Dr. David Frawley - Foreword to THE VEDIC WAY OF KNOWING GOD
- We are happy to announce the long-anticipated release of Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya's ground-breaking new book "The Vedic Way of Knowing God".
Author: Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
Foreword: Dr. David Frawley
Preface: Professor Klaus K. Klostermaier
Publisher: Dharma Sun Media
Published: November 7, 2010
Binding: Perfect-bound Paperback
Available for purchase here:
By Dr. David Frawley
(Sri Vamadeva Shastri)
The Vedic tradition is primarily one of knowledge, going back to the four Vedas as books of knowledge, the term Veda deriving from the root `vid', meaning to see, to know, to directly experience, or to realize within one's own awareness. The Vedic tradition is further defined as Sanatana Dharma or a universal and eternal (Sanatana) tradition of truth and natural law (Dharma). What Veda is seeking to know is the nature of things, ultimately the nature of our own being that is connected to the Divine presence or higher consciousness which pervades all existence.
As such, the Vedic tradition is not content merely with belief in God or even communion with the deity as its ultimate aim. Its goal is to know the deity within our own minds and hearts in the sense of this higher knowledge born of direct perception, not as a mere mental or emotional connection, but one that engages our entire being to its immortal core.
Such inner knowing is not a speculative venture or a matter of salvation through faith. Vedic Dharma teaches specific philosophies or ways of knowledge about the deity. For these to really work, specific sadhanas or spiritual practices, largely yogic in nature are required. Vedic Dharma does not rest upon faith at a mass level, but spiritual practices at an individual level for achieving the ultimate goal of life described as moksha, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Other religious, spiritual and philosophical systems in the world also have their concerns with and their means of gaining such inner knowledge of the deity, often put under the banner of the `religious experience' or the `mystical experience'. Such experiences are also commonly referred to as `unity consciousness', though they have considerable varieties.
The pursuit of mystical experiences has been a sidelight or rarity in western religious traditions, and has sometimes been suppressed by them, particularly when it challenges the authority of existing institutions. Yet it has been widely encouraged in India since the most ancient times. Each follower of a particular spiritual path in India is usually encouraged to take up such a sadhana to contact the deity within. At the same time, since there are clearly defined paths to higher realization in the Vedic tradition, there is less danger of the practitioner falling into the confusion that mystical experiences can sometimes create for those who stumble upon them, rather than are trained to receive them.
Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales) is a rare western teacher who knows both the philosophies and the practices of the Vedic tradition and has firsthand experience of how they really work. He is a highly qualified teacher, or Acharya, of Vedic Dharma, the first western Acharya of a western Hindu temple, not merely an academic looking at Vedic thought with little practical experience of how it is applied. He has also studied in depth other religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions. This provides him a much deeper level of insight into the Vedic tradition than normally found in the vast majority of teachers today. He takes the discussion out of the mere speculative realm to the domain of spiritual practice, making his discussion relevant to those involved in meditation and devotional disciplines as well.
Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya focuses on the issue of pramanas or proofs, the complex yet central issue of epistemology. If we want to know something, the first question that arises is: "What are our available means of legitimate knowledge?" The issue is particularly important relative to spiritual studies. If something Divine, infinite and eternal does exist, through what special means can it be known? Obviously, our ordinary mind and senses are designed to know limited, finished and transient objects, though they can speculate about something beyond. Is there some other more direct means that we can develop in order to do this?
In western philosophy the means of knowledge are largely limited to reason and the senses, and what can be extrapolated from them, though theologies regularly bring in faith and scripture as well. The Vedic tradition has also accepted samadhi, or yogic perception born of the meditative mind, as a legitimate means of knowledge. This not only includes the mystical experience, but allows a practical and scientific approach to it through yogic disciplines.
The Vedic tradition includes the idea of scripture, or shruti, not as books to merely believe in, but as indicators and guidelines to a higher realization that should be employed in the context of sadhana, or spiritual practice. The Vedic shruti is linked to the idea of shabda, or sacred sound, and mantra, reflecting the Divine Word and cosmic creative vibration. Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya examines the issue of scripture and sacred sound quite clearly from a Vedic perspective.
Most modern Vedantic studies have focused on the Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya and his modern proponents since the time Swami Vivekananda over a century ago. Recently, the Dvaitic and Vishishtadvaitic forms of Vedanta have also received attention, which adds another dimension to these studies. Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya has taken a view that can embrace and honor all these systems, without losing their specific value and different approaches.
For this examination, he has focused on one primary thinker, the work of Jiva Goswami, an important figure in the Vaishnava tradition about whom much has been written in recent years with the development of the Bhakti Yoga movement throughout the world. Yet he grounds his study of Goswami in a greater analysis of all six Vedic philosophies as well as their connections with other philosophical and theological traditions East and West. This affords the book a relevance beyond India to the global issues of spiritual knowledge.
Goswami's work, like that of many Vaishnava Hindus, in turn is based on the Bhagavata Purana, which is regarded by many Hindu scholars as the greatest of the Puranas, as well as an important extension of the thought and insight of the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita. Western scholarship has often ignored such texts, focusing on the prime Sutras and texts of the six systems of Vedic philosophy, as if there was nothing more to be considered. This has limited their scope and vision in understanding Vedic philosophy, a situation that the author seeks to correct.
The book reflects an academic rigor in orientation, approach and expression. It demands profound thought on the part of its reader. Yet the book also represents a new type of experiential scholarship from westerners trained in authentic Eastern traditions. This provides a different view than what is normally found from academics looking at Eastern traditions from the outside.
Such `inside the tradition' views provide a good alternative and help us frame the focus of a new debate, which is not simply about different philosophies or theologies, but about the ultimate truth of our own existence and what our true nature as conscious beings really resides in. With "The Vedic Way of Knowing God", and his own personal spiritual example, Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya leads us forward in this new adventure in consciousness.
Dr. David Frawley
(Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)
American Institute of Vedic Studies
Sante Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A.
"The Vedic Way of Knowing God", by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya, is available for purchase here:
Revealing the profound philosophical insights of the world's most ancient spiritual philosophy, this book not only boldly answers the question "How do I know God?" from the distinctly Vedic (Hindu) perspective, but also explores the further issues of what it even means to be able to know God. With greater detail than any other book ever written to date, it reveals the precise mystical mechanisms employed for knowing the Divine; the psychological conditions necessary for such a spiritual endeavor; the transformative cognitive experiences that occur within the spiritual practitioner upon achieving God-realization; the integral relationship between transcendent Word, spiritually revealed literature, and the important role of living teachers; and the vast implications of the Vedic world-view on contemporary global philosophy and religion. If you have ever asked the question "How do I know God?", this is the book that will give you the precise road-map!
"The Vedic Way of Knowing God", by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
Please forward this message to all sincere spiritual seekers.