Lala Lajpat Rai.

The Arya Samaj : an account of its origin, doctrines, and activities : with a biographical sketch of the founder online

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distinguished savants as Professors Max Miiller and
Monier Williams, or cast a slur on the world-wide
reputation which they have deservedly won after
years of toil in the sacred field of Sanskrit literature.
European savants . . . have been misled by the
commentaries of native Sanskrit scholars whom they
have closely followed, and it is no fault of theirs if
they have failed in fields where men more favour-
ably situated than themselves had shared the same
fate. . . .

" The Hindu religion, which could well withstand
the steel of Mahomedan bigotry for hundreds of years,
has been brought face to face with European science
and criticism, wielded by the hands of men who are
either indifferent to our interests or interested in
converting us to their faith. Our situation demands
that we brace our nerves to defend our religion,
if we believe it to be true, against the attacks of its
assailants ; but, alas ! we ourselves have' misgivings
in our hearts. The vast and insensate majority of
our conservative countrymen is so much steeped in
idolatry and superstition, that it is well-nigh un-
conscious of its own wretchedness. It is, moreover,
divided into rival sects giving nominal allegiance to
the Vedas but passionately clinging to the various
books composed by their founders for the benefit of
their followers. Whenever any section of the com-
munity has kept itself aloof from contending factions,


it has, with an inconsistency characteristic of our
race, outwardly recognized the sovereignty of all,
but, inwardly ignoring the claims of religion alto-
gether, yielded its heart to none. A few meaningless
ceremonies excepted, there is no common tie that
unites the Hindu masses, no common link that
fastens them to each other, no one principle which all
of them may be moved to defend. As for the people
who call themselves educated, they are beset with
greater difhculties and less provided for against
danger. Education has deprived them of the ignor-
ant pride which, in the case of common people, is the
source of dogged pertinacity and tenacious adherence
to their own views. Light has reached them only to
reveal the hideous situation they are in. The godless
education of our Schools and Colleges has sapped the
foundations of faith in God and His revealed Will ;
our boys are taught to despise their own religious
books and prize those of the foreigner ; above all,
the conviction has been brought home to us by the
writings of European savants that, although we
possess some philosophical works of inestimable
value, our religious books contain a great deal of
rubbish and nonsense along wdth a few gems of truth
that lie embedded in it. We are told that the Vedas,
which are the basis of our religion and science, em-
body the child-like utterances of the primeval man,
that they teach the worship of the elements, and enjoin
the practice of foolish rites that could please children
but are disgusting to civilized man. Some of these
opinions derive countenance even from the opinions
of our priests, the natural guides of our people, who,
devoting themselves exclusively to the study of


works composed in the mythological period, remain
ignorant of the knowledge of Divine Revelation and,
in their zeal to defend the present corruptions of
society, lend a helping hand to the enemies of their
faith. Thus the ancient rehgion of the Hindus,
deserted by those who ought to have proved its best
defenders, seems doomed to destruction by the blows
dealt to it by its young adversaries. It seeks safety
in concealment ; it is afraid to come out and measure
swords with its opponents in the field of debate and
discussion ; it confesses itself humbled and beaten
by its enemies. It seems impossible to defend,
without a blush on the face, the faith of the Rishis
who at one time gave law and learning to the whole
civilized world.''

The speaker then paid a tribute to Raja Ram
Mohan Roy and deplored the fall of the Brahmo
Samaj from its original ideals, and continued :

" Thus the Hindu faith, assailed on all sides by its
vigorous opponents, had put forward one defender,
but he also deserted it in time of need. The faith
of the Rishis was in danger of being swept out of
the land where it had flourished from immemorial
times. Even the Vedas, the expression of the
Divine Will, entrusted to the care of the Brahmins,
were threatened with oblivion. Men had despaired
of finding unity in the chaos of conflicting opinions
which the Hindus erroneously beheved to be their
rehgion, and had given up the task as hopeless.
Everything portended utter confusion and dire
destruction to our faith when Swami Dayananda
Saraswati, the great Seer of the age, appeared among


" I have called Swami Dayananda the great Seer
because, like Rishis of yore, he saw the Truth face
to face. . . . There are some who call Swami
Dayananda an impostor, a liar, a false interpreter
of the Vedas. I do not quarrel with them, because,
in the search after truth, these slanderers have never
wandered in the mazes of Hindu Shastras, never felt
the difhculties that lie in the way of Vedic students,
and never realized the importance of the discovery
made by Swami Dayananda. The great Swami
stands on a pedestal so high that the eyes of those
who look at him from below are dazed, and they
find nothing substantial in his place. ... I
admit that the truth discovered by him is the only
bond which can unite us as a nation and that the
movement inaugurated by him will, like the famous
cow of the Hindu mythology, yield us all that is
desirable in social and religious matters ; but these
collateral benefits should not weigh in our minds
as proofs of the ulterior motives of the Swami.
They are rather an index of the importance of his
discovery and work. The brightness of the truth,
discovered by him, would have been the same
without these additional Hghts. Nor should we
be swayed in our judgment against him by what
has been miscalled the unanimous voice of the
pandits. Had truth been judged by numbers, no
reform would have ever succeeded. Weigh him not by
the votes of those who are the devoted followers of
the mythological school, but by the evidence which
he can bring forward to establish the existence of
the school which he has followed."


2. The Forces against Dayananda {^^^

The forces, then, that Dayananda had to face,
may briefly be summed up as follows :

1. The host of Brahmins, learned and unlearned,
who had established for themselves a supreme
position in the Hindu hierarchy and whose interests
were vitally involved in the proposed reform move-
ment. Their strongest citadel was the established
caste system, and they were backed by all the forces
of ignorance, superstition, prejudice, custom and

2. The organized forces of Christianity, backed
on the one side by all the resources of civilization,
moral, intellectual and political ; on the other by
an endless and inexhaustible supply of men and
money — men who had consecrated their lives to
the cause of their religion and had made it their
sacred duty to defend and to disseminate it at all
costs ; and money which could establish a network
of philanthropic activity, many-sided and hydra-
headed, ungrudging in sympathy and unstinted
in flow.

3. The analytic tendencies of modern science,
which denied God, revelation and religion, and
established secularism and materialism on the throne
formerly occupied by God.

4. The collapse of the prevailing Hindu system
of thought, religion and life before 2 and 3.

5. The pessimism and inertia which had been
engendered by centuries of political and intellectual
decline ; the apathy and indifference of the Hindus
and their conviction that they had been hopelessly
beaten, perhaps never to rise again ; and the shame


and fatalism which are born of intellectual and moral
subjugation and stagnation/

6. The ever-active propaganda of Islam, which
claimed its victories in every nook and corner of
the land, almost every day of the year, without the
Hindus realizing the extent to which it was gaining

3. His Fitness for his Task

All his life, Dayananda had studied Hindu reli-
gion only. All its forms and manifestations were
thoroughly well known to him. Of Christianity and
Islam, however, he knew nothing when he entered
upon his work in i860, excepting what he might
have observed during his long travels in the prac-
tices of his Muslim and Christian countrymen. But,
so soon as he took up the idea of bringing about a
radical reform in Hindu thought, Hindu religion and
Hindu life, he found that in Christianity and Islam
Hinduism had formidable rivals, which threatened
its very existence, if left unchecked and unresisted
in their systematic efforts to displace Hinduism from
the position it occupied in India. He concluded
that a movement directed against current Hinduism
alone might reform it away altogether, unless at
the same time he could dislodge its opponents from
the positions of vantage they occupied against it.
He therefore absorbed himself in a critical study of
both these alien religions, with the assistance of
friends who knew English and Arabic, and with the
help of such literature as was available to him in
the vernacular of the country. By this study he
attained the reasoned conviction that Vedic Theism


was in many respects superior to even the Theism of
Islam, and very much superior to dogmatic Christi-
anity. Having reached this conclusion, it did not
take him long to decide that his movement must
aim not only at a defence of Vedic Hinduism, but
must go further and establish a new era of propa-
ganda and conversion; or, in other words, that he
must take the offensive also. What he aimed at
was nothing short of a complete revolution in the
mental and spiritual outlook of the Hindus. He
believed that, although other religions contained
some truth, the religion of the Vedas was the only
absolutely true religion ; that it was for all
mankind ; and that it was their duty to give
it to mankind, irrespective of caste, colour, or

Dayananda had thus at the outset the idea of a
universal mission, but at the same time he never
forgot the prior claim of the nation in which he was
bom and to which he had the honour to belong. He
aimed at world-conquest in the domain of spirit;
but he knew that this mighty task must be begun
at home, and that his first converts must be won
from among his own people, who stood in greater
need of his light than any other : therefore he decided
that he must not only first restore Hinduism to
the Hindus, but that also he must teach them to
defend it against all aggressors. He also decided
that the best interests of an effective defence required
that the defender should be prepared at every open-
ing to take the offensive against his assailants,
throwing upon them, in turn, the onus of defence.
In plainer language, that he should be ready not


only to meet criticism at all points, but also, in turn,
to criticize his critics and compel them to see the
beams in their own eyes.

He wanted the Hindu mind to turn from passive-
ness to activity ; to exchange the standard of weak-
ness for the standard of strength ; "in place of a
steadily yielding defence " to take " the ringing
cheer of the invading host."

^ Islam and Christianity, the rivals of Hinduism in
j India, were both proselytizing religions ; it was there-
jfore necessary to give the same character to Hindu-
ism. Hinduism had made conversions in the past ;
it was quietly and unconsciously making conversions
every day^; all that was needed was to create a
conscious, active, proselytizing spirit, which would
take pride in its work. This, in brief, was the
Swami's attitude towards other rehgions. If one
come across some mistakes in his statements con-
cerning other religions, they may be the mistakes
of his informants, or of those on whose authority
they have been taken and criticized. Mr. Blunt,
in his Census Report for the United Provinces
(p. 136), complains that the Aryas study a religion
only in the works of its opponents. If this charge
is true — ^which we do not admit — ^we have only
to reply that in that respect the Arya is perhaps a
too apt disciple of the Christian missionary ; and,
if evidence be required of this, such evidence will
be found in abundance in the tracts against Hindu-
ism, the Arya Samaj and Islam issued by the Chris-
tian Literary Society of Madras. We do not admire

^ See Census Reports ; also Sir H. Risley's learned work on
The Peoples of India.


this spirit, but it is impossible to separate it alto-
gether from proselytizing zeal. It should not be
forgotten that the Christian Missionary was the
first in the field of controversy : he opened war
upon Hinduism, and in doing so used the strongest
possible language, calUng the greatest of Hindu
heroes, Uke Krishna, adulterers, fornicators, and
what not.

Dayananda's attitude towards other religions
was a necessity of the times in which he lived, and
partly due also to his ignorance of the languages
in which the best literature of these religions was to
be found. But, in our opinion, there is no justifica-
tion for his followers to continue to hold that atti-
tude, and the sooner the Arya Samajists come to
this conclusion, the better for them and for their
cause. The other reUgions of the world, including
those of India, must be studied in the writings of
their best exponents, and always spoken of in
terms of respect and consideration, even if one is
unable to accept them as true in their entirety.

4. The Arya Samaj as the Parent of Unrest

The Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, in reply-
ing to a deputation of the leading Arya Samajists,
who in 1907 waited upon him to assure him that the
Samaj had no hand in the political or agrarian disturb-
ances of the year, is reported to have said that his
officers informed him that wherever there was an
Arya Samaj, it was the centre of unrest. We
wonder if he realized that in that verdict he was
paying the greatest compliment to the work and to
the spirit of the Arya Samaj that its illustrious


founder could have wished. Mental unrest is holy.
There can be no progress without unrest. But, to
be quite just, the Arya Samaj is not the only source
of unrest in India. The Government itself, with
its educational policy and its Western methods
of administration, has contributed materially to-
wards that same unrest. The Arya Samaj may
quite logically be pronounced an outcome of the
conditions imported into India from the West, and,
as such, it has absolutely no reason to repent or
be ashamed of the share it has had in adding to the
volume or modifying the character of the unrest that
was the inevitable consequence of modern condi-
, tions of Hfe in India. That the Arya Samaj is one
of the most potent nationalizing forces, no one
should or need deny. The Arya Samaj aims at
radical changes in the thought and hfe of the people.
It aims at the formation of a new national character,
on the fundamental basis of Vedic thought and Vedic
life. It was essential for it to create dissatisfaction
with the existing conditions in Hindu society; to
create an ambition for better thought and better
life — an ambition that was bound to bring about
unrest. The Arya Samaj began its work by
recalHng the greatness of ancient India, and im-
pressed upon the Hindus that the land of Vedas
and Shastras had no right "to sink into the role
of mere critic or imitator of European letters" or
European life. Yet that was at best the condition
of the Indian mind at the beginning of Dayananda's
apostolic career. The Hindu mind which, till then,
could not get out of the vicious circle of mere forms
or mere habits — and to some extent is even now


in bondage — had to be broadened. So it had to be
told that habit was only a factor in the evolution
of character and not character itself; that mere
personal refinement could not take the place of
active ends and ideals, which are the elixir of life
of all social organisms as of individuals ; that mere
" quietness, docility, resignation, and obedience "
could not form a national character; and that
it was necessary to foster also "strength, initiative,
sense of responsibility, and power of rebellion.'*
The whole idea is expressed so beautifully by the
late Sister Nivedita (Miss Noble), who had so com-
pletely identified herself with the Hindu cause and
than whom no truer friend of Hinduism ever was
born in the British Isles, that no apology is neces-
sary for giving a long quotation from one of her
essays on aggressive Hinduism. Looking on
Hinduism " no longer as the preserver of Hindu
custom, but as the creator of Hindu character,*'
she observes : *

"It is surprising to think how radical a change
is entailed in many directions by this conception.
We are no longer oppressed with jealousy or fear
when we contemplate encroachments on our social
and religious consciousness. Indeed, the idea of
encroachment has ceased because our work is not


Point by point, we are determined, not merely to keep
what we had, but to win what we never had before.
The question is no longer of other people's attitude j
to us, but, rather, of what we think of them. It is not, ■
how much have we left ? but, how much have we
annexed ? We cannot afford, now, to lose, because \


we are sworn to carry the battle far beyond our
remotest frontiers. We no longer dream of sub-
mission, because struggle itself has become only the
first step towards a distant victory to be won.

" No other religion in the world 'is so capable of
this dynamic transformation as Hinduism. To
Nagarjuna and Buddhaghosh the many was real,
and the Ego unreal. To Shankaracharya, the one
was real and the many unreal. To Ramakrishna and
Vivekananda, the many and the one were the same
reality — perceived differently and at different times
by the human consciousness. Do we realize what
this means ? It means that Character is Spiritu-
ality. It means that laziness and defeat are not
renunciation. It means that to protect another is
infinitely greater than to attain salvation. It means
that Mukti lies in overcoming the thirst for Mukti
(salvation). It means that conquest may be the
highest form of Sannyas (renunciation). It means,
in short, that Hinduism is become aggressive, that
the trumpet of Kalki is sounded already in our midst,
and that it calls all that is noble, all that is lovely, all
that is strenuous and heroic amongst us to a battle-
field on which the bugle of retreat shall never more
be heard. "^

In our judgment this represents the spirit of
Dayananda's ideas, and it is his spirit which is work-
ing in the Arya Samaj.

5. Dayananda's Claims for the Vedas

It is often said by way of reproach that Dayananda

^ Aggressive Hinduism, by Sister Nivedita, pp. 10, 11, 12;
Nateson & Co., Madras.


made extravagant and absurd claims for the Vedas
in trying to show that in them was to be found every
scientific truth. For the examination of these claims
in detail this is not the proper place, but it may be
said here that :

(i) Dayananda does claim, and rightly, that in
matters of rehgion and in the domain of spirit the
Western mind has not reached either the depths or
the heights commanded by the ancient Indian mind ;
and in such matters it has still much to learn from
the ancient Indian sages.

(2) In matters social the Indian solutions arrived
at in ancient times are as good, as sound and as
effective, at least, as are those arrived at in the West
by the best modern thought.

(3) In the domain of philosophy India has nothing
to learn from the West. The best of European thought
does not yet come up to the level of the best of Hindu
thought. The latest German thought is as if still
groping in the dark and trying to scale the heights
reached by Indians centuries ago.

(4) In the realm of physical science, the Europeans
are far in advance of the ancient Indians, though it
may fairly and justly be claimed that most of the
fundamental truths on which the superstructure of
European science is raised, were known to the
Indians. For example, it v/as known to the Indians
that the earth was round and that the earth, the sun,
the moon and the stars were in motion ; they had
made great progress in military science ; they were
the inventors of algebra, of decimals, and so on.
For centuries have the Hindus beUeved that plants
were essentially as much to be regarded as living


things as were animals : and it stands to their credit
that the latest discovery in the same line of research
— ^that every particle of matter has life — ^has been
discovered and demonstrated by one of their de-
scendants, namely, Professor J. C. Bose, of Calcutta.
That the Hindus were well acquainted with anatomy
and surgery, and were chemists besides of no mean
order, has been amply proved and is freely admitted
by European scholars.

Dayananda's claims, therefore, rest upon a sub-
stantial foundation. His object in making them was
not to give the Hindu matter and occasion for
boasting, but to lift him from that slough of despond-
ency into which he had fallen, and to give him
leverage for the removal of the great burden that lay
on his mind. He wanted to inspire him with just
pride, and with confidence in the great value of his
heritage, so that he might consider it worth all the
sacrifices which he might be called upon to make for
the preservation of that heritage and for making
himself worthy to possess it. Dayananda dreamed
of a regenerated India, as spiritual, as wise, as noble,
as learned, as chivalrous, and as great in every way
as in its most glorious past, if not more so, and he
wanted his countrymen to proceed to the realization
of that ideal with confidence and fervour. He had
no objection to their learning from the West what-
ever the West might be able to teach them, but with
the desire only of rendering it again to the West
with double interest, if possible. He wanted them
to aspire to a role of honour in the comity of nations ;
to become once mojre the teachers of Humanity and
the upholders of high and magnificent ideals before


mankind. He wanted them to achieve all this in the
spirit of their past, in a spirit of devotion to truth
for the sake of truth, of altruism, and of humility.
This great programme he thought could not be
realized by mere imitation, by mere dependence on
the West, by despising their ancestors and by
borrowing exotic manners and habits. Not on such
shifting foundations, but on the primal rock of self-
respect and self-help did he desire them to build up
their future nationalism, and to rear it thereon in the
true spirit of Swajati and Swadharma. Yet, in spite
I of the greatness of the end, he countenanced no un-
1 worthy means for its attainment. He wanted the
I Hindus to win the whole world — but by righteous-
Iness and Dharma only. He warned them against the
indulgences, the Bhoga doctrines of the West, and he
protested against their floating with the current as
unworthy of the blood of their vigorous and enter-
prising ancestors.

Time will show whether Dayananda was right or
wrong in his ideas, but indications are not wanting
that his countrymen are appreciating and imbibing
his spirit. His followers do not, nor did he, care very
much for the verdict of the foreigner, though not
meaning ill to him in any way. To an Indian even
animals, and still more plants, rivers and mountains,
are all friends, but much more so are men and women,
whatsoever their nationahty or creed. It is not in
his nature to cherish spite or hatred. The difficulty »
with him, in fact, is not that he is too hard, too dour,
or too inflexible, but that he is, on the contrary,
rather too soft, too phable, and at times too kind and
selfless, even to the degree of sacrificing the best



interests of his nation and his country on the altar
of chivalrous generosity.

The ideals and aims of Dayananda are the ideals
and aims of the Arya Samaj, and to what we have
said above about the former nothing need be added.



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Online LibraryLala Lajpat RaiThe Arya Samaj : an account of its origin, doctrines, and activities : with a biographical sketch of the founder → online text (page 17 of 21)