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The Benares United City Mission

There is a direct relationship between the Benares United City Mission (BUCM) and the Christian Society for the Study of Hinduism (CSSH). The BUCM began practicing the distinctives of the CSSH, and the CSSH was formed to provide a larger platform for these concerns. The BUCM was shut down in complex circumstances that are directly related to issues in the CSSH, which survived another decade after the closure of the BUCM. A careful analysis of the BUCM is thus vital for a proper understanding of the CSSH.
1.0 Banaras (Varanasi) Banaras or Varanasi (Benares is an antiquated spelling; Kashi is the ancient name, still occasionally used at the present time) is one of the main pilgrim centers for Hindus. It is located along the Ganges River in the southeastern part of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in modern India. The city has ancient roots, as noted by Diana Eck. Banaras is one of the oldest living cities in the world, as old as Jerusalem, Athens and Peking. It occupied its high bank overlooking the Ganges in the cradle days of Western civilization. (Eck 1982:4) Eck goes on to describe the vital place Varanasi holds in Hindu ritual and mythology. It was never a great political center, but « there are few cities in India as traditionally Hindu and as symbolic of the whole of Hindu culture as the city of Banaras » (Eck 1982:6). Protestant missions, recognizing the importance of the city, first arrived in the second decade of the nineteenth century when the Baptist Missionary Society sent William Smith there. The Church Missionary Society and London Missionary Society followed shortly thereafter (Kennedy 1993[1884]: 21ff.). Diana Eck is quite dismissive of mission history in Banaras, suggesting that The Christian missions never had a chance of gaining momentum in Banaras, but the early missionaries, steeped as they were in the cultural chauvinism of that era, did not know this. (Eck 1982:92)

The Christian Society for the Study of Hinduism

The first chapter of this thesis introduced the complex issues involved in analysis of a mid-twentieth century Christian society formed to study Hinduism. The previous chapter gave a detailed look at the immediate organizational context out of which the Christian Society for the Study of Hinduism was born. Before focusing on the teaching of the CSSH and The Pilgrim, this chapter will give an overview of the history of the CSSH. The Christian Society for the Study of Hinduism was born of the efforts of Henry H. Presler and R. C. Das. Presler had spent time with Das in Varanasi in 1938 and saw the rich potential for exposing many others to living Hinduism alongside serious academic study.1 By April of 1939 Presler and Das had co-authored « A Proposal for a School of Hinduism and a Brief Guide for Students of Hinduism in Benares. » Now about this school of Hinduism. When I say that it will be partly Das’s child I mean that he has long pressed for it and had a share in getting out the pamphlet « Proposal for a School of Hinduism in Benares, » copies of which I sent to Noble, and should it come to anything Das will feel that some acknowledgement is being paid to a view that Mr. Das has always held strongly, namely that missionaries and others who are working among Hindus should have some knowledge of the life and beliefs of the people among whom they work. I hold that view myself and after these 17 months in Benares I can see that had I had, in my younger days, some such training I should have been saved
Purpose of the CSSH The purpose of the CSSH was clearly defined in three points, and these were printed regularly in The Pilgrim without any alteration over the years.7 The purposes were
To create and maintain adequate interest in the study of Hinduism by Christians.To carry on this study in a sympathetic, constructive, and critical way for the purpose of effective evangelism. To achieve the above objectives in co-operation with church and mission bodies. Along with these purposes the society clearly defined its activities also. And first among these was « to encourage the organization of a permanent School of Hinduism. »8 The other activities were to conduct an Institute of Hinduism in Varanasi, « stressing its popular aspects, »9 to discover scholars of Hinduism with teaching and writing skills, and to encourage publications on Hinduism and Christian work among Hindus  A Permanent School of Hinduism The CSSH had two strong voices to the Christian Church in India. One was The Pilgrim, which began to be listed as the second activity of the society beginning with vol. 2 no.3 in 1942, and the other was the training conferences held under the name Institute of Hinduism, clearly in anticipation of the establishment of the permanent School of Hinduism. Throughout the history of the CSSH the issue of a permanent school of Hinduism was churning. As already noted, one of the documents that led to the birth of the CSSH was « A Proposal for a School of Hinduism. » Henry Presler made his points clear in the opening sentences of this pamphlet: The hypothesis of part one is: The Christian missionary forces in India, especially those working among Hindus, would profit by a school of Hinduism, conducted with the same purpose as the existing Henry Martyn School of Islamics. The hypothesis of part used in popular Hinduism) » (1943a:106). These papers contrast with Rawson’s earlier paper that avoided direct comparison with Christianity, and illustrate a tendency to interpret to the distinct advantage of Christianity in comparative study, although some of that advantage was left to be read between the lines.
A Mahabharata Story Far more direct Christian influence into Hindu scripture is suggested in Ashananda Nag’s paper on « The Old Old Story in the Mahabharata » (1947). Nag briefly introduced the Mahabharata and then told the story from Santi Parvan where there is a description from the white peninsula of aniconic bhakti worship related to the memory of God’s self-immolation. The German scholar Weber and Bengali scholar Brajendranath Seal considered this to be an account of an ancient Indian visit to Alexandria and an encounter with Christian worship, and though Nag outlined alternate theories and saw « the plain fact that the story is related in terms of Hindu mythology and Hindu philosophical speculation » (1947:28), yet he suggested that « the story may be regarded as the first recorded indication of the reaction of the Hindu mind to the old, old story of Jesus and His vicarious suffering on the cross » (1947:30). Despite Nag’s conclusion that this « is a landmark which should be taken more note of by everybody who is interested in the progress of Christianity in India » (1947:30), it is hard to see that there is any great practical significance in this story, however interpreted.

Saiva Siddhanta Studies

The four remaining textual studies related to Saiva Siddhanta illustrate the various Christian approaches to the study of Hindu texts. The first was a paper by W. J. N. Snell on « The Idea of Sin in the Saiva Siddhanta » (1943). With many quotations from Saiva texts Snell outlined the teaching on the soul and its bondage, yet came to the conclusion that « a Hindu is religious but he does not see the necessity of being moral » (1943:111), which of course is contrasted with Christian morality. At the other extreme is a lengthy exposition of Saiva Siddhanta teaching by J. H. Piet (1945). Piet systematically explained Saiva Siddhanta philosophy by expounding briefly on the three eternal principles of pati (the supreme), pasu (the soul) and pasam (the power binding the soul). There was no critique and no comparison with Christianity, not even an explanation for why the study was undertaken.

The Failed Revolution of P. Chenchiah

The Pilgrim under Chenchiah was radically transformed. The first issue he produced (8:1) followed what had become the pattern for The Pilgrim contents, with an editorial and three papers. The second issue began the revolution, with editorial notes expanded to cover nine sub-points, five brief articles by Christian writers and three reviews, two of Christian books. Chenchiah’s third issue (8:3) had only one article, written by a Hindu; a letter written by a Hindu; editorial notes on three topics, reviews of three Hindu books and a report on a conference of Christian sadhus. Chenchiah himself was overwhelmingly the main writer during the time he was editor. Fourteen issues were released under his control, and in only one of those (8:3) did he write less than half of the contents. The Pilgrim had been a voice for Protestant Christian thought on the encounter with Hinduism, but that ceased under Chenchiah. There was more material written by Hindus than by Christians other than the editor; and if the contributions of R.C. Das are also discounted, there was very little material at all from Christians.1

Circulation Problems of The Pilgrim

Chenchiah was clearly working to create an interreligious journal, or perhaps a dialogical magazine that would impact both Christian and Hindu thought. He wrote an appeal to members that was printed on the inside cover of his first issue that provides insight into The Pilgrim at that point and what he dreamed it would become. We have in mind plans for making The Pilgrim larger and more varied. We intend to introduce new studies in Hinduism, Christian study of Hinduism and fellowship of religions. We cannot carry on these changes without a very much larger circle of readers and larger space – at least [one] hundred pages. The government, however, in view of paper scarcity, has sanctioned only thirty pages….Since the sanction of the government permits us to print 300 copies we can increase the membership to 250

The Failed Revolution of P. Chenchiah

The Pilgrim under Chenchiah was radically transformed. The first issue he produced (8:1) followed what had become the pattern for The Pilgrim contents, with an editorial and three papers. The second issue began the revolution, with editorial notes expanded to cover nine sub-points, five brief articles by Christian writers and three reviews, two of Christian books. Chenchiah’s third issue (8:3) had only one article, written by a Hindu; a letter written by a Hindu; editorial notes on three topics, reviews of three Hindu books and a report on a conference of Christian sadhus. Chenchiah himself was overwhelmingly the main writer during the time he was editor. Fourteen issues were released under his control, and in only one of those (8:3) did he write less than half of the contents. The Pilgrim had been a voice for Protestant Christian thought on the encounter with Hinduism, but that ceased under Chenchiah. There was more material written by Hindus than by Christians other than the editor; and if the contributions of R.C. Das are also discounted, there was very little material at all from Christians.1

Circulation Problems of The Pilgrim

Chenchiah was clearly working to create an interreligious journal, or perhaps a dialogical magazine that would impact both Christian and Hindu thought. He wrote an appeal to members that was printed on the inside cover of his first issue that provides insight into The Pilgrim at that point and what he dreamed it would become. We have in mind plans for making The Pilgrim larger and more varied. We intend to introduce new studies in Hinduism, Christian study of Hinduism and fellowship of religions. We cannot carry on these changes without a very much larger circle of readers and larger space – at least [one] hundred pages. The government, however, in view of paper scarcity, has sanctioned only thirty pages….Since the sanction of the government permits us to print 300 copies we can increase the membership to 250

Chapter One Introduction: Analytical and Historical Background
1.0 The Christian Study of Religions
1.1 Christian Assimilation from Non-Christian Faiths 

1.2 Interreligious Dialogue and a Theology of Religions
1.3 Conclusion
2.0 Religious Studies
2.1 World Religions
2.2 Enlightenment Narrowing of “Religion”
2.3 Multiple Religious Belonging
2.4 Reconsidering Christianity
2.5 Conclusion
3.0 Hinduism
3.1 Hinduism as a Non-Existent Misnomer
3.2 Hinduism as a Religion Born in the Nineteenth Century

3.3 Hinduism rooted in the Vedic Tradition 
3.4 Hinduism as More Than Religion
3.5 Conclusion on Hinduism and Religion
4.0 The Mid-Twentieth Century Indian Context of the CSSH
4.1 The Christian Study of Hinduism in Historical Perspective 

4.2 Indian Christianity and the CSSH 
4.3 Hinduism, Nationalism and “Hindu Nationalism”

4.4 Political Developments
4.5 Conclusion
Chapter Two The Benares United City Mission
1.0 Benares (Varanasi)
2.0 The Benares United City Mission
2.1 Early Problems
2.2 J. C. Jackson
2.3 Sidney R. Holt
2.4 J. S. Moon
2.5 R.C. Das
2.6 Fatal Conflicts
2.7 Conclusion
Chapter Three The Christian Society for the Study of Hinduism
1.0 Birth of the CSSH
2.0 Purpose of the CSSH
2.1 A Permanent School of Hinduism
2.2 The Benares Institute
2.3 The Pilgrim
3.0 Conclusion
Chapter Four R. C. Das
1.0 Background and Life of R. C. Das (1887-1976)
1.1 The Namasudras 
1.2 R. C. Das in East Bengal 
1.3 Calcutta Years 
1.4 Calcutta to Banaras 
1.5 Banaras Years 
2.0 The Christianity of R. C. Das 
2.1 Jesus Christ as Unique Savior 
2.2 Christianity as Historically and Culturally Relative 
2.3 Das and Possessio
2.4 Fulfillment and Possessio
3.0 R. C. Das on Hinduism 
3.1 Lectures on Hinduism to the Benares Institute 

3.2 Viewpoint from The Pilgrim
3.3 Further Thoughts on Hinduism from R. C. Das
4.0 Analysis of R. C. Das
Chapter Five A. J. Appasamy’s Stewardship of The Pilgrim
1.0 Religion in A. J. Appasamy’s Thought
1.1 Defining Religion
1.2 Mystical Religion
1.3 Concluding Comments
2.0 Christianity and Hinduism
2.1 Utilitarian Possessio
2.2 Fulfillment
2.3 Appasamy and the Goals of the CSSH
2.4 Sympathy and Triumphalism
2.5 Christianity Learning from Hinduism
2.6 Christianity Correcting Hinduism
3.0 Conclusion
Chapter Six The Many Voices of The Pilgrim
1.0 Moon and Summary Approaches to Hinduism
1.1 J. S. Moon’s Writings
1.2 Ashananda Nag on Hinduism
1.3 N. T. Jacob’s Paradigm
2.0 Many Other Voices
2.1 Studies of Hindu Texts
2.2 Biographical Studies
2.3 Sociological Studies
2.4 Thematic Studies
3.0 Conclusion

Chapter Seven The Failed Revolution of P. Chenchiah
1.0 Circulation Problems of
The Pilgrim
2.0 Chenchiah’s Teaching 
2.1 Chenchiah on Religion 
2.2 Interreligious Cooperation 
2.3 Chenchiah on Christianity 
2.4 Chenchiah on Fulfillment 
2.5 Chenchiah on Hinduism
3.0 Conclusion
Chapter Eight The Twilight of The Pilgrim
1.0 R. D. Immanuel and
The Pilgrim
2.0 Cessation of
The Pilgrim
Chapter Nine Conclusion
Appendix 
Sources
1. Contents of
The Pilgrim
2. Contents of Benares Institute Notes 
References Cited and Consulted
1. References Cited 
2. Other Works Consulted 

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THE CHRISTIAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF HINDUISM, 1940-1956: INTERRELIGIOUS ENGAGEMENT IN MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY INDIA

 

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