Arsha Vidya Pitham, Saylorsburg, PA

Reach out to the Unreachable

Tributes by Late Sri. Ashok Singhal

Brahmaleen Pujya Swami Dayanand Saraswati had been closely connected with Vishva Hindu Parishad right from its inception in 1964 CE at Chinmaya Ashram, Powai, Mumbai and was also instrumental in the writing of its aims & objects as delivered by Sri Guruji Golwalkar, Swami Chinmayanandaji and K.M. Munshiji. He was then the most prominent sannyāsī of the Powai Ashram. For all its major activities that the VHP began undertaking after its Global Hindu Meet in 1966 (Prayag Kumbh), he was taking keen interest in it and gave guidance from time to time.

Spreading the message of Advaita Vedanta was Pujya Swamiji’s life’s mission. In the entire span of his life his achievements cannot be expressed in words. The creation of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam – an institute for the traditional study of Advaita Vedanta and Sanskrit – at the foothills of the picturesque Nilgiri mountains off Coimbatore, its chapters in Rishikesh (Himalayas), Pennsylvania (USA) and a large number of centers throughout the country, speak of the tremendous task of inculcating Vedantic ideals producing thousands of devotees, teachers, ascetics, sannyāsīs and sannyāsīnis to take Vedanta to the masses!

In order to strengthen Hindu Society and Dharma and articulate and promote the cause of Hindus in national and international fora, Swamiji felt the need to carry the mantra of togetherness to all the traditional Mathadhipathis, Dharmacharyas, Mahamandaleshwars, Adheenamkartars and leaders of other traditions (Heads of Hindu spirituo-religious organizations) and bring them together under the umbrella of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha and make them work together. He traveled across the country, personally met the Heads of the various mathas, and convinced them of the importance of establishing a body that would be the official voice of Hindu consciousness. The Sabha now comprises of more than 130 Hindu religious leaders heading maṭhas and pīṭhas in Bharat (institutions of Hindu religious learning and practice) that are at least 200 years old, with an unbroken lineage from their founding, and with a large current following. It was one of the most difficult tasks to bring on one platform the leaders of various indigenous spirituo-religious schools each having a hoary history. But he accomplished this desirable but virtually unfeasible task working it out in the role of a champion behind the scenes. The Sabha is the largest gathering of Dharma Acharyas of the country concerning all Hindu sampradāyas, traditions. In the first Acharya Sabha meet, important decisions were taken for resolving challenging problems facing the Hindu society. The Vishva Hindu Parishad has been a key participant in all its Conferences. I had very great reverence for Swamiji. His love, affection and warmth for me cannot be expressed in words. In order to bless me on my 80th birthday in a special way, he wished to conduct a Vedic anuṣṭhāna (ritual) for me. This anuṣṭhāna, with his blessings, was conducted as per Vedic rites in Arsha Vidya Gurukulam temple premises at Anaikatti by renowned Vedic scholars. In the closing ceremony of the yajña, I was blessed with the vrihat kalaśa snānam (bath with sanctified water). I have been lucky to have received his blessing all these years which I can never forget. When in the month of June-2015 he was to leave for USA for his medical treatment, a day before he left for USA, Swami Paramatmanandji and I decided to take guidance on a large number of problems facing the country and get some mārga-darśan (direction) for our VHP organization also. For practically one hour in the morning he listened to the questions and issues one by one using his ear-phone and gave straight answers to all the queries. Even with his failing health, he reminded us that it was 11 o’clock and that he had to leave to take his classes. I told him that I would meet him in Pennsylvania during my US tour in August-September, 2015.

I reached USA on 24th August after my UK and Holland tours, and all of a sudden we heard the news that Swamiji’s condition was deteriorating and becoming more and more serious. He always wanted that in his last journey he should be taken to Rishikesh on the holy banks of Maa Ganga in the foothills of the Himalayas and was thus brought there from USA on 25th August by an air ambulance. We can imagine the agony that he would have put up with during this long air ambulance journey in this condition. During my US tours till 15th September, I was in live touch with Swami Paramatmanandaji about Swamiji’s health. Swamiji insisted that he should be given jīvit-mahā-samādhi. Thousands of his devotees and well-wishers could not accept this decision as to them it was most untenable, but Swamiji would not listen. Before his last journey, Swamiji must have had a feeling to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modiji realizing this within himself paid a visit to Swamiji at the Rishikesh Ashram on September 11. During the long talk with the Prime Minister, I am told, Swamiji advised him to address the miseries of the poor man – the last man in society.

Swamiji was again admitted to the Dehradun hospital in a serious condition. From my foreign tour I landed in Delhi in the afternoon on 16th September. By the time I reached our office, we got the news that Swamiji’s condition had further deteriorated. The next morning, I flew to the Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun. By that time his condition had improved. Swami Paramatmanandji conveyed to Swamiji in the ICU through earphone that Ashokji had come and wanted to speak to him. When I talked to him Swamiji was full with divine emotion. He took hold of my hand for full 5 minutes. I was standing before him and tears welled up in his eyes. When I told him that I was departing, Swamiji raised both his hands giving his departing blessings. Seva (service) was Swamiji’s message to all his devotees and the youths of our country. The hundreds of seva activities under the banner of AIM for Seva (All India Movement for Seva) was his great mission for the uplift of the last man that was uppermost in his mind. We have to accomplish the dreams of Swamiji to reach out to the unreachable brethren in our country, to serve them, so that they are empowered enough to independently uplift themselves and their communities. This is Pujya Swamiji’s message to all of us to materialize.

(The author played a crucial role in the growth of Vishwa Hindu Parisad (VHP) for several decades. By his vision and leadership, VHP today is a world renowned organization, committed to the eternal values of dharma.)

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.