Fighting for Truth
D attracted hundreds of Indians during his discourses. Grammar and knowledge were his strong points. He held discussions with the learned of the learned, spoke in Sanskrit only. In the first five years of his mission, he had numerous admirers but few followers and threats to his life by people who were opposed to his teaching i.e. Hindu theologians. His boldness, beliefs, attacks on the popular beliefs and practices, strength of his arguments made people look at him with awe. Orthodox leaders appealed to Kashi, the Rome of Hinduism. Knowing that defeating the pandits of Kashi in a verbal duet would silence his critics, D before the sixth year of his public carrier, reached Kashi and below the shade of a tree began to preach and express his views on religion, philosophy and grammar.
A public discussion was announced. On one side were the la de crème of Kashi in 300 Hindu scholars, on the other was D with a few laymen as supporters. At the end of the discussion both sides claimed victory but what really happened might be gleaned from the account published in a Christian Missionary Journal.
D is well versed in the Vedas except the fourth or Atharva Veda. What distinguishes him from other pandits is that he is an independent student of the Vedas, free from the trammels of traditional interpretation. His Vedic studies led him to believe that almost the whole of modern day Hinduism is in entire and irreconcilable contradiction with the Vedas and the Hinduism of Vedic times, about 2,000 yrs ago. Being an active person he decided to spread the word around, object being to replace Hindu society to a state when none of the eighteen Puranas or the six philosophical systems existed. It was when the Vedas reined Supreme, only one God was adored; only the Vedas were studied and the ceremony of the homa with its elaborate ceremonial was performed by the priests for all.
The disputation at Kashi took place on 17/11/ and lasted from 3 to 7pm. There was interesting series of questions on both sides. Vishudananda, the great Vedantist quoting a Vedanta Sutra from the Sarirakasutras asked D to show that it was found in the Vedas. D said that he did not remember the Vedas by heart and would not need to refer to them. He was taunted by the crowd then. Subsequently, the learned men could not answer a number of questions put forward by D. In response to a question by Madhavcharya, D took two minutes to meditate on an answer during which period his opponents jeered him, walked away. Before the great event multitudes visited him, now it seemed as if he were ex-communicated. Immediate after the disputation D sent a written defense to his opponents but no notice was taken of it. Then an account of his doctrines was printed a month later. This too was ignored. At the same time a public challenge to his opponents was made through pamphlets but silence. The he left Kashi and went to Allahabad.
The doctrines of D may be classified under three heads, the extent of the Hindu canon, the truth of idolatry and the mythology, question of caste connected with these.
1. The writings that D acknowledges as Shashtras are the following 21, 1-4 the Vedas, 5-8 the Upavedas, the six Vedangas, 12 Upanishads, the Sarirakasutras, the Katyayanasutras, the Yogabhashya, the Vakovakya, the Manusmriti and the Mahabharata. Of these the Vedas are acknowledged on the account of their being the utterance of God himself and the others as being directly founded on the Vedas. The six darsanas and the 18 Puranas are rejected by him.
2. D rejects idolatry totally as well as polytheism. There is only one God with all those attributes as ascribed to him by the monotheists. He is the creator first of the Vedas, then of the world, hence the Vedas are eternal as compared with the world but non-eternal as compared to God. The names of God are many, Vishnu, Atma, Agni etc. Though God is distant from the world, D rejects the Vedantic and ordinary Hindu pantheism yet he is also immanent in the world as the principle of its life and existence. As such God is to be viewed as Agni-fire and hence to be worshipped as such. Agni is not God but as being the clearest manifestation of God-Agni, it is the fittest ceremonial means of worshipping God. The worship of God consists of all the following three acts. One is the study of the Vedas with a view to the knowledge of God, two is the observance of moral laws as the will of God, and three is the worship of God through by fire or homa-sacrifice. The observance of these is the means of salvation. He rejects avatars, if they ever took place they were of devtas and not of God.
3. Caste – D considers caste as a political institution made by rulers for the common good of society and not as a natural or religious distinction. The castes are simply different professions or guilds, established by the state for accomplished performance of different tasks. Every one had a core competence which he had to stick to. Since the classification is by the state, a Sudra could move up to a higher caste if he qualifies for the work of the respective class. Conversely a Brahman could become a Vaishya.
From the date of the dispensation i.e. 17/11/ may be reckoned the effective mission of D’s mission for a reformed Hindu church, free from caste, superstition and popular error. From Kashi, D travelled to Calcutta. The Brahmo Samaj extended a cordial welcome and some of its leaders conferred with him with the intention of winning his cooperation in their movement. But there were some fundamental differences. One was the veneration of the cow, two was his faith in the infallibility of the Vedas and the doctrine of transmigration of souls, three was the daily sacrifice of ghee in the fire i.e. havan. D condemned not only Polytheism but also monotheism as practiced by Islam and Christianity. The Brahmo Samaj was based on the rationalistic movement of the West; its appeal was to the English educated classes. His visit brought D in contact with leaders of the English-educated community.
Keshub Chandra Sen, a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, advocated the importance of carrying on his propaganda in a popular language; a practical suggestion that was accepted by D. So far he was communicating in Sanskrit which was not understood by a large variety of people. So D decided to speak in Hindi henceforth. This single step enabled the Arya Samaj movement to grow beyond Punjab unlike the Punjabi sect Sikhism that restricted itself to using Gurumukhi as a medium of communication, thereby limiting its acceptability in the process. After spending two years in the dissemination of his doctrines, D proceeded to Mumbai, where eventually his mission was to take an organized form.