The life and teachings of Swami Dayanand Saraswati
The Life and Teachings of Swami Dayanand Saraswati
By Swatantra Lata Sharma M.A
The nineteenth century witnessed a colossal socio-political upheaval unprecedented in the history of India. The British Government ruling over India had unleashed a reign of terror by suppressing, subjugating and tormenting the Indians, who unfortunately had divided and sub-divided into factional groups, disintegrated into castes and sub-castes and degenerated into ignorant and illiterate masses. The spirit of Chakravarti Aryavrata was crushed by the slavery of more than 700 years. The soul of Mother India was crying for freedom – freedom from foreign domination in the political sphere, freedom from evils in the social sphere and freedom from want, hunger and penury in the economic sphere. Her moans and wails did not go unheeded. Several valiant and patriotic men and women emerged on the national scene during this period, who voluntarily and willingly sacrificed their lives to rid the country from its multifaceted menaces. Swami Dayanand Saraswati was one among her luminous sons. He was born in 1824 in an affluent and orthodox Brahmin family of Tankara in Gujarat State. His father Karasanji Mehta was a devout Shiva Bhakta who devotedly practiced religious rituals. He trained his son Moolshankar in arduously and religiously worshipping the deity Shiva. As an obedient son, child Moolshankar followed his father’s footsteps. He read the Holy scriptures, chanted Vedic mantras, regularly accompanied his father to the Shiva temple located in the outskirts of Tankara and actively participated in the religious festivals at home. At the age of fourteen he decided to fast on Shivaratri Day. All persuasions on the part of his mother to dissuade the young lad from observing fast failed. He did not even take a sip of water lest he become crestfallen and a sinner. It was his firm conviction that Lord Shiva revealed Himself in all His resplendid form to the devotee who fasted and prayed the whole day. His soul was animating with joyous expectation at the very thought that he would be rewarded by Lord Shiva for his deep and sincere devotion The temple bells chimed merrily. Crowds of Shiva devotees thronged the temple to offer prayers. The entire atmosphere resounded with the musical chant of hymns and devotional songs. The fervour and tempo which had reached dizzy heights, slackened with the darkening shadows of night. One by one the devotees began to stretch themselves on the floor and traversed into the blissful realm of sleep. Only Moolshankar was wide awake. It was the night of mahajagaran or great awakening. His heart was filled with hopeful expectation and his mind preoccupied by chaste and holy thoughts. Suddenly he noticed a rat come out of a hole in the temple wall. Oblivious and unconcerned about the presence of so many people in the temple, it feasted on the offerings of sweetmeats and fully satiated, frolicked about in gay abandon, finally climbed upon the Shivalinda. Moolshankar was aghast and shocked beyond words. He could not believe his eyes. A puny creature having the guts to step on the holiest of the holy Shivalinga! How could this be possible? He expected that the Almighty Shiva would open his third eye and reduce the impudent creature to ashes. He waited impatiently, expectantly, hopefully, but the Almighty Shiva did not even wince. Moolshankar’s unflinching faith was rudely shaken and shattered. After recovering from the initial shock, his analytical brain began to question the strength and power of the All powerful Shivalinga. Doubts pervaded his mind. He wanted a clarification, a convincing solution then and there. He awoke his father. The evasive answer of his father did not satisfy him. He decided that he would not rest till he succeeded in finding the true Shiva. This was the turning point of his life. This incident set the cast which eventually moulded Moolshankar into Swami Dayanand Saraswati. His questioning mind found food for thought after the death of his younger sister whom he loved dearly and paternal uncle whom he adored profoundly. He pondered silently while others wept unabashedly. The transiency of life on earth filled his heart with despondency and impelled him to find out a way of attaining salvation or Moksha. He was probing in darkness. His soul pined for guidance which he realized he could not get in Tankara. Only a Guru or a learned teacher could show him the right path and lead him from darkness to light. To seek a guru he would have to venture out. He decided to leave the cosyness and security of his home and to break the bonds that bound him to this mundane world.
There was drastic change in Moolshankar’s behaviour which did not go unnoticed by his parents. He was pensive, introverted, and thoughtful. His eyes wandered into space, his vacant looks spoke volumes. His parents were worried. They thought that if they left him to himself, he may become an ascetic. They did not want to lose their dear son. They decided to get him married, for marriage would make him face the sordid realities of life and shoulder the responsibilities of a ‘grahastha’ or householder. But, Moolshankar had no plans of settling down as a ‘grahasthi’. His heart was set on finding an answer to his innumerable questions and only a guru could clear his doubts. So without informing anybody, he left home.
The quest of a true guru made him travel to distant places. He did come across several gurus but they could not quench his thirst for true knowledge, the ‘paramagyam’, nor could they give satisfactory answer to his queries. The only redeeming feature of this wandering was that he learnt yogic exercises which enabled him to build up his steel like physique. He decided to become a sanyasi but no sanyasi was prepared to initiate a young man in to Sanyaas. This did not dampen his spirit nor did it weaken his determination. He believed, ‘seek and thou shall find’. And he finally found a guru who agreed to initiate him in sanyaas. It was on the banks of river Narmada that he was initiated into the fold of sanyasis and was conferred the name of Swami Dayanand. From there he travelled towards North – he traversed from the Gangetic plains to the snow clad Himalayan mountains, through the dense forests into the deep ravines. His search for a true guru was leading him nowhere. At one stage, in desperation he even thought of putting and end to his life. But his inner voice – the voice of conscience stopped him from taking such a drastic step. He realized that suicide is escapism from reality, an act of cowardice and definitely not a solution to his problem. He returned to the plains and continued his quest of a guru. His effort was at last rewarded. Swami Virjanand was a scholar of great repute. His name and fame magnetically drew Dayanand towards him. He went to meet the great scholar in Mathura. He knocked at the door of Swami Virjanand. “Who are you?” a voice came from within. “To know who I really am, I have come here”, answered Dayanand. Swami Virjanand realised that a ‘jigyasu shishya’, a student who wants to acquire ‘Brahmagyan’, or the knowledge of Self and the Supreme God, had at last arrived. The blind Swami asked him about the texts that he had so far studied. Dayanand humbly enumerated the subjects he had mastered and the texts that he had perused. Swami Virjanand asked him to throw all the books he possessed into the Yamuna river and erase from his mind all that he had learnt so far. It was like testing the metal of which Dayanand was made. The amount of sacrifice that it required can be gauged by the fact that printed books were not easily available in those days. Besides this, these text books were his valuable possessions. They were like the master key which unlocked the doors of knowledge, but unconditional submission to the guru was the criteria of his earnestness. With unquestioning faith in the sagacity of his guru, Dayanand executed his guru’s orders, came back to him empty handed and in right earnestness, began to learn at the feet of his long sought guru. He was 36 years old at that time.
Soon a rapport was established between the guru and the shishya. Like a true guru, Swami Virjanand imparted unto Dayanand, the knowledge he had acquired after years of self-discipline. He unfolded the secret of the Vedas to Dayanand who absorbed it in totality and grasped it avidly. The formal education in the guru’s ashram was complete. The time to take leave of the guru arrived. As per the ancient Indian tradition and customs, guru dakshina or offering to the guru was to be made before his departure. Penniless as he was, Dayanand could ill afford to buy any gift for the guru. He borrowed a few pods of cloves and offered this as guru dakshina. Swami Virjanand said, ‘Dayanand, I do not want this guru dakshina from you” Dayanand replied humbly, ‘Gurudev, my life is at your service. If need be, I am prepared to sacrifice my life at your feet”. The guru was pleased. He said “Dayanand, the darkness of ignorance has engulfed this country of ours, where in ancient times, Vedic knowledge enlightened the minds of the people. This holy land of Bharatvarsha was the ‘jagatguru’ or the teacher of the world. Today it has become reduced to such a humiliating status that the people of this country are illiterate, uneducated, superstitious and are groping in darkness. Go Dayanand, dispel the clouds of ignorance and spread the message of the Vedas. Our people are bound by the fetters of superstitions, and social evils. You endeavour in setting them free from the shackles of ignorance will be my ‘gurudakshina’. Dayanand respectfully touched the feet of his guru and promised to fulfill his wishes and set out to propagate the teachings and message of the Vedas.
The Ideologies of Swami Dayanand Saraswati
Swami Dayanand did not propound a new religion. He tried to revive the Satya Sanatan Vedic Dharma. He raised a slogan ‘Back to Vedas’, for, to him the sacred scripture was the sole repository of undistorted Truth and revelation of Divine wisdom and knowledge. Therefore, his mission was to restore Vedas to their original, resplendid purity and glory – the state in which they were revealed to the ‘mantra drishta rishis’ in the beginning of Creation. With the passage of time, the original purity of the Vedas was defiled by distorted interpretation of the mantras. This distortion was wrought by a certain class of so called scholars, who, taking advantage of the ignorance of the masses, interpreted the mantras to suit their selfish interest. Consequently, several un-Vedic rituals, neither pertaining to the Holy Scriptures nor having Vedic sanctity crept into the society leading to superstitions and blind faith. Swami Dayanand launched a crusade against these unholy rituals.
The wandering sanyasi expended his time and energy in preparing ground for the creation of an enlightened society. He argued, debated, lectured, sermoned and preached. He bore the brunt of staunch opposition from different quarters; but magnanimous as he was, he did not retaliate with impugnant animosity. His success in public debate or Shastrath was attributed to the source of Divine knowledge – the Vedas, which not only strengthened his arguments but also presented before the people the established, authentic facts. He believed that Vedas were Divine Knowledge and their authenticity and divinity was unquestionable, and that Vedas were the root of all religions – ‘Vedo akhilo dharma moolam’. His firm belief in the divinity of Vedas and Vedic Dharma did not prejudice his mind nor did it constrict his outlook. Pointing out anomalies in the various religious texts was like clearing the unwanted growth of weeds from the lush garden. He did not bear malice towards people who followed different faiths. In fact, they admired him, revered him because his heart was as clear as crystal – unstained and pure. This spontaneous admiration and reverence was for a man who could not be deterred from speaking the Truth, nothing but unalloyed Truth. Among his admirers were Muslims and Christians. Sir Sayyad Ahmed Khan was an ardent admirer of Swamiji. He never missed an opportunity of meeting Swamiji daily whenever Swamiji happened to visit his town. Similarly Rev.Scott of Bareilly had great regard for Swami Dayanand, and Swamiji affectionately called him Bhakta Scott. In Lahore, Swamiji enjoyed the hospitality of a Muslim physician Rahim Khan, who allowed him to live in his bungalow during his stay in Lahore, to organize congregations and address gatherings there.
The society Swami Dayanand faced was plagued with social evils. The root cause of these evils was ignorance. The illiterate and ignorant masses became an easy prey to the guiles of the so-called pundits, who taking advantage of their ignorance, elevated their own position in society by creating an aura of godliness around themselves. Their word was law for the masses. Their verdict was unquestionable and indisputable. They strengthened their hold over the people by rigidly enforcing varnashram or divisions of society into four distinct castes – the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras. Among these four classes only the Brahmins had the right to study Vedas. They were indispensable in conducting the religious rituals and performing the various samskaras. The Shudras were at the lowest rung of the four tier caste system. They were considered as outcastes, untouchables and were looked down upon as filth by the other three castes. They had to make way for the Brahmin to pass. If by chance their shadow fell on a Brahmin, he would take a dip in the tank or river to cleanse himself of its unholy effect. They were not allowed to fill water from the well in the village. They were forced to do all the menial work which others refrained from doing. The doors of the temple were closed for them. They were debarred from learning. ‘Stri Shudro nadhiyataam iti Shruti’ – women and shudras have no right to read Vedas, so decreed the Brahmin pundits. They perpetrated division of society and strengthened the caste system. Swami Dayanand raised his voice against this social evil. He quoted from the Vedas to prove that the Scripture did not permit or sanctify the traditional caste system. He stressed that caste of man was not determined by birth but by his ‘guna’, ‘karma’ and ‘swabhava’ – qualities deeds and inherent nature :
Na jatya brahmanshchatra, kshatriya vaishya eva na
Na shudro na cha vai mlecho, bhedita guna karmabhi’
By birth nobody is Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra or Mlecha. The division is in accordance to their guna karma – qualities and deeds. A Brahmin is one who is engaged in literary persuits, a Kshatriya is one who protects and fights for his motherland, a Vaishya is one who is involved in trade and business, a Shudra is one who is not capable of doing any of the above mentioned three categories of work and who can only serve. If a child born in Shudra family outshines in literary pursuits and is inclined inherently towards learning and teaching, he has every right to be called a Brahmin. Swami Dayanand’s endeavour in demolishing caste barriers provoked the Brahmins who unsparingly leashed abusive pellets at him. This did not deter Swamiji from carrying on his propaganda against prevailing rigid caste system. He practiced what he preached. One day a barber brought food for Swamiji. A Brahmin who was present there remarked, ‘Swamiji, why are you eating this Barber’s bread?’ Swamiji replied, ‘It is not the barber’s bread, it is wheat bread’ and much to the delight of the barber Swamiji ate the food brought by him.
Swami Dayanand propagated Monotheism – worship of one God. To substantiate his contention that God is one, he quoted from the Vedas – ‘Eko devah sarvabhuteshu gudhah sarvavyapi, sarvabhutantaratma’ – God is only one. He is Omnipresent and exists in the entire Creation.
‘Ekam sadvipra bahudha vadanti’ – God is one but the learned scholars call him by different names. These names are attributative and functional qualities of God.
na navamo dashamo napyuchayte, sa eka eva ekavrudeva eva'(Atharva Veda)
He cannot be eighth, nineth or even tenth. He is only one and one alone.
Swami Dayanand’s propagation of Monotheism was lauded and appreciated by the intelligentia and derided by pundits whose livelihood depended upon following and perpetrating intricate patterns of rituals. They cursed and abused him, stoned him, attacked him, humiliated him but Swamiji did not pay them back in their own coin; instead, he forgave them, for he knew they did not know what they were doing. Swamiji was once camping on the banks of a river. Several people assembled to listen to his discourses. A sadhu (ascetic) camping nearby witnessed this spectacle everyday. He was not only angry with Swamiji but was also jealous of his popularity. He hurled abuses at Swamiji whenever he saw him. His abuses did not affect Swamiji in any way. One day and admirer of Swamiji brought a basket full of fruits as a token of regard for him. Swamiji asked one of his followers to take the basket and offer the fruits to the Sadhu who hurled abuses at him every morning. The follower carried out the instructions. Offering the basket of fruits to the Sadhu he said “Swami Dayanand has sent this basket of fruits for you”. The Sadhu could not believe his ears. He said “You are mistaken. The fruits must have been sent for someone else. How can Dayanand send fruits for me who openly abuses him?” He asked the man to go away. The man returned after a while with the same basket and said politely, “Sir, Swami Dayanand told me ‘offer these fruits to the mahatma who lives in the hut yonder’. I am not mistaken. Please accept these fruits.” Tears swelled in the eyes of the Sadhu. He at once went to Swamiji, fell at his feet and begging his forgiveness said “Dayanand, you are a true sanyasi who is unaffected by praise or rebukes. I bow before you”. Swamiji’s tolerance and patience had totally transformed the heart of the malicious sadhu which only strengthened Swamiji’s conviction that no man is beyond redemption.
Swami Dayanandn’s faith in the divinity of human Soul was unflinching. Many a time he was successful in bringing about a revolutionary change in persons who had degraded themselves to such an extent that it appeared that there was no way out for their upliftment and salvation. A famed musician named Amichand regularly attended the meetings addressed by Swamiji and sang devotional songs or bhajans with religious fervour. His voice was rich, his bhajans captivating but private life presented a tarnished image which lowered him in the eyes of the public. Many people complained to Swamiji that such a degenerated man should not be allowed to sing bhajans at his meetings, but Swamiji maintained discreet silence. One evening, after the congregational meeting was over, the crowd dispersed as usual. Amichand also got up to take leave of the Swami. Addressing him politely Swamiji said, ‘Amichand, you are a diamond but you are lying in slush’. This sentence had a magical effect on Amichand. It brought about a total transformation in his life. From then onwards he disassociated himself from the evils which had blemished his character and he lead a pious life.
Fight Against Social Evils
Swamiji was fully aware of the stark poverty that gripped his motherland. The fabulously rich land of Aryavrata, where proverbially rivers of milk and ghee flowed in abundance was haunted by the ghost of penury and hunger. Fleeced of its past glory the land of riches was reduced to a state of want and misery. Swamiji’s heart bled at the sight of the suffering humanity. During the course of his brief halt at Ferozpur, he witnessed a ghastly scene which moved him to tears. An ill-clad mother, carrying her dead child in her arms, stood on the banks of river. She removed the piece of cloth in which she had wrapped her dead child and lowered its naked body to its watery grave. Out of curiosity, Swamiji asked her why she had denuded the body of her dead child. Bemoaning she replied, ‘My child is dead Swamiji. It will not matter if he is denuded or clothed. I am still alive. I have to protect my modesty and I have only this piece of cloth which will save me from becoming a nude spectacle’. The death of Swamiji’s dear sister and respected uncle, though shocking and painful, could not jerk a tear from his eyes but the stark poverty of this sister moved him to tears and he sobbed without restraint.
Swamiji emancipated the condition of women in India. The social structure prevailing in the nineteenth century had reduced the status of woman to that of a slave. She was confined within the four walls of the house, she was deprived of her rights, she was not permitted to enter the portals of educational institutions, she was expected to submit to the whims and fancies of man and suffer in silence, she was subjugated to male dominance and had no right to express her opinion on matters of importance either in the family or in society. Men controlled her life and destiny. He could practice polygamy whereas a widow was not allowed to remarry. Child marriages were in vogue. It was considered a sacred duty of parents to marry their daughters before they reached the age of puberty. This practice having gained religious sanction was rigidly enforced. The trail of woeful misery it entailed was totally overlooked. The rate of child mortality being high during this period, several girls became widows before reaching adolescence and what was worse, they were forced to languish by social inhibitions and superimposed restrictions of society. On the other hand, man was not bound by these restrictions. Even old men had the liberty to marry young girls. Sati system was also prevalent whereby a woman was forced to burn herself in the funeral pyre along with the body of her dead husband. Swami Dayanand denounced these evil practices and customs. He championed the cause of women’s education. Only educated women could help in building up of an enlightened society, he said. He gave example of Gargi, Maitreyi, Anusuya and a host of other women scholars, who like their male counterparts were respected for their learning. His words inspired the educated classes and they came forward to establish schools for girls. A chain of D.A.V schools for girls were started in North India. Education brought enlightenment and awakening among women. They raised their voice against injustice and fought for their rights. Their social status improved. They began to enjoy equal rights with men. They entered the realms which were once considered the fortified stronghold of men. Today they hold important posts and portfolios in various sectors of education, administration and varied occupations. They have become self-supporting and have acquired a place of respectability in society. Women of not only India but of the entire world owe gratitude to Swamiji for their deliverance.
Patriotism-Swami Dayanand was a great patriot in the true sense of the term. It was his cherished dream to see his motherland free from the fetters of bondage. He was fully aware that this dream could not materialise until there was a spirit of political consciousness among the masses backed by a strong feeling of patriotism. Ages of slavery had benumbed their senses and the spirit of patriotism, like ember in a heap of ashes, lay buried deep in their hearts. What was required was to rake the heap of ashes, to fan the ember and the flame would once again leap and soar towards the sky thereby urging and goading the half dead nation to arise, fight and overthrow the mantle of foreign dominance. He took the initiative and ignited the spark of patriotism in the hearts of his countrymen. He gave the watchword ‘Swaraj’ to the people. The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 AD. Two years after his death. Lokmanya Tilak entered the political field much later in 1907 A.D. and raised the slogan ‘Freedom is my birthright’. Freedom meant becoming politically free. The goal was ‘Swaraj’. This watchword was incorporated in the programme of the Indian National Congress. Swami Dayanand had long back mentioned ‘Swaraj’ in his book ‘Satyarthprakash’. Lokmanya Tilak had accepted Swami Dayanand as his political guru or mentor and inspired by his views had declared that the attainment of Swaraj was the aim of his life. He hailed Swamiji as ‘the first messenger of Independence’. Annie Besant considered him to be ‘the first heralder of Independence for the Indians’. Glowing tributes were paid to Swamiji for his role in inspiring his countrymen to fight for independence.
In Calcutta, Swamiji was invited by the British Collector for an open discussion on political developments in India. He had great regard for Swamiji. In the course of discussion, he suggested that Swamiji should not be so ruthless and harsh in denouncing British regime which had done so much for the betterment of Indians. Swamiji fearlessly replied, “The bad administration by one’s own people is any day better than the good rule by foreigners, for in freedom people can raise their heads in self-respect and not be looked down upon as slaves”. For Swamiji freedom was more precious than all the comforts and benefits provided by foreign rulers.
Swamiji’s patriotism was unparallel. He was not a bigot. Although he was against British rule in India, he did not bear malice towards the British who had established themselves as rulers of this country. For him the entire human race was a large family, a composite unit. The world was a superb creation of God. The Creator was the Father – ‘sa nah pita’ and all human beings were His children. The mission of Swamiji’s life was to redeem the human race in its entirety. Therefore, he often quoted from the Vedas ‘Krunavanto vishwamaryam’ – make the entire universe Aryas. Arya is not a religion, caste, creed or community. Arya means ‘shreshtha’ – virtuous or noble. Whosoever is noble and elevates himself mentally and spiritually is an ‘Arya’. He believed that only the Aryas can help in uplifting the down-trodden, guiding the ignorant, serving the needy and bringing about a radical change in society for the better. Swamiji was in despair to see the potential strength of the Aryas lying dormant, untapped and unutilized. It had lost its vigour and had waned into insignificance because it was scattered and disintegrated. To organize the Aryas into a consolidated body, it was imperative to form a society which would work with a missionary zeal for the amelioration and upliftment of human race. With this aim the ARYA SAMAJ was established in 1875 A.D. in Mumbai. It was a democratic body. It formulated a constitution based on democratic principles or tenets which provided the guidelines for those who became the members of ARYA SAMAJ. The seed was sown. With passage of time it sprouted and grew into a blossoming tree with its branches spread throughout the world. ‘ARYA SAMAJ’ is perhaps the greatest and the most valuable gift of Swami Dayanand to the world.
‘Satyarth Prakash’ or ‘Light of Truth’
It is divided into fourteen sections. In the preamble Swamiji clearly stated that his main aim in writing this book is exposition of truth and true interpretation. Truth is truth and it cannot be diluted or misinterpreted. There is nothing written in this book with the aim of hurting anybody or harming them. The main purport of this book is for progress and benefit of human race; people may discern truth and untruth, accept truth and discard untruth for there is no other way for the progress of human race without true precept. Satyarthprakash has enlightened the minds of innumerable people. It is a perfect guideline for the creation of a perfect society, state, and human race.
Swamiji’s life was not a bed of roses. He had to face opposition at every step. His revolutionary ideas were unacceptable to the orthodox pundits, who saw in his popularity a threat to their very existence. They could not defeat him in ‘Shastrarth’ or open debates. They conspired to malign his untarnished character by deputing a woman of low morals to seduce him. The aura of ‘Brahmacharya’ or celibacy which radiated from his face so much awed the woman that she fell at his feet and shed tears of repentance, thereby cleansing her soul. Several attempts were made on Swamiji’s life. In Anoopshahr, he was offered a betel leaf containing poison. Swamiji soon realised that a foul trick had been played upon him and that he had been poisoned. He went to the nearby river and by a yogic exercise, removed the poison from his system before it could prove fatal. The Muslim Tahsildar arrested the culprit and brought him chained before Swamiji so that Swamiji may decide what punishment may be meted out to the offender; but Swamiji magnanimously said, ‘Set him free. I have come to free the people, not to bind them in fetters’.
The iron like physique of Swamiji was built up by ‘brahamcharya’ and regular practice of yogic exercises. The vagaries of seasons did not have any effect on his body. In winter season when people shivered in cold despite wearing woollens, Swamiji could demonstrate the power of yoga to a British Officer by ejecting sweat from the pores of his body. He was a yogi or an ascetic but he had the strength to hold back a chariot driven by four horses with his one hand. He could break heavy sword into two pieces as easily as one would break a twig. This strong body of Swamiji could withstand alien elements administered to him in the form of poison sixteen times. Every time he succeeded in neutralizing its effect by ‘neti kriya’. The seventeenth dose proved fatal. Swamiji had come to Udaipur. This visit was part of his mission to motivate Rajput rulers to unite themselves into a powerful force so that they may collectively oust the British from India. He also gave sermons and addressed large gatherings. The Rana was so greatly impressed by Swamiji that he became his ardent follower. He requested Swamiji to grace the Court by his presence and to deliver sermons there also. Swamiji enjoyed the distinct honour of free access to Rana’s Court. During one of his visits to the royal Court he was stupefied to see the Rajput King lending a shoulder to the palanquin of the court dancer Nanhijan. His blood boiled to see the Rajput valour prostrate at the feet of a prostitute. He chided the Rana in the presence of Nanhijan. The Rana bent his head in shame but Nanhijan was incensed by this humiliation in public. She felt insulted and decided to take revenge. She manipulated and manoeuvered and succeeded in bribing Swamiji’s cook Jagannath. He mixed finely powdered glass pieces in the milk and offered it to Swamiji. Unaware of the conspiracy hatched with the intention of annihilating him, he drank the milk. Soon he realised that once again he had been poisoned, but then it was too late to remove it from his body. It flowed in his blood stream. He realised that chances of his survival are remote this time. He beckoned Jagannath to his bedside and asked him what he had mixed in the milk. The guilty soul of Jagannath recoiled at his own guilt. He began to tremble. Swamiji did not rebuke him nor did he accuse him, but instead, handing over the money that he had with him to Jagannath, simply said, ‘You have not done a good deed Jagnnath. I had still a lot of work to do. Any way, you leave this place at once and flee to Nepal. If the Rana comes to know that you have poisoned me, he will not spare your life’. A true saint as he was, Swamiji pardoned the man who was instrumental in bringing about the end of his life.
The news of Swamiji’ sickness spread like a wildfire. The Rana did his best to save Swamiji’s life. The best doctors were engaged to treat the ailing Swami but instead of responding to treatment, his condition steadily deteriorated day by day. He was shifted to Ajmer. His health began to fail. Blood oozed from the wounds caused by the glass powder. He bore the physical suffering in silence and with patience. His face did not betray his agony. He was calm and peaceful.
On 30th October 1883 he had the premonition that time had come when his soul would sever its relation with his body. He requested that the doors and windows of the room be opened wide. He chanted the Gayatri Mantra, prayed to God, saying ‘Thy will be done’, breathed his last. It was the day of Deepavali – ‘festival of lamps’ – an occasion for celebration of festivities and merriment. The entire city was illuminated by lamps. The light of life that permeated the body of Swami Dayanand had extinguished.
The Vedas say ‘Agnimagni samidhayate’ – fire kindles the fire. One lighted lamp has the potency to light innumerable unlit lamps. The lamp of life that glowed in the body of Swami Dayanand blew out, but before becoming extinct, it lit the lamps of countless souls. The trail of light left behind him glows lustrously even to this day and will continue to shine eternity. The great Swami died, yet he lives through his books, through the saga of his life and above all through till the ‘Arya Samaj’ – an institution which he established for the deliverance of mankind.
Rishi Dayananda Rejuvenates the Vedic Sanskaar Plan
In an effort to lay bases to spiritually rehabilitate people worldwide, and energize them to reach out to the level of India’s Golden Age again, Rishi Dayananda sought to bring back into popular practice the Karmakaand traditions of Yajña and Sanskaar. Toward this end, Rishi Dayananda wrote a text called the Sanskaar Vidhi which aimed at explaining the performance of Yajñas and Sanskaars. In his Satyaarth Prakaash, he had described the historical, doctrinal and ethical aspects of Vedic Life. This text embodied the sum-total of his message of reform that was meant to lead Hindus to a higher standard of life experience. What was needed now, he felt, was a complement to this text on doctrines, a practical manual that could have provided Hindus concrete directions to guide them onwards in a life aimed at regeneration and to show them how to worship and pray.
Purpose And Influence Behind The Satyarth Prakash
Conditions of human society prevalent in his time caused Dayananda to react with alarm. Dilating on the causes of India being enslaved for centuries, he bemoans thus:
- “The causes of foreign rule in India are due to mutual feuds, differences in religion, want of purity in life, lack of education, practice of child marriages and forced marriages, licentious indulgence in carnal gratification, untruthfulness and other evil habits, the neglect of the study of the Vedas and other malpractices.; It is only when brothers fight among themselves that an outsider poses as an arbiter.”
Having thus diagnosed the cause for India’s virtual collapse, the Rishi set about preparing to administer the antidote. He toured the whole country preaching and teaching with an aim to ending feuds among scholars and narrowing down major differences among religions and their tenets. On a suggestion from his followers that his ideas be recorded for permanence, the Swami set about dictating to his appointed scribes with the express aim of presenting a text that would spell out his principal doctrines in clear terms. This text he chose to call by the name SATYARTH PRAKASH (literally meaning an exposition of the true sense or an exposition of the meaning of Truth). The name is significant in that it brings to light the motivating thoughts uppermost in the Swami’s mind while he was involved in his missionary crusade. In the Introduction to his second Satyarth Prakash, he himself writes:
- “My chief aim in writing this book is to unfold Truth. I have expounded Truth as Truth and ignorance as ignorance. The exposition of ignorance in the place of Truth, and Truth in the place of ignorance does not constitute Truth”.
From this statement, it can be seen that Rishi Dayananda was very much preoccupied with the whole question of Truth, the acceptance of which by scholars “will work greatly to the advantage of the world, for it cannot be denied that differences among the learned create bad blood among the ignorant masses.” It is even recorded in the Swami’s biography that, for greater amity and unity among scholars, he had organized a conference on the occasion of Lord Lytton’s great Durbar at Delhi, in which he had invited leading scholars of the various religious creeds, and had hoped that religious ill-feeling might have ceased among the ordinary masses. And ever so often in the Satyarth Prakash itself, the Swami attempts to put over to the reader that “no one should take offence at my comments; for in offering them, I have been actuated solely by the desire of ascertaining what is true and what is false, and not by malice or desire of injuring susceptibilities.”
While attempting to put forth canons of Truth, as he conceived of them, in the Satyarth Prakash, he does not fail to admit the presence of many learned men in other religions, but these, he complains, “fail to initiate in themselves a spirit of inquiry and true love for wisdom,” without which “it is impossible to arrive at any conclusion as to the correctness of any belief”. The Swami had tremendous faith in the comparative study of religions as a means whereby the people could discriminate between right and wrong. With a view to initiating such a study, he uses his Satyarth Prakash to challenge leaders of other faiths to examine their own creeds, and to lift up their pen in their own defense.
In the nineteenth century, debating was a common means adopted to analyze different topics. The Swami urged the use of such means as they will certainly augment knowledge among men, thereby enabling them to embrace Truth and practice virtue and shun ignorance and vice. The critical approach he adopts in his Satyarth Prakash, the Swami admits, “will be like poison to begin with, but will certainly produce a nectareal effect in the end, because the whole human race, after ascertaining the essence and form of Truth, will be ultimately united under the banner of one universal religion.” He foresees many obstacles in this herculean task, because many people, “through bigotry and prejudice, will deliberately misconstrue the intentions of the author of the text.” The Swami, however, expresses confidence in the better judgment of the masses by “placing this work before all men in the hope that they will embrace Truth and make my labor fruitful”. As a token of his humility, he assures his readers that “all errors and omissions, typographical or otherwise, on being pointed out, will be rectified”, but in the same breath warns those who may contemplate taking undue advantage of this token that “no heed will be paid to anything said or written though prejudice, with the object of unnecessarily criticizing this book.”