Monday, 21 May 2018

WHAT WE BELIEVE - THE BRAHMO SAMAJ: Its Religious Principles

We believe that this universe has sprung from, is sustained and governed by the will of Supreme and Self-existent Being, infinite in power, wisdom, love, justice and holiness. His providence is ever active, special as well as universal. By reason of His infinitude and uniqueness, He is beyond our knowledge and faith. We cannot conceive or comprehend Him except partially through His manifestations in nature and in man; but by means of our reason and instincts, our faith and intuition we can, sufficiently know Him to believe in Him and to worship Him.

We believe that man is the son of God; and as such is fit to know Him and love Him, which is man’s highest destiny; and to serve him which is His highest privilege.

We believe that worship, or conscious moral and spiritual intercourse with the Father, consisting of an attitude of love, gratitude, trust and reverence is a most sacred and solemn duty on man’s part and the way to salvation.

By salvation we mean that state of perfect union of the son with the Father, where there is no extinction or annihilation of His separate entity as a child, not absorption into the Supreme Being, but perfect harmony between his will and the will of the Father through love and self-surrender. It is both negative and positive. Negatively it means liberation from sin and misery, and positively a state of felicity and consequent upon a conscious life in God.

We believe that the way to this salvation is through love, which teaches the soul to seek the will of the Father as the highest good. It does not snatch the soul away from temptations, nor violently uproots the desires, but places it above them and beyond them by making them matters of indifference to its purpose or aim.

We believe that man is destined for eternal existence; of which life on earth is but a preparatory stage; that he is morally accountable for his conduct ; and there is no escape in the future from the consequences of his acts in the present. The punishment of sin is sure and inevitable, and forgiveness of God means permission to attain spiritual restoration.

We do not believe in any material heaven or hell. There may be worlds and spheres, where human souls find themselves placed during the several stages of their progress and development after death; heaven and hell with us are not places but states. By heaven we mean the joy, consequent upon knowing and loving the Father, and upon being allowed to hold unclouded intercourse with Him - this being the highest reward of virtue; and by hell we mean that miserable state where the soul is made unworthy of intercourse with God, and finds delight in unrighteousness - which also is the worst punishment of the sin.

We believe that not only outward morality, but also the purity of the inward nature, producing singleness of mind and holiness of intention, is one of the first conditions of spiritual intercourse with God, and that the attainment of this holiness should be a matter of earnest prayer.
By sin we understand the conscious and wilful commission or indulgence of a deed, thought or desire which leads the soul away from the divine will, and also the conscious and wilful omission of any deed, thought or desire which leads us towards the divine will.

By divine will we understand that universal, eternal and constant action of the Divine Spirit, which is manifested in different ways and proportions through our reason, conscience, affections and will. When it breathes through the reason it is wisdom, enabling us to perceive the true; when flowing through conscience it is virtue, giving us a sense and knowledge of the right; when operating through the affections it is love, leading us to seek the good of others; and when influencing the will it is courage, giving us firmness to stand upon duty. The conditions of this divine will are love and self-surrender. Man’s highest excellence can only be attained through submission to this ever-active law of righteousness; and departure from it is his degradation and misery.

We believe that sincere repentance and earnest prayer are the means of reconciliation with the Father. Repentance is the awakening of love, faith is the maturity thereof and regeneration is the result. By regeneration we mean the ultimate establishment of harmony of man’s will with the law of righteousness in his nature and the suppression of his sinful will.

By prayer we understand that loving, trustful and expectant attitude which the soul naturally assumes towards God, when it feels itself weak and fainting in its struggles after spiritual progress.
We do not look upon the world as a delusion nor as a place of bondage nor as the heritage of fallen humanity and consequently an abode of sin and suffering; but we believe that the world is a nursery for the soul, beautifully adapted for its growth and development, and for the exercise and culture of its moral and spiritual powers during the early stage of its existence; and that all the spiritual and moralities that the bind man to his family and to his kind, are sacred and divinely ordained.

We believe that true piety does not consist in outward ceremonies and asceticism; but in the strict purity of inward conduct, in the sanctification of the relations of life, and in the combination and harmony of faith and work, of communion and prayer, and of love and philanthropy.

We believe that religion is progressive; that all the religions of the world represent more or less imperfect attempts to spell out the common religious instincts and spiritual aspirations of mankind; that they have not been made but have grown out of the spiritual life of man, assuming different forms owing to differences of intellectual, moral, social and political condition. So there are truths in all and we cheerfully accept them.

We regard the whole human race as a family, of which God is the Father, the world the abode, the great men the elder brothers, the scriptures of all nations, the depositories of spiritual treasure and the triumph of truth, love and justice the ultimate goal.

- Sivanath Sastri

Thursday, 17 May 2018

THE CITY COLLEGE SCHOOL – A Beginning of the Education Mission of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

After the foundation of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj in May, 1878. Another important step was taken by some eminent members of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj by opening a higher class English Institution called the City School. These members were Anandamohun Bose, Sivanath Sastri Umeshchandra Dutta, Krishnakumar Mitra, Rajaninath Ray, Durgamohan Das, Dwarakanath Ganguli and Kalisankar Sukul. Rastraguru Surendranath Banerjee also took important part for this purpose.

The School was opened after a special Divine Service on January 6, 1879 even before establishing the Prayer Hall (Mandir) of Sadharan Braho Samaj. Its prospectus had been issued in the name of Anandamohun Bose, who supplied the initial expenses, Surendranath Banerjee, who though not a member of the Samaj, yet kindly undertook to be one of the first teachers, and Pandit Sivanath Sastri, who was the first Headmaster of this school. The names of the above-mentioned first two persons, who were at that time the organised leaders of Bengal, drew into the school a large number of students (300 three hundred in the first year) and it was a success from a pecuniary point of view almost from the day of its foundation. The young Brahmo teachers who joined the institution also entered upon their duty with great earnestness, making it altogether attractive to those who came to it. It also secured the confidence of parents and guardians who became anxious to place their children and wards under the moral superintendence of the new teachers. Thus this institution was a success from the very beginning.

During this year (1879) the enthusiasm of the members of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj found an outlet in other channels of philanthropic and propagandist activity. On the 27th of April they opened a new institution called the Students’ Weekly Service. The meetings of the Service used to be held on Sunday mornings in the City School Hall. At that time when there were no other institutions Intended specially for the moral and spiritual education of the student community of Calcutta, the Students’ Service was the only one working in that line and its influence on the minds of the rising generation was great.

Along with the Students’ Weekly Service some young members of the Samaj started in the City School a Society called “The Young Man’s Theistic Society”, which used to meet once a month and hold discussion on important theological and ethical questions.

Remarkable success had attended this school since its foundation in 1879. The authorities of the school, amongst whom Anandamohun Bose and Umeshchandra Dutta were the leading figures tried their best to make it a model Institution by adding a college department to it on the 17th of January, 1881 and the City College was opened and the first Principal was Umeshchandra Dutta who was the second Headmaster of city College school after Pandit Sivanath Sastri. Pandit Sivanath Sastri engaged himself in the works of the Samaj and Umeshchandra Dutta took up responsibility of the administration of the City School and City College.  All classes of the school and of the college were held during daytime.

The City College became one the largest and most efficient institutions ever affiliated to the University of Calcutta. Anandamohun Bose became the Life President of its council. It was his earnest desire to make the city school and the City College the nucleus and centre of a vigorous educational mission with a band of devoted and self-sacrificing workers like the Professors of the Fergusson College of Poona, educated and patriotic young men who would work for the promotion of education on a more subsistence allowance.
Later, the school and the college were left to a body of Trustees by Anandamohun Bose, with a constitution that was exemplary and in which the staff of teachers and the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj Committee were both represented. This Constitution was further developed and registered in 1905, thus giving it a legal and permanent status, according to which the appointment of the Managing Council lies entirely in the hands of the Executive Committee of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, under the sanction of the Trustees. Of course, the idea of a fair representation of the teaching staff in Governing Body had not been overlooked. This Board of Trustee was known as City College Institution. In course of time this City College institution became a registered body and came to be known as Brahmo Samaj Education Society. Now the City School, City College, City College of Commerce and Business Administration, Umesh Chandra College, Anandamohun College, Rammohun College, Prafulla Chandra College Herambachandra College and Sivanath Sastri College are the educational institutions managed by the Brahmo Samaj Education Society. It is a registered Society-Registered under Act xxi (Registration of Societies Act) of 1860.

Anandamohun Bose established City School and City College at Mymensingh and hoped that other branch institutions might be opened.

The City School was first started at 13, Surya Sen (formerely Mirzapur) Street in the house which was Bharat Ashram. This original house was demolished and a new building in which we are holding our classes was built up. The foundation stone of this original building was laid on September 15, 1883 by Mr. Justice Romesh Chunder Mitter and the new building was opened in 1884 by the Governor General of India, Lord Ripon. All distinguished persons of Calcutta including Lt. Governor of Bengal, Sir R. Tomson were present at this grand opening ceremony. Foundation Stone of the backward portion of this building was laid on June 30, 1960 and was opened on August 20, 1961, by Dr. Devendra Mohun Bose.

The objects of this school and of the other eight colleges already referred to are to promote the cause of education in its highest and widest sense; to make that education – comprehending the training of the mind, heart and body and founded on a theistic basis – conduce to the good of man and the glory of God.