CHRIST A Si
JACK C. WINSLO^
One Shilling Net
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
A GROUP OF THE BROTHERS, WITH A GUEST ON THE EXTREME LEFT.
(JACK Ci WINSLOW.
(Acharya of Christa Se<va Sangha.)
THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL IN
15 Tufton Street, Westminster, S.W. 1.
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Introduction ... ... ... ... ... vii.
I. Why Christa Seva Sangha was started 9
II. The History of Christa Seva Sangha 18
III. The Increase ... ... ... ... 34
IV. Christa Seva Sangha to-day ... ... 42
A group of the Brothers, with a guest
on the extreme left ... ... Frontispiece
In the Court where the Brothers live ... 16
The Refectory 17
The Chapel 32
A group of Students at the C.S.S. Hostel 33
This short account of Christa Seva Sangha has
been written at the special request of the S.P.G.
We hesitated much about acceding to this request,
since we are most anxious to avoid the fatal snare
of serf-advertisement. But after mature thought we
agreed that the book should be produced; for we
saw the force of the contention that the young
people of the Church, for whom the book is
primarily intended, ought to have the opportunity
of knowing about nev; lines along which the Church
in India is seeking to develop her work ; and we
also coveted greatly the help of the prayers of those
who would read it. But, if the book was to be
written at all, it was clear that it must be written
with a good deal of vivid detail. We hope that our
readers, when tempted to criticize, will bear in mind
these circumstances of its origin. Sections, for
instance, like that which describes the daily life in
the ashram, would have been omitted, or differently
written, in a general history of the Sangha for all
classes of readers.
It is nearing sunset in the days of the great heat.
The fierce ball of fire, which has blazed pitilessly in
the heavens all through the long summer day, is
dropping behind the Western Ghats 1 ; but his
power, as he glares across the hill-tops, seems still
scarcely abated, and all nature pants and languishes
in the stifling heat.
A long train of pilgrims from the north is
approaching Poona, once the proud capital of the
Maratha Empire, where they will sleep the night
before continuing their long march to Pandharpur,
the home of their beloved Vithoba 2 in the far south.
They go on foot, men, women and children together,
trusting to God and their fellow men for food and
rough shelter for the night, their orange banners
proclaiming them as the people of the Quest.
Onwards they go, seeking, seeking ; grateful now,
as they near the city, for the shade of kindly trees
which here join their long arms across the Pilgrim's
Way : and, as they go, they sing
" The Endless One is beyond, beyond ....
But between him and me there rise the lofty
mountains of desire and anger.
I am not able to ascend them, nor do I find
1. The line of mountains stretching down the west coast of India.
2. The form oi Vishnu's incarnation as Krishna most popular in Western
2 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
We stand in the shady Pilgrim's Way and watch
them go. As the last passes from sight, we turn
and see beside us, on the other side of a low fence,
a broad open portico, surmounted by a beehive
dome and cross, giving access to a large square
vestibule, with walls of rubble stone and flat concrete
roof, and beyond this, and stretching out on either
side of it, a long building, also of rubble stone, flat-
roofed, with three large windows to the right and
three to the left, fitted only with rough wooden
We go in by a gate, and, passing through the
portico and hall and through a large doorway at its
far end, find ourselves looking down, from the top
of a low flight of steps, upon an inner court,
enclosed on three sides, but open on the fourth (that
which faces us) to a view of trees and (in the nearer
distance) the bed of a small stream dried up by the
long drought. In the centre of the court is a large
round tank full of clear water, infinitely refreshing
to the senses in the days of heat, and around it a
garden of young cypresses and orange trees, among
which struts a peacock with lordly gait. On its
three enclosed sides the court is flanked by a narrow
verandah, along which at somewhat wide intervals
stand pillars of grey concrete supporting a flat
concrete roof of no great height. Doves circle
around and settle on the roof.
We pass along the thin strip of verandah. On
that side of the court on which we have entered there
are rooms enclosed with walls and doors, but on the
other two sides the building is divided up by
partitions of whitewashed sackcloth into tiny cells,
with chics of split bamboo in place of doors, and
containing for the most part a roll of bedding and a
box on the stone floor, and a few books and other
articles in a small recess built into the stone wall at
the back of the cell.
The sun has now set, and, though the heat is not
perceptibly diminished, there is a pleasant sense of
refreshment from the tempering of the brilliant
light. From the open garden beyond the court and
the orange trees comes a sound of singing, and we
pass out to listen. On a round gravelled platform,
raised slightly above the surrounding ground, there
is gathered a company of worshippers, sitting cross-
legged round the outer rim of the platform in a
semicircle facing the sunset. They are dressed
lightly, as befits the days of heat, with a dhoti, or
loin-cloth, of white homespun, and a light scarf
flung over the shoulders. Some, it would seem, are
the. sons of the land ; others strangers from the west,
who have made its ways their own. In the centre
of the platform sits one of the company apart,
casting grains of incense from time to time upon
hot cinders, from which the wreaths of incense
smoke float upwards in the still air. We go forward
and join ourselves to the seated worshippers, as the
hymn proceeds. It is an Indian melody in the
Marathi tongue, soft and plaintive, with a poignant
wistfulness of appeal. One of the Brothers beats
the time rhythmically with the Indian drum.
4 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
Another makes the "drone" of the melody hum out
from the twang of the Indian guitar. Others clash
small cymbals in time with the drum's beat. The
words of the refrain, often repeated, stamp them-
selves quickly on the memory.
Presently the music ceases, and the leader begins
to offer praise of God: "Formless and Infinite!
Abyss of Wisdom ! Source and Bestower of Bliss !
Fount of Holiness ! Ocean of Mercy ! Father of
tender Compassions ! To thee be adoration and
glory !" The stately, resounding Names each of
them a single Sanskrit compound are soul-stirring
by their very music, even for those who cannot fully
A brief silence, and the worship proceeds : a
psalm, chanted antiphonally by leader and
worshippers; a passage of Scripture; and then
Magnificat with Indian melody and accompani-
ment. After this, a few brief prayers; and then,
once again, with the cymbals' clash and the drum's
rhythmic beat, the voices break out into a flood of
sound in one of the exquisite lyrics of Narayan
Vaman Tilak, the great Christian poet of
' ' Be thou at hand, O Lord ;
Then, though this flesh reside
In stately palace halls
Or rugged mountain-side,
If thine unfailing presence be
About me still, all's heaven to me.
1. The name "Maharashtra" is used for all that area (practically the whole
of Wostern India) over which the Marathi language is spoken.
Be thou at hand, O Lord;
Then, though my board be piled
With wealth of daintiest fare
Or bitter herbs and wild,
The whiles my spirit trysts with thee,
Thyself my nectar feast shall be.
Be thou at hand, O Lord ;
Then, though my nightly bed
On soft and fragrant flowers
Or roughest rocks be spread,
So but I lean upon thy breast,
No breath of care shall mar my rest.
O dear and inmost soul
Of all the joys that be,
My action, thought and speech,
Yea all, I yield to thee,
Lord Christ beloved, accept me now ;
Unfailing rest alone art thou."
A hush follows the closing cadences of the
hymn ; and, as the leader bids all to lift their hearts
to Christ, the true Light, the whole seated company
softly recites together the ancient Sanskrit words
which every "twice-born" Hindu learns at his
investiture with the sacred thread, the Gayatri
Mantra, by repetition of which man's spirit steadies
and concentrates its vision for contemplation of the
Light Eternal :
Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi!
Dhiyo yo naha prachodaydt!
6 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
Let us meditate on the excellent glory of the Divine
May he inspire our understanding !
A deep silence falls, broken only by the low roar
of distant traffic on road and railway or the murmur
of voices on the Pilgrim's Way. The flaming
orange of the sunset pales slowly to amber, dimmed
at times by the dust-cloud which rises from the trail
of the' cattle as they wend homewards at the "cow-
dust" hour. The blue above deepens into purple,
deepens and darkens till the first stars throb softly
through. A faint breath of coolness stirs the trees.
The silence deepens with the shadows; becomes
pregnant,- living; stealing into the heart with a
touch of infinite peace. Truly this hour of twilight,
consecrated from time immemorial in this land of
religion to communion with the unseen, holds in it
some unearthly witchery, is mistress of a holy spell.
How lightly, under its solemn influence, the spirit
slips from its fleshly shackles, and soars to its true
home. The "unsubstantial pageant" of earth fades
and dissolves into the glory of heaven. The still-
ness is vibrant with the sense of unseen presences
saints and angels into whose worship we have
entered. From such a vantage point of vision, how
small appear the cares and the pleasures of earth,
how large beyond bearing its sins ! How the soul,
rapt in the peace of God, yet agonizes over the
strifes of men, yearns for the merging of earth's
discords in the heavenly harmony ! . . . .
Again a low murmur of prayer, startling us with
a sudden shock of recall: Asatoma sadgamaya:
tamasoma jyotirgamaya: mrityorma'mritum gam-
ay a; that prayer which, repeated through unnum-
bered centuries, breathes the eternal yearning of
India's heart for God : "From falsehood lead me
to truth: from darkness lead me to light: from
death lead me to immortality."
And then, yet softer, the slow chant
SHANTI ! SHANTI ! SHANTI !
Peace ! Peace ! Peace !
WHY CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA WAS STARTED.
Beside the gate through which we turned in from
the Pilgrim's Way in Poona stands a board marked
"Christa Seva Sangha," which means literally
"Christ Service Society," that is, the Society of
Servants belonging to Christ. The ground into
which the gate admitted us is their ashram a word
which was used in ancient India to describe the
forest hermitages, where the sages known as Rishis
used to instruct their disciples in the ways of
religion, and is still used to denote a home marked
by a common life of simple character and a certain
detachment from the world for prayer, study, or
service. It may be of interest to inquire what were
the reasons for starting this Society ; what has been
its history hitherto; and what it is attempting to
do at the present time. This chapter, therefore, will
deal with the two principal reasons why it was
thought desirable that such a Sangha should be
brought into existence : the next two will outline its
career during its first eight years of infancy : the
fourth will give an outline picture of the Sangha as
it is to-day.
10 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
The two main purposes for which the Sangha
was originally started may be summed up thus : a
life of common service and equal fellowship for
Indians and Europeans; and the development of
Indian ways for the expression in India of Christian
life and worship.
(1) A life of common service and equal fellowship
for Indians and Europeans.
There are in India religious communities of
English people sharing in a common life together,
and similar communities of Indians. In Christa
Seva Sangha, however, Indians and Englishmen
share together in a common life on terms of com-
At the great missionary conference held at
Edinburgh in 1910, an Indian Christian who has
now become famous as Bishop of Dornakal made
an appeal to the Western Church in burning words,
which have never been forgotten by those who heard
them : "You have given your goods to feed the
poor; you have given your bodies to be burned;
now give us love I"
Too often we who go out to India from the west
have been guilty of racial arrogancy and superiority.
It is not only that we have readily assumed leader-
ship in the work of the Church ; for this was natural,
and indeed inevitable, in the early pioneer days
when the infant Church had yet everything to learn
of Christ and Christian life. Our fault is that we
are so apt to regard people of another colour as
WHY CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA WAS STARTED. 11
essentially inferior to ourselves; and that, even
though we may show them much kindness and
make real sacrifices on their behalf, we too often fail
to offer them the gift of real love and equal friend-
ship. We do not think of the Indian as really a
brother or a sister in Christ; and the result is a
certain gulf between us, which is in truth an
unnatural gulf and has no right to exist.
If we allow such a gulf as this to exist, we are
being false to our whole mission. Christ said :
"By this shall all men know that ye are my
disciples, if ye have love one to another." Love,
overcoming all barriers, welding into one harmoni-
ous family people of diverse race, education, class,
temperament, and outlook what a witness this
would be to the love of Christ ! India, torn and
distracted by strifes and divisions hindered in her
advance to freedom and true nationhood by nothing
so much as the rivalry between Hindu and Moslem,
Brahman and non-Brahman thirsts after the secret
of unity I What price would she not pay for the
medicine which could heal this cancer of disunion
that saps her strength at every moment !
And we have in Christ that secret; for in him
there is "No Jew or Greek, circumcision or
uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free;
ye are all one in Christ Jesus." If we could show
India that the secret of love and unity is indeed in
Christ, would she not fall at his feet and own him
Lord? But we Christians have shown, instead, a
Christendom torn into fragments ; strife among the
12 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
Churches ; racial pride and intolerance ; the bitter-
ness of party conflict; the spirit of caste even within
the Church. No wonder India is not impressed !
The first reason, therefore, for the starting of
Christa Seva Sangha was to try to contribute some-
thing towards the healing of these wounds, and
especially towards the healing of inter-racial strife.
In the words of its Rule, the Sangha "has within
it both Indian and non-Indian members, who
together form a spiritual family living on terms of
perfect equality and fellowship, bearing witness to
the world of the unity that is in Christ." There
is no question here of missionary and Indian
Christian. If missionary means ambassador of
Christ, all the members of the Sangha are mission-
aries. If missionary means ambassador from an
elder Church, none are missionaries. For "to the
non-Indian members India has become their
adopted motherland," and all alike, Indian and
non-Indian, are simply fellow-servants of Christ
and of India. The Sangha's success will depend
largely on its being faithful to this ideal.
(2) The Indian presentation of Christian life and
Let us try to picture to ourselves the mind of an
educated Brahman in India 1 to-day, as he thinks of
Christianity and Christ.
He has become familiar with the Gospels during
his years in a missionary college or through his own
private study of them. The central figure there
WHY CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA WAS STARTED. 13
depicted exercises a strange fascination over his
mind. This is One whom he can understand and
love. His life and teaching seem to answer to the
best in India's own ideals. All he has vaguely
admired and striven after is here summed up in
teaching of compelling simplicity and power, and
in a life that perfectly exemplifies the teaching,
crowned by a supreme act of self-sacrificing love.
Certainly Christ, he feels, must be regarded as a
true Avatdra 1 1 A man could not go far wrong in
taking him as guru 2 . He turns to the Christian
Church to see how it embodies and sets forth the
spirit of its Master.
From the first he encounters a shock. The
Christian Church, it seems, is a western institution,
not intended for such as himself. He has amongst
his friends a certain number of educated Indian
Christians; and, though they are pleasant and
friendly, they belong, he feels, to a different world
from his. They dress in European fashion, and
enter his house in boots. If he goes to their houses
he finds that they eat meat (which makes it
impossible for him to share a meal with them), and
have modelled their houses and style of living on
that of the west 3 .
1. viz. : Incarnation. Hindus believe in ten principal incarnations of
Vishnu, but any outstanding Mahatma ("great soul") may be an incarnation.
3. It should be understood that the picture here drawn would not apply
universally. Many Brahmans, particularly of the younger generation, have
adopted western ways; and a few educated Indian Christians live like
Brahmans. The simple and illiterate Christians of the villages are not
14 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
But perhaps he should look, in forming a judg-
ment, not to the rank and file of Christians, but to
the gurus of the Christian Church. He would
hardly seek to learn his own religion from men
engaged in the ordinary professions of life, but
rather from those specially dedicated to the life of
religion as sannyasis those who have renounced
all in the quest for God, and in their saffron robe,
with staff and bowl, wander homeless, begging their
bread, and instructing in spiritual truth those who
come to them with the true thirst for truth in their
He seeks, therefore, to discover whether there is
not some Christian sannydsi from whom he could
learn the inner mysteries of the Christian religion ;
but can only hear of a famous sannydsi, Sadhu
Sundar Singh, whose writings do indeed move him,
and of a few others of no outstanding distinction.
Most of the Christian gurus he finds to be living
lives quite unlike that of the sannydsi 1 .
Still persisting in his quest he goes one Sunday
to see the worship at a Christian church in his town.
Again he meets with disappointment. The church
itself is built in English Victorian style. The con-
gregation, clad in immaculate European clothes,
are seated in pews, without having bared their feet
1. There is a well-known story of a Hindu fadhu who, wishing to see the
chief guru of the Christian religion, with a view to refuting his errors, was
directed to Bishop's House, Calcutta, the residence of the Metropolitan of India.
But when the Sadhu came in sight of the sumptuous episcopal mansion, he
turned back home, saying, "I need not waste my time in argument. A
religion whose chief guru lives thus can never pervert my country from the
truth." It should be added that no one would be more glad to be relieved
of the burden of Bishop's House than its present saintly occupant.
WHY CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA WAS STARTED. 15
even in the house of God. The psalms sung to
Anglican chants and the hymns to western tunes
sound strangely to his ear. There is none of the
Indian devotional music that he loves so well.
Passages are read from the Christian scriptures;
but though they are in his own language, so
uncouth is the rendering that often he can make no
sense of them. Prayers are offered, but suffer from
a like defect 1 . He finds also no intervals of silent
prayer, no opportunity for quiet worship. There is
a sense of hurry and unrest. At the close is a
sermon which has no bearing on those deeper
philosophic questions which to him are the real
problems of life. He comes away from the church
sure that his own instinct of worship can find no
satisfaction within it. He returns, with a sense of
relief and deepened appreciation, to his own quiet
times of prayer and contemplation in the morning
before daybreak, when he meditates on some
passage from the Gita? and chants the poems of
Tukaram 3 .
Thinking on all these things, he comes to one
plain conclusion in his mind. He will retain his
reverence for Christ and try to follow his teaching,
but he will never think of accepting baptism. How
can he become one of this strange company with
their strange ways ? That would be to denationalize
1. The following is an exact rendering of the address to God at the
beginning of a Marathi collect : "O God, thou art amazing amidst the
strength of thy holies."
2. The Bhagavadgita, or Song of the Adorable One the most popular
3. The favourite poet-saint of Maharashtra.
16 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
himself, to be false to his motherland in this day
when most of all she needs the loyalty of her sons.
It would mean the denial of his own splendid
heritage of spiritual truth. He would be asked to
surrender his own culture, to dress in uncouth ways
and perhaps even to eat beef ! No, he would rather
live and die a faithful Hindu, and he can honour
Christ without submitting to this surrender of the
things he holds most dear.
The above picture is typical of the attitude of
large numbers of educated Hindus at the present
day. There are many things which prevent them
from seeing Christ in all his compelling beauty.
Outstanding among these is the unchristian lives
of us who bear his Name. But not the least among
them is the western disguise in which we have
hidden him. To use Sundar Singh's simile, we
offer the water of life to India in a western cup, and
India will not drink.
A second reason, therefore, for the starting of
Christa Seva Sangha was to help in developing the
true Indian expression of Christian life and worship.
What could be better for this purpose than a
community of Indian and European Christians,
living and worshipping together? For the task
is twofold. On the one hand that which is
fundamental, universal in Christianity the great
Catholic heritage of the Church must be pre-
served; for this is the gift which all men need.
Here the English Brothers of the Sangha can play
the leading part. On the other hand, much of
The Brothers sit on the low stools.
WHY CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA WAS STARTED. 17
what is accidental, temporary, local in western
Christianity must be shed, and replaced by its true
Indian counterpart. In fashioning this the Indian
Brothers must take the lead. The chapters which
follow will show, in greater detail, some of the ways
in which this little community is seeking, without
surrendering its catholicity, to be truly Indian, that
it may play its part, however small, in building by
God's grace the Indian Catholic Church.
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
(1) The planting.
Christa Seva Sangha was not the fruit of man's
planning or man's wisdom. It came "by revelation
of God." On August 12th, 1919, as the present
Acharya 1 of the Sangha was sitting in the garden
of a quiet country vicarage during a period of
furlough in England, something in his reading
turned his thoughts to the need of a Christian
ashram in India ; and immediately, like an imperi-
ous voice, came the picture of that which must be
brought into being. Nor was it merely an outline
picture, but one complete with many detailed
features which during the years that followed have
been gradually brought to realization.
But it was not until nearly three years later that
the Sangha was actually started. Its inauguration
took place on St. Barnabas' Day, 1922, in the
church of St. Barnabas at Miri (a small out-station*
of the S.P.G. Ahmadnagar Mission); and the
members chose as their patron saint from the first
1. viz. : The head of the community, chosen every three years by the
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA. 19
St. Barnabas, the Son of Consolation, who sold his
land for the poor, to whom at a later date was added
St. Francis, the Little Poor Man of Assisi, who for
Christ's sake espoused the Lady Poverty.
The first Brothers were a small group, six in
number, of whom five were Indians. Of these five
one had already adopted the saffron robe of the
sannydsi, and for some years past had journeyed
on foot from place to place, preaching Christ, and
depending for food and lodging on those who heard
The constitution, approved by the bishop, was
in its earliest form short and simple, designed
purposely in such a way as to leave room for
indefinite expansion and modification with the
growth of experience. Yet it contained in germ all,
or nearly all, of what has since been developed.
The Brothers set before themselves, first and
foremost, bhakti, viz. "devotion" to our Lord,
giving to prayer in particular the primary place in
their lives. Side by side with prayer was to go the
study of the holy Scriptures and other forms of
subsidiary study. And, further, their lives were to
be marked by two forms of service to their fellow
men ; the first, ministry to the sick and suffering and
all in need; the second, the endeavour to show to
others, by word and life, something of the beauty
of that Christ who had come to mean so much to
them in their own experience. The life was to be
a life of poverty. None of the Brothers was to
possess anything of his own. Like the first
20 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
Christians they would have all things in common.
Whatever they possessed or might get must be put
into the common fund, and from this they would
receive only the bare necessities of life.
One of the first Brothers was a married man;
yet he, and his wife, were ready to live the same
life of poverty and sharing, and were given a tiny
house adjoining that in which the rest of the
Brothers lived 1 .
From the first the Brothers set out to live in
simple Indian style. They were allotted, as their
head-quarters, a small house in the mission com-
pound at Miri. It contained no furniture. The
Brothers, like most of the poor in India, made use
of the ground whether for sitting or lying. At
night they would unroll their small rolls of bed-
ding on the verandah. The food at first it is
always cheapest in the villages cost only five
annas (about sixpence) a day per head. It was
purely vegetarian, consisting of chapatis or bhakers
(cakes of unleavened wheat or millet, rolled out like
pancakes), green vegetables, rice and lentils, oil
and ghi (clarified butter). Their dress was a long
cassock-like robe, similar in shape to the saffron
dress of the Hindu sannydsi, but made of white
home-spun and home-woven cloth called khaddar,
and girded with a saffron girdle. In the probation-
ary stage that of mumukshu or postulant a
simple dhoti and shirt were worn. The distinctive
1. For an account of the later development of the "Third Order," see page 40.
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA. 21
habit marked a definite acceptance under the rule
into the position of sddhak or novice. The Brother
who had already pledged himself to the life of a
sannyasi continued to wear the full saffron dress,
and it was decided that this colour always associ-
ated in India with complete renunciation and
dedication to the life of religion would be the mark
of those Brothers who should hear the call (as it was
hoped that many would in due course come to hear
it) to a life wholly dedicated to our Lord in the
The Brothers wore no shoes. Indoors, they
went barefoot; outside, sandals were worn.
From the first there was present in the Brothers'
minds the vision of a body of Christian sannydsis,
whether Indian or European of race, who might
help in showing to India the true beauty of
Christian life in the way that India can best under-
stand. For India, though she has seen much of
the pomp and magnificence of great monarchs, has
ever reserved her deepest reverence for those who,
for love of God and thirst after the true spiritual
riches, abandon all that they possess and live in
utter poverty, making the whole world their home ;
and surely it would be from such that India would
learn most readily of Christ? "When you bring
Christ to us," said a great Hindu, "bring him to
us not as a civilized European, but as an Asiatic
ascetic, whose wealth is communion and whose
riches are prayers."
22 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
Nevertheless the Brothers, in looking to the
growth of a body of Christian sannyasis, knew that
in two respects at least the Christian sannyasi must
seek to show to India a new type of renunciation.
For, in the first place, in India the two ideals of
renunciation and service have too often been kept
distinct. Those who have been most active in
service have not been those who followed the way
of asceticism. The life of the sannyasi, dedicated
to the religious quest, has too often been a life of
spiritual luxury, without profit to the community.
But the Christian sannyasi, unless he is to be false
to the spirit of his Master, must clearly be foremost,
not only in renunciation, but also in humble
ministry to his fellow men. He must cut away
from him all the fetters and entanglements of the
world, not that he may save his own soul, but that
he may be free for the service of others.
In one other respect, too, must a new note be
sounded by Christian asceticism in India. Accord-
ing to Hindu theory, matter and material things
are evil. The world is a place of evil, to be escaped
by him who would find God. The Christian asks,
not to be taken out of the world, but only to be kept
from its evil. To him renunciation is not escape
from life, but fullness of life and joy. St. Francis
and his followers, having espoused the Lady
Poverty, went singing through the world, finding
it filled with beauty, hardly able to contain their
merriment. This is the joyous outlook which the
Brothers of Christa Seva Sangha set also before
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA. 23
them. And it was in full accord with this that they
had from the first married people in close associa-
tion with them, and learnt to look on the unmarried
state not (with Hindus) as a state in itself higher
than the married, but only as a state to which, for
special purposes of service, God might call some
among his children.
The worship of the Brothers was marked from
the first by some characteristically Indian features.
Their eucharistic liturgy, which received the sanc-
tion of the episcopal synod of India, follows the
model of eastern rather than western liturgies, and
is specially akin to the Syriac liturgy of St. James,
which for some centuries has been in use among the
Syrian Christians of Travancore, who form the
original Christian Church of the land.
Further, in India the hours of morning and
evening twilight, known as sandhya, or "joints" of
the night and day, have from early days been set
apart for prayer ; and one of the most characteristic
features of the Brothers' life has always been the
observance of these two times of prayer, when they
assemble in the open air and sit in a semicircle,
facing in the morning towards the deepening glory
of the sunrise, and in the evening towards the slow
Emphasis has been laid, in the Brothers' wor-
ship, on such ancient Christian ceremonies as
naturally appeal to the heart of India. Examples
of this (though not all have been in use from the
first) are the procession of lights at Candlemas and
24 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
of palms on Palm Sunday ; the beautiful ceremony
of the feet washing on Maundy Thursday and the
torchlight procession on Good Friday to the
Stations of the Cross.
The beautiful Marathi lyrics of Narayan Vaman
Tilak and other poets, sung to the appropriate
Indian melodies and instrumental accompaniment,
have always formed the Brothers' songs of praise.
These have been freely used also in the work of
preaching in the villages, which has presently to be
Two final points must be noticed as having been
clearly in the Brothers' minds from the beginning.
They have sought to put in the first place the living
of the Christian life rathe? than the doing of any
particular work. They have been well content to
have no money with which to start schools or other
institutions, since these often absorb so much of
the missionary's time that he has little opportunity
left, either for the proper maintenance of his own
life of prayer, or for quiet unhurried intercourse
with those who come to him for guidance. How
many an enquirer after truth has turned away
disappointed, because the overworked missionary
could not spare the time needed for leisurely dis-
cussion of religious problems. The Brothers have
tried to avoid the snare of the multiplication of
And, in the second place, the Sangha has never
desired to force people into becoming Christians.
It has been ready at all times to speak of Christ to
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA. 25
those really desirous of hearing, but it has not
lightly blazoned abroad the deeper mysteries of the
faith. This is also in full accord with Indian ideas.
India understands well the saying of the Master :
"Cast not your pearls before swine" that there is
a rightful principle of economy in imparting
religious truth. Sundar Singh once said to the
present writer, "Do not build your ashram too near
the city. Remember that those who are thirsty will
go to the river : the river need not go to them. If
there is a somewhat tedious trudge required in order
to reach your ashram, it will be all to the good ; for
it will sift your visitors for you, discouraging those
who would come from mere curiosity, but not
deterring those really in search of guidance." The
Brothers have always stood for the principle under-
lying this advice. : -
Such, then, welre some of the ideals and aims
with which Christa Seva Sangha entered on its
existence in the Year of Grace 1922.
(2) The day of small things.
The first four years of the Sangha's life (1922-26)
were not marked by any striking advance. These
were the days of quiet testing, calling for much
faith and patience, when men scoffed at the new
fad, and at times the little flame that had been lit
seemed likely to flicker out. They were the days,
too, of true poverty, when cheap and scanty fare
had sometimes to be eaten, and often the Brothers
wondered how funds would be forthcoming, and
26 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
gained ever fresh experience of God's providing
The work of the Sangha during these years was
carried on, in no small measure, among the villages
of the Ahmadnagar district. This brief history of
Christa Seva Sangha would be incomplete unless it
contained a few sketches of this work. Here is one
The scene is Karanji, a village twelve miles from
Miri, where the Sangha had birth. The Brothers
are living in a tent pitched under a tree outside the
village. At a distance are other tents where two
women missionaries of the S.P.G. and a few Indian
women helpers are also encamped. It is the day
on which the outcastes of the village are to be
received as catechumens of the Christian Church.
These poor folk scantily fed and clad; living in
wretched hovels outside the village; servants and
scavengers to the villagers, but not allowed to enter
their houses and temples nor to drink of the village
well had sent, time and again, urgent petitions
that a teacher might be sent to them to instruct
them in the Christian faith and admit them into the
Christian Church. To the petitions no response
could be given. It was the old story many places
asking for teachers, and too few teachers to go
round. So they had to wait ; and the waiting had
been some test of their sincerity.
At last the way had opened, and for a fortnight
the Brothers and the women workers had encamped
among them, teaching them night after night,
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA. 27
when their day's work was done, the simple
elementary principles of Christian faith and life,
which catechumens must know. There followed a
few weeks' interval; and, when their teachers
returned to complete their instruction for the
catechumenate, they were confronted with the
leaders of the outcaste community from four neigh-
bouring villages, begging that their people also
might be received into the Christian fold. Here
was an encouraging sign of true zeal ; for the live
Christian is always a missionary, and these outcaste
folk, even before they were catechumens, had been
telling their friends of Christ.
So there were then four new villages to be
instructed, and the teaching of the Karanji folk
themselves to be completed ; and, when the day for
receiving them arrived, there was a goodly company
ready to take the first decisive step in the new life.
They are gathered that morning men, women,
and children in an open space beside their own
rough-and-tumble houses. One of the leaders, a
strong burly fellow, comes forward of his own
accord, and with the approval of the whole com-
pany hews down with an axe the idol which from
time immemorial has received the homage of these
outcastes. His reign of fear is over, and his
fragments are cast into an old well.
Next the women come forward, bringing the
earthen pots in which they have been accustomed
to cook the flesh of animals dying of disease in the
village, whose carcases these outcastes must remove
28 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
and are glad to eat. It is well that this horrid
custom should be abandoned by them, even at some
sacrifice, when they become Christians; and the
women cast their pots on the ground and break
them, in token that they will henceforth abandon
the eating of carrion flesh.
Then one by one the many families come
forward father, mother, and children and, ex-
pressing their belief in Christ and their readiness
to follow him, are received with prayer as catechu-
mens the stage of probation before admission to
the full Christian life. Following an old custom
of the Church (and how far more eloquently often
these old symbols seem to speak to India than to
the sophisticated west !), they show their renuncia-
tion of the old life and its evils by taking salt into
their mouths to cleanse them, spitting it out upon
the ground with all the mouth's impurities. There
follows an exhortation to faithfulness in the new
life. Prayers are offered; bhajans 1 are sung; and
then the whole company passes in procession
amongst the people's dwellings. Each house is
blessed in the Name of Christ, and in the small
recess in the wall which housed the Hindu idol is
set instead a picture of Christ Crucified. Finally,
outside, over the doorway, is painted in white the
sign of the cross, in token that henceforth in that
dwelling Christ alone holds sway.
The day's ceremony, so vivid and striking in its
symbolism, so full of incalculable consequences for
1. Indian lyrics.
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA. 29
these outcaste folk, has aroused the interest of the
people of the village, some of whom have witnessed
it from a distance. It might have been expected
that they would oppose the entry of this new
religion into the outcaste quarters; but, instead,
they express their joy. "We are so glad," they
say, "that you have come to teach these ignorant
folk. Now they will give up stealing and lying
and other evil habits, and will begin to live decent
lives, so that we shall be proud of them and be able
to associate with them." "Come and sing your
bhajans to us in the village to-night," they request,
"and tell us about your Christ." The Brothers
agree. They have refrained hitherto, content to
visit the people in a friendly way, to give medicines
to their sick folk or render them other small
benefits. But they gladly accept the invitation
proffered, and that night they go in full force to
the village, armed with drum and cymbals and
How an Indian village delights in a kirtan!
They will crowd around every man, woman, and
child amongst them that can possibly be there and
listen gladly into the early hours of the morning,
the children gradually falling asleep on the ground
or on their mothers' laps. For the kirtan is the;
Indian village equivalent of the cinema, or shall
we rather say? the Indian "morality" of the
Middle Ages, since in the Indian villages we are
conscious all the time of being back in mediaeval
days, and the secular is one with the religious. The
30 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
kirtan is a service of song, in which the leader,
partly preaching and partly intoning a kind of
recitative, sets forth the praises of God, and in
particular his doings when incarnate as Krishna or
in some other form ; calling from time to time upon
a small choir which accompanies him to chant the
songs that illustrate his theme, and gradually work-
ing up his hearers into an ecstasy of bhakti of
grateful and loving devotion till they too begin to
sing the names of Hari or Rama, clapping their
hands in time with the cymbals, their bodies sway-
ing rhythmically with the music.
What more natural, then, than to present the
story of Christ to an Indian village by means of
a Christian kirtan? You find an audience which,
instead of being impatient if your sermon exceeds
twenty minutes or your service an hour, is
ready to sit all night, if you will, till the tale be
done. One of the Brothers, acting as leader, tells
the story of Christ. The others play the part of
choir and orchestra. Largely through the means
of poetry and singing is set forth God's way of
redemption for fallen man, and how Christ came
into the world, and lived, and died, and rose again
for us Christ, the one true Avatara, so spotless in
his moral purity, so boundless in his love, that we
can rightly offer to him all our heart's devotion.
The villagers disperse, pondering the tale. "It
is true," they say; "it is all quite true. The God
of these Christians is better than our gods. But
the ways of our fathers are good enough for us.
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA. 31
We are too old to change. Our sons or our grand-
sons must settle these new matters, when their day
Two years have passed, and we are again in
Karanji, late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
A long procession of men, women, and children,
dressed in clean white garments, is wending its
way, with music and singing, back from the river,
where all those who have received the teaching and
stood the tests of the two years' catechumenate have
been plunged under the waters of baptism, in
speaking symbolism that they have died to sin and
been raised up with Christ to newness of life.
Within the large tent which serves as a church the
bishop in cope and mitre is waiting to receive the
newly baptized as members of the Church of Christ,
and to complete their baptism by the laying on of
hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The confirmation over, the evening passes in
bhajans and rejoicings; and just before midnight
again the procession starts from the outcaste
quarters, and with much singing and beating of
drums and clashing of cymbals makes its way over
the stream and through the trees to the tent church
once more, where these new-born children of God's
family, able now for the first time to be present
throughout the Holy Mysteries, prostrate them-
selves in awe-struck silence in worship of the Child
of Bethlehem, born to save India and all the world,
while those who have been judged ready to make
32 CHRISTA .SEVA SANGHA.
their first Communion receive him to be born anew
within their hearts. "You have often told us about
worship," they say. "Now we have tasted it, and
We must not dwell more on these early years of
Christa Seva Sangha, important as they were in its
history. They were passed in various centres ; for
the Brothers had no money for land and buildings,
and lodged where they could, testing various places
as possible centres for their ultimate home, but
always hoping that some day and somehow God
might open the way for them to build their own
ashram in Poona, the real centre of Maharashtra.
Their first home at Miri lasted for about a year.
Then followed a year at Junnar, an old town fifty
miles north of Poona, beautifully situated near the
Western Ghats, where the C.M.S. put at their
disposal an old unoccupied mission bungalow and
a large field which they were able to cultivate for
corn and vegetables. This was a valuable year of
intensive training, but Junnar was too remote from
the chief centres of life to make a suitable head-
quarters for the Sangha's work.
Finally, two years were passed in an old
Mohammedan tomb, converted into a residence,
which the Brothers rented at Ahmadnagar, the chief
centre of S.P.G. work in western India; and here
they assisted the mission in its pastoral and
evangelistic work, coming also into much friendly
contact with the Hindus and Moslems of the city.
It is to these years that the baptisms at Karanji,
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA. 33
described above, belong. Another vivid recollec-
tion, dating from this period of the Sangha's
history, is that of the hot weather of 1925, when,
with a shade temperature of well over 100 daily,
the Brothers, assisted by a small group of voluntary
workers, toured through the Ahmadnagar district,
conducting at each of five different centres an
intensive mission, lasting for a week, for the
instruction of the village Christians and the quick-
ening of their spiritual life. One notable mark of
this tour was that at every centre these poor outcaste
folk (so accustomed generally to look to the mission-
aries for temporal help) showed their gratitude to
the Brothers by themselves bringing water and fire-
wood without charge for their use, and providing
a bullock-cart to carry their cooking vessels and
rolls of bedding on to the next village, whilst at one
centre the whole of the food during their week's
stay was supplied by one of the village Christians.
So the years passed until 1926, the annus
mirabilis of the Sarigha, when God began to give
Up till 1926 the membership of Christa Seva
Sangha continued almost stationary. During these
first four years of its life several Indian Christians
had come to stay for a while with the Brothers with
a view to testing their vocation for the life, but
none had stayed on to join them. Moreover, two
of the first members had left. So that early in 1926
there were only the English Acharya. and three
Indian Brothers remaining, and many doubts were
raised as to whether the venture could last much
In the spring of that year the four Brothers were
enabled by a small legacy of money to go on
pilgrimage to the Holy Land; and, after a fort-
night of unforgettable experiences at the Holy
Places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, at Nazareth
and the Sea of Galilee, at Carmel and Joppa, the
three Indian Brothers returned to India, while the
Acharya proceeded to England for a time of
On June 7th a letter from India made it appear
that the Sangha might not be able to hold together
THE INCREASE. 35
much longer 1 , and the Acharya went with a heavy
heart that day to the triennial festival of the
Theological College at Wells. The next morning,
in the cathedral, a word of encouragement came
to him from the First Lesson, "The Lord is able
to give thee much more than this."
Exactly a month later the Acharya met (at their
own request), in a three days' conference in
London, a group of young men, mostly Oxford and
Cambridge graduates and undergraduates, some of
whom were thinking of going abroad as mission-
aries, but were feeling out after something like the
manner of life and way of work for which Christa
Seva Sangha was standing. At a further confer-
ence held later in the year some of this group
decided definitely to throw in their lot with the
Sangha. Others before long joined them. The
result was that, when the Acharya returned to India
early in the following year, he took with him three
young Englishmen, who later in the year were
followed by five more, four of whom were priests.
In the meantime two new Indian Brothers had been
received, so that by the close of the year 1927 the
Sangha had grown to a considerable strength, both
on the Indian and European side.
Not only so, but during the same period much
interest had been aroused in England in the works
and aims of the Sangha, and a considerable sum of
money had been collected. This made it possible
1. These difficultie3 disappeared shortly afterwards.
36 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
for the Brothers at last to carry out their long-
cherished design of buying land and establishing
their ashram in Poona. Poona is, next to Bombay
itself, the most important city in the Bombay
Presidency. In the old days it was the capital of
the Maratha Empire and the seat of the Peshwas.
In modern times it has taken a lead in social and
political advance, being associated with such
distinguished names as those of Justice Ranade and
G. K. Gokhale, the reformers; B. G. Tilak, the
politician ; and Sir Ramkrishna Bhandankar, saint
and scholar. It contains the headquarters of the
noble society for social reform known as "The
Servants of India," and of the Seva Sadan
(Home of Service), the equally splendid society for
women's uplift, and two important homes of
historical and literary research work, purely Indian
in character. It is rich in colleges, containing two
large and flourishing arts colleges under Indian
management besides the government arts college,
and also colleges of agriculture, engineering,
medicine, and law, and the small beginnings of an
indigenous "women's university." The students
of these colleges run into several thousands, and
there are no less than thirty thousand school
children. Yet in so important an intellectual centre
there is as yet no Christian college, nor was there,
until Christa Seva Sangha arrived, even a Christian
hostel for college students. Here then, with great
rejoicing, the Brothers were able to secure for their
ashram, towards the close of 1927, 5 acres of
THE INCREASE. 37
land, in a convenient site, a mile outside the city,
and within easy reach of most of the important
colleges ; and on this land during the early part of
the following year they built the math 1 , beside
which we have already found them engaged in the
worship of the evening sandhya.
Something of the life and work of the ashram
will be described in the next chapter. This chapter
must conclude by noting a few points of special
interest in the history of the past two years. The
Brothers received, from the first, the warmest of
welcomes from the other Christian bodies in Poona.
In particular, the Cowley Fathers, whose splendid
mission had already been established there for half
a century and more, greeted them with the greatest
friendliness, glad that they should undertake work
more specially for students and educated non-
Christians, as they themselves concentrated mainly
on work for Christians. The Presbyterians, also
long established in Poona, were equally warm in
their welcome, and offered to share with the Sangha
their hall in the city, named after the famous Scots
missionary John Small, for the purpose of lectures,
Bible classes, and other gatherings.
On St. Mark's Day (April 25th), 1928, the
present Acharya was professed by the Bishop of
Bombay as the first Siddha? of the Sangha.
1. The ashram is the whole enclosure of 5J acres. The math (pronounced
mutt) is the "monastery" or "cloister" within it where the Brothers live.
2. This title for a professed member has now been altered to Sannyasi.
The two stages on the way to full membership are those of mumukshu or
postulant, and sadhak or novice. (See above, page 20.)
38 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
Early in June of that year the Brothers were
able to enter into occupation of the math 1 , which,
as now completed, has room for thirty Brothers and
On St. Barnabas' Day (June llth), six years
from the Sangha's birth, a revised and enlarged
Rule, better suited to the new conditions, came into
operation. The most important change introduced
was that of distinguishing between the two classes
of members of the Sangha, viz. the First Order, of
unmarried members who set before themselves a
life dedicated to our Lord under the conditions of
poverty, chastity, and obedience, and the Third
Order, of householders, working in close associa-
tion with them, but living under a less strict rule
adapted to the conditions of married life ; and it is
hoped that in due course a Second Order, consisting
of Sisters living in poverty, chastity, and obedience,
may come into being. By this change Christa Seva
Sangha came deliberately into the succession of the
religious orders of Christendom, whose life has
always centred around the "evangelical counsels."
In spirit the Sangha has more in keeping with the
Franciscan Order than with any other. In the
ordering of its life, while it maintains a strict round
of prayer and discipline, it goes back in some
respects behind the Benedictine tradition to the
freer type of monasticism associated with St. Basil
and the East.
1. Some of the cells, and also the reception hall in front of the math,
were completed later. The greater number of the cells are little rooms,
6-ft. by 8-ft., with canvas partitions, as described in the prologue.
THE INCREASE. 39
Another feature of the revised Rule a change
of form rather than of substance was the use of the
names of the three traditional Indian "paths," the
bhaktimarga, or way of devotion, the dnydnamarga,
or way of knowledge, and the karmamarga, or way
of works, as indicating the three ways of prayer,
sacred study, and active ministry, by which the
Servants of Christ seek to render him their service.
The name of St. Francis was also at this stage
formally added to that of St. Barnabas as the second
Patron Saint of the Sangha, though the Brothers
had, even before this, begun to hold in special
esteem and affection the Little Poor Man of Assisi.
On Michaelmas Day (September 29th), 1928,
the Bishop of Bombay visited the ashram and
blessed all the buildings contained in it, viz. the
math itself, and also the library, refectory and
common room, the kitchen and the married
quarters 1 . He dedicated, but did not consecrate,
the temporary chapel in the large upper room over
the library, refectory, and common room ; for it is
the hope of the Brothers that some day they may
be able to build with their own hands a noble
permanent church, of Indian design, embodying
the ideals for which they stand.
In the following month a small hostel for college
students was opened in two rented bungalows half
a mile from the ashram. Two of the Brothers were
put in charge, and no difficulty has been found in
filling all the available space with students
1. A guest house was added later.
40 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
Christian, Hindu, and Moslem. The work and life
of the hostel are described in the next chapter.
Early in 1929 the Sangha suffered the loss of its
first Visitor, Bishop Palmer, whose wise counsel
and constant encouragement had been of immense
value during the early years of its existence. In
his place the sabha 1 elected Bishop Azariah of
Dornakal (the first Indian Bishop of the Anglican
Communion) to be their Visitor, confident that out
of his wide experience and inside knowledge of
Indian conditions he would be especially capable
of guiding the development of the life and work of
the Sangha as a truly Indian community. He was
received by the Brothers as their Visitor in the
ashram chapel on November 4th.
In this year also a further revision of the Rule
was made, and, amongst other changes, the concep-
tion of the Third Order was greatly enlarged so as
to include not only those working in close associa-
tion with the First Order in Poona, but also men
and women, married and unmarried, who have the
ideals of Christa Seva Sangha at heart, and who
will labour, both by word and example, to promote
the spread of the knowledge of Christ, simplicity
of living, and the brotherhood of all mankind.
During these years the membership of the
Sangha, both Indian and European, continued by
God's blessing to grow, and by March, 1930, had
1. The sabha is the "chapter" of all the Brothers, which is the Sangha's
governing body that directs its work and policy. The Visitor exercises a
general supervision, and helps by his advice.
THE INCREASE. 41
reached to twenty, these being divided fairly
equally between the two races.
One final event, only indirectly connected with
the Sangha, may complete this outline history. On
March 1st, 1930, the Church of England in India
finally entered upon that freedom from the State for
which she had fought so long, and became simply
the Church of India. The Sangha cannot but
rejoice in the breaking of these shackles which
bound the Church to which it belongs, since it
opens the way for that Church to develop her life
and worship, without undue hindrance from the
west, in the ways best suited to India, and in accord-
ance with her own proper genius.
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA TO-DAY.
We have seen something of the reasons why
Christa Seva Sangha was started, and of its history
during the first eight years of its life. We must
now try to picture the Sangha as it is to-day.
(1) A day at the ashram.
The ashram is the Sangha's home. It sums up
in itself all that the Sangha stands for. It is
intended to be much more than a centre for the
Brothers' work. The ideal of the ashram is that it
should be a holy place, instinct with the spirit of
love, joy and peace, a place where God is felt to be.
Unless in some real measure it breathes this
atmosphere, it will fail of its purpose, and the
Sangha will fail with it.
The ashram is a home of peace. We have
listened already, as the darkness gathered round
the worship of the evening sandhya, to the soft
closing benediction, shdnti, shdnti, shdnti the
word that speaks so movingly to the Indian soul
of the deep tranquillity which the storms of life can-
not ruffle that "peace of God which passeth all
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA TO-DAY. 43
understanding." That closing word of the sandhya
ushers in the greater silence, which lasts until the
next day's meditation is over. The Brothers rise
from the sandhyasthdn 1 and walk in silence in the
gathering darkness to the refectory, where the
simple evening meal of rice and lentils is served,
two of the Brothers acting as the servers appointed
for the day and one as lector to read aloud during
A period for private reading follows, varying
from one hour to two according to the time of year
(for the time of sandhya and the evening meal
changes with the sunset); and then shortly before
nine o'clock the bell sounds, and the Brothers repair
to their chapel in the upper room for the closing
prayer of the day. A long room, austere and
unadorned. At its eastern end stands a simple altar,
with red hangings and frontal, and on it a brass
cross bearing a small figure of Christ in the likeness
of a 7ishi z the work of an Indian brass-smith in
the Poona bazaar. At the ends of the altar are two
samayas brass stands expanding at the top into a
saucer containing ghi 3 , around which project seven
lighted wicks of cotton. Before the sanctuary hang
three brass sanctuary lamps, also of Poona work-
manship, the central lamp being now lit, the others
only for festal services. On the walls are hung a
few pictures, including two of great beauty by a
1. The place of sandhya, viz. : the round raised platform described in
2. An Indian sage. 3. Clarified butter.
44 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
young Indian Christian artist, and one of Christ,
the Sannyasi, painted by a Hindu. A figure of
Christ upon the Cross meets the eye on entering.
The chapel is bare of seats. (The Brothers sit on
the floor for quiet prayer and meditation, and for
hearing addresses or the reading of Scripture.
Their other two attitudes of prayer, in accordance
with universal eastern custom, are standing and
prostration, the latter particularly having a large
place at the eucharistic worship.)
One by one the Brothers enter, having put off their
sandals, and leaving outside, or turning low, the
lanterns which they carry at night for safety against
snakes and scorpions. The samayas sparkle on the
altar, the cross gleaming in their light ; the central
sanctuary lamp shines with a red glow above; the
rest of the chapel is in dimness. The office of
compline follows. It is used almost unchanged
(except for its Marathi setting and the Indian tunes
for the hymn and Nunc Dimittis) ; for it has
endeared itself to Indian as it has to western
Christians. At its close the Acharya, standing at
the altar, turns to the Brothers, and, holding up in
his hand a brass cross, blesses them with it three
times, using the beautiful words of the "Prayer of
the Protection" 1 from the compline service of the
Syrian Christians. It is the Master's own blessing
of peace and protection for the night. The lights
on the altar are put out. By the dim glow of the
hanging lamp can be seen silent figures, lingering
1. See Appendix.
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA TO-DAY. 45
on in prayer. Then, one by one, the Brothers
return to their cells, where in a little while the mats
are unrolled on the floor, the lanterns turned low,
and sleep reigns in the court of the math, while the
silent stars keep sentinel.
The ashram is a home of prayer. Of the three
ways by which the Brothers seek to serve our Lord,
prayer is the first and chiefest, and the whole day's
course is punctuated with the fixed times of prayer.
The Sangha has adopted the traditional hours of
Christian monastic devotion, but it is seeking to
develop a type of "office" which shall be better
suited to the Indian religious temperament than
those of the west.
"Very early, while it is yet dark," the rising
bell sounds, and one of the Brothers passes slowly
down the whole length of the cloister, singing a
morning bhajan, the others joining in as the cantor
passes their cells. A short form of prime, opening
with some of the rising prayers of the Hindus
adapted to Christian use 1 , is said by the Brothers
in their cells ; and, half an hour later, as the first
light is dawning in the eastern sky, they gather in
the open air for the morning sandhya, a kind of
Indian lauds, or prayer of the dawn, answering to
the evening sandhya, or vespers, of the sunset.
By the time this ends daylight has come, and
the sun is almost rising; so to the singing of the
ancient hymn, "Now that the daylight fills the
1. See Appendix.
46 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
sky," the Brothers pass in procession to the chapel,
where the Holy Mysteries are daily celebrated in
accordance with the moving Indian rite that from
the first they have had permission to use 1 . On
Sundays and Holy Days they use the full service
with music and incense, and the beautiful shanti-
-wandfin, or "Salutation of Peace," passed from
Brother to Brother down the chapel ; and the service
is also on these days preceded by the udak-shanti
(literally the "water-peace"), a beautiful Indian
form of the Asperges, the priest sprinkling the
people with holy water with a rose or some other
The Holy Eucharist is followed by breakfast in
the refectory a room adorned with pictures of
Indian saints and patriots. This meal is eaten in
silence; and then, after an interval for sweeping
and dusting the cells 2 , the Brothers re-assemble for
a brief office of terce, followed by a period of
meditation. In the religious life of Hinduism
dhydna (contemplation) occupies so important a
place that any Christian community which seeks to
appeal to the soul of India must be, at least in some
measure, contemplative. Unless the Church can
produce great Christian Yogis masters in the
spiritual life, who are competent to direct others in
1. See page 23. This Indian liturgy is published by Messrs. Longmans
and Co., under the title, "An Order, for the administration of Holy Com-
munion sanctioned by the Episcopal Synod of India for experimental use in
the Diocese of Bombay." (2s. 6d.)
2. The Brothers do all their own housework, but have as yet found none
of their own number able to undertake the cooking, so * paid cook is
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA TO-DAY. 47
the discipline and science of the mystical way
she will fail to attract the choicest spirits of
Hinduism. It is difficult, therefore, to exaggerate
the importance of the time set apart for meditation
and contemplation in the life of the ashram. Each
of the Brothers receives guidance and help in the
spiritual life from his guru, or director, who is
either the Acharya or someone appointed by him.
But the ashram is also a home of study. The
time of meditation over, the greater silence comes
to an end. The rest of the morning is given up to
study ; and, in order to insure silence for this pur-
pose, the rule of the lesser silence is enforced till
midday, forbidding idle conversation but allowing
speech in connection with work or study. Every
Brother is expected to give at least one hour daily
to study, and some particularly those reading for
holy orders have many hours to put in. Lectures
are delivered regularly by those Brothers who are
qualified to give them, the course including the
subjects usually taken by ordination candidates and
the study of Indian religion. Some of the Brothers
are engaged in various forms of literary work ; one
on a book on Canarese literature, another trans-
lating lives of the saints into Hindi, another making
researches in Indian mysticism, several writing
articles on. Christianity for publication in non-
At midday, after the saying of the Angelus,
comes a brief office of sext, followed by intercessions
which vary from day to day. After this is the
48 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
principal meal of the day chapatis and vegetable
curry, rice and lentils, and curds. The Brothers
(dressed now in dhotis and little more) sit cross-
legged in the Indian fashion on little square wooden
stools, just raised off the floor. They eat with their
fingers from brass plates tinned on the inner side.
Each takes his turn in serving. Already the
Brothers have almost overflowed their small
refectory. When, as frequently happens, one or
two guests are present, accommodation is taxed to
the uttermost. At times some of the Brothers have
to feed on the verandah outside.
It is a strangely mixed company, judged by
origin European, Australian, and Indian ; Brah-
man and Lingayat ; caste and outcaste ; Englishmen
from college and from primary schools; Indians
brought up in the English language, and Indians
to whom English is a sealed book. Yet all these
differences are forgotten utterly, swallowed up in
an all-pervading sense of a family made one in
Conversation runs high, and you may hear
Marathi and English, Urdu and Hindi, Tamil and
Canarese, all spoken at one and the same time ; but
the babel seems to help, rather than hinder, the
building of a tower "whose top shall reach unto
The two hours of the early afternoon, following
this meal, are left at the Brothers' own disposal, to
write letters (it may be) or to read, to sleep or to
swim in the tank. The later afternoon, following
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA TO-DAY. 49
none and an early tea, is the part of the day more
specially devoted to karmamarga, the "way of
works." Some of these works are outside the
ashram and others within. Always a number of
the Brothers go out at this time for various bits of
service. There are the poor to be visited, or a sick
man or woman to be taken to hospital. Once a
week a small group goes off to the leper asylum,
six miles distant, to cheer its unfortunate inmates
with gossip and singing, and to tell them of Christ
who cared for the lepers. Other Brothers have as
their charge the visiting of prisoners, Indian and
European, in the gaol, or of the patients in the
hospital. A monthly service of intercession for the
sick is also held, and many have been helped at this
time through the laying on of hands with prayer.
Sometimes there is a class to be taken,
or a lecture delivered, at the John Small Hall
in the city or at the Brothers' own hall at the
ashram. The numbers on these occasions are
usually small ; but for some lectures notably those
of Dr. Stanley Jones in 1929 the hall has been
packed to overflowing. The Bible classes held
there have attracted a small but keen group. Or
the special call of the evening may be a meeting or
inter-communal dinner of the International Fellow-
ship a movement (started by a leading Indian
Christian in Madras, and now spreading to various
other centres in India) which seeks to break down
religious, racial, and social barriers, and to deepen
the spirit of co-operation and brotherhood. Other
50 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
"works" are done within the ashram itself. In
particular, there will always be, at this hour of the
day, some of the Brothers engaged upon the work
of the garden, where it is hoped in due course to
produce all the fruit and vegetables needed for the
Sangha's use. Visitors in plenty come to the ashram
at this and at other times. Some of them are little
more than interested sightseers, but many are
seekers after truth, eager to know what the dwellers
in this ashram have found, and what they have to
tell. Hindus, Moslems, Jains, Buddhists, Jews,
Parsees, Brahmo-Samajists, politicians, monks and
ascetics, editors and journalists, social reformers
and professors, Indian and European Christians
all manner of people enter by the gate; and the
Brothers can perform no more useful function than
in seeking, through the intercourse of friendship,
both to learn of such visitors what they have to give
of spiritual truth, and, if it may be, to impart some-
thing in return. Sometimes such friends are more
than passing visitors. They come to stay for a
period in the ashram to share the life of the
Brothers. A Sufi mystic and poet; a Brahman
pundit ; a Jain turned Christian ; a Parsee
merchant; an Arya-Samajist from East Africa; a
Czecho-Slovakian professor ; such are a few of the
many interesting personages who have come to
stay, for greater or lesser periods, in the ashram.
It is one of the Brothers' greatest privileges to be
brought in daily contact with such well-loved
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA TO-DAY. 51
On more than one occasion a group of Hindus,
mostly Brahmans, has come for a Sunday's "quiet
day" at the ashram, spending much time in the
chapel in prayer, and eagerly attentive to the
addresses which were delivered ; and warm has been
their testimony to the help which such times can
bring in the guidance and deepening of the spiritual
One Holy Week and Easter the Brothers were
privileged to entertain, for retreat and conference,
a large body of workers belonging to the National
Missionary Society a society run by Indian
workers on Indian money. On great festivals the
Brothers follow the Indian custom of giving a feast
to poor and outcaste children
But the day hastens to its close. The garden
work is ended. The Brothers return, if possible,
from their outside labours by the hour of sunset,
when once again all gather for the worship of the
evening sandhya. Some of the visitors remain to
share the worship. On a bridge not far away a
group of students sits to listen to the bhajans. The
bell of the Angelus is sounded, and once again there
is the offering of prayer and hymn and long silent
adoration in the gathering dusk, closing in the final
benediction of peace.
(2) The Students' Hostel.
One of the most important "works" of the
Sangha is the students' hostel. Poona, as we saw
above, is a centre of student life. Its colleges
52 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
attract enormous numbers of young men between
the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, and most of
these have to find lodgings in the city, for the
hostels connected with the colleges cannot accom-
modate more than a small percentage of the
students. The conditions of city lodgings are good
neither for soul nor body. Sanitation is poor.
There is much fever. At times plague breaks out.
There are also many temptations in the city for
young men just freed from the restraints of home
and school life.
In these circumstances it became clear that the
Sangha would be performing an important piece of
public service if it could start a hostel for some of
these college students, where they would be able to
live under decent conditions and a sufficient, if not
In the autumn of 1928, as was noted in the last
chapter, the hostel was started in a couple of rented
bungalows half a mile from the ashram. At once
there was a rush of applications from students ask-
ing to come. In a few days the hostel was full up
with a waiting list. A third bungalow in the same
compound has now been added, and about twenty
students in all can be accommodated. They are an
extraordinarily mixed lot Christians, Hindus, and
Moslems and hailing from various parts of India :
arts students and students of law, agriculture and
engineering. But all are one family, and all inter-
dine. This is sacramental, and testifies to the
determination to break down those barriers of
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA TO-DAY. 53
community and caste which have so held India in
bondage. Some of the Hindus have themselves
been most forward in insisting on this common
The garage upon the compound has been turned
into a beautiful little chapel, very simply decorated
with some lovely blue hangings, a crucifix, and
some pictures all the gifts of friends. Here there
is a daily eucharist, and prayers at other times of
the day. The Christian students come to chapel
each morning at 6.30 and each evening at 9.45 ; and
to each of these Christians in the hostel the
Brothers try to give an hour a week individually
for Bible study and Christian teaching.
The Brothers do not desire to force their religion
on the non-Christian students ; but many of these
also are of their own accord coming to them for
spiritual guidance and moral help. Many are the
talks on religion and the spiritual life ; and on every
Sunday morning there is a brief service with an
address for all who like to come.
There are other activities that centre in this
hostel of the Sangha. The Literary Society meets
each Saturday, when lectures on a variety of general
subjects are delivered. Games are a feature of the
hostel life, and sometimes an outing is arranged
to some place of interest. Two Bible circles, are
arranged for Christian students. These are not
confined to the hostel students, but are open to all
who care to come, and include women students in
54 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
But the Brothers have always desired that the
outstanding note of the hostel life should be service ;
it is, therefore, a matter of special joy to them that
the hostel students themselves run two night schools
for poor children. One is in Urdu, for the children
of the Mohammedan servants. The other is in
Marathi, for the children of "untouchable" out-
caste folk at the hostel's very doors.
Such are some of the activities of the hostel.
The Brothers hope that some day they may be able
to build a student hostel of their own, better suited
to their needs than the present hired bungalows.
(3) Work in the Villages.
India is a land of villages. Those who know
only the town have not seen the real India. The
peasant farmers, living in innumerable country
towns and hamlets, and forming from 70 to 80 per
cent, of the whole people, are still the true backbone
of the land.
Christa Seva Sangha (as we have seen) started
its work in the villages ; and, though for a while its
village work was in abeyance during the erection
of the ashram in Poona and the first building up of
the ashram life, it is now being resumed again. For
the Brothers realize that, if they work only among
the educated people of the town and ignore the poor
of the country, they will inevitably grow partial
and one-sided in their outlook and service.
In the closing months of 1929 a party of
Brothers, setting out from Poona, revisited the
CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA TO-DAY. 55
scenes of their early labours in Karanji and the
district around; and in the hot weather (March to
May) of 1930 a similar body toured in the district
near Poona, seeking opportunities of initiating a
work of village uplift (in which one of their number
has had expert training); lecturing on hygiene,
sanitation, and child-welfare in various village
centres; and expounding, through bhajans and
preaching, to those willing to hear of it, the message
of Christ as the true moral dynamic for the highest
and most permanent uplift.
The Brothers hope that they may be able to find,
in the neighbourhood of Poona, a suitable centre in
which to found a village ashram, where a few of
the Brothers can live permanently with a true
simplicity, such as the conditions of town life make
difficult and others from Poona join them from
time to time. Such a Christian ashram would be a
place of service to the village people a home where
the peasants would be welcomed as friends, and
whose purpose would be to assist, by whatever ways
might open, and with the people's own co-operation,
the whole physical, moral, and spiritual betterment
of the village life. The establishment of such a
village ashram would seem to be the next advance
towards which God is leading the Brothers of
Christa Seva Sangha.
It is drawing towards the evening of Christmas
Day. The shadows are lengthening across the
ashram court, which is filled with a motley assembly
of men and women, some seated upon chairs and
rough benches, others squatting upon the ground,
all facing towards the central doorway of the math,
where a rough white curtain hangs, screening that
part of the verandah as for a stage.
In the front of the company a party of singers
and instrumentalists, seated on the ground, beguiles
the time of waiting with a number of Marathi
bhajans, while the people assemble. The audience
is strangely mixed. Here are many Hindu friends
of the Sangha college professors and college
students, schoolmasters and pleaders, merchants
and men of business. Here are Moslems and
Parsees ; members of the Theosophical Society, and
the Prarthana Samaj 1 , and the Servants of India
Society ; all glad to show their friendship to the
Sangha, and their reverence to the Christ of
Bethlehem, by coming to witness the drama of his
nativity which the Brothers have prepared for this
Christmas festival. Here, too, are Indian Christians
1. A theistic reforming society.
of various denominations men, women, and
children ; and English Christians mostly mission-
aries, among them the Superior General of the
Society of St. John the Evangelist.
The music ceases, and the Acharya, vested in
alb and cope, comes forward from the curtains and
explains briefly the scenes that are about to be
witnessed. The curtain is drawn, revealing the
prophet Isaiah, an imposing white-bearded figure,
who proclaims from the scroll of his prophecy
the coming redemption and the coming Herald.
"Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your
God" .... "The voice of one crying in the wilder-
ness, prepare ye the way of the Lord : make his
paths straight." ....
The prophet ushers on the Herald, the Fore-
runner. A strange, ascetic figure, with rough and
hairy mantle ; one shoulder bared ; the skin of his
face and arms and legs tanned by the desert sun ;
his locks and beard grown long. He passes slowly
across the stage, and down the steps, and out into
the desert. There follow the simple scenes of the
great wonder of Bethlehem ; the pure Virgin of
Nazareth, and Gabriel bringing the great tidings;
the shepherds in the field, keeping watch over
their flocks by night; the vision of the heavenly
messenger ; the rough stable, with Joseph and Mary
and the Holy Child ; the coming of the shepherds,
and their wondering adoration.
Each scene is heralded by the singing of some
suitable hymn, and by the passage of Scripture
58 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
describing it, read by the Acharya. Of scenery and
scenic "properties" there is none. All is utter
simplicity, and for the most part in dumb show.
The parts of Gabriel, Isaiah, and John the Baptist
are acted by English Brothers, the rest by Indian.
An Indian Brother in a simple sari takes the part
of the Blessed Virgin, and no sense of incongruity
is felt. She sings Magnificat in its Marathi setting,
and later an Indian lullaby to her Child, who is not
shown himself, but only the rough wooden box
which serves for cradle. The shepherds are dressed
in the rough garb of the Indian shepherd. One
young lad, bearing around his neck a lamb to offer
at the manger, acts with a perfect naturalness of
unstudied art that recalls the religious drama of
Last of all come the Wise Men, striking and
symbolic figures, approaching with measured pace,
one by one, from different sides of the court, as it
were by different paths which meet in Bethlehem
a Zoroastrian, sumptuously clad, who offers his gold
with a salutation spoken in Persian; a Buddhist
monk in his orange robe who greets the Christ
Child in Pali, as he sets the incense before him ; a
Brahman, in the garb of his caste, who with the
utterance of a Sanskrit verse lays his myrrh at the
feet of the Infant Saviour. So shall they come,
"from the east and from the west, from the north
and from the south."
The brief drama is ended. The Acharya comes
forward at the close. "Friends," he says, "who
have come hither at our invitation to witness our
simple play of the Christ Child; we have tried to
set before you, with crude and homely art, the most
wonderful story in all the world the story of how
God became a little Child." He shows how this
wondrous way of Love's humility was the one sure
way of gaining an entrance into the stubborn hearts
of men, since none can resist the appeal of a little
Angels, Wise Men, and shepherds gather round
the central group of Joseph and Mary and the Holy
Child, and join together with the choir in the
singing of Adeste Fideles. As the last verse begins,
all bend low in reverent homage before the rough
cradle, and the hearts of many in that strangely
assorted throng bend with them, profoundly stirred.
Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesu, to thee be glory given !
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing !
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord !
Our readers may be interested to see the follow-
ing translations of the Rising Prayers used by the
Brothers (adapted from the Sanskrit Rising Prayers
of the Hindus), and the Prayer of the Protection
(adapted from the compline of the Jacobite Syrians
in Travancore), which is the closing benediction of
May God, the Lord of night and day, grant us
a prosperous dawn, and may all the angels of God
protect us !
Lord Christ, all-adorable Guru, the nectar of
whose teaching bringeth to naught the poison of
the world ; at thy feet we fall in prostrate homage !
The Lord hath created us to be one with himself,
who is Reality, Mind, Bliss; freed for ever from
grief and fear.
Lord Jesu Christ, Lord of the world, living'
God ! At thy bidding we rise, and for the love of
thee set forth on this day's pilgrimage. We know
the right, but we cleave not to it; we know the
wrong, but we turn not from it.
O thou that dwellest in our hearts, grant us grace
to live this day according to thy will.
THE PRAYER OF THE PROTECTION.
PEOPLE : Lord, grant thy blessing !
PRIEST (with the Cross uplifted, and facing the
people) : May the Cross of the Son of God, who
is mightier than all the hosts of Satan, and more
glorious than all the angels of heaven, abide
with us in our going out and our coming in !
By day and by night, at morning and at even-
ing, at all times and in all places, may it protect
and defend us ! From the wrath of evil men,
from the assaults of evil spirits, from foes
visible and invisible, from the snares of the
devil, from all low passions that beguile the
soul and body, may it guard, protect, and
deliver us !
PEOPLE : Lord, grant thy blessing !
PRIEST : In the glorious, protecting, and life-giving
Cross be your defence !
62 CHRISTA SEVA SANGHA.
PEOPLE : Lord, grant thy blessing !
PRIEST : May the Lord of heaven and earth vouch-
safe you his blessing ! May the Lord bless
each one that hath partaken in this worship,
and grant him forgiveness of his sins; and
grant forgiveness to all the faithful departed.
Then, turning towards the altar, he says :
And, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, may
these our weak and faltering prayers find
acceptance at thine altar in heaven, now and
H. B. SKINNER & Co.,
124/6 Denmark Hill. S.E. 5