Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 

Debendranâth Tagore.

The same applies to Debendranâth Tagore, the friend and constant patron of Keshub Chunder Sen. Though he was the head of a wealthy and influential family, he spent most of his life in retirement from the world, in study, meditation, and contemplation. He has reached now what is considered a very high age in India, eighty-two, and we are glad to hear that he has written an autobiography to be published after his death. As the friend and protector of Keshub Chunder Sen, though for a time separated from him, he has acted a far more important part in the history of the Brâhma-Samâj than is commonly supposed. The following account of a visit lately paid to him by some members of the Brâhma-Samâj will give us an idea of the life of this

p. 17

man. I am in possession of some of his letters, which are very instructive, but which are hardly fit for publication. Some friends who visited him lately give the following account of their interview with the old Saint.

'We were conducted to the spacious verandah on the second story, where the venerable old man was seated on a chair. We bowed down reverentially and took our seats. The Maharshi was the first to speak. He said: "Since you came here three months ago, my communication with the external world has been much diminished. I see things much less and hear much fewer words. But that is no loss to me. As my dealings with the external world are decreasing, my Yoga with the internal world is rapidly increasing. No effort on my part is now required for communion. I sit by myself and enjoy this company." As he spoke these words his countenance glowed with emotion.

On being asked if he remembered the different occasions on which he selected the verses from the Vedântic texts to form the liturgy of the Brâhma-Samâj (published by him many years ago), the Saint replied: "I cannot call back to my mind after such a length of time the process through which these texts were brought together from different Upanishads. I have got the essence of these things within me now, and I am enjoying the sweetness thereof. So there is now no more need for me to go to the texts. I fully agree with you, that from the True and the Intelligent we go to the Infinite person, and that then we find in the Infinite infinite splendours and behold his infinite mercy and other attributes. I might have talked much

p. 18

with you on these subjects, had you come a short time before this. Now my mind is mostly occupied with things which the eyes see not nor the ears hear, so I shall not be able to talk much with you. . . . I have written an account of my life as I have been moved by the Spirit of God, but I do not know of what use it will be. Now I have become quite useless to the world. I have now very little to connect me with the world." When we replied that we did not consider his life to have been in vain, as he had given the world an example of a life lived in and with God, the Maharshi continued, "I am living the life of a recluse, I have no energy left. The energy and earnestness you see in me now is roused only by seeing you. Long, long ago, while I was studying the Upanishads, a great light dawned upon my soul and I felt that India would one day worship Brahman, the Only True God. I then badly wanted a companion, a man after my own heart, who would have my feelings and join hands with me. I tried almost all the men of light and leading of the time, but could find none. I then left Calcutta in despair and repaired to the hills. After a two years' stay there, the fall of the river Sutlej suggested to my mind a sacred lesson. I heard a voice urging me to go to Calcutta and resume my holy work. I was so much engrossed with this divine voice that nothing would give me rest. Every object seemed to reverberate the Divine injunction and press me to fulfil the Lord's will. In all haste I came back, and as I came back, Brahmânanda (Keshub Chunder Sen) made my acquaintance. I saw at once that he was exactly the

p. 19

right man whom I wanted. I could then discern why I was led by the Spirit to come back to Calcutta. My joy knew no bounds. We passed the greater portion of the nights in conversation about deep spiritual matters, even up to two in the morning. Brahmânanda even told me that when he would be gone, those whom he would leave behind would express and promote my cause. I find his words are going to be fulfilled now." "Yes," we replied, "that is very true. While our minister was with us in the flesh, we did not realise our nearness unto you so much. Our impression is that the Brâhma-Samâj has accepted Râja Rammohun Roy, but has not yet accepted you. As you represent Yoga or direct vision of God, the Brâhma-Samâj will not be able to attain to that feature of spirituality, unless it accepts you. The present deplorable state of the Brâhma-Samâj is owing to its non-acceptance of you." The Maharshi replied: "God has called you to preach the Brâhma Dharma to this poor country of India, and particularly to Bengal--our weak, indigent, and helpless country. As the mother loves her decrepit child more tenderly, so God has shown this greater love to these His poor ones. For this special grace we are peculiarly thankful to God. God has shown special favour to you, and has made you particularly fit for your work. I have published my last work about Paraloka and Mukti, the next world and salvation, in a small volume. I make an offering of it to you." After these words the pilgrims departed, much comforted and helped 1.'

p. 20

I thought that this glimpse at what passes in India within doors, and is but seldom seen or even suspected by those who tell us so much about the palaces, the Rajahs and Maharajahs, the car of Juggernâth, the Towers of Silence, or the Caves of Ellora, was worth preserving and might interest the true friends of India.

We have but to open the Indian papers to meet with notices of men who have led the same saintly and God-devoted life as Debendranâth Tagore, but who nevertheless have not reached the rank of a Paramahamsa in the eyes of the people of India. It is quite possible that some of them who are venerated as Saints in their own country, would be disposed of as fools or fanatics by European critics. Still they hold their own place in their own country, and they represent a power which ought not to be entirely neglected by the rulers of 'weak, indigent, helpless Bengal.'


19:1 Unity and the Minister, 1896, July 12.

Next: Rai Shaligrâm Saheb Bahadur