Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keshab Sen

Some quotations from Keshabchandra Sen (1838-1884), a leader of Brahmo spirituality in India. These come from before his relationship with the not-yet-famous Ramakrishna, who would influence him away from his mystic, not-exactly-orthodox brand of Christianity.

"I regard every European settler in India as a missionary of Christ, and I have a right to demand that he should always remember and act up to his high responsibilities. But alas! owing to the reckless conduct of a number of pseudo-Christians, Christianity has failed to produce any wholesome moral influence on my countrymen. Yes, their muscular Christianity has led many a Native to identify the religion of Jesus with the power and privilege of inflicting blows and kicks with impunity. And thus has Jesus been dishonoured in India."

"It is true that the people of India have been satisfied in some measure with what they have read and heard of Jesus, but they have been disappointed in a far greater measure. For England has sent unto us, after all, a Western Christ. This is indeed to be regretted. Our countrymen find that in this Christ, sent by England, there is something that is not quite congenial to the native mind, not quite acceptable to the genius of the nation. It seems that the Christ that has come to us is an Englishman, with English manners and customs about him. . . . this repugnance unquestionably hinders the progress of the true spirit of Christianity in this country."

The soul "wants godly life, and this can never be had by the most rigid tension of mental discipline, or the highest effort of human will. . . . It is God's free gift, not man's acquisition. It comes not through our calculation or reasoning, not through industry or struggle, but through prayerful reliance upon God's mercy. . . . It keeps man in a state of holy excitement. . . . He is then seized with the frenzy of devotion, and is not only above sin, but also above temptation; for nothing is then attractive to him except holiness."

[Quoted in Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Princeton UP: 1993]