I heard recently from a friend that the famous yogi named Lahiri Mahasaya had once debated with Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Kashi and successfully defeated the founder of Arya Samaj (An organisation which strictly rejects the concepts of murti puja, avatars and bhakti as well as some scriptures such as Puranas and Agamas). However, my friend was unable to quote from any authentic sources. Can anyone tell me the details of this incident and the source of this story?
Arya Samaj accounts don't mention such a debate, but this excerpt from the Yogiraj Charit, a traditional biography of Lahiri Mahasaya, describes him defeating Dayananda Saraswati in a debate on idol worship, in the course of which he magically silences Dayananda Saraswati's supporters.
I would to narrate an incident from the life of Yogiraj Rev. Lahiri Babaji. Once Shri Dayanand, the founder of Arya Samaj visited Varanasi. He was totally against idol-worship and considered himself to be brahmagyani i.e the self realized. He announced in Kashi that idol-worship was useless and should be stopped immediately and that God could only be realized through Veda-recital. He also challenged the scholars of Kashi to participate in a religious debate on this. He proposed that if he won, all the idols from the different temples of Kashi would be consigned to the Ganges. Everybody knew Shri Dayanand and his logical viewpoints. So no body came forward. The news spread like a wild fire. When it reached the king of Kashi, Yogiraj Lahiri Babaji was teaching the prince (as a tutor) in the palace. On seeing the worried face of the king, the legendary Yogiraj said “Do not worry, everything will be all right”. The next day Sri Dayanand and Rev. Yogiraj were face to face at Dashashvamegha Ghat of Kashi in order to discuss the religious issues raised by Sri Dayanand. Sri Dayanand asked his question “Is God formless or has God a form?“. Rev. Yogiraj in his usual composure said “God has many forms but at the same time God has no form”. Hearing this, the disciples of Sri Dayanand started shouting and used objectionable words aimed at Yogiraj. Yogiraj requested Sri Dayanand to exercise control over his disciples but Dayanandji could not discipline the hooligans. Indeed they wanted Yogiraj to concede defeat and make a retreat. At last Rev. Yogiraj told Dayanandji “Since you could not make them quiet so now I am trying to make them quiet”. Having uttered these words Rev. Yogiraj closed his eyes. All of a sudden there was complete silence. All the hooligans who were shouting found themselves helpless, their mouth remained open and the jaw-movements stopped. Sri Dayanand was taken aback. At this moment Rev. Yogiraj said “Water does no have a form of its own but when it is transformed into ice, it has a form”. In the same way so long as we try to perceive God through our sense organs, God has various forms but when we transcend our sense-organs we realize the truth (in that light of soul and self-awareness) God is formless. This God has various forms but at the same time God does not have a form i.e. God is formless”. Everybody was satisfied with this irrefutable explanation emanating from a realized master. Sri Dayanand had nothing to ask after listening to such a speech loaded with nothing but truth. At last Sri Dayanand requested Rev. Yogiraj to bring his disciples back to normalcy. Then Yogiraj ordered one of Dayanand´s disciple to bring water (the Gangajal) offered on Kashi Viswanath Shivalinga. When the water was sprinkled on the faces of those hooligans by Rev. Yogiraj they came back to normalcy. Sri Dayanand left Kashi immediately.
By the way, this isn't the only time Dayananda Saraswati lost a debate; he also lost one to a Sri Vaishnava at some point, as described here.
First off all let me clarify that rishi dayanda was not only a great scholar of Vedas and Sanskrit but also a self realized soul just like lahari mahasya. The meeting of lahri mahasya with rishi is not documented in any of his biographies one of which was researched by a Bengali and non Arya samajis pandit Devendra mukhopadhyay. The first and most authentic biography of lahrimahasya is written by pramhansa yoganda also did not mention of this kind of any meeting. Lahri mahasya was not a scholar of Sanskrit so his question of teaching sons of Kashi naresh is doubtful.It is well known historical fact that wnen rishi challenged the pandits of Kashi shastrath took place between rishi and various pandits and lahri mahasya was not present in that. This debate was organised by Kashi naresh though he was highly biased towards idol worship.Debate was not completed and in between miscreants attacked rishi.His life was saved by kotwal raghunath Prasad who was working under British government.After this debate also rishi challenged the pandits several times but they never came forward.Kashi naresh once called rishi to his palace and apologize for the misbehaviour.It is true that lahrimahasya was a great Yogi and possed many siddhis but let us not forget that he was a grasthi and rishi was akhand bhramchari so siddhis of lahrimahasya could never harm swami ji.Lahri mahasy become popular in Kashi when he was introduced to people of Kashi by Tailanga swami.Similar kind of false story was also fabricated related to Tailanga swami .He wrote a letter to swami ji and he left Kashi immediately. The true fact is that swami ji visited Kashi several time and challenged the pandits and scholars several time to prove idol worship according to vedas in which they completely failed. Even if we consider Tailanga swami and lahari mahasya greater Yogi than rishi then also they could not defeat swami ji because his view was based on truth revaled in Vedas by omnipotent God.No Yogi can go beyond the truth that is fact.Next is the historical background in which it is said that swami ji had many followers in Kashi at that time is totally false because he had only two or three followers in Kashi at that time.Now it is said that lahrimahasya silenced his followers why not he silenced the rishi because he was the main person behind the opposition of idol worship.All these historical events totally fabricated recently because till date pandits of Kashi are not able to prove idol worship on the basis of vedas .Due to this reason these false historical events are fabricated in names of Yogi's and saints of Kashi.
No. I do not think such a thing ever happened.Because
The ONLY authentic and detailed biography of Sri Shyamacharan Lahiri (Puran-Purusha Yogiraj Shyamacharan Lahiri written by Ashole Kumar Chattopadhyay, published by Amita Chatterjee) forewarded by the grandson of Yogiraj( Satyacharan Lahiri) does not mention any such incident. On the otherhand, the name of Dayananda Saraswati has been mentioned alongwith Sri Chaitanya, Nanak and Kabir in the same biography as great saints (page 135). About Sant Kabir, Sri Shyamacharan Lahiri writes : Kabirji appeared as Satya Sukrita in Satya yuga, as Karunamaya in dvapara yuga, Munindra in Teta yuga and Kabir in the Kali yuga(Ibid. page 118).He also says that Kabir is One with Brahman.
As per the great scholar of bengal late Srijiv Nayatirtha,
Dayananda was defeated by late Taracharan Tarkaratna, the sabha-pandita of Kashiraja and father of late Pramathanath Tarkabhushana. According to 'Satajivani', Dayanandaji was defeated at a garden near the famous Durga temple of Kashi on 17 November 1860 (page 197).
Reference: 1.Puran-Putusha Yogiraj Shyamacharan Lahiri by Ashoke Kumar Chattopadhyay.
- Omkarnath Rachanavali, Mahamilan Math, Vol. 7. page 25-26.