Salvation in Brahmo Samaj
On salvation (or the lack thereof) in Brahmoism*
Shivanath Sastri himself has explained these issues in his History of the Brahmo Samaj 1911 published by Sadharan Samaj Press.
At page 120 in the Chapter entitled Adi Brahmo Samaj, he addresses the conflict between Debendranath and Keshab
"During this intensely exciting period the reader has witnessed the *temporary union and final divorce* between two distinctive types of religious life, which for want of more appropriate names I shall describe as the Hindu and the Christian. Devendra Nath who has justly acquired the title of Maharshi, a great seer, from his countrymen, was essentially a Hindu in all his spiritual aims and aspirations. He ever remained so. For his ideals of religious life he never turned to the West but always to the East. He received his education in an English school no doubt, and was also one of the most well-read men amongst us in Western literature, philosophy and science, a fact well known only to a few who knew him intimately ; yet in matters of spiritual life he never made any visible approach, even of sympathising friendship, towards Christ and his Church. The only instance when he had an occasion to reflect on the principles or methods of current orthodox Christianity was one of bitter conflict. From that day he turned away from current forms of Christianity and never again looked on them favourably. *The Jewish, and its off-shoot the Christian, conceptions of God, heaven and salvation, seemed to him to be so anthropomorphic and shallow that he passed them by with silent contempt and devoutly, turned to the Hindu conception of God as immanent in matter and mind*. His solemn conviction was that in matters spiritual, the Hindus had no need to turn to the West, rather the West had much to learn from the East. He had drawn his spiritual inspiration deeply from the Upanishads and similar scriptures and also from the writings of a number of Hindu and Persian sages. In his work in connection with the Brahmo Samaj he had ever kept in view two principles *(1) that the Brahmo Samaj is a purely Hindu institution intended principally for Hindus and representing the highest form of Hinduism, (2) secondly, that its mission is chiefly religious as distinguished from social*, and that questions of social reform properly belonged to individual tastes and inclinations. That these views of the exact position of the Adi Brahmo Samaj are correct will be shown by the following extracts from the writings of Babu Rajnarain Bose, the president of the Adi Brahmo Somaj after Devendra Nath :
"But though Brahmoism is a universal religion it is impossible to communicate a universal form to it. It must wear a particular form in 'a particular country. In conformity with such views, the Adi Samaj has adopted a Hindu form to propagate Theism among Hindus. It has therefore retained many innocent Hindu usages and customs and has adopted a form of divine service containing passages extracted from the Hindu Shastras only ; using a book of Theistic texts containing selections from those sacred books only, and a ritual containing as much of the ancient form as could be kept consistently with the dictates of conscience. It leaves matters of social reformation to the judgments and tastes of its individual members. It only, lays greater stress upon renunciation of idolatry and purity of conduct than upon social reformation. The National Hindu Theistic Church, according to the principles laid down above, receives only Hindus. It reckons those progresssive Brahmos only as its members who call themselves Hindus not only in race but in religion also on the ground that true Hinduism is Theism, If it be asked why should such social distinctions as caste be observed at all, the reply is that the world is not yet prepared for the practical adoption of the doctrines of levellers and socialists."
These are exactly the two points on which the two parties separated ultimately. In reply to the Adi Brahmo Samaj cry of "*Brahmoism is Hinduism,*" the young reformers cried " *Brahmoism is catholic and universal*," and on the question of caste they definitely declared that its renunciation was as essential to Brahmoism as the renunciation of idolatry. These were the main issues upon which they parted,"
It is a matter of great regret that Shivanath Sastri never cared to chronicle the subsequent developments in Brahmoism which he was privy to. Perhaps he was concerned by the powers which Brahmic Yoga could unleash, we shall never know. What *is* known is that Brahmos cutting across all factions in this uncensored forum used an opportunity to assess contributions of individuals in Brahmoism's evolution and several selected Shivanath Sastri for his indisputable role.
At page 32, Sastri has explained Rammohun's conception of "unity of Godhead' as opposed to "Trinity" which requires a Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Renegade Brahmos who mischievously preach blasphemous Christian doctrine like "Fatherhood of Good", "Brotherhood of Man" in the name of Brahmoism are completely opposed to Brahmoism.and are in fact *anti-Brahmos*(a term coined incidentally by Sastri himself)
At page 121, Sastri records that it was Satyendranath Tagore with Keshub who composed and popularised "salvation" through hymns such as
"The same sun shines on the huts of the poor as on the palaces of the rich; thus also is thy grace, O Lord, world-embracing and universal; and thy gates are open day and night for all."
Knowing that thy love gives salvation and eternal life, I pray for a drop of those waters for my sorrow-stricken soul. . With the aid of that love, Oh Thou greatest of friends, I shall rise above worldiness and shall cut through the snares of temptations and shall find rest for my soul."
As is very well known Satyendranath Tagore was a close associate of Keshab and also a Freemason like Keshab. After Satyendranath sided with Keshub during the troubles of 1866 and Hemendranath took over from him, all neo-Christian, Unitarian and Masonic doctrines were exorcised from Brahmoism by Debendranath (and Hemendranath), as Sastri has recorded himself in his History.
When Keshab founded Nababidhan, Satyendranath's composed hymns on salvation were adapted in the Vaisnav sankirtan manner as Sastri records at Page 222.
"To grant salvation the merciful God has sent his new faith of Brahmoism. Lo ! the gates of salvation are wide open. He calls one and all, entrance through his gate is free ; no one ever returns disappointed; the rich and the poor, the wise and the ignorant, all are equally welcome there."
We all know Sastri's recorded opinion for such pronouncements of the "new Brahmoism" but it would be good to refresh our collective memes again.
"Let us all, every Brahmo and Brahmo Samaj, combine to let the world know that the New Dispensation is not the Brahmo religion: That we have not the least sympathy for the creed : That the New Dispensation is totally opposed to Brahmoism."