By Debanjan Ray
Continued from last issue…
Keshub Chandra Sen’s philosophy:
The Sloka Sangraha (“The collection of Hymns”) initiated by Keshab Chandra Sen (1866) contained selected texts from Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Christian, Jewish, Parsee, and Chinese scriptures. The representation of the world religion thus expanded the Brahma of Upanishad to all Monotheistic Gods from all theism into a single platform. In Jibanbed, Keshub explained “Who knew I should obey Isa(Jesus)? When I felt I cannot but care Gauranga, I went to Nabadwip(birthplace of Chaitanya or Gauranga). From Nabadwip I brought Gauranga to place in my heart. When I needed Buddha, I brought him from the bed of tree and placed within me. Who knew I have bring three of them together?”. The God also became the “Lord who dwelth within us” . Keshub’s God is the “Living God”, “a living reality, in spirit and love” on whom we have “Living faith”. In “The Existence of God” , Keshub spoke “There is a latent Being, a God hidden in man. The small muscular chest and every drop of blood reveal God. We do not want a God of antiquity. We want a present, a modern God who lives in us.”. Keshub’s God, as per Sivanath Sastri , is “God in Conscience”.” If my soul is infidel. I can see Him nowhere.” God stays everywhere. “Faith beholds Him in every grain of corn or in every blade of grass….. There is God in every flash of lightning, as well as in a vast conflagration. When the sun rises it brings to us the gladdening messages of God’s radiance.”
Keshub Chandra compared Trinity of Christian theology (Father, Son and the Holy Ghost) with “Sat, Chit, Ananda” (Truth, Intelligence and Joy) in Hinduism. “Has not the Holy Ghost been described as the “Comforter”? Truly He is the heart’s joy. Thus the Trinity of Christian theology corresponds strikingly with the Sachchidananda of Hinduism. You have three conditions, three manifestations of Divinity. Yet there is one God, one Substance, amid three phenomena. Not three Gods, but one God.”
Keshub’s God is sometimes Father, sometimes Mother. “The knowledge of God was initially little; then it increased. With folded hands, I was calling my mother. Then I felt She was attracting me. I could utter the word “Ma”. How many forms did I see in Her name! How many ways did I call Her? Sometimes, I combined power with joy; sometimes knowledge with love. Mother showed her different beauties.”(Bhaktisanchar,)
Keshub strongly supported Dualism and disliked the idea of Pantheism. Pantheism holds a view that the universe itself is God. The existence of a transcendent Supreme extraneous to Nature is denied. A Pantheist believes that each individual human, being part of the Universe or nature, is a part of God. Pantheism is sometimes closely compared with Visishtadvaita (Qualified Monism ) philosophy, propounded by Ramanuja who said: “Man is a ray or spark of God”. Keshub in his “Lectures on Inspiration” proclaimed “Perish Pantheism! Thus hast dishonoured God and ruined man by sapping the foundation of religion and morality….I am far from advocating horror of Pantheistic deification. Between man and God there is eternal distinction. No sophistry, no delusive fancy can convert this duality into unity. I do not speak of an imagined transformation of self into God”. He rather considered Christ’s pantheism to be much better  :”Christ’s pantheism is the active self-surrender of the will. It is the union of the obedient, humble and loving son with the Father…In the midst of activity, Christ was absorbed in God.”
Idol worship: From the time of Rammohun, we have been consistently seeing that Brahmoism opposed idolatry. However, Mr. Keshub Sen gave a different interpretation to this concept : “Hindu idolatry is not be altogether overlooked or rejected. … it represents millions of broken fragments of God. Collect them together, and you get the indivisible Divinity. When the Hindus lost sight of their great God, they contented themselves with retaining particular aspects of Him, and representing them in human shapes and images. Thus idolatry is nothing but the worship of a divine attribute materialized. If the material shape is given up, what remains is a beautiful allegory or picture of Heaven’s Dispensations. The theistic rejects the image, but he cannot dispense with the spirit of which that image is the form.”
Rabindranath Tagore’s Philosophy:
Rabindranath gave us a “human” God, as described by S. Radhakrishnan , or “the Man of the Heart”(maner manush). To find the God, one need not visit the great places on the earth. HE is inside us: In his songs, there are plenty of such examples e.g. 1) “aamaar hiyaar maajhe lukiye chhile, dekhte aami paaini” (You hid within my heart, so I couldn’t find Thee…My eyes went searching all over, I just didn’t look inside me). 2) “Hridayamandire, pranadhish aachho gopone”(In the temple of my heart, You, the Lord of my soul, are hiding), or, 3) “peyechhi sandhan taba antarajami, antare dekhechhi tomaaye” (I found You, Oh! the partner of my soul; I have seen you in my heart) He gave a quote from a village poet of Bengal  “He is within us, an unfathomable reality. We know him when we unlock our own self and meet in a true love with all others.”. In another place he refers Chandidas: “the truth of man is the highest truth, there is no other truth above it.”.
Rabindranath, stressed on ‘Divinity in Man’. In an invited lecture in 1930, referring to Bauls, the wandering village singers, who have no temples, images, scriptures but dedicate to ‘Divinity in Man’, he mentions that Baul religion “never talks about God of cosmic force, but rather God of human personality.” Man does not get satisfied with his own limitation, and struggle continuously to become an ideal Man. God is not something who is considered as “the dispenser of benefits” and the benefits are achieved by trying to propitiate Him through worship . Rather, Man realizes through his divine self, that his God is no longer an outsider to be propitiated.
Sivanath Sastri’s philosophy:
Sivanath Sastri, in general maintained the same conception of God and soul as described by his predecessors. He however added some new flavours to it. Though God is beyond our conception, but as HE is manifested in nature and man, by means of our reason and instincts, our faith and institution, we can sufficiently know him to believe in him. “God has endowed the mind of man with the right of private judgment, and no letters invented by churches or synods or books have been found to be equal to the task of altogether restraining it”. The Supreme Being is enthroned in the human soul, and in case of doubts and difficulties man needs to search Him. It is natural that spiritually good and great will naturally attract man. There is no Saturn to rival God. “Man gets into meshes of sin only by disregarding the moral law written in his constitution.” Virtue is more natural than vice to man. The soul of man is free to know the God. Man can achieve salvation by harmonizing his will with the will of God.
Hemchandra Sarkar’s philosophy:
God, though being infinite, transcends the powers of finite intelligence. Yet, it is possible for Man to know Him, apprehend Him and even touches Him at certain points. The infinite embraces the finite. Unlike Rammohun’s theory, God of Hemchandra Sarker is described as both Nirguna and Saguna. He is Nirguna in the sense that he transcends all anthropomorphic qualities. Yet He is Saguna, as He understands all Human qualities with which we can communicate with Him.
“Man is from God, in God, of God; but he is not God”. The law of Karma is applicable in tune with cause and effect. But, it must not be confounded with doctrine of transmigration of previous birth. Justice demands that a culprit must know for what he is punished. Since in the current life, one can not know what sin he has done in the past life, hence one cannot be punished for the sin committed in the past life.
Many other Brahmos have added many new important philosophical concepts in Brahmoism. Because of restriction of space, I regret not to include their thought in this article.
A true religion is never static. It is enriched and changed by the idea of different sages at different points of time. We can see the same trait in Hinduism too. In Hinduism, there are different branches of contradicting philosophies like e.g. Advaitya(Monism) by Shankaracharya, Vishitha Advaitya (Qualified Monism) by Ramanuja and Dwaitya (Dualism) by Madhavacharya. The point is not highlighting difference. It is perhaps impossible to prove without evidence which theory is right and which is wrong. A Brahmo should carefully analyse all the philosophies, principles and practices. If the result of the practice is overall beneficial for individual, group and the nation, then start believing that those theories are correct. A true religion shall finally be emerged when some of the old principles ultimately shall show time invariant consistent good results. Constant search and quest for discovery of new truths and eternal laws shall make our Brahmo religion as interesting as the subject of science.
1) The Living God in England and India, a sermon preached by Keshub Chandra Sen in England on 28th Aug, 1870.
2) “The Existence of God”, a lecture delivered in the Albert Hall, on 29th January, 1879
3) Jibanbed, by Keshub Chandra Sen, January, 1883
4) The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore, by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1918)
5) Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore – Dr. Jyotsna Bhattacharjee, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/agtian_students/message/1192
6) “The Religion of Man”, Rabindranath Tagore, The Hilbert Lectures for 1930, http://www.archive.org/details/religionofmanbei027987mbp
7) History of Brahmo Samaj, by Sivanath Sastri
8) Keshub Chabdra Sen’s lectures in India, 1904.
9) Discourses and wrintings, by Keshub Chandra Sen
10) Theistic Church in India, by Sivanath Sastri, published in 1966
11) The English works of Raja Rammohun Roy, edited by Dr.Kalidas Nag and Debajyoti Burman
12) “The Religion of Brahmo Samaj”, by Hemchandra Sarkar.
13) “Jeebanbed”(The Vedas of Life), by Keshab Chandra Sen
14) “The Philosophy of
Idol-worship” in Sunday Mirror on Aug 1, 1880