What is the Arya Samaj?
The Arya Samaj is a reform movement and religious/social organization which was formally established in Bombay in 1875. It's patron saint is Maharishi Dayananda. By patron saint we mean to say that he was the inspiration behind this movement and is taken to be the guide of all those who call themselves Arya Samajees. But Dayananda never referred to either himself or others as Arya Samajees or Arya Samajists. He very clearly proclaimed:
"I do not entertain the least idea of founding a new religion or sect. My sole aim is to believe in Truth and help others believe in it, to reject falsehood and help others to do the same."
Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati
Maharishi Dayananda was a social reformer and religious leader of the highest caliber. He was an adamant follower, exponent, and practitioner of the Vedas—the unadulterated Truth as handed down from Guru to disciple since the beginning of time. Swami Dayananda had absolutely no craving for worldly applause and was completely unconcerned and unperturbed by the censure of the superstitious, the ignorant, and the selfish. Swami Dayanada spoke the Truth and practiced it too. His compassion and large heartedness are legendary . Few people really understood him. His greatness cannot be measured with the yardstick of intellect or the ruler of the mind. To really know him one must meet him in the sacred chamber of the purified heart, devoid of all images, opinions, and misconceptions. Great souls never die—indeed, no soul ever dies, but great souls live on and on forever in our hearts. They are not confined to a particular place or time, caste, creed, or religion, country or culture—because they have gone beyond the dimension of the mind.
The formal organization known as the Arya Samaj was an aid in fulfilling Maharishi Dayananda's promise to his preceptor to reveal the true meaning of the Vedas and revive the Vedic culture. However, Dayananda's prime mission in life was not the forming and maintaining of an organization or institution.
What is the Meaning of Arya?
The word Arya means a noble human being—one who is thoughtful and charitable, who thinks good thoughts and does good actions—he or she is an Arya. The universal Arya Samaj (Vishwa Arya Samaj) is a gathering of such people. It is a well-knit society of good people.
Arya Samaj of the 21st Century
For the Arya Samaj (the formal institution) to make an impact in the next century and beyond, its members must take special care to imbibe the purity and depth of Maharishi Dayananda. It is not enough that we merely follow his words to the letter—we need to enter into the spirit of that great soul and realize the essence of his teachings. It is imperative that all narrow-minded sectarian views be shunned, and that every Arya whole-heartedly embrace the universal principles that were practiced and propagated by Maharishi Dayananda. These are the same universal principles that were practiced by the Sages and noble people since times immemorial, and will continue to be practiced by good people until the end of time.