Sir Richard has done our Society the great honour of misrepresenting its character and objects to an English audience. A pamphlet edition of “A Speech delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, on Monday, May 10, 1880, by Sir Richard Temple, Bart., G.C.S.I., C.I.E., late Governor of Bombay, in furtherance of the Oxford Mission to Calcutta,” just sent us from England, informs the Oxonians that “modern education is shaking the Hindu faith to its very foundation;” and “among the consequences of such a change in the minds of the people is the formation of several important sects.” He, however, bethought him of only three—the Brahmo Samaj, the Prarthana Samaj, and—the sect of Theosophists!
“There is another sect,” says Sir Richard, “called the Prarthana Samaj, which is now being established in Poona; and in the city of Bombay itself, there is another sect, called the Theosophists.”
The religious opinions of two of these three important sects are kindly explained. The Brahmos
“are almost, though not entirely, Christians. You may attend one of their lectures, and you will hear the speaker begin with a text from the New Testament, and he will proceed for many minutes before you will find out that he is not a Christian. In fact, these men are lingering upon the very threshold of Christianity, ‘almost persuaded,’ to be Christians.”
The Prarthana Samajists are passed over without notice, though their handsome white edifice is one of the conspicuous ornaments of the Girgaum quarter of Bombay. But he knows all about us at any rate: possibly from the reports of his secret police.
“The Theosophists of Bombay are, I believe,” remarks the eminent lecturer, “being instructed by persons, not natives, but of European descent, who have, after abandoning Christianity, proceeded to India to discover in the Vedas, the ancient writings of that country, the true source of wisdom.”
And he most kindly suggests that the one thing which “the upper educated classes of the people of India” need is “to send out to them men of greater culture than their own.” Stopping only to remark that neither Oxford nor any other European university ever turned out a scholar, the equal of any one of fifty Indian philosophers who might be named, we will say that greater ignorance of the objects and principles of the Theosophical Society could not have been shown. It is not led by persons who abandoned Christianity, since they never accepted it; nor is it a religious sect, nor does it profess to be, but, on the contrary, it distinctly affirms that as a society it has no creed, and takes in members of all creeds upon equal terms. While so far from our helping or encouraging Hindus to “throw off the faith of their fathers,” we have been doing our best for the past two years to make them respect that faith more than ever, and to realize that their ancestors taught a better religion, better philosophy, and better science than any other nation of Europe ever heard of. If Sir Richard means to discourse again at Oxford upon Indian religious opinion and “sects” he would do well to study his subject a little deeper. He might then even ascertain that there is a Hindu sect-leader with some three lakhs of followers, named Pandit Dáyánand Saraswati Swami, whose Arya Samaj has fifty branches throughout India—one at Bombay, with a member of the Governor’s Council as President—and the avowed object of which is to promote the study of the Vedas.