The essays in this book were written with a view to address the quality of our life. They draw heavily on India's ancient spiritual heritage of theistic Vedanta, interfacing India's spiritual and cultural wisdom and devotional heart with our times. This interface should prove useful for those who are already discouraged with the direction humanity is heading as well as for those who still hold fast to ideas that have seen better days.
For those now disenchanted with industrialization and scientific materialism as well as pseudospirituality, India's ancient spiritual heritage provides a rich alternative. Those who continue to subscribe to materialistic dogma, having written off the spiritual out of frustration, will find in these articles a formidable challenge to their worldview.
SWAMI TRIPURARI Swami Tripurari founded the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society in 1985 and has since established six centers on three continents. Swami is a living example of spiritual life and a prolific writer whose first book, Rasa: Love Relation-ships in Transcendence, has received critical acclaim.
The essays in this book were written with a view to address the quality of our life. They draw heavily on India's ancient spiritual heritage of theistic Vedanta, interfacing India's spiritual and cultural wisdom and devotional heart with our times. This interface should prove useful for those who are already discouraged with the direction humanity is heading as well as for those who still hold fast to ideas that have seen better days. For those now disenchanted with industrialization and scientific materialism as well as pseudospirituality, India's ancient spiritual heritage pro-vides a rich alternative. Those who continue to subscribe to materialistic dogma, having written off the spiritual out of frustration, will find in these articles a formidable challenge to their worldview. It is a challenge well-reasoned, much unlike that which is offered by the materially com-promised spiritual West.
India has had considerable impact on the West over the last thirty years, ancient India that is. Modern India is a westernized India that has either lost sight of its ancient culture or believes in its spiritual heritage without under-standing much more of it than the surface. Indologist A. L. Basham tells us of the noble past of Mother India in his seminal work, The Wonder That Was India.
But where is India today? It can be seen in mainstream America from time to time in jest, where truth is often found. Stars and starlets joke of future and past lives, and TV hosts have been known to attribute their successes and failures to the "laugh" rather than "law" of karma. More importantly, it can be found in the hopes and hearts of many Westerners seeking an alternative to their own modern materialistic culture.
Gita Mehta, famous New York author and socialite, has commented on America's interest in India; however, she has acknowledged only the mainstream flirtation of the American public with India's spiritual heritage. Her book Karma Cola depicts Westerners superficially exploring an India, Vedic India, which Mehta believes in but says no one is following, including herself. Why not? one might ask, if she believes in it. Unfortunately, she represents the westernized Indian who has lost sight of her spiritual heritage.
Yet that is difficult to do, as her continued "belief" attests, for India, spiritual India, is indeed a wonder, one that indologists like Basham would be glad to know lives on. Mainstream America may like to laugh at India and those interested in her rich spiritual culture, and Indians like Mehta may be content to be affluent Uncle Toms, but many people from the western world have become charmed by spiritual India, its practical and esoteric insights. They have chosen India's ancient wisdom over our modern ignorance.
In our diet, music, health care, science, sexuality, and religion the influence of ancient spiritual India can be traced out. Subtle this influence may be, but after all, that is also India, subtle and sublime.
Vegetarianism is on the rise, even popular. McDonald's has brought out everything from fish and salad to now in some European countries a veggie burger. McDonald's is under siege by Jeremy Rifkin, scientific heretic turned en-ronmentalist and author of best-seller Beyond Beef Rifkin, influenced deeply by spiritual India, has organized protests at McDonalds' throughout the United States, clamoring for a veggie burger. Naturopathic health care has risen dramatically. USA Today reported that an alarmingly large percent-age of Americans preferred, at least in theory, naturopathy to allopathy, and ancient India's ayurveda, which is on the rise in America, represents the oldest, most comprehensive naturopathic health care system on earth.
Several years ago Christian fundamentalists identified "new age philosophy" as their greatest enemy since the fall of communism. They further identified generic Indian philosophical themes, such as karma, vegetarianism, and reincarnation, underlying much of new age thought. One out of every three Catholics in the United States believes in reincarnation, heresy that it is.
Perhaps the most significant example of India's spiritual influence on the industrialized world is found in the realm of science. For the longest time consciousness was not something to discuss in a laboratory. Objective science, however, while penetrating the atomic particle, found, much to their surprise, that the observer influences the experiment. Now with the entrance of subjective reality, scientists have to talk about consciousness on the scientific stage. And those who have the integrity to admit that consciousness must be discussed, Nobel laureates included, have turned to India, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavadgita, where consciousness has been discussed for thousands of years. Books abound, best-sellers, which interface eastern mysticism with modern science. Ancient India's spiritual wisdom has made inroads into the priesthood of the faith of modern science. It has captured the minds and hearts of critical thinkers of the West and has created hope that life is more than atomic particles bouncing randomly. The world is not on the verge of wholesale change, but it is changing gradually in the direction of some of the noblest thoughts of our planet's ancient cultures, of which Indian culture is arguably older and wiser than all.
We want to be happy; we want to love. We are starving for feeling, a feeling that merely "having" does not fulfill. Eastern philosophy and the devotional heart of India's Vedanta in particular, can fill the empty shopping bag of our Western accomplishments. And when it has done so, we will not feel that we have been conquered, rather we will feel liberated from the oppression that the prevailing yet faltering scientific industrial paradigm fosters.
While the West has been bent on changing the East, this conversion is one that takes place on the surface. Good packaging is something we are good at, but delivering the goods of a qualitatively better life is where we have fallen short. The dog is running on four legs and barking. Modern humanity is riding on four wheels and blowing its horn. Is there any categorical difference between these two?
Something, however, in all of this must be said for the Western seeker, who is bringing to life concepts from the East, while many from the East remain asleep to their own spiritual heritage. They are noble people who are prepared to look beyond their own cultural setting for a solution to universal problems. That the answers should lie largely in a distant land is not surprising any more than the wonder that a "foreigner" is discovering them and disseminating them. The truth transcends East and West while revealing itself through these mediums. We are not to argue with this, for revelation is the truth's prerogative. We are but instruments of divine will.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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