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Arya Samaj in Hindu-Dharma

The Arya Samaj was founded in the 19th Century C.E. by Swami Dayanand Saraswati.  It has and continues to be a reformist movement in India and within Hindu-Dharma worldwide.  It is NOT a separate religion nor is it a sect within Hindu-Dharma.  Its primary task is to reform Hindu-Dharma, which has been corrupted by 500a of Moghal and 200a of British Rule. 

The following issues are central but not exclusive to the Arya Samaj's role within Hindu-Dharma. 

The Use of Murti (idol) Worship:

The Arya Samaj "rejects [idolatry] entirely, not only as a harmless error, but as a positive sin".  This is so in that there is only one God, but that God takes on an infinite number of forms. 

According to this position, worship of God consists in 3 acts: 

a) the first and foremost is to study the Vedas, with the motivation to acquire knowledge of God. 

b) the observance of Dharma (moral duty and action) as prescribed by God in the Vedas. 

c) worship of God by fire or the homa-sacrifice, this involves the use of the Gayatri Mantra. 

 In addition to the rejection of murti worship, the Arya Samaj rejects the avatars of Hindu-Dharma and of the Christian incarnation.  How is one follow in the footsteps of God (Jesus or Rama), we are simply human?  Most of all is the rejection of the harmful and factless stories of the Puranas which perpetuates itself as the truth (i.e. the stories of Krishna having thousands of Gopis as wives). 

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Caste: 

With respect to caste, it is the total rejection as it is now known.  This is the say. it is not a natural account of a human's life nor as a truth from God.  It is simply a means to organise society.  Caste is formed only by one's character and not by birth (see the story of Stayakama in the Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka- Upanishads).  How can a coward be born as a Ksatriya or a person who has no knowledge of the Vedas as a Brahman? 

Swami Dayanand fought against the soul repression that caste wrought upon the Indian people.  As a result of repressive Mughal rule, caste became solidified in order to protect Hindu-Dharma.  Now, caste totally needs to be changed and everyone must be treated equally and given the right to study the from the Vedas. Hindus need to reject caste in all its forms.

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The Vedas: 

The Vedas were created by God as prior to the creation of the universe and given to the ancient rishis.  It contains all the fixed truths of the universe, the True Knowledge.  Such laws are unchangeable (i.e. Karma, Dharma and Physical laws), they are not of the changeable type (i.e. this webpage has the colour 'x'). 

The problem that arises is that Vedic Sanskrit is radically different from Classical and Epic Sanskrit, the result has been many misinterpretations by Western scholars. For example, "Ashva" means "horse" and "grain".  Sacrifices which call for "Ashva" were assumed to be for horses but the correct Vedic interpretation is that of "grain".  The point being is that Vedic Sanskrit must be read in respect to the Vedic context. 

There are four other substantive claims that Swami Dayanand makes regarding the Vedas: 

a) In the matter of religion and in the spirit, the Western mind has not reached either the depth or the heights commanded by the Ancient Indian mind. 

b) In the matter of the social, the Indian solution aimed at in ancient times are as good and sound and effective as those arrived at in the West in modern times. 

c) In philosophy, India has nothing to learn form the West. 

d) In physical sciences, the West is far in advance of the Ancient Indians.  India has had its successes in this regard.  In 500 B.C.E., the Indian surgeon Sustra performed cataract surgery for the first time in the civilized world. 

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Caveats and Clarifications: 

a) The Arya Samaj does not believe in the infallibility or immunity from mistakes.  To err is to be human. 

b) The only appropriate forms of worship are that of the fire (havan). 

c) The Arya Samaj believes in the Law of Karma.  This is the truth that "acts must follow by their consequences, that the result of actions cannot be warded off or atoned by any means".  This is in connection with the theory of reincarnation. 

d) The Arya Samaj does not believe in "Fate".  Those born in a lowly position are not condemned to live a life of despair.  It is the soul system that has degraded people to punish them for the positions of the rich and powerful. 

e) Everyone can make and unmake his or her destiny through the Law of Karma

f) The Vedas are infallible and expects every woman and man to know them and to expound them for the benefits of others. 

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Women:

When the Arya Samaj came into existence, the situation of women were deplorable in India, regardless of religion. The prejudice against women in obtaining an education represented an "induced state of ignorance". 

This had no basis in ancient India.  Women were both in thought and process, in a very high position in society--higher than men in many cases.  According to the Laws of Manu (Manava Dharmashastra), a mother is entitled to a thousand times greater respect, regard and reverence than the father.  Also, women were allowed to own property. 

An explanation to the horrible condition of women can be found with the Mughal rule in India.  Islam treats its women as captives (i.e. the practice of Purdah - the seclusion of the woman in the home). Since they were the power in the country for a long time, their customs and rules prevailed.  Also, many Mughal rulers (i.e. Akbar, Babar and Auranzeb) raped and abducted Hindu women to demoralise the people and to claim them as a conquest.  Thus, the practice of Sati originated with the proud Rajputs in Rajasthan.  Hindu women would kill themselves to avoid being raped and forced to change their religion by the Mughals. 

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