O man, elevate yourself, ascend high, do not descend low
Athava Veda 8.1.6
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Swami Dayanand SaraswatiBy Hiten Pokar (U.K.)
I have chosen to write about Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824 – 1883) because from all the various literature I have read and studied, his work (Satyarth Prakash -The Light of Truth and Rgvedadi Bhashya Bhumika - Introduction to The Vedas) has been the greatest influence on my life. I have found that on numerous occasions I have been able to obtain answers to clear any doubts about any of life’s mysteries by going through these epic books.
I am convinced that future generations will stand in awe when they learn that this great man, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, single-handedly revived the ancient Vedic tradition not just in India but throughout the world by founding the Arya Samaj movement.
Quest for Truth
A young boy by the name of Moolshankar was born in Tankara (Gujarat, India) on 12th February 1824. Through the power of reasoning, even as a teenager he denounced rituals such as idol worship. To him, intuitively such beliefs could not conform with the true attributes of God. It was only a matter of time before this talented individual would become a sanyasi of the highest order and taking on a new name, Dayanand Saraswati.
Swamiji traveled throughout the breadth of India to seek and obtain true spiritual knowledge. After many years of the hardship of wandering throughout India he finally found solace at Guru Virjanand’s institution in Mathura. During his 3 years with Guru Virjanand, Swami Dayanand Saraswati learnt the true interpretation of the scriptures based on works of the great etymologist Yaska, and recognized Paanini and Patanjali grammar.
Whilst taking leave from Mathura, Guru Virjanand asked from his discipline for such a Guru Dakshina that had never been asked from a student before. Guru Virjanand knew that India was steeped in darkness and his wish from Swamiji was “to go and dispel darkness and give back to the world the lost treasure of the Vedas”. Never had such a pledge been fulfilled before by any student.
Back to the Vedas
As any great seer would do, Swamiji quickly grasped the notion that Vedas were the very first revealed books of mankind. He further stated that God had instructed mankind via the Vedas to live accordingly to Vedic rites since the start of this creation. Swamiji took his clarion call one step further and concluded that post-Vedic scriptures were sectarian in nature, and were not of the same quality as the elucidation of mantras in the Vedas done by the great Rishis of yore.
Swamiji firmly believed that the Vedas were the only authoritative word of God as he states in his world famous book Satyarth Prakash (The Light of Truth):
”The four Vedas, the repository of Knowledge and Religious Truth, are the Word of God. They comprise what is known as the samhita – Mantra Bhag only they are absolutely free from error, and the supreme and independent authority in all things. They require no other book to bear witness to their Divine origin. Even as the sun or a lamp is, by its own light, an absolute and independent manifester of its own existence, - yet, it reveals the existence of things other than itself – even so are the Vedas”
A great saint-philosopher Sri Aurobindo Ghosh stated “In the matter of Vedic interpretation I am convinced that whatever lies amidst the chaos and obscurity of old ignorance and age long misunderstanding may be the final complete interpretation, Dayanand will be honoured as the first discoverer of the right clues.”
A Great Logician
Using the divine word of God as contained in the Vedas, Swamiji set out on a mission to liberate not just Indians, but calling all of mankind to go back to the Vedas to obtain peace. Many evil practices in the name of religion were taking place at that time, and no doubt, many still do now. However, Swamiji stood out as the tallest amongst all men in denouncing and exposing such acts to the mass audience. Satyarth Prakash (The Light of Truth) deals with many topics that Swamiji had delivered public discourses on, ranging from God, Family, Politics, Education, Diet and so forth. Satyarth Prakash should be read at least once, to discover the hidden gems of our Vedic Religion and to remove doubts from our minds.
Swamiji had an unbelievable intellectual capacity for recalling scriptural texts at random: this proved critical when entering into debates with various pandits, scholars, priests and maulvis. He firmly believed that “If all religions were the same there would be harmony, but since they all oppose each other there can only ever by one true religion”. Therefore, he worked tirelessly towards bring everyone under the Vedic banner.
Swamiji further stated that when this world was created, all embraced the Vedic Religion and all humans were happy. But since unvedic sects have come to the fore mankind’s suffering has increased. Therefore Swamiji’s pledge of going back to the Vedas is as relevant now as it ever was.
Arya is my name, Truth is my duty
Aum is my god and Vedic is my religion – Swami Dayanand Saraswati
But what stands out most about such a remarkable sage is his ability to rationalize and make difficult concepts for a layman like myself easy to assimilate and understand. Readers should refer to Satyarth Prakash (The Light of Truth) to gain an insight into Swamiji’s great scholarly work.
From a personal perspective, I have read many books written by talented individuals but no one has ever impressed me as much as Swami Dayanand Saraswati. He was a lion amongst all men, a propagator of truth and a true humanitarian. He fought earnestly for the wellbeing of his countrymen by teaching how we can become liberated from bondage and follow the path of emancipation. He did all this not for his personal fame, but for the wellbeing of all mankind.
On many occasions, Swamiji was pelted with stones, abused and poisoned. He suffered this for the greater good of mankind by continuing to preach truth with a smile on his face. How many other individuals, if subjected to endure such hardship, would have strayed from their dharma (duty)? But Swami Dayanand Saraswati was unique; he clearly stated that he found the greatest joy in helping others achieve moksha (emancipation), not just for himself. “If we abandon our dharma, how can we remain justified in telling others to abandon their adharma?
However, many of his teachings have been construed as people have failed to understand Swamiji in the context of his writings. His task of criticizing various religions and sects was solely to arrive to the truth. Such books have to be studied with an open mind, and Satyarth Prakash falls in that category.
Swamiji clearly showed that no intermediary was required to believe and worship an all-pervading, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, formless, just God, since the relationship should be a direct one as opposed to going through a medium.
Great men are born, but such talented individuals like Swamiji can only be of such standing if they have obtained God’s bliss.
”It is perfectly certain that India never saw a more learned Sanskrit scholar, a deeper metaphysician, a more wonderful orator and a more fearless denunciator of every evil, than Dayanand, since the time of Shankracharya. “Whenever Dayanand appears, crowds prostrate themselves in the dust over his foot-prints but he does not teach them a new religion, does not invent any new dogmas. He only asks them to renew their half-forgotten Sanskrit studies, and, having compared the doctrines of their forefathers with what they have become is the hands of Brahmans, to return to the pure conception of Deity taught by the primitive Rishi, Agni, Vayu, Aditya, and Angira – the patriarchs who first gave the Vedas to humanity. – Madame Blavatsky
It is sincerely hoped that a new Vedic Age is on the horizon whereby mankind can embrace universal values as envisaged by the Vedas.