Adi Shankracharya and Swami Dayananda

Dr Vivek Arya

Adi Shankracharya and Swami Dayananda are two greatest pillars in the History of our country. The mission of both personalities was the revival of Vedic Dharma. Both were born in Brahmin family and they fought against birth based Caste system. Both shared same childhood name Shankar and Mool Shankar. Both left their home at tender age. Both attained Vairagya at early age and practiced highest order of celibacy in their life. Both fought against the dogmatic practices on name of Religion. Their books are famous as trinity (three books). Adi Shankracharya’s famous works are the commentary of Gita, Brahamsukta and Upanishads. Swami Dayananda’s famous works are Satyarth Prakash, Rigvedadibashya-bhumuka and Sanskar Vidhi.

1. Adi Shankracharya raised his voice against the anti Vedic sects like Buddhism and Jainism while Swami Dayananda faced different ritualistic sects/sub-sects among Hindus along with foreign sects like Islam and Christianity.

2. No doubt that the work of both was difficult and herculean. Adi Shankracharya faced the indigenous sects shaped and fashioned in same workshop of our country. While Swami Dayananda had to contend against both indigenous and alien faiths.

3. Adi Shankracharya needed to counter the arguments of Buddhists on which they rejected the authority of the Vedas. Swami Dayananda apart form the propagation of the Vedas needed to disapprove the claims of any foreign religion along with the different sects and subsets flourishing in the country.

4.The opponents of Adi Shankracharya never looked him with hatred. His all opponents were his own countryman. And it is inherent philosophy of Hinduism to respect even our enemy. Swami Dayananda faced stiff resistance from his countryman as well as the foreign countryman. Dayananda the marathon champion accepted this challenge and neutralized all his opponents. His only supporter was the one and only one almighty God.

5. In case of Adi Shankracharya an extensive knowledge of Hindu metaphysics was altogether necessary to do his work. While in case of Swami Dayananda had to work under entirely different circumstances. He had, unlike Shankracharya, to defend the Vedas not only against the attacks of those who did not admit their authority. He also fought against those who confined them to the unmeaning practices and grand absurd rituals.

6. Adi Shankracharya era was scholarly era of our country. People used to accept the truth by participating in debates or Shastrarth. This was a huge support to Adi Shankracharya. He managed to implement his vision working on the same methodology. He advised Ujjain King Sunadhava to organize his Shastrarth with the Jain Scholars. The rule was defined that the views of the winner would be acceptable to all. Adi Shankracharya won the debate and he thus earned the supporters as well as the royal patronage in form of the King. On the other hand in the age of Swami Dayananda the Vedic glory was almost forgotten. Dense ignorance prevailed for centuries. Swami ji need to do gigantic effort to remind our countryman about the vast knowledge of Vedas. Our tradition of Shastrarth was forgotten. Swami Dayananda did all efforts to revive it. He even involved the King of Kashi in his debate with the learned Pundits of Benaras. But the Kashi King was different from the King of Ujjain. Instead of supporting the truth,the King of Kashi sided with the Benaras Pundits to dampen the voice of Dayananda. But the God believer Dayananda crossed all obstruction and defended one and only one the Truth.

7. The Vedas were regarded and given due respect in the age of Adi Shankracharya. The age of Swami Dayananda was quite different. On one side there were disbelievers of the Vedas while on the other side their was a class of Vedic scholars for whom the Vedas were mere ritualistic texts supporting animal sacrifice, black magic and numerous superstitions. A close analytical study by Swami Dayananda convinced him that our people had completely forgotten the strictly scientific and etymological system of understanding the Vedas. Rishis of the Vedic age formulated the means to understand the Vedas but their directions were neglected. Swami Dayananda commentary on Rigveda and Yajurveda fully testifies the difficulties he had to confront when dealing with these people. One can understand his contribution towards the understanding of the Vedas by thoroughly reading his works.

8. The minds of opponent Pundits in the age of Adi Shankracharya were not so polluted. They were sincere, readily gave-in their support to him at the moment they were proved incorrect. Shankracharya needed to demonstrate their insufficiency and un-tenability of their few opinions. The King as well as the masses followed the Pundits faithfully. Thus, the Shankracharya got early success in his mission of revival of the Hinduism. Swami Dayananda on contrary had to deal with the men of entirely different order. The priestly class of our country was not only ignorant but also lacked knowledge to differentiate between the true and false beliefs. Also the irrational religious practices and ceremonies were their source of income, worldly prosperity, continuation of life and inspiration for their followers. So, they instead of supporting Swami Dayananda opposed him with full force for fulfilling their personal vested interests. They started movement against Swami Dayananda to oppose him up-to any extent. This uphill task already difficult became more difficult due to the wrong attitude by our countrymen. And the foreign based sects added spice to the dish. They also raised their voice in the same tone and frequency against Swami Dayananda. Hindus who had lost the habit of testing the truth long back, instead of learning from Dayananda, preferred to remain blind. They could not respond to the appeal of Swami Dayananada. He offered them a religion which demanded from its votaries the highest exercise of the intellect. The Vedic religion is a religion of reason and no one can fully carry out its behests without intellect. Words of Dayananda fell on the deaf ears of Hindus while in the era of Shankara the knowledge and intellect had not touched so low.

9. Adi Shankracharya was lucky that he did not face Islam and Christianity. Islamic invaders outraged the Hindus and degraded their intellectual status. Islamic faith lowered the educational and mental status of the Hindus. Hindus lost the capability of appreciating the beauty and truth of their ancient Religion. Hindus somehow survived the torture and cruel rule of Islamic invaders by constant opposition and brave attempts of brave hearts like Shiva Ji and Maharana Pratap. But, the rule of Britishers gave it a last blow. Hindus lost the confidence to counter the allegation raised by the Christian missionary on the religious beliefs and the practices of the Hindus. English education immensely accentuated this effect. Young Hindu mind was so influenced that it started thinking that the western culture and beliefs were always superior to those of our country. Swami Dayananda far vision was readily able to diagnose this disease as well as he invented the remedy for this problem. Swami Dayanand through his analytical research and comparative religion study established the superiority of Vedic Philosophy over the foreign ideas. We are amazed to learn his depth of comparative study in the 13th and 14th Chapter of his famous work, Satyarth Prakash. This remedy was like an instant cure to the diseased body of Hinduism.

Thus, the era of both reformers was entirely different. Shankracharya was born in the age when our country was governed by Hindu polity while Dayananda worked in the age of foreign rule. Though by no means inferior to Shankracharya, either in intellect or in the intensiveness and extensiveness of his learning, Swami Dayananda had to fight against more heavier and greater odds. Greater, much greater in proportion, is then his title to the glory he won, and deeper, much deeper the debt of gratitude which we owe him.

I will like to conclude my article with the statement of Madam Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society that-

“It is perfectly certain that India never saw a more learned Sanskrit scholar, a deeper meta physician, a more wonderful orator, and a more fearless denunciator of any evil than Dayanand, since the time of Shankracharya.”

(Note- We have no intention to compare the two great reformers Adi Shankracharya and Swami Dayananda to prove the superiority of anyone. We respect both of them with full sincerity. We only compared the circumstances and challenges faced by the both reformers- Writer)
With inputs from Life and teachings of Swami Dayanand by Bawa Chajju Singh and Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a critical review of his career together with a short life sketch.

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