Devatma (1850-1929) was a uique character in human history – he was a pioneering social reformer, an extraordinary religious leader, an ethically evolutionary philosopher, and an supreme sublime soul (divine life) gifted with complete love for truth and goodness. Devatma , a founder of Dev Samaj (science-grounded religion) was born to Pandit Rameshwar Agnihotri and Mata Mohan Kunwar at Shri Akbarpur in Distt Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India on 20th December 1850.
His first name was Shiv Narayan Agnihotri but today he is revered as Bhagwan Devatma. This moving soul was gifted with absolute love for truth and goodness to guide humanity to overcome human weaknesses and disbeliefs.
On 20 December1882, Devatma vowed to follow a sublime life under the new name Satyanand Agnihotri. The popular name ‘ Devatma’ is the spiritual name of Sri Satya Nand Agnihotri. His disciples look at him as Bhagwan Devatma because of his absolute love for truth and goodness and hatred for falsehood and evil. This is just like the popular name of Buddha, or say Mahatma Budha whose actual name was Prince Gautum of Kapilvastu state.
In spiritual context this practice of affixing a title which has a different meaning to the word God is very common but it fits very well in case of those persons having super souls meant for the service of mankind through self-sacrifice. Devatma is an apt addition in the list of those souls who sacrificed their lives for the social cause. His life and teachings compel us to admit Sri Satyanand Agnihotri as a super-human and psychological aspects of this study prove it.
Devatma’s teachings are relevant to the modern era of science and technology, and gives us the opportunity to reveal the growth and development of our inner lives in the name of religion which can be tried upon the anvil of modern science and social constraints.
It was an earnest urge of Devatma to reshape the existing structure of society with the help of love of goodness and truth in humanity. This is the unique culture of truth which Devatma inculcated in himself and tried to remove superstitions in humans by basing his teachings on the universal laws of nature and science. This philosophy looks at human soul in the natural order of things, and simultaneously it studies the laws of its evolution and its affecting results.
Love of goodness in Devatma intends to cultivate higher altruistic values in humans and removes the superstitions and baser feelings which have been a cause of lower feelingsand discord in all relationships. This evolves soul-consciousness for better, peaceful and happy destiny of the material man. In this way his teachings and hisvery life itself seems to usher in the culture of scientific truths which by no means was an accidental phenomenon claimed by ancient religions.
This part of his philosophy giving exact explanation of human evolution and its process passionately matches with the scientific theories learnt by a common man through the alphabets of modern science and Darwinism. How earth came into existence, and how living organisms evolved, and then how man carried it forward through geniuses is explained with the stick of truth even in this era of falsehood and a plethora of religious verdicts, and false diktats of the other religious leaders. The later flopped among masses besides the yardstick of Galileo, Newton and Einstein but the approach of Devatma not only survived this but also supported the same semantically, syntactically and thus systematically speaking the language of science and only science which was far away from falsehood.
It is his love of truth that led Devatma to embrace scientific methods and test the imagination-sponsored beliefs. This rejects the supernatural beliefs advocated by religious fanatics prevailing in the world. In this way the philosophy of Devatma isSUPREME and this is absolutely away from the falsehood, baser and low feelings. However,in the development process of nature it may take a long time to prove the importance and relevance of this religion in the modern world.
His love of goodness led him to concentrate his study on goodness of human souls. It is the man only who can understand and discover some truth, create and appreciate beauty, perceive and practise some virtues. Teaching of this subject is the discipline of Devatma.
Early Life of the Devatma
How he became Devatma/world teacher
Study and teaching life?
Philosophy of devatma
5. Psychology of soul
Life and teachings of Devatma
Writer of the Devashastras
Discsovery and teaching of science-based religion
1. Science and Religion
2. Evolution and Religion
3.Humanity and Religion
4.Morality and Religion
1. Supreme mission
2. Grand message
3. Sublime miracles
4. Severe persecutions
5. Divine lamentations
Psychological difference between man and Devatma
Requirements for membership
Devoted Disciples (Anuraagi)
Supreme ideal of life.
Colleges and institutes
It was on Friday, the 20th December, 1850 A.D., ( Poush Badi Pratipada of 1907 B.) when the moon was about to retire after a full night’s vigil and the Grand solar Luminary of our planet was about to rise on the horizon, there was the emergence of the Luminary Soul Devatma.
Genealogy wise he comes from the Aryan stock of the ancient Kanya Kubj Brahmans.
His grand ancestors lived in Revari, U.P., town founded under the name of one of their ancestors Shri Rev. Performing a sacrificial ritual on a grand scale brought them a new surname Agnihotri. With the passage of time the family tree enlarged and some of the members’ descendants migrated to different parts of the state.
Pandit Ganga Prashad, one of these migrants was a man of extraordinary dynamism and accordingly he acquired the post of Diwan of Raja Sarup Singh of Akori, near Akbarpur. With the helpof a big zamidari he made a good fortune for himself. The position held and the economic prosperity matched his spirit of godliness.
In turn, the grandfather of Devatma spent a lot of time in meditation. Records show that he kept pepper lotion to keep himself awake so that he could utilise his early morning hours for meditation without feeling sleepy. This would admonish his sleep by saying ‘You interfere in my devotion. Take this much as your punishment.’ This inheritance of religious fervour was gifted to the future generations as well, and such a temperament nurtured and cultured the Devatma, but with the addition of secular values.
Devatma, no doubt was born in accordance with the natural laws of physical birth, but the heredity of unique spiritual powers made him a distinguishable personality. The body developed physically and with the advancement in years his inner power also unfolded. This distinction transformed his thoughts, feelings and conduct which in turn had a great impact on all other activities.
Love for goodness and repulsion for evil made his childhood uncommon, and a life of struggle and sufferings ensued. His will power, however, did not allow him to go against these ingrained virtues. Therefore, the habit of making no compromise remained with him even in childhood.
But as is but natural that going astray the well spread malaise brings malady to the practitioner. By way of conflict this blessed soul also suffered loneliness in the multitude of mankind and this made him feel and love mankind for his suffering.
That was the time when ornamentation was the badge of social distinction. But the boy Devatma had read in books, on the contrary, that it was harmful for children and he decided to give up this practice. This is seen as the first promise with social reform though his parents objected to his principle.
Man shows psychological limits to his growth, however he can be free from low-loves and can substitute these with altruistic loves. But it is not given to him to evolve the principle of truth and goodness as the determinants of his psychological activities of thinking, feeling and acting. But Devatma could evolve these determinants in Him. His goodness had gifted him with complete freedom from jealousy, vindictiveness, vanity, low-hates from his early life, ultimately procuring him mastery over sensual desires of life.
Besides this, by the age of 16 it had evolved in him all the higher feelings. For example,
3. Helpfulness of others.
4. Attraction for the altruistic virtues of others
5. Inviolate regard for sacred vows
6. Doing things to finish
7. Feelings to establish good producing harmony.
8. Respect and reverence for elders
11. Feeling to prolong the life and utility of things
12. Feeling of attraction for flowers
13. Feeling of attraction for birds
16. Sense of justice and discipline .
True! This spirited child of sixteen years had completed this much even at his tender age. This compels us to refer to this childhood as the most fascinating childhood, the most glorious childhood, one sure forerunner of sublime life.
Of course, as humanity grows in higher life it would better realize the beauty and glory of that wonderful and remarkable state of soul which Devatma had attained.
How a Devatma
‘Devatma’ is a SOUL which literally means above and beyond worldly malaises which otherwise intervene in the life of a common man right from the birth itself. Normally a person inherits the values and vices and lives with these throughout his life. But is there anybody who can overcome these bonds of carnal love and attachment to curses like greed etc. And if society does not find anybody having such a soul who can be weighed like this then there is Sri Satyanad Agnihotri.
He could successfully cross the limits of lower loves and could develop his potentials in such a way that truth should be loved, untruth should be hated, and inheritance of characters as described by the evolutionary process could be measured in such a way that only ethics should be the outcome so that the society could be led in a really social way.
Love of truth and goodness in Devatma stands for a new dimension of psychology. This advocates that all thoughts and conduct are determined by the principle of truth and goodness. This is in contrast to human nature which gravitates towards love of pleasures for determination of thoughts translating into actions.
History witnesses through religious books that the best of altruistic men fell victims to weakness of flesh or ego. Saints and sages were trapped by the satanic forces due to lack of such virtues as advocated by Devatma. Therefore sages could not come out of the hedonistic psychology which led them into untruth and evil. In fact they could not practice what they preached because their love for truth was not fully developed and the inheritance of evil dawned heavily upon them nurturing in them a bent of mind for these temptations.
On the other hand there is Devatma who could develop his inherited vitues of character and could successfully develop not only love for truth but hate for lower temptations. Such is his philosophy, as enshrined in his autobiography, that his followers are proud of.
Psychic forces of love of truth
When a soul evolves all-round psychic forces of love for truth:
1. It develops a concern to explore and assimilate truth by establishing its contact with a different kingdom of Nature which is an inexhaustible source of useful knowledge. It illuminates his soul capacitating it for greater truth evolvement.
2. It illuminates others in the light of truth with which he enjoys himself proving prestige and dignity of truth to the soul in touch.
Psychic forces of complete hatred for untruth
When a soul evolves complete hatred for falsehood:
(1) It strengthens itself to give up all that appears mythical which hinders discovery of truth in different forms of Nature. He will not entertain or support whatever he knows to be mythical that betrays the soul-illuminating light and the high ideal of life; and
(2) It exerts according to his capacity to set free the myth-ridden souls with the true light emanating from his personality.
Psychic forces of complete love of goodness
When a soul evolves complete love for goodness:
(1) It develops complete concern and strength to know whatever is good, and upholds it; and(2) It tries to actualize the good in any part of Nature.
Psychic forces of complete hatred for evil
A soul which has evolved complete hatred for evil:
(1) It is beyond the access of any evil activity, and does not damage peaceful existence of Nature; and
(2) It impresses upon others with his understanding of the things in the right perspective to abstain from evil activities, and harming nature to any existence.
According to the philosophy of Devatma, only he can impart scientific knowledge of soul-life who himself passes through these tests: (Autobiography, chapter 29)
To see higher truths about soul, there is imperative need of sublime life besides keen intellect. Without the sublime life there can be no light to see higher truths about soul. This invaluable and supreme light was increasing in Devatma day by day. Now,
1. This sublime life (of love of truth and goodness and hatred of untruth and evil);
2. The invaluable light produced by the sublime life.
3. The complete love for scientific method.
4. The most essential knowledge of the processes of evolution and devolution were my total equipment for study and research of soul-life.
This makes Devatma a competent authority to study the origin, nature and destiny of human soul while using scientific methodology.
Study and teaching life
After primary schooling at Akbarpur, his going to Roorkee for studies was opposed by his parents. But the urge within the boy, Devatma asserted him for higher education overcoming every obstacle that tried to obstruct his ambition; be it the distance, or any other opposing force to his studies. He showed such qualities since his early childhood that obtained him status above others and made him a special being moving ahead every moment of time towards his ultimate goal earmarked by himself. In this way his competing nature got him admitted in the Thomson College of Civil Engineering Roorkee in November 1866 at the age of 16. The importance of this admission in such a prestigious college to a ruralite can be imagined from the wide gap of half a century after which the next admission from Akbarpur took place. This also explains Devatma’s extraordinary intellectual powers and his love of education that earned him respect and love of his teachers. ‘GreatCredit’ in the final examination in surveying in 1868 adds to the intellectual glory of the soul. Remarks Mr A.M. Lange, the Principal of the college, under whom he worked later on, “He has kept his character for intelligence and energy and promises to be a man of mark.” In this way we have no escape to credit him being a brilliant Thomasonian, a student and a teacher as well for Civil Engineering between 1866 to 1873.
At the age of eighteen he passed his Lower Subordinate test at Roorkee and joined a Government service. After seven months of working at Agra he got himself transferred to his college as an assistant surveying master. Here he served for about two years and a quarter. Then he passed Upper Subordinate Test and was as an overseer in the railway engineering department. But his journey towards progress continued and he returned to his college as Head Surveying Master after about ten months. Then after about one year of service at the new post, he finally left for Lahore in the capacity of a Drawing and Surveying Master in the Government school. Then resigning this post in December 1882, he ultimately took up his life-vow to serve the society in some supereme way.
As a subordinate, Devatma manifested a wonderful sense of duty and responsibility with a zeal to respect his officer and proved himself true to his expectations and promises thus made.
He could command obedience from others by himself obeying discipline like a good soldier making himself the best General. So to say Devatma was so instituted in himself that he could not disobey a right cause and a right order as disobedience of a right cause could cause evil. For a lover of goodness, therefore, it was not be possible for evil to rule him; either in his personal capacity or in his outwardly duties. And wherever he could speak against evil to help remove it, he did not hesitate. This spirit of righteousness required him to respect the rights of those working right with him without giving them concession of disobedience in their respective duties.
Naturalistic ontology deals with the nature of the universe. Devatma’s philosophy demands concrete evidence about occurrences and happenings strictly as per the demands of scientific research and therefore this conviction goes parallel to ontology. Plato’s dichotomy between the world of ideas, the world of essences and the world of senses, the world of appearances has no place in it. Simultaneously, world-views based on conjunctures and surmises get annulled since they shatter when questioned systematically at the pivot of rationality.
Like many other Indian thinkers such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Keshab Chandra Sen, Devatma also revolted against traditional Hinduism rejecting altogether Brahamnvada of Samkara, the concept of incarnation of the Gita, and the doctrine of karma and transmigration of Indian philosophy in general.
Devatma did not believe in the existence of the God as a creator or anything like the ways people admit his existence. It is not proved that God created nature. Neither is nature an entity like an individual person,rather God and Nature are mutually exclusive. Since scientific methodology cannot prove otherwise therefore, the concept of God is outrightly denied and thus rejected. He is not a creator of Nature. Nature is not a person. God and Nature are not equivalent. God’s existence cannot be established. Therefore, Devatma rejects transcendentalism in metaphysics.
The philosophy holds that Nature is a reality and its events can be explained with conviction and authenticity. In such a structure where concrete proof is required from every phenomenon for its occurrence, there cannot be stories about miracles or any agency which is supernatural in essence to convince us in the occurrence of these miracles.
The universe is one where its constituents function as a matter-force unit. Its ceaseless changes are not a series of ‘chance-products’ but there are laws governing these. Certain happenings may appear to us as good ones and others may be bad ones, but the laws governing these have inseparable dimensions of value and disvalue. Evolution and devolution are not exceptions to these laws. Devatma, an emergent evolutionist holds that man plays a vital role in the shaping of this universe.
Since Nature is the totality of all its constituents, human personality happens to be an organism and thus a constituent of Nature like others. There cannot be an origin of human outside the realm of Nature. Neither can his destiny be outside this circle.
Devatma rejects Bradley’s conception of the absolute that it is beyond change and relations. He holds that ‘To be is to be related’, ‘To be is to be casually connected’, ‘To be is to be change’, and ‘To be is to be different’.
Soul is a life-force in human beings similar to life-force in all fauna and flora. One who is born, or grown cannot escape change. Soul is doer, it is not immortal. The souls are many. All creations exist in plurality, and continue to change all the time in adherence to the laws of nature.
‘To be is to be embodied’. The soul does not exist apart from body. Even after death it can take a subtle body out of the finer particles at death from its own gross body as believed in the philosophy of Devatma.
Modern era of science and technology weighs the concept of God differently. It raises questions to such an existence that cannot be proved and in elaborate experimentation on godliness asks why we need it if it cannot be proved as a supernatural being, and thus wants it to be dethroned since it does not explain the occurrence of events in nature. God has to vacate his chair right now; otherwise further awareness among humans would snatch it with the scientific instruments it is going to invent. Old views, surmises and his being are to be reviewed now.
Nature exists for us with its multifarious magnificence. This is wrongly believed as the creation of God. Who is that God? Where does he live? How does he procreate? Wherefrom does he derive the quantum of energy to regulate the nature given its magnificence? Certainly, it is an idea a pious conception of a fear we are obsessed with! So far there is no viable explanation of the entity we believe as God. Mere speculation, of course!
Nature was not created. It has no beginning. It will not have an end, it is eternal. Yes, of course, if we try to understand the matter, it is a process of evolution. In this process Earth has attained fine stages beginning with the crude form.
Darwin’s theory of evolution and subsequent studies in the sciences like psychology and physiology and biological science etc., can explain how we have travelled so far and the journey continues today and will continue tomorrow.
This research will prove how much God is responsible for the creation of the universe and how much it happens to be a lie. And strangely enough, humans bluffed by the existence of God preach godliness but his faith is found infirm when he commits crime. It means there is no God since dailies are replete with reports about religion going wrong in civil matters. This proves contradictory
in itself. If still we have faith on the scriptural doctrines, we commit a crime and do great injustice to sciences.
Nevertheless, with the passage of time the old beliefs would shatter, and the society would believe in theories of science, and not have blind faith. The philosophy of Devatma will reply to all our questions, and God will sit silent where in silence would mean falsehood. In its own accord, let us say, the society will learn how to be inquisitive about things and God will be stripped to nothingness. Yes, change will come, but with the passage of time only. No sudden relief.
Therefore, in contrast to the unfounded and baseless beliefs about God, (that is to go sooner or later), the naturalistic ontology of Devatma sees everything in terms of scientific truth that is firmly grounded.
Devatma, thus, writes
“We all are part of Nature,
Which is the only real Nature;
Most spacious is this Nature,
Wondrous and boundless is this Nature.”
“Ever changing is this Nature,
Yet indestructible is this Nature;
Everlasting and endless is this Nature,
Self-existent and eternal is this Nature.”
“Always changes this Nature,
By its own laws this Nature,
Which always prove true in Nature;
Trustworthy is always Nature.”
“Every existence appears in Nature,
It has its being in Nature;
It grows better or worse in Nature,
It involves or devolves in Nature.”
The basis of the entire structure of the universe is evolution. Its processes can be explained by the so far learnt theories of science. And the verification of the processes by these theories compels every modern thinker to accept the truth regarding evolution. His inquisitive mind finds out the what, how and why of evolution.
And where does the thinking of Devatma stand? Dale Riepe aptly describes his philosophy in these words, “it is naturalistic, dialectical (understanding things and events always in their inter-relationship), scientific, evolutionary, developmental, optimistic, responsible and altruistic. Its goal is a life of service in which low-hates and low-loves are kept to minimum while the individual tries in high loves to remove evil in life wherever he may find it”.
According to Devatma Nature is constantly creating fresh and fragrant values pertaining to humanity. Moreover the course of time means more sublimation of human values. Therefore ,the evolutionary process means a persistent development of new and ever new values.
Evolution and devolution, utility and futility, life and death, creation and destruction are the various two aspects of this seeming enigma which interact within themselves creating a specific tension amongst them all, and then with strict adherence to the rules governing them lead to creativity. Those having capacity for progress, and are proactive when they happen to be in a conducive environment rise higher in their personal capacity.
On the other hand, millions of living and non-living beings sans such a faculty or are proactive but do not find themselves in the required environment for reacting with each other in a specific way gradually degenerate. And this course of degenerating remaining unchecked may cause their annihilation.
Devatma differs from Darwin’s fundamentals concerning evolution, though he himself was prompted by his theories to work for the verification of the things in a systematic manner. While presenting the concept of ’natural selection’ Darwin is generally understood to be stating that the survival, propagation and reproductive variations of the species is a purely random or an irrational process. But for Devatma, there are the laws of evolution. However, the successive rise of dominant types leading to human species swells with meaning.
Devatma’s metaphysical position is that the universe is law-bound. Darwin proposes his fundamentals without reference to values. For Darwin the emergence of destructive animals is as much a case of evolution as useful animals. But Devatma gives value meaning to the concept of evolution. The emergence of a useful species is evolutionary. The emergence of ferocious species is devolutionary. There are two opposing processes in Nature and one is to sustain, the other is to atrophy.
Secondly, other evolutionists like Herbert Spencer maintain that since the fittest alone survive as a result of natural selection, those who survive are perfect. He, thus, equates survival with perfection. But Devatma does not equate mere survival with perfection. For him it is not a contradiction to say, ‘ XYZ has survived, but it is not perfect’. Therefore Devatma says,
“According to the ceaseless process of change such existences in every department of Nature as follow degrading activities of harming others, cannot but sink to nothingness in course of time, similarly such existences as show higher conduct, progress in their utility to others and achieve better and better harmony with other existences, do prolong their life. Hence, a time must come when there will be existences in each kingdom whose intra-group and extra-group relationship will be one of pure service and absolute harmony.”
The process of evolution has a direction and hence it is teleological. There is emergence of species and individuals which makes possible the realisation of a world of values. The process of evolution is teleological both at the unconscious and conscious levels.
The evolutionary process is biological as well as cultural. When Devatma speaks of the process of evolution, it is not limited to biological evolution. With the appearance of man, a new technique of evolution has come into operation. It is the method of cumulation and communication, the cultural method.
Man is a tool making animal. His tools preserve his manipulation of material for use in defense and production. He can think in symbols and his written language preserves his thinking. These socio-psychological processes of cumulation and communication of learned responses have replaced the biological process of mutation through genes. For example, a science student at university level may know more science than Newton did. Thus the part played by genes in biological evolution is also played by culture in social evolution. This cultural process is as much a natural process as the biological process is.
Therefore, human evolution concerns the health, strength and growth of human life-force. What constitutes the content of inner and outer conditions of evolution is determinable through the study of human soul, just as what constitute the health, strength and growth of a body is determinable through study of body.
All those personal feelings, thoughts and actions and social conditions of customs, conventions and laws, which contribute to the health, strength and growth of the soul are inner and outer conditions of evolution. Thus human good consists of the conditions of evolution. Human evil consists of the conditions of human bondage.
Low-loves and low-hates are human evils for they are destruction of the health and strength of the soul and other existents. Higher loves and higher hates are human good for they make for the strength of the soul and contribute to the evolution of others.
Last but not the least, what is the future but completing course of evolution? Can human being be Devatma or can he choose to be perfect? Man’s moral perfection is possible only because of the cultural evolution. Man’s advances towards his optimum moral perfection through association and rapport with fellows, and more so through Devatma. But he cannot become Devatma because a person who attains to evolution of his altruistic feelings is sattvick jivan Dhari (altruistic person), not Devatma. A person is Devatma if he develops sublime powers amounting to absolute love for what is true and good having equal intensity for hating evil and untruth. Altruistic feelings like that of compassion, justice, gratitude, reverence, honesty etc, remain under the influence of pleasure principles and they dispose him to partiality and untruth. Devatma alone is the ideal soul for it as he has no disposition towards evil and untruth.
Therefore the sum of all the higher feelings is not Devatma. No doubt, as believed by Devatma there is no end of evolution, still perfect moral perfection is not possible. Of course! A man can be the best altruistic but not Devatma because altruistic will be under the influence of pleasure principles rather than truth and Goodness.
In Devatma’s philosophy it is through rapport with the Devatma alone that a human soul can understand the highest development of the process of evolution in the sublime life of Devatma and the beneficial evolution it will bring in all the orders of existences –human, animal, plant and the inanimate world.
Thanks to evolution for the emergence of Devatma where mankind leaps forward in evolution under the light and power which is embodiment of truth and goodness.