first vaisnava missionary in the west

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by MollyThe Hippy, Jun 18, 2006.

  1. MollyThe Hippy

    MollyThe Hippy get high school

    Baba Premananda Bharati

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    Baba Bharati on the cover of Light of India in 1911.

    Bābā Premānanda Bhāratī (1868-1914) was likely the first Gaudiya Vaisnava missionary on the Western soil. He arrived to the West in 1902, publishing the treatise "Sree Krishna" in 1904 and a periodical called "Light of India" from 1906 to 1912 and establishing a society called "The Krishna Samaj" (also: The Krishna Home). Baba Bharati also made a number of American disciples, and according to some accounts at one point had a following as large as 5000.


  2. MollyThe Hippy

    MollyThe Hippy get high school


    Baba Premananda Bharati, born Surendranath Mukerji in 1868, was the nephew of a Bengali judge, who spent his earlier years as a part of a group of young Bengali intellectuals. [1]

    Initiation and conversion

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    Lokanatha Brahmacari.

    Baba Bharati was originally initiated into the lineage of Lokanatha Brahmacari [1] [2], an ascetic yogi from Bengal, by Lokanatha's disciple Brahmananda Bharati, from whom Premananda received the Bharati-title. His conversion to the religion of Caitanya Mahaprabhu happened as a result of seeing a drama depicting Caitanya's pastimes. [2]

    Baba Bharati derived a great sense of inspiration from Jagadbandhu Sundar, a charismatic and controversial figure whose period of influence was at the dawn of the 20th century. It is said [3] that Bharati supported the idea of Jagadbandhu's having been "Nava-Gauranga", or Gauranga who had taken birth again.

    The mission

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    A popular illustration of Jagadbandhu.

    Baba Bharati traveled from Bengal to the West in 1902, arriving in New York City, where he founded a society called the Krishna Samaj and lectured to popular audiences in different eastern cities. Premananda Bharati was accompanied by a certain Kṛṣṇānanda Dās for his journey. [3] Bharati eventually relocated to Los Angeles, California, where a temple of Krishna was constructed, and where he had his biggest following. Towards the end of 1907, he returned to India with six American disciples, opening a mission in Calcutta – a mission that is said to have failed in want of financial support, leading him to relocate back to the U.S. in 1910 with his followers.

    Having returned to India in 1911 with a stay at England on the way, Baba Bharati died in Calcutta in 1914, an event which soon led to the closing of the temple in America. Over the years to come, the mission suffered considerably under oppression from a movement opposed to the growth of Hinduism in America in a general atmosphere laced with racism and anti-Asian spirit. Elizabeth A. Reed's study of Bharati and other early Indian gurus contributed substantially in gathering public support for the Asian Exclusion Act, passed in 1917.

    Regardless, Bharati's disciples kept his memory alive over the years. In the 30's, members of the Order of Loving Service, a California mystical group, dedicated the book "Square" with the following words: "To Baba Premanand Bharati, who by his love, patience, and continued watchfulness has led me out of darkness into Light, out of out of weariness into Rest, out of confusion into Understanding, out of continuous striving into Perfect Peace." In 1970's, members of AUM Temple of Universal Truth, a group founded in the 1920's, republished Bharati's writings in their periodical and sold pictures of "Our Beloved Baba Bharati".

    Bharati's student, Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmacari, a prolific author and publisher, traveled widely across the U.S. in 1933-1939, and is told to have given 354 lectures in 63 US towns and spoken at 29 universities during this six-year period.

    Baba Bharati is also said to have had a following in Madras, more substantial than in Bengal, consisting of like-minded religious nationalists.
  3. MollyThe Hippy

    MollyThe Hippy get high school


    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Cover of "Sree Krishna".

    Sree Krishna (The Lord of Love) A treatise on Gaudiya Vaisnava theology published in 1904. In addition to copies of the American and British editions of Sree Krishna, portions of the book were republished by Mahanambrata Brahmachari in 1995[4], and some portions are available online. "Jim" A novel written to address Rudyard Kipling's Kim. Baba Bharati published the novel in 1910-11. The text also appeared as a serial in the Light of India magazine from 1907 onwards. Light of India A magazine edited by Baba Bharati in between 1906 and 1912, the year of his return to India. Some later magazines were also published under the title East and West, "Magazine and Review of Thought—Combined with "The Light of India". Some original issues of Light of India are still available for sale at AbeBooks. [edit]
    Light of India

    Aside Baba Bharati, the Light of India magazine had a number of other contributors, such as Vishwarup Chaturvedi, Julian Hawthorne and Adelia Bee Adams. Rose Reinhardt Anthon was the most frequent among the contributors.

    The following are some examples of articles that Baba Bharati wrote himself:

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    The second number of Light of India from 1906

    • The White Peril (November 1906)
    • National Snobbery (February 1907)
    • Into The Purdah: The Hindoo Wife (February 1907)
    • Lady Paget On Reincarnation; The Missionary Myths About Hindoo Women (February 1907)
    • Do We Live? (March 1907)
    • Christianity Crucified (March 1907)
    • Thought Force (April 1907)
    • Effects Of Vegetarianism On Mind And Body (April 1907)
    • The Hindoo New Year (April 1907)
    • Saints And Sons Of God (May 1907)
    • Is God Visible? (June 1907)
    • The World's Coming Religion (July 1907)
    • The Might Of The Mikado (March 1907)
    • Beauty And Power (April 1908)
    • Science And Mark Twain Prove The Ganges Holy (April 1908)
    • Paragraphs On Passing Events (April 1908)
    • She Speaks At Last (November 1910)
    • The Topmost Topic (November 1910)
    • The Science Of Idol-Worship (April 1911)
    • Message From The Dead (April 1911)
    • Mystic Musings: The Human Butterfly (April 1911)
    The magazine also had regular columns such as "Sayings of Krishna", "Vedic Seed-Thoughts" and "Baba in the West".
  4. MollyThe Hippy

    MollyThe Hippy get high school


    Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmacari is undoubtedly the best known among Baba Bharati's disciples. Bharati's closest American disciple is said to have been Rose Reinhardt Anthon, who returned to Chicago in 1914 following Bharati's death, and where she lived at least until 1940. Anthon was a regular contributor to the Light of India magazine. A search on the internet[4] indicates that she also wrote titles such as Stories of India : Moral, Mystical, Spiritual and Romantic, published as vol. 5 of Encyclopaedia of Indian Folk Literature.


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    Light of India magazine with Baba Premananda.

    Gerald Carney, a professor of Religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, is working [5] on a critical study of Baba Premananda Bharati. According to a message[6] sent to the RISA mailing list in 2001, Carney has "done extensive research in the United States, England, and India about his life, activities, religious teachings, and his anti-colonial political vision of India." Carney traveled to India in 2004[7] with an aim of completing his field research.

    An article comparing the arrival of Baba Bharati in the West with that of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was published in the Journal of Vaisnava Studies in Spring 1998, and another on Baba Bharati's sense of "mission" in the fall of 2004. Carney has also presented a paper on vision of Indian (Hindu) nationalism in the DANAM conference in 2004, later published in the second volume of Studies in Constructive Dharma (2005). A study of the novel "Jim" was published in the annals of the Southeast Conference of Asian Studies.

    • Baba Bharati was the first known Vaisnava to use the phrase Krishna Consciousness [8], and is also reported to have employed several other "Westernized" expressions in describing themes of Vaisnava theology, such as the term "golden age" for satya-yuga.
    • Baba Bharati is said to have noted [9] of his Hindu predecessor preachers, "They have not presented Hinduism as it is, free from Western affectation."
    • The title "Sree Krishna" is mentioned in a letter written by Mahatma Gandhi to Leo Tolstoi on October 1, 1909, found in the Collected Works of Gandhi (#91, p.132 - PDF). Gandhi notes that Tolstoi had referred to the text frequently: "In the letter in question, you have quoted largely from Krishna and given reference to passages. I should thank you to give me the title of the book from which the quotations have been made."[5]
    1. Most of the biographical data is based on the Encyclopedia of American Religions, as cited at, and notes from Gerald Carney According to Carney, June 16th, 2006. O.B.L. Kapoor in The Saints of Bengal (p. 114): “The recluse was overpowered with emotion. He burst into tears and consigned himself to Barha Babaji, who initiated him and put him on the way to spiritual blessedness. This sadhu was Krishnananda Dasa, the same who accompanied Baba Premananda Bharati on his way to America for fulfilling his evangelical mission in far off lands.” The full edition is available second-hand in several bookstores and an abridged edition edited by Mahanambrata Brahmacari at Nitai's bookstore among others.
    2. The footnote clarifies that Krishna is a reference to "a booklet written in 1904 by a Bengali saint, Baba Premananda Bharati, then resident in California".
    Retrieved from ""
  5. spook13

    spook13 Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    Awesome, thanks for posting!
  6. Kharakov

    Kharakov ShadowSpawn

    Neat. I am tingling.
  7. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake resigned HipForums Supporter

    Interesting. It seems to me that back in those pre-world war I days, people's cultural attitudes and prejudices were much more firmly entrenched and hardly ever questioned. Hence I'm not surprised that Baba met with opposition in the USA.
    When SP came over in the 60's the situation was entirely different. People were actively questioning most of the values of western society, and a certain number were open to new spiritual and cultural ideas.Many people were serching for 'something more' in life than the dreary round followed by previous generations. In the atmosphere of the 60's it was much easier for new things to take root.
    Thats probably because of the steady decline of western societies in terms of their value systems. Two world wars intervened between the coming of Baba Premananda and SP. And in that process we saw the total collapse of all moral and spiritual values under the Nazis. It's not surprising the hippies etc were rejecting mainstream values and looking for something new. It was a fertile ground for SP. And really, he timed it to perfection - Even the Mantra itself fitted well with the interest that was growing in eastern and experimental music.To those folks back in the 1910's it must have seemed quite different.
    As to the future - I think it depends on many factors. There is a danger of a kind of renewed cultural conservatism gaining ground partly as a result of polarization stemming from the conflict with militant Islam, of which I see little hope of an early end. Perhaps if this leads to increased racism, and cultural hate, as seems to be happening albiet not on a big scale, here in the Uk, then I wonder if that could have a negative impact on Hindus in the west too, as in the mind of the racist thug, 'they are all the same'.
    Lets' hope not. Sorry to be a prophet of doom....
  8. spook13

    spook13 Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter's interesting that Yogananda came to the US not too long later, in 1920, and went about his business...I'm sure he had detractors but was by any standard successful in his mission by 1940 or so.

    Actually Yogananda set things up well for SP, Ram Dass, and other teachers of the '60s period. AOY was one of the hippie bibles and introduced very many here to Indian spiritual concepts in a user-friendly way. I'm sure a large percentage of SP's early followers had previously read AOY.

    The growth of cultural--read far-right Christian--conservatism in the US is scary, but Hindus here are not suffering from it more than pre-911. Indian immigrants are an affluent and productive, you might say elite, segment of American society, and it's only the most ignorant of rednecks who don't recognize this.

    My objective prediction is a large backlash against Bush and company in fall '06 and in the '08 presidential election...Democrat in the White House, one or both houses of Congress with Demo majority, and Bush's conservative-leaning Supreme court. A decent balance that should keep the fundies in check, although there will be some cases in the high court that could very well go their way.
  9. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake resigned HipForums Supporter

    I agree that AOY played a part in arousing people's interest in yoga etc. I think the same goes here in the Uk too. Another who gained acceptance in the USA earlier on was Vivekananda, although I don't know how wide ranging his influence was.
    I think too that back in the 60's the advent of psychedelics also opened some people's minds to new possibilities.

    In this country, it seems that in some areas, tension is mounting between different ethnic communities. I hope it won't go too far, but I do see a danger, esp. if there are more major bombings.
    Also, current heavy-handed police 'anti-terror' tactics are causing further alienation of Muslims, and not just radicalized Muslims, but normally peaceful people. It is a bit worrying.
    Another thing, although as yet I don't know of any Hindu involvement, just this weekend in London, there was a protest march by Muslim residents of Forest Hill, scene of a recent police raid, in which the local Sikh community were participating. So obviously, non-Muslim Asians here are feeling the heat.Since ethnic communities tend to be clustered in specific areas of cities, a crackdown on one group probably affects the others too.

    Couple this with the general ignorance that still seems to prevail in ethnic Brits regarding other religions, or indeed, even regarding their own supposed Christian religion, and I think it is a recipe for potential trouble. It depends I think on how things progress and if the attacks go on.

    It would be great to see the current US administration being replaced by something closer to the centre.
  10. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake resigned HipForums Supporter

    I'd better add though that some Hindu groups do have some political clout over here too. An example was a few years back when the existence of Bhaktivedanta Manor was under threat due to planning regulations - quite powerful Hindu lobby groups persuaded the Govt. to directly intervene to keep the temple open.

    In Leicester, the city with the highest Hindu population in the country, more money is spent by the local council on Diwali celebrations than on Christmas - so there are indicators in both directions. I think that if it weren't for the new troubles that have emerged since 9/11 there would be no problem at all for Hindus in the Uk.
  11. MollyThe Hippy

    MollyThe Hippy get high school

    good point, vivekananda did have great success... gained quite a bit of attention at the world council of religions thing in chicago... there is an ashrama down the road from me that was founded by vivekananda
  12. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    There's one a block away from me at BU...its on my campus....
  13. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake resigned HipForums Supporter

    The western Vedanta movement started by Vivekananda had quite an influence on some who were in turn influential during the 60's - Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood etc.
  14. spook13

    spook13 Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    I agree, the Ramakrishna Mission was the first authentic Indian spiritual society to gain a firm foothold in the USA, and Yogananda's SRF closely followed. I consider Huxley and Isherwood as appealing mainly to the very intellectually inclined.

    In terms of who was initially most important in paving the Vedic spiritual path for the 60's generation here, I would have to say in general, Yogananda and AOY. AOY was an incredibly fascinating and sincere account of a culture that most of us in America had never heard of or that was stereotyped by the prevailing Christian culture as one of unnecessarily sacred cows, snake charmers, flying carpets, and guys who slept on beds of nails.

    AOY was a great book, and Yogananda a genuine and charismatic sadhu, but his personal appeal was to a much older generation, and, he had left this material plane 15 years prior to Srila Prabhupada's arrival here.

    SRF and the Ramakrishna Mission were not user-friendly organizations for young, searching people in the mid 60's...SRF was by then 45 years old and and Ramakrishna Mission 65...both were conservative and established.

    Enter Srila Prabhupada...another genuine sadhu of extraordinary charisma and a unique openmindedness and practicality in his ability to reach and recruit those whose minds and hearts were open, but couldn't function in the stuffy environment of traditional Vedantic societies.

    Early ISKCON was truly dynamic and hip and had a tremendous and authentic appeal and immediate, on-the-spot availability...a unique and energetic phenomenon that spread Caitanya Vaisnavism all over the world during SP's lifetime.

    Unfortunately, after SP's passing in 1977 his society fell into scandal and disorder, as we all know, and is now struggling to re-establish credibility and a foothold.

    Here's a link to an excellent book on the subject...Bill, I think that you in particular would enjoy reading this: The Hare Krishna Movement : The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant: Books: Edwin Bryant,Maria Ekstrand
  15. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake resigned HipForums Supporter

    I'll check out the book Spook, thanks - although the link doesn't seem to be working for me.

    Just a couple of comments - I agree that Huxley and Isherwood appeal mainly to intellectual types - however, I think Huxley is perhaps an exception, as his 'Doors of Perception' made him a figure of interest to a wider audience. Also, his novels, esp. 'Brave New World' and later 'Island' had made him quite widely known. His glories were also trumpeted by Tim Leary - who, love him or loathe him, also at one time seemed to be associating himself with Indian philosophies etc. (later he changed his mind quite radically - but that's another story)

    I think it's true to say that both SRF and RKM might well appear somewhat 'dry' and conservative in comparison to Krishna Consciousness as preached by SP. The appeal of the Mantra, and the generally dynamic nature of ISKCON in the early days was a definite plus. I recall seeing clearly how this could be a complete 'lifestyle' - although I don't like the term in this context.

    It's interesting that you say you'd read Yogananda's book before coming to Krishna Consciousness - in my case the reverse was true. It was after I became somewhat disillusioned with ISKCON back in the bad old days of the 80's (after meeting Bhagavan Gurudeva) that I began to read more widely in Indian philosophy, and AOY was certainly a book which helped me gain much greater insight. Previously though, I'd also read the Prabhavanda/Isherwood Gita, which was what initially sparked my interest.
    Just for the record though, the very first book I ever read on any eastern philosophy was actually 'The Tibetan Book of the Dead' trans. W.Y.Evans-Wentz.

    As for ISKCON now, just a day or so ago I recieved through the post the latest issue of 'Back to Prabhupada', journal of the ISKCON revival movement. It makes sad reading. The controversies continue, along with bannings of Ritvik supporters from temples, and current ISKCON gurus who seem to be lost in self-contradiction over the issues surrounding initiation. The IRM themselves seem on one level to be simply promoting controversy.

    One very disturbing thing in the magazine is a piece that reproduces an ISKCON policy document regarding paedophiles - evidently, they are still allowed to visit temples and participate in activities, whilst those who support the Ritvik position are to be banned for life. That seems to me like an inversion of values.

    Anyway, I hope ISKCON can eventually set their house in order.

    BTW - If anyone is interested in 'Back to Prabhupada' magazine, it is free, and you can get it by going to

    Please don't take though that I agree or disagree with their position. I can see both sides.
  16. MollyThe Hippy

    MollyThe Hippy get high school

    Vivekananda "stole the show" at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Illinois, where he earned wild applause for beginning his address with the famous words, "Sisters and brothers of America." Vivekananda's arrival in the USA has been identified by many to mark the beginning of western interest in Hinduism not as merely an exotic eastern oddity, but as a vital religious and philosophical tradition that might actually have something important to teach the West. Within a few years of the Parliament, he had started Vedantic centres in New York City, New York and London, lectured at major universities and generally kindled western interest in Hinduism. His success was not without controversy, much of it from Christian missionaries of whom he was fiercely critical. During this time, Nikola Tesla was influenced by the Vedic philosophy teachings of the Swami Vivekananda. After four years of constant touring, lecturing and retreats in the West, he came back to India in the year 1897.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  17. MollyThe Hippy

    MollyThe Hippy get high school

    iskcon can be fixed if they stop manipulating people with their use of "k"
  18. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake resigned HipForums Supporter

    Swami Vivekanada strikes me as having been a very impressive figure, who could really inspire people very deeply. He seems to have had a great gift for public speaking. He had a deep and wide ranging knowledge of Indian philosophy. It's also true that at times he was critical of traditional Hindu culture, saying it was too 'otherworldly' and that what India needed, in his day, was material progress, and an end to caste etc.

    He counterbalanced that by saying it was spiritually that the west needed to develop. A great teacher, and the greatest disciple of his great Master, Sri Ramakrishna.
  19. spook13

    spook13 Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    Bill...both Amazon UK and abebooks UK should be able to get this book, new or used.

    Yeah, controversy is where ISKCON is at. The child abuse/pedophilia issues have come up again in a big way since the recent suicide of a former student in ISKCON schools. I, for one, am very glad to see this happening because much of what is going on now in ISKCON management is not what Srila Prabhupada intended.

    I don't know if you've visited this website; if not, it should give you all the background. Please read the petition and sign it if you care to.

    This is totally inane nonsense.
  20. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    ::nods:: I remember reading a few of Yoganandaji's lectures about material advance in India in exchange for spiritual advance in the US. It was, I believe, one of his dreams to see both countries working together to exchange the best they had to offer

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