. SEN'S SCHEME OF SOCIAL REFORM. 29

First, his entire abolition of caste. The scheme

f

which Mr. Sen and his friends formulated in his Adi
Samaj days, the one which the Maharshi at first
sympathised with and then receded from, was adhered
to and consistently worked out in his latter days.
With all the conservatism of which his advanced
followers complained, Mr. Sen never showed any
tendency to come to any sort of compromise with
caste. What may be, from one standpoint, called
the most conservative act of his life, the Kuchbehar

riage, was, from another point of view, a reform
of a most radical nature. It was an inter-caste and
inter-tribal marriage. So, under the influence of his
universalising teachings, which really changed the
Brahma Sam ij from a priest-ridden Hindu sect to a
broad and free society with the spirit of primitive
and higher Hinduism pervading it, but not the
tramels of mediaeval and later Hinduism checking
and arresting its growing life, caste distinctions flew
ajvay before the Brahma reformers, and the Brahma
Samaj was filled with instances of inter-caste

riage, in some of which th highest and the lowest

were united It may be said that there is yet a

good deal of caste feeling, even of caste pride, in

n of (!Vtm the progressive section of the

.iuj. That is perhaps true ; and we shall

:aps have to wait a few generations more for this
mil this pride to be fully eradi<-atrd. But

threat change introduced by the reform carried
out by I'.ralun manda and his friends is that there is
no caste distinction at the basin of the reconstructed



30 LECTURE I

Brahma community that seceded from the Adi
Brahma Samaj, no caste at its basis, as there is at
the basis of orthodox Hindu Society and of the Adi
Brahma Samaj. The, importance of this distinction
cannot be exaggerated. The second point to be
noticed is the part taken by Mr. Sen in ascertaining
from expert medical opinion the proper and the
minimum age for the marriage of girls, and in getting
Act III of 1872 passed. The impetus which that
Act has given to social reform both inside and
outside the Brahma fiamaj is simply incalculable.
The third point to be noticed is Mr. Sen's promotion
of a moderate degree of the higher education of
women by his Female Normal School, long closed,
and his Victoria Institution which, under various
vicissitudes, still continues. The fourth point is
his promotion of mass education by the publica-
tion of the Sulabh Samdchdr, the fore-runner of the
cheap periodical literature 9f the day. With all his
reforms, however, Mr. Sen was soon found out t by
his more advanced friends and followers to be rather
narrow and backward in his views on social matters.
It was known long before, and his New Sanhita
makes it clear, that he never shook off mediaeval
and later Hindu views about the intellectual in-
feriority of women to men and the natural sub-
jection of the former to the latter. ' Women, in
the church founded by him, have never been given
any great privileges or have taken any prominent
part, and really high education for women in any
shape, the university or otherwise, has always been



SADHARAN BRAHMA SAMAJ. 31

at a discount in the whole body. Mr. Sen's views
about church government were, as is well-known, of
a theocratic type, and it was, as every one knows,
after long and strenuous opposition from him and
his immediate followers that the principles of re-
presentative and constitutional church government
triumphed in the Brahma Samaj.

I now come to the concluding part of my lecture,
in which I shall speak of the religious and social creed
of the Sadharan Brahma Samaj. At its foundation
this E -eemed to some, both of its friends and

its enemies, to consist exclusively of those who had,
before its foundation, opposed the special doctrines
taught by Mr. Sen, the doctrines that differentiated
his Brahrnaism from that of the Adi Brahma Sauuij.
That some of the leaders of the new Samaj
belonged to that party of oppositionists and that it
was the;r voice which was at first heard the loudest
inconnection with the new movement, admits of no
doubt. But with them had come to the Samaj men
of a very different stamp, men who had no serious
theological differences with Mr. Sen, who had been
brought up under his principles of sddhan, and who,
but for the Kuchbehar marriage and the events im-
ilp\viug it, would never have thought of
founding or joining a distinct Brahma Church.

>-n the turmoil of the marriage agitation and of
the schism caused by it subsided a little, their voice
began to be heard in the newspapers, addresses,
books and pamphlets connected with the new



32 LECTURE I

movement ; and it was found that they held all the
doctrines that specially characterized Mr. Sen's teach-
ings, namely, the doctrines of Great Men, Inspiration,
Special Dispensation, Yoga, Ehakti and Vairdgya.
They perhaps held these doctrines in a more rational
form than Mr. Sen. At any rate they presented
them in a form which proved more acceptable or less
objectionable than the one Mr. Sen had adopted, and
their teaching of these doctrines was, besides, free
from that personal bias and motive which Mr. Sen's
opponents often ascribed to him. A feeble opposition
was, however, raised against them now and then from
some quarters, but gradually they gained ground in
the Samaj and made converts of earnest, open-minded
men. What was more satisfactory, some of those
who had formerly opposed these doctrines tooth and
nail were, either by the force of the new preaching
or by a gradual inward growth in their own spiritual
lives, converted to these cviews and became them-
selves preachers of them. The old views, however, did
not quite die out, and they still live in some quarters
and sometimes raise a feeble opposition to the new.
In this respect the Sadharan Brahma Samaj seems
to me at present divided, though in unequal portions,
into those who still think in the old Adi Samaj
fashion, and who would make short work with great
men and historical dispensations if they could, and
those who, except in the matter of Mr. Sen's special
leadership, have very little theological difference of
a substantial nature with the immediate followers of
Kesavchandra Sen.



DOCTRINAL CHANGES IN THE SAMA.T. 33

Now, this is the first doctrinal change noticeable
in the history of the Sadharan Brahma Satnaj.
The next change was of a more radical nature. It
was nothing short of a change of the old Intuitional
Dualistic Theism of the Maharshi and the Brahma-
naiula into an argumentative form of Theism, with a
distinct tendency to Monism. The old theory of In-
tuition was not altogether rejected, but more and
more importance was gradually attached to argument
till a more or less complete body of the rational evi-
dences of Brahmaism grew up in the church. This

in of Brihmic evidences, which is continually
growing, constitutes, to my mind, the real glory of the
n Brahma Samij and its most important
contri'muion to the intellectual and spiritual progress
of the Brahma Samaj in general. To me it is the
moRt tangible proof of the growth of the Brahma

ij from childhood to maturity. To be able to talk of
lofty spiritual truths is not a sure sign of the spiritual
progress either of an individual or of a society if the
basis on which his or their faith rests is nothing more
sound than unexamined and uncriticised traditional
belief. I have seen 1' rah mas of long standing and
of recoj.' "iritual eminence losing hold of their

fs in the course of an hour or so,

n the frail basis on which they stood lias been

ily shown to them. Such n ligioii can live only
on relative ignorance -u:noranr:e of the results of
mod'-rn -cirniific and philosophical criticism. It lan-

h of such critivism.
If ; - such criticism, it dies a slow death at



34 LECTURE I

the hands of worldliness. The present hard struggle
for existence and the all but perfect absorption in the
pursuit of wealth engendered by it, tend to dry up
the thirst for spirituality and loosen the soul's hold
of supersensuous realities. It is only when God and
our relation to him are seen to be stern, inexorable
realities, by evidences at least as sound as, if not
of a higher order than, those which prove mathema-
tical or scientific truths, that faith can, in this
rationalistic age, stand the assaults of scepticism and
worldliness. It is, therefore, extremely gratifying to
see that the Sadharan Brahma Samaj is slowly
awakening to the real situation in the religious world
and to the requirements of a religion which has no
authoritative prophets or scriptures to appeal to. Not
contented with appealing to mere subjective faith, it
has been, for the last twenty years or so, appealing to
Universal Reason to proofs which every earnest and
thoughtful person may exiimine and accept. Its
literature, on both religious and social subjects, itj
gradually assuming a more and more reasoned form.
The consequence is, a*s happens where Universal
Reason prevails over traditional belief and merely
personal opinion, that where Brahmas formerly saw
difference and duality they now see unity, both in
religious doctrine and in social philosophy. The old
dualism of God and the world, and God and man, as
distinct realities, the dualism on which the old form of
Brahmaism insisted in various shapes, is, in a manner,
deadj and has given place to a doctrine of unity in
difference. I speak, indeed, of the more thoughtful



TENDENCY TO MONISM. 35

among the members of the Samaj, those who have
the power of understanding these matters and of
dealing with them, and not of the unreflective mass,
or of those who, though educated in an outward sense,
take no living interest in religious and philosophical
questions and no part in theological discussions. In
so far as there is a theological system in the Samaj
and I admit that for a considerable percentage of
members there is no such system I think the prevail-
ing system is what I have already characterised
as Argumentative Theism with a distinct tendency to
ism , while there is a residuum which has not gone
on along the advancing tide, and for which the old
Intuitional Dualistic Theism is still living. Criti-
is, more or less of an uninformed and dogmatic
nature, are sometimes levelled by this latter party
against the new and growing creed.

Ncnv, this new creed, it will be seen, exists in
tfic Sam.ij in three more or less distinguishable
varieties. It is found in a somewhat poetical and
rhetorical form in the sermons, lectures and essays
of Pandit Sivantth Sistri, the chief minister and
missionary of the Sam;i.j. Pandit Sastri does not

le much ; but in his Baktritd-stabak and his
essay on i-r-ir '-h. tun sakti kl sacJietan Purus/i
( Is (Jod an inanimate force or a living Person ? ")
it is seen what high place he assigns to argument
in matters religious. His monistic tendency is
also unmistakably seen in his oft-repeated assertion
that to say ay other reality than God



36 LECTURE I

is to limit God's infinitude, and in the doctrine
taught in the first series of his Dharmajivan that
the human soul is a part or aspect of the Divine Spirit.
His belief in the unity of God and Nature is seen in
his teaching, to be found in his essay named above,
that what we call matter has no force, no power, all
power being spiritual and identified with the Divine
Will.

The second variety of the new theology is to be
found in the works of Babu Nagendranath Chatturji,
whom I have no hesitation in pronouncing as the
most eloquent, the most popular and in some respects
the most able exponent of the theology of the
Sadharan Brahma Samaj. Babu Nagendranath is
an indefatigable reasoner, and his three volumes of
Dharmajijndsd present a closely reasoned exposition
of almost the whole system of Brahma doctrinal
theology. He is quite abreast of the popular Natural
Theology of England, and his work just named my
be favourably compared to any English work on
Natural Religion both- as regards the evidences of
Theism and the criticism of religious Scepticism
and Agnosticism. I need hardly add that the
tendency to Monism is even more distinct and pro-
nounced in Babu Nagendranath Chatturji's works
than in those of Pandit Sastri. In the second
volume of his Dharmajijndsd he clearly recognises
the truth of Idealism ; and in the third volume of the
san^e book, in his lecture on Andtmavdder Ayaukti-
katd (" The Unreasonableness of Materialism ") he



VARIETIES OF THE NEW CREED. 37

admits the essential unity of the universal and the
individual soul. But nevertheless Babu Nagendra-
nath's arguments are more or less of a popular nature
and not based on any clearly thought-out system of
Mataphysics.

The third form in which the new theology of
the Sadhuran Brahma Samaj exists is to be seen in
Babu Hinilal H.Udar's Two Essay* on Theology and
Etliicx and in such works as Brahmcyijndsd, Hindu
Tit* l'e<linf<t and it* Relation to Modern
and four volumes of the quarterly magazine,
at'ittvd", now defunct. In this form it maybe
characterised as Metaphysical Idealism, allied on the
one hand to the Vedanta Philosophy of this country
and on the other to the Hegelian Christianity of
Europe. All theological questions are ultimately
found to be questions of Metaphysics and cannot be
satisfactorily solved unless they are subjected to the
conons of a strictly philosophical discussion. The
writers of the books just named, therefore, think that
stem of Metaphysics, incorporating the highest
f both ancient and modern thought, is the
soundest basis for a religion that, on the one hand,
recognises no authoritative prophets or scriptures and
on the other, seeks unity of thought, feeling andaction.
vthink so, and have humbly contributed the first

iml siihuiiueil it to the

judgment of thr Mrihma and the general Indian pub-
!)<. I must n..t, ho\. . anything in th>- nr.

on that may seem to be passing a judgment



38 LECTURE I

on my own humble part in the work hitherto done
in this respect. As to my own opinions on the
Philosophy of Brahmaism,the present series of lectures
will afford me an excellent opportunity to elaborate
and expound them and submit them to the critical
judgment of the educated public. For giving me
this opportunity I am deeply indebted to the
committee of the Theological Society and thank
them most heartily. As to the peculiar features of
this third form of the present day Brahma theology,
I have time enough only to point out what has often
been said on other occasions, namely, that the works
just named have brought about or accentuated a
partial revival of Vedantism in the Brahma Samaj, a
revival more of the earlier than of the mediaeval and
latter-day form of Vedantism. Those who have taken
part in the movement have also called it a return to
Bammohan Bay. That the return is partial and at
the same time real so far a it goes, will be evident
to those who have taken the trouble of studying tfc.e
literature connected with the movement.

From a fear of detaining you too long, I shall be
very brief on the social views which the Sudharan
Brahma Samaj has brought into prominence.
Scarcely less than the Samaj 's contribution to the
philosophy of Brahmaism I value the constitutional
form of Church-government it has adopted and is
moulding into maturity year after year, and the
perfect equality with men which it has granted to its
women. I am aware that neither our men nor our



SOCIAL VIEWS OF THE sADHARAN SAMAJ. 39

women are using to their fullest advantage the great
privileges thus granted to them. We want to see
greater earnestness and wider and more active
co-operation among the members in the work of the
Samaj, and we want our ladies to take a more active
and prominent part in its intellectual and spiritual
activities. Instead of one or two lady preachers and
lecturers here and there, we wish to see dozens and
scores of them. We wish their contributions to
Brahma literature to be deeper and more thoughtful.
There is also a good deal of backwardness and dull
conservatism in the Sarniij about the education and
rights of women which should be combated with
earnest preaching and vigorous action. But if a
Saruaj is to be judged not by those who lag behind,
but by its vanguard, then the prospect of social
reform must be pronounced to be most hopeful in
the Siidhi'inm Brahma Samaj.

, Here ends my critical sketch of Brahma
doctrines, and I come to the close of my lecture. I
have taken you through this rather long history in
order to show you, first, how the successive stages in
it have naturally grown out of the preceding ones.
You will also see from it, in the second place, that
whatever form of Brahmaism we may personally
hold to, we 'cannot ignore the other form*. They
are not only historically connected with our parti-
cular form, but they live; as present realities. For
tin- incdi;rv;il Vfilantism of I


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibrarySitanath TattvabhushanThe philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 → online text (page 3 of 23)