Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is one of the few westerners recognized in India as a Vedacharya or teacher of the ancient Vedic wisdom. His fields of study include Ayurvedic medicine, Vedic astrology, Yoga and Vedantic philosophy. His more specific works with the Vedas themselves, including a reexamination of ancient history in light of new archeological finds in India and a more critical examination of Vedic texts. On this broad foundation, he has also addressed the issues facing Hinduism or Santana Dhara in the world today, which is the subject of the present volume.
Vamadeva has written nearly forty books and numerous articles over the last thirty years, which have been published in India, the United States and many other countries. In India his translations and interpretations of the Vedas have received acclaim from both spiritual and scholarly Circles. Presently, he is director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies,
His most relevant books to the present volume, are Hinduism: The Eternal Tradition (Voice of India, 1995), Awaken Bharata: A call for India’s Rebirth (Voice of India, 1998), How I became A Hindu, (Voice of India, 2000)
Hinduism and the clash of civilizations (voice of India, 2001), The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India (Voice of India, 1994), RIG Veda and the Sacred Fire (Motilal Banarasidass 2006), and Hidden Horizons: Unearthing 10, 000 Years of Indian culture.
Over the last few years, I have written a number of articles and essays on current issues in Hinduism. These reflect the social, intellectual and historical issues that are important in Hinduism today. Based upon the suggestions of Hindu friends, I decided to include a number of these articles in one volume so that they can reach a larger audience.
The topics chosen are among the most difficult and controversial, which therefore many people may not want to examine so as not to offend anyone. However, unless we examine these topics I don't think we can arrive at Truth, particularly in this time of world crisis which requires that we examine everything.
This book is intended mainly for an Indian audience, which naturally is going to be more familiar with these issues. Unfortunately there are very few people in the West who understand India or Hinduism enough to understand this book or appreciate its seriousness (I might add a number of Hindus fall in the same category). Westerners have taken up certain spiritual aspects of Indian civilization, like its yogic practices, which they use mainly for their own personal benefit, and seldom concern themselves about the state of the culture and how it has suffered under Western religions, political and materialistic influences.
I have written a number of books on the spiritual side of the Hindu tradition including the Vedas, Vedanta and Tantra, as well as works on Ayurveda and Vedic astrology. I have examined Hinduism as a whole in my book Sanatana Dharma, The Eternal Tradition of Hinduism, which is the work most relevant to this current stud. From the River of Heaven, Hindu and Vedic Knowledge for the Modern Age is also relevant to the present study and outlines the different aspects of Hinduism.
One might wonder therefore why I would concern myself with the cultural or apparently mundane side of Hinduism. Those immersed in Hindu spiritual practices may see no necessity for concerning themselves with these outward issues. However, there is a tradition for such an approach. The ancient sages of India did not confine themselves to the inner teachings only. They made their comments about society and about other religions. They produced various Dharma Sutras or teachings regarding one's conduct in the world. Modem teachers who wrote on social issues include Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha, and Ganapati Muni who provided the inspiration for what I have attempted. While I certainly don't wish to compare myself to such great personages, the point is that such a tradition is also important and sadly neglected today.
Knowing Sanskrit, travelling widely in India and meeting people of all backgrounds, I have seen the tremendous ignorance and misconceptions (many intentional) that have been created about the role of Hinduism and various Hindu groups even in India. People today rely on second hand information, mainly through the news media or from academic sources, which are generally unsympathetic and inaccurate, and so the picture they get is highly distorted and requires an alternative. Seeing this I have been compelled to speak out.
This book is divided into four areas.
1) Social Issues: primarily the misrepresentation of Hinduism both in India and the West and the need for a Hindu awakening.
2) Religious Issues: the Hindu view of religion, the unity of all religions, and Islam and Christianity from a Hindu perspective. I have devoted more space to Islam as this religion is more inimical to Hinduism and few people appear willing to really examine it.
3) Historical Issues: particularly the Aryan Invasion theory, and the division of India along north-south lines (the Aryan-Dravidian divide).
4) Cultural Issues: Hinduism relative to the world as a whole, and the value of Hindu culture.
The book has a wide scope of subjects but all are important for understanding India today and show the need for a revival of Hinduism in its true spirit.
I have already examined the ancient history issue in my other books Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization and in The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India. For this reason I didn't go much into this topic in the present volume though it is relevant.
For Hindus, they may wonder why a Westerner would take interest in these issues. Yet do not Hindus take interest in the affairs of Western culture? Why should it be surprising if those born in the West take interest in Hindu culture, which is one of the oldest and richest in the world?
For this book I would like to thank Dr. B.L. Vashta, who first encouraged me to write along these lines, and to the many other individuals and groups both in India and the United States who have encouraged me to continue, particularly the various publications that have printed my articles, which gave me the confidence to present them to a broader audience. Most of the essays in this book have appeared in article form either in India or in the United States, though a number of them have been greatly revised for the book. These publications include, in the United States, Voice of Asia, News-India Times, India Times, and Fortunes India, and in India, the Organizer, the Observer and Hindu Vishwa.
India today unfortunately is still asleep to its real heritage, caught in a deep inertia (tamas), and not yet functioning according to its soul. Yet even in this state of sleep it has produced perhaps the greatest spiritual figures of the twentieth century. For the world to really develop spiritually, which is critical today, India must awaken.
This book is dedicated to the awakening of India, not for the sake of India but for the sake of all humanity in this era of global crisis.
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