Raj Narain Bose on Adi Brahmoism

    Dear Friends,

    Raj Narain Bose was a formidable exponent of Adi Brahmoism. In this 1883 article (text below) he clarifies many issues (as per him) including Brahmoim's differences with Theosophy, occultism, conception of God, and Brahmic Yoga. A must read for all True Brahmos. I will email a PDF version of this document to Mr.Roy for the Adi Brahmo Samaj website

    There are also some very illuminating ripostes from the Theosophists in the footnotes.

    Rahul

 

Raj Narain Bose on Adi Brahmoism

    THE GOD-IDEA

     

    Babu Raj Narain Bose

     

    [The Theosophist, Vol. V, No. 3(51), December, 1883, pp. 75-76]

     

    I deem it necessary to reply to some of your remarks on my letter published in The Theosophist for the current month.

     

    You say, "Since few of us have identical beliefs and every religionist of whatever faith is firmly impressed with the truth and superiority of his own creed. . . ., the result is, sectarianism is ever kept alive."

     

    To this my reply is: Let every religionist preach his own religion, and that which is the truest religion is sure to prevail. If religion be preached according to my plan, there would be different sects but no sectarian animosity. As different men have got different countenances, so there must always be different religious sects in this world. That cannot be helped.

     

    You say: "Would our Atheists be welcome in the Brahma Mandirs?"

     

    I say no, because Atheism is no religion. It is the negation of belief. Any religionist who would discourse upon general religion would certainly be welcome.

     

    You say that you do not propagate your religious opinions, and that you give out your views on the subject of religion only when challenged to do so.

     

    Granted. But do you not endeavor to prevail upon people to believe in Occultism and the existence of Spirit? If you do not do so, what is the use of these Theosophical Societies? Is not this a kind of religious propagation?*[1] Does it not lead sometimes to angry discussion like other kinds of religious propagation? I have not the returns of the last census of Bombay at hand, nor is it easy to lay hold of them in this out-of-the-way place. Will you therefore kindly inform me of the number only of Theists in that city whom, poor men! you have put in the same category with Christians, and the percentage of crime committed by them as compared with orthodox Hindus.

     

    You believe in a "living God in man himself," a "divine in-dweller," a "divine Presence" and not a God outside of man himself.

     

    This, as far as I understand, means that you believe in the Eternal and All-pervading Principle manifesting itself in a personal and therefore a worshipable form in the human soul. You charge us, Theists, with believing in Existence and not Presence, and represent that you, believers in the human soul as God, are real believers in the Presence. To this I answer that we go further than you in believing in Presence. We believe in a soul of the soul, in a being in whom the soul or spirit lives, moves and has its being,†[2] in a Sarvabhutântarâtma, or Inner Soul of all things as preached by our venerable Upanishads.*[3] This we call God. He is as much the life of the soul or spirit as of the physical world. He is the life of life and the soul of the soul and is immanent to all things. He is the Spirit of Spirit, the Perfect Spirit on whom this imperfect spirit of ours always depends for its existence. That the imperfect depends always on the perfect is an axiomatic truth.

     

    You say that Theosophy is the informing life of every religion.

     

    How can it be so when its principal article of belief is that God is impersonal and has no gunas or attributes?*[4] The belief in one Personal God or Theism is the informing soul of every religion. Every religion recognizes a Personal Divinity observe that men, who do not believe in God, are led as it were by a curse of Nature to substitute infinitely less worthy objects of reverence or adoration in His place such as Humanity as is the case with Positivists, departed Spirits as is the case with some Spiritualists, or Human Reason or Logos [5] as is the case with you, Theosophists.

     

    You say that the Adi Brahmo Samaj movement has not succeeded, because the principal members of the Samaj have not the Yoga power.

     

    I need tell you that these members believe that the highest Yoga is the concentration of mind upon God even amidst the transaction of worldly affairs. This Yoga has been illustrated by a sloka given in my "Superiority of Hinduism," containing the beautiful comparison of the real yogi to a female dancer with a pitcher full of water upon her head, singing and dancing according to the strictest rules of music, but still preventing the pitcher from falling down. This best of all yogas, the real Raj yoga, is to be attained by long practice requiring constant and tremendous exercise of will-power as was done by Rajah Janaka. But do not think, therefore, that I do not believe in theosophic yoga apart from its, what I think, unnatural alliance with Agnosticism or Buddhism. Theosophic yoga has its use.*[6] It enables us to show that the people of Asia are possessed of scientific knowledge to which European science is as nothing. I cannot disbelieve in the marvellous effects of such yoga. I cannot discredit the testimony on this point of such honest and intelligent individuals as yourself, Messrs. Hume, Sinnett and Olcott, Captain Osborne and Col. Wade who lived in the Court of Runjeet Sing and my personal friend, Babu Akshaya Kumar Datta, former Editor of the Tatvabodhini Patrika, who collected with so much care the evidence about the Sunderban yogi. I admit the importance of theosophic yoga, but it would prove a calamity to India if it lead to a general exodus of most of our best men to the jungles. It would be adding another serious evil to those under which India is already groaning. I think the highest yoga is best practised at home.

     

    With reference to your allusion to the supposed future of the Adi Brahmo Samaj [7] movement, allow me to inform you that the Adi Brahmo Samaj is no organized church like the Brahmo Samaj of India or the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and has no muster roll of members. All educated men, who believe in a formless God, but yet do not think it proper to wound the feelings of parents and other dear relatives by diverging widely from prevailing customs and usages, are members of the Adi Brahmo Samaj.[8] They form a very considerable section of the community. The orthodox Hari Sabhas of Bengal have been evidently affected by the influence of the Adi Brahmo Samaj. Their proceedings are now-a-days held according to its model, and the discourses delivered in them are gradually becoming more and more theistic than before.

     

     

    My health does not unfortunately permit me to continue this very interesting discussion further. I therefore conclude it on my part with this letter.

     

     

    DEOGARH, August 10th, 1883.

     

    Babu Raj Narain Bose

     

    Footnotes:-

     

    [1]  We join issue with our respected friend here; followers of all religions can be and have always counted among their numbers students of the subject in question, namely: "Occultism". Ed.

     

    [2] We are forced to reply to our venerable friend that if the Theists claim to go "further," the Theosophists (of that school, at any rate, to which the writer belongs) claim to go deeper. Rejecting all Externals as true guides, they accept but the Internal, the invisible, the never to be described by any adjective or human qualification. And going deeper they reject the idea of "the soul of the soul"  anima; from which the word animal is derived. For us there is no over-soul or under-soul; but only ONE substance: the last word being used in the sense Spinoza attached to it; calling it the ONE Existence, we cannot limit its significance and dwarf it to the qualification "over"; but we apply it to the universal, ubiquitous Presence, rejecting the word 'Being,' and replacing it with "All-Being." Our Deity as the "God" of Spinoza and of the true Adwaitee neither thinks, nor creates, for it is All-thought and All-creation. We say with Spinoza who repeated in another key but what the Esoteric doctrine of the Upanishads teaches: 'Extension is visible Thought; Thought is invisible Extension.' For Theosophists of our school the Deity is a UNITY in which all other units in their infinite variety merge and from which they are indistinguishable  except in the prism of theistic Maya. The individual drops of the curling waves of the universal Ocean have no independent existence. In short, while the Theist proclaims his God a gigantic universal BEING, the Theosophist declares with Heraclitus, as quoted by a modern author, that the ONE Absolute is not Being but becoming: the ever-developing, cyclic evolution, the Perpetual Motion of Nature visible and invisible moving, and breathing even during its long Pralayic Sleep. Ed.

     

    [3] It is easy to prove that the Upanishads do not teach belief in a personal God with humanly conceived attributes, etc. Iswar is not mentioned in the Upanishads as a personal noun. On the other hand we see Guhya Adea, the strictest preservation of the secrecy of the doctrines, constantly urged, the Upanishads, showing in their very name that the doctrines taught were never revealed but to the Initiates. At the very outset the seeker after knowledge of Brahma is enjoined to repair to a guru (tad vijijñâsartham sa guru mevâvigachchet), which is simply unmeaning if a literal interpretation of the text was capable of conveying the intended sense. This quotation from the Upanishad, we may add, is adopted by the Brahmos of the Adi Samaj and finds a place in their Brahma Dharma Grantha, compiled by the Pradhanacharya. Ed.

     

    [4] We may be allowed to point out that we do not maintain that Parabrahm is absolutely without any guna, for Presence itself is a guna, but that it is beyond the three gunas Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Ed.

     

    [5] When the term Logos, Verbum, Vach, the mystic divine voice of every nation and philosophy comes to be better understood, then only will come the first glimmering of the Dawn of one Universal Religion. Logos was never human reason with us. Ed.

     

    *[6] We are afraid some misapprehension exists in our correspondent's mind as to what "Theosophic Yoga" is. Rajah Janaka was a Theosophic Yogi. See in this connection Sankara's Commentaries on Bhagavad-Gita Ed.

     

    [7] Our esteemed correspondent misunderstands us. We never spoke of the "Adi Brahmo Samaj," of which we know next to nothing, but of the spurious Brahmo Samaj calling itself New Dispensation where all is to be taken on faith and the Universal Infallibility is claimed to have taken its Headquarters in the person of Babu Keshub Chunder Sen who has now come to comparing himself publicly nay with identifying himself with Jesus Christ. Again the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, a body whose members, all those we have met, at any rate scoff at the idea of yoga powers and laugh at the word phenomenon. Ed.

     

    [8] Are we to understand that when the "parents and other dear relations" of the present generation will drop off the scene, the Adi Brahmo Samaj will itself drop off the sphere of activity as an effete anachronism?—Ed.

     

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