- Dayananda Saraswati, Swami
- (1930– )teacher and scholar of advaita VedantaSwami Dayananda Saraswati has contributed greatly to the spread of knowledge of VEDANTA, by training hundreds of teachers and through his own study and teaching.Natarajan Iyer was born on August 15, 1930, the second son of Valambal and Gopala Iyer in the small village of Manjakkudi in Thanjavar District in Tamil Nadu, India. He was raised in a tradi-tional Brahmin family who primarily made their living selling coconuts. Described by family mem-bers as quiet, reflective, dispassionate, yet daring, Natarajan helped to manage his family’s small plot of land after his father died when the boy was only eight. An excellent student, Natarajan excelled in all subjects related to logic, including physics and mathematics. He was known to be a voracious reader, harboring a large collection of books in his small home, where he regularly read until early morning.Forced to grow up rapidly, and unable to afford college, Natarajan moved to Madras (now Chennai) to find a job that would allow him to continue his studies. He learned stenography and typewriting and began a career as a journalist with a job at a weekly, Dharmika Hind. When the paper seemed to be failing, he joined the air force as a combatant and was posted to the Ground Train-ing Station in Bangalore; after military service, he returned to journalism, with an interim period as campaign manager for an independent candidate for state assembly, when he fine-tuned his public speaking skills.In 1952 he was still waiting for his promised position with the prestigious newspaper Indian Express, when he accidentally met Swami CHINMA-YANANDA during a 41-day public teaching. At the end of the teachings Natrajan volunteered to orga-nize the feeding of the poor, which traditionally followed a period of study and sacrifice. Swami Chinmayananda, attracted to Natrajan’s earnest-ness and organization skills, informed him that he would return the following year for further teach-ings. The 22-year-old Natrajan was certain that he was meant to pursue these teachings and thus became an active member of the newly formed Chinmaya Mission, an organization inspired by the vision of Swami Chinmayananda. His previous experience in journalism and editing put him very close to Swami Chinmayananda.In 1957 Natarajan gave up his work to follow Swami Chinmayananda. In 1962 he was the sec-ond student to be initiated into SANNYAS (renun-ciation) by Swami Chinmayananda and was given the name Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He would later continue his development as a teacher under the tutelage of several teachers, including Swami Pranavananda of Gudiwada.Known today as an authoritative teacher of traditional ADVAITA VEDANTA and an accomplished scholar of Hinduism, Swami Dayananda has con-ducted six three-year residential courses in both India and the United Sates, producing well over 300 Vedanta teachers around the world.He has established three institutions: two in India, the ARSHA VIDYA GURUKULUM in Coimbatore, which offers three-year residential courses, and the Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh, a retreat center and place for continued studies, and the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, which serves as a retreat center and venue for residential courses.Swami Dayananda is known for his scholar-ship, his depth of understanding, and his appre-ciation for Western culture, attributes that give him a wide appeal. He travels the world teach-ing in a variety of venues, including American universities and international conventions. He has presented papers at UNESCO and the United Nations, where he participated in the Millennium Peace Summit. In November 2001, in Delhi, he convened the First World Congress for the Pres-ervation of Religious Diversity, inaugurated by the Dalai Lama and former Indian prime minister Vajpayee. Swami Dayananda also actively par-ticipated in forming the Women’s Global Peace Initiative, which convened at the United Nations in Geneva in October 2002.In addition to teaching, Swami Dayananda emphasizes a commitment to peace and social justice. He instituted the All India Movement (AIM) for Seva, a public service organization that provides medical, educational, nutritional, and social support to villagers in remote rural Indian communities.Further reading: Padma Narasimhan, Swami Day-ananda Saraswati (Madras: TT. Maps & Publications, 1990).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.