THE NEW LIGHT OF PERSIA.
Prof. E. G. Browne of Cambridge, England, to whom the non-Persian world owes more than any one else the knowledge of the wonderful movement of liberal religion in Western Asia, opens his book “The New History of the Bab (1803) thus :—“Half a century has not yet elapsed since Mirza Ali Mahummad, the young seer of Shiraz, first began to preach the religion which now counts its martyrs by hundreds and its adherents by hundreds of thousands; which seemed at one time to menace the supremacy alike of the Kazar dynasty and of Muhommedan faith in Persia, and may still not improbably prove an important factor in the History of Western Asia,” He also quotes in a footnote from Lord Curzon’s Persia Vol.I, p. 499, “The lowest estimate places the present number of Babis in Persia at half a million. I am disposed to think, from conversation with persons well qualified to judge that the total number is nearer
Origin: The Bab—Shaik Mahommed Assai, the founder of a progressive sect of the Shiya Section of Mahonunedanism was born in 1752. The Bab was the designation of a mediator believed by this sect to be necessary to connect the present generation to a future prophet. Hazi Sayyad Kazim the second leader of this sect before his death in 1844 used to often allude to a coming incaruation for whom his disciples were in search. At least one of these searching disciples, Mulla Hussein, fell in with an extraordinarily spiritually minded youth, Mirza Ali Mahammed, who eventually declared himself to be the Bab. The spiritoal genius apparently without any education would put forth wonderful expositions of the Kuran and would even comment upon some intricate portion of it so as to naturally create reverence in those that gathered round him. He preached for six years his new gospel with a remarkable power all his own and attracted to him millions of followers, eighteen ardent disciples who could throw away their home, fame, and even their life for his sake. Moulvis and Mullas, who came to argue, remained as converts Officials and even Governors secretly sympathised with him. This led to constant fends in small towns and even to great revolts in the Northern and Southern districts. Under the misrule and disorder of the minor king Nasairuddin Shaha the Babis were put to a terrible persecution. Any Mulla might arraign an innocent Babi under some pretext or other and open murder or even wholesale massacre would follow, which only stimulated the new faith into a more and more glorious increase. At last the Bab was arrested, transferred from one prison to another for a time and after a mock trial was finally executed together with one of his disciples Aka Alii Mahammad in the presence of large crowds. Maddened by this last outrage three Babi youths plotted against the life of the King Nassiruddin and failed which causcd an unspeakable reign of terror and innumerable innocent Babis were sacrificed in the massacres that followed.
Growtht Beha-‘U’-llah—The two of the disciples of the Beb who escaped this general massacre were two step brothers Mirza Husseign Ali and Mirza Yahia of the city of Nur. Their father was a late Vazir and their grandfather a Prime Minister of Iran. The Bab had nominated Mirza Yahia who was styled as Suft-E-Ezel, as his successor. But he was by nature quiet and given to solitude and not capable of organizing and developing the new faith in those troublous times. Mirza Ali Hasseign, who afterwards styled himself as Beha-’u’-llah was wise and forceful. He betook himself with his followers to the hill Irak in the neighbourhood of Bagdad; and first spent much of his time in contemplation and laying down the fonndations of the future organization. Thence he wrote letters inculcating his new faith and ideals to the Shaha of Iran, and political heads of Germany, England, France, and the Pope of Rome, and called upon them to establish the Universal Peace. But he had to be removed to Constantinople and thence to Adrianople. Meanwhile he had won over most of the Babis to his side and in 1862 declared himself as Beha’u’llah or the Glory of God. The Bab had predicted that one greater than himeelf would come after him just as John the Baptist had foretold Jesus Christ. But there arose bitter dissensions between the two parties of Subh-E-Ezel and Beha‘u’llah, the latter however soon getting the upperhand by his natural abilities and efforts.' Roused by their mutual jealousies and complaints, the Turkish Government banished them both, Subh-E-Ezel to the island of Cyprus and Beha’u’llah to the fort of Acre in Seria in 1868.
THE NEW LIGHT OF PERSIA.
Liberal Japanese—With this unique, universal aim the Japanese Mission of the American Unitarian Association did its work till 1900 A.D. When the successful superintendent Rev.Clay MacCaaley returned to America, leaving the Misson to the care of the Japanese Unitarians to be independently guided and controlled by capable Japanese themselves. The veteran leader is Mr. Jitsunen Saji who has advanced through Buddhism to Unitarianism. Associated with him are Messrs. Tomoyoshi Murai, Saburo Shimada, Iso Abe, Nobnta Kishimoto, Zennosnke Toyosaki (Mancheter college scholar 1901-3), Saichero Kanda and others, whose religions life was at first under the influence of orthodox Christianity; also Mr. Kinza Hirai who for years was an ardent advocate of progressive Buddhism together with his friend Mr. Zenshero Noguchi, and Mr. Yoshio Ogasawara who, with experience in orthodox Christianity is now carrying on a work of distinctive social and moral reform under the Unitarian name in Wakayama in central Japan. A few years later Mr. Maccauley paid a visit to Japan. The American Unitarian Association continued their pecuniary grant at the rate of three thousand dollars per year by the help of the Hayward Fund for foreign missions.
The Actual work— (1) Sunday Lectures. Only a morning service was held until the summer of 1899, when the number of voluntary workers being suddenly increased, there began to be held two services in the morning and evening. At each meeting two persons speak. Besides the seven regular speakers, the prominent members and some times outsiders are asked to stand in the pulpit. In 1903 the attendance at the Unity Hall, Tokyo, was reported to be about 300. Rev. S. Uchigasaki, lately a student at the Manchester College, Oxford, has now accepted the office of minister of the Unitarian Society at Tokio (1912).
(2) The Postal Mistion is an important work of the Association. In 1900 it distributed about 1,00,000. pamphlets. Many young Buddhists who much appreciated these phamphlets desired to study in the Unitarian school but could not do so on accoant of their pecuniary dependence on the
(3) Rikugo-Zasshi or Cosmo, is a monthly magazine, the organ of the Unitarian movement in Japan. Except in the department of lectures given at Unity Hall, Unitarianism is not preached directly. The paper is meant to be the pure organ of liberal religion and free discussion. Though not commanding a large sale it is one of the most effective means of work.
(4) Thb Library in the Unity Hall contains several thousands of valuable books, magazines and papers chiefly English and is open to all.
(5) Mofussil Work—Superintendent Saji goes on tours and holds public meetings. An ethical- society at Nagoya and a Sunday Association at Ajino were the two branch associations about the year 1900. Mr. Ogasawara’s “Industrial Hall” at Wakayama whereby he means to promote a reconciliation between capital and labour and also improve public, morality is a noteworthy Unitarian endeavour. There is a great scope for social work for the Japanese Unitarians. One of them Mr.Shimada, a statesman and a reformer, isan active member of the Temperance Union and is also devoting most of his time to the Anti-prostitution movement.
In a paper read by Mr. Zennosuke Toyosaki, the Japanese representative in the international Liberal Religious Council at Amesterdam in September 1903 observed “Outside the Christian church the Buddhists have recently been displaying a new spirit. Three years ago and association was organized in Tokyo for the reformation of Buddhism. It is called “the Buddhist Puritanical Association” and the programme acknowledges freedom of thought and inquiry, the authority of reason and conscience, the abolition of certain Buddhist rituals, and the cultivation of fraternal relations among different religious bodies. Although started by only a small number of young Buddhists, I attach peculiar importance to this movement as it embodies a new spirit of reform amongst the advanced Buddhists. Noteworthy is the fact that this new Buddhist movement is deeply sympathetic with the Unitarian movement and that probably they will join hands in the near future.”
(The bulk of this article is the substance extracted from the pamphlet “The Unitarian Movement in Japan” received from a friend in
LIBERAL RELIGION IN JAPAN.
Origin and Growth— During the large part of the decade between 1880-90 the Japanese people actuated by a strong pro-foreign zeal, seemed about to undergo a complete Westernization. Among an influential few, of whom Yuknchi Fuknzawa was leader (1884) a movement was made for the acceptance by the nation of the Christian religion. This movement was radically significant, although it was in its origin, chiefly one of practical politics. Soon afterwards (1883) Fumio Yauo, who had been closely associated with Fuknzawa, returning from a stay in England, set forth in some noteworthy newspaper articles, Christianity as the only means of moral salvation for his country. Mr. Yauo recommended Unitarianism as that form of Christianity in which the essential Christanity is freed from supernaturalism. Other active public men at about the same time had much to say in favour of Christianity in a rationalized form. From these circles suggestions were made to the American Unitarian Association to send representatives to Japan to utilize the growing liberalism.
In compliance to these suggestions, Rev. Arthur May Knapp was commissioned to Japan in 1887. The next year Rev.Clay Macbauley joined him as colleague. At the same time the Keiogijikn University of Tokyo received three professors from America, Garretc Droppers, W. J. Liscomb and J. H. Wigmore, who had been also appointed assistants in the Unitarian mission. Rev. H. W. Hawkes of England in the winter of 1889-90 associated himself with the Mission as a volunteer worker. The first Unitarian Church of Tokyo came into existence in the spring of 1890, and numerous inland agencies for promoting public lectures and distributing literature were arranged for; a magazine, now the Rikugo-zasshi (cosmos), began its issues in the month of March; courses of lectures on religious, ethical and social science topics which developed in the next year into the Jiyu Shin Gakko (School for Liberal Theology), and later became the Senshin Gakuin (School for Advanced Learning), were begun.
In the next four years, Mr. Knapp and some of his assistants had to return home for one reason or other. But a large staff of Japanese assistants conducted the work much increased in scope and effectiveness. The Mission headquarters in Unity Hall, Shikokamachi Shiba, Tokyo, is a commodious building erected by the Unitarians of America and England : here religions services in Japanese are held weekly : rooms are provided for the officers of the Japan Unitarian Association; also offices and store rooms of the Postal Mission and the editing of the magazine the Rikugo Zasshi, The Senshin Gakuin Lectnre courses, conducted by seven lecturers, were held in the Unity Hall through nine month Of each year.
Catholio Aims— The dominant purpose of this Mission as appear from its publications and its way of working is not the teaching of a fixed and authpritative body of doctrine or the reproduction among the Japanese of as pecific system of ecclesiastical organisation and government. When the Mission was established its founders stated that its aim would be to “express the sympathy of American Unitarians for progressive religious movements in Japan and give all necessary information to the leaders of religions thought and action in that country.” In consequence of this purpose, the workers of this Mission have sought to discover, to encourage and to cooperate with any church association, group of persons, or with individuals, irrespective of form of religion, sect or personal belief that might wish to know the most mature and advanced thought of Christendom about any of the higher or spiritual problems and interest of man. Churches and associations distinctively “Unitarian” exist in Japan, and much “Unitarian” literature is published and distributed, but the Unitarian Mission disclaims any organic connection either in the origin or direction of these organisations and accompanies its publications with no authoritative or prescriptive endorsement of their contents. In short, the method of this Mission is to actively familiarize the new idea of the ‘Sympathy of Religions’.
Constitution:-The following are some of the most important rules of Constitution of the Society which was duly registered in November 1910 under Act XXI of 1860 as a charitable body. The Trust Deed of the Society was also registered on the 9th of July 1910. Although this Mission is not organically connected with any of the Brahma or Prarthana Samajes in India, its aims and work as will be seen from the following rules and also its annual reports are as well spiritual an secular. The following resolution adopted by the All-India Theistic Conference held in Madras in December 1908 and reaffirmed in the following sessions is to be noted in this connection:—
That this Conference with great pleasure recognizes the aims and work of the Depressed Classes Mission Society of India as Theistic and heartily calls on all Brahma and Prarthana Samajes in India to show sympathy and render pecuniary help to the Mission in its work.”
Rules of Constitution.
1. Name—The Society shall be called “The Depressed Classes Mission Society of India.”
2. Object—The object of the Society shall be to maintain a Mission which shall seek to elevate the social as well as the spiritual condition of the Depressed Classes viz., the Mahras, Chambhars, Pariahs, Namsudras, Dheds and all other classes treated as untouchable in India, by
(1) Promoting education
(2) Providing work,
(3) Remedying their social disabilities, and
(4) Preaching to them principles of Liberal Religion (as are not inconsistent with such progressive movements as the Brahma or Prarthana Samajes in India,) personal character and good citizenship.
3. Religious Work.— The religious work of the Society shall be based on the recognition of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Beyond this, the Society, as such, shall not take any dogmatic or sectarian position.
4. Missionaries:— Any person who at the invitation of the Executive Committee agrees to devote himself to the work of the Mission and is accepted as such by the General Body shall be deemed a Missionary of the Society.
5. Board of Spiritual and Social Ministry— To minister to the spiritual and social needs of the Depressed Classes in India there shall be a separate Board consisting of all Missionaries and three-other members to be annually elected there to by the Council from among themselves. This board shall have a charge of all the Spiritual and social institutions and organizations of the Mission, such as the Congregations. Sunday Schools, Young Peoples’ Clubs, etc., and shall be subject to the rules and the control of the Executive Committee of the Society.
6. Membership of the Society—The General Body of the Society shall consist of:—
(a) Patrons :—(1) That is, persons who make donations of five thousand rupees or more
to the funds of the Society.
(2) Persons of distinction accepting the Patronship at the special invitation of the Executive Committee of the Society.
(b) Life Members:—(1) Those who pay a donation of Be. 1,000 or more, or an annual subscription of Rs.100 for 12 years (2) Those who have rendered not less than five years’ continuous service as Missionaries of the Society.
(c) Members— Those paying an annual subscription of not less than Rs. 25.
(d) All Missionaries of the Society ex-officio. 13 Incorporated Branches:—The General Body may start new branches or sanction the conversion of existing affiliated bodies into branches in order to further the objects of the Society with due regard to the financial resources of the Society.
14. The incorporated branches shall send to the Executive Committee for its approval a Budget of its estimated expenditure for the next succeeding three months; for any financial obligations incurred in excess of such estimates without the express sanction previously obtained of the Executive Committee of the Society, the Society shall not be responsible. The incorporated branches shall also send a quarterly statement of accounts and also a report of its work.
15. Affiliated Bodies:—Subject to the approval of the General Body the Executive Committee may affiliate existing bodies doing work similar to that of the Society, provided these bodies agree:—
(1) to work in a way not inconsistent with the aims and deals of this Society and
(2) to submit a duly adopted Annual report of their work and accounts so as to reach the General Secretary before the 1st of February, every year. Subject to these conditions of affiliation the Affiliated Bodies shall be independent in the conduct of their affair, and the Society shall not be responsible for any financial obligations incurred or to be incurred by them.
On having started the Mission, Mr. Shinde clearly stated the problem of the Depressed Classes in India in an article published in the Times of India (1907) and also worked up the total number of them in a table as follows:—
The whole population of the continent of Hindustan, what ever its other divisions, may be divided from the point of view of our problem, into the following divisions:—1 The classes (literary and well-to-do). 2 Masses. 3 Low Castes 4 Hill Tribes. Thus the third division which forms our subject is clear and definite by itself and is common all over India. It has all the disadvantages of the second division, viz., general poverty, want of education, uncertainty of wages, etc., and something more, i.e., they are for ever forbidden the ordinary social privileges of a citizen, viz. freely mixing among the higher castes for social or even economical purposes of life. They are not detached aud unconnected with the body politic as the hill tribes; but yet they have no place in the social communion of this body. They are not even ordinarily touched by the members of the higher castes above them. This pronounced mark of untouchableness is the standing fulcrum on which the lever of depression and degradation is slowly lowered down on them, and this Titanic lever will never be made inoperative until this ominous fulcrum is completely demolished. Consciously or not the lever is set working; it is a fact and not a fiction, and wholesale social depression of these low castes is the result. As to their material and moral condition, some people have the knock of too smoothly gliding into optimistic conclusions. But none of these optimists-at-others’-cost would ever care to exchange lots with them nor could ever get any other castes higher than the victims to exchange lots with them. Now let us estimate the number of these people in all India, so that possibly we may not make any unnecessary fuss over the scandal if it be after all a negligible quantity.
Extracted from the Indian Census Report of 1901 (For PDF Click Here)
Total Indian population 2,943,61,056.
Total Hindu population 2,071,47,026.
Total, Depressed population 532,06,632.
Total Maliomedan population 624,58,077.
Degraded Mahotnedan in Upper India 8,628,566.
Table showing the grades of Mahomedans in North India (For PDF Click Here)
(Big Table)Even if we leave out of consideration the number of the degraded Mahomedans shown above, the total figure of the depressed populations in the whole of India is more than one-fourth of the total Hindu population and more than one-sixth of the total Indian population! More than one-sixth of India is then theoretically and in most cases practically untouchable! Are we to disbelieve the Census reports or believing them, are we to still maintain our characteristic coolness over these appalling numbers?
Let me now hasten to the conclusion. The problem is not for any foreign agency howsoever benevolent it be. It is not again a religious problem—I mean religious in the sectarian or denominational sense. The question is not whether these vast numbers should be saved by Christianity or from Christianity but a broader one that they have to be restored to decent humanity. It is not only an educational problem but a social and philanthropically one. Even so far as it is educational, it is not a problem for the Government of India; it will be better solved by the persuasive and privately organized philanthropy than by a mechanically compelling Government. Not is this a problem for a professional Indian patriot alone. It is the duty of every person that has a right to reside in India, Christian, Jew, Mohammedan, Parsi or Hindu, white or black, in Government service or free, to see that one-sixth of this vast country, which is untouchable, will be restored to decent humanity and free citizenship. Of course a Christian missionary or a Hindu patriot or a Government official or an Employer is each quite welcome to his own special point of view of this common problem of the elevation of the depressed and to his own separate share in its achievement. But that a pariah should become a repenting Christian or remain in the fold of renovated Hinduism, or that he should turn out an efficient national asset or a good law-abiding loyal subject or an honest and industrious labourer—these are only after results and they depend upon the pariah’s first becoming a decent human being, free to move and free to choose his vocation. It is then the duty of every Indian to see that he becomes so. But what is everyman’s concern is no man’s concern. My final word, therefore, is that if work is actually started by some body on these broad lines and with these broad aims—and such work is already started in this City of Bombay—it should meet with sympathy from all.