Arsha Vidya Pitham, Saylorsburg, PA

Pūjya Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati - 90th Jayanti Tribute

Pūjya Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati was a distinguished traditional teacher of Vedanta. His depth of understanding and nuanced appreciation of both Eastern and Western cultures made him that rare teacher who could communicate the vision of non-duality to modern listeners. He was able to make one see, with immediacy, the truth of oneself as the whole.

A consummate teacher of Vedanta and a Sanskrit scholar, Swamiji was renowned for his outstanding communication skills. Swamiji taught Vedanta in India for more than five decades, and around the world from 1976. In his public talks abroad, Swamiji spoke at many prestigious forums and addressed international conventions, UNESCO, and the United Nations, where he participated in the Millennium Peace Summit.

A teacher of teachers, Swamiji designed and taught seven in-depth Vedanta courses, each spanning 30 to 36 months, and eight more have been conducted with his guidance. The graduates from these courses are now acharyas, teaching around the world. More than two hundred are sannyasis and are highly respected as scholars and teachers throughout India and abroad. Some of these swamis and swaminis have conducted their own long-term residential courses under his guidance and with his assistance. The Ashrams founded by Swamiji in India are the Arsha Vidya Pitham in Rishikesh, the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Annaikatti, Coimbatore, and the Arsha Vijnana Gurukulam at Nagpur. In the U.S., Swamiji founded the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Regular teaching programs in Vedanta, Sanskrit, yoga, and other classical Indian disciplines of knowledge are being conducted at these institutions. In addition, his students have set up many teaching centers in India and
abroad that carry on the tradition of Vedantic teaching.

After teaching Vedanta for over four decades, Swamiji, anticipating an erosion of dharma, started various initiatives. In order to protect dharma, the person living a life of dharma, the dharmi, who is integral for protecting sanātana-dharma, needed to be protected. With this vision, Swamiji started the Dharma Rakshana Samiti in 1999, which spreads awareness of the richness of Vedic culture.

In 2000, Swamiji convened the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, an apex body consisting of all the prominent acharyas of various sampradayas of Hinduism to address the need for an official unified voice to represent sanātana-dharma as a whole. The Sabha actively engages in preserving what is sacred for a Hindu by giving a strong voice to various causes like the Tirupati declaration, Ram Sethu, and Tehri dam. The Acharya Sabha also engages with other religions of the world in an effort to promote peace and unity among religions. Swamiji convened two Hindu-Buddhist and Hindu-Jewish dialogues, which were instrumental in promoting inter-faith understanding and creating mutual respect among the religions.

Swamiji also initiated and supported various humanitarian efforts for the last forty-five years. A significant one among these is the establishment of the All India Movement for Seva in 2000. Awarded consultative status with ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) by the United Nations in 2005, this organization is devoted to serving people in the remote areas of India, mainly in the fields of Education and Health Care. It is an integrated community development program that reaches out to the tribal and rural people living in remote parts of the country, bringing them educational, nutritional, medical, and infrastructural assistance. AIM for Seva runs over 120 free student homes for needy students spread all over the country.

In November 2001, Swamiji convened the first World Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity in Delhi, inaugurated by the Dalai Lama and the then Prime Minister Sri A.B. Vajpayee. An important outcome of the Congress was the formation of a Global Commission for the Preservation of Religious Diversity, spearheaded by Swamiji. Swamiji was also active in forming and participating in the Women’s Global Peace Initiative, which was convened at the United Nations in Geneva in October 2002.

Swamiji promoted several international events and participated as a speaker in many global forums, among which are: the United Nations gathering of NGOs, the UNESCO Seoul Global Convention, the United Nations 50th Anniversary Celebration, the Millennium World Peace Summit, the International Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity, the Conference on the Preservation of Sacred Sites, the World Council for Preservation of Religious Diversity, the Youth Peace Summit, a Hindu-Christian dialogue with the World Council of Churches, and the Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit.

In 2006, Swamiji initiated a renewal of the Thirumurai tradition at Siva temples. Through this project, the Oduvars, who are the traditional singers of Thirumurai, are encouraged and honored with a citation and cash reward.

In 2008, Swamiji represented Hinduism at the International Interreligious Conference in The Netherlands to participate in and sign the Faith in Human Rights Statement, a historic document that vouchsafes human rights and fundamental freedom endorsed by the religious leaders of the world.

Some of the other major initiatives started by Pūjya Swamiji include:
• Pathashalas for the preservation of Vedas and agamas
• Preservation of Temple traditions and cultures
• Thirumurai awareness and support – recognition of Oduvars and support for livelihood
• Construction of Ashta DikPalakas and proper offerings at Brhadeesvarar temple
• Thiruvidaimarudur ther (chariot) project
• Promoting Education
• Dayananda Education Trust offering kindergarten to Ph.D. in a village for over 6000 students
• Krupa by Dayananda- B.D.Goenka Seva trust
• Vedic heritage teaching program
• Preservation of arts and music
• Institution of Arsha Kala Bhushanam awards
• Thiruppugazh conference
• Promotion of global harmony and world peace (see list below)
• Thinkers meet (a forum for thinkers to address Hindu and National issues)
• Digital library project to publish old manuscripts
• International conference on Vedic Sarasvati River and Hindu Civilization (to get the true story of ancient India)
• Fighting Global Warming (by advocating avoidance of red meat)

Swamiji attained Mahasamadhi at Rishikesh by the banks of the Ganga on 23rd September 2015.

Pūjya Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati was awarded the Padma Bhushan posthumously for his exemplary service to the nation in the field of spiritualism on Jan 25, 2016.

Global Harmony and World Peace

In chronological order, Swamji organized and/or participated in the following international forums:
United Nations 50th Anniversary Celebration, 1995
UNESCO Seoul Global Convention on Tolerance, Restoration of Morality and Humanity, 1995
International Conference of Great Religions of Asia, 1999
Millennium World Peace Summit, 2000
International Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity, 2001
International Conference on the Global Preservation of Sacred Sites, 2001
World Council for Preservation of Religious Diversity
World Youth Peace Summit, Kyoto 2002, 2003, Taipei, 2004
Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders, Geneva, 2002, Jaipur 2008
World Council of Religious Leaders, Bangkok, 2002
Hindu-Christian dialogue with the World Council of Churches, Geneva, 2002
World Youth Peace Summit, Kyoto 2003
Parliament of World Religions, Barcelona, 2004, Madrid, 2008
Asia-Pacific Youth Peace Summit, Bangkok, 2004
From Inner Heart to Global Vision World Conference, Taiwan, 2005
Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit, Delhi, 2007,
Jerusalem, 2008, New York & Washington, DC, 2009
International Inter-religious Encounter, Monterrey, 2007
World Religions After 9/11, Montreal, 2008
Faith in Human Rights Conference, The Hague, 2008
Hindu-Buddhist Meet, Phnom Penh, 2009, Sri Lanka, 2010

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.