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Swami Dayananda Saraswati: The champion of Hindu rejuvenation

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(On the 192nd birth anniversary of Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arya Samaj, NewsGram is reproducing a brief biography of him By Ratnakar Sadasyula)

1838, Tankara, Kathiawar (now currently in Morbi district of Gujarat)

A 14-year-old boy named Moolshankar was keeping awake, during the Shiv Ratri Jagaran, at the local temple. So named, because he was born in the Mul Nakshatra, Moolshankar was a devout Shaivite, like his family, and by the age of 14 had become well versed in Sanskrit Grammar, Vedas.

While most of the other devotees in the Jagaran had fallen asleep, Moolshankar was still keeping awake. And then he saw a rat climb on to the Shiva Linga and begin to eat the holy Prasad. He was shocked, how could someone called as Mahadev, allow a rat to jump on his idol and eat the holy Prasad. He asked his father the same question, who replied that the real Shiva lives somewhere in Kailash, and we need to worship with real devotion. Moolshankar was not convinced with the answer, and that was the time he felt idol worship was pointless.

Born to Karshanji Tiwari, a tax collector and Yashoda, Moolshankar grew up studying the scriptures, and he was prepared for a comfortable life ahead.

Two incidents, however, had a deep impact on him, one was the Shivratri Jagran one, another was the death of his younger sister and uncle from cholera. The latter especially had a profound impact on him, and as he began to ask questions of life and death, his parents began to worry about him. They decided to get him off married at a young age, as was the tradition those days. Moolshankar, however, had made up his mind that the married life was not for him, and in 1845, he ran away from home. From 1845 to 1869, Moolshankar spent time roaming all over India, living an ascetic life. He was initiated into the order by Poornanda Swamy and given the name of Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

With the bare minimum of clothes, a begging bowl, of Swami Dayananda, travelled to every pilgrimage site, crossing jungles, rivers, mountains, deserts for finding the answer to his question. He met many sages, swamis, but none could really give him what he was looking for. At this time, he met a monk Poornashrama Swamy, who told him “There is only one man on this earth who can fulfil your desire, and that man is Virajananda Dandeesha. He lives in Mathura.”

In 1860, he finally managed to meet the blind sage Virajananda, who was also known for his harsh temper, and strict attitude. He asked of Swami Dayananda to throw Kaumudi and Saraswatha, the 2 famous texts on Sanskrit Grammar in the Yamuna, and then asked him to start afresh. Swami Dayananda willingly surrendered himself to Virajananda, who was quite a hard task master, known for his strict discipline. He would fetch water for his Guru, even in biting cold and rain, clean the floor, and even bore his beatings.

Once after a very severe beating he had from his Guru, one of his fellow students asked him why he was bearing with this being a Swami himself. To which he replied  Do you think that our Gurudeva beat me out of hatred? Just as a potter shapes the lump of clay by pounding and beating it, the guru shapes the personality of his disciple by beating him and correcting him.” When the time came to leave the Ashram, his Guru, took a promise from Swami Dayananda, that he would spread the knowledge of Vedas, and revive Hinduism once more. Virajananda felt that Hinduism had strayed from it’s original Vedic roots, and was corrupted by too many meaningless rituals. And he asked Dayananda to revive Hinduism, take it back to its Vedic roots, that would be his true Gurudakshina.

The Debate at Kashi

As per the promise given to his Guru, Swami Dayananda, travelled all over the North to places like Ajmer, Haridwar, Jaipur, Meerut, Gwalior, spreading the knowledge of Vedas among ordinary people. He mentioned that Idol worship was never a part of the Vedas, and God has no shape nor form. He fearlessly attacked the weaknesses of every religion, and spread awareness among people of the greatness of Sanathana Dharma, asking them to unite as one.

On 22nd Oct 1869, Swami Dayananda, had one of the greatest debates in Hinduism ever with 27 distinguished scholars of Varanasi, attended by the Maharaja of Kashi. Attended by 50-60,000 people, Swami Dayananda was ranged against some of Varanasi’s greatest scholars, as he debated with them on whether idol worship was sanctioned by the Vedas. So powerful were the arguments of Swami Dayananda, that the scholars had to admit their defeat. At this juncture, some of the unruly elements in the crowd began to hurl, slippers, stones and rocks at Swami Dayananda, who nevertheless did not flinch.

The chief Pandits of Varanasi, Taracharan Tarakaratna, Bala Shastri, felt remorse and confessed Really what Swamy Dayananda says is perfectly true. But we do not have the moral courage to go against the prevailing customs and traditions. So we have chosen to oppose him.”  The Maharaja of Kashi impressed by Swamy Dayananda’s courage, wisdom and integrity, invited him to his palace and treated him royally.

Though he was basically from Gujarat, Swamy Dayananda was convinced that there should be one national language, Hindi, and, in fact, wrote all his books in that language only.   He was also a true nationalist, who loved Bharat, and aimed for the welfare of its masses. Once an Englishman impressed by his speech asked Swamiji to go to England and teach them Dharma there. And this was his reply.

In the few years of life left to me, I shall try to spread the knowledge of the Vedas among my countrymen. Once the lamp of wisdom is lighted here, its light is bound to spread towards the west too.

He could have earned fame, going abroad, but for Swami Dayananda, his motherland, Bharat was far more important, and he missed no opportunity to spread the greatness of India. He advised Indians to awake, learn from their glorious history, tradition and use it to shape the present. He hated the present system of education that created contempt for India. In his own words.

Your ancestors were not uncivilized men living in forests. They were great men who enlightened this world. Your history is not a bundle of defeats. It is the eulogy of the conquerors of the world. Your Vedic Scriptures are not the songs of cowherds. They are the immortal truths which shaped mighty souls like Sri Rama and Sri Krishna. Awake! Arise! Be proud of your glorious history. Take inspiration from it to mould the present. Shame upon the modern education which fills you with contempt for your ancestors!.

A true nationalist, Swami Dayananda, felt that the only way India could achieve freedom was through armed revolution. The Arya Samaj, which was founded by him in Bombay on 10th of April 1875, was ostensibly meant to propagate his goal of social reform. It however also became a crucible for nationalist leaders and the freedom struggle.

Many branches of the Arya Samaj were founded in princely states like those of Udaipur, Jodhpur, and he aimed to bring together the princes to fight against British rule. The Arya Samajs all over North played a major role in shaping the nationalist, revolutionary ideas among masses. From Swami Shraddhananda to Lala Lajpat Rai to Bhai Parmanand, a whole new generation of freedom fighters emerged from the Arya Samaj. Revolutionaries like Ram Prasad Bismil, Roshanlal were proud of their association with the Arya Samaj.

Apart from his tremendous intelligence, Swamy Dayananda was also known for his exceptional physical strength too. He once stopped the carriage of a Maharaj, by holding its wheel, and in Kasaganj, he took two bulls fighting on the streets by their horns and managed to tame them.

Dayananda always cared for humanity, he was sensitive to the sufferings of the ordinary masses as he once said –“ To love the creation of God is to love God Himself’. He fought against casteism, and other social evils, and wherever he went, exhorted people to shake off their lethargy. He was against the caste system, untouchability, child marriages. He fought for women’s equality, was against the purdah system, and stressed the need for pure conduct in one’s life. He made much aware of the glory of Hinduism, through his teachings.   Many young Hindus, who were about to accept Christianity, changed their mind, after listening to him and became staunch followers. He also took back, people who had been converted by force into Muslims and Xtians, back to Hinduism, performing the Shuddhi rites for them. He was bitterly opposed to untouchability, calling it a curse on society, as he said.

Untouchability is a dreadful curse of our society. Every living being has a soul which deserves affection; in every human being, there is a soul worthy of respect. Anyone who does not know this basic principle cannot understand the true meaning of the Vedic religion.

Education was what Dayananda espoused, however, he was against the existing Western system, which he felt only created people with contempt for native traditions. He favoured the Gurukul system, where students would stay with their teachers, and there would be no class, caste differences. The son of a King and the son of a farmer would be the equals in a Gurukul, which would be located away from the city. Along with studies on Indian culture, Vedas, the Gurukul would also teach modern sciences like astronomy, mathematics, geology, so that the student receives a complete education.

One of Swami Dayanand’s most famous works, was Satyartha Prakash( The Light of Truth), a 14 chapter book, containing his teachings based on the Vedas. His book explained the importance of the Vedas, and it was critical not just of the bad practices in Hinduism, but even of other religions like Christianity, Islam, Sikhism. He declared that knowledge was not just about showing how to get salvation after death, it must also show a man how to live usefully in the world. He stressed on the need to follow the Vedic path of Dharma( righteousness), Artha( Wealth), Kama(Pleasure) and Moksha( Salvation). Back to the Vedas was what Swami Dayananda emphasized, and said, that while the main aim is salvation unless we have a worthy life, we can never attain salvation.

Satyartha Prakash

Dayananda was fearless in his pursuit of truth and knowledge, even in the face of great dangers and threats. Once a Christian preacher threatened that he would send him to prison, if he continued to show the faults in religion, to which Dayananda replied “My friend, was not Jesus Christ crucified for speaking the truth? But I fear no one to speak the truth.” While he was fearless enough to point out the faults that had crept into Hinduism, he did not spare Islam or Christianity either. And this frank, honest attitude of his earned him many enemies, from all religions. As he once said to a person who threatened to cut him with his sword.

I shall point out defects wherever I find them. I am not a rabbit to be frightened by the cries of jackals like you

However the end came well and nigh at Jodhpur, the Maharaja there was a follower of Swami Dayananda.   The ruler, however, spent a lot of time with a dancing girl Nanhi Jaan and was rebuked by Dayananda, who said his action was not proper conduct for a Kshatriya. The offended Nanhi Jaan, conspired with the cook to poison Swamiji and asked him to mix powdered glass pieces in his milk. Dayananda drank the milk and realized he had been poisoned, tried vomiting it out, but was too late.

Sores broke out all over his body, and Swamiji had to suffer torture, due to the pain. When the cook confessed that he had poisoned Swamiji, he gave him some money and asked him to run away, because if he were found out, he would be hanged to death. Though the Maharaja shifted Dayananda to Mt.Abu for better treatment, it was of no avail. And on Oct 30, 1883, the great soul passed away on Diwali day, uttering the word Om, in the presence of his disciples.

Thus ended the life of one of modern India’s greatest thinkers, a social reformer, a nationalist, a writer, a man who taught Indians to speak and think fearlessly. Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a truly great son of Bharat. (image:quotesgram)

(The article was first published at the author’s personal blog)

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

  • Ravindr

    Very good article.

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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.