David Frawley is one of the most prominent Hindus of our times. He has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the Vedas; he has also written on Ayurveda and other Vedic sciences. Most importantly, he has urged a return to the Vedas as a means to unlock the secrets of the scriptures that followed. He has shown how this key can reveal the meaning behind the exuberant imagination of the Puranas and the Agamas. It also unlocks the mysteries of Hindu ritual.
The present volume, his spiritual autobiography, is a fascinating narrative. He walks us trough his own discovery of how the stereotype, of Hinduism presented by schoolbooks as a tradition of worship of many gods, social inequity, and meaningless ritual is false. Not that there are not social problems in Hindu society, but these problem are a result of historical processes, India’s political and economic vicissitudes of the last few centuries, and not central to the essence of Hinduism. Apart from this and, more significantly, he provides us a portrait of living Hinduism as mirrored by his own life experience.
Frawley’s work has also shown the relevance of the Vedas for the rediscovery of the forgotten past of the Old Religion, pejoratively called Paganism. Ancient Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Babylonians knew that their religions were essentially the same. As the sole surviving member of the Old Religion, Hinduism Provides us many insights to recognize the universality and perenniality of the spiritual quest. His life story provides inspiration to all who wish to be reconnected to the wisdom of our ancestors everywhere.
Frawley has also been at the forefront of questioning the old colonial and Hindu religion had been situated by nineteenth century Indologist. He has done this through his writings and lectures all over the world. his work shows the way not only for the Westerner who wishes to understand Hinduism but also for those Hindus who know their religion only though the interpretations of the Indologists.
David frawley (Vamadeva Shastri), is one of the few Westerners over recognized in India as a Vedacharya or teacher of the ancient Vedic wisdom. His field of study includes Ayurvedic medicine, Vedic astrology, Tantra, Yoga and Vedantic philosophy. His more specific work is with the Vedas themselves, including a reexamination of ancient history in light of new archaeological finds in India and a more critical Examination of Vedic texts. He has written ten books and many articles on these subjects over the last fifteen years, which have been published both in India and the United States. In India his translations and scholarly circles.
We live in the age of science. The frontiers of our knowledge are receding every day. The method of science is empirical: it uses experiment to verify or to refute. Science has dispelled miracles from the laws are universal. Technology has made astonishing advances and a lot that was the stuff of religious subject of conversion to Hinduism? Isn’t this the age of questioning old style religion in the manner of why I am not a Christian by the great British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, or the more recent why I am not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq?
David Frawley’s remarkable spiritual autobiography answers this question and many more. In a fascinating narrative, he walks us through his own discovery of how the stereotype of Hinduism presented by schoolbooks as a tradition of worship of many gods, social inequity, and meaningless ritual is false. Not that there are not social problems in Hindu society, but these problems are a result of historical processes, India’s political and economic vicissitudes of the last few centuries, and not central Hinduism as mirrored by his own life experience.
A unique feature of Hinduism is that it is not obsessed with any specific historical event. Consequently, feality to a ‘prophet’ is not part of the core belief of the tradition. Rather, the objective is to chart out a path of self-discovery, transformation and knowledge. This path requires constant self-study and validation of experience using common sense and logic.
The traditions of Hinduism may appear as a bewildering complexity to the uninitiated, but the essence of it has great coherence and simplicity. The best way to characterize Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma, the Way of Eternal Truth) is as the science of spirituality. Hindus believe that Brahman (immanent and transcendent God) is the bridge across the ordinary divide of matter and mind. To know oneself one needs to know the expressions of the spirit in all its forms of creative embodiment, which is why devotion to knowledge and truth has diverse forms.
Just as there can be only one outer science, so there can be only one inner science of the spirit. One can only speak of levels of knowledge and understanding. The dichotomy of believers and non-believers suffer eternal damnation in hell, is naïve. Also, since the physical universe itself is a manifestation of the divine, the notion of guilt related to our bodily existence is meaningless.
Modern science, having mastered the outer reality, has reached the frontier of brain and mind. We comprehend the universe by our minds, but what is the nature of the mind? Are our descriptions of the physical world ultimately no more than a convoluted way of describing aspects of the mind – the instrument with which we see the outer world? Why don’t the computing circuits of the computer develop self-awareness as happens in the circuitry of the brain? Why do we have free-will when science assumes that all systems are bound in a chain of cause-effect relationships?
Academic science has no answers to these questions and it appears that it never will. On the other hand, Vedic science focuses on precisely these conundrums. And it does so by gracefully reconciling outer science to inner truth. By seeing the physical universe to be a manifestation of the transcendent spirit, Hindus find meditation on any aspect of this reality to be helpful in the acquisition of knowledge. But Hindus also declare that the notion that the universe consists of just the material reality to be false. Here Hindus are in the company of those scientists who believe that to understand reality one needs recognize consciousness as a principle that complements matter.
We cannot study the outer in one pass; we must look at different portions of it and proceed in stages. Likewise, we cannot know the spirit in one pass; we must look at different manifestation of it and meditate on each to deepen understanding. There can be no regimentation in this practice. Hinduism, by its very nature, is a dharma of many paths. Thomas Jefferson would have approved. He once said, compulsion in religion is distinguished peculiarly from compulsion in every other thing. I may grow rich by an art I am compelled to follow; I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgment; but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve and abhor.’’ Not a strait-jacket of narrow dogma, Hinduism enjoins us to worship any manifestation of the divine to which one is attuned.
Yoga is the practical vehicle of Hinduism and certain forms of it, such as Hatha Yoga, have become extremely popular all over the world. This has prepared people to understand the deeper, more spiritual, aspects of Yoga which lead through Vedas to the whole Hindu tradition.
Hindus ideas were central to the development of transcendentalism in America in the early decades of the 19th century. That movement played a significant role in the self-definition of America. Hindus ideas have also permeated to the popular consciousness in the West --- albeit without an awareness of the source – though the works of leading writers and poets. In many ways Americans and other Westerners are already much more Hindus than they care to acknowledge. Consider the modern fascination with spirituality, self-knowledge, environment, multiculturalism; this ground was prepared over the last two hundred years by Hindus of our times. He was made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the Vedas; he has also written on Ayurveda and other Vedic sciences. Most importantly, he has urged a return to the Vedas as a means to unlock the secrets of the scriptures that followed. He has shown how this key can reveal the meaning behind the exuberant imagination of the Puranas and the Agamas. It also unlocks the mysteries of Hindus ritual.
Frawley has also been at the forefront of questioning the old colonial paradigm within which Indian history and Hindu religion had been situated by nineteenth century indologists. He has done this through his writings and lectures all over the world. His work shows the way not only for the Westerner who wishes to understand Hinduism but also for those Hindus who know their religion only through the interpretations of the indologists.
The Gita says,‘’Both renunciation of works and also their practice lead to the Supreme. But of these to act rather than to renounce is the better path.’’ Frawley’s life story is a testimony to this wisdom of following the path of action. Frawley’s work is informed by deep meditation and awareness of larger forces of history. He is a modern rishi in the same spirit as Vivekananda and Aurobindo.
Frawley’s work has also shown the relevance of the Vedas for the rediscovery of the forgotten past of the old Religion, pejoratively called paganism. Ancient Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Celts and knew that their religions were essentially the same. As the sole surviving member of the old Religion, Hinduism provides us many insights to recognize the university and perenniality of the spiritual quest, David Frawley’s discovery of Hinduism for himself has eased the way for other who want to reach the same goal. His life story provider’s inspiration to all who wish to be reconnected to the wisdom of our ancestors everywhere.
The following book unfolds an intellectual and spiritual journey from the West to the east such as a number of people have traveled in recent times. This journey moves from the Westerner world of materialism to the greater universe of consciousness that permeates India and was the basis of her older civilization. As an inner journey it is more pilgrimage to the spiritual heart of India than an outer visit. Yet it is also a story marked by meetings with important people teachings and guided me along the way.
This journey is not only through space but also through time, into the ancient world and its spiritual culture, such as India has maintained better than any country. It is a reencounter with the spiritual roots of humanity that we have long forgotten or denigrated. The book shows how the ancient Vedic world can come alive and touch us today, not only as a relic of the past but as an inspiration for the future. It is a return to the formative stages of humanity, before we directed our energy to the outer world and were still connected our cosmic origins. Hopefully, the book can help reawaken this original creative vision of the species that holds the key of transformation for our present darker world.
In books to date I have written little about myself. This book is a departure and is centered on my own life experience. The book is autobiographical in tone, but it is not so much an account of my psyche. It focuses on an inner transformation that fundamentally altered who I am and chages my perception of both self and world.
In my case simply didn’t build bridges to the east, I crossed over them and left them far behind. I immersed my being in the soul of the east so completely that I almost ceased to be a Westerner, not only in my thoughts but also in my instincts. I moved from a Westerner intellectual rationality to a deeper cosmic rationality born of Vedic insight, moving from a humanistic to a cosmic logic and sense of cosmic law.
I trace these changes in order to make them accessible for others, should they wish to follow a similar direction. I have recounted my journey and the bridges over which I once traveled, and how I experienced life while I was still on the other side, so that others can take a similar path.
I moved through Westerner culture to the Yogic culture of India that seemed ever over expansive, enlightened and happy. I sought the source of that tradition in the ancient Vedas the oldest wisdom teachings of India, which became may spiritual home and in which I found an untapped treasure house of inexhaustible insight. It was a great adventure with many interesting, if not amazing experiences that transcended my earlier worldview and brought me into a new life consciousness.
But the journey was arduous and quite challenging. I often thought of turning back and actually did so for certain periods of time. I fell down many times but always eventually got up and kept on going. I had to go beyond not only my own personal and family background but beyond my entire culture and education. This involved breaking with well-entrenched ideas, opinions, habits and feelings. I had to disconnect with the world around me and reconnect with a different world within me. Sometimes I felt like a stranger in a strange land, but if I did try to go back to the old world, I quickly left, finding it to have lost depth and meaning.
The result is that I now look at the Vedic tradition from the inside, as part of my family, as part of my very own blood and breath. I don’t view Hinduism with the cold eye of an academician or the starry eyes of a curious and gullible Westerner looking for a new fantasy. I view it as our deepest heritage as human and cosmic beings, as divine souls whose destiny is to bring a higher consciousness in to the world. I have become a worker in this field and hope that may contribution encourages other to join this great cause.
For this book I would like to thank my many teachers and friends and the many Hindu organization that have helped me in this cause. Most are mentioned in the book, but notably B.L Vashta, K.Natesan, Avadhuta Shastri, Subhash Kak, N.S. Rajaram, Ashok Chowgule, Swami Satyananda, Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel and Arun Shourie.
The Vedic tradition and Hindu Dharma belong to all. Those who reject it are still part of it. Those who try to limit it to a particular sect. or point of view don’t have the full picture. Until we reconnect with such deeper spiritual impulses we must remain immature as a race and have a culture that, however technically advanced, leaves us unhappy and spiritually destitute. Let us counter this negative trend in civilization by looking once more to the noble spiritual origins from which we came.
The Vedas and the Rishis are true and their influence can overcome any obstacles personally or collectively. May we honor them once again.
Most of us are familiar with accounts of how a person has changed from one religion to another, becoming a Chiristian, Muslim or a Buddhist. In the modern world we are coming to recognize pluralism in religion just as in culture, ethnicity or language. There is no more only one true religion for everyone than there is only one true race, language or way of life.
However, going from Christianity to Hinduism is rarer story, particularly for a Westerner, because Hinduism does no aim at conversion. Many people think that Hinduism does not take new member at all. It is also a more complex tale because Hinduism is not only a religion, but also a culture and, above all, a spiritual path. To enter into Hindu Dharma involves much more than a shift of belief or accepting a new prophet. To really understand Hindu Dharma requires taking on a new way of life, of which religion is only one aspect.
As a pluralistic system Hinduism does not require that we hold to a single belief or savior or give up an open pursuit of truth. This makes the change into Hinduism less dramatic, overt or disruptive to a person’s life and for that reason harder to trace. One does not need to make statement of faith to become a Hindu but simply recognize the importance of dharma.
In my case it was not a question of a quick conversion like accepting Jesus as one’s personal savior or surrendering to Allah. Nor was it the result of a concerted effort to convert me by religious preachers speaking of sin or redemption, or of religious intellectual trying to convince me of the ultimacy of their particular philosophy or theology. It was a personal decision that occurred as the result of a long quest, a finishing touch of an extensive inner search of many years.
The word ‘conversion’ is a misnomer and a term that I dislike. How can we be converted into anything? We can only be who we are. Understanding who we are is the Hindu and Vedic path. It is not about conversion but about self-knowledge and about cosmic knowledge because who we are is linked to the entire universe. Hinduism is not about joining a church but about developing respect for all beings, not only humans but plants and animals as well. It is not about a particular holy book but about understanding our own minds and hearts. It is not about a savior but about discovering the Divine presence within us.
For most people in the West becoming a Hindu resembles joining a tribal religion, a Native American or Native African belief with many gods and strange rituals, rather than converting to a creed or belief of an organized world religion. Discovering Hinduism is something primeval, a contacting of the deeper roots of nature, in which the spirit lies hidden not as an historical creed but as a mysterious and unnamable power. It is not about taking on another monotheistic belief but an entirely different connection with life and consciousness than our Western religions provide us.
The Hindu Tradition
Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world with a tradition going back to the very beginning of what we know of as history over five thousand years ago. It is the third largest of the world’s religions, with nearly a billion members or one-sixth of humanity. It is the largest non-Biblical or, to use a pejorative cultures once had and many people still retain. Hinduism is the world’s largest pluralistic tradition. It believes in many paths and recognize many names ways to know god. Its emphasis is not on mere belief as constituting salvation but on union with the Divine as the true goal of life.
Hinduism is a culture containing its own detailed traditions of philosophy, medicine, science, art, music, and literature that are quite old, venerable and intricate. It is the foundations of Indian culture that is rooted in the Sanskrit language which first arose as Hinduism’s sacred language. Most importantly, Hinduism is a great spiritual path with Yogic tradition of meditation, devotion and insight, in which religion in the outer sense of ritual and prayer is only secondary. Its wealth of teachings on mantra, meditation, prana, kundalini, cbakras and self-realization is perhaps unparalleled in the world.
Because of its cultural and spiritual sides some people say that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Yet though it is a way of life Hinduism is also a religion in the sense that it teaches about God and the soul, karma and liberation, death and immortality, it has its holy books, temples, pilgrimage sites, and monastic orders like other major world religions.
Hindus have a deep faith in their religion and its tradition. Thousands if not millions of Hindus have died for their religion in the many holy wars that have targeted them over the last more than a thousand years. They refused to convert even when faced with threats of death and torture. Both Islam and Christianity found converting Hindus to be particularly difficult, not because Hindus responded to assaults on their religion with force, but because their faith in their own religion and its great yogis was unshakeable.
The Western mind characteristically downplays Hinduism’s importance as a religion. In many contemporary studies of world religion Hinduism is left out altogether. Because it has no overriding one God, single historical founder, or set creed, Hinduism is looked upon as disorganized collection of cults. Few Westerners know what Hinduism is, or what Hindus believe and practice. Most are content with negative stereotypes that make them feel comfortable about their own religions. If Hinduism is mentioned in the westerns media it is relative to disasters, conflicts or backward social customs. It is the one religion that is still politically correct to denigrate, if not belittle.
There is also a general impression that Hinduism is closed, ethnic or castist creed and therefore not a true world religion. His is strange because historically Hinduism spread throughout South Asia and specific ways of becoming a Hindus are described in many Hindu teachings. Hinduism could not have spread so far if it was not expansive in bringing in new members.
Many Hindus seem to confirm these ideas. A number of Hindus teachers say that they will make a Christian a better Christian or a Muslim a better Muslim, as if Hinduism had nothing better or unique to They say, ‘’Yes I am a Hindu, but I accept all other religion as well.’’ Which includes religions that do not accept Hinduism.
Some Hindus temples, particularly in South India, will not allow Westerners, that is people of lighter skin color, to enter even if they have already formally become Hindus. Other Hindus simply don’t know how to communicate their tradition. The result is that the more universal or liberal aspects of Hinduism are forgotten. Or they go by another name in the West as Yoga, Vedanta or the teachings of a particular guru, in which case they can become popular all over the world as many modern spiritual movements have demonstrated.
Discovering Hinduism through the Vedas
In my case I come to Hindu Dharma through the Vedas, the oldest tradition of Hinduism. This was an unusual way because the Vedas are so old that most Hindus know little about them, following Instead more recent teachings. People in the West have no real idea what the Vedas are either. They see Hinduism through a few prominent images like Shiva, Krishna and the Goddess or a few famous modern gurus and are not aware of the older foundation of this multifarious tradition. Most Hindus know their tradition and its long history.
Even Hindus who speak of the glory of the Vedas generally can’t explain Vedic teachings in detail. By the Vedas they usually mean the Upanishads or the Bhagavadgita, not the older Vedic texts. Western academia believes that the Vedas are only primitive poetry, tribal rites, or same strange babbling that arose from shamanic intoxications. At best, for the more spiritually enlightened, the Vedas are regarded as the lesser as the lesser growths from which the greater enfoldments of Yoga and Vedanta arose or diverged.
For me, however, the Vedas became reveled not only as the source of the Hindu tradition but as the core spiritual wisdom of humanity. I could say that I am more a Vedic person, a Vedicist if your will, than simply a Hindu in the ordinary sense. This might better describe what I think to the modern world. But I can’t draw a line between Hinduism and Vedic Dharma, though some people might try to.
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