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The Founder of the Arya Samaj: Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati

The personality of the founder of the Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand, was as strong and remarkable as was the powerful institution that he formed. Dayanand was born in 1824 in the village of Tankara that is in Gujarat near Bombay in India . His childhood name was Mool Shankar. Moot Shankar’s father’s name was Karsanji Tiwari. Karsanji was a tax collector and was a rich person.

Mool Shankar was intelligent and had a very good memory. In his childhood he began to study the Vedas, Sanskrit and other scriptures. He had a curious mind and always wanted to get to the root of things. As a debater Mool Shankar was unequalled in other words no one could defeat him in debates.

At the early age of fourteen years, Mool Shankar observed the promise of Shivratri with a burning desire to get a sight of God. He kept awake the whole night before Shiva’s idol, but instead of seeing God, the boy saw mice eating the offerings. Mool Shankar’s mind was filled with doubts. He asked to himself: Is this the God who rules the world? If it is not, where is He? The boy was filled with a great desire to find God’s true form. That night was the night of enlightenment for him, also known as Bodh Diwas.

Some time later when young Mool Shankar saw his sister and respectable uncle die he began to look upon death as a challenge. To find the secret of life and death he ran away from home. To search for truth, to satisfy his thirst for knowledge he left wealth and comfort and accepted the life of poverty. Mool Shankar now became Dayanand.

To satisfy his purpose, Dayanand, wandered all over India for fifteen years. In search of God he visited temples and sacred places of religious devotion. He visited Yogis living in the forests. From the peaks of Himalayas he went to the caves of Vindhyachal. Dayanand met all the great teachers of the time but was unable to find any master learned in the scriptures who would satisfy his desire.

In his fifteen years of wandering, Dayanand had the opportunity of observing India and putting her to test. It gave him the eyes with which to find the disease of this semi-conscious country and, later, to find the cure for it.

After wandering for fifteen years, Dayanand came to Mathura. He met an old sannyasi (monk) whose physical eyes could no longer see but his inner, spiritual eyes were wide open. This blind, but enlightened sannyasi, Swami Virjanand, became Dayanand’s teacher. Under his guidance, Dayanand made a complete study of the scriptures for two and a half years. Swami Virjanand gave Dayanand that divine light with which he could realize the deeper meaning of the Vedas. He was introduced to the Vedic traditions without which the meaning might not have been realized. The master satisfied Dayanand’s thirst for knowledge. Thus he gave him the light that showed him the path of truth.

By way of reward, Swami Virjanand made the following request from his wise and outstanding disciple: “Dayanand my son, go, spread the true knowledge of the Vedas. Tell the people what is right and what is wrong. Throw light on the true meaning of truth and free India.”

Mool Shankar who had left home in search of truth became Rishi Dayanand. Rishi Dayanand’s ambition was clear. There was no doubt in it; no selfish motive and, therefore, no fear. Dayanand was ready to spread the truth which he had learnt and for this, he decided to offer his whole life.

After leaving Virjanand’s Ashram, Dayanand toured the whole of India and continuously attempted to awaken the race and the nation. He once again established the true form of the Vedic Religion; organized a mighty movement for social reform and gave the people the first hint for political independence. Dayanand tried to destroy the evil things that had spread all over India.

Swami Dayanand laid the foundation of all the important movements that took place during the past one hundred years. Dayanand was a product of the Indian school of learning and his own Indian culture. He was the only reformer in his period whose whole education and upbringing was unpolluted by the foreign language or western culture. It is for this reason that whatever he preached in India had an effect on the country.

Dayanand used three methods in his reform work:

(1) Speech: Whether in town or village Dayanand always appeared in public to deliver his message. He was a great public speaker. His speeches were simple and full of knowledge. They were full of arguments and entertainment and, for this reason, attracted attention. His talks were also very interesting and effective.

(2) Discourse (Debate): There was another important method which Dayanand used. He held discussions with the pundits and learned people and, in this way, tried to find the true meaning of the scriptures. Debate was an ancient way of resolving right from wrong in India. Swami Dayanand’s deep knowledge of the scriptures, his great ability to debate and appropriate replies to questions, left his opponents speechless. Swami Dayanand’s debates were held not only with Hindu pundits but Christian priests and Moslem molvis also. Thousands of people used to gather to listen to him.

(3) Writings: Swamiji’s writings were also very powerful weapon. He used it to turn Hindu thoughts to its original source. Swamiji wrote books on Vedic philosophy which were highly educational. To bring about social reforms, to dispel blind faith and to free the people from bonds of stupidity he published many pamphlets and books. Thousands of copies of these publications were distributed free.

Among his best known works the following four stand out:

(1) Satyarth Prakash (Light of Truth):

In this book he explains the important aspects of religion in the light of Vedic texts and dispels false authorities and baseless beliefs.

(2) Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhumika (Introduction to the Commentary on the Vedas):

In this book he explains the proper means to understand Vedic texts and rejects misinterpretations of some Indian and western writers like Raman and Max Muller.

(3) Rigveda Bhashya and Yajurveda Bhashya (Commentary on the Rigveda and Yajurveda):

In these books Swamiji has given commentaries in the traditional style of the ancient Rishis.

(4) Sanskar Vidhi (Book of Sacraments):

In this book Swami Dayanand has revised the sixteen sanskars (sacraments) and the Yajna and has explained the different rituals and means of worship according to the ancient Vedic traditions.

For many years Swami Dayanand preached the Vedic religion. To create a permanent institution that would carry out his works and also organize his followers, Swamiji formed the Arya Samaj at Bombay in 1875.

Swami Dayanand was a great preacher of truth and few speakers were as courageous and outspoken as he was. In his personal life Swamiji was broadminded, forgiving, humble and pleasant natured. There were Hindus, Moslems, Christians and people of other groups among his friends. He had the ability to reach the poor villager as well as the English governor of India.

In spite of this Swamiji was disliked by many, among them the believers in blind and unreasonable beliefs and the selfish. They were always ready to show their hatred. They swore at him, stoned him, assaulted him with sword and even tried to poison him.

It was through the efforts of such evil people that in 1883 at Jodhpur, Swamiji was given deadly poison. On the Diwali Day in the evening of 30 October 1883, the foremost reformer of modern times and great protector of India gave up his life for the sake of the Hindu religion.

Adapted from ‘Dharmic Shiksha (Vedic Religious Knowledge) – Form Three’, Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, 1997.

Copyright: Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji

Also view: Pictorial Illustrations of Swami Dayanand's Life (PDF)

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