Swami Dayananda Saraswati was a Hindu spiritual leader of the 19th century and social reformer famous for being the founder of the Hindu reform organization Arya Samaj. He was an eminent scholar and teacher of Advaita Vedanta, equally respected by traditional pandits and academically inclined people.
Swami Dayananda deeply studied the Upanishads, logic, and grammar of Sanskrit under the guidance of various teachers, which gave clarity to his teachings. His teaching style allowed him to establish an excellent rapport with his audience, be it a gathering of several thousand regular listeners of his lectures in India or seminars at universities around the world. His deep understanding of religion and knowledge and subtle appreciation of Eastern and Western cultures made him that rare teacher who could convey the vision of non-duality to modern listeners.
Dayananda Saraswati was born to a Brahmanic family on February 12, 1824, in Jeevapar Tankara, Kathiawad region (now Morbi district of Gujarat). At an early age, he began the orthodox course of study, and by the time he had reached the age of 14, he had memorized a Sanskrit drama, a Sanskrit vocabulary, the entire Yajur-Veda, and part of other Vedas. Very soon, he felt the inconsistency between the religious ideas of the Vedas and those related to the worship of Shiva and hesitantly bowed to his father’s insistence on performing the rites of Shiva.
On one occasion, when he was taking part in this worship, as he continued the ceremonies for a long time during the night, his father and others fell asleep. While looking at the idol, the boy saw a mouse carrying an offering left for him. Suddenly the inconsistency of the worship of God in stone form struck him so that he left the temple and never worshiped an idol again.
The death in his family led him to delve into the meaning of life, determined to break away from all external forms and find the true path through the efforts of the soul. His parents, thinking that the boy was too meditative, determined his marriage. The preparations were almost complete when he quietly left home at night and never returned from his wanderings, searching for someone who could guide him to the truth.
Seeking the truth
Finally, in November 1860, he met a religious teacher named Swami Virjananda Dandeesha in Mathura. With this scholar of the Vedas, who was blind since childhood, Dayananda studied the Vedas for four years. After his education, Virjananda sent him to spread the knowledge obtained from the Vedas.
Formation of Arya Samaj
In obedience, he traveled throughout India, visiting especially places of pilgrimage, where he denounced the idolatry and superstitions of Hinduism. In 1872 he visited Calcutta and met Devendranath Tagore, with whom he had long and sincere conversations. In 1874 he arrived in Bombay, and after a few months of effective work, he organized the Arya Samaj on April 10, 1875, extending it in 1877 during a tour of Punjab.
In 1883 he visited the Maharaja of Jodhpur, where he was greatly disturbed by the sensuality and dissipation that marked the court’s life. As he rebuked the Maharaja to his face, he was poisoned by a woman named Nanhi, with whom Maharaja was seen dancing in his restroom. He died on October 30, 1883, on the auspicious Hindu festival of Diwali.
Dayananda Saraswati taught the inspiration of the Vedas as the pure source of authentic knowledge. He taught the personality of God as the sole object of worship. God and the soul are related as the penetrator and the penetrated. The external substances are God, the soul, and matter; salvation is the state of emancipation from birth and death. He denounced the caste system and idol worship.
Message from Swami Dayanand
Swami Dayanand’s main message – Back to the Veda – formed the foundation of all his thoughts and actions. He spent a lot of time preaching against many Hindu morals and traditions that were meaningless and oppressive. These include practices such as polytheism and social stigmas such as caste and infinity, child marriage, and forced widows, which were prevalent in the 19th century.
Dayananda Saraswati taught and educated the Hindus on how to return to their roots of faith – the Vedas – they could improve their lot and India’s social, political, and economic conditions at that time. Although he had millions of followers, he also attracted many detractors and enemies. As the legend points out, he was poisoned many times by orthodox Hindus, and one such attempt proved fatal, and he succumbed to death in 1883. What he left behind was one of the largest and most revolutionary Hindu organizations, the Arya Samaj.
Swami Dayanand’s Major Contributions to Society
Swami Dayanand founded a Hindu reformation organization called Arya Samaj on April 10, 1875, in Mumbai and created ten of its principles that are very different from Hinduism but based on the Vedas. These principles aim to advance individuals and society through humankind’s physical, spiritual, and social betterment.
The aim is not to find a new religion but to re-establish ancient Vedic teachings. He desired true human development by accepting the Supreme truth and rejecting falsehood through analytical thinking.
Teachings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati
- Sanskar or rites are the foundation of human conduct; the deeper the rites are, the more unwavering man is on duty, religion, truth, and justice.
- When a man overcomes his anger, controls his lust, abandons the desire for fame, and is dislodged from the illusion of Maya (the illusion of mundane existence), then the divine figures that come in it are called Kundalini Shakti.
- After knowing that omnipotent God by yoga, the inexplicable knot of the heart is cut off. All doubts are removed, and the sins committed in the future are destroyed; that is, knowing God, the person does not commit sins in the future.