History of movemnets - 11

In 1892 he had given up a good post in the N. W. R. Examiner’s office to devote himself entirely to the service of God and humanity. In November 1892 he joined the Sadhan Ashram along with the late Bhai Sunder Singh as mentioned above. In 1893 on the occasion of Magh Utsava he was ordained as a worker of the Ashram by the late Maharashi Davendra Nath Tagore. He worked at Calcutta and other places in Bengal for a year or so. In 1894 a branch of the Sadhan Ashram was opened at  Arra in Behar with Bhai Prakash Dev as Superintendent where he worked till 1896 when the Arra Ashram was transferred to Bankipur. During all this time the late Bhai Sunder Sing followed him like a twin brother and friend.

On his return from an extensive tour in the Punjab, Baluchistan, and Cutch; it was discovered that Bhai Prakash Dev was suffering from diabetes of a very serious type which was due to his incessant mental labours. As he was advised to take complete rest, for some time, he was relieved of his onerous duties as Superintendent of the Ashram and Babu Gurudas Chakravarti was appointed to take his place at Bankipur. He was sent to Darjeeling for a change where he stayed for some months. When a little better he went to the Punjab and Baluchistan on Mission tour along with Pandit Shiv Nath Shastri and Babu Satish Chandra Chakravarti. Several leading Brahmas in the Punjab and Baluchistan and notably Prof. Ruchi Ram Sahni Very much wished that Bhai Prakrash Dev be per­manently stationed in the Punjab but the Sadhan Ashram authorities could not spare him. For this reason Bhai Prakash Dev could pay only occasional visits to the Punjab though his heart was always in the land of his birth as he belongs to a small town named Sadhora in the Amballa district. At the urgent request of some friends from the Punjab and to meet his own wishes he was as mentioned above spared for the Punjab. He at once began his opera­tions there in right earnest. Brahma Pracharak was strengthened. Armoonati Sabha which was lately started by brother Lala Raghunath Sahai to train young men for the Brahma Samaj was re-organised and placed on proper and firm footing. A Sadhak Mandali for ladies was started. A Theological Class for young men was opened. These various institutions did useful work for a number of years. The very first year of his regular work in, the Punjab he succeeded in initiating into Brahma Dharma

1) Lala Raghunath Sahai B. A. Head Master Union Academy, Lahore, and the present Secretary of the Punjab B. Samaj,

2) Babu Nishikant Dhar, now Assistant Surgeon at Banda.

In 1902 Lala RamNarain Gupta B, A. L. L. B. 2nd Master, Union Academy was initiated into Brahma Dharma In spite of Bhai Prakash Dev’s constant ill-htalth due to diabetes he succeeded in initiating II young men and 4 ladies into Brahma Dharma besides intiating 7 young men as candidate mem­bers. Through his persistent efforts two young men of good parts have decided to devote themselves entirely to the service of the Brahma Samaj. Their names are Lala Sita Ram Mallick of Miani and Bhai Behari Lal Vasdeo of Isakhel. Both of them be­long to respectable families. They are at present being trained as workers.

History of movemnets - 10

The Theistic movement was first started in the Punjab probably in 1863 when Babu Navin Chandra Rai and some other Bengali Brahmas organised a regular weekly prayer meeting in Raja Lai Singh’s Tosha Khana. The first Punjabi to join the church was Lala Sardha Ram who is still spared to us. Babu Sashi Bushan Bose of the Sindh Punjab Railway was the first Secretary. In 1866 Mahatma Keshav Chundra Sen visited the Punjab and delivered 3 lectures which attracted large audiences. A few years later Maharshi Devendra Nath Tagore came to the Punjab and visited Delhi, Amritsar, Kangra, Dalhousie, Lahore and Murree among other minor places. This visit like that of the Minister Keshav Chandra Sen greatly strengthened the Theistic Movement in the Panjab. In 1870 Babu R. C. Singha became the Secretary of the Samaj and he assisted by Babu N. C. Roy succeeded in erecting the present Brahma Mandir in April 1872. Mahatma Keshav Chundra Sen paid his second visit to the Punjab sometime after his, return from England and infused a new spirit in the Samaj and his lectures and discourses attracted a large number of educated young men to the Samaj. It was probably at this time that Pandit S. N. Agnihotri joined the Brahma Samaj.

He advanced the cause of Brahma Samaj by means of his lectures and writings. After someyears he gave up his lucrative post in the Education Department to devote his time and energies entirely to the work of the Samaj. After some years Pandit S. -N. Agnihotri seceded from the Samaj and established his own Samaj known as the Dev Samaj which was carried for some time on much the same lines as the Brahma Samaj but gradually he drifted away more and more from its doctrines and ideals. In the meantime Babu N. C. Ray had left the Punjab. The work of the Samaj greatly suffered but occasion­al visits of Rev. P- C. Muzumdar, Pundit Shiva Nitth Shastri, Babu Amrita Lai Bose, and some other missionaries from Bengal gave an impetus to the cause. Local members like Babu A. C. Muzumdar, Lala Kashi Ram, Lala Ruchi Ram, Bhai Chatar Singh and Lala Harhbagwan worked hard to strength­en the cause of Theism in the Punjab. Weekly divine services were held in the Mandir; Sangat meet­ings were carried on; lectures on social, moral and religious subjects were delivered, and Temperance and Purity Societies were started. A Brahma Ashram was opened and conducted for 6 or 7 years.

In 1898 the authorities of the Sadhan Ashrm de­cided to open the Punjab Mission with Lahore as its head quarters. So the late Bhai Sewa Nand Sunder Singh was deputed to the Punjab permanently in 1898.

He had joined the Sadhan Ashram in 1892 as a candidate worker and had been trained at Arra and Bankipur for mission work under Bhai Prakash Dev who had also joined the Sadhan Ashram the very same year as a worker. Bhai Sunder Sing assisted by Pandit Giridhar Rai Vishwasi and Raghunath Sahai, B. A. restarted the Brahma Pracharak an Urdu fortnightly from the 1st of January 1899. He started a Sadhak Mandli for the benefit of the Brahmas at Lahore. This Mandli worked satisfactorily for several years and proved very beneficial to some of its devoted members. Bhai Sundar Sing occasionally conducted weekly divine service at the Lahore Mandir. He officiated at domestic ceremonies, visit­ed different families, and disseminated the literature; of the Brahma Samaj. During his stay in the Punjab he visited Bhera, Gujarat, Amritsar, Gujranwala Rawalpindi, Quetta, Karachi, Hyderabad Sindh and other places. His services for the sick especially were highly appreciated. His untimely death at Calcutta on the nth of February 1901 was a severe shock to the Sadhan Ashram and specially to its Punjab Mission then quite in its infancy. In 1900 Bhai Prakash Dev’s services were permanently transferred to the Punjab Mission.

History of movemnets - 32

Switzerland.—The first Unitarian martyr who suffered at the hands of his Protestant brethren was a Swiss by name Lewes Hetzee who was executed at Zurich on the 4th February 1529. Twenty-four years after, Servitus above referred to, was caught and publicly burnt. Notwithstanding these sad events Switzerland soon became a kind of retreat for heretics from Italy. The members and ministers of the Swiss Church, not being committed by any decla­ration to the belief in orthodox doctrines, the Pastors at Geneva and other places soon became Unitarians. Zurich in German—Switzerland takes the place of honour, holding aloft the banner of liberalism, since Dr. Stranss settled in that city in 1839. In 1870 was founded “the Swiss Union of liberal Chris­tianity” and has branches in Bale, Berne, Aargan, Sobure, Aphenzell, St. Gall, Zurich and, Geneva; it is a great force of Protestant liberalism in Swit­zerland. “The General Society of Protestant Missions’ whose present headquarters are at Berlin, but in whose foundations Swiss Liberal Protestantism played a prominent part, was created in 1884. This Society has striven to establish missionary enterprise on liberal lines, inculcating respect for the religions of non-Christian peoples, and spiritualizing the elements of truth which they contain. So far this society supports missionaries in China and Japan only.

Germany.—The German people have had the honour of not only producing Luther but also of the earliest of the Unitarian Reformers. During the last 350 years the scholars and divines of this country have often lent their help towards the rationalization of theology. Still there is as yet no distinctly named Unitarian Movement in Germany. However as early as 1861 there were 3,25,077 persons who called themselves Unitarians in the Governmental statistics. Dr. Julius Rupp a very virtuous and learned man was dismissed by a judgment of the consistory for his preaching at Koenigsberg, the City of Kant, against the use of the old con­fession of faith. But his numerous friends and scholars stood faithfully by him and founded the first Free Religions Congregation in 1846 at Koenigsberg. “Soon afterwards Free Religions Congregations were founded in other cities of Germany, in Magdeburg by Uhlich in Halle, Nordhansen and others. Two years later there was a similar movement in the Roman Catholic Church of which Ronge and Czerski were the leaders. These communities were subse- quently united with the free evangelical communities.”

Dr.C.Schieler, representative of the Free Religious Congregations in Germany said in his address before the International Council of Liberal Religion in London in 1901:—

“Dr. Rupp the first preacher of F. R. Congrega­tions was several times imprisoned because he was more obedient to his conscience than to the laws of the state. The religious services were watched by policemen and more than once dissolved, and even private assemblies were broken up. In 1851 the Church was closed by the head of the Police at Koenigsberg. The position began to improve under the regency of the Prince of Prassia, afterwards the German Emperor William I. Now the congregation is at liberty to celebrate its divine service and festivals, but in defiance of the constitution.”

“We have no confession of faith and do not pre­scribe any dogmas for the acceptance of our members. Everybody is expected and urged to farther, refine and to perfect his religious knowledge and to order his moral life according to his religions convictions. We do not want to be free from religion but from the constraint in religious questions and life. We do not believe that religion is morality only; but that morality is the best fruit of religion. We esteem the Gospel highly because it contains the doctrines of the greatest teacher of mankind, Jesus Christ. But we also respect the results of modern criticism and those of other sciences as they concern religion.”

“We are not members of a Church. We have no Pope, or Bishop or Priest: We are a free association. Our aim is to erect the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus, the free Kingdom of free children of God….. emphasizing the great Commandment; Love to Godand Love to Man ... And if there are some who want to have a Church I accept a word I have heard here: The only Church of the future is the Church of reli­gious liberty of humanity.”

History of movemnets - 31

Christianity and even Judaism were themselves in origin religious reform movements; and, like all such movements, were essentially liberal in the beginning. Moses was a Unitarian and so was Jesus and his near­est disciples. “During the first two centuries of the Christian era, the religious teachings of Jesus came into contact with the speculative thought of Alexandria and Greece, Gradually a systematic dogma coiled itself round the primitive faith of Christians and an elaborate ritual fastened itself on the observances of public worship. The Trinitarian doctrine suggested by Tertullian (150-230) developed by Apollinaris (d. 390) and Augustine (354-430) became an establi­shed ecclesiastical creed by the edict of the council of Nicasa (325)” Michael Servetus, born at Villanneva in Spain in 1511 was the first to emancipate religious thought from the crust of Christology thus accumulat­ed through twelve centuries. His important work was a book “Resotaration of Christianity.” For this great service to humanity he had the great man's reward, slow death on the pile of burning green wood at Geneva on the 27th of October 1563. Faasto Sazxine born at Siena, Tuscany, Italy, 5 December 1539 followed Servitus in this great service and died in seclusion at Luclawise 3 March 1604.

Hungary. The honor of developing the liberal faith or organized life belongs however to Hungary, where Fraucis David conducted the first Unitarian service in the open air from a large stone in the streets of Thorda. Curiously enough Fansto Sozzini helped in persecut­ing David who died in prison in 1579: but his church survived. “It had the good fortune through the influence of Prince Sigismund who adopted Unitarian views, to aid in the establishment, in Transylvania, of religious liberties unknown to any other country at this early period. An ordinance was passed that every one might embrace, without restraint, that religion which he preferred to hold ……and that the members must not intermeddle either openly or secretly in things tending to the oppression of another religion. This fact is the explanation of the perpe­tuity of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania from 1546 to the present time….. …Notwithstanding this law the Unitarians have been subjected to a very unjust treatment principally through the mandates of Rome to the rulers of Austria who have held dominion over Transylvania. At one time the Unitarians were in possession of no less than 400 Church buildings, eleven colleges and three Universities. They were deprived of two thirds of these from time to time by the Jesnit-ridden Government of the country. ...In 1721 the school buildings were Violently taken from them. Not until the close of the last century were they permitted to print for themselves their own list-books for the instruction of their stu­dents in Theology. In 1791 Joseph Prince of Transylvania once more confirmed the equality of their rights.By the intrigues of the Pope, the Austrian Government renewed its attack in 1857 on the liberties of this Church whose ranks were already thinned. Austria demanded at the instigation of the jesnits, that the control of education in Hungary should be handed over to the Catholic Church. But for the help given in England and America to raise funds and the indignation excited againut the unjust exactions of that period, 1857, the Unitarians in Hungary would have suffered a serious loss Mr. J. Fretwell rightly compliments “The position of these poor churches among the Transylvanian hills is of supreme importance to the cause of peace, of morality, of all that we call Christianity, at a time when all Eastern Europe is inflammed by the conflict between the Mahomeddans and a people, who calling themselves Christians, are if possible, more inhuman than the Turks.” Since the last Austrian attack, there has been a gradually closer intercommunication between the Unitarians in Hungary and those in England and America. Uni­tarians in Hungary have not only sent their young men to be educated in England but hare translated into their own language the works of Channiag and other Unitarians. A traveller in Hungary observes “I attended a religious services of the Unitarians. The Church, was small, perfectly plain, painted white and evidently several centuries old. The peasant women occupied one side, and the men the other. They all sang in common. The prayers were extermpore; the sermon was without notes. I residedsubsequently among village of the Unitarians. The populations are all remarkable for their intelligence nod morality. As a general thing they are radicals in Politics. I also learned from my companions that there was not a Unitarian child through the whole region who could not read or write. This was re­markable in a conntry where 75 percent of the total population can neither read nor write. Then I asked how as to criminal offences, drunkenness, immorality of the sexes, theft and the like. He answered “Oh they are almost unknown; we have no illegitimate children; the people are very sober and hard-working.”

The above acconnt of an eye-witness is doubly interesting as it indicates that a liberal living religion is neither confined to the intellectual aristocrasy nor to the other upper classes residing in towns and other crowded centres of modern civilized life. Secondly it shows that a religious belief and life freed from the excesses of dogim and ritualism, is not merely one sided intellectual growth, as some may suppose, but has its healthy moral as well as civic effects naturally arising from the intellectual emancipation and stimu­lus. In 1876 the situation in Hungary was described “At the present time in Hungary there is a Unitarian population of about 60,000 who have among them abont 120 churches. One of our friends informs ns that in their schools, the children are taught very distinctly the way of both defining and sustaining their Unitarian position.”The progressive movement was crowned in 1896 by the Bill of Religious Freedom which secured freedom and tolerance for every religions sect and finally the Civil Marriage Law passed in 1897 dealt a serious blow to the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary.

History of movemnets - 30

Henceforth the movement began to be known as Behaism and spread fast in Persia, Turkestan, Tartary and Egypt and reached out to Europe and America. Eminent statesmen and scholars, and royal person­ages visited and consulted Beha’u’llah in the prison, who was treated with great honor in his confinement. Prof. Browne of Cambridge was one of such visitors. He has graphically described the noble figure and demeanor of the illustrious prisoner and the effect of the visit on himself. On being ushered in he was addressed by Beha‘u’llah "Blessed be the name of God. Yon have come to see an exiled prisoner. We wish the good of the world and welfare of nations and we are the victim of banishment. What crime is there in proclaiming the unity of religions, annihilation of the distinctions of races, and the promotion of brotherly love among mankind!.... And this shall be in the end. The international conflict shall cease and Peace shall reign. Did not Christ prophesy this? And yet the kings of Europe instead of spending their trea­sures for the welfare of their subjects are wasting them in murderous wars. This carnage should cease and Humanity be one family, Man should take pride not in loving his own country but the whole humanity!”

Prof. Browne in his “New History of the Bab" (Page XXIV. Introduction) thus contrasts the teach­ings of Behaism to those of the primitive Babism “No sooner was Beha firmly established in his authority, than he began to make free nse of the privileges accorded by the Bab to “Him whom God shall manifest” to abrogate, change, cancel and develop the earlier doctrines. His chief aim seems to have been to introduce a more settled order, to discour­age speculation, to direct the attention of his followers to practical reforms pursued in a prudent and unobtru­sive fashion, to exalt ethics at the expense of meta­physics, to check mysticism, to conciliate existing authorities, including even the Shah of Persia, the Nero of the Babi faith, to abolish useless, unpractical and irksome regulations and restrictions and in general to adapt the religion at the head of which he now, found himself, to the ordinary exigencies of life and to render it more capable of what he intended to make, a universal system suitable to all mankind. A remembrance of all the wrongs which he and his co­religionists had suffered at the hands of Mussulmans, further caused him gradually but steadily to eliminate the tinge of, Mahammedan and more especially of Shicite thought which the Babi doctrine still maintain­ed, while ever seeking a better understanding with the Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, with all of whom he recommended his followers to consort on friendly terms.”

The Present Position: Abdul Beha: After 26 years of life in the prison at Acre, Beha’u’llah departed this world leaving behind his son as the head of the Behai church. The son is in no way inferior tothe father in scholarship and learning, foresight and attractiveness. Spending 16 years in the prison after his father, he was released in the revolution of 1908, and he is now free to move wherever he chooses. But he was in no way idle in the prison. Many visitors came to him from Europe and America. One of them Mias Lansa Clifford Barni has published a beautiful book of about 350 pages “Some Answered Questions” a well arranged conspectus of the various topics dwelt upon by Abdul Beha.  Translations of this in Persian and French are also published.

Behaism was first introduced in America by an adventurous Behai Missionary Mirza Abdul Fazal- Chicago has now been the focus of Behai activities in America. Many Behai Americans visit the Beha, centres in Europe, Turkey and Persia and spread the cause by delivering lectures in India, China and Japan. At present there are Behai Congregations in the following places in India—Bombay, Poona, Amritsar, Lahore, Calcutta and Rangoon. In Chicago there is a grand central Prayer Hall, to which thousands of pounds have been contributed by Behais all over the world.

Most of the educational and social progressive activities in Persia may be traced to Behai initiative. Schools, hospitals and other philanthropic institutions are being conducted by self-sacrificing men and women from America. To promote education on a larger scale a Society called “The Persian-American Education Society” has been formed; the name is now changedat the suggestion of Abdul Beha into “Occidental— Oriental Interdependence Society”. The aim of this Society is no less than to promote general co-operation between mankind irrespective of time and country”. Last year Abdul Beha was enthusiastically welcomed in England by the Congregationalists in the City Temple and by the Unitarians and Brahmas in their Essex Hall in England, whence he was to proceed to America and other countries.