[Published in Brahmo Public Opinion, March,1879]
Babu Raj Narain Bose’s letter, which our readers will find in the correspondence column, raises a very important question for the consideration of Brahmo Samajes in Calcutta is a “consummation to be devoutly wished for”. No one for one moment will question. But how far this is possible in the present state of affairs is rather a difficult question. The letter set out in our respected correspondent’s communication, deserve more than a passing notice, while admitting the disadvantages of a split so ably and luminously pointed out in their letters. We beg to offer a few remarks on the causes of separation noticed in them and we think it is necessary to do so to see how far unification is possible.
Mr. Mahadeo Govinda Ranade says “there is nothing really distinctive between the foundations of the three separate organisations in your city. It clears he disputes relates to men and their government and has no justification for its continuance any longer in the bosom of a community which should give an example to the world of its Catholic toleration and expansiveness.” The italics are ours. We beg to join issue with this distinguished Brahmo on the sentiments contained in the first part of the sentence quoted. We think our friend will find, on a persual of the history of the two schisms which have already vent the Brahmo Samaj, that there is something distinctive in each of the “three separate organisations “We do feel it our bounden duty to protest strongly against the idea that the dispute relates to men and their government. No such thing. The dispute is, and has always, been, for principle. When Babu Kesub Chander Sen separated from the Adi Samaj, was it on any personal ground? No, it was because the Adi Samaj would not countenance inter Marriage, allowed persons who wore the upavit (holy thread )to preach from the Vedi, and was so very conservative as regards social progress, that it was found next to impossibility to continence together. Yet was it because the venerable Debendra Nath Tagore, who was the government, wore any upavit himself or was backward in anything spiritual or moral? No. If that were the case, the matter would have personal, and them our friend could have said, “the dispute relates to men and their government,” Even up to date there is a difference of opinion as to the principle upon which the religious, moral or social reformation of our country is to be carried on. Our respected correspondent, Babu Raj Narain Bose, only the other day, at the annual meeting convened for doing honor to the memory of Raja Ram Mohun Roy, said that he was strongly of opinion that we should improve the Hindoo society by remaining in its midst, and not by coming out of its pale, that we should only introduce so mach of reform as the Hindoo society in its present state can bear without causing any disruption, and slowly and gradually raise and improve the tone and character of that society. We differ as to the principle itself. We consider the principle is erroneous. Had Rajah Ram Mohun Roy not cut himself off from orthodox Hindoo society, he could not succeed half as much as he actually did. Had he not defied the Hindu society by breaking through the caste system and gone to Europe to enrich his mind with the lore of western sages, could he have given a new impetus to the national feeling? We think not. He could never have succeeded to raise his countrymen to his own level if he had not given a distinctive feature to his movement– a feature not at all Hindu so far as his religious and social reformation was concerned. Why did not Pundit Ishur Chander Vidyasagor’s widow marriage system work well? The learned Pundit devoted much of his time and labour and almost emptied his pocket towards its furtherance and even got the legislature to take under its wing. The issues of such a marriage yet he did not succeed and why ? Because it was a mere patch work, an attempt to reconstruct the old Hindu system with new materials, true, but on its old foundation. We have got good reasons to differ from Babu Raj Narain as to the principle, yet do we for that less respect and honour him? No. The fight is of principle, not men.
Again on the occasion of the second schism, have the fight been about men and not about principle when the doctrine of inspiration was carried so far as to sanction an idolatrous marriage and since then that doctrine has been held to justify a man furthering upon the Lord his own sins and weaknesses, when we are told there are persons especially elected to preach the savings truths of religion and that those persons are irresponsible being so far as their mission is concerned, when we are told that a mediator is absolutely necessary between us and our God. A kind of Ghatak (match maker) for bringing alliance between us and our Lord, is it possible we ask Mr. Ranade, to continue in the same church? Is it a dispute which relates to men and then government? We hope not. It concerns vital principles of our religion, and there is nothing left but to separate. But we do not say therefore unification is not possible. There is a Catholic platform on which we can meet, make the first principle of religion not this or that religion but of religion, we say , the basis of theism leave doctrines and creeds asides, and we can certainly shake hands with each other and unit to further the spread of true religion and morality in India. The existence of one true God, who governs the universe, sees the hearts of every human being, from whom nothing can be concealed, who is Unchangeable, Immutable, Good, Merciful who is incapable of doing or commanding us to do a wrong, is all that is necessary to unite us. He is the God of the Hindus, the Christians, the Mahomedans, the Jews and the Gentiles. He is the God of the Brahmos. The necessity of prayer, future world inspiration such as we believe in, is all converged by the attributes which we ascribe to God. This is the universal basis upon which we can build the huge fabric of national unity in all matters — religions, social, moral and political. Raja Ram Mohun Roy laid the foundation of this fabric and we dare say, if we adhere to the first principles, laying aside differences in doctrines, in creeds and forms of ritual, we may yet agree and unite. We thank the writers of the several letters mentioned in Mr. Bose’s correspondence and we shall only be too glad to welcome any attempt to bring about a re-union of the three Samaje’s. There must be forgiveness and forgetfulness on all sides and all differences as to the details of an elaborate creed must be buried, make religion our creed, and we shall succeed. So long as we are weak, fallible beings, differences as to details of a creed shall exist and there is no golden way out of it. But that should not stand in our way of uniting to regenerate our country. Let the divided forces unite and it will be impossible for the country to withstand these united forces. We think the unification possible on the only broad and catholic basis which we propose and move other. We think we have shown that there are differences of principles in the three Samajes. There must be a natural ground on which these differences can either be reconciled or put by for individual men – the units of an organisation, and other principles, about which there can be no difference of opinion, must be made the foundation of unity and strength.
6 March 1879
To the Editor of Brahmo Public Opinion
Many sincere and well- meaning Brahmos, especially a good number of such residing in the mofussil, deplore the present split in the Brahmo Camp and its division into three parties. They deeply regret that a religion, which began with preaching the brotherhood of man, should lead to quarrels and dissensions and mutual bickering and jealousies among its followers. They are however aware that difference of opinion is inevitable among frail and imperfect men and that difference of opinion leads to the formation of parties. They do not so much lament difference of opinion as the non-existence of a common bond of union among all classes of Brahmos. Mr. Mahadeo Govinda Ranade, subordinate judge of Nasik, wrote, to me under date the 29th August last :- I take this opportunity of suggesting that the time has come when the subject of the separation or schism in the Brahmo faith should attract the serious attention of all your leading reformers.
Snice the late unhappy disputes (he here alludes to the Kutch Behar marriage agitation) this necessity has increased a hundred fold. There is really nothing distractive between the foundations of the three separate organisations in your city. The dispute relates to men and their government and has no justification for its continuance any longer in the bosom of a community which should give an example to the world of its catholic toleration and expensiveness. If your local schisms were made up, the foreign churches in the N.W. Provinces, Onde, and the independent movement in our own part of the country will all consent to swell the union and we shall have realized the highest and noblest fruits of Rajah Ram Mohun Ray’s labours in laying the foundations of a theistic movement broadcast all over the country. Owing to your schism, such a fusion becomes impossible. We cannot persuade ourselves that it is our duty to show a preference to any one of our parties and this cautious and questioning spirit increases the alienation and distrust of each other’s love and constancy.
The work is of course, a very arduous one. Let the three churches conduct their lordship separately and administer their funds and institutions separately, but let there be one confession of faith based on the foundations which Rajah Ram Mohun Roy celebrated and which your Patriarch and yourself and Babu Keshub Chander sen and the missionaries and Babu Shiva Nath Sastri and Babu Nabin Chunder Roy have laboured so well to complete. You may count upon receiving to the fullest extent the sympathies of the friends on this side of India. This is a subject which weighs much upon my mind.
We are such a handful in the midst of opposing or indifferent multitude that it is sheer vanity to expect our labours will bear any fruit while this state of things is allowed to continue. In the Report of last Anniversary gathering of the Prarthana Samaj at Ahmedabad, held on December last, kindly forwarded to me by Rai Bahadur Bholanath Sarabhai, President of that Samaj, it is said that “ a body of followers begin, believing in the same principle of religion, having the same social status, keeping the same ends in view and acting in the same direction to accomplish those ends should for slight differences, either real or fanciful break up into violent parties arrayed against one another in the very place where it originated, is a circumstance full of melancholy foreboding and sufficient to bring upon its members the scorn and ridicule of the whole world,” Rao Sahib Mahiput Ram – Upram, Secretary of the said Samaj, in his letter dated the 7th January last, says:- “If the Calcutta Brahmos were united they could do much more than they can in their present lamentable condition, Their internal quarrels, jealous and disruptions are very harmful. An united movement in all the provinces of India is highly desirable, may it is necessary for success, though perhaps under our present state it is not possible”,
How could a common feeling of union so anxiously desired by well – meaning Brahmo of the same stamp as the content of the noted letters quoted above, be promoted among the members of our community? The three separate organizations, entertaining such different views and principles, cannot surely be placed under a common Board of Direction; I think the proposed union is feasible, if we make Raja Ram Mohun Roy, the founder of our common Church, the centre of such union. That a union founded on such a centric possible, has been amply exemplified by the meeting that lately took place in the house of our Prodhan Acharya, Babu Debendra Nath Tagore to honour his memory. Brahmos of the times of Rajah Ram Mohun Roy, Brahmos of Adi Brahmo Samaj, Brahmo Samaj of India and the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj down to the new youthful members of our community who as belong to no party and are the really catholic Brahmos amongst us, were present at the meeting. It was indeed a pleasant sight to behold. That the said meeting will bear some fruit, was anticipated not only by the Brahmos of Calcutta but also by those of other places. Mr. Vaman Abaji I Moduk, Principal of the Surat High school, a jealous Brahmos wrote to me under date the 15th January, “I look upon you as one of the few who thorough appreciate the noble life and labours of the illustrious founder of our church and hence I appeal to you in his name, whose memory you are all going to honour in a special way this year. I ask in the name of the great Rajah Ram Mohun Roy whether the present strife and division amongst you at Calcutta are agreeable to his spirit which must be watching over the church with a paternal solicitude. How can you, thus divided, pray to worship God as his children? Cannot you and Babu Keshub and some moderate leaders of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj movement heal up the differences and worship God and honour the memory of Ram Mohun Ray together? Dear brother, try and God will help you.” Mr.Yashwant Purshottam Manerikar, Secretary of the Bombay Prarthana Samaj says in his letter of the 3rd January last:- “We are sorry. We cannot avail ourselves of this happy opportunity to go over to Calcutta and attend the meeting which comes off on the 19th instant in honour of the memory of Rajah Ram Mohun Ray but humbly hope that this solemn occasion will well serve to remind all the Brahmos connected with the three sections of the Brahmo Samaj of the common cause they have solemnly espoused and a falling of the unity will at last-germinate on the solemn occasion which all differences removed and forgotten, will subsequently result in a Reunion of the three section,” Brahmos of other places than Calcutta who anticipated such results from the meeting as are expressed in the above extracts be glad to see that their anticipations have been fulfilled.
It is to be highly desired that the meeting in honour of the memory of Rajah Ram Mohun Ray would settle down into an annual institution.
Calcutta Rajnarain Bose
[Brahmo Public Opinion March,1879. Vol I, No. 49, Page 560]