Many Paths to One God
Renaissance in Hinduism
People and Organizations That Made a Difference in
18th to 20th Century
In the 18th century Hinduism suffered a major set back by the
introduction of English in India. Many people became skeptics and
started questioning religious teachings. However, English has also
helped Hinduism because several prominet Europeans translated major
works of Hinduism into English thus giving it a much needed exposure
outside India. Persons such as Sir William Jones, Sir Charles Wilkins, Colebrooke,
Monier-Williams and Max Muller revealed the treasures of the ancient Indian wisdom. Their work was later
supplemented by art lovers and art critics, who revealed the secrets of
sacred and secular art-forms and concepts.
As an outcome of these influences and counter-influences, there arose
a series of movements which have been rightly described as a renaissance
of Hindu life and thought. Raja Ramamohun Roy was the most outstanding
pioneer of these movements. He struck a note of universalism in tune
with the spirit of the Upanisads. In 1803 he published a book entitled Tuhfat-ul- Muwahhidin. It carried a
protest against idolatry and sought to establish a universal religion
based on the idea of the unity of Godhead.
Rammohun Roy repeatedly
declared that he had no intention of breaking away from the ancestral
religion, and wished to see it restored to its original purity. In order
to carry out his ideas he founded the Brahmo Samaj on the basis of
theism. The Trust Deed of the Samaj laid down that "no graven
image, statue or sculpture carving, painting, picture, portrait or the
likeness of anything shall be admitted within the building."
The Brahmo Samaj
Debendranath Tagore, the next great leader of the Samaj, formulated
the Brahmopadesa, comprising tenets from the Upanisads and Tantras. His
successor, Keshub Chandra Sen, sought to incorporate Christian ideals
into the Brahmo Samaj movement. He began the compilation of a scripture
including passages from the Holy Books of many religions - Hindu,
Buddhist, Hebrew, Christian, Muslim etc. Then he went to England in
1870, he was welcomed by many Christian organizations.
As the result of secessions in the Brahmo Samaj, three institutions
arose: The Adi Brahmo Samaj; the New Dispensation of Keshub Chandra Sen;
and the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj founded by dissenters from the Keshub
The Sadharan Samaj gave a rational, monistic interpretation of the Upanisads, admitting the
essential unity of the universal self and the individual self. The
following doctrines, as noted in Renaissance of Hinduism are common to
all these varieties and offshoots of the Brahmo Samaj:
- They have no faith in any scripture as an authority.
- They have no faith in Avatars.
- They denounce polytheism and idol-worship.
- They are against caste restrictions.
- They make faith in the doctrines of Karma and Rebirth
Another offshoot of the Brahmo Samaj, the Prarthana Samaj was founded
by Justice Ranade in Bombay. Its program included disapproval of caste,
recognition of widow marriage, and the encouragement of women's
The Arya Samaj
As a reaction against the influences typified by Raja Ramamohun Roy
and Justice Ranade, the Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayanand
Saraswati. It attacked the Brahmo Samaj for its pro-European and
A great Sanskrit scholar and a believer in the
doctrines of Karma and Rebirth, Swami Dayanand sought to revive the
Vedic ideals and laid stress on Brahmacarya and Sannyasa. He believed
implicitly in the ancient scriptures, disavowing Puranic Hinduism in
favor of Vedic Hinduism. The Puranic texts, he said, had no Vedic
sanction. Holding the Vedas alone as authoritative, he stated that God
and the human soul are two distinct entities, different in nature and
attributes, though they are inseparable from each other as the pervader
and the pervaded.
The doctrine of Karma and Samsara is of course
accepted by the Arya Samaj. One of its main activities is Suddhi, a
purification ceremony, by which non-Hindus are converted to Hinduism.
The depressed classes and Harijans are entitled to be invested with the
sacred thread and are given equal status with other Hindus.
Principles Of Arya Samaj
- God Is the primary source of all true knowledge and all that is known by its means.
- God is Existent. Conscious. All-beautitude. Formless. Almighty. Just. Merciful. Unbegotten. Infinite. Unchangeable. Beginningless. Incomparable. the support of all. the Lord of all. All-pervading. Omnicient and Controller of all from within. Evermature. Imperishable. Fearless. Eternal. Pure. and Creator of the Universe. To Him alone is worship due.
- The Vedas are the books of all true knowledge. It is the paramount duty of all Aryas to read them. to teach them to others. listen to them. and recite them to others.
- All persons should always be ready to accept truth and renounce untruth.
- All acts ought to be performed in conformity to Dharma. i.e.. after due consideration of right and wrong.
- The prime object of Arya Samaj is to do good to the world. i.e.. to promote physical. spiritual and social progress of all humans.
- All should be treated with love. justice. righteousness. and due regard to their merits.
- Ignorance should be dispelled and knowledge disseminated.
- No one should remain content with one's own well-being. but one should regard one's well-being lying In the well-being of others.
- In matters affecting the well-being of the society (all others). the individual should subordinate one's personal likings. in matters affecting the Individual alone. one is to enjoy the freedom of action.
The Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 by Col. Olcott and Madame
Blavatsky. Dr. Annie Besant became the head of the
Theosophical Society in 1891. Claiming that she had been a Hindu in her
former birth, Annie Besant worked throughout her life for the
regeneration and activization of Hindu thought and Hindu life. She
published a translation of the Bhagavad-Gita along with Dr. Bhagvan Das
and popularized Hindu ideals in her numerous publications and
marvelously eloquent speeches. A defender of many orthodox ideals, she
turned later to social reform, which included the partial modification
of the caste system.
One of the main principles of Theosophical Society is the belief in a
brotherhood of great teachers of the past who are supposed to be living
still, watching over and guiding the evolution of humanity. The
Theosophical Society under Dr. Besant's guidance spread the fundamental
principles of the Hindu religion - Karma, Reincarnation, Yoga and
Sri Ramakrishna and
Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, a great devotee and mystic, had a broad
outlook of universalism. After accepting the discipline of Yoga and
Tantric Sadhana, he underwent the discipline of the Vaisnava, the
Christian and the Islamic ways of life. To rouse the religious feelings
of the worldly-minded and re-affirm the ancient truths of Hinduism by an
appeal to experience, he trained a devoted band of followers, the most
outstanding of whom was Narendranath, Swami Vivekananda.
Ramakrishna's teachings were neither new nor heterodox. As Swami
Vivekananda said on one occasion, Ramakrishna brought old truths to
light. He was an embodiment of the past religious thought of India.
other great religious teachers of the world, he projected his ideas
through parables or images. Questioned, for instance, on the problem of
evil, Sri Ramakrishna said:" Evil exists in God as poison in a
serpent. What is poison to us is not poison to the serpent. Evil is evil
only from the point of view of man." In other words, from the
absolute standpoint, there is no evil, but from the relative standpoint
evil is a terrible reality.
Ramakrishna preached that realization is the
essence of religion - and that all religions are paths leading to the
same goal. He deprecated metaphysical subtleties and insisted on deep
devotion - it was, he said, through his intense devotion to the image of
the Divine Mother in Dakshineswar that realization had come to him.
Swami Vivekananda said:" If men like Sankara, Caitanya and
Ramakrishna found image worship helpful, there is no sense in declining
Ramakrishna's religion and the movement he founded by gathering
around him a band of devoted workers were essentially practical. This
aspect was expounded and universalized by Swami Vivekananda. Under the
inspiration of Ramakrishna, he changed from skepticism to religious
realization and traveled all over the world, preaching the essence of
the truths of Hinduism. He dedicated himself to the service of India and
particularly to the service of those who were starving, depressed, or
beyond the social pale. The work for the uplift of the Indian masses was
for him as important as meditation or Yoga.
At the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda struck a
note of universal toleration based on the Hindu belief that all
religions lead to the same God. He also declared in Chicago that the
religion of the Hindus is centered on self-realization; idols, temples,
churches and books are aids and nothing more.
Swami Vivekananda on Religion
"Religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man."
"Religion is the idea which is raising the brute unto man, and man unto God."
"Try to be pure and unselfish--that is the whole of religion."
"Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy--by one or more or all of these--and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details."
strengthened the Ramakrishna organization by founding monasteries and
centers of Hindu teaching in India and abroad. He reinterpreted Hinduism
and stated that the abstract Advaita must become living. All through his
life and especially during his travels abroad, he insisted that the
essential features of Hinduism are its universality, its impersonality,
its rationality, catholicity and optimism. Above all, its authority is
not affected by the historicity of any particular man.
told his countrymen that they had become weak and miserable because they
did not bring their Vedanta out of the books into life itself. His great
contribution to Hinduism lay in applying the Hindu creed to the
elevation of the masses and abolishing India's isolation from the world,
culturally, spiritually, and in many aspects of social life. He founded
a great and worldwide organization, the Ramakrishna Mission, which has
worked for the spiritual welfare and multiform amelioration of the
living conditions of the people of India and other countries.
Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, one of the latest exponents and interpreters of
Hinduism, has described ancient Indian philosophy as follows:
ingrained and dominant spirituality, an inexhaustible vital creativeness
and gusto of life, and, mediating between them, a powerful, penetrating
and scrupulous intelligence, combined with the rational ethical and
aesthetic mind at a high intensity of action, created the harmony of the
ancient Indian culture."
Sri Aurobindo gave new interpretations of
the Vedas and the Vedanta, and in his 'Essay on the Gita' he expounded
what he called 'the integral view of life." His great work, 'The
Life Divine' is a summing up of his philosophy of 'the Descent of the Divine
into Matter." The importance of Sri Aurobindo's mission lies not
only in his restatements of old ideals but also in his attempt to
explain the true methods of Yoga as apart from mere asceticism and
In the popularization of ancient Hindu ideals, Rabindranath Tagore
and Mahatma Gandhi have played significant parts.
Tagore has made a
suggestive interpretation of the Vedic religion and the substance of the
The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi have led to vast social
changes and to the uplift of the backward and depressed classes. He has
stated that his whole religion is based on a surrender to the will of
God, the spirit of renunciation as embodied in the Isa Upanisad, the
Gita and the ideals of practical service. He has given a new
interpretation to the doctrine of non-violence which is as old as
Hinduism, and tried to adapt it by means of satyagraha to political and
Mahatma Gandhi worked for the uplift of the depressed and backward
classes and for the creation of national entity. Speaking in Travancore
on the Temple Entry Proclamation enacted there in 1936, he said:
"These temples are the visible symbols of God's power and
authority. They are, therefore, truly called the houses of God, .the
houses of prayer. We go there in a prayerful mood and perform, first
thing in the morning after ablution, the act of dedication and
surrender. Scoffers and skeptics may say that all these are figments of
the imagination, that we are imagining God in the images we see. I will
say to these scoffers that it is so. I am not ashamed of confessing that
imagination is a powerful factor in life. Now you can easily understand
that, in the presence of God, the Ruler of the Universe, who pervades
everything, even those whom we have called the lowest of the low, all
Hinduism by Dr. C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar, et.al.,
The Gazetteer of
India, Volume 1, Publications Div., Government of India, 1965.
[Selected Prayers][Prayer Home Page][Meditation][Yoga][HolisticonLine Home
are developed and maintained
Send mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org with
comments about this web site.
All Rights Reserved.