Swami Dayanand and social reform
The main principles of Arya Samaj
Arya Samaj is not a sect. It is a movement which was founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Bombay, India in 1875. What this means is that Hinduism as per the teachings of the Vedas had existed for thousands of years but had been polluted by malpractices through ignorance of what is right. When Maharshi Dayanand saw that Hindus were carried away by a number of beliefs which did not hold good as religious principles, he realised that it was time to remind the Hindus of their glorious past which was framed by the great people like Shri Ram and Shri Krishn and great rishis like Yajnavalkya, Vasisht, Vishvamittra, Patanjali, Kanad, Jaimini and others and which was lost under the thick dust of communal disharmony, conflicts and bickering. Thus, Swami Dayanand revived the original Vedic religion in its true and pure form and brought it to the attention of the people.
Swami Dayanand and social reform
Swami Dayanand stood up against the flow of that powerful stream of ignorance, stopped the flow and spoke out strongly to awaken the Hindus and warned them against the dangers of their ignorance and internal fights. He said, “God created one humanity, one religion and one path for peace and prosperity. You have forgotten that right path. That is, the path shown by the Vedas and demonstrated by the rishis and great sons of India, who followed and preached it for the benefit of mankind. The aim of the religious person is to create unity and peace in the world. If men and women want to have peace they should follow the Vedas vigorously.”
Swami Dayanand advised us- “Go back to the Vedas”. He reversed that religious stream which was flowing indiscriminately. He preached against superstitions, atrocities against women; blind faith and many other social ills. He showed one divine straight path to attain bliss. His disciples requested him to found a body which would carry on his crusade even after his death. Maharshi, a saint of vision, formed an organization, which he named after the pioneers of the great glorious past. He knew that those who followed that Vedic religion called themselves Arya and the humanity in the earlier times was itself called Arya Samaj. He revived that very name of the society of Shri Ram and Shri Krishn. Therefore, Arya Samaj is the revival of the ancient Vedic movement and this is the only institution which stands for the Vedic religion, devoid of any superstitions and blind faiths. It wants to invite humanity under the banner of “One God, one religion and one community.”
Unfortunately, when the selfish world could not face the truth brought to light by Swami Dayanand, it poisoned Dayanand because the truth was depriving them of their pleasures and selfish motives.
Meaning of Arya
The word “Arya” means the follower of the righteous path. The society of Aryans - Sons and daughters of God - is called Arya Samaj. The main principles are:
(1) All human beings are brothers and sisters, as they are the children of one God. Therefore, any discrimination on the basis of colour, creed, caste, tribe and nation is meaningless.
(2) Vedas teach that the formless all prevailing God can only be worshipped through meditation, good selfless deeds and propagation of true knowledge. Vedas do not teach us to worship trees, images, planets, men and women, books or any other inanimate objects.
(3) The Vedas say that the journey of the soul is an endless one during which, it goes through numerous births and deaths and as such one should not be disappointed if one does not reach to the expectation of God in one birth, because one has a number of chances in the next births to improve himself/herself.
(4) Death is not an end in itself. It is an entrance to the new start. Death is an essential operation carried out by God in accordance with His rules. There is no other way. Therefore, one should not fear death but simply continue to do good deeds so that one’s future becomes good.
(5) Separation of soul from the body is called death and entering of the soul into a new body is called birth. Otherwise the soul itself is neither born nor does it die. It is eternal like God.
(6) Vedic philosophy gives priority to planning the future rather than worrying about what happened in the past. It is better to plan for the future with the experience gained from the past mistakes rather than crying over the spilt milk.
(7) The things to be done tomorrow (future) becomes the duties of today. They are attended fully arid wholeheartedly so that they are processed in good shape and after being polished and refined, they are stored in the memory as deeds of the past. Those deeds take the shape of things that come to one in the next birth. So we must be attentive to the present.
(8) The soul is not a sinner by nature. It commits sins when it trusts the mind too much and neglects the intellect and is misguided by it, supported by the senses. Once it commits sins it must bear their fruit. It cannot escape this law. This action theory is a thing of nature and it works on its own as other natural laws do and God does not interfere. Just like a person going against nature falls ill, in the same way when the person commits sin it is the natural law which punishes him/her and not God. Anything which goes against the natural law - righteousness - is a sin. He/she, who sows, reaps. If we succeed to keep our souls unconquered by senses and mind we shall never commit a sin, because a pure soul never goes against the laws of God.
(9) Salvation is attained by a person who is free from all sins. To attain that standard one has to strive for it through a number of births. Prayer alone will not emancipate a person. It must be accompanied with efforts. In salvation the soul does not merge in God, it remains in close contact with God and reaches a state like that of an iron ball becoming red hot when in contact with heat. Similarly in salvation the soul becomes all-bliss like God.
(10) Heaven and hell are not places separate from this world. A happy living is heaven and a miserable living is hell. Both of these lives belong to this world only. After death if the soul is born in a good and rich family where it can have all happiness, it is said to have gone to heaven. If it is born in a family which is full of sufferings and poverty it is said to have gone to hell.
(11) All men and women are equal. None is inferior or superior because of sex, colour or caste. The souls do not have any sex. The gender is concerned with the body and not with the souls. Similarly, the souls do not have any age. To think that a child has an undeveloped soul while an old person possesses a fully developed one is totally wrong. It is important that one should perform all the sacraments (sanskars) from the very beginning. When the verses from the Vedas are chanted the souls are influenced by them.
(12) If we want to bring peace in the world we should try to make everyone follow the righteous path. We should try to infuse religion in all material sciences.
(13) The final and lasting solution to the problems of the present world lies not in “isms” and “faiths” based on material and intellectual ground, but in real adherence to the truth and the Religion of Humanity.
Adapted from ‘Dharmic Shiksha (Vedic Religious Knowledge) – Form Six & Seven’, Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, 2005.
Copyright: Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji