There is a hunger in every creature both physical and spiritual. The animal is contented with merely satisfying his physical hunger, but the aim of man should be to satisfy both kinds of hunger, for he cannot do without it. We appease our physical hunger by external means, but we have to adopt a different process to satisfy our internal hunger. The name of that process is religion. In this scientific age religion is rejected in favour of science. The fact that science can satisfy only our external needs and that it is inadequate for the purpose of internal needs is forgotten. God has created our senses externally as a result of our actions (Katha Up.iv.i).
He is not to be blamed for that. It is the result of sinful actions. Therefore, it is desirable that we should turn our senses or desires inward. But if we follow science, instead of turning within we shall be turning more without. The great souls of Europe also had attained true peace from within and not from without. The first translation of the Upanishads into Latin in the year 1785 created a stir in Europe.
After going through it, Schopenhauer said: "It has been the solace of my life; it will be the solace of my death." Was this true peace gained from any scientific age? No, never.
This scientific age is a curse to the giant brains of the West. Being puzzled by its influence they want to get back to Nature, because they think that natural life will satisfy their internal needs and that they will gain true peace from it. Adolf Just, the learned German has written a book entitled, Return to Nature. In this he has proved beyond doubt that it is possible for man to satisfy his spiritual hunger by living a simple and religious life. Although London is a big city and one can have a direct view of the scientific discoveries as soon as one enters it, it was once written about it by the Bishop of Zanzibar, " London is a glorious city but is terribly in the hands of Satan”
If you go through the works of Bacon, Cost, Goethe and other learned men, you will find them declaring that to obtain the internal hidden peace you must lead a natural and religious life. True peace will be yours from within your own self. We, the followers of the Vedic religion chant the hymn from Isvariya gyan Veda (The knowledge revealed by God), when engaged in our daily worship “Soma, the peace-incarnate, appearing in the heart of all, protects us in our helplessness" (Atharva, iii. 27. 4). The name of this process through which we achieve this soul-force or by which we satisfy our spiritual hunger, is religion. That religion should therefore be a Universal religion.
We, the followers of the Vedic religion, believe that the Vedas are the fountain-head of that Universal religion. The original Vedas are four in number. They are the Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda and the Atharva-Veda. These Vedas contain the knowledge of God. They were revealed in the holy souls of the Rishis Agni, Vayu, Aditya and Angiras respectively hand in hand with the creation of man. The different titles are kept according to the subjects mainly dealt with in each of them, namely knowledge (gyan),action (karma), devotion(upasana) and science(vigyna). The following mantra of the Vedas themselves bears testimony to the fact that they are the revealed knowledge of God"
He by whom the Rig-Veda as well as the Yajur-Veda was created, on whose body the Sama-Veda is like hair (i.e. just as hairs grow naturally and are distributed all over the body of a man, in the same manner, peace, love and devotion cover God and come to Him naturally), Whose mouth is Atharva Angiras, He is the support of everyone and He is joyful. Thou says so"(Atharva, x. 7. 20). There are similar hymns in other Vedas as well, e.g., Rig-Veda, x. 90.9; Yajur-Veda, xxxi.7; AtharvaVeda, xi. 7. 24. These hymns lead us to the conclusion that the Vedas have been brought into being by God Himself. The Rishis preached the religion of the Vedas. They were called Rishis because they were the seers of the Vedas. When the Vedas began to be preached, they were written down. They are available now in the shape of books.
The learned men are unanimously agreed on the point that the Vedas are the only religious books which are older than the oldest book which can be found in any library in the world. The religion based on the oldest religious book must necessarily be the oldest. That old religion is our religion of the Vedas, and this the Maharshi Dayananda accepted and preached everywhere.
The Vedas are very old, so old that there is nothing older to dispute its antiquity, and the religion, based on them, which is also the most ancient is, according to the hymns of the Vedas themselves, given or revealed by God. That religion, indeed, can be a Universal religion. The name of that religion is " Arya Religion " or the " Vedic Religion." The cardinal principles taught in all the great religions of the world are traceable to the Vedas, and the great savant Prof. Max Muller therefore rightly says, " The Vedic religion was the only one, the development of which took place without any extraneous influences. Even in the religion of the Hebrews, Babylonian, Phoenician and at a later time Persian influences have been discovered" (India: What Can It Teach Us? P. 129).
Our Sastras say, " Satyam jndnamanantam Brahma." First they teach, " Satyam" that Truth is supreme. Every action in this world is dependent on It. Go wherever you like, you will find everybody upholding his action under the shelter of this Truth.
Nay, a fraudulent merchant will ever talk of his trade as such and although speaking a falsehood will support himself in the name of truth. The falsehood of a liar is also dependent on truth. There is truth most supreme. Secondly the Sastras say that everyone must grid up his loins to attain Gyan(Knowledge), to seek and to know that Truth. The whole world is madly in search of truth. The businessman is trying to find out the truth the reality; the scientist wants to find out the truth of the physical world with the help of science; the religious man seeks to find out the real truth which, as a matter of fact, is only one, not many.
The religion, which will continue to seek that one truth, no matter what method it follows, according to that truth, can, indeed, be a Universal Religion. Thirdly, the Sastras say that the knowledge of truth is anantam or endless. When everyone will believe in the endlessness of the knowledge of truth, then there will be no occasion for anybody to be indolent and doubtful. The Veda says "O Men, you, who are on the side of the truth, whose lives and aims are for the protection of truth, who are engaged in the establishment, furtherance and protection of truth, who by putting on a terrible appearance hate falsehood and try very hard for its destruction (that is, who are on the side of the truth against all chances and in all conditions and are even ready to give up your lives for its sake and are the haters of falsehood), O Men, let us all be under your happy protection and let the learned people also live under your shelter " (Rig-Veda, vii. 66. 13).
In the Govil Grihya Sutra we have,"I go from falsehood to truth," " There is no greater religion than truth and there is no greater sin than falsehood." These sayings clearly point out that the love of truth is a necessity in a Universal Religion. What is that truth in religion? As a matter of fact there is truth in Unity and falsehood reigns where there is diversity. Truth must always be one. Maharshi Dayananda, the restorer of the Vedic religion and founder of the Arya Samaj writes in the Light of Truth thus
(1) The world may be fully benefited if instead of taking sides, people would treat one another with love and accept the results arrived at by all religions, that is, the factors which are in accordance with and true in all, leaving the differences out (Preface).
(2) May the Almighty Soul endow the souls of human beings with the power of unifying their opinions (Sub- preface).
(3) Truths which are accepted by all are common to all.
Difference in opinion arises on false notions (Subpreface 3).
From these sentences it is perfectly evident that truth is one and differences are in the kingdom of falsehood. The Vedic religion aims at preaching that "truth" which is only one. The Vedic religion can be a "Universal religion" if it preaches that one truth alone.
All great men, namely, the Buddha, the Christ, Mohammed, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Guru Govind Singh, Jain Mahaprabhu, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Swami Dayananda tried to preach this one and only Truth.
The Arya Samaj is not like many sects. Our religion is not related to any particular person. In our religion no gulf separates us men from the Supreme Being. We do not require any intermediary to lead us to the Supreme Being. Whether there be any belief in someone or not, we know this for certain that the direct faith in the Supreme Being is capable of relieving us from our miseries. In our religion a direct relation between us and the Supreme Being is possible and a man can purify his life by worshipping his Lord. Every man is responsible for his own actions pious or sinful, and is answerable for them. No one is answerable for anybody else's actions. Everybody shall have to suffer the consequences of his own actions.
The Veda says "O Most Acceptable Lord, let us be yours, O Friend of all, let us be yours with other relatives and learned men, so that through your blessing we may gain the desired wealth of knowledge and the bliss of liberation from all bondage "(Rig-Veda, vii.66.93). Thus does the Veda indicate the direct relation between man and the Supreme Being. Such a religion only can be a Universal religion which preaches the direct worship of the Supreme Being instead of that of a particular person. Some philosophers may not think in terms of God, but they do believe in some superior power on which all their religious notions are based. No religion can rest content without this belief in the infinite power. Therefore, Count Tolstoy writes in What is Religion " Every religion regards men as equally insignificant compared to infinity."
That Supreme Being Who is the source of all religions, is One. The Vedas abound in hymns mentioning the Oneness and indivisibility of the Supreme Being. The following are a few examples out of them:
(1) " That only One Supreme Being created the earth and the heaven " (Rig-Veda, x. 8. 3).
(2) " That One Who is the Lord of all the wealth and men dwelling upon the earth and is most adorable”(Rig-Veda, i. 7. 9).
(3) " That Supreme Being is called neither the second nor the third, nor the fourth, nor the fifth, nor the sixth, nor the seventh, nor the eighth nor the ninth, nor the tenth. He, who believes this Supreme Being to be one, can possess Him "(Atharva, xiii. 4. 16-18).
All these indicate the Unity of the Supreme Being.
Some thinkers are of opinion that in the beginning of creation human beings led a wild life like the animals and that they supported themselves in the forests like the savage beasts. They feared the ravages of such phenomena as the rain, the fire, the violent wind and the sky and thinking that these deities had become angry, they used to make offerings to them of the same flesh that they took to appease their anger. Thus came into existence the worship of many gods and the religion originated in fear. But when we study the Vedas, the God-given original religion, the above view is proved to be thoroughly baseless. In the Vedas the names Agni, Vayu, Varuna, etc. are all synonymous with the Supreme Being, the difference in their use arising only in regard to the quality and relation, just as the same man is called the father, the brother and the son by different persons according as they stand related with him. The well-known Bishop Connate had originally this idea that the Vedic literature supports Polytheism. He devoted his life to the research of the Vedas. He was charmed when he saw the hymn in the Veda, in which it has been said that the same Sat or Truth is called by the names Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, Divya, Suparna, Yama and Matartevan (Rig-Veda, i. 164. 46).
In the same way, in a hymn of the Yajur-Veda, the One Supreme Being has been called by the names Agni, Aditya, etc.(Yajur~Veda t 32. i). As a result, that religion, which believes in the One Supreme Being Who is the source of all religions and preaches the Truth which is One, can necessarily become a Universal Religion.
In a hymn of the Yajur-Veda (36. 18) the devotee prays to God to enable him to look upon all created beings as friends. It is written in the Vedas that we should treat not only men but every being as a friend. There is brotherhood and fellowship with all created beings. It is not confined only to humanity. The feeling of friendship is placed above brotherhood. Brothers may differ for rights, but a friend gives up his claim in favor of a friend. True love abides in true friends. Only through such friendly intercourse can the world gain true peace and the antagonism of religions be wiped out.
To sum up, that religion which possesses the qualities delineated above can be a Universal Religion. It is a good sign of the times that all the faiths of the world are attempting through this august Parliament to find out the truth and essence of all religions. It will serve its purpose if it can induce all the people of the world to be friends with one another and wipe out antagonism from their minds, for all are sons of the same immortal Father (Sarve amritasya putrah).
(This lecture was delivered by Pt Sukhdev Vidyavachaspati of Arya Samaj Culcutta in 1937 in The international Parliament of Religions which was held at Calcutta for eight days from the 1st March, 1937 under the auspices of the Sri Ramakrishna Centenary Committee was perhaps the most important of all the items in the programme of the celebrations. Indeed, it was for the first time in the history of this country that such a congregation of distinguished men and women from different parts of the world took place on the soil of India.)