Arsha Vidya Pitham, Saylorsburg, PA

An Epitome of Wisdom

Tributes by Swami Jyotirmayananda

Pujya Swamiji’s name itself stands for his life and teachings; in a nutshell – Vedanta. He was an embodiment of humility, compassion and joy. Pujya Swamiji is undoubtedly one of the greatest teachers of Vedanta in modern times. A teacher of teachers, Pujya Swamiji has trained more than 200 disciples who are sannyāsīs and highly respected as scholars and teachers in this tradition. In addition to the teaching, Pujya Swamiji initiated and supported various philanthropic efforts. The greatest contribution of Pujya Swamiji has been the creation of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, which has emerged as the legitimate voice of Hindus at the global level.

As far back as 1893, Swami Vivekananda unfurled the banner of Vedanta in the West, and also made yoga familiar to the Westerners through his renowned treatise on ‘Raja Yoga’. After the great Swami, following in his footsteps, his Vedanta Centers have been doing a great work in disseminating the Vedic wisdom in the West, for many decades. Following the trail blazed by Swami Vivekananda many more personages and institutions have also been doing good work in this direction, and the contributions of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, in this regard, are laudable. It is worth mentioning that for decades, in India and around the world, Pujya Swamiji has been doing tremendous work, tirelessly disseminating the Vedic Knowledge, through his well established institutions in India and the U.S. He has also taken keen interest in providing yoga training to the aspirants through qualified yoga teachers in his Gurukulam at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. In view of his total dedication to the dissemination of Vedic lore, besides the provision for study and practice of yoga – both of which were very dear to Swami Vivekananda, and in grateful acknowledgment of Pujya Swamiji’s greatest contributions to the cause of Hindu Dharma, the sixth edition (2013) of my book on Swami Vivekananda was dedicated to Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati. I must say here that literally it was Swami Vivekananda who brought me in touch with Pujya Swamiji, inasmuch as we together participated in Washington, in a program (1993) celebrating the centenary of Swami Vivekananda’s appearance at the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893. While Pujya Swamiji spoke eloquently on the occasion, I had the rare privilege of paying my reverential Homage to Swami Vivekananda.

I feel greatly elated when I visualize in my mind how overjoyed Swami Vivekananda would have been if he were to visit Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, to see the great work done there for the past 29 years, in the service of disseminating vedic knowledge in particular, and the Hindu Dharma and the Samaj, in general! Let the lines from Pujya Swamiji’s ‘Benediction’ to my book speak: “Swami Vivekananda is looked upon by an informed Indian as a person who enshrined in himself all that is true and noble of the spiritual heritage of Bharat. His vision to make everyone see the beauty of oneness, love and harmony, backed by his tireless efforts to actualize it, is getting unfolded all over the world not only through the Mission and Order he founded but also through various other individuals and institutions who owe to Swamiji’s vision for their inspiration…” – significant lines indeed revealing the source of inspiration behind the great work done by Pujya Swamiji and the AVG! Today, although Pujya Swamiji is no more amidst us in flesh and blood, he continues to live in the form of his immortal, lofty teachings, and the legacy of his discipleteachers, and through the various institutions established by him. The teaching is not separate from the teacher. ‘All that is here is Īśvara’ is the main teaching of Pujya Swamij.’ The real homage that we can therefore offer to a mahatma is to assimilate, implicitly abide by and live up to his teachings, in our thoughts, words and deeds, by being a shining example of the same, and be blessed thereby. That is the best way to make him immensely pleased and happy. And that is the task before us, to live up to the legacy that Pujya Swamiji bequeathed to us.

Lord Daksinamurti

In the vision of the Veda, this creation is a manifestation of the Lord. Being the cause, he is all knowledge, especially spiritual knowledge. We have a name for that Lord Daksinamurti.

The Lord presented in this form as Dakṣiṇāmūrti is the one who has eight aspects. The first five aspects are thefive elements. In the Veda the world is presented in the form of five elements—ākāśa, space,which includes time; vāyu, air; agni, fire; āpa, water; and pṛthivī, earth.

In this Vedic model of the universe, the five elements are non-separate from the Lord. In fact, these five elements constitute the Lord’s form, which is this universe.

The next two aspects are represented by the sun and the moon.

When, as an individual, I look at this world, what stands out in the sky are the sun and moon.

The moon represents all planets other than earth, and the sun represents allluminous bodies.

The eighth aspect is me, the jīva—the one who is looking at the world.

These eight aspects are to be understood as one whole. This is the Lord.

When we look at the form of Dakṣiṇāmūrti, we can see representations of the five elements. Space, ākāśa, is represented by a ḍamaru, a drum, in his right hand. In order to show space in a sculpture, it needs to be enclosed.

Empty space is enclosed in the ḍamaru, enabling it to issue sound, or śabda.

Next, vāyu, air, is represented by Dakṣiṇāmūrti’s hair with the bandana, the band, holding his hair in place against the wind. Bandana is a Sanskrit word which comes from the root band, to bind.

In his left hand, you will see a torch, which represents agni, fire.

Āpa, water, is shown by the Gaṅga, in the form of a Goddess, which you can see on Dakṣiṇāmūrti’s head.

Pṛthivī, the earth, is represented by the whole idol.

Then there are people, the jīvas, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana and Sanatsujāta, who are the disciples of Dakṣiṇāmūrti, sitting at the base of sculpture.

The sun and moon are also shown in this form of the Lord.

On the left side of Dakṣiṇāmūrti you will find a crescent moon, and on his right side there is a circle, representing the sun—a whole circle.

So we see five elements, two planets and the jīva constituting the aṣṭa-mūrti-bhṛt, the Lord of these eight factors that are the whole.

You can worship Dakṣiṇāmūrti as the Lord, the one who is aṣṭa-mūrti-bhṛt, or you can invoke him as a teacher, because he also is in the form of a teacher.

His very sitting posture, āsana, is the teacher’s āsana. What does he teach? Look at his hand gesture. That shows wha the teaches. His index finger, the one we use to point at others, represents the ahaṅkāra, the ego.

The other three fingers represent your body, deha, mind, antaḥkaraņa and sense organs, prāņa.

They also may be seen as the three bodies, śarīras, the gross, subtle, and causal. This is what the jīva mistakes himself to be. The aṅguṣṭha, the thumb, represents the Lord, the puruṣa. It is away from the rest of the fingers of the hand, yet at the same time, the fingers have no strength without it.

In this gesture, mūdra, in Dakṣiṇāmūrti’s right hand, the thumb joins the other fingers to form a circle, teaching that the jīva, who takes himself to be the body, mind and senses, is the whole. The circular hand gesture visually states the entire upadeśa, teaching: tat tvam asi, “You are That.” Just as a circle has no beginning or end, you are the whole. That is the final word about you. Nobody can improve upon that vision; no culture can improve upon it.

Even in heaven, it cannot be improved upon, for the whole includes heaven. Therefore, you have the final word here, because you are everything. It is better that you know it. That teaching is contained in the Veda, represented by the palm leaves in the left hand of Dakṣiṇāmūrti. And to understand this, you require a mind that has assimilated certain values and attitudes and has developed a capacity to think in a proper and sustained way.

This can be acquired by various spiritual disciplines represented here by a japa-māla, The fact that the Lord himself is a teacher, a guru, means that any teacher is looked upon as a source of knowledge. And the teacher himself should look upon Īśvara, the Lord, as the source of knowledge. Since the Lord himself is a teacher, the first guru, there is a tradition of teaching, so there is no individual ego involved in teaching.

Dakṣiṇāmūrti is seated upon a bull, which stands for tamas, the quality of māyā that accounts for ignorance. This is the entire creative power of the world and Dakṣiṇāmūrti controls this māyā; Then, there are bound to be obstacles in your pursuit of this knowledge. Dakṣiṇāmūrti controls all possible obstacles.

Underneath his foot, under his control, is a fellow called Apasmara—the one who throws obstacles in your life. This tells us that although there will be obstacles, with the grace of the Lord, you can keep them under check and not allow them to overpower you. There is no obstacle-free life, but obstacles need not really throw you off course; you keep them under control.

Thus, the whole form of Dakṣiṇāmūrti invokes the Lord who is the source of all knowledge, the source of everything, the one who is the whole, and who teaches you that you are the whole. He is Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the one who is in the form of a teacher, guru-mūrti.

We invoke his blessing so that all of you discover that source in yourself. If this self-discovery is your pursuit, your whole life becomes worthwhile. This project of self-discovery should be the project of everyone. That is the Vedic vision of human destiny

Arsha Vidya Gurukulam was founded in 1986 by Pujya Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati. In Swamiji’s own words,

“When I accepted the request of many people I know to start a gurukulam, I had a vision of how it should be. I visualized the gurukulam as a place where spiritual seekers can reside and learn through Vedanta courses. . . And I wanted the gurukulam to offer educational programs for children in values, attitudes, and forms of prayer and worship. When I look back now, I see all these aspects of my vision taking shape or already accomplished. With the facility now fully functional, . . . I envision its further unfoldment to serve more and more people.”

Ārṣa (arsha) means belonging to the ṛṣis or seers; vidyā means knowledge. Guru means teacher and kulam is a family.  In traditional Indian studies, even today, a student resides in the home of this teacher for the period of study. Thus, gurukulam has come to mean a place of learning. Arsha Vidya Gurukulam is a place of learning the knowledge of the ṛṣis.

The traditional study of Vedanta and auxiliary disciplines are offered at the Gurukulam. Vedanta mean end (anta) of the Veda, the sourcebook for spiritual knowledge.  Though preserved in the Veda, this wisdom is relevant to people in all cultures, at all times. The vision that Vedanta unfolds is that the reality of the self, the world, and God is one non-dual consciousness that both transcends and is the essence of everything. Knowing this, one is free from all struggle based on a sense of inadequacy.

The vision and method of its unfoldment has been carefully preserved through the ages, so that what is taught today at the Gurukulam is identical to what was revealed by the ṛṣis in the Vedas.