Swami Dayananda Saraswati (August 1930 – 23 September 2015)


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by  Kollengode S Venkataraman

Dayananda SaraswatiSwami Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam that is committed to educating disadvantaged children in many parts of India, and a defender of Dharma-based philosophical/religious traditions, died in Rishikesh on 23 September, 2015, after a prolonged illness. He was a disciple of Swami Chinmayananda.

Swami Dayananda made his case that proselytizing faiths such as Christianity and Islam practice spiritual violence since they start on the premise that their

approach is the only valid one in man’s spiritual quest, and all others’ approaches are false. Discerning lay persons, however, savor the irony that the three Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam, with the latter two heavily into proselytizing—have been violently disagreeing through wars and persecution on who among them is right.

While we can get the biographical details of Swami Dayananada from the Internet, one point is worth recording here.

At the turn of the millennia the United Nations invited world religious leaders to come up with a resolution on the need for people of diverse faiths to live in harmony. Leading theologians from the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam’s two branches), and others from Dharma-based schools (Teravada and Mahayana Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism) joined to draft a resolution that all could agree on.

The first draft contained the term “tolerance” in the resolution.  When Swami Dayananda suggested that they need to replace “tolerance” with “mutual respect” in the resolution, there was considerable opposition from Christian theologians.  This is what Rajiv Malhotra writes on this (Source:  http://tinyurl.com/Huff-Post-Swami-Dayananda):

“… … Swami Dayananda Saraswati insisted that in the official draft the term ‘tolerance’ be replaced with ‘mutual respect.’ Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict), [leading] the Vatican delegation, strongly objected to this. After all, if religions deemed ‘heathen’ were to be officially respected, there would be no justification for converting their adherents to Christianity.

“The matter reached a critical stage and some serious fighting erupted. The Hindu side held firm that the time had come for the non-Abrahamic religions to be formally respected as equals at the table and not just tolerated by the Abrahamic religions. At the very last minute, the Vatican blinked and the final resolution did call for ‘mutual respect.’

However, within a month, the Vatican issued a new policy stating that while ‘followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.’ Many liberal Christians condemned this policy, yet it remains the Vatican’s official position.”

Given the long-established hold of the Abrahamic faiths on the world stage such as the UN, we should remember Swami Dayananda Saraswati for highlighting on the world stage the condescension and spiritual arrogance of the proselytizing religions such as Christianity and Islam towards other faiths.

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