|Doctrines|| ||Brahman is worshipped as the sole creator and supporter of the universe. This monotheism is based on the interpretation of the early Vedanta, the Upanishads, and the Brahma Sutra. Ram Mohan Roy, founder of Brahmo Samaj, identified the monotheism of Christianity and Islam as of universal validity. Codification of the doctrines came with the main principles of the Nava Samhita, New Dispensation, of Keshub Chandra Sen, the third leader of the movement, in 1881. These are: 1) Harmony of all scriptures, saints, and sects. 2) Harmony of reason and faith, of devotion and duty, of yoga and bhakti. 3) The church of the Samaj stands for One Supreme God, to be worshipped without form. No idolatry in any form may enter the precincts of the church. 4) The church stands for universal brotherhood without distinction of caste or creed or sect. One might add to this the principle of Roy that religious authority should be based on reason and ability, not on priestly caste.
Texts from all world religions are used for prayer and worship.|
|History|| ||Ram Mohan Roy was born in 1774 to a Brahmin family in the Bengal village of Radhanagar. He was influenced in his youth by studies in Advaita and the monotheism of Islam, and later by the Unitarian movement. The superior kulina castes stood aloof from the British. Roy however was the son of a non-kulina Brahmin and the non-kulina Hindus reaped the benefit of working with the British. By 1815 Roy was a financial success and went to live in Calcutta to devote himself to social, moral, and religious reform.|
The non-kulina Hindus were being urged by Christian missionaries to convert. To keep their Hindu identity and to acquire Western culture as well as to improve their religious status - for their religious leadership came from the kulinas -a new form of Hinduism was needed. Ram Mohan Roy provided this by the creation of the Brahmo Samaj in 1828 and he became the religious leader. He was followed by other non-kulinas and this new type of religious leader also led other new religious movements in the nineteenth century.
Thus started the first modern Hindu reform movement. Roy sought to reform Hinduism from within, to restore Hinduism to its primitive purity. He started the restoration of the Vedas to public awareness for both study and religious inspiration, and he regenerated the Vedantic tradition, still of importance to educated Hindus today. Roy worked tirelessly to better social, moral, and religious conditions, one of his great successes being his contribution to the abolition of suttee in 1829.
Under the successors of Roy, Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905) and Keshub Chandra Sen (1838-1884), the work of Roy continued and the Samaj developed into a vital movement for social and religious reform. Swami Vivekananda as a young man was involved in the most westernising, reformist faction of the Brahmo Samaj. Gandhi too was a beneficiary of the vision of Roy.
The Samaj contributed to the process of making the Vedas "the active basis of numerous ideologies for socio-religious change. In this way they played an important part in the creation of modern India..." (Lipner 1994, 66).
|Symbols|| ||Keshub gave concreteness to the otherwise abstract monotheism of the Samaj by introducing into the church the Pilgrimage to saints, the Homa ceremony, the Baptismal ceremony, the Lord's supper, the Flag ceremony, the Arati, the vow of Poverty, the Savitri Vrata, the Nightingale Vrata, and other innovations. He also introduced extempore prayers and speeches from the pulpit rather than fixed stereotyped liturgy. However, Keshub himself became a symbol as a master and avatar.|
|Adherents|| ||The Brahmo Samaj survives as a relatively small but progressive sect mainly in West Bengal. The Tagore family supported the Samaj for three generations.|
| ||Calcutta, Bengal, India.|