Teachings of Arya Samaj

Religious Ideals and Aims

The Christianizing of India – at the time of D’s birth, large parts of India were still under Indian govts. British rule was in a fluid state with facilities for education being far and few. Missionary propaganda, however, seems to be in full swing in the towns of Mumbai, Calcutta and Madras. Dr Alexander Duff made up his mind to establish the supremacy of English language over the vernacular as a preliminary to the Christianization of India, and it was Duff’s influence as much as Macaulay’s which enabled the Brit govt to decide that the greatest object of the govt ought to be the promotion of English literature and science. Attempts were made to convert Raja Rammohan Roy. Thus between 1824, the year D was born and 1845, the year of his flight from home, Christian missionaries exercised a great influence on govt policy.

By the time D embarked on his public life, Christianity had made great strides in India.  The country was dotted with Christian schools and colleges. Raja Rammohan Roy believed that in matters spiritual India was superior to the West while Keshub Chander Sen’s development was in a way a confession of Hindu inferiority, which strengthened the hands of the missionaries who were out to discredit Hinduism.

The movement by William Jones affected India in two ways. On one hand, it brought to light the immensity and variety of Indian literature and made known to the Europeans the immortal works on religion, philosophy, math’s etc by the Indians. On the other, it placed a powerful weapon in the hands of the Christian missionary to use against Hinduism and what it stood for. Thus by the time D entered the field India had witnessed an intellectual and moral conquest of the people by Englishmen.

Quoting acknowledged leader of the Samaj, Lala Hansraj “During the palmiest days of Muslim rule, the Hindus never acknowledged themselves beaten by their masters in intellectual and moral progress. The Hindu lost in war but the Muslim had to bear testimony to the learning and saintliness of Hindu devotees.

With the advent of the English things are different. Not a day passes when we are not reminded of our inferiority. The railways, telegraph, factory, complex machine of administration, dramas of Shakespeare, writings of Bacon and courage, patriotism of the Englishmen excite feelings of respect, admiration in our minds. They make us feel conquered and humiliated. Just at this moment of weakness, the missionary comes to us and whispers that the superiority of the Europeans over the Indian is the gift of the Son of God, and that Indians can really become great if they come under his banner.

The missionary criticizes the evils that have of late corrupted our society and proudly points to his community as entirely free from those curses. He shows Christian scriptures to be superior to ours. He is encouraged by the Hindus who send their children to these schools without making any provision for religious training at home, with the result that our boys grow up utterly ignorant of the religious principles of the Shastras. The godless education of these schools and colleges have increased our indifference to religion and we have been so won over to the world that we ready to sacrifice our highest religious interest for the slightest worldly advantage to ourselves. This education has sapped the foundations of faith in God, our boys are taught to despise their own religious books. We are told that the Vedas, which are the basis of our religion and science, embody the childlike utterances of primeval man”.

The Forces against Dayanand may be summed up as follows.
1. The host of Brahmans, learned and unlearned, who had created for themselves a position of Supreme authority in the Hindu hierarchy. They were backed by the caste system, forces of ignorance, custom, prejudice and conservatism.
2. The organized forces of Christianity, supported by all the resources moral, intellectual and political and an inexhaustible supply of men and money. Men who had dedicated their lives to the cause of spreading Christianity to establish a network of philanthropic activity.
3. The analytical tendencies of modern science, which denied God, revelation and religion and established secularism, materialism on the throne formerly occupied by God.
4. The collapse of the prevailing Hindu system of thought, religion and life before 2, 3.
5. The pessimism and inertia which had been engendered by centuries of political and intellectual decline, the apathy and conviction of Hindus towards what was their own and shame and fatalism born of intellectual and moral subjugation, stagnation.
6. The ever-active propaganda of Islam, which registered victories in every nook and corner of the country, almost daily, without Hindus realizing the extent to which it was gaining ground.

D’s Fitness for the Task – All along his life D had studied Hindu religion only but as soon as he undertook the idea of reform of Hindu thought and life, he found that it had rivals in Islam and Christianity. He realized that a movement against reforming Hinduism was not enough unless they could dislodge its opponents from the vantage position they held against it. Assisted by friends he undertook a critical study of these two foreign religions. By this study he was convinced of the superiority of the Vedic religion to the theism of Islam and the dogmatic Christianity. He soon realized that offense is the best form of defence. So Hinduism must establish an era of propaganda and conversion. He understood the need to teach Hindus to take on the criticism of its opponents as well his criticize their opponents i.e. the followers of Islam and Christianity. D’s attitude towards other religions was a result of the times that he lives in.

The AS was accused by the Brits in 1907 of fomenting unrest! The Samaj aimed at radical change in the thoughts and life of people. It aims at the formation of a national character based on Vedic life. It was important for it to arouse dissatisfaction with the existing conditions in Hindu society, to create an urge for a better life. If it meant creating unrest so be it. Looking on Hinduism as the creator of Hindu character says Sister Nivedita “We are no longer oppressed with jealousy or fear when we contemplate enrichments on our social and religious consciousness. Our work is not now to protect ourselves but to convert others. We no longer dream of submission because struggle itself has become only the first step towards a distant victory to be won”.

D’s claims for the Vedas – It is often said that D made an extravagant claim on behalf of the Vedas in striving to show that in them was to be found every scientific truth. It may be said, very briefly however –

1. D does claim and rightly so that in the matters of religion and in the domain of the spirit, the Western mind has not attained the depths commanded by the ancient Hindu mind and in such matters has to learn from the ancient Indian sages.
2. In matters social, Indian solutions arrived at in ancient times are as good, sound, and effective as those offered by modern Western thought.
3. In the domain of philosophy India has nothing to learn from the West.
4. In the realm of physical science, Europeans are ahead of the ancient Indians, though it may be honestly claimed that the superstructure on which the European thought is based was known to the Indians. According to Prof J C Bose, the fact that Hindus were well acquainted with surgery, anatomy and were chemists of no mean ability has been amply proved and ungrudgingly admitted by European scholars.

D wanted the Hindus to have pride in their culture, knowledge, and religion so that they woke up from slumber. D had no objection to their learning the best from the West but with the intent of returning that gratitude with interest. He wanted them to become the teachers of humanity, have self-respect for themselves.

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