Vishnu Bhikaji Gokhale

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Vishnu Bhikaji Gokhale (1825-1871) was an Indian philosopher and metaphysician who became known as Brahmachâri Bawa or Vishnubawa Brahamachâri. He wss an early worker in the Hindu Revivalist Movement, defending Hindu dharma against the attacks of Christian missionaries.

Personal life and work

Vishnu Bhikaji Gokhale was born in 1825, the tenth child of a Brahmin family residing in a village, Shiraval, in the Thana (now Kolaba) district. After education at a village school and Veda studies, he worked at the Customs Department at several locations close to Bombay.[1] He was inspired to take up a religious life, and after several years of penance and meditation he began to teach. He became known as Brahmachari Bawa or Vishnubawa Brahamachari.

Around 1855 he published Bhavarthasindhu (sea of devotion). emphasizing dyan or "special knowledge" that could be found only in Vedic religion and realized through devotion (bhakti). His greatest work was Light of Vedic Religion or Vedoktadharmaprakasha, an effort to define the ultimate kernel of Hindu faith. It was intended to aid Hindus to understand their own faith well enough to counterattack against Christian doctrines

Vishnubuva Brahmachari as a social reformer showed a remarkable sense of independence of mind in rejecting a number of traditional ideas and customs. In his view, caste should be determined by a person's qualities, and not by his birth. He favoured female education and upheld the right of girls to be consulted in the choice of their husbands. He also opposed the custom of Sati and favoured widow remarriage. He was a prolific writer. Among his famous works was Vedokta Dharmaprakasha (the Principle of Hindu Religion) published in 1864. In a very interesting essay on 'Beneficial Government' (Marathi) he put forward ideas such as 'One home and all citizens as one family'.[2]undkhar Gokhale Family website.

He died in the Viththal Mandir at Bombay on Mahashivaratri, February 18, 1871.

Blavatsky mentions of Vishnu Bawa Brahmachâri

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky quoted Vishnu Bawa Brahmachâri in her writings on Yoga:

Are we then to understand that none of these numerous saints, philosophers, and ascetics from Krishna down to the late Vishnu Brahmachari Bawa of Bombay had ever reached the “exaltation by Yoga”? To repeat this assertion is simply suicidal in their own interests.[3]

On viewing matter and spirit as separate:

Our opponents repeat the words Trinity, Body, Soul, Spirit, as they might say the cat, the house, and the Irishman inhabitating it — three perfectly dissimilar things. They do not see that, dissimilar as the three parts of the human trinity may seem, they are in truth but correlations of the one eternal essence — which is no essence; but unfortunately the English language is barren of adequate expression, and, though they do not see it, the house, the physical Irishman and the cat are, in their last analysis, one. I verily begin to suspect that they imagine that spirit and matter are two, instead of one! Truly says Vishnu Bawa Brahmachâri, in one of his essays in Marathi (1869), that

The opinion of the Europeans that matter is “Padârtha” (an equivalent for the “pada,” or word “Abháva,” i.e., Ahey, composed of two letters, “Ahe,” meaning is, and “nahin,” not), whereas “Abhâva” is no “Padârtha,” is foolishly erroneous!”[4]

Blavatsky reacted to his article "True Religion Defined" about dharma:

[In this article, the writer, Vishnu Bawa, says, among other things, that “the Sanskrit word dharma radically implies Duty and Nature. Dharma is the Duty and Nature co-existent with the very living or existence of a being in the universe.” To this H.P.B. remarks:]

“Duty” is an incorrect and unhappy expression. “Property” would be the better word. “Duty” is that which a person is bound by any natural, moral, or legal obligation to do or refrain from doing and cannot be applied but to intelligent and reasoning beings. Fire will burn and cannot “refrain” from doing it.

[“... the highest, the best, the most beneficial... and omnipresent Religion or dharma of a rational being... is not only to know, but also to experience... personally, i.e., to feel this... unconscious immateriality, or Paramatma—the Infinity and Eternity of Existence and Happiness.”]

This teaching is the highest stage of Philosophical ultra-Spiritual Pantheism and Buddhism. It is the very spirit of the doctrines contained in the Upanishads wherein we would vainly seek for Iśvara — he afterthought of the modern Vedantins.

[“This state of unconscious immateriality... is the true or eternal state of every being, for saving it there can be found no other true existence; therefore, every rational being’s dharma or natural duty and Religion is first to acquire the dhyana (knowledge) or vidya of its real Self, the Paramatma, and then by the annihilation of its atma, or worldly self or soul to experience the infinity of Happiness prevalent in its unconscious Immateriality.”]

We draw the attention of the theoristic and dogmatic Spiritualists to the passage. The late Vishnu Bawa was, perhaps, the greatest Philosopher and most acute metaphysician and seer of India in our present century.[5]


  • Bhavarthasindhu (sea of devotion). Circa 1855.
  • Vedoktadharmaprakasha (Light of Vedic Religion).
  • Vedokta Dharmaprakasha (the Principle of Hindu Religion). 1864.
  • "True Religion Defined". The Theosophist 2.8 (May, 1881), 181-182. With footnotes by HPB.
  • "Some Things the Aryans Knew" on magic of ancient Aryans. See Blavatsky Collected Writings II, 427n.

Additional resources

  • Puntambekar, S. V. "Vishnu Bawa Bramachari, (1825-1871) — an Utopian Socialist" The Indian Journal of Political Science 6.3 (January-March, 1945), 154-161. Available from JSTOR at some libraries or by subscription.
  • "Vishnu Bhikaji Gokhale" at Hindu Wisdom web


  1. Mariam Dossal and Ruby Maloni, State Intervention and Popular Response: Western India in the Nineteenth Century (Popular Prakashan, 1999), 163.
  2. "Gokhales of Aund" at A
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, "Comments on a Treatise on the Yoga Philosophy" Blavatsky Collected Writings Volume II (Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1967), 462. Reprinted from The Theosophist 2.2, (November, 1880), 29-32.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, "Madame Blavatsky on Indian Metaphysics" (letter to newspaper editor) Blavatsky Collected Writings Volume I (Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1966), 332. Reprinted from The Spiritualist, London, March 22, 1878, pp. 140-41.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, "Footnotes to 'True Religion Defined'" Blavatsky Collected Writings Volume III (Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1968), 141-142. Reprinted from The Theosophist II.8 (May, 1881), 181-182.