What is the Arya Samaj?
On April 10th, 1875 , the organisation called “Arya Samaj” was formally registered in Bombay (Mumbai), India . Arya Samaj, as the name signifies, is a Samaj (Organisation or Society) of Aryas (people who are noble). The word “Noble” may be defined as a person with the following characteristics: (1) Knowledge or Education; (2) Good Charater; (3) Kindness; (4) Charitable; (5) Paying attention to duty; (6) Truthful; (7) Grateful; and (8) Non-violent. The Arya Samaj is a Society of such Noble People, who follow the teachings of the Vedas (the Word of God handed down to mankind in the begining) and conduct themselves accordingly.
The Arya Samaj was founded by Maharishi Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a scholar who believed in the authority of the Vedas. The motto of the Arya Samaj, taken from the Vedas, is “Krinvanto Vishwam Aryam” (Rig Veda 9.63.5) – Make ALL men arya (noble and cultured).” Hence, by being a part of a Noble Society (Arya Samaj), you enjoin with a commitment of becoming an arya (noble person), who gathers in religious assemblies to propagate the teachings of the Vedas, so that you can ennoble (make noble) those who aren’t noble – Making the Universe Noble.
What was the purpose of creating the Arya Samaj?
The society of the Arya Samaj was created in an effort to preserve the original values and beliefs of Hinduism as stated in the original scriptures of Hindus: The Vedas.
What are the views of the Arya Samaj?
According to the Vedas, women of all races should be given an equal opportunity to education as men. At the time of the creation of the Arya Samaj, Hindu women were not allowed to study religious scriptures; they were not allowed to be priests or preach the word of God; they were denied access to education; they were treated as second class citizens below men; widows were treated as outcasts; they had to burn themselves on their husbands funeral pyre; their families were forced to produce a dowry before a man’s family accepted them into their family; and they were forced into child marriages with older men. The Arya Samaj fought against all of these injustices then and continues to champion the rights of women all over the world. In many societies, you will find that only Arya Samaj women are given the opportunity to become Hindu priests.
The Arya Samaj believes that every individual shall be judged by his character and actions and not by his birthright. Due to the unscrupulous manipulation of the caste system, those of high caste families were given honour and respect and those of low caste and their children were deemed “untouchables” and were ill-treated and suppressed. The Arya Samaj fought against these injustices against the untouchables and embraced them, educated them and welcomed them in their satsangs and religious gatherings.
The Arya Samaj pioneers education for all. In India , many institutions of learning (schools, colleges, gurukuls) were created for men, women and children. The Arya Samaj is very vociferous in encouraging the common man to learn and read the scriptures. This society is against the practice of having only one selected group of individuals indulging in the reading and preaching from the scriptures.
The Arya Samaj plays an active role in the welfare of the needy. Many orphanages, homes for abused women and widows and homes for the elderly have been established in India and other parts of the world. The society is also involved in providing relief during times of famine, drought, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
The Arya Samaj propagates patriotism and dedication to serving the interest of one’s nation and motherland. In the times of the British Rule in India , the Arya Samaj was one of the foremost organisations to champion the cause for political freedom and independence.
The Arya Samaj propagates the motto “Back to the Vedas” and promotes these scriptures as the one true source of all knowledge. The Arya Samaj holds the Vedic principle of monotheism – that there is ONE GOD who is formless, ever-existent and all powerful. Due to the fact that God is all-powerful with many attributes he is referred to by many names such as Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and Dissolver (Rudra). For hundreds of centuries Hindu sects and scholars had accepted the Vedas as the original Hindu scriptures but due to passage of time and destruction of Hindu scriptures and the introduction of other texts and interpretations, many deviations to the original teachings crept into Hinduism. The Arya Samaj promotes the Veda as the original scripture of all mankind and teaches that the acceptance of this will bring about a unity in the religious thinking of Hindus. The Vedas promote universal peace and its teachings are universal in character and apply to ALL people at ALL times.
The Arya Samaj rejects the belief of blind faith, animal sacrifices, idolatry, priestcraft and superstitions brought about by ignorance and fear. It promotes the philosophy of Karma (receiving the fruits of one’s deeds). Suffering is the logical consequence of one’s action (the law of cause and effect) and hence, superstitious belief does not eradicate suffering.
Is the Arya Samaj a religion?
The Arya Samaj is NOT a religion. It is a society that was formed, not as a new religion, but as a coming together of men and women of noble thoughts and actions who (irrespective of their social, ethnic or racial origins) believe in the underlying principles of Vaidik Satya Sanatana Dharma (commonly called “Hinduism”). In simpler terms, the Arya Samaj is a society of Hindus that propagates selfless action for the development of humanity and congregates for the common purpose of preserving the pristine values of Hinduism.
As was said by Maharishi Swami Dayanand: “I have not come to preach a new dogma or religion, nor to establish a new religious order, nor to be proclaimed a new messiah or pontiff. I have only brought before the people, the light of Vedic Wisdom which has been hidden during the centuries of India’s thraldom.”
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