An Introduction and Doctrines of the Arya Samaj
Background – Around the time of the foundation of Arya Samaj in 1875, social ills such as child marriage, the condition of women, and division of society based on caste and needless rituals were extremely prevalent. Vedas and their teaching which are and should have been the basis of all facets of life had all but disappeared from society. Swami Dayananda, who renounced the world at the age of twenty-two and realized God through meditation. When he saw such a pitiable condition of his country during his visits, he relinquished the blissful experience of meditation and liberation and devoted himself in eradicating the evils from the country. It was Swami Dayananda who first gave the slogan of freedom. It was he, who taught people to feel proud of India’s glorious past. He launched the purification movement to bring the departed Hindus to their original fold. He embraced the so-called untouchables. He protested against child marriage: introduced the system of a widow – marriage; revived the true, eternal Vedic religion. He founded the Arya Samaj so that the yajña of human welfare may continue forever.
Foundation of Arya Samaj – According to North Indian time calculation Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj in Mumbai on April 7, 1875 accordingly Pratipadaa i.e. 1st day of the bright half of Chaitra Month Wednesday in the VIKRAM Era 1932. Initially, 28 rules were formulated. On June 24, 1877, while starting the 2nd Arya Samaj in Lahore, these rules were reduced the rules to 10, which are the rules of Arya Samaj today. Other 18 were labelled as sub rules.
Meaning of the Arya Samaj – The meaning of the word ‘ Arya ‘ means noble and the Samaj means the group of persons or society. Thus the word ‘ Arya Samaj means the ‘ group of noble persons or a noble society. People of any country or class can be called Arya (noble). The word Arya does not indicate any caste, species or the inhabitants of any particular country.
Goal of the Arya Samaj – Welfare of society by physical, spiritual and social upliftment.
Basic concepts of the Arya Samaj
The Principles of the Arya Samaj can be stated just in one sentence, i.e., whatever is written in the Vedas is the principle of the Arya Samaj. But, unfortunately, even the learned scholars of Sanskrit do not know the Vedas, what to speak of a common man! This does not suffice to say. Therefore, I am narrating here some principles of the Vedas so that even a lay man could make his firm opinion about the Vaidika Dharma and the Arya Samaj.
- Traitavāda. According to this, there are three eternal entities, viz, the God, the Soul and the Nature. They are never born nor do they die.
- The God – God is Existent, Conscious, and Blissful. He is one, not many. He is without a form, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Justice doing. He is pervaded in every particle. His proto-type cannot be made. He does not incarnate. He gives fruits to the individuals according to their deeds. He creates, protects and destroys the universe. He has unrestrained power. He is the substratum of all, without any transformation, without decay, immortal, fearless, eternal and pure.
- The Jiva – Individual Soul jiva is eternal. It is never born nor does it die. It is conscious, innumerable in number. It has a little knowledge and power. It adopts body. It is free to act but is dependent in its reward.
- The Prakrti (Nature) –The equanimous condition of sattva, rajas and tamas is called the Nature. It is eternal and unconscious. It remains in this condition at the time of absolute dissolution. After this, when it is activated by the observational power of God, then the gross creation takes place.
Scriptures: The Arya Samaj considers the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Sāmaveda and Atharvaveda as the creation of God, self-testimony and the books of true knowledge. At the time of creation, the knowledge i.e. Veda – was revealed to the sages named as Agni, Vayu, Adityā and Angirā. Of all the ancient literature now existent in the world, the Vedas are the oldest. Apart from the Vedas, the Arya Samaj considers the following literature also as authentic as far as it follows the Vedas. But these books, come in the category of testimony on the basis of others. These are – the branches of the Vedas i.e. Upaveda, Vedāngas, Upānga, Brāhmaṇas, Prātiśākhyas, Āranyakas, Upanisad, Smrtis, Sūtras, Rāmāyana, Gita etc.
liberation and bondage. Liberation is the name given to the condition when one is freed from all kinds of miseries and bondages. To remain trapped into miseries is bondage.
Punarjanma or Re birth, i.e., the cycle of birth and death. When the individual soul (jiva) relinquishes one body and adopts another, it is called as āvāgamana i.e. the cycle of coming and going. Jiva is neither born nor is dead. It only changes its body depending on its deeds. As a result of good deeds it acquires the body of human being and as a result of bad deeds it acquires the body of animals, birds, insects, mosses etc.
Varna Vyavastha and the stages of life or Āśramas. The Varnas are classified on the basis of the individual qualities and deeds in order to ensure livelihood to everybody according to his talents, so that the society may progress well in a systematised way. This classification is perfectly scientific. The four Varnas are – Brähmana Ksatriya, Vaiſya and Südra. These are based on the avocation and not on the birth. The Varna is changed with the change of the profession. Similarly, there are four aśramas. The life – span of a man is divided into four parts, i.e., Brahmacarya, Grhastha, Vänaprastha and Samnyāsa.
Samskāras or sacraments – The Samskāra purifies the body, mind and the soul. The Arya Samaj accepts sixteen Samskāras three before the birth, viz. (1) Garbhādhāna (2) Pumsavana and (3) Simantonnayana. Six are during the childhood, viz.- (1) Jātakarma (2) Nāmakarana (3) Niskramana (4) Anna – Prāśana (5) Mundana and (6) Karnavedha. Two sarskāras are at the time of the beginning of education- (1) Upanayana and (2) Vedārambha. Two samskäras are at the time of formally concluding the ucation, viz- (1) Samăvartana and (2) Marriage. Three Samskaras are in the later half of life- (1) Vānaprastha, (2) Samnayāsa and (3) Antyești (funeral rites)
7. Yajña (duties) is a system. It is of three kinds:
Naityika Yajña(daily)- These are obligatory and are performed every day. These are – brahmayajña (Sandhyā), devayajña (agnihotra), pitryajña, balivaiśvadeva yajña and atithi yajña. Every household should compulsorily do them.
Naimittika Yajña (special occasion)- The Yajñas performed to avert the natural calamities such as excess of rain and drought etc.
Kāmya Yajña (for a specific mission or desire) The Yajña performed for the fulfilment of certain desires, such as putresti Yajña (the yajña done to get the son).
Law of action or Karma. No man can live even for a moment without doing work. Every individual is free in the domain of the work, but the ultimate reward depends on the work done. The good deeds will result into pleasure and the bad deeds into misery. The acts committed are bound to bring their results and there is no excuse in any case.
Food, what is worthy of eating and what is not worthy of eating, i.e., what should be eaten and what should not be. The Arya Samaj advocates that only the sātvika food should be eaten and not the tāmasika.
Equality in society: The Arya Samaj treats every human being as equal without discrimination as high or low; touchable or untouchable.
What happens after death or the concept of Hell and Heaven: There are no places on the earth called Hell and Heaven. To live in happiness after achieving all means of pleasure is called Heaven and to live in sorrows, and miseries of life is called Hell.
Views of Dr. Andrew Jackson Davis, an American Philosopher on the Arya Samaj and its Founder – He described Swami ji and the Arya Samaj movement as a fire, that was spreading all around a fire, that was universal; the fire of infinite love, meant to destroy all hate, and purify life, not only in India, but the whole world. He believed that this fire of love and respect for all will be larger than any empire. He expressed that this will bring love and respect in the society. He expressed that with this movement the Hindus and Muslims and other religions will come together.