Nigamagama Dharma Sabha
The Path, July, 1894
This is the name of a society in India which has also members in the ranks of the Theosophical Society in America and elsewhere. It has been noticed by Co. H.S. Olcott in the Theosophist of April, 1894, under the title of “The Hindu Revival,” and it is now well that we should all know the facts more fully. This article will attempt to give some information. Col. Olcott says:
The foregoing remarks are introductory to the notice we are about to make of the founding at the recent Magh Mela at Prayag of a new association of Hindu ascetics and laymen under the title of Nagamagama Dharma Sabha. Our theosophical colleagues Rai B. K. Laheri and Pandit Jagneshwar Mukhapadaya are among the promoters and most active managers of this important movement, and are thus forging one more link in the chain of sympathy which ought to bind every wellwisher of the Aryan religion to the cause of theosophy.
Then follows the rules, and at the close he says:
Since the adoption of the above rules nearly five hundred Sadhus, Brahmacharyas, and pandits have signed for membership.
Strange as it may seem to some, this is an American movement, and was begun about January, 1893. Feeling that such a society should be started, I wrote to Brother Laheri and asked him to aid me in doing it, I promising on my part to raise money as I was able for helping on the work, and a little society was begun under a different name. Brother Laheri took hold of it at once, and after consulting with some pandits suggested that the name be altered to the present one. NIGAMAGAM DHARMA SABHA. This was agreed to, and one of the rules affecting the West is that members from the West must be members of the T.S., and they should furnish means and also now and then give other help. One of its first works was the “Letter to the Brahmans,” to which many replies were received from India and for which gratitude was expressed. The object of that open letter was to remove from the minds of the Hindus, if possible, the wrong notion that the T.S. was a Buddhist propaganda, so that future work with the aid of the Society might be possible. It had a good effect, Brother Laheri acting for the new society went also, as before noticed, to a great meeting of orthodox Brahmans in India, and after his lecture to them they endorsed the movement of the T.S. Money has been raised in America and sent to India for the N.D.S. with the object of beginning the following as might be possible.
(a) To have a Sanscrit organ for the Society.
(b) To engage the services of a good pandit at some seat of learning in order to revive among the Hindus under Hindu methods their own religion, to the end that more and more a knowledge of its true philosophy should spread there and in the West.
(c) To have a district inspector.
(d) To aid all good movements among the Hindus, and especially to do all such works as would tend to spread theosophy there.
(e) To procure rare manuscripts and palm leaves, and have them translated.
Under (d) it has been proposed to aid effectively the work so long carried on by Jagannathiah and Swaminathiah, F.T.S., at Bellary, India, where they have a small vernacular section and a little journal. It is proposed to them, in a letter sent by me, to include their work in that of the N.D.S. without in any way impeding them or having them alter the name they have adopted. To this end they will no doubt agree; and money has already been sent them for their help.
Brother Laheri recently writes thus:
The facts is that N.D.S. is now all over India in some form or other. In the Northwest it is under the guidance of J. Mukerjee, and several Dandiswamis, Brahmacharyas, and Paramahansas are among the members.I am in touch with the orthodox Brahmans in the Punjab and Northwest, and in Madras have the same relation through the Sanmarga Samaj, Bellary, I do not wish to make members at random nor to expend in useless matters the money they our most beloved brothers in America send in love, affection, and sympanty to their poor Hindu brothers. Hundreds of plans will have to be formed and hundred given up as we learn by experience. You have got the best wishes of India for you because you really try to improve her cause; people are simply delighted to see that America sends moeny through you to help in that.
Now this whole enterprise is for the benefit of the T. S. in India, and is not outside of its work. It was begun privately so as to prevent suspicion and distrust, but now there is no need for keeping it so. It is a fact that while Theosophy is forwarded best in the West by our own methods, those methods will not do for India, and such is the opinion of many Brahmans who know their own land. But help must be extended to them so that they can rise to their feet and help themselves. So the work of the N.D.S. in so far as the West is concerned is to furnish the means and later some of the men, so that under strictly Hindu ways and in the tongues of the land our objects may be forwarded by attempting to arouse a new spiritual aspiration. It is not competent for the T. S. as yet to donate money from its funds for this work, but it is right and proper that members should, if they see fit, give some of their money to it. This they have done, and several have sent me some subscriptions. These of course ought not to limit that which is needed for our own work, and it is not expected that members will cut off from the latter to give to the former, but that the aid given to N.D.S. shall be additional to all other. It is also intended to procure through the N.D.S. such rare palm-leaf manuscripts as will not only be of interest here but also perhaps a means of obtaining funds from those who would not give them to the T.S.
As Brother Laheri says, many plans will have to be formed and many given up until at last the best shall be discovered. But the plan of aiding the already-started work at Bellary is for the present permanent. American members become such by certificate issued by me under authority of Brother Laheri, and will be informed as the work goes on of its progress. So far, since May 1893, I have received $548.00 and have disbursed $360.00 in drafts to India exclusive of a small bill for needed printing. Any one wishing to know more and to help can address me, as all names in the West have to go through my hands.