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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brahmoism is a religious movement from the late 19th century Bengal originating the Bengali Renaissance, the nascent Indian independence movement[according to whom?] and the wider Hindu reform movements of the period. Adherents, known as Brahmos (singular Brahmo), are mainly of Indian or Bangladeshi origin or nationality. The Brahmo Samaj, literally the "Divine Society", was founded as a movement by Ram Mohan Roy. Placing great importance on the use of reason, he aimed to reform Hindu religious and social practices, being influenced by the monotheistic religions and modern science.[1]

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  • TTS Seventh Goswami - 00 - Dedication, Preface


A Biography of His Divine Grace Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) by Rupa-vilasa dasa Adhikari Edited by Karnamrta dasa Adhikari "I have not yet seen the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, but I consider you to be the Seventh Goswami." Shishir Kumar Ghosh (1840-1911) Amrita Bazar Patrika, Editor and founder, in a letter to glorify Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura SG: Dedication Dedication To His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my eternal spiritual master, who delivered the merciful teachings of the Vaisnava acaryas to the suffering world. I pray that he may be a little pleased with this attempt to glorify Srila Sac-cid-ananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura. namo bhaktivinodaya sac-cid-ananda-namine gaura-sakti-svarupaya rupanuga-varaya te namah-obeisances; bhaktivinodaya-unto Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura; sat-cit-ananda-namine-known as Saccidananda; gaura-(of) Lord Caitanya; sakti-energy; svarupaya-unto the personified; rupa-anuga-varaya-who is a revered follower of Srila Rupa Gosvami; te-unto you. "I offer my respectful obeisances unto Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda, who is transcendental energy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is a strict follower of the Gosvamis, headed by Srila Rupa." SG: Preface Preface The efforts of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to re-establish the pure form of Gaudiya Vaisnavism can be better appreciated if something is said about the prevailing, and generally opposing currents of thought espoused by the ruling British, the Indian intellectuals of the time, and the common people of 19th century India. The British, with some notable exceptions amongst their scholars, such as H. H. Wilson and Sir William Jones, viewed any native endeavor to uncover and extol the glories of their great heritage as undesirable and foolish at best. At worst, they piled abuse and invective on Vedic thought and scriptures in ill-conceived and misinformed attacks. In 1838, the year of Thakura Bhaktivinoda's birth, there was some debate on India's Supreme Ruling Council, chaired by Lord Bentinck, as to the value of teaching Sanskrit and India's classical literatures, as well as regional languages, in schools to be established by the British for the education of the Indian people. A few members of the Council were mildly in favor of it, but the elegantly expressed, fully ethnocentric and Philistine view of Thomas Macaulay prevailed. In his Education Minute, Macaulay wrote that he could not find one Orientalist: "... who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia." He went on to make the outrageous assertion that, "... all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England." He then made the following creatively expressed, though uneducated assertion as his central statement of belief: "The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach the [English] language, we shall teach languages in which ... there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own ... whether, when we can patronize sound philosophy and true history, we shall countenance at the public expense medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier, astronomy which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, history abounding with kings 30 feet high and reigns 30,000 years long, and geography made up of seas of treacle and rivers of butter." His statement on education, especially in connection with Sanskrit, Sanskrit literature and regional languages, set the tone for British endeavors to educate the Indian natives thereafter, and he further declared, "... the great object of the British government ought to be the promotion of European literature and science among the natives of India." This sort of extreme religious and cultural chauvinism was not rare, and, in fact, it prevailed. The historian, James Mill, denigrated the Vedic scriptures and deities with phrases like, "grossest images of sensual pleasure", "the worship of the emblems of generative organs", and ascribed to God "an immense train of obscene acts". He described the whole of Vaisnavism as something "wild". H.H. Wilson, in response, made the following comments on Mill's historiography: "Mill's view of Hindu religion is full of very serious defects, arising from inveterate prejudices and imperfect knowledge. Every text, every circumstance, that makes against the Hindu character, is most assiduously cited, and everything in its favour as carefully kept out of sight, whilst a total neglect is displayed of the history of Hindu belief." Wilson, being more liberal and much better informed, was appalled at Mill's presentation. Yet, he was himself convinced of the basic thesis that Indian culture and religion was something inferior, albeit fascinating. Dr. Tytler wrote, "The histories of Buddha, Salavahana and Krishna comprise nothing more than perverted copies of Christianity." And the British missionaries were especially disturbed by the temple "idols", particularly those at Jagannatha Puri. George Gogerly, the historian, describes the reaction of Dr. Claudius Buchanan, one of the first British missionaries, who arrived in Bengal in 1790 and described "the horrors of Juggernaut". "Juggernaut" was generally referred to by the missionaries as "that Indian Moloch". Gogerly wrote, "The whole history of this famous God (Krsna) is one of lust, robbery, deceit and murder ... the history of the whole hierarchy of Hindooism is one of shameful iniquity, too vile to be described." Thus, with regard to the rulers of the day, their opinions were certainly not helpful towards a renaissance of Vaisnavism, nor supportive of the publication of its important literatures and the excellently articulated views of the propounders of Vaisnava thought. The situation was compounded in the course of time by Indian intellectuals who were trained in the schools established by the British, and who tended to parrot all the criticisms of their schoolmasters, and took it for granted that the Vedas and Puranas were at best a fascinating collection of mythological tales that have little to do with reality. If there was any substance in Indian philosophy it was certainly not to be found in the histories and Puranas, but rather in the Upanisads, which, due to a certain degree of textual ambiguity, were easier to interpret from the impersonal viewpoint. Sometimes Indian reformers created elaborate fusions of Indian thought and the Christianity of their British conquerors. These they considered an improvement that could be more easily embraced by the so-called rational thinkers of the day. A clear example of this predilection is to be found in the ideas of Rammohun Ray, a famous Bengali philosopher, who borrowed eclectically from the doctrines of a number of Western thinkers and from Christianity. He created a belief system he called "Brahmoism" and he emphasized what he considered a rationalistic view of the Vedic scriptures. He rejected Gaudiya Vaisnavism and was critical of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His countryman K.C. Mitter says of him, "Rammohun tried to subvert Hinduism and disseminate purer and more elevated notions of religion and morality." Of course the so-called "purer and more elevated notions" of Rammohun Ray were simply mental speculations of no particular redeeming value, and his misdirected efforts, along with those of other misled Indian thinkers, led to all kinds of foolish theories about Vedic culture and philosophy, which was excellent beyond any of their insignificant imaginings and ramblings. The ideas of Rammohun, however, became popular with Young Bengal, which was steeped in the ways of the British, and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had to contend mightily with the awful effects of such theorizing, as will be documented in this volume. The last great obstacle confronted by the Thakura was the widespread acceptance of the doctrines of the numerous, deviant sahajiya (pseudo-devotee) groups which had sprung up after the disappearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His principal followers. There were a variety of spurious ideas and practices espoused by these groups, which did not create much in the way of regard in the minds of the Bengali thinkers of the day. Unfortunately, such groups were thought to represent standard Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Some of them espoused very sentimental versions of Gaudiya Vaisnava doctrines in which mundane physical sensuality amongst its members was equalized with the completely transcendental conjugal affairs of Radha-Krsna. Some mixed Islam with Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Some of them smoked ganja, had illicit sexual intercourse, took advantage of sentimental people for material gain, practiced Tantric rituals, etc.-all this in the name of the pure doctrines of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. What is more, a group of publishers called the "Baratalas", out of commercial motivation, popularized the apocryphal literatures of many of these bogus groups by publishing and disseminating them widely in the villages. It is estimated that between 1815 and 1899 more than fifty such works were published, and thus sahajiya Vaisnavism and its rancid ideas became accepted as standard amongst the less educated masses in the villages. Thus, the Thakura had a great deal to contend with in his struggle to establish the pure and original teachings of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. And yet, because of his journalistic attempts (especially through the very popular and widely read Vaisnava journal Sajjana-tosani), his organization of door-to-door preaching in the villages, his publication of authentic philosophical works by the Six Gosvamis and their followers, his discovery and establishment of Sri Caitanya's birthplace as the principal place of pilgrimage in all of Bengal, and his instructing and educating many followers, including his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who successfully disseminated his father's mission all over India and other parts of the world, he was enormously successful. In Dr. Ramakanta Chakravarti's book Vaisnavism in Bengal (1486-1900), he frankly admits, "Vaisnava journalism as well as Gaudiya Vaisnava organization in Bengal really became meaningful under the guidance of a dynamic Vaisnava Deputy Magistrate named Kedaranath Datta, Bhaktivinoda (1838-1914) ..." He goes on to relate a little of the Thakura's history which is more elaborately detailed in the succeeding pages of this book: "In his youth he came into close contact with Dvijendranath Tagore (1840-1926), eldest son of Devendranath Tagore. With Dvijendranath, Kedarnath assiduously studied Western Philosophy and History. Later he initiated the study of comparative philosophy in the light of Gaudiya Vaisnava theology. When he was a Deputy Magistrate in Puri, Kedaranath caused the incarceration of a man named Visakisan, who was the leader of the heretical Ativadi sect ... Kedaranath first published the famous Vaisnava journal, Sajjanatosani in 1884. In 1885 he founded a Vaisnava society named Vaisnava Sabha, and also set up the Depository Press in 181, Maniktala Street, Calcutta. The Vaisnava Sabha appointed three Gaudiya Vaisnava preachers named Bipinbihari Gosvami, Mahendranath Gosvami and Harigopal Gosvami. They were to work in districts of Bengal..." Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, was also responsible for the printing of many authoritative Vaisnava tomes and was famous for confrontations with the thinkers of the day in which he was repeatedly successful in altering their stereotypical conceptions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's sublime philosophy. The result was a newly won respect for the brilliant doctrine of Lord Caitanya and his followers-the Six Gosvamis, a new pride in the culture and tradition of Gaudiya Vaisnavism and a serious interest among the educated classes in the teachings of Lord Caitanya. As a result of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's inspired efforts, many educated and qualified men came forward and assisted him in spreading the mission of Thakura Bhaktivinoda all over India and other parts of Asia, and even into Europe, eventually establishing sixty-four mathas, or temples. One of his disciples, the most eminent maha-bhagavata, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was actually successful in spreading the profoundly mystical message of Lord Caitanya all over the known world, establishing more than a hundred temples, farms, schools and institutes, thus instrumentally fulfilling the most ardent desires of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.


Fundamental principles

The Brahmo articles of faith derive from the Fundamental (Adi) Principles of the Adi Brahmo Samaj religion.

  • On God: There is always Infinite (limitless, undefinable, imperceivable, indivisible) Singularity - immanent and transcendent Singular Author and Preserver of Existence - "He" whose Love is manifest everywhere and in everything, in the fire and in the water, in the smallest plant to the mightiest oak.
  • On Being: Being is created from Singularity. Being is renewed to Singularity. Being exists to be one (again) with Loving Singularity. (See Tat Tvam Asi.)
  • On Intelligent Existence: Righteous (worshipful, intelligent, moral) actions alone rule (regulate [preserve]) Existence against Chaos (loss [decay, return, pervading emptiness]). Knowledge (Intelligence [reason, sentience, intuition]) of pure Conscience (light within) is the One (Supreme) ruler (authority [law, dharma]) of Existence with no symbol (creation [scripture, book, object]) or intermediary (being [teacher, messiah, ruler]).
  • On Love: Respect all creations and beings but never venerate (worship) them for only Singularity can be loved (adored, worshipped).[2]

Articles of faith

The Articles of faith for Brahmos are:[3]

  • Brahmos embrace righteousness as the only way of life.
  • Brahmos embrace truth, knowledge, reason, free will and virtuous intuition (observation) as guides.
  • Brahmos embrace secular principles but oppose sectarianism and imposition of religious belief into governance (especially propagation of religious belief by government).
  • Brahmos embrace the co-existence of Brahmo principles with governance, but oppose all governance in conflict with Brahmo principles.
  • Brahmos reject narrow theism (especially polytheism), idolatry and symbolism.
  • Brahmos reject the need for formal rituals, priests or places (church, temple, mosque) for worship.
  • Brahmos reject dogma and superstition.
  • Brahmos reject scriptures as authority.
  • Brahmos reject revelations, prophets, gurus, messiahs, or avatars as authority.
  • Brahmos reject bigotry and irrational distinctions like caste, creed, colour, race, religion which divide beings.
  • Brahmos reject all forms of totalitarianism.
  • Brahmos examine the prevalent notion of "sin".
  • Brahmos examine the prevalent notions of "heaven" or "hell".
  • Brahmos examine the prevalent notion of "salvation".

Adherence to these articles are required only of Adi Brahmos or such Sadharan Brahmos who accept Adi-ism i.e. Trust deed of Brahmo Sabha (1830).


Ram Mohan Roy's quest for religious truth had led him to study with an open mind the scriptures of all major religions. Thus he not only studied the Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas in Sanskrit; he also read the Quran in Arabic and the Bible in Hebrew and Greek. His study of different religions convinced him that since every religion had the same end, namely, the moral regeneration of mankind, each stood in need of reinterpretation and reassessment in changing circumstances of the time. Therefore, he thought there was no reason for him to give up Hinduism and accept any other religion. He accepted the universal moral teachings of every religion but without its dogma, ritual and superstition.[4]

While Ram Mohan Roy aimed at reforming Hinduism from within, his successor Maharshi Debendranath Tagore in 1850 rejected the authority of the Vedas and thus broke with orthodox Hinduism. Tagore tried to retain some Hindu customs, but a series of schisms eventually resulted in the formation of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj in 1878.

In 1901, a decision of the Privy Council of British India found that "the vast majority of Brahmo religionists are not Hindus and have their own religion".[5]

The Brahma Dharma was first codified by Debendranath Tagore with the formulation of the Brahmo Dharma Beej and publication of the Brahma Dharma, a book of 1848 or 1850 in two parts. The Brahma Dharma is the source of every Brahmo's spiritual faith and reflects Brahmo repudiation of the Hindu Vedas as authority and the shift away from Ram Mohan Roy's Vedantic Unitary God per the Adi Shankara Advaita school. The traditional seed principles and Debendranath's Brahmo Dharma (or religious and moral law) now stand evolved as the "Fundamental Principles of Brahmoism" and are supplemented by precise evolving rules for adherents, akin to "Articles of Faith" which regulate the Brahmo way of life. In addition the assembly of Brahmos (and also Brahmo Samajists) for meeting or worship is always consonant with the Trust Principles of 1830 or its derivatives.

Brief history and timeline

  • 1828 : Raja Ram Mohun Roy establishes Brahma Sabha (assembly of Brahmins).[6]
  • 1829 : Asiatic Society admits the first Indians to its membership, the first of whom are Ramkamal Sen, Dwarkanath Tagore and Prasanna Coomar Tagore.[7]
  • 1830 : Dwarkanath Tagore, Prasanna Coomar Tagore and Ors. establish the first Brahmo Place for Worship through a legal Trust Deed[8] at Chitpur (Jorasanko Kolkata India). Ram Mohun departs for Britain.
  • 1833 : Ram Mohun dies in Bristol.
  • 1839 : Debendranath Tagore forms Tattwabodhini (@Tattvaranjini) Sabha, the "Truth & Life Purpose Seekers" association on October 6, 1839.[9]
  • 1843 : Tattwabodini Sabha merged with Brahmo Sabha [10] and Calcutta Brahmo Samaj established. Dwarkanath Tagore founds the Great Western Bengal Railway Co. in conflict with the State.[11]
  • 1850 : Publication of Brahma Dharma book in 2 parts by Debendranath. Repudiation of Vedic infallibility, separation from Hinduism, establishment of the new religion.
  • 1855 : Keshub Chunder Sen founds "The British India Society" later associated with Christian missionaries James Long and Charles Dall.[12] Dall, a roving Unitarian missionary, is in a troubled marriage in Boston with female emancipator Caroline Wells Healey Dall, suffering a series of mental depressions, and is sufficiently persuaded to grant his wife a Boston divorce by sailing to India forever as the first foreign Unitarian missionary.[13]
  • 1856 : Devendranath Thakur proceeds to hills of Simla.
  • 1857 : Debendranath informs Unitarian preacher Charles Dall that he is no longer welcome at Calcutta Brahmo Samaj, and that "he would not hear the name of Jesus spoken in the Samaj". Dall then forms the Rammohun Roy Society to wean away the liberal Brahmos from Debendranath.[14] Keshub Sen then subscribes to Calcutta Brahmo Samaj while Devendranath is away in Simla. The Indian Mutiny erupts, almost every Trustee of Brahma Samaj supports the Crown while seeking exemplary punishment for the mutineers.
  • 1860 : Charles Dall now openly attacks Debendranath and affiliates to liberal Brahmo neo-Christian group by promoting Theodore Parker and William Channing's methods to convert Hindus to Christianity.[14]
  • 1866 : The First Brahmo Schism and Calcutta Brahmo Samaj is renamed as Adi (First) Brahmo Samaj to distinguish it from progressive breakaway group.
  • 1871 : Adi Brahmo Samaj leaders publicly oppose the progressive faction over the divisive Brahmo Marriage Bill, 1871 with Debendranath stating "We are Brahmos first, and Indians or Hindus second."
  • 1872 : The Marriage Bill is ostensibly not limited to Brahmos and enacted as the Special Marriages Act (Act III) of 1872. A declaration is required stating "I am not a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Jew" to marry under this law which is used almost exclusively by Brahmos.
  • 1878 : The breakaway faction splits again, the majority form the middle-path Sadharan (General) Brahmo Samaj and are formally welcomed back to Brahmoism by Debendranath Tagore and Rajnarayan Basu of the Adi Samaj. The eminent leaders of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj at the time include Sivanath Sastri, Ananda Mohan Bose and Sib Chandra Deb.[15]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Chambers Dictionary Of World History. Editor BP Lenman. Chambers. 2000.
  2. ^ Brahmo Samaj Website
  4. ^ Ahmed, AF Salahuddin (2012). "Brahma Sabha". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  5. ^ Official website "In 1901 (Bhagwan Koer & Ors v J.C.Bose & Ors, 31 Cal 11, 30 ELR IA 249) the Privy Council (Britain's highest judicial authority) upholds the finding of the High Court of the Punjab that the vast majority of Brahmo religionists are not Hindus and have their own religion"
  6. ^ 403 Forbidden
  7. ^ Heritage Institute of India - article by Dr. Gautam Chatterjee
  8. ^ - Banian "Trust" Deed Chitpore Road Brahmo Sabha
  9. ^ Mohanta, Sambaru Chandra (2003). "Tattvabodhini Sabha". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (First ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Archived from the original on 4 October 2006.
  10. ^
  11. ^[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Shivanath Shastri's Brahmo History (1911) p.114
  13. ^ "Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of Caroline Dall", by Helen Deese. p.xv"
  14. ^ a b " Charles Dall Archived March 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Primary Source: History of Brahmo Samaj by Sivanath Sastri 1911, Secondary Source: Official website
This page was last edited on 17 April 2018, at 14:40
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