Advertisement

The Brahmo Dharma Debate: Part 1

  • Deepa Nag Haksar
Article
  • 23 Downloads

Abstract

From the perspective of philosophy of religion, Part 1 of this essay examines the original vision of the faith ‘Brahmo Dharma’ as ‘Reform Hinduism’, a ‘sect’ within the larger religious tradition as ‘Vedantic monotheism’ founded by Raja Rammohun Roy in 1828—with the nineteenth-century ‘Bengal Renaissance’ in the background. Roy questioned the authority of revelation given in the Brahmanas in the Vedic Scriptures and endeavoured a democratization of the Vedanta, rejecting the caste system as well as idolatry. It charts the transition of the Faith from ‘Reform Hinduism’ to Debendranath Tagore’s Codification given in his book Brahmo Dharma, 1850, interpreting it as an ‘independent religion’, not adhering to the authority of the Vedas including the Vedanta or any other religious scripture. This essay marks the recent legal claim in Supreme Court of the Brahmo Samaj that its Faith ‘Brahmo Dharma’ is non-Hindu, and as an ‘independent religion’, it is deserving of ‘minority’ status. The role of British colonialism pertaining to the legal history of ‘Brahmo Dharma’ is reviewed here to bring forward Brahmo Samaj’s contemporary claim of ‘Brahmo Dharma’ being ‘non-Hindu’. Focusing on ‘religious reform’ as primary to ‘social reform’, in this context, this essay reflects upon the interpretation of the Faith—arguing that ‘reform in religion’ ought to be recognizable in law, not merely customs and rituals, considering ‘the Spirit of the Faith’ which is essentially ‘Upanishad–Vedanta’.

Keywords

Reform Hinduism Brahmo Dharma/Brahmoism Vedantic monotheism Bengal Renaissance Natural theology Minority non-Hindu religion 

References

  1. Banian Trust Deed of Rammohun Roy. (1830). See also Farquhar, J. N. (1915) Modern religious movements in India (p. 29) etc.Google Scholar
  2. Bilimora, P. (1993). ‘Indian ethics’. In Peter, S. (Ed.), A Companion to Ethics. New Jersey: Blackwell (p. 43)Google Scholar
  3. Biswas, D. (1997/2000). The Brahmo Samaj, its history and principles. Also see Indira Devi Choudhurani (Smritisamput Vol I (1997/2000), in Bengali, Rabindra Bhaban, Viswa Bharati, pp. 18–19) for description of Adi Brahmo Dharma and the Tagore family as Pirali Brahmins.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, C. M. (2015). ‘The Vedantic Deism of Rammohun Roy’. In Hindu perspectives on evolution: Darwin, dharma and design. Tailor and Francis Group. Hindu Studies Series. Introduction and Chapter 4 (p. 79). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, C. Mackenzie. (2015) quoting Hay, Stephen. See Chapter 4.Google Scholar
  6. Chatterjee, M. (1994). Reflections on religious pluralism in the indian context. Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, 7, 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dasgupta, S. N. (1922). Volume I A history of Indian Philosophy. Chapter 1, Introductory, Chapter 2, The Vedas, Brahmanas and their Philosophy, Chapter 3. The Earlier Upanisads (700 B.C.–600 B.C.) .Google Scholar
  8. Dasgupta, S. N. (1932). Volume 2, Chapter 11. The Sankara School of Vedanta (Continued).Google Scholar
  9. Datta, D. M. (1960). Six ways of knowing: A critical study of Advaita theory of knowledge. Google Scholar
  10. Daya Krishna (1997). 'The search for moral intelligibility of the universe: The theories of Karma, Rebirth and Purusartha' in Indian Philosophy: A New Approach. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publication, pp. 21.Google Scholar
  11. Dobson, C.S. (1962). The Life and Letters of Rammohun Roy, 3rd Edition, edited by Biswas, D. K., Ganguly, P. C . Calcutta.Google Scholar
  12. Hatcher, B. A. (2007). Bourgois Hinduism, or faith of the modern vedantists: Rare discourses from early colonial Bengal. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Kopf, D. (1979). The Brahmo Samaj and the shaping of the modern Indian mind. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Potter, K. (2008). Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume III. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidas. p. 16, p. 220.Google Scholar
  15. Privy Council Judgement (1901). Bhagvan Koers and others, verses J C Bose and others, 31 Cal 11, 30 ELR IA 249. See also, Legal status, as quoted in Brahmo Samaj Oficial Website and Sen, Amiya P, Hindu Revivalism in Bengal, opcit pp.Google Scholar
  16. Radhakrishnan, S. (1926). Hindu View of Life.Google Scholar
  17. Radhakrishnan, S. (1937). ‘Mysticism and Hindu Thought’, Sir George Birdwood Memorial Lecture. Reprinted (1937) in Eastern Religions and Western Thought, London. Oxford University Press, Second Edition. p. 100. See also Idealist View of Life where he expresses the same view in slightly different words. ‘Hindu Thought and Mysticism’.Google Scholar
  18. Raychoudhuri, T. (1988). Europe reconsidered: Perceptions of the west in nineteenth century Bengal. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Chapter ix. See also Choudhury, Amit (2008) Clearing a Space-Reflections on India, Literature and Culture- Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  19. Refer to Supreme Court of India Judgment Report on ‘Brahmo Samaj Education Society Vs...State of West Bengal’. (2016). See about the status of Brahmo Samaj as published in a Bengali daily Newspaper (link): http://www.anandabazar.com/national/supreme-court-asks-centre-whether-brahmism-is-separate-religion-or-not-1.286402. Also refer to the Supreme Court of India Judgement on the case 'Brahmo Samaj Education Society Vs...the State of West Bengal' (2004). and Pai Commission Report on the said Case (2004).
  20. Robinson, D. M. (2016). ‘Emerson, the Brahmo Samaj and the reception of Gandhi’. In D. La Rocca, R. M. Alphonso (Eds.), A power to translate the world: New essays on emerson and international culture. Dartmouth Series in American Studies. Dartmouth: University Press of New England (UPNE). pp. 43–44. Robinson, 2016-op.cit-p.47.Google Scholar
  21. Roy, R. R. (1823). Published final appeal to the christian public to vindicate himself ''from the charge of being an injurer of the cause of truth'' as explained in The English Works of Raja Rammohun Roy, vol. 1, (xii Introduction). Edited by Jogendra Chunder Ghosh, and Published by Srikanta Roy. Calcutta: The Bengal Press. 1901.Google Scholar
  22. Roy, R. R. (1829). The Universal Religion. See The English Works of Raja Rammohun Roy. Edited by Jogendra Chunder Ghose and Published by Srikanta Roy. Reprint and (1978).Google Scholar
  23. Roy, R. R. (1805) Tuhfat al-Muwahhidin, first published in Murshidabad, in Persian and Arabic. Roy, Raja R, The English Works of Raja Rammohun Roy : with Translation of Tuhfat al- Muwahhidin.1906. Reprint, 1978.  (translated Gift to Monotheists/ Deists). P. 948. Google Scholar
  24. Russel, R. V., & Hiralal, R. B. (1916). Tribes and castes of Central Provinces of India (Vol. 1–4). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  25. Sarkar, H. (1928). Brahmo Dharma, English Translation. Calcutta Brahmo Mission Press. Reprint-Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, Kolkata (Calcutta) 1992. See Introduction, iii, iv and v.Google Scholar
  26. Seal, B. (1937). Inaugural address read at the Sri Ramkrishna Centenary Parliament of Religion and published in the Modern Review in April 1937.Google Scholar
  27. Sen, A.P. (2001). Hindu revivalism in bengal: Some Essays on Interpretation. Delhi: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sen, A. P. (2010). Exploration in modern Bengal C1800-1900: Essays on religion, history and culture. Delhi: Primus Books.Google Scholar
  29. Sen, A. P. (2012). Rammohun Roy: A critical biography. New Delhi: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd (pp. 5–6).Google Scholar
  30. Sen, A. P. (2012). Discusses for instance contemporary scholar Ashis Nandi and Marxist scholar Sushobhon Sarkar op.cit. pp. 50.Google Scholar
  31. Sen, A. P. (2016). Debates within Colonial Hinduism. In B. A. Hatcher (Ed.), Hinduism in the Modern World. New York: Routledge. pp. 70–71.Google Scholar
  32. Shankara. Bhasya (Commentary) on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Translated by Swami Madhavananda (1950). Advaita Ashram, Almora, India.(Third Edition) pp. 348–350, 754–757.Google Scholar
  33. Shastri, S. (1911a). The history of Brahmo Samaj. Calcutta Cornwallis Street. Publisher: R. Chatterji, pp. 99. See also Brian A, Hatcher (2008) Bourgeois Hinduism, or the Faith of the Modern Vedantists; Rare Discourses from early Colonial Bengal. New York, Oxford University Press. It focuses on Sabyadiger Vaktrta, published by the Tattvabodhini Sabha, and, Dendranath Tagore’s interpretation of the Vedanta.Google Scholar
  34. Shastri, S. (1911b). The history of Brahmo Samaj. See also Sen, A. P. Rammohun; A Critical Biography (2012), and, Lipner, Julius. The Voice of Veda and ‘Veda’ in Hindus; Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge, p. 79.Google Scholar
  35. Shastri, S. (2002). Reprint. Ramtanu Lahiri O Tatkalin Banga Samaj in Bengali-English Translated by Sir Roper Lethbridge as “A History of the Renaissnace in Bengal”. Kolkata: Renaissance Publishers Pvt. Ltd.Google Scholar
  36. Simeon, D. (1986). Marxist perspective discussion ‘Communalism in Modern India. A theoretical examination’ in Mainstream. New Delhi. He interprets Debendranath’s Vedantism as ‘revivalist ancestry of nationalism’. See also Sen, A. P. Hindu Revivalism. Google Scholar
  37. Tagore, D. (1849). Brahmo Dharma. Sarkar, Hemchandra. (1992 Reprint English Translation) Kolkata. Sadharan Brahmo Samaj-“Introduction”. Completed Codification of Part 2 was in 1849. Publication of English translation, Sarkar, Hemchandra, Brahmo Mission Press, Calcutta, 1928. Reprint, Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, Kolkata (Calcutta). 1992. See 'Introduction ' of the English Translationfor Sarkar's discussion on the Upanishads.Google Scholar
  38. Tagore, D. (1850) Publication of Brahmo Dharma-2 Parts as the Codification in Bengali) Codification of Brahmo Dharma Part1 was in 1848. Google Scholar
  39. Tagore, R. (1911). Brahmo Sangeet Hymns. As secretary of Adi Brahmo Samaj (Calcutta Brahmo Samaj) he wrote 32- Hymns- for prayer services mostly inspired by the Upanishad philosophy, sung even today. Tagore received the Nobel Prize in 1913 for Geetanjali, Song Offerings. Google Scholar
  40. Tagore, D. (1914). The Autobiography of Maharshi Devendranath Tagore. Translated from the Original Bengali, by Satyendranath Tagore and Indira Devi, Macmillan and Co., Limited, St. Martin Street, London, pp. 167–168. (The Original of this book is in Cornell University Library) See also C. Macenzie Brown.Google Scholar
  41. Tagore, D. (1928). Brahmo Dharma, p. 11. See also ‘ The Intuitive Theism of Debendranath Tagore’, C. Macenzie Brown, Hindu Perspectives on Evolution and Darwin, Dharma and Design. Google Scholar
  42. Tagore, D. (1992). Brahmo Dharma, Translated, Hemchandra Sarkar, Calcutta, Brahmo Mission Press. Introduction, iii, iv, v. Reprint, Calcutta, Sadharan Brahmo Samaj.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© ICPR 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of DelhiDelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations