The word Satyartha Prakash literally means “to shed light on the truth”. Swami Dayananda Saraswati lived from 1824 to 1883. The sole purpose of his life was to find out the truth about life, about God, and about everything else that exists. After studying most, if not all, important writings on Hindu Dharma starting from the Vedas, he put together a treatise to summarize his views based on the truth. Satyartha Prakash has fourteen chapters. The first ten chapters deal with the different subjects in life, and the last four is a critique on what he saw was wrong with the practice of dharma in this age. He had absolutely no intention to criticize anyone or any belief. He just wanted to state the truth, and by doing so, his intent was to improve the lives of people and make this world simply a unified and a better place to live. The first ten chapters deal with the following:
1. Meaning and explanation of Aum and other names Ishwara, the One God of the Universe,
2. Rearing and teaching of children,
3. Formal education and the discipline of Brahmacharya,
4. Marriage and household,
5. Retirement and renunciation, and social service,
6. Socio-economic organization, government, and administration,
7. Ishwara (God), Jivatma (soul), and Revelation (Vedas).,
8. Creation, sustenance and dissolution of this universe,
9. Knowledge and ignorance, freedom and bondage,
10. Ethics of good conduct and humanitarian diet.
The eleventh and twelfth chapters are the critique of the practice of Hindu, Jain, Budh, and Sikh dharma. The thirteenth chapter is the critique of the practice of Christianity, and the fourteenth and final chapter is the critique of the practice of Islam.
The essence of the whole book can be concluded as follows:
1. There are three eternal entities: God, soul, and nature. God is one, ever-present, and unborn. The soul is infinite, eternal, and distinct from God. The nature is true and eternal as well.
2. We humans are the children of the universal God, and are one family. The ultimate source of all knowledge is the Vedas given by God. Any scriptures which confirms with the Vedic philosophies is acceptable, and is called the Aarsha granth (literature), while others are not. The word dharma means to lead your life with honesty and hard work, and follow the eternal laws, and have full faith in the real God.
This chapter deals with the hundred names of God. God has infinite qualities, and is called by so many names. Out of these, one hundred names have been described by Swami Ji with distinct proof, as given in our Aarsha literature.
Om Shamno Mitra Sham Varun Shamno Bhavat Aryama
Sham Nah Indro Brihaspati Shamno Vishnu Rurukrama
Namo Brahmane Namaste Vayo Twameva Pratyaksham Brahamasi
Twameva Pratyaksham Brahama Vadishyami Ritam Vadishyami
Satyam Vadishyami Tanna Maam Avatu Tada Vaktaaram Avatu
Avatu Maam Avatu Vaktaaram,
Om Shaanti, Shaanti, Shaanti Om.
In this mantra, God has been called friend, the creator, the sustainer, the dissolver, the kind, and the just. However, the main name of God is Om as per Kathopanishad. God is just first, and kind later. Actually, his kindness is in being just. God is called Paramaatma because He is the smallest of the smallest, and pervades in all souls. God is called Indra, because he is the lord of power and glory. God is called Manu because he is the source of all knowledge. He is Prajaapati, because he is the sustainer of all. He is Suparna, because he is perfect and is gracious. He is Bhoomi, because He is home to all living beings. He is a friend of all, worthy of love and worship, and is called Mitra. He is called Varun because He is worthy of choice, and He loves all. He is Brahaspati, because he is the greatest of all. He is called Yama because he is just. He is mahadeva, because he is the lord of lords. He is Niragun, because he has some negative features such as lacking a physical form. He is Sagun, because he has some positive qualities. In this way, there are many other names and qualities of God, however it is the same God known by different names , as described in the Rigveda (1, 164, 46): Ekam Sadvipra bahudha vadanti.
This chapter deals with the early education of a child. Sixteen sacraments, or sanskars, have been described, three of them being before the birth, twelve during life, and one after death. Swami Ji has taken pains and meticulously detailed when prospective parents want to have a child, their code of conduct and lifestyle should be of a certain way in order to have a child of the greatest character and physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. This is called the Garbadhaan sanskar. When a woman is in her early pregnancy, attention of parents is drawn towards the physically developing fetus. Again, the emphasis is on the parents’ code of conduct and lifestyle in presence of friends and family, and God’s blessings are invoked. Seemantonayan Sanskara is performed late in the second trimester of pregnancy, and attention is drawn towards the developing brain of the fetus. When the child is born, several different sanskars are performed with the intention of giving the newborn a safe environment for proper development including providing proper nutrition, which changes from milk alone at birth to introduction of solid foods. At some point, when the baby begins to interact, the mother becomes the first teacher of the baby followed by father. This education involves teaching to do certain things, avoid certain things such as genitals, correcting words, speech, manners, habits etc. Children should be clearly instructed to avoid superstitions; especially the astrology and horoscope are to be completely avoided. Swami ji called the horoscope the sorrow scope. Health and moral education should be an integral part of the learning at home.
This chapter deals with the formal education of the child. Swami ji clearly paid a great deal of emphasis on educated both boys and girls. Maharshi Manu clearly states in Manusmriti(7.152) that health, education and protection of the boys and girls is the responsibility of the state. Swami Dayanand stated that the schools for boys and girls should be separate. The idea that shudra and women should not receive education was strongly opposed by swami ji and he quoted Yajurveda(26.2) which says the God had revealed vedas for the humanity at large with no exception. Upanayan sanskar should be performed and initially the Gayatri mantra be taught with it meaning followed by all scriptures in certain order. Simple life with discipline has been emphasized. A child should know what dharma is and should not accept any teaching unless it is backed up by proper proof as per the teaching of Nyaya Sutra. At the end of this education, the student should have clear understanding of the 3 eternal entities, the God, Soul and the nature. This education should end formally with the performance of Graduation ceremony or Samaavartan Sanskar in which the teacher gives clear instructions about the code of conduct and gives the formula of success in life.
This chapter deals with marriage and family life. Emphasis seems to be that marriage should be performed between mature boys and girls with their full consent and consanguineous marriages are to be clearly avoided. Re marriage of widows is encouraged. Emphasis is on the responsibilities of family life rather than lust. Fulfilling the duties by the householder is the way to achieve salvation by most. Yoga and 5 yajna are to be regularly performed by the householder.
It deals with performance of social responsibilities by people when their children are grown up and you have become grandparents. Living in forest as was advocated in ancient times is out of question. The whole society has changed. Now it is practical to minimize interference in the lives of children and spend more times in providing guidance to the society and doing more social work. The level of detachment with finances and family should be gradually increased in later part of life. Yoga should be practiced fully and dharma emphasized in daily living.