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Welcome to the Liturgy of the Brahmo Samaj.

In this section we look in detail into the liturgy of the Brahmo Samaj. This liturgy has evolved through the ages.

During the time of Rammohun Roy, two Telegu Brahmins used to recite the Vedas in a side room screened from the view of the congregation - where non - Brahmins were not admitted. Utsabananda Vidyabagish would read the texts of the Upanishads - which were later explained in Bengali by Pt. Ram Chandra Vidyabagish. Then he would give a sermon followed by a song by Govinda Mala. Several of these sermons were written by Rammohun himself. The universalist nature of Rammohun's new religion was evident in reciting the sruti texts of the Upanishads in front of non - Brahmins. The pundits reciting these texts were free from the orthodoxy of their Telegu counterparts.

The first great revival of the Brahmo Dharma took place under the leadership of Debendranath Tagore (1817 - 1905). The Brahmo Samaj as an organisation had gradually reached a moribund condition after Rammohun departed for England. Under Debendranath and the Tattwabodhini Sabha rituals and ceremonials of the new church were formulated. Debendranath wrote the Brahmo Dharma in 1848 at the age of 31. He dictated it to Akshay Kumar Datta and it took 3 hours to write the first part. The most prominent was the system of Initiation (Diksha). A notable doctrinal change that took place was the abandonment of the belief in the infallibility of the Vedas. It was declared that the basis of Brahmoism would henceforth be no longer any infallible book but "the human heart illuminated by spiritual knowledge born of self - realisation." Spiritually Debendranath laid more emphasis on bhakti or devotion rather than jnana or knowledge as propagated by Rammohun. He qualifies his Brahman with a number of personal attributes making thereby a near approach to Ramanuja's doctrine of Visistaadvaitabad. He was temperamentally averse to any drastic measure in the sphere of reform work which might defeat the purpose by causing an abrupt break with tradition.

The next phase is dominated by the dynamic personality of Keshub Chandra Sen (1838 -1884). He also introduced extempore prayers and speeches from the pulpit rather than fixed stereotyped liturgy. Codification of the doctrines came with the main principles of the Nava Samhita - the New Dispensation. These were as follows: 1) Harmony of all scriptures, saints, and sects. 2) Harmony of reason and faith, of devotion and duty, of yoga and bhakti. 3) The church of the Samaj stands for One Supreme God, to be worshipped without form. No idolatry in any form may enter the precincts of the church. 4) The church stands for universal brotherhood without distinction of caste or creed or sect. Texts from all world religions were used for prayer and worship. Keshub propagated a general theory of revelation in which he included nature, history, by which he means "great men," and inspiration. He clearly emphasized inspiration, as the most direct and significant form of revelation. He described it as "the direct breathing-in of God's spirit - which infuses an altogether new life into the soul, and exalts it above all that is earthly and impure. It is more powerful, being God's direct and immediate action on the human soul while revelation made through physical nature and biography is indirect and mediate".

In the era of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, led by Sivanath Shastri and Ananda Mohun Bose, the liturgy gave a rational, monistic interpretation of the Upanishads, admitting the essential unity of the universal self and the individual self.