Arsha Vidya Pitham, Saylorsburg, PA

Tributes by the Board of Directors

Homage to Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Avantika Shah

Piyush and I came in contact with Pujya Swamiji about 30 years ago. We both became very close to Swamiji with his compassion and teachings. It was our privilege to extend our little help and support to Swamiji in all his projects. Swamiji always acknowledged our little help and mentioned that “Whatever I have done so far is because of you two.” Piyush always served Swamiji unconditionally like Hanuman. We both lead a very simple life and have dedicated our lives to his cause. You all know that the gurukulam is the final place, the place in which no one seeks any recognition. We wanted to lend our wholehearted support to fulfill all the projects that were envisioned by Swamiji. We both wanted love from Swamiji and we got it in abundance. He said, “I will be with you all the time so don’t cry and lament. Be joyous and try to be big like me.”

Now I have time and I will carefully listen to the Vedanta teachings of Swamiji and live my life. I enjoy being with people. I really love everybody. I try hard not to see any mistakes in people. I would definitely not withstand anyone doing wrong at the gurukulam. We came here for Swamiji and he became like a backbone to us. It is good we met such a person in our life. Now he is my guru and I will take his teaching and move on.

He blessed us so much with his teachings and love that would sustain us throughout our lives.

Piyush Shah

It is so nice to see everybody here to pay tribute to a great mahātmā – Pujya Swamiji. I spent a lot of time with him and so have a lot of stories about him. This shall be built in the 90’s and it looked adequate and sufficient for the people who came for the programs. But Swamiji always wanted a larger facility to accommodate more people. So he initiated the idea of a facility which can hold 800 people. After some discussion, we came up with a facility for 400 – lecture hall, dining and kitchen. We always discuss pros and cons with Swamiji.

One day, he called for a meeting of a few of us and said, “This is the last time I am going to talk about this project. If you are not for it then I will not go ahead with it.” I said, “Swamiji, I will sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow.” When I thought about it, I said to myself ‘who am I to stop the growth of this facility; this beautiful dream of Swamiji’. So, I told Swamiji, “I give complete support and we will do it.” Swamiji has created all these infra-structures and it is our job to carry forward his work. So let us collectively build this beautiful new facility. It is my humble request to all of you to contribute and fulfill his dream.

Dr. Pratima Tolat

I never got a chance to meet Swamiji until the 1980’s when he came to Philadelphia. I heard him in a couple of lectures. In 1992, we had to cancel our one-week vacation for some reason and so came here. At that time, there was hardly anything here. Cabins were like boy scout’s cabins and we had to bring our own blankets, sheets and pillows. Haren said, “What are we doing here? I will last only 2-3 days.” After Swamiji’s very first lecture, Haren asked me whether Swamiji come to our home. I had never invited a Swami before. So I asked one of the gurukulam staff if Swamiji would come to our place for bhikṣā. She said, “Swamiji is very easy to approach. Why don’t you ask him?” I was nervous but at the end of the retreat, when we went to give guru-dakṣiṇa, Swamiji said, “I will come to your house.” How he recognized us, I do not know. This was our first initiation to Vedanta and we have been coming since then. Haren has lasted these 23 years!

Dr. Haren Joshi

When the first time Pujya Swamiji had problem with the heart, he was admitted in the hospital and we went to see him. I asked Pujya Swamiji, “Swamiji, how are you feeling?” Swamiji said, “Haren, you are a vascular surgeon. So, let me show you my angiogram.” He shows me and says, “Look at this. Ganga is flowing from North to South!”

Dr. Anasuya Somasundaram

I am very fortunate to have met Swamiji. We were the only Indian family in the Lehigh Valley area at the time Swamiji came to give a talk. So, we were asked to prepare lunch for Swamiji. That was even before the gurukulam was started. It was his love and humility that attracted me towards him. I knew nothing of Vedanta or Sanskrit before I met Swamiji. The little I know now, I owe to him and the teachers who are continuing his message. He has been a big influence in my life and made me a better person in every way. I can’t thank Swamiji enough.

Rakesh Sharma

I met Swamiji in 1979 when I organized his talk in Kanpur. At that time, he was energetic and full of life. When I saw him in Rishikesh, last September, it was very difficult to see him the way he was. I asked Swamiji whether he is in pain and to please talk to our astrologer Kharveji but Swamiji said, “It is over.”

In 1985, the late Dr. Nand Kishore Gujrathi, late Sri Somasundaram, and Lata and Sharad Pimplaskar gave the deposit for this gurukulam and then everything started. Then Piyush Shah gave a check for $15,000. I was with Swamiji and doing whatever I could for finances since I was in finance. When Tom and Paul were erecting this hall, Swamiji would be there to direct them. Every day, he would check the progress of temple door with lotus. This is a great institution with great ideas. I bow to the Great One.

Dr. Urmila Gujrathi

Paying tribute to Swamiji is a daunting task, like showing a candle to the sun. I came to know Swamiji in 1976. Listening to his first lecture about “WHO AM I” changed my life. I did not know till then what I was missing. After that time, I accompanied Swamiji everywhere and finally convinced him to open an ashram on the East Coast. After my husband passed away, Swamiji was my pillar of support and guided me. He was my father, mother, guru, and Īśvara. Without him, I would have been lost completely. Even though he was not here in the USA as much as in the past, but just the knowledge that he was there and available when I needed him was a great moral support. He has left us with his teaching as the guiding light, and will watch over us. I will miss him so much. Hariḥ om.

Lata Pimplaskar

I write this with heavy heart as I have lost my Beacon, and my Anchor! My beloved Guru, Pujya Swami Dayananda passing away from this world is not only a loss to me and to so many of his devotees all around the world, but a huge loss to the entire humanity because he could teach dharma as none other. He was a divine soul, who lived by the Truth, who taught the Truth!

He was/is the Truth! In his selfless life, he has touched many hearts, he has helped countless men, women and children, and many Swamis have grown in his shadow, intellectually and spiritually. He has helped all, all who came in contact with him. He helped each one of us to find meaning in our lives, however painful or mundane our lives maybe.

The difficult task of understanding ‘om tat sat’ or “God is within you,” is a mountainous task. But, he made it easy, even fun to understand it. I have felt holy Ganga flowing from his mouth, touching us, correcting, cleansing, reconstructing our inner selves guiding to the path of inner freedom! Tirelessly, year after year, he continued to teach, “You are That – Brahman.” Year after year, he answered the same questions from ignorant people like me, never ridiculing any of his listeners, no matter how silly their questions were. Year after year, he answered each question with same enthusiasm, and he answered it thoroughly, articulately. Step by step, he led his listeners to freedom, freedom from sorrow and death! He made them understand that there is nothing but God! Being with him was a life transforming experience.

Swamiji! You will always be my guiding light as you have been throughout my life. Not a single day goes by that I count my blessings to have you as my Guru! I have realized the grace of God through your presence in my life. Though I know you already were a free soul, free from this cycle of life and death, I pray for my sake, as you have taught me to pray, as you taught me to know the efficacy of prayers, that your divine soul merge into the Ultimate! Peace!

Dr. Tirun Gopal
śrī gurubhyo namaḥ

Every once in a great while the humans are graced by the descent of an avatāra, who the Lord sends to be amidst us, sooth our collective brows, assuage our anxieties and sorrows, and relieve us from the oppression of a demon. In this instance, the demon is saṃsāra, and the person who has been sent here to lift us from the crushing weight of our own ignorance is Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

“All that is here is Īśvara” he often said, looking over his glasses, perched precariously on his nose, his benevolent eyes taking in the eager faces looking up at him. The inevitable chuckle followed, for he found humor in everything, including our ignorance. Then, persuasively, painstakingly, he would enunciate the challenging verse which lent meaning to those profound words. There was tremendous reassurance in his ability to accept the lack of knowledge that abounded in his many students, which somehow resisted the repeated explanations he provided. They say patience is a virtue, but when it exists in an individual in such enormity it can only be called grace. Some of us are fortunate to be endowed with such grace, which gives us lasting patience, an innate ability to understand weaknesses as ‘the order’ in others, a degree of compassion that defies comprehension. The word ‘daya’ takes on a whole new meaning when it literally exudes from every pore in that individual, and pours out in immeasurable quantities, to be available endlessly, to everyone they come into contact with. How is that even possible; but it obviously was in our guru.

He was the embodiment of everything he taught, our sacred guru. He personified the word ‘guru’, dispelling from us the darkness of ignorance, not in the enigmatic style of other teachers but by being the very source of that knowledge. And much like Lord Daksinamurthy, he could well have maintained maunam (silence) and taught us by his actions, which themselves spoke so loudly and thunderously of the man who lived by the principles of dharma that he needed no words to teach. But his only weakness was that he loved to talk, enjoyed being surrounded by people, that he craved it and could not have enough of it. He was not the stern teacher, aloof and distant, who removed himself from his seekers but instead he reveled at being in our midst, so that he could, without being intrusive, know and understand us, and offer, gently and kindly, without condescension, to help us in times of need and when we are lost in hopeless despair.

So what does an average person have to do to deserve such a guru? I have often heard him say that it is our puṇya that we are seeking knowledge of the self. You can have a lot of śraddhā, but that in itself is not enough. You need Grace. To think that we, the “small, incomplete and deficient” little humans had the divine grace to be deserving of a guru of this stature is somehow difficult to comprehend. But wait, did he not tell us that without the grace we would not be here seeking that knowledge and be given such an ebullient source of that knowledge? There is comfort in those words. Small and insignificant as we are, we are not being made to feel smaller by an arrogant teacher who looks down upon our weaknesses or tries to take advantage of them. Instead, we have a true guru, one who abides in the true self.

I miss him and I am sure you do also. We yearn for those soft and kind words, that gentle touch, the sense of fullness when we were with him, how he offered comfort when we felt abandoned and insecure. It has created a void in our lives, and the loss is like a gaping wound, inconsolable. But let us not forget that he taught us the very definition of śarīram śīryate iti śarīram, that which perishes. What does it really mean? Did anyone of us believe that there will be a day when he would not be physically with us? No, a thousand times no. We believed, in defiance of everything he taught us, that he would be with us forever.

We would not be paying true homage to him if we did not learn what he taught us with such reverence. “deśa-kāla-parichheda-rahitam idam brahman,” is what he said. ātman, Brahman, is that vastu which transcends time, space and object. The body, consisting of the pañca mahābhūtas, perished as it should. Anything that is born in time will end in time. That is the law of the Vedas, as impregnable a law as gravity. So, what do we do now that the guru is physically gone?

It is incumbent upon us to carry the torch lit by him. We have to be the alias beacon that he was, the source of knowledge, wisdom and benevolence. A true disciple carries on the oral tradition of the guru. All that is very well, but I do not have the knowledge, to even remotely represent the wisdom that he shared with us. In dwelling on that fact, one realizes that he taught us more than the wisdom of the sages. He taught the elementary, fundamental truth of human interaction, the willingness and ability to treat others as we would like to be treated. Remember the word ‘dharma’ that he often used? And he called it universal knowledge? Knowledge that every living form instinctively has, that it does not want to be hurt? He talked of the “I-ness” that all of us have, the preservation of the self? Although the philosophy is flawed in that we believe the Self to be the body, mind and the senses, nevertheless we have the urgent need for self-preservation. And as long as we hold that instinct to be dear, let us afford the same right to all other living forms and live in conformity with nature. Let Mother Nature then decide how to preserve the balance. It is not our responsibility anyway.

Loss of a parent, a friend, a guru is innately poignant. It leaves a void in its wake, a void that is impossible to fill, a yearning that hurts, a fractured heart that seeks to be repaired. The only solace is in the unequivocal belief and comprehension of the knowledge that our guru imparted to us, the only truth is ātman, because Truth belongs not to the transient such as the body, but to the infinite, consciousness, awareness, which is without time, space or any other limitation.

Knowledge is forever. It has not boundaries other than ignorance, it is free and uplifting. In the words of our guru, knowledge liberates. Knowledge of Physics, Chemistry or Biology serves the purpose of making a living by the utilization of that knowledge. Knowledge of the self that our guru taught us, transcends every other form of knowledge, and will release us from the constraints of saṃsāra, the shackles that bind us, confound us and leave us in abject misery. It is the knowledge knowing which everything else is known. What a profound gift it is that we received from our guru! And what is the only solace and comfort we have other than to carry on that tradition of knowledge, live it, inform others of it, and spread the divine word for generations to follow.

Swamiji taught us to revere the teaching, not the teacher. Is that really possible? Can I separate what I learned from the source of that knowledge? I am afraid not. I sincerely believe that this is a transgression I am allowed, since he embodied the knowledge that he propounded.

Let us therefore bow our heads to the incarnation who was our guru, with reverence. If indeed knowledge and the knower are inseparable, he will remain with us, safely ensconced in our hearts, guiding us through troubled times, forever vigilant, knowing how much we depend on his guidance, shaping our lives so that we remain true to the knowledge he shared. Hariḥ om.

Janaki & Bhagubhai Tailor

I wish to express some thoughts about Pujya Swamiji’s achievements and what I personally gained from Pujya Swamiji’s teachings, guidance, and presence. Since 1988, I have had the immense luck of witnessing Pujya Swamiji’s vision and blessings for humanity take root and blossom. Pujya Swamiji has created a Harvard of Vedanta at his gurukulams in Saylorsburg, P.A. and worldwide locations. He has also created a lineage of teachers who carry on his teachings and vision. His AIM for Seva organization helps countless in the Indian community every day. Anyone who met Pujya Swamiji easily related with him and he effortlessly related to all of them. His caring openness extended to his open door policy. Pujya Swamiji was always available for me, my family, and for anyone who wished to see him for guidance. He helped me and my family through many upheavals. In all the years, I have never heard Pujya Swamiji revert his word. Pujya Swamiji was and is a living God. Pujya Swamiji taught us how to be human, through seva to others. He taught us how to be non-judgmental, to forgive and, most importantly, how to yield. These are some of the gifts he gave to me. I first saw and heard Pujya Swami when he spoke at Princeton University on ‘Creation’. In 1988, I and my family my wife Janaki, daughter Avani, and son Tapan first stepped into Saylorsburg ashram and quickly became awed by and steeped in Pujya Swamiji’s humor, fatherly warmth, and clarity of vision. We became very close to Pujya Swami and the friendly ashram community. I was an orphan by birth and Pujya Swamiji became my real father and the ashram community became my family.

Vijay Kapoor

Īśvara’s grace comes to one sometime unannounced, and in subtle ways. Even though I was fortunate to get an introduction to the Self by Sri Swami Chinmayanandaji in mid-1973, it was not yet clear to me that even an inspired student needs a teacher who turns inspiration into conviction; one who provides a clear, systematic and sustained method of seeing the subtle truth of oneself. That grace came to me in the form of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

The grace also made sure I did not miss the opportunity to learn. I vividly recall the first time I heard him speak, in the Humboldt State College, as a substitute when Swami Chinmayanandaji’s visa failed to arrive in time. He spoke standing up. His logical teaching style was electric. That evening I called my wife to tell her that I had found my guru. He held my mind in a state I had never experienced before, a stillness that I did not know was possible. The quest to delve deeper became natural. I began to learn Sanskrit, to study, to follow Swamiji wherever he was speaking.

I remember the hotel room in San Francisco in 1978 when I visited with him and posed a question: ‘Swamiji, given that I have limited discretionary time, should I spend more time studying Sanskrit or Vedanta?’ His answer was as surprising, even disappointing as it was quick and firm. ‘Sanskrit’, he said. It took me years to understand the wisdom of that advice. Swamiji saw the resolve in me, and wanted me to take a longer view of the pursuit.

That resolve helped me to join a group that implored him to come and teach in the US. I just wanted to be instructed more thoroughly, perhaps hoping that occasional visits to the Piercy ashram course, which was in the cards, will at least be of more help. Then came that fateful interview with Swamiji, when my wife Pammi and I went to Piercy in early summer of 1979. I expressed my desire to study full time, and Pammi brought up her doubts regarding the effect of making this drastic change on all of our lives. Swamiji listened to us both, asked questions about the children and finances, and then said: ‘This firm resolve to study brahma-vidyā is not that easily obtained. It is the result of uncommon grace by Īśvara. One should make every attempt to follow through with it.’ To my great surprise and joy, Pammi said yes right there and then. After the course began in late 1979, Pammi, I and our 10 and 4 year old sons, Sanjay and Manoj, moved to Piercy for over 2 years, spending easily the two most enjoyable and rewarding learning experience of my life.

Another point of time, etched in my memory, was the 4-hour drive from San Francisco airport to Piercy after Pujya Swamiji returned from having met Swami Chinmayanandaji. He had just made the decision to form an independent teaching institution, and named it Arsha Vidya Pitham. There was sadness in his voice, of leaving the mother-ship, but also a quiet steeliness in shaping the sampradāya true to Vyasa and Adi Shankara. I was honored by his trust in me by being asked to be the secretary of AVP. After the Piercy course ended in mid-1982, I fulfilled the promise to my family in returning to working. At the same time, we started to sow the seeds of more 2 ½ year courses, and in establishing the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Saylorsburg, and subsequently in Anaikatti and Nagpur.

Īśvara’s blessing in my life, starting with being born in India, the puṇya bhūmi, was to meet Swamiji. It is hard to even imagine that one person can shape one’s entire life, and thereafter, to such a degree, to be able to see the order in the universe, to see the presence of Īśvara, the beauty of the creation. I vividly remember Swamji pointing out that even more than the enormity and grandeur of the cosmos, he marveled at the intricacy of the microcosmic creation – the ability to hear and see, the complexity of the heart, the flow of blood, the marvelous epidermis; in fact the beauty in the entire set of physical, physiological and psychological order in the universe.

Swamiji’s unique genius was not just in understanding the depth of the Śāstras, but to be able to communicate it to a wide spectrum of people. On one hand, late in the evening after dinner and satsaṅg, a small group of learned students could experience being lead through the Brahma-sūtras, mostly in Sanskrit. On the other hand, in a public discourse, he would weave through the deeper meanings wrapped around hilarious examples from everyday life. I learned to observe how he would start each class or a discourse surveying the audience, making eye contact, and making a note of new people. Then he would shape the teaching, to make sure the entire spectrum of the minds before him, and that no one is left behind. He would take branches in logic, but always came back to the root of the logic, before proceeding with the discourse. One would never hear him say, ‘So where was I?’

While I found Sri Swami Chinmayanandaji as the father figure, Pujya Swamiji was the quintessential mother figure. I recall Swami Chinmayananda pausing if someone would come in late and make a disturbance in finding a seat. Pujya Swamiji would let nothing disturb the flow of teaching, not people coming late, or leaving. My own students would attest to this – I hardly notice cell phone ringing, or people coming in late. Accommodation was the hallmark of his personality, and one that he taught by example, not by talking about it.

The depth of his teaching was matched by the breadth of dealing with the responsibilities of the organization he created and managed. In a satsaṅg in Piercy, a student was bemoaning about family responsibilities, as though implying that Swamiji not being a householder will not appreciate what he was going through. Swamiji raised his voice a bit, answering that this gentleman had two children, while Swamiji was entrusted with the care and guidance of thousands of people who had taken shelter in him, sometime abandoning their family set up. Was he any less of a householder?

A scholar, a teacher of teachers, a social reformer, a refuge to many in life, a leader of large institutions, a visionary, but above all a kind man who taught tolerance and kindness as the essential qualities of a Vedantic student. Such was this giant, a person who will be recognized as one of the greatest in this era. I am so blessed in having known him.

Dr. Soma Sundaram Avva

Pujya Swamiji was an acclaimed traditional teacher of Vedanta. He taught Vedanta all over the world. He was the founder of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha creating harmony among heads of various Hindu religious organizations and sampradāyas. He was also the founder of All India Movement for Seva, a charitable trust giving the invaluable gift of education to several thousands of poor school children in rural India. He also convened the First World Congress for the preservation of religious Diversity advocating freedom for all the practice their own faith in pursuit of spiritual harmony. He spoke in no uncertain terms against proselytization. These are just a few among Swamiji’s several and varied gifts to us.

Pujya Swamiji dedicated his life to teaching Vedanta. He was a dynamic speaker and erudite scholar and coupled with his sense of humor had an unparalleled skill in unfolding scriptures and he did so traveling all over the world. Bhagavadgita Home Study course was one of his gifts to the humanity and in Dayton still a course continues and lives on. The legacy he has given are the many students he has taught who themselves are now swamis and brilliant teachers.

We, in Dayton, Ohio were fortunate to be blessed with his visit to Dayton in 1981 when he gave a series of lectures in Vedanta. He found traditional sculptors to remodel our temple and after its completion, Swamiji also performed Kumbhabhishekam of all the newly constructed gopurams. Subsequently, Pujya Swamiji visited the temple a few more times on different occasions. He was an embodiment of compassion. He was easily approachable and always had practical and wise solutions to our worldly problems. He will always be with us. We can still hear Swamiji declaring “There is only God”. I strongly believe that Pujya Swamiji was an incarnation of the Lord.

Janani Cleary

To write on Swami Dayananda as my guru and more importantly, as the teaching master that he was, it might be helpful to understand a little bit about my background and how I first met him. Prior to meeting him, I was a yoga teacher at Integral Yoga Institute in New York City way back in 1974. As such, I was happily humming along teaching yoga classes and following the sadhanas that were advocated there and I was totally clueless about anything called or relating to the study of Vedanta.

It took a Gita Jnana Yagna being given by Swami Chinmayananda at one of the New York universities that not only got my attention but ended up changing my entire direction. In realizing that I knew nothing about the origins of yoga or the traditions from whence it had sprung, I knew that I had to pursue this course of study if I was ever going to espouse its teachings. With Swami Chinmayananda’s blessing, I travelled to India in late 1975. There, for the first time I met Swami Dayananda.

Swami Dayananda challenged my capabilities for this study right out of the gate. In the first discussion that I ever had with him, he asked me whether I had any idea why I had come all the way to India to commit to a 3 year course of study especially since I had not had any real exposure to the Indian or Vedic culture.

When I responded with some high sounding words and what I thought were very impressive statements and explanations, he surprised me by stating that if that is what I really thought and understood then I should not waste my time and that I might as well turn around and get on the next plane back to the US. Since many efforts had been made on my side to make this trip happen and on his side to insure that I got a student visa, I was totally floored by his words and the tone by which he expressed them.

I had heard that he was such a wonderful person and a great teacher and I was wondering where that person was now. Perhaps there were actually two swamis with the same name and I was sitting in front of the wrong one. I started to get a little emotional and he responded by saying “What? Are you going to cry now?” Well, that got me going, but not in the crying direction and I sat up straighter and said something along the lines of “If you are going to tell me that everything that I know is wrong, then you better darn well replace it with something better.” He started laughing and then said something along the lines of “You’ll do.” and did reassure me that he would do just that. And boy did he ever?!

I have since been the beneficiary many times over of this tradition as taught by him that has not only destroyed my notions but also allowed me to understand and see the underlying essence of everything – which is really all that matters. The tact that he took and the fact that he did not mince words in that first conversation set the stage in exactly the way that it needed to be done. He made me understand that what I was in for was not an ordinary course of study and that it was not to be taken lightly nor to be mixed up with all the gobbledygook nonsense that was and is still out there creating so much confusion and misleading people!

In some respects, no student ever really has the right to, nor can any words that a student says about the teacher ever measure up to the actual impact that the teacher has on the student. Nor is there a way to ever determine how much the view of that student’s life is forever affected by what has been taught. This is even more so the case in teaching the Vision of Vedanta because the Vision itself is immeasurable and truly beyond all words.

Swami Dayananda always unfolded the Vision by handling those words in such a way that his listeners grasped the full import of them, as the words themselves fell away and what they meant stood fully revealed.

This teaching tradition advises that minimal words should be judiciously used and properly presented in unfolding the sastra. Inasmuch, as, fewer words should be used when teaching, there are never enough words that can ever be said to adequately describe the wondrousness of Swami Dayananda as the teacher.

Dr. Arum Puranik

Twenty-seven years ago, at the behest of my wife, I reluctantly arrived in Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. My reluctance was one that was fueled by arrogance. As a young man of science, who had read many stories of charlatan swamis, I was hesitant to engage under the tutelage of Pujya Swamiji.

It was inconceivable to imagine how my life would unfold after that fateful day. Upon the evening of my arrival, I attended Pujya Swamiji’s satsaṅg. I was inspired less by his darśan and more by his logical response to questions raised by the audience. All my skepticism vanished when Pujya Swamiji responded to a question pertaining to mokṣa. Swamiji’s response on how to attain mokṣa was, “You already have it; it just needs to be discovered.” Instantaneously, I knew I had found my guru and it forever transformed the lives of my wife Mangala, our two daughters, and myself.

Coming from a ritualistic and religious family, I was brought up to believe rather than comprehend. Swamiji’s logical responses to the queries posed before him demanded understanding and challenged the tacit devotion I was brought up to observe. From that day to the present, Pujya Swamiji’s teachings continue to mesmerize me.

As I write this during a weeklong bhāṣyam camp at the gurukulam, Swamiji Viditatmananda continues the tradition upon which Pujya Swamiji founded this ashram. I am very thankful that Pujya Swamiji created great teachers who impart this knowledge in the ashram. Many of us feel at home here because of the special bond Pujya Swamij had with everyone he came in contact with—fostered by his infinite love, affection and forgiveness.

Even though Pujya Swamiji is no longer with us, he has left us with a vast knowledge of Vedanta recorded in text, audio and video to help us pursue the teachings. It is a blessing that these media will continue to preserve his teachings for generations to come. Please continue to support Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and AIM for Seva. Hariḥ om.

Dr. Prem Khilanani
Suddenly calmness, serenity, quietude and silence, with throngs of followers pensively waiting,

staring into far distance with enthusiasm immense, exited, impatient, restless and full of animation.

On the horizon, a silhouette imperceptible, the saffron profile becomes large and distinct,

the countenance visible, smiling and contended, the Swamiji has arrived, all are relaxed.

On the dais, a pause, a prayer and a pause, then flows the Ganga, amṛtam and jñānam,

the subtle intricate message rendered simple with transmission and transference of anandam.

Then, off to the White House for national prayer but never for a moment ceasing to remember

the poor, homeless, orphans in despair, for the national movement has commenced.

When they skip a meal, his heart misses a beat, when they are under the sun, he feels the heat,

when they cry in pain, he is in deep anguish, his body, mind and heart in tune with indigent.

“You, who are the kith and kin, why so docile? Forget not your roots, nor your bequest.

Why have you severed their life lines, the cord? They deserve no less than your own offspring.”

Pujya Swamiji, awakener of human conscience, a social reformer, teacher of Vedanta,

Founder of national movement with aim has aligned with the forgotten, not the fame.

The flame flickers no more, the faces smile, the hopes return, the people energized,

the music resounds, and the bells chime with color, dance, hopes and dreams.

Yet, amidst intense activity on the continents the Swamiji walks the path tirelessly.

The work in progress and goals fulfilled, ever in solitude, silence and peace.

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.