Swami Dayanand Saraswati, one of the greatest leaders ever to emerge from India, founded the Arya Samaj in 1875. The most unique of his many contributions was to make a powerful and original commentary on the Vedas, which exposed serious errors in previous translations and interpretations of its Sanskrit texts. The Arya Samaj (movement) was begun to revive the study of the Vedas and to worship one God. Dayanand defined Aryas as â€˜those who are true in word, deed and thought, promote public good and are learned.â€™
In that it upholds the primacy of the Vedas as its only authoritative scriptures, the Arya Samaj is related to orthodox Hinduism. In many other ways, however, the Arya Samaj is a revolutionary movement. That there is only one God and one alone (monotheism) is a fundamental doctrine of the Arya Samaj. God is formless; hence you can make no picture, idol or image of him. Thus the Arya Samaj is vehemently against idolatry, statues and the worship of animals (e.g. cows) and humans because God is unchangeable (he cannot incarnate). Therefore Rama, Krishna and all other great prophets were men and not God and should not be worshipped as God.
Truth (truth in the soul, truth in the vision, truth in the intention and truth in the act) and morality (dharma) are the other fundamental bedrocks of Vedic teaching
The Arya Samaj also focuses greatly on the welfare of all humanity through altruism and charity (the Samaj opened the first non-Christian orphanages in India) and by teaching that all should be treated with love, justice and on their merits. Dayanand, therefore, was `hereticalâ€™ in his total rejection of the caste system or any form of discrimination based on social class.
The eighth principle of the Arya Samajâ€™s creed states that â€˜ignorance must be dispelled and knowledge be disseminatedâ€™. With this emphasis on education Dayanand argued passionately that the Vedas do not prohibit education of females (the Arya Samaj was the first to open girlsâ€™ schools in India) and of the â€˜lowerâ€™ castes, but insist on it.
He concluded his best-known book Satyarth Prakash (Light of Truth) by saying that â€˜I do not believe in sectarian wrangling since the clashing between various sectarian creeds has led people astray and turned them into each otherâ€™s enemies. The sole aim of my life is to help put an end to this mutual wrangling by preaching universal truths whereby they may cease to hate each other and instead may firmly love one another, live in peace and work for their common good and happinessâ€¦. I believe in a religion based on universal principles which have always been accepted as true by mankind and will continue to command the allegiance of mankind in the ages to come, and that is above the hostility of all human creeds whatsoever.â€™
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