[Missionary Tactics in India]
Theosophist, January, 1880
Article selection from “Swami verses Missionary”, The Debate at Ajmere between Pandit Dayanund Saraswati Swami and the Rev. Dr. Gray, Reported for the Theosophist by Munshi Samarthadan. | Note by H.P.B.
The said Pandit Swami arriving in ajmere on Kartik Shuddha 13th, began to deliver lectures on the true religion as prescribed in the Vedas. The first lecture was about Deity and the second about the Vedas; on the latter occasion the great Missionary at Ajmere, the Rev. Dr. Gray, and Dr. Husband were present. . . . He [Swami] also pointed out some inaccuracies contained in “Tourata”, “Genesis” and “Koran,” with a remark that he did not intend thereby to insult the feelings of any party, his object being simply to appeal to the public to enquire and consider impartially whether or not it is possible for works containing the statements quoted by him to be regarded as divine inspirations. The Rev. gentleman thereupon asked the Swami to put his objections in regard to these passages from Genesis and the gospels in writing, and send them to him, adding that they would answer them. The Swami readily assented. . . . [but proposed that] the best arrangement would be that the Rev. gentleman should meet the Swami at an appointed time . . . and answer the latter’s questions on the spot. But the Rev. Dr. Gray declined and insisted that the questions should be communicated to him in writing and after considering them for two or three days he would answer. To this the Swami objected. It was finally agreed that the Swamiji would mark the passaged in the Bible objected to by him and, on their meeting again, the Rev. gentleman would answer them. . . . It was but nine or ten days later when the Rev. gentleman had well considered his answers, that a day was fixed for a public discussion upon the subject . . . At the commencement the Swami observed to the public that he had often had discussions with clergymen at meeting at which no disturbance of any sort whatever occurred, and expressed a hope that the discussion that was to take place would similarly terminate without any obstruction. The Rev. gentleman expressed a similar hope. He then suggested that as the passages referred to him by the Swami were many while the time at their disposal was short, the number of questions and answers should be limited to two. The discussion then began. . . .
[a very brief Q&A on the subject of Genesis 1:2 then took place]
The Swami was just preparing to ask a further question in connection with [Rev. Gray’s] explanation when the Rev. gentleman interrupted by reminding him that the discussion upon each passage should be limited to two questions and two answers, the more so, as there were many such passaged and all could not be discussed that night. The Swami answered that it was not necessary that all the passaged should be discussed that very night, for they could be continued for two, three or more days, until the dispute was settled. But he Rev. gentleman did not approve of this suggestion, neither did he consent to the Swami’s proposal that at least ten questions, when necessary, should be allowed in respect to every passage. Thereupon the Swami suggested that the number of questions should be fixed at least at three. But the Rev. gentleman said he would not consent to more than two. And Dr. Husband refused to allow the matter to be referred to the decision of those present as over 400 persons would have to be consulted. Thus impeded, the Swami, considering it improper that such a large meeting should be dissolved without any discussion taking place, consented and passed on to the next question.1
[another very brief Q&A on the subject of Genesis then took place, with the Swami raising well-founded objections and receiving very little in reply.]
And now, instead of answering [the latest] question, the Rev. gentleman said that the time was up and he could not stay there any longer; adding that, as the writing down of all the points under discussion had taken up a good deal of time, he did not intend to resume the discussion on the next day unless this writing was dispensed with (!). . . .
The Rev. gentleman refusing positively any discussion for the next day, unless it was no more to be committed to paper, nothing could be definitely settled. The Swami proposed that the three copies of that evening’s discussion should be attested by the Rev. gentleman, by himself, and by Meer Mijeelis, and that one of the attested copies should remain with each of them, but the Rev. genlteman refused to sign any of the documents. . . .
The day after the Swami had left Ajmere the Rev. gentleman called at the Mission School a meeting of his students with many other citizens, and commented in their presence elaborately and learnedly, according to his own pleasure, upon the passages from Genesis questioned by the Swami, in order—he said—that nobody should feel any longer doubts as to the infallibility and wisdom contained in the Scriptures.
Soon after that and while preaching in the streets, some irreverent persons remarked to him that, while he was daily puzzling his head with ignorant persons like themselves for hours together, he had alleged that he could not spare time to discuss with the Swami, because to report the discussion took to much of time. They added that if he had succeeded in making the Swami accept any of his views, thousands of people would have followed him—but instead of that, it appeared that the Rev. gentleman preferred preaching only in the presence of ignorant people.
1. Behold! This meeting was held to ascertain the truth, which can be done only when each point is fully discussed, but the Rev. gentleman objected to such a course being adopted and insisted that only two questions should be asked in reference to each disputed passade; and even then was unable to defend his position—Kalai Oodagayee (nonplussed.) Samarthadan.
Note by the Editor of the Theosophist: The above affords a fair example of Missionary tactics in India. Open debate with learned natives before audiences is avoided whenever practicable, and their work, as a rule, confined to the lowest and most ignorant castes. Teachers in mission schools and sectarian colleges even avoid discussing theological questions put by bright native youths, before the classes, bidding them come to them privately and have their interrogatories answered. The fact forces itself upon the attention of every unprejudiced visitor to India that the Oriental missionary scheme is a wretched failure, and the millions contributed to it by the benevolent are virtually wasted. This appears to be the opinion of most old Anglo-Indians of all ranks. It is intended to publish testimony upon this very important subject in these pages and communications are invited. [H.P.B.]