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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2373

In Memoriam of Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmachari (1904-1999)

Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmachari, (1904-99) a soft-spoken Hindu scholar who offered early and important intellectual encouragement to the Roman Catholic monk and writer Thomas Merton.

15 years have passed since his last journey to eternal world on 18 October 1999. Although Dr. Brahmachari lived most of his life in his native Bengal, he enjoyed a remarkable sojourn in the Depression-era United States -- mainly in Chicago between 1933 and 1939. He arrived there penniless, sent by his monastery to attend a conference of the World Fellowship of Faiths.

But Dr. Brahmachari's intellectual gifts, his sense of spiritual assurance (''that heaven would have to take care of him,'' Merton later wrote) and the interest that American scholars and religious figures took in him gave him the scope to make an unusual impact during his six years in this country.

Not only did he address the Chicago conference, but he also became the fellowship's international secretary and traveled to London in 1936 for its assembly there. He also delivered hundreds of lectures, often on college campuses, on Hindu and other religious beliefs, aspects of Indian society, and the work of Gandhi in the movement for Indian independence.

He was already equipped with master's degrees in Sanskrit and Western philosophy from the University of Calcutta, and then gained admission to the University of Chicago, earning a doctorate in philosophy in 1937. That year, Charles W. Gilkey, the university's dean, described Dr. Brahmachari in a letter as a ''beloved figure on our quadrangles,'' who had impressed people ''through the winsomeness of his personality, the keenness of his mind, the catholicity of his point of view, and not least through his deeply religious spirit.''

Dr. Brahmachari came from a religious tradition called neo-Vaisnavism, focused on the worship of the god Vishnu and his incarnations. Vaisnavism emphasizes religious devotion. In a series of recollections of Dr. Brahmachari, gathered by William Buchanan and published by the Vivekananda Monastery in Minnesota, the poet Robert Lax wrote that Dr. Brahmachari possessed a quiet and calm that drew people to him. He would come unnoticed into a crowded room, Mr. Lax wrote, and soon people would be sitting around him, ''quietly asking him questions or listening to him because it was just the natural thing to do in the presence of someone who had that quality.’ Rather than attempt to convert Americans to his own faith, Dr. Brahmachari told those he met that they ought to look into their own religious traditions.

Merton met Dr. Brahmachari in 1938, when Merton was 23 and studying at Columbia University. He was taken by a friend to meet Dr. Brahmachari, who was arriving at Grand Central Terminal. At first, the two were unable to locate Dr. Brahmachari, nor could they find anyone who had seen him. Yet one would have thought, Merton later wrote in ''The Seven Story Mountain,'' that a man ''in a turban and a white robe and a pair of Keds would have been a memorable sight.'' Eventually, the three men linked up.

Merton became friends with Dr. Brahmachari and would later credit him with helping provide inspiration toward the spiritual path Merton would take as a Trappist monk. In ''The Seven Story Mountain,'' Merton recounts how Dr. Brahmachari, who rarely gave direct advice, told him to read two classics of Christian spirituality, St. Augustine's ''Confessions'' and the late medieval mystical book, ''The Imitation of Christ.''

''Now that I look back on those days,'' Merton wrote in his book, ''it seems to me very probable that one of the reasons why God had brought him all the way from India, was that he might say just that.'' wrote Gustsv Niebuhr, in an obituary reference of Mahanambrata Brahmachariji on 18 Oct 1999.

Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmachari was a famous philosopher, eminent scholar and pioneer preacher of human religion. He was born in the village Khalishakota, district Barisal (currently in Bangladesh), on the 25th December in 1904. His father's name was Kalidas Dasgupta and mother Kaminisundari Devi. They were much regarded in the locality for nobility, scholarship and religious inclination. Their family was middle class Hindu family and of vaidya community (a higher caste in Hindu hierarchy). His childhood name was 'Bankim DasGupta'.

Relying solely on the mercy of Prabhu Jagadbandhu and having the conviction of his desire to fulfil a mission through him. Sri Mahanambrataji reached his destination in a miraculous way after much ordeal. It was equally miraculous that his boarding and lodging in America were arranged without a penny in his pocket; his Traveller's Visa was changed for a Student's Visa - he stayed in America for long five and a half years in place of 3 months. He obtained Ph. D. in Philosophy from Chicago University for his profound scholarship in research work expounding the Philosophy of Sri Jiva Goswami and had the unique distinction of working as Intercultural Secretary of the World Fellowship of Faiths and becoming the International Secretary of the said World Organisation in 1937 and was ultimately sent by them on a goodwill lecture - tour in all the leading cities of America during the major part of 1938.

Though he had arrived late in Chicago, Shri Mahanambrataji was allowed to deliver four lectures in the Main Session of the World Religious Conference - World Fellowship of Faiths in Chicago.

Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmachari returned to India in 1939 with a vast treasure of fame associated with his name and glory to his religion and country. But he was as simple, unassuming and spiritually inspired as ever.

He dedicated wholeheartedly to the work of preaching the most noble and highest ideal teachings of Hindu Scriptures the Gita and Bhagabatam and especially of Sri Prabhu Jagadbandhu and Sri Chaitanya Deva, the incarnation of Divine Love. Moral and spiritual elevation of people in this Dark Age (Kali Yuga) and to emancipate them from sorrows and sufferings on the basis of those ideals and teachings were the object of his life.

Mingled with his high spirit of universal brotherhood and magnanimous tolerance towards other religions his preaching’s gave a new impetus and meaning to adherents of all faith and religion.

He had to his credit the establishment of Maths and Temples for Prabhu Jagadbandhusundar in Nabadwip, Puri, Vrindaban, Krishnanagar and Calcutta (including the latest Mahanam Angan in Raghunathpur on VIP Road) in India with its Head quarter at Faridpur Shri Angan and at several places in Bangladesh.

With all sincerity of heart and deep gratitude we remember the most noble and outstanding works and contributions of his life. He worked silently and sowed the seed of Prema-Dharma, i.e. Religion of Universal Love irrespective of caste, and creed, and religion of Sri Gouranga Mahaprabhu for the first time in the Western World. We sincerely believe that His Religion of Universal Love will spread far and wide in course of time and bring peace, concord, prosperity and happiness to the troubled world and suffering mankind.

Mahanambrata Brahmachari was born on Dec. 25, 1904, into a religious, middle-class family in a village in what is now Bangladesh. After he returned to British-ruled India in early 1939, he continued to live as a monk, and also wrote and lectured on religious subjects. In a tribute included in the recollections published by Vivekananda Monastery, Merton wrote of Dr. Brahmachari that the latter taught a lesson with his life, ''that one can and must entrust himself to a higher and unseen Wisdom, and that if one can relax his frantic hold on the illusory securities of everyday material existence and abandon himself peacefully to a Supreme Will, he will himself find freedom and peace in that Will.''In 1947 when the subcontinent is devided into India and Pakistan in, he remained in the then East Bengal (now Bangladesh), in order to safeguard and protect the religion and culture of minority Hindus of his motherland. He raised fund and continues reconstruction works of temples and reinstallation of deities.

Lord Jagatbandhu Sundar's legacy

Prabhu Jagatbandhu Sundar's many and illustrious devotees like Mahedraji, Sripad Kunjadasji and Mahanambrata brahmachariji propounded the philosophy of Hari nam in various parts of India and abroad.

They established temples dedicated to Prabhu in various places, notable among them being Dahapara sri dham in Murshidabad India, Mahanam moth in Kolkata and Faridpur sri angan in Bangladesh. Sripad Mahendraji organised the Mahanam Sampradaya which is a group of vaishnav monks who have the dedicated purpose of propounding Vaishnavism. The mortal remains of Prabhu Jagatbandhu Sundar still remain in West Bengal and his devotees have been chanting Hari nam around it continuously, unbroken for the past 90 years.

Eight Bramahcharees butchered at Sree Angan of the Lord Jagatbandhu Sunder by Pakistan army in 1971

During the Bangladesh War , on 21April 1971 (07 Baikh 1377 BS, Wednesday ) eight bramahcharees of Sree Angan of the Lord Jagat bandhu Sunder were butchered and tomb of the temple was demolished.

All those Vaishnava Brahmacharees namely Sahid Kirtan Bandhu, Shahid Nidanbandhu,Shahid Kshitibandhu, Shahid Bandhudas , Shahid Chirabandhu, Shahid Gour Bandhu, Shahid Andha Kanai and Shahid Ravibandhu were killed by the Pakistani Occupation forces while Brahmacharees chanting kirtan, prayer, of lord Jagatbandhu Sundar,an incarnation of Vishnu,a vaishnava cult in Hinduism.

This Sree Angan as commonly known to all section of people is a holy shrine and profoundly respected to all irrespective to caste, creed and religions.Hari Priya Brahmachari, a witness of that massacre said the memory of that day was still painful. “I lost all my companions that day. Luckily I am still alive. They killed the Sadhus who were engaged in prayer, I hid myself inside a hole in the ground.

Every day, many visitors come here and express their horror at the events of that day.” Believe it or not, it was happened, a Pakistani Army Captain Jamshed who commanded the massacre in Faridpur from April to July’71 had to beg divine mercy and ultimately commit suicide before the altar of Lord Jagatbandhu’s main temple of the Sree Angan just a few days before Pakistan Forces surrendered to Joint Command of Indian Army in Dec.1971.

Capt Jamshed was burried in the Sree Angan (near pond of the Shiva Temple) by the Razzakar and Bihari Muslims, Probodh Kumar Sarkar, a Freedom Fighter of Faridpur told me that Pak -Captain Jamshed who had torched the main temple, killed the Brahmacharees and desecrate the holy place became lunatic before his unnatural death. But why he committed suicide before the altar of the main temple of Pravu Shri Shri Jagatbandhu Sundar? Was it a dictum of destiny or maledictions of divine power?

Bangladesh won independence through bloody War of Liberation against Pakistan in December 1971, and the Bangladesh Constitution upheld the basic spirit of the Proclamation of Independence of Bangladesh and the basic premises of the Constitutional provisions of “equality, equity, freedom and justice for all citizens”. After in 1971, in independent Bangladesh, Dr Brahmachari was present during reinstallation at many places like Dhaka, Narayangonj, Brahmanbaria, Sylhet, Sunamgonj, Faridpur, Chattagram etc. In 1975 he founded Bangladesh Sanatan Dharma Mahamondal to look after the religious and cultural interests and heritages of Hindus, being its founder President. Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmachari is the Principal Acharya of Mahanam Sampraday. Under his leadership, activities of the Sampradaya really flourished and overall development took place in Spritual and all other sectors.

The monks, sadhus, and sannyasis of different temple based religious institutions in the country under the leadership of Dr Mahanambrata Brahmacharee (1904-1999), a ashramite monk, a philosopher devoted his life for the service of men and preached morality, humanity, devotion and love, initiated an organization like Sant Mahamandal in 1974 but could not progress. After the August 1975, the Hindu hatred campaign afresh in Bangladesh like erstwhile legacy of Pakistani era in the years of 1990 , 1992 and 2001 made impediments for Association in its progress. After the Ninth Parliamentary Elections in December 2008, the monks, sadhus, and sannyasis of different temple based religious institutions in the country urged to revive the Bangladesh Sant Mahamandal at a grand rally of Dharmagurus, Sadhus, Sannyasins, Priests,Savaites and organizers of Temples and Human Rights activists at Bogra Ma-Bhabani Temple ( a sacred shrine of sati pitha of Devi Cult) was endorsed on 9 February 2009. In the next august session of the General meeting of the Sant Mahamandal at Sitakundo session adopted the Constitution, and approved the ad hock Executive Committee for 2009-2013 ,flowing guiding ethos and declared believes that to be projected in the constitution of BSM, and the Association came into being at Sitakundo Shrine session on 11 Falgun 1415 BS Monday, 23 February 2009 with chanting of holy script.

On the 15th death anniversary of Dr Mahanambrata Brahmachari, we recall his great message, “After attaining “Manushyatva” or humanity, one should aim for the life style of Bhagabatam. In the varied nature of Universe as a whole there underlies a Justice- an Order- a Dharma, whose nature is the same as that of our own personality. It is purposive, it is creative and above all it is Benign, Benevolent & Loving. Establishing link with this underlying Supreme Being is the source for all happiness. In the journey of life one has to always keep himself linked with this Supreme Being. This is spirituality, where as materialism maintains that Men & the World are mere aggregates of dead substances without any individuality.”

Source: MM Priyabrata Brahmachari ,a disciple of Dr Brahmachari and edited by R N Trivedi

- Asian Tribune -

Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmachari
Brahmacharees of Sree Angan  paid respect to the war-slain departed souls ( Photo: collection. 2010)
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