Notes to “The Autobiography of Dayanund Saraswati, Swami.”
Theosophist, October & December, 1879
Article selections by the Swami | Notes by H.P.B.
[Note: the following note by H.P.B. preceded the December, 1879 portion of the article; we place it here as an introductory remark]
Our revered brother, the Swami Dayânund Saraswati, continues in this number [Dec., 1879] his autobiographical narrative, which the whole Indian press has declared the most interesting portion of our journal. We hope the lesson of his self-sacrificing quest after divine knowledge—that true wisdom which teaches man the nature of his inner Self, its source and destiny—will not be thrown away upon the youth of his country. Happy, indeed, would we feel if we could see the bright young men who are flocking into his Arya Samajes, emulating his conduct as well as reverencing his person. No Western reader need be at a loss to understand the interest that attends every movement in his preaching pilgrimage throughout India. And, object as our pandits may to his constructions of Vedic texts, not even the most orthodox can fail in respect for one who joins to a profound knowledge of Sanskrit literature an absolute purity of motive and of life, and a fervid sense of duty never surpassed by reformers. For Theosophists of every nationality the account of his adventures among adepts of the secret (and sacred) science will have a peculiar charm.
[The following are selections from the autobiography with H.P.B.’s notes]
. . . It was in a Brahmin family of the Oudichya caste, in a town belonging to the Rajah of Morwee, in the province of Kattiawar, that in the year of Samvat, 1881, I, now known as Dayanund Saraswati, was born. If I have from the first refrained from giving the names of my father and of the town in which my family resides, it is because I have been prevented from doing so by my duty. Had any of my relatives heard again of me, they would have sought me out. And then, once more face to face with them, it would have become incumbent upon me to follow them. I would have to touch money again,1 serve them, and attend to their wants. And thus the holy work of the Reform to which I have wedded my whole life, would have irretrievably suffered through my forced withdrawal from it. . . .
. . . I was but eight when I was invested with the sacred Brahmanical cord (triple thread), and taught Gayatri Sandhya with its practices, and Yajur Veda Sanhita preceded by the study of the Rudradhyaya.2 . . .
As my father’s was a banking house and held, moreover, the office—hereditary in my family—of a Jamádár3 we were far from being poor . . . Whenever there was a Siva Puran to be read and explained, there my father was sure to take me along with him; and finally, unmindful of my mother’s remonstrances, he imperatively demanded that I should begin practicing Parthiva Puja.4 When the great day of gloom and faasting—called Sivaratree—had arrived,5 this day following on the 13th of Vadya of Magh6 my father, regardless of the protest that my strength might fail, commanded me to fast, adding that I had to be initiated on that night into the sacred legend,and participate in that night’s long vigil in the temple of Siva. . . .
[During the vigil] Thoughts upon thought crowded upon me and one question arose after the other in my disturbed mind. Is it possible—I asked myself—that this semblance of man, the idol of a personal God, that I see bestriding his bull before me, and who, according to all religious accounts, walks about, eats, sleeps, and drinks; who can hold a trident in his hand, beat upon his dumroo (drum), and pronounce curses upon men—is it possible that he can be the Mahadeva, the great Deity? The same who is invoked as the Lord of Kailasa,7 the Supreme being and the divine hero of all the stories we read of him in his Puranas? . . .
[Hereafter, H.P.B. provides definitions for the following:]
Nighanta8 . . . Nirukta9 . . . Purvamimansa10 . . . Nautch11 Mukti12 . . . Four Ghotkas13 . . .
I began entreating [my father] to send me to Benares, where I might complete my knowledge of the Sanskrit grammar, and study astronomy and physics until I had attained a full proficiency in these difficult sciences.14 . . .
[Further definitions by H.P.B. on the following:]
Mella15 . . . Tumba16 . . .
There [Ahmedabad] I settled for some time; and, at Chetan Math (temple) I held several discourses with Brahmanand and a number of Brahmacharis and Sanyasis, upon the Vedanta philosophy. It was Brahmanand and other holy men who established to my entire satisfaction that Brahm, the deity, was no other than my own Self—my Ego. I am Brahm, a portion of Brahm; Jiv (Soul) and Brahm, the deity, being one.17 . . .
[Further definitions by H.P.B. on the following:]
Sannyasis18 . . . Dand19 . . . “a man thoroughly versed in Yog”20 . . . “good and pure Yogis”21 . . .
. . . Staying at Tidee for some time, I inquired of [a Pandit] about some books and learned treatises I wanted to get for my instruction; what books and manuscripts could be procured at that place, and where. He mentioned some works on Sanskrit grammar, classics, lexicographies, books on astrology, and the Tantras—or ritualistics. Finding that the latter were the only ones unknown to me, I asked him to procure the same for me. Thereupon the learned man brought to me several works upon this subject. But no sooner had I opened them, than my eye fell upon such an amount of incredible obscenities, mistranslations, misinterpretations of text and absurdity, that I felt perfectly horrified. In this Ritual I found that incest was permitted with mothers, daughters, and sisters (of the Shoemaker’s caste), as well as among the Pariahs of the outcastes—and worship was performed in a perfectly nude state22 . . . Spirituous liquors, fish, and all kind of animal food, and Moodra23 (exhibition of indecent images) . . . were allowed, from Brahmin down to Mang. And it was explicitly stated that all those five things of which the name commences with the nasal,24 m, as for instance, Madya (intoxicating liquor); Meen (fish); Maons (flesh); Moodra . . .; and Maithoon . . . were so many means for reaching Mutki (salvation)! By actually reading the whole contents of the Tantras I fully assured myself of the craft and viciousness of the authors of this disgusting literature which is regarded as RELIGIOUS! . . .
I proceeded back to Kedar, this time alone and unimpeded in my intentions, and reached Gupta Kashi25 (the secret Benares) . . .
I stayed but a few days there, and went thence to the Triyugee26 Nurayan shrine, visiting on my way Gowree Koond tank, and the cave of Bheemogoopha. . . . I felt a strong desire to visit the surrounding mountains, with their eternal ice and glaciers, in quest of those true ascetics I have heard of, but as yet had never met—the Mahatmas.27 . . .
. . . Having wandered in vain for about twenty days, disheartened, I retraced my steps, as lonely as before, my companions who had first accompanied me, having left me two days after we had started through dread of the great cold. I then ascended the Tunganath Peak28 There, I found a temple full of idols and officiating priests, and hastened to descend the peak on the same day. . . .
1. No Swami or Sannyasi can touch money, or personally transact any monetary business.—ED. Theos. [H.P.B.]
2. Rudradhyaya is a chapter about Rudra (a name of Siva).
3. The office of “Jamadar” answers to that of a town Revenue Collector, combining that of a Magistrate, at the same time.
4. Parthiwa Puja is the ceremony connected with the worship of a lingam of clay—the emblem of Siva.
5. The Vishnavites, or worshippers of Vishnu—the greatest enemies of the Sivaites or worshippers of Siva—hold on this day a festival, in derision of their religious opponents.
6. The eleventh month of the Hindu year.
7. A mountain peak of the Himalayas where Siva’s heaven is believed to be situated.
8. A medical work. There is a treatise entitled Nighanta in the Vedas.
9. Another Vedic treatise.
10. First mimansa.
11. Singing and dancing by professional women.
12. About half-an-hour.
13. The final bliss of a liberated soul; absorption into Brahma.
14. Astronomy includes Astrology in India, and it is in Benares that the subtlest of metaphysics and so-called occult sciences are taught.
15. Mella is a religious gathering, numbering at times hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.
16. A vessel to hold water, made of a dried gourd.
This passage is of such importance that the original is here appended for the consideration of the learned.
18. Sannyas. There are different conditions and orders prescribed in the Shastras. (1) Brahmachari—one who leads simply a life of celibacy, maintaining himself by begging while prosecuting his studies; (2) Grihasthasrama—one who leads a married but a holy life; (3) Vanaprastha—who lives the life of a hermit; (4) Sannyas or Chaturthasrama. This is the highest of the four; in which the members of either of the other three may enter, the necessary conditions for it being the renunciation of all worldly considerations. Following are the four different successive stages of this life: (a) Kutichaka—living in a hut, or in a desolate place and wearing a red-ochre coloured garment, carrying a three-knotted bamboo rod, and wearing the hair in the centre of the crown of the head, having the sacred thread, and devoting oneself to the contemplation of Parabrahma; (b) Bahudaka—one who lives quite apart from his family and the world, maintains himself on alms collected at seven houses, and wears the same kind of reddish garment; (c) Hansa—the same as in the preceding case, except the carrying of only a one-knotted bamboo; (d) Paramahansa—the same as the others; but the ascetic wears the sacred thread, and his hair and beard are quite long. This is the highest of all these orders. A Paramahansa who shows himself worthy is on the very threshold of becoming a Diksheet.
19. The three and seven-knotted bamboo of Sannyasis given to them as a sign of power, after their initiation.
20. A religious “magician,” practically. One who can embrace the past and the future in one present; a man who has reached the most perfect state of clairvoyance, and has a thorough knowledge of what is now known as mesmerism, and the occult properties of nature, which sciences help the student to perform the greatest phenomena; such phenomena must not be confounded with miracles, which are an absurdity.
21. One may be a Yogi, and yet not a Dikshita, i.e., not have received his final initiation into the mysteries of Yoga Vidya.
22. For reasons which will be appreciated we prefer giving the text in Hindi:
23. The word Moodra has been variously understood and interpreted. It means the signet of a royal as well as of a religious personage; a ring seal with initials engraved upon it. But it is also understood in another sense—the pristine and esoteric.
Bhuchari, Chachuri, Khechari, Charachari, and Agochari—these five were the Mudras practiced by the Aryas to qualify themselves for Yoga. They are the initiative stages to the difficult system of RAJ-YOG, and the preliminaries of Dhotipoti, the early discipline of HAT-YOG. The Mudra is a quite distinct and independent course of Yoga training, the completion of which helps the candidate to attain Anima, Laghima and Garima. (For the meaning of these Siddhis, see article on Yog-Vidya in the November number of Theosophist). The sense of this holy word once perverted, the ignorant Brahmins debased it to imply the pictorial representation of the emblems of their deities, and to signify the marks of those sexual emblems daubed upon their bodies with Gopichand made of the whitish clay of rivers held sacred. The Vaishnavas debase the mark and the word less than the Shaivas; but the Shaktas by applying it to the obscene gestures and the indecent exposures of their filthy Ritual, have entirely degraded its Aryan meaning.
24. The following are the five nasals in Sanskrit;
(1) ङ (nga), (2) ञ (yna), (3) ण (ṇṇa), (4) न (na); (5) म (ma).
25. Gupta Kashi—Gupta, secret, hidden; Kashi, the ancient name of Benares—is a holy place enshrouded in mystery. It is about fifty miles from Badrinath. Outwardly there is seen only a temple with columns; but a firm belief prevails among pilgrims to the effect that this shrine only serves as a landmark to indicate the locality of the sacred hidden Benares—a whole city, in fact, underground. This holy place, they believe, will be revealed at the proper time, to the world. The Mahatmas alone can now reach it, and some inhabit it. A learned Swami friend, and a native of Badrinath, highly respected at Bombay, has just told us that there is a prophecy that in 25 years from this time Benares will begin to decline in every respect as it has long done in holiness, and, owing to the wickedness of men, will finally fall. Then, the mystery of Gupta Kashi will be disclosed and the truth begin to dawn upon men. Swami P— solemnly avers that, having often visited this very shrine, he has several times observed, with his own eyes, as it were, shadowy forms disappearing at the entrance—as though half visible men, or the wraiths of men were entering.
26. Three Yugis, or the three Epochs.
27. The Mahatmas, or literally great souls, from the words—Maha, great, and atma, soul—are those mysterious adepts whom the popular fancy views as “magicians,” and of whom every child knows in India, but who are met with so rarely, especially in this age of degeneration. With the exception of some Swamis and ascetics of a perfectly holy life, there are few who know positively that they do exist, and are no myths created by superstitious fancy. It will be given, perhaps, to Swami Dayananda, the great and holy man, to disabuse the skeptical minds of his degenerating countrymen; especially of this young decorated generation, the Jeunesse Doree of India, the LL.B., and M.A. aristocracy—who, fed upon Western materialism, and inspired by the cold negation of the age, despise the traditions, as well as the religion of their forefathers, calling all that was held sacred by the latter, a “rotten superstition.” Alas! they hardly remark themselves that from idolatry they have fallen into fetishism. They have but changed their idols for poorer ones, and remain the same.
28. At Badrinath (Northern India), on the right bank of the Bishanganga, where the celebrated temple of Vishnu, with hot mineral springs in it, annually attracts numerous pilgrims, there is a strange tradition among the inhabitants. They believe that holy Mahatmas (anchorites) have lived the inaccessible mountain peaks, in caves of the greatest beauty for several thousand years. Their residence is approachable only through a cavern perpetually choked with snow, which forbids the approach of the curious and the skeptical. The Badrinath peaks in this neighbourhood are above 22,000 feet high.—
Since the above was written one of our most respected and learned Fellows has informed us that his Guru (Preceptor) told him that while stopping at the temple of Narayan, on the Himalayas, where he had passed some months, he saw therein a copper plate bearing date, with an inscription, said to have been made by Sankaracharya, that that temple was the extreme limit where one should go in ascending the Himalayas. The Guru also said that farther up the heights, and beyond apparently insurmountable walls of snow and ice, he several times saw men of a most venerable appearance, such as the Aryan Rishis are represented, wearing hair so long as to hang below their waist. There is reason to know that he saw correctly, and that the current belief is not without foundation that the place is inhabited by adepts and no one who is not an adept will ever succeed in getting an entrance.