The Theosophist and Arya Samajist
Theosophist, March, 1885
In the August number of The Theosophist there appeared a short paragraph announcing the death of Pandit Shraddha Ram of Jallunder, Puñjab. Several friends and Theosophists of Lahore, among others, writing to the Headquarters to express their deep regret, asked the Editor to devote to the death of the late Pandit a few lines of notice. As the President Founder and the Editor had known the deceased gentleman personally, during their stay at Lahore, where, it appears, he was much beloved by all the orthodox Hindus, their just desire was complied with, and the short obituary appeared. It was a small courtesy to show to one who had been a warm defender and preacher of his views during life, a sincere and fearless champion of what was to him sacred truth—Hindu or Brahmanical religion. Yet it was found fault with and strongly upbraided and criticized by the last person we would have ever thought of, in such a connection —a Theosophist and an Arya-Samajist!! On n’est jamais trahi que par les siens [“We are always betrayed by our own”] becomes truer than ever. We leave to the impartial reader to judge and decide which, the Editor or the “Critic,” is “bringing discredit” upon himself. The criticism appeared in the Tribune of Lahore, August 13, and we now give it to our readers as it stands:
The Theosophists and Pandit Sardha Ram
“To the Editor of The Tribune:
“Sir,—It is curious to see in The Theosophist for August 1881 (page 245) that Pandit Sardha Ram, deceased, is trumpeted to have been a leader of Hindu religion and to have disseminated his opinions so boldly and eloquently that neither Brahmo nor Arya-Samajists ever ventured to cross him.
“This is anything but true, and the Editor of that journal is greatly misinformed, and no doubt brings discredit upon herself by giving publicity to such trash and utterly incorrect information in the editorial columns of her paper, for everybody who knew Pandit Sardha Ram full well that he was innocent of having ever engaged himself in discussion with an Arya-Samajist, though challenged to do so many a time by them.
“Indeed, he organized a society giving it the name of Hari-Gyan-Sabha, which is composed of a dozen of persons overwise for the present age, who are disinterestedly devoted to the secret cause of idolatry and superstition, which the Arya-Samaj ruthlessly attempts to sweep away by its sacrilegious act of disseminating Vedic knowledge through the length and breadth of the country.
“True the Pandit was a leader of the Hindu religion, but only so far as the members of Hari-Gyan-Sabha are concerned; for without the pale of that Sabha no one ever thought him guilty of deep Sanskrit learnings and it is an acknowledged fact that he was not encumbered with Vedic knowledge in the least.
“As regards the Brahmos it would be unjust to omit to state here that once the deceased held a discussion with Babu Nobin Chander Roy and suffered the game to be won by the Babu as is apparent from a pamphlet in which that discussion has been published. We would fain have refrained from criticism upon a dead man, but truth compels us to disabuse the public of a wrong notion which a note in The Theosophist from the pen of its Editor is calculated to create, and I, therefore, beg to request you, Mr. Editor, to insert these few lines in the next issue of your paper and oblige,
“A Theosophist and Arya-Samajist.”
Aug. 11, 1881
The Theosophist and Arya Samajist.
To the Editor of The Tribune.
Dear Sir,—A letter published in your issue of August 14th and signed “A Theosophist and Arya-Samajist” has unfortunately—for its writer—appeared in your columns and demands a prompt reply. Had it been signed by any other nom de plume I would never think of answering it, still less giving my reasons for publishing anything I choose in the journal conducted by me. As the matter stands, however, and the writer having publicly accused “the Editor of that journal” (The Theosophist) of being “greatly misinformed,” and bringing “discredit upon herself by giving publicity to such trash” (sic)—viz., by inserting a few lines to express regret at the sudden death of Pandit Shraddha Ram (!)—I, the undersigned, the Editor of The Theosophist, and one of the Founders of the Society to which the writer himself belongs, will now, with your permission, answer his very flippant, untruthful, and, I regret to say—since he is a theosophist—transparently spiteful remarks.
(1) I could not be “greatly misinformed” since my information was derived (a) from a personal, though a very short acquaintance with the defunct, at Lahore; (b) from several trustworthy and impartial informants, such as a high English official, a Christian clergyman, and several respectable natives from that same city; and finally (c) from two members of our Society—one of whom is a greatly esteemed and very learned native of Lahore, a valued friend of ours and—a “theosophist of good standing.”
(2) No Editor can possibly “bring discredit” upon himself (unless our critic and Brother (?) has yet to learn the real value of English words)—merely for his speaking in a spirit of kindness of a defunct person, were the latter the greatest reprobate, which, even the detractors of the late Pandit, would never dare to say of him. De mortuis nil nisi bonum [“Say nothing but good of the dead”] is the motto of every honest man. On the other hand, a “Theosophist”—the more so if in addition to being a Fellow of a Society, based upon the wisest principles of mutual tolerance and universal philanthropy, one, in short, striving to deserve the name of a practical Brotherhood of Humanity, he is a member of the Arya Samaj, a body known as opposing and being opposed by every orthodox Hindu––does “bring discredit,” and not only upon himself, but upon the Society he belongs to, by showing such a spirit of personal spite, narrow-mindedness and uncharitableness, as exhibited in his criticism in the Tribune. “It is far less a sin to speak kindly of and forgive ten sinners deserving punishment, than to slander or punish one who is innocent” is an old saying, especially—we may add—when the victim is dead and cannot defend himself.
(3) It is not true that Pandit Shraddha Ram “was innocent of any discussion with an Arya-Samajist” as I happen to know to the contrary; nor, that his “Hari-Gyana Mandir” (or Hari-Gyan Sabha, as the writer calls it) is composed but of “a dozen of persons”; nor yet that in his polemics with Babu Nobin Chunder Roy “he suffered the game to be won” by that Brahmo gentleman, as the Pandit was away, we are told, when his Bengali opponent had his last say, and that since then he published the Dharma Rakhsha in which he contradicted every word pronounced by his opponent. All his insinuations are exaggerated and greatly misrepresented. The late Pandit may have been little “guilty of deep Sanskrit learning” for all I can vouch for, but that is no reason why he should not be honoured after his death as a good and generally respected man. The whole letter under notice, breathing with that spiteful and bigoted spirit of partisanship which precludes the possibility on the part of its writer to show himself fair and impartial—his object falls short of its mark and his vilifications harm but their author.
While one “Theosophist” writes a quasi-libellous letter, and throws mud upon the memory of one, whose only crime seems to have been to oppose the teachings of the Arya-Samajists which he honestly, if erroneously, believed heretical—another Theosophist whom we personally know, as a most trustworthy and impartial witness, wrote to Colonel Olcott from Lahore, at the date of July 18, 1881, the following:
“It is with deep regret that I inform you of the sudden death of Pandit Shraddha Ram of Phillour, in the District of Jullander in the Puñjab—who visited you at Lahore. He was the only preacher of orthodox Hinduism, who travelled far and wide on behalf of his religion at his own expenses, and spoke so eloquently and with such a force of argument that neither missionaries, Moulvies, nor Brahmos, ever dared to encounter him . . . (this informant, independently of informant number one, whose paragraph we published, gives the very same testimony as to what our critic contradicts). He was a great orator, and his argumentative powers were very remarkable indeed. In addition to his knowledge of Sanskrit he was well versed in Persian, knew medicine and knew the Nasht Patrika, a branch of astrology, to almost a miraculous perfection. He also knew music, was a good poet, and an admirable writer in Hindi. Religious hymns of his composition are much appreciated and sung in the Punjab. His pleasing manners and marvellous abilities secured for him the friendship of many good-natured Christian missionaries and of several European officials of high position. . . . His loss is not only severely felt by all the orthodox Hindus, but is deeply regretted and sincerely lamented by all his Arya-Samaj and Brahmo-Samaj friends.”
The italics are mine. Whom are we to believe? Evidently Theosophist No. 2 had not met “A Theosophist” No. 1, otherwise the—to put it very mildly—indiscreet remarks in his letter would have never appeared, perchance, in the Tribune. To conclude:—
As the Editor of The Theosophist, I now publicly declare that being no sectarian, following no one’s lead, and feeling the profoundest contempt for narrow-minded bigotry under whatever form, the columns of our journal—so long as I edit it—will never be closed against any writer, only because he happens to differ with me on religious or philosophical opinions. Holding Gautama Buddha higher in my veneration than any other religious teacher the world over, I yet publicly, and notwithstanding Buddhist opposition to the Hindu Scriptures—profess a profound admiration for the Vedas and the Vedanta teaching, simply because I claim an undeniable right of thinking for myself, untrammelled by any divine or human teacher or teaching. And were I to receive, at any day, a well-written article directed either against our Society, the Buddhist Saviour, or myself personally, I would surely publish it in the same spirit of tolerance and impartiality, and with the same readiness as I would give room to one against a declared enemy of ours. And, as the Corresponding Secretary of the Parent or Central Theosophical Society, I am compelled to warn “A Theosophist and Arya-Samajist.” Let him avoid in future giving vent to such feelings as expressed by him in The Tribune as they are as discreditable to himself, as they are loathsome to the Society which honoured him by admitting him to the number of its Fellows. Unless he heeds this friendly advice our General Council might some day interfere, and he would suddenly find himself compelled to sign his future denunciations but as “An Arya Samajist.”
H. P. Blavatsky.
Simla, August 24, 1881.