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David Miller

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British Christian Missionaries
Ram Mohan Roy + the Brahmo Samaj
Sri RamaKrishna and Swami Vivekananda
British South Asia 1750-1947
The British made their capital in Calcutta and at first, refused to let Christian
missionaries practice in the Calcutta area.
Baptist Protestant missionaries did settle across the river from Calcutta, in
Serampore; they denounced the caste system and the worship of Idols, eventually
creating a dialogue with elitist Hindus Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) and the Brahmo
Ram Mohan Roy is heralded as the first reformer of Hindu tradition-Zaehner pp.150
Ram Mohan Roy was born to a wealthy, high caste Hindu family-Kulin Brahman
At age 12 he was sent to Patna, Bihar, a center of Muslim learning to learn Persian,
which the British maintained as the language of administration for non-English
speaking peoples.
There, he also learned Arabic. Also, he became a radical monotheist and hence,
against image (Idol) worship. At age 15 Ram Mohan returned home, where he
argued with his father about Idol Worship this caused him to leave home.
Ram Mohan traveled to Tibet, then he settled in Benares, where he learned Sanskrit
and studied the Upanishads-Vedanta
He held that the concept of Brahman, as the one, the godhead predated image
worship-also, no caste system-hence, Vedanta was the essence of Hindu tradition
before it became corrupted.
In 1803, his father died + Ram Mohan returned to Calcutta, where he was a revenue
officer for the East India company (British)
In 1803, he wrote a gift for the monotheists, in Persian, which argued for

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Monotheism as an universal religion found in Islam*
Hindu Vedanta-he also translated 5 Upanishads + wrote Vedanta Sara, stressing the
oneness of god (Brahman)
In 1820, after learning Hebrew and Greek, with the Baptists at Serampore, he wrote
the precepts of Jesus, in which he accepted the moral teachings of Jesus but not the
divinity of Jesus, as the son of god
He thought of himself as Hindu Unitarian
In 1821, he founded the Unitarian mission in Calcutta and made contact with
Unitarians in England + the United States
In 1828 Ram Mohan founded the Brahmo Samaj (Zaehner dates 1830)-Samaj
(society) of Brahman (the one god).
Key points:
1.Radical Monotheism:
Brahman is the author + preserve of the universe-the eternal unsearchable +
immutable being (sat)
2.Strongly rejected image (Idol) worship and polytheism
3.Rejected priestly authority of the Brahmans
4.Rejected degrading customs of caste system
5.Fought for womens rights 1829-British banned Sati
6.Supported modern (western) education
But, the Brahmo Samaj only attracted the intellectual elite from Hindu, Muslim and
Christian traditions-had little impact on the masses
In 1830, Ram Mohan sailed to England, where he entered into dialogue with
Unitarians and Christians. Unfortunately he died in Bristol in 1833
Ram Mohan Roy, greatness lies with those such as Swami Vivekananda who came
after him
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