How I became an Arya Samajist?[i](Story of An American Christian transformation to Vedic Dharma)
By Federick G. Fox, MD, Chicago[ii]
When I stop to think and to bring back to memory my life before I became an Aryasamajist[iii]; my life for instance as a Sunday school pupil in the Christian church before the age of fourteen, I can well remember the interest I always had for foreign people. I was always eager to hear and read stories and events happening in foreign countries. There was no one more willing to hear a missionary’s story than I. Every year, it seemed to me, there would come the story of a famine or a plague[iv], either in India, China, Africa or some other mysterious and little known of country, with requests for financial help for these people[v]. Their religions would also be spoken of and pictures of idols shown with a class of people that worshipped them[vi]. Poor people, I used to think why they are not Christians and believe as Christians do. I thought this because I believed Christianity to be the only true religion, for I never heard of a better one as I know of now, and then, was I not born a Christian, are not my parents Christians, and all other people around me? But Christians as a rule, are not broad minded, and rarely care to discuss religion, especially if the source of the other religion is from a foreign country, and for this reason will say they are satisfied[vii]. At the same time they are always finding fault with one another:- Some don’t like the pastor or minister saying his ideas are foolish; or, he is to strict; others get tired of listening to his sermons and say:- It’s the same old thing ever and over again; others get angry because they say the church only wants their money, (showing perhaps that they don’t believe in the principles of the Christians church); others haven’t got good enough cloths and are ashamed to go to church in clothes not even torn, but which are simply out of style, etc. Well, anyway, years rolled by and I tried to be as good as I could, even so far that one person, when I perused as to what I should do for my future and I always thought of that suggested that I study to become a protestant pastor. But I could not see things that way. I suppose if I would have started it, I would never have finished it, for how can any men, if he wants to be true to himself and god, believe and practice the many bad principles set forth in the stories of the bible, and at the same time believe them to be the work of god. I must confess that when I was a Christian, and such is the case with most of them, I never read or never yet heard a pastor read the immortal stories of the bible and teach them to his people. It is indeed true that there is very little in the bible which could be of use to people and teach them how to live a righteous life, for many is the time that I heard a Pastor quibbling over a subject trying to get some sense out of it, yet being unable, would do the best he could and perhaps leave forth a loud shriek now and then to keep his flock from falling asleep in their seats. I often wanted to read a Bible, but those in my home were all in the German language, and not being very well versed in that language. I lost interest in reading it. But sine I have become interested in religion in a new light, I bought myself an English Bible. I bought it not because I would get any good out of it, but because I want to be prepared to show the poor blind Christians what is in their religious book. After finishing high school, most with money earned myself, I joined at medical school. Most students in this school were of a rough sort, but I kept to myself as mush as possible and finished successfully. It was in this medical school, in my senior year, that I met a gentleman whom I seemed to pick out from the whole class of four hundred as being a person of ideas very similar to my own. This is no other than my dear friend whom I now look upon as a messenger from god sent to open my eyes and show me the beautiful things in this world, and that there is a religion from God which has no faults; in which there is always something’s to learn; and with which a man can say- I believe this because I can prove it. I met my friend whom I shall make known as Khan Chandar Dev[viii], M.D., a native of India, in the beginning of my last year in this school. One day I met him in the school dispensary, there being no patients we were lounging around in the hall. Seeing he was a foreigner, and I naturally having an interest for them, I approached him with questions of where he came from, how long he‘s been in this country, where he learnt to speak English, etc. I ask these questions because, as a rule, people in America, know very little of the truthful conditions in foreign countries excepting perhaps Europe. I became very interested in him for he appealed to me in many ways. I had no prejudice against any man as long as he led a righteous life, unlike many others here who are very prejudiced. At the end of my school year I asked Dr. Dev to come to the young people’s meeting in the church I attended[ix]. He came, and was no sooner in room, when the pastor got interested. He started a conversation with Dr Dev and asked him to speak. Dr. Dev spoke a few words about India in general after which the pastor again conversed with him. The pastor seemed to be very interested. Some days later I got an idea of asking whether Dr. Dev. Could speak again. His answer was that he could if he would not mention anything of his religion. We granted this, but never heard from him. These few words will show the prejudice and narrow-mindedness of the pastor[x], for he would not even consent to let me hear him and Dr. Dev argue on religion. After many little talks with Dr. Dev on religion, for we were together very much after our graduation, he finally gave me some books to read. The first book I read was the Foundation Head of Religion by Ganga Prasad[xi] and was very interesting to me. I also read a little of the life of Swami Dayanand Saraswati[xii] and his work for the Aryasamaj, and was wonderstruck at his arguments, principles, ideas and eagerness in the Aryan Religion. Later I read Hindu superiority[xiii] and was so wonderstruck at what I read that I cannot find words to express it. I would sometimes read this book, but would get so eager to argue with someone that I had to lay the book down and wait to read it another time when I was more calm. In the meantime I would argue with Dr. Dev, and there was no argument I could give him, but that he proved it to be unreasonable. So gradually and theoretically I was being converted, for I could not but help admit that he was right, and I told him so. After this I got angry with him because he called me a Christian, for he was teasing me I knew, and I told him that henceforth I am a heathen Hindu. He took this joke in a good natural way and I have been an arya ever since. With me was converted also my sweetheart, whom I dare not forget to mention, and later a brother of hers, and also a friend. So at the present writing we are five including Dr. Dev, and have organized the first Aryasamaj in Chicago.
[i] This tract was published in The Vedic Magazine issue of March 1915.This tract was also published in 1922 under Ved Prachar series.
[ii] Dr. Federick G. Fox was first American native to embrace Vedic dharma and he was also founder of Aryasamaj in Chicago, USA.
[iii] Many non Hindu persons from Christianity were inspired by the Vedic Doctrine of Aryasamaj and the Philosophy of Swami Dayanand like Satyanand Stokes, C.F.Andrews and Principal Sushil Kumar Rudra etc.
[iv] Epidemics were common in British ruled countries due to poor administration, draining of wealth leading to poverty and hunger, lack of caretaking policy for common man.
[v] Swami Dayananda had a discussion with a Christian missionary on methods to preach Gospel. Swami Ji said there are 3 ways to make Christianity popular. 1. By the help of sword forcibly, this was used by the followers of Islam in past. 2. By praying to God for sending famines, plagues, earth quakes etc natural calamities to harvest new crops for conversion of poor people in need 3. By aggressive marketing of the message of bible by lectures, books etc. I consider the latter one as better one. Swami Dayanand had closely watched and analyzed the methods used by Christian missionaries to promote conversion.
[vi] This is common practice in church to show non Christians in bad light and their belief as superstitions calling them as pagan worshippers. This is for mass appealing for funds to preach them the message of Jesus. Christian literatures are full of such opinion and remarks.
[vii] This is indeed an honest remark and readers will agree with me.
[viii] Dr Khan Chandra Dev was a medical student in USA who was member of Aryasamaj in India.
[ix] Inviting non Christians to church or non Muslims to mosques is a rare behavior among Hindus. Aryasamaj is an exception to this policy of Hindus.
[x] This is common behavior among Semitic sects to speak to everyone but listen to none.
[xi] Foundation Head of Religion was first published in episodes in the Vedic magazine and authored by Ganga Prasad chief judge (Ex. President of Sarvdeshik Arya Prathinidhi Sabha and Arya missionary). It was later published in book form in1909 from Arya Prathinidhi sabha United Provinces. The books prove that Zen Avesta of Parsi community derives its basic teachings from the vedas and in similar way the teachings of Buddha are also derived from The Vedas, Upanishad, Geeta and Yog Darshan. The books was welcomed as remarkable treat not even in the Aryasamaj circles but also outside Aryasamaj by The Leader Allahabad, Induprakash Mumbai, Indian social reformer etc. while it was first opposed by both Muslims as well as Christians. The Muslim Review newspaper published from Allahabad first published series of articles which was followed by articles from Rev. J. R. Ray in The Indian witness. They tried to say that neither the vedas are the oldest religious text in the world nor they are fountain head of all religions. This book was translated to Hindi by Pt Harishankar Sharma and Urdu by Pandit Ghasiram. It will be no exaggeration to assume that after Satyarth Prakash and works of Swami Dayananda Foundation Head of Religion is the most debated book of Aryasamaj proving its popularity beyond doubts.
[xii] This seems to be works authored by Baba Chajju Singh which was most popular English biography of Swami Dayanand in those days.
[xiii] Hindu superiority is a book by HarBilas Sharda published in 1906 to determine the position of Hinduism in the scale of nations.