ARYA SAMAJ 101
Introduction to the Arya Samaj
The Arya Samaj, or 'Society of Nobles', is a global community comprised of individuals united in their unwavering devotion to Universal Truth. Since it's inception over a century ago, the Arya Samaj has tenaciously upheld the fundamental principles of Dharma or True Religion, and has tirelessly endeavored to bring the Light of Truth to all people. It teaches love, justice and righteousness towards all, irrespective of race, caste or creed. Though occasionally mistaken as a reformative sect of Hinduism, the Arya Samaj is in reality a spiritual movement which strives towards the revival of the one timeless way of life natural to all mankind, known as Vaidika Dharma, and as such is an independent and universal community of faith which actively strives to uphold and promote the good of all. This is embodied in the Society's motto, "Krinvanto Vishvam Aryam" - "Make This World Noble".
As a society which first and foremost strives to spread truth and dispel untruth, the Arya Samaj rejects all forms of ritualistic superstition such as idolatry, ancestor worship, pilgrimage and animal sacrifice, as well as all forms of social oppression such as the caste system, untouchability and child labor. It proclaims equal entitlement under the law between men and women, strives to reduce poverty and to protect the weak and the disadvantaged, denounces the consumption of meat as well as the use of intoxicants and recreational drugs, and promotes healthy community, family and private life in tune with the cycles of nature. The Arya Samaj stresses the universal and comprehensive nature of Vedic Knowledge and it's capacity to rejuvenate and redeem a troubled and wearied humanity. This capacity rests above all else in it's emphasis upon the correct understanding and worship of the one true God, who is the Supreme Personification of Existence, Intelligence and Bliss.
Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, openly rejected all forms of sectarian dogma, which he rightly saw as being the source of great conflict and strife in the world. He encouraged man to use his God-given faculties of perception, understanding and reason in the task of distinguishing truth from falsity, and advocated the study of Yoga - a spiritual discipline of which he himself was a renowned master - by all men so that they may come to a direct and sure knowledge of the Divine. It is this knowledge towards which each Arya strives - both for it's realization within the individual as well as in it's manifestation in the world.
Key Features of the Arya Samaj
1. The Arya Samaj was founded on the 10th of April, 1875 in Bombay, India by Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati.
2. The Arya Samaj holds that, though God may be referred to by many names, the highest and most proper name of God is OM.
3. The Arya Samaj proclaims that the Vedas are the original revelation of God to man and that they contain all true knowledge necessary for the healthy and natural propagation of human society.
4. The Arya Samaj maintains that man can enter direct communion with God, and therefore has no need of any kind of religious mediator or intercessor to petition salvation on his behalf, such as a savior, prophet or priest.
5. The Arya Samaj engages in the practices of Sandhya (Divine Contemplation) and Agnihotra (Fire Sacrifice) as the proper means of praising, praying to and worshipping God.
6. The Arya Samaj advocates the practice of Yoga as the most proficient means of attaining direct communion with God.
7. The Arya Samaj promotes the worship of God in His true nature, i.e. without form or limitations. No image or material representation can capture the true nature of God. Therefore idols in any form are neither necessary nor desired in the worship of God.
8. The Arya Samaj recognizes that both enjoyment and suffering are the natural and logical results of one's actions (karma), and that wrongs can only be atoned for by the performance of good deeds.
9. Aryas commonly greet each other with the Vedic salutation, 'Namaste', which means, 'I bow unto the light within you'.
10. Today, the Arya Samaj has branches in countries around the world including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, Mauritius, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia.
Who is an Arya?
An Arya is any person who believes in and worships the one true God, who lives according to the teachings of the Vedas, who follows the dictates of Dharma, and who strives to spread the Light of Truth to all people. Being an Arya is a spiritual and moral condition of an individual, and is in no way determined by external factors such as race or nationality. An Arya is a person who is, above all else, devoted to Truth.
An Arya worships and communes with the one true God daily through the performance of Sandhya and Agnihotra and lives according to the 10 Principles of Dharma (righteousness), namely: steadfastness (dritih), tolerance (kshamaa), contentment (damah), non-covetousness (asteyam), cleanliness (showcham), restraint of the senses (indriya nigrahah), practice (dheeh), knowledge (vidyaa), truth (satyam) and benevolence (akrodhah). An Arya does not consume meat, use intoxicants or recreational drugs of any kind, or indulge in sex outside of marriage.
The Vedas and Vaidika Dharma
Vaidika Dharma, or Vedic Religion, is humanity's most ancient and natural way of life. Before the thousands of rivaling sects and cults seen today had come into existence, there was only Vaidika Dharma, the one true universal religion of mankind. In preaching Vaidika Dharma to all, the Arya Samaj strives to end the discord and division which has been caused by ignorance and sectarianism perpetrated in the name of religion, and to thereby help humanity return to it's spiritual roots, which are to be found in the Vedas.
The central pillar of Vaidika Dharma is the unique and revelatory nature of the Holy Vedas. Taken together, they are the unfailing guide to humanity, given at the beginning of time by God to mankind for it's spiritual and material well-being and prosperity, and contain the root of all modern arts and sciences such as mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, architecture and music. They are the ultimate source of all true knowledge concerning God and the world, as well as that concerning man and his purpose in creation. All Aryas are enjoined to read from or listen to recitations of the Vedas daily, and to spread Vedic Wisdom everywhere.
There are four Veda Samhitas. They are:
Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva,
In addition to these, there is an immense collection of literature which expands upon the true knowledge contained in the Vedas. The Arya Samaj sees this as including:
· The Brahmanas: Liturgical Explications
· The Aranyakas: Meditations
The 10 Principle Upanishads: Philosophical and Spiritual Discourses
The 6 Vedangas
Siksha: The Science of Phonetics
Vyakarana: The Science of Grammar
Chhandas: The Science of Prosody or Metrics
Nirukta: The Science of Etymology
Jyotisha: The Science of Astronomy
Kalpa: The Science of Liturgy
The 4 Upa-Vedas
· Ayurveda: The Science of Medicine and Health
· Gandharvaveda: The Science of Music and Composition
· Saapadhyaveda: The Science of Architecture and Design
· Dhanurveda: The Science of Weaponry and Self-Defence
The 6 Darshana Sutras
· Nyaya: The Science of Logic
· Vaiseshika: The Science of Physics
· Sankhya: The Science of Metaphysics
· Yoga: The Science of Meditation
· Purva Mimamsa: The Science of Hermeneutics
· Uttara Mimamse (Vedanta): The Science of Epistemology
The 2 Ithihasas: The Epic Histories
The Manu Samritii: The Codex of Dharmic Laws
In any of these supplementary texts - or any other texts, for that matter - all that is in conformance with the Vedas is confirmed as being true, while all that contradicts the Vedas is discarded. The Vedas are the repository of all true wisdom, and they alone are to be used as the standard in establishing the value of other written works.
God, the Soul and Nature
According to Vaidika Dharma, God (OM), the Soul (Purusha) and Nature (Prakriti) are the 3 Eternal Noumena, meaning that they have always existed and will forever continue to exist. Though later thinkers developed a number of varying metaphysical positions, the philosophy of the Vedas, the original Divine Revelation, clearly posits the beginning less existence of God, the Soul and Nature - an eternal truth that has come to be referred to as Traita or Traitavada, meaning the 'Wisdom of the Three'.
However, though God, the Soul and Nature are three distinct entities, they are at no time completely separate from one another. The relationship between God and Creation is that between the Pervader and that which is pervaded, respectively. God fills and pervades every corner of existence, including the eternal Soul of man.
The relationship between God and man, therefore, is more intimate than any other relationship an individual shall ever experience. Indeed, God knows all our thoughts and desires, our hopes and dreams, our fears and worries. He is our Eternal Father, our Highest Master, our True Friend, Teacher and Guide in one.
The 10 Principles of the Arya Samaj
Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati formulated 10 Principles to guide the Arya Samaj. These are:
1. God is the original source of all true knowledge and all that is known by the physical sciences.
2. God is Existent, Intelligent and Blissful. He is Formless, Almighty, Just, Merciful, Unborn, Infinite, Unchallengeable, Beginningless, Incomparable, the Support and Lord of All, Omniscient, Imperishable, Immortal, Fearless, Eternal, Holy and the Maker of the Universe. To God alone is worship due.
3. The Vedas are scriptures of all true knowledge. It is the duty of all Aryas to read them, to hear them being read and to recite them to others.
4. One should always be ready to accept truth and give up untruth.
5. One's actions should always be performed in conformity with dharma (righteousness), i.e., after due consideration of right and wrong.
6. The primary aim of the Arya Samaj is to advance the good of all, i.e., to promote physical, spiritual and social well-being.
7. One's dealings should always be regulated by love and due justice in accordance with the dictates of dharma.
8. One should aim at dispelling avidya (ignorance) and promoting vidya (knowledge).
9. One should see one's own greatest welfare as residing in the welfare of others.
10. One should regard oneself as being under the restriction of the altruistic rulings of society, while one should be free in matters of individual welfare.
Yamas & Niyamas: "The 10 Commandments"
There are 10 yamas & niyamas which should be followed strictly if one desires to make progress on the spiritual path. These are:
1. One should never bear malice towards any living being and should express love towards all.
2. One should always speak the truth and never an untruth.
3. One should never commit theft and should always be honest and forthright in one's dealings.
4. One should always practice self-restraint and should never allow oneself to be consumed with lust.
5. One should always be humble and generous and should never become vain or accumulate worldly goods for their own sake.
6. One should always exhibit cleanliness in body, mind and spirit.
7. One should work diligently and with righteousness, neither rejoicing nor despairing in the resulting profit or loss.
8. One should renounce the selfish desires of the ego in the performance of righteous deeds and should keep one's mind unruffled whether in a state of happiness or misery.
9. One should seek out truth, both within and without, in a spirit of attention and contemplation, should teach truth to others, and should associate with good and pious individuals.
10. One should resign oneself entirely unto the Will of God.
Pancha Mahayajnas: The 5 Great Daily Duties
Aryas are enjoined to perform 5 duties on a daily basis. The performance of the 5 Great Daily Duties (Pancha Mahayajnas) ensures that the individual maintains a righteous relationship to all those he or she comes into contact with. These are:
1. Brahma Yajna: The contemplation of and communion with God (Sandhya) twice daily, morning and evening.
2. Deva Yajna: The burning of Samagree (odoriferous, nutritive, sweet, curative, and similar other substances) with Ghee (clarified butter) in the sacred fire, also called Homa, or the Agnihotra.
3. Pitri Yajna: The ministering to the comfort of the elders, the wise and the learned, as well as serving the same individuals with love and faith.
4. Balivaishva Yajna: The feeding and support of poor and destitute individuals, as well as that of wild animals.
5. Atithi Yajna: The discharge of hospitality to guests, especially towards individuals who are wise and learned, whose time of arrival and departure is unknown.
The Purusharthas: The Ends of Noble Society
The Purusharthas are the goals of earthly life. It is towards these ends that any noble society strives. They are four in number:
1. Dharma or Duty: This is the state in which one’s actions, serving the good of all, are in accordance with one’s own nature. Thus, to practice Dharma is to establish congruence and harmony between one’s inner and outer life.
Dharma is the fundament of the Purusharthas, for without it, none of the others can be attained with righteousness. And a good attained without righteousness is paramount to a positive evil.
2. Artha or Wealth: This is the attainment of wealth in any form (material or spiritual) through righteous means and the avoidance of goods gained through ignoble means.
3. Kaama or Enjoyment: This is the attainment of satisfaction of one’s noble and righteous desires and the pleasure derived thereof.
4. Moksha or Salvation: This is the attainment of freedom from the bonds of ignorance and its result, pain.
Swami Dayanand on Moksha: "The emancipation of the soul from pain and suffering of every description and a subsequent career of freedom in the All-pervading God and His immense Creation for a fixed period of time and its resumption of earthly life after the expiration of that period constitute Moksha or salvation. The means of salvation are the worship of God, i.e., the practice of yoga, the performance of righteous deeds, the acquisition of true knowledge by the practice of Brahmacharya, the society of the wise and the learned, love of true knowledge, purity of thought, a life of activity and so on." (Satyarth Prakash 727)
Just as Dharma is the foundation of the Purusharthas, so, too, is Moksha the pinnacle of the same. To attain Moksha is to reach life‘s ultimate goal, which goes beyond even the bounds of earthly life, and leads one into a state of unbroken communion (Upaasanaa) with God.
It is important to note that Vedic Wisdom does not entail a life of mendicancy or severity. As long as one follows the dictates of Dharma, one is encouraged to enjoy the good things of this earthly life. God, in His Infinite Wisdom, has seen it fit to grant us the ability to experience great happiness and pleasure while on this earth, and we are encouraged to seek it out through righteous means.
Varna: Social Classes of Society
Vedic Wisdom teaches that every individual is unique in their constellation of strengths and weaknesses, making them suited for a particular type of work and a certain position in society. Vedic Society is divided into four classes or Varnas.
1. Shudras: These are the artisans and manual laborers. They are gifted with dexterity, endurance and great skill in producing manual works of all sorts which are necessary for the healthy functioning of any society. Shudras enjoy greater freedom of movement and employment than the other classes, as they are not required to be financially self-sufficient and are allowed to take on work from others as they choose.
2. Vaishyas: These are the farmers, merchants and business owners. It is their duty to make sure that society is supplied with all of the goods it requires for it‘s proper functioning. Though they often have more wealth than members of other classes, Vaishyas are faced with the responsibility of maintaining their businesses and taking care of their employees. However, a Vaishyas is gifted with business savvy and enjoys the challenges running a successful enterprise entails.
3. Kshatriyas: These are the soldiers, police officers and public administrators. It is their duty to ensure the safety and smooth running of society. Though granted political power, they have the responsibility of using that power wisely and fairly, making sure that justice and the rule of law prevails. Kshatriyas are gifted with great strength and determination in order to execute their duties as the protectors of society, and they are not infrequently called upon to make the greatest sacrifice - that of their own life for the good of society.
4. Brahmanas: These are the intellectuals, teachers and priests. It is their duty to ensure that society as a whole is headed in the right direction - towards the fulfillment of the Purusharthas. To do this, they are required to study and teach the Vedas, to perform sacrifices for the benefit of all, and to live a simple and frugal life, devoted to preaching the Truth.
It is absolutely vital to recognize that Varna is not based upon birth or heredity, but on the nature and merits of the individual. Swami Dayanand proclaims: "The Class and Order of an individual should be determined by his merits alone." (Satyarth Prakash 728) The caste system as it is known in India today is a perversion of Varna, and should be denounced by all noble individuals as the source of grave social injustice.
Ashram: The 4 Phases of Life
Vedic Wisdom teaches that each individual goes through certain phases during the course of life, and that each of these phases should provide the opportunity to master the knowledge and skills required for making real progress toward the attainment of the Purusharthas. The systematic organization of these phases, known as Ashram, foresees three main segments in the life of man.
1. Brahmacharya or Student Life: This is the stage of life in which the child receives a solid education in Vaidika Dharma, including the sciences and the arts. It entails living a celibate and simple life, free from the distractions of sensuality and materialism, hearing and studying the Vedas, and developing virtuous qualities such as discipline, purity in thought, word and deed, cleanliness, humility, etc.
Swami Dayanand on the purpose of Brahmacharya: "Brahmacharya (or the 1st stage of life) is meant for perfecting one's body and acquiring knowledge and culture." (Satyarth Prakash 159)
Brahmacharya is the foundation of the noble life, for it imparts the knowledge of one‘s proper place and function in society and in God‘s creation, as well as training in skills one will make use of in all the subsequent stages of life.
2. Grihastha or Household Life: This is the stage of life in which the individual learns and practices a profession suited to their nature, i.e., their natural gifts and talents. It is also the stage in which a person usually gets married and starts a family, and entails the careful observance of prescribed duties and Yajnas or ritual sacrifices.
Swami Dayanand on the purpose of Grihastha: "Grihastha (or the 2nd stage of life) is for the pursuit of useful occupation and professions, marriage, etc." (Satyarth Prakash 159)
In many ways, Grihastha is the pillar of all the other phases of life, as Householders are the ones who support both children and the elderly on the one hand, as well as temples and priests on the other.
3. Vaanaprastha or Retired Life: This is the stage of life in which the individual, having fulfilled his duties to his children and his community, withdraws from his professional role in society, making way for the next generation, and turns his attention inward, devoting himself more fully to the practice of yoga and the search for divine wisdom.
Swami Dayanand on the purpose of Vaanaprastha: "Vaanaprastha (or the 3rd stage of life) is for meditation, concentration of the mind on abstruse subjects, the perfection of one’s character and the acquisition of divine knowledge." (Satyarth Prakash 159)
For most people, this stage represents the culmination of all their efforts. They have the freedom to spend the remainder of their days absorbed in the contemplation and worship of God and in altruistic actions. However, for Braahmanas, there is one additional stage which can be taken as an option.
4. Sanyaasa or Renounced Life: This is the stage of life in which the individual renounces all ties to worldly existence, focusing all his energy upon the propagation of Vedic Wisdom and the teaching of the same to others.
Swami Dayanand on the purpose of Sanyaasa: "Sanyaasa (or the 4th stage of life) is meant for disseminating knowledge of the Veda and the Shaastras, practicing virtue and renouncing vice, preaching the gospel of truth and dispelling doubts and ignorance of the people. … Therefore, it behooves Sanyaasis to devote themselves assiduously to the preaching of Truth and enlightening the minds of the people who are in doubt, to the studies of the Vedas and the Shaastras and the propagation of the Vedic religion, thereby promote the good (physical, social, mental and spiritual) of the whole world." (Satyarth Prakash 159)
Braahmanas may also go directly from Brahmacharya to Sanyaasa, as they are alone qualified through knowledge and piety to execute the duties of a true Sanyaasi, and as it is sometimes the case that they have little if anything left to learn from the stages of Grihastha and Vaanaprastha.
The Sanskars: The 16 Sacraments of Life
In the Vedic
Tradition, there are sixteen religious ceremonies known as Sanskars or the
Sacraments of Life. The Sanskars are performed for the physical, social, and
spiritual development of the individual. These are:
1. Garbhadhana: Performed shortly after the conception of a child, to ensure a healthy beginning for the new life.
2. Punsavana: Performed during the second or third month of pregnancy, to ensure the healthy development of all the extremities and vital organs of the fetus.
3. Simantonnayana: Performed during the last phases of pregnancy, to ensure the correct functioning of all the sensory organs and to bring the development of the fetus to a successful close.
4. Jatakarma: Performed after the birth of the child, to welcome the newborn as a new member of society.
5. Namakarana: Performed on the 11th or 12th day after birth, to give the child the name he or she will forthwith be known by.
6. Niskramana: Performed when the child is 2 to 4 months old, to invoke God's protection and blessings as the child leaves the home for the first time.
7. Annaprasana: Performed when the child is 4 to 6 months old, to celebrate the child's first consumption of solid food.
8. Chudakarma: Performed when the child is 1 year old, to support the development of self-awareness and autonomy in the child.
9. Karnavedha: Performed when the child is 3 to 5 years old, to support the development of self-esteem and self-respect.
10. Upanayana: Performed when the child is 5 to 7 years old, to celebrate the entrance of the child into the institution of formal education and the investment with the sacred thread, signaling the beginning of Brahmacharya or Student Life. Also known as Yajnopaveet.
11. Vedarambha: Performed when the child is 5 to 7 years old, to solidify the commitment of the child to receiving a good education.
12. Samavartana: Performed upon the completion of studies, to welcome the young adult as a valued member of society, ready to embark on the next stage of life, known as Grihastha or Household Life.
13. Vivaha: The marriage ceremony (usually undertaken around 25 years of age), to celebrate the happy union of the individual with a spouse of their choice who is suited to their nature and ready to embark upon Household Life.
14. Vaanaprastha Ashram: Undertaken upon retiring from one's chosen profession (usually between 50 and 75 years of age), to celebrate the completion of the duties of Household Life and the entrance into the phase of reflection and meditation known as Vaanaprastha Ashram.
15. Sanyaasa Ashram: Undertaken either after the completion of Brahmacharya (Student Life) or Vaanaprastha (Retired Life), to celebrate the renunciation of all worldly desires and absolute dedication to the service of mankind through spreading Vedic Wisdom.
16. Antyesti: Performed upon the death of the individual, when the body is consumed by fire and it's constituent elements are returned to Nature. This is the last ceremony. Also known as Antyesti, Naramedha and Purusmedha.
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