QUESTIONS ABOUT BRAHMO SAMAJ
I have recently been permitted into the Brahmo Conference Group. Thank you.
Going through the recent messages, I understand this group has among its members, many learned individuals, and I appreciate the opportunity to be included in this group.
I have put forward some questions about Brahmoism and I would appreciate any answers you might be able to give me. These questions are as those of a layman from a different faith. Perhaps these questions and answers could help other newbies like me.
1. Is Brahmoism a religion or a philosophy? Can one adopt Brahmoism whilst retaining one's current faith.
2. Related question - Is Brahmoism a proselytizing religion? Can someone "convert" to Brahmoism? Likewise, is there a concept of apostasy?
3. What is the concept of God in Brahmoism? How different is the Brahmo concept of God from the monotheistic Judaic or Islamic concept of Yahweh or Allah. How different is it from the Hindu concept of God in the form of Shiva or Vishnu? [It is perfectly possible to worship Vishnu or Shiva without worshipping an idol made in his assumed likeness.]
4. How different is Brahmoism from the Brahmo Samaj? Also, I read somewhere that Brahmoism can only be acquired through heredity, while the Brahmo Samaj is open to all and sundry. Is that correct?
5. Do Brahmos disbelieve in the divinity of all revelations, prophets and holy books?
5.1 Do they reject the Quran, the Gospels, the Torah, the Vedas and the Guru Granth Sahib as merely human creation?
5.2 Do Brahmos reject Rama, Krishna, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gautama Buddha, Zoroaster, Guru Nanak and Baha'ullah as prophets or incarnations of God?
[If the answer to 5.1 or 5.2 is yes (i.e. reject prophets and books), then is Brahmoism not exposing itself to communal anger from other faiths?]
6. Do Brahmos have any rituals? Are there any prescribed methods of worship or prayer in Brahmoism? As in other religions, adherents pray standing up, prostrating, kneeling down, chanting hymns around a sacrificial fire, or simply contemplating about God?
7. What is the approximate number of adherents of Brahmoism in the world today? Where do they meet? Is there a central authority, like a church? Where is it?
8. There have been some schisms in Brahmoism. Which is the one that is most relevant to the original teachings?
9. I often read that Brahmoism was an attempt at reformation of the Hindu religion in the 1800's by intellectuals like Roy and Sen? Is it just a reformation or a new religion in its own right?
10. How would a Brahmo convince a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim or a Buddhist to accept Brahmoism?
My apologies if I might sound irreverent in my questions. I am only trying to understand the Brahmo faith.
ANSWERS ABOUT BRAHMO SAMAJ
Answers to some of your (very intelligent) questions. The difficult ones will take sometime.
1) Brahmoism is a religion. The philosophy behind Brahmoism is "Brahmo Dharma". Any person who believes that there is only one infinite "God" can "follow" Brahmoism by subscribing to membership of a "Brahmo Samaj" while retaining their own religion.
2) Brahmoism was never a "proselytizing religion". Like all the great Asian religions, we sit on the seashore (or a Himalayan mountain or the Internet) and wait for truthseekers to seek us out. "Conversion" is discretionary (there are no fixed rituals for conversion in any case) and more in the nature of "acceptance" of Brahmoism. In the early days of Brahmoism a few people were admitted as members who caused immense trouble to our religion and gave it a bad name, after their expulsion in 1866 True Brahmoism has had no apostasy in its ranks.
4) Brahmoism is the religion. Brahmo Samaj is the larger community which "follows" Brahmoism while possibly retaining their old religions. It is incorrect that Brahmoism is hereditary, there is a debate about genetics and memetics which has not been properly understood by one faction here. Genetics and Memetics simply reinforce the shared collective identity for Brahmoism (as in all religions).
5) Brahmos believe that "truth" is contained everywhere. However, we also believe that no revelation, prophet or holy book is infallible or to be considered as authority. Brahmoism lays great stress on the powers of an enlightened conscience to know & distinguish True from False and to act appropriately.
5.1) We neither accept nor reject these books. We accept as fact these these books exist and consider it likely that these books are human creation (as much as "God" is a human creation).
5.2) Yes. Brahmoism rejects apostles, prophets or incarnations as concepts contrary to the principles of Brahmoism. By our Trust principles we are forbidden to disparage other religions or particpate in communal anger. This has led to a concept of the Brahmo "lie" where although a Brahmo shall not lie he is not bound to tell the truth either. (eg.Q: Do you know where the nearest liqour shop is ? A:Yes. Q: Can you show me the way there? A:Yes (but I wont))
6) There are no prescribed Brahmo rituals. All that is required is for Brahmos to worship and adore the Supreme Spirit regularly (and at least once a week). Some do this by meditation, some by good works. True Brahmo religionists compose their mind daily on the 9 principles of Adi Dharm and reinforce their connection to God
8) There are no Schisms in Brahmoism. In 1865 and 1866 some apostates were expelled for spreading unacceptable Christian doctrines in the garb of Brahmoism. From 1878-1882 many of them were readmitted back into Adi Dharm with the formation of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj.
9) Brahmoism stands on the foundations of the work of Ram Mohan Roy and Dwarkanath Tagore - this stage of the religion was known as "Brahma Sabha". The superstructure was thereafter erected by Debendranath Tagore, Akshoy Kr. Dutta, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Ajudyanath Pakrashi and many others. In 1862 the Brahmo Samaj organisation was founded by Pt Nabin Ch. Rai at Lahore. Thereafter, the final shape to Brahmoism's philosophy was given by Hemendranath Tagore. Sen was never a Brahmo, he was born a Hindu and died a Christian, being many things on the path between.
10) No Brahmo would seek to convince anyone to convert to Brahmoism. Usually people who reach Brahmoism do so by their own path.
This World Brahmo Council document exists so Brahmos can understand, preach and propagate their faith.