Lord Krishna Descends to Reestablish Vedic Culture, by Stephen Knapp

Why the Lord descends into this world is for multiple purposes, but primarily for two reasons. One of which is that, since He originally enunciated the ancient religious path of the Vedas for the benefit of the whole universe, whenever that becomes obstructed by the demoniac or wicked atheists, He descends in one of His forms, which is in the transcendental mode of pure goodness. Thus, He again establishes the righteous Vedic path. It is explained that He is the same Supreme Person, and in His incarnation as Krishna appeared in the home of Vasudeva with His plenary portion, Balarama, who played the part of Krishna’s brother. This was for the second reason, which is to relieve the earth of the burden of the demoniac. As Krishna, He came to kill the hundreds of armies led by the kings who were but expansions of the enemies of the gods, and to spread the fame of the Yadu dynasty. (Bhagavata Purana 10.48.23-24)

Arjuna, after understanding the position of Lord Krishna, recognized His superior position and said, “Thus You descend as an incarnation to remove the burden of the world and to benefit Your friends, especially those who are Your exclusive devotees and are rapt in meditation upon You.” (Bhagavata Purana 1.7.25)

The sages at Kuruksetra, while addressing Lord Krishna, also summarized the reason for Lord Krishna’s appearance in this world. They explained that at suitable times He assumes the mode of pure goodness to protect His devotees and punish the wicked. Thus, the Supreme Personality descends to maintain the eternal path of the Vedas by enjoying His pleasure pastimes. (Bhagavata Purana 10.84.18)

It is also described that when the Lord assumes a human-like body, it is to show His mercy to His devotees. Then He engages in the sort of pastimes that will attract those who hear about them. Then they may become dedicated to Him. (Bhagavata Purana 10.33.36) These pastimes of the Lord are so powerful that they can remove the sins of the three planetary systems and deliver those who are trapped in the continuous cycle of birth and death. (Bhagavata Purana 10.86.34) Those who desire to serve the Lord should hear of these activities. Hearing such narrations of these pastimes destroy the reactions to fruitive work [karma]. (Bhagavata Purana.10.90.49)

It is by Lord Krishna’s pastimes that He calls all the conditioned souls to Him through love. Thus, by His wondrous activities He attracts all beings to return to their natural, spiritual position by reawakening their dormant love and service to Him. This is the purpose of human life, which provides the best facility and intellect for understanding our spiritual identity and connection with the Lord. As Sukadeva Gosvami explained to Maharaja Pariksit, “He, the Personality of Godhead, as the maintainer of all in the universe, appears in different incarnations after establishing the creation, and thus He reclaims all kinds of conditioned souls amongst the humans, nonhumans and gods.” (Bhagavata Purana 2.10.42)

“To show causeless mercy to the devotees who would take birth in the future of this age of Kali, the Supreme Personality, Krishna, acted in such a way that simply by remembering Him one will be freed from all the lamentation and unhappiness of material existence.” (Bhagavata Purana 9.24.61) However, Lord Krishna also explains that when He descends in His human form, the fools who are ignorant of His spiritual nature and supreme dominion over everything deride and criticize Him. (Bhagavad-gita 9.11)

Nonetheless, Lord Krishna Himself further explains the reasons for His appearance in this world to King Muchukunda: “My dear friend, I have taken thousands of births, lived thousands of lives and accepted thousands of names. In fact, My births, activities and names are limitless, and thus even I cannot count them. After many lifetimes someone might count the dust particles on the earth, but no one can ever finish counting My qualities, activities, names and births. O King, the greatest sages enumerate My births and activities, which take place throughout the three phases of time, but never do they reach the end of them. Nonetheless, O friend, I will tell you about My current birth, name and activities. Kindly hear. Some time ago, Lord Brahma requested Me to protect religious principles and destroy the demons who were burdening the earth. Thus I descended in the Yadu dynasty, in the home of Anakadundubhi. Indeed, because I am the son of Vasudeva, people call Me Vasudeva.” (Bhagavata Purana 10.51.36-40)

OUR MISSION TO DEFEND VEDIC DHARMA

By understanding the above paragraphs, we should know that Lord Krishna appeared to reestablish the Vedic tradition because it had become lost. I emphasize this point because, in spite of the many challenges or threats against Vedic culture that Hindus face from others in upholding their tradition, sometimes they still say there is nothing for us to worry about because it is Sanatana-dharma, eternal, that it will never disappear no matter what happens in this world. When I hear this, I ask them whether they have really understood what Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita. For therein we can understand that this Vedic spiritual knowledge does indeed disappear or decline from the face of the earth at times, and must be brought back, or defended in order to keep it prevalent amongst humanity.

In the beginning of Chapter Four of the Bhagavad-gita, we hear of one of the prime reasons why Lord Krishna descended into this world. He explains it this way in a conversation with Arjuna:

“The Supreme Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku. This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time, the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost. That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.”

Arjuna then said: “The sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?”

Bhagavan Sri Krishna then continued: “Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy! Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion–at that time I descend Myself. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of dharma, I advent Myself millennium after millennium. One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Bhagavad-gita 4.1-9)

So here we see very clearly that Vedic dharma and its spiritual processes may indeed by eternal, but it may also decline or even disappear from humanity from time to time. This means that if Lord Krishna appeared to reestablish this knowledge and tradition, we should be serious about defending it and making sure that it does not start to decline again. When it comes to defending Vedic dharma, we need to understand that it is not just up to Lord Krishna. It is also up to us. We cannot expect that Lord Krishna will appear again so easily when He was here only 5,000 years ago to do what we should now be doing. We should take it upon ourselves to assist in preserving, protecting, and promoting it for its perpetuation. This is for the benefit of all humanity. We should be willing to take up a bold stance to meet this responsibility, or it may again very well start to decline from the face of the earth like it did before.

This is also why there are various acharyas and devotees, representatives of the Supreme, who may be empowered to provide the guidance for humanity so people everywhere can know how to continue the ways of following Vedic dharma and apply it to their lives.

So to help in this way is not only a service to humanity, but also a service to dharma itself, and to the mission of Lord Krishna, and to all representatives of Vedic culture. What can be a higher cause for us than that?

How I Started Writing (And What Became of It), by Stephen Knapp

            I am writing this because many times people ask me how I got into writing, especially after having written so many books and articles. So I have decided to give it a full explanation to reveal how it began, whether my writing be an artistic, intellectual or spiritual expression.
            To begin with, I had always liked writing. I wrote as a means of expression and documentation, and for sharing with others my thoughts, realizations and experiences. I wrote my first science fiction story in my first grade class. As I grew, I tended to be attracted to the arts far more than athletics, even though all my neighborhood friends always played sports. Later, I also wrote poetry. Then in my early twenties I kept a journal for several years, which, later on while reading it, served as an interesting reminder of all the foolish things I’ve tried through the years, and then I threw most of it away.
            I tried writing an adventure novel when I was a teenager when the James Bond series became popular. Needless to say, I never got past 20 pages. I had also taken an interest in music and seriously pursued that for 10 years, when I focused on guitar and especially bass guitar, becoming quite good at it, taking the bass into areas of being a lead instrument rather than merely a part of the rhythm section. This was back in the late 1960s and early 70s before many bass players tried to do that.
            I also took an interest in painting, doing graphic designs in the psychedelic and black light genres in the late 60s. That was fun at the time. Painting lead me into being interested in photography, which started as an artistic expression, later leading me into wedding photography and doing a few hundred weddings over several years. Then I started doing what I call cultural photojournalism, which I still do today when I travel to India, developing a collection of over 18,000 slides and images I’ve taken of Indian holy places, festivals, people, historical sites, etc.
            Only after I took to my spiritual pursuits and reading many books on Eastern philosophy in the early 1970s, especially those of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, did I start writing my own summaries and my own indexes to these books. Some of these were quite extensive and served as excellent reviews and study guides for later research when I needed them. This was long before they had such books on the Vedabase or computer, which made looking up topics much easier. In fact, to this day I still use those indexes that I wrote to look up the relevant references I need in my research for writing.
            Later, in the 1980s, I started to think that many other people, especially westerners like me, would also probably like to have access to this information, but without having to read 20 volumes of books in order to put it altogether and understand it properly. So I started thinking that writing some good, in-depth introductory literature might fill a need, especially at the time when many people were looking more deeply into Eastern philosophy to make sense of things or to add more meaning to their lives.

WHAT MOTIVATED ME TO WRITE
            One thing I saw early on was that bookstores had many metaphysical and new age and philosophical books, but many of these used no real basis of authority, were sometimes without references, and could also be merely someone’s ramblings and speculations that were misleading. And these were published books? My concern was how to get some authorized material out there that could lead people to real spirituality, and also to an accurate view of what is genuine Vedic philosophy.
            Another thing I saw was the genius of Srila Prabhupada who was practically the first to make standard Eastern texts and authorized translations, like the Bhagavad-gita and the more extensive Srimad-Bhagavatam as well as others, acceptable to the general marketplace by making them attractive, both through nice covers and beautiful interior illustrations on the topics described within. He was very particular about how the books were meant to be presented and formatted, and how the interior paintings were meant to look. These were actually able to be placed in some bookstores. Nonetheless, most of these books were still distributed hand-to-hand by the devotees to others. And the activities of selling these spiritual books through the devotees was quite lucrative. But it was not something that I could do very well. The temple president would force me to go out and try, but when I would return, I would have little to show for it.
            I was not very good at doing this sort of book distribution. I had no problem in talking to people who were already interested, but I was rather introverted and did not like approaching people who were strangers to me. I thought that there must be another way through which people would become attracted to this knowledge, a way in which the books would sell themselves, or a way wherein people would be interested to buy the books of their own accord. A way in which I, a shy person, could also participate in distributing this knowledge through books without having to go door-to-door or person to person. Nonetheless, many people appreciated the books that were sold by the devotees. And now there are ways of putting the books of Srila Prabhupada on book stands wherein they are attractive and easily purchased by customers. This is very important, but I also had some ideas. So, what to do?

THE TURNING POINT
            While living in the ashrama and serving in the Denver temple in 1975 and 76 as a manager and treasurer, I would get notices from the Los Angeles BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) that would include quotes by Srila Prabhupada wherein he would say that he expected his disciples to read all of his books, and then they should also write according to their own realizations. This stuck with me for a long time.
            In fact, I was addicted to his books. The very vibration that the books exuded kept me holding and reading them. I would go so far as to stay up late at night just to get the time to read these books. After everyone else went to sleep in the ashrama, I would light a candle and sit, using my trunk as a desk, and read and take notes. The temple president at the time got angry with me for spending all of my spare time reading. I remember he told me once that reading was for temple presidents and sannyasis, and everyone else should simply serve. I knew that was bhogus because of what I had already read from Srila Prabhupada books and the quotes I got from Los Angeles. However, I was not one to argue, at least back then, but I was also not one to give in to some poppycock. If I could not read these books, especially the new ones that were coming out, along with doing whatever other service I was scheduled to do in the temple, I would have easily left the temple and simply worked outside to feed my habit of reading his books. But I stayed in the ashrama, did my service and sadhana, and kept reading anyway.
            By 1984, I stopped writing my own reviews and indexes to the BBT books, except for any new ones that were published, and started thinking of how I could start writing my own books and articles to introduce this spiritual knowledge to others. By then I was located in Detroit, living in my own apartment, and where the temple did not have a newsletter to offer and send out to their congregation. Many temples did that, but we did not have one at the time. So I volunteered to make one, like a quarterly publication, a simple four page foldout. Even the temple president wanted to have such a newsletter. So I put a few things together, interviewed the temple president on his vision for the temple, made a prototype of the newsletter and about 20 copies to show people. Everyone liked it and agreed this should go forward. So I was set to go. But the temple treasurer at the time told me that, in spite of everyone else’s approval, he was not going to give any money for the project. In an extremely rude manner, he simply said, “Sri Nandanandana, I’m not giving you any money for this.” Then he laughed in my face and smirkingly said, “Good luck.”
            It was right then when I realized that if I was going to do any project that I thought was necessary and that I wanted to do to share in distributing this knowledge, even a simple quarterly newsletter, I should not expect any support from anyone. Certainly not even the temple. I was on my own and would have to do everything myself. (I did not know it at the time, but this was Krishna’s arrangement to direct me in a way to do something far bigger.) And so, even though I was disappointed, rather than getting mad or upset that someone was not supporting me and not allowing me to do this project, even when others thought it was a good idea, I merely thought of how to get around this problem, and then I made a plan.

NOT GIVING UP
            The first thing was to write something. At first I thought I would write a fiction novel that would incorporate the spiritual knowledge people should understand. I had a number of ideas, but the words simply were not coming to mind, and I couldn’t write anything.
            So I started to think about writing non-fiction, and then things simply exploded. I had too many things to say, too many ideas. Finally, I decided to write a home study course, which included a book on the main topics, a few tapes to listen to, a few additional transcripts of songs and things to read, and then a test, which when passed, a person would get a certificate of completion. So I started writing in my spare time. But how to finance this?
            Later, I made up a business plan calculating how much money may be needed and how much income I may get back and presented it to our local GBC or Iskcon authority. Again the response was nil. Nothing was said in return, either positive or negative. Later I learned that he was having his own problems and was soon gone from Iskcon anyway. So now what to do?
            So I again realized that though I knew I had a good idea and a vision of how to do it, no one else had the faith. So I would have to finance it myself. After that I got a regular job, at first as a security guard. This allowed me to do my service around the temple and then work in the evening. It also allowed me to read and study most of the time while at work. So in the morning I would write, and then I would work the evening shift and spend most of my time reading. This worked out great. And then the money I earned went towards publishing.
            I then learned all about the publishing business and how to form my own publishing company, which I did as The World Relief Network. When you are a small business, you need to sound like you are big, global even, so others will be more willing to work with you, or in this case order my books. Plus, I really was trying to relieve the world of its problems by spreading spiritual knowledge. So I registered the name, got my own ISBN numbers for my books and publishing company, and whatever else I needed, so when my first book came out, in 1986, which was “The Secret Teachings of the Vedas,” it was listed in Bowker’s “Books in Print” and other directories, along with my publishing company. I printed only 100 copies at the time, a simple edition which was in rather small print. Then I advertised the home study course in a few publications. It was fun when orders would come in, but to my surprise, most people would order only the book, and only a very few ordered the whole course. That was OK with me, but it was not what I expected.
            Then something happened that really surprised me. A large distributing company, Baker & Taylor, started ordering the book from me. They had obviously gotten orders for it, and they serviced both libraries and book stores. So this put everything into a different perspective. Then I realized that I needed to get more serious about this and do things more professionally.

UPGRADING THE BUSINESS
            By 1987 I had been to India and had taken lots of photos and gathered lots of information on the spiritual traditions on the holy places of India. So when I sold out of the first edition of my book, I re-edited it with a more readable interior, and professional cover with a color photograph, put in a travel section with 60 or more black and white photographs, and everything else that it needed. I then had 2000 copies printed. Then I re-marketed it under my legal name of Stephen Knapp rather than my spiritual name, which seemed a little difficult for most people to say. Gradually, things started to take off.
            I had divided the original manuscript into two parts. So, a few years later, the second part was made into my second book, “The Universal Path to Enlightenment,” which was a review of the basic spiritual paths and religions around the world, and the factors that were common to all of them that was also the essence of the Vedic path, concluding with the way to enlightenment in this age through chanting the holy names. Putting another travel section in it, I then published this as well. As sales picked up, I realized that this was becoming like a cottage industry.
            The only thing is that publishing is a fast way to make a slow buck. In other words, you have to invest a sizable amount of money, like $5000 at that time, for a good 2000 copies of the 300 page book, which gives you a good discount on the per-book-basis (costing roughly $3 or so per book), and able to still make a profit on each book sale, selling them for $14.95 retail, or $6.93 wholesale at a 55% discount to wholesalers, or a 40% discount to retailers, which is the industry standard. But the money trickles back in according to the number of sales, especially when you are catering to such a small niche market as Eastern spiritual philosophy. People are interested in this topic, but you have to reach the right people and let them know the book is available for them. And unless you are already a big name in the field, sales will take time.
            To do this I had to continue working a regular job to collect the funds, or even take loans from my father, in order to keep publishing more books. My father helped me a lot, several times, but I remember he once told me to stop writing books. He was always proud of my accomplishments, but never thought I would be anything but a starving artist, or in this case a starving author. But writing was now my mission–to spread this knowledge for the benefit of others, and I had too many book ideas to stop, and positive results were happening and I was getting good feedback from readers. Even other devotees were buying my books wholesale and having good luck at selling them to occult or new age bookstores.
            So then I kept writing and stopped telling my father about what I was doing. In fact, at times not many people around me knew what I was doing, except those who bought the books. I kept quiet about it but continued working at it, writing and publishing books as I could, depending on my time and finances. The topics were varied, some books took longer to do than others, but my list of books slowly grew. And some books sold better than others.

MY PURPOSE IN WRITING
            My purpose in writing books was never to be in competition with anyone, especially the books of my own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. That is why I do not promote my own books that much to those who are already in the temple ashrama or initiated in the movement. They should simply finish reading all of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
            My purpose was to make this information more marketable and package it in what I thought would make it even more acceptable in today’s market place, meaning bookstores and other outlets where people could be attracted to purchase the books of their own accord. Nowadays, the internet is becoming one of the most effective avenues of distribution available. So my thought was how could I, being merely one guy, develop the most effective plan possible to reach the widest number of people regardless of where they were in the world without much help, and without having to verbally repeat the same message time and time again, especially since my memory is not what I wish it was. Anyway, whether it was perfect or not, this is what I came up with.
            My target audience was those who did not have much exposure to the Vedic spiritual knowledge, or who were looking for something deeper than what they had, and present something in a way that would make them want to take a look at it and see what it had to offer. So, what I wanted to do was to make this deep and sophisticated philosophy easy to understand for westerners like me who wanted to deepen their own spiritual development. I was so glad I had discovered it. It had completely changed my life. So, I figured other people would be happy as well, if they could get an introductory book that they could easily understand, and did not overwhelm them with what could be too many strange words or concepts.
            By the year 2000, I had written several books that were well accepted and I started getting requests to speak at engagements or conferences. This was mostly by other Hindu organizations, not the Iskcon temples, which seemed odd at first. After all, I was a part of Iskcon, but it was other Hindus who appreciated my writing the most. This was not part of the plan. My plan was to write for westerners who were looking for a simplification of this knowledge so they could apply it to their lives. The point was, if they cannot understand it, they will not remember it. If they cannot remember it, they will never apply it to their lives. And if they cannot apply it to their lives, you have missed your purpose. That is why I never wrote using too much Sanskrit or words people cannot understand. Because if people do not comprehend it, or it goes over their heads, and then they get bored, they may put the book down because of that, in which case you never know when they may pick it up again. So you have to be careful of that. So my plan was to make the sophisticated philosophy simple so anyone could understand it. And to my surprise, there were many Indian Hindus who also liked my writing style.
            One of the reasons for that was that I was fairly nonsectarian in my writing. I did not emphasize the superiority of one Vedic path over another, but presented them as all part of a family, something for everyone, but used shastric or scriptural references to make my points and show what was most recommended, and how to apply it in life in a practical way. I simply showed what the Vedic spiritual knowledge could do, what it says, and what it has to offer, especially from my own point of view and the realizations and spiritual progress that I made with it, and why others should also be interested in it. Other people also seemed to like that style of presentation.
            By 2001, I did my first organized lecture tour of India, that time with Professor Subhash Kak. The whole trip was paid for and organized, and it was my first time speaking to full Indian audiences, the size of which averaged from 100 to 200. But it went very well. I got increasingly used to it and began speaking more boldly. You could always tell how well you did by how many people came up to speak with you after the talk. And many were interested to hear the words of a Westerner on the importance of Vedic culture and how it had affected my life, and how I got started through the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. At one point in Vishakhapatnam, I spoke especially strongly about the need to protect and preserve Vedic culture by clearly understanding it and following it. Afterwards a man came up to me and said, “When you were speaking I felt like you were the return of Vivekananda.” Of course, I’m not Vivekananda, but for an Indian Hindu to say that to a Westerner, it is an extremely high compliment.
Various lecture tours continued whenever I was in India. Then in 2009, I did a lecture tour through Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Goa, etc., where I did something like 90 lectures at 76 different institutions, all in 30 days, or about three lectures a day. At this point it has been a privilege to have given hundreds of lectures and talks at other temples, conferences, colleges, universities, Dharma summits, and Hindu youth camps, and more. All this was because of writing books and becoming known as an author and authority on topics regarding different aspects of the Vedic spiritual culture, and for being one who still strongly advises the need and ways to protect, preserve, promote, and to perpetuate the Vedic culture.

FINALLY REACHING MY GOAL
            The advantage of having written the books I’ve done is that I have since been to India 10 times to give lecture tours while having someone else pay my way and organize the events. It has opened many doors of opportunity for my own preaching work in ways I never expected. Even now I get invited to more conferences than I can attend, and I have met many other writers and authors who have also been working on spreading this knowledge in their own ways. I have also met many other spiritual authorities from various walks of life, many of whom have appreciated what I do, and I now get emails from people all over the world, some places rather remote and where I never would have gone personally, who express their gratitude for having come in contact with my books or the articles on my website, and to keep up the great work. These are all great to receive and for which I am most thankful.
            Presently, I have now completed 25 books, and a dozen free Ebooks, along with numerous articles on my website, to help people understand many different aspects of Vedic culture and its spiritual philosophy. I have over 5000 Facebook friends, a list of 1800 and growing followers, and other newslists with many people who stay in tune with the writing I do, and what I have to say. My websites (www.stephen-knapp.com or http://stephenknapp.info and https://stephenknapp.wordpress.com) also attract 4000 unique visitors everyday, and get from 15,000 to 20,000 hits a day. I’ve also put out a number of lecture and travel videos on the internet that have been much appreciated as well. Much to my surprise, it all keeps growing.
            My books are all available through Amazon.com and many other outlets, and they sell on a continual basis without much promotion, whether it is only several a week or over 50 a week. The books are also available in Kindle and other E-reader formats, which now sell more than my paperback books. And all of this happened simply because of my decision to make my own plan when I was not allowed to do a simple newsletter for the temple. But there are others who are also doing fantastic work to help spread this knowledge, too. I’m just glad to be a part of it.
            Thankfully, now I no longer need loans, nor do I need to work at outside jobs to get the money I need to keep publishing and writing my books as I did years ago. That is a blessing by itself. Now I can simply focus on my service to God, to humanity, and to Guru. Publishing has also gotten much simpler than before, and the outlets for books make it possible to reach greater numbers of people in more countries than ever before. So things have improved greatly.
            However, I need to remember that this was a slow process of reaching this stage, and has taken years of austerity and hard work. Yet, it is not like I can sit back and relax. I feel I still have more important books to write, and this takes more research, more writing, and more publishing. So I’m far from done yet, though I admit I’m fairly pleased with what I have accomplished so far, even without the support from anyone to help me do this, except my father who helped a lot at first, but later told me I should stop doing this. But my goal was to help as many people as possible and relieve the world as much as possible from the troubles that evolve from a lack of spiritual understanding. That was always my purpose to share what I’ve learned with those who may also be interested. It turned out that there were many more who were interested than I expected. That is a pleasant surprise. I may not be the most popular writer in the spiritual genre, and I certainly don’t plan to be, but I’m happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish, which is now more than I expected. It also gives me great pleasure to hear how my books have assisted various devotees early in their spiritual development. That is what I live for, to help in this way for everyone.
            Nonetheless, what has served me most, besides the encouragement from people who really appreciated and benefitted from my books, was the instructions from my own spiritual master to write according to my own realizations, along with the blessings from God to help me have the strength and perseverance to keep going, and the mantra “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” I never gave up, but continued to pursue what I thought was a necessary need in the world, to help spread genuine and deep spiritual knowledge and the means to follow the path by which anyone could attain their own spiritual realizations and direct perception of these spiritual truths.
            I still have more work to do, but I’m also happy that at this point I have set up things in a way wherein even if I died today, my work and books will continue to circulate and be available to those who are interested, and benefit those who are looking for this type of deep spiritual knowledge and insight. Who knows how many people I may continue to assist in the coming generations, people I will never know. I am very thankful for being able to help in such a way. Nothing means more to me than this.
            All glories to Guru and Gauranga!
            Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp)

Preservation, Protection, Promotion and Perpetuation of Vedic Culture, by Stephen Knapp

On of the primary needs for Vedic culture right now, especially in places like India, is the following formula of preservation, protection, promotion and perpetuation of its existence. I call these “the four pers”.

I have traveled all over India and have seen many situations where this formula is most needed. I have already written some reports on this, but let me explain a little more clearly the basics of this formula.

 

        PRESERVATION: is the first step. You have to work in ways to preserve the culture to make sure it will also be around over the long term so others can learn about it, take advantage of its wisdom, and even follow it for their own spiritual progress. This may include, but not limited to, such things as:

1. Preserve the great and ancient Vedic texts,

2. Preserve the main yoga systems, the dharmas that lead to God,

3. Preserve the temples and let them be freely maintained by those Hindus and devotees who are most sincere and qualified,

4. Distribute this literature for colleges, schools, personal homes, so it can spread,

5. Educate people in this knowledge, especially the youth so they are aware of it and know it,

6. Practice the traditions, such as the holidays and spiritual paths in everyday life.

 

        PROTECTION: is the next step. Even if you do what you can to preserve the tradition, it may also come under attack in many ways. So you have to help protect it by:

1. Overcoming negative impressions that people may try to use to unnecessarily criticize or demean it,

2. Be on guard for negative press in newspapers or television, and work to correct it,

3. Watch for the use of devious ways and false statements that are said to convert people from the Vedic path to some other religion,

4. Be careful even of politicians who have a disdain for God, or for the Vedic culture and who try to work against it or promote some other ideology or religion at the cost of the Vedic institutions.

 

        PROMOTION: this is important whether we like it or not. Many times Hindus or devotees feel there is no proselytizing in Vedic culture, so you have to be born into it or something like that, but there should be no process to convert others. However, in this day and age this is but a prescription for a slow extinction. Everyone and everything promotes what they have. Just like an author, he may have written the best book ever, but if no one knows about it, no one will buy it. Promotion of some form is a must. And the Vedic tradition is one of the most profound and dynamic cultures the world has ever seen. Therefore, there is a great need to let others know about it. This does not mean that you have to be in a conversion campaign, but you can certainly share what you know of it. Many people are looking for deeper levels of spirituality, but they do not know where to look, or they do not know the depth of what the Vedic path or its knowledge has to offer. Someone has to be willing to tell them. In fact, we all should be willing. Therefore:

1. Everyone can be a Vedic Ambassador to simply share with other seekers the ways the Vedic culture has helped them and what they have gotten out of it, the difference it has made in their life,

2. Promote it as a spiritual path that can help solve many of the world’s problems,

3. Distribute the simpler portions of the Vedic texts, such as Bhagavad-gita, or various forms of introductory literature that can introduce and easily explain what the Vedic path is so others can benefit from it,

4. Open the temple doors to all who want to come and investigate it or be a part of it so others can see what it is and how to get started,

5. Offer classes on yoga and Vedic philosophy for the same reason,

6. And hold programs wherein the youth can also be a part of it and practice it,

7. Arrange for radio or even cable TV programs so everyone can learn from it or stay connected.

 

        PERPETUATION: is why we do all of the above. How can we keep Vedic culture a flourishing and dynamic path? By doing all of the above, and providing the means to show people how to practice it. Without the preservation, protection, and promotion of Vedic culture, it cannot be perpetuated. This is where such things as the following can be helpful:

1. Establish and maintain temples that help uphold and show how to practice the Vedic traditions (I have written a whole book on what can be done through temples),

2. Hold classes and study groups, either at temples or at homes, wherein people get together to comfortably converse on various topics of the Vedic texts to help everyone understand it and how deep or practical it is, and then invite friends to join,

3. As mentioned above, spread this knowledge through book distribution, radio, and various other programs, so people can learn about it and utilize it in their lives,

4. Set yourself as an example for those who know you, but at least for your family and children so they begin to understand it, recognize its potential and practice it as well. If you take it seriously, it will leave positive impressions on others.

There are many other points that can be listed. I have already written detailed action plans that can be used to carry these ideas much further. But the main issue is that we have to work to keep the Vedic culture very much alive and available for everyone. It is what I call the “last bastion of deep spiritual truth.” If this should ever disappear, the world will never know what it has lost.

Some people may say that it is an eternal religion, Sanatana-dharma, so it will never fade away. But have they really read the Bhagavad-gita, wherein Lord Krishna explains that one of the reasons why He appeared was to re-establish the Vedic Dharma, which had become lost?

Lord Krishna says, “I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku. This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost. That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.” (Bg.4.1-3)

So, yes, it is eternal but can disappear from the face of the earth, and does at times. It is up to those of us who are serious and sincere to make sure that it can continue being a practical spiritual culture far into the future by applying the above mentioned “four pers.”

Giving Inspiration: The Primary Mission of Vedic Temples, by Stephen Knapp

 It is not often recognized, but the primary mission of the temple, over and above everything else, is to inspire others to take a serious look into the real purpose and practice of the Vedic spiritual path and to participate in the tradition. Many think the main purpose of the temple is to provide a place where people can simply go to do their prayers, pujas and observe the holy days. Of course, that is part of it or it would not be a Vedic temple, but without invoking the inspiration to do that, especially in the youth, then in another 2 or 3 generations many of our sparkling new temples will turn into mere warehouses, or at best museum pieces.

If temples can provide and invoke the proper inspiration in its members and visitors, this will help secure the continuation of the temple, the Vedic community, and the culture itself long into the future. Some of the most difficult assets the temple has to attain are funds and manpower, or the help to continue its programs. If it can invoke the inspiration, then the funds and voluntary service will follow so that it can continue with its programs, whether they be pujas, holy day festivals, educating the youth, and so on. Therefore, it is imperative that temples and the managers and priests must arrange things in a way so that everyone becomes increasingly inspired to participate in temple activities and the Vedic tradition itself. People should be inspired and, thus, motivated to:

1. Recognize the benefits of the Vedic traditions;

2. Understand the tradition and its purpose more deeply;

3. Realize why they should participate in the culture and its spiritual practice;

4. Through service or seva, get a deeper taste and spiritual happiness, and a sense of fulfillment from the Dharmic path that cannot be attained through the temporary glitter of material pursuits or the mental preoccupation of sensual desires;

5. To acquire what is the secret knowledge about life and its purpose, knowing that it cannot easily be found anywhere else;

6. Understand our eternal spiritual identity and connection with the Divine;

7. Help in the operation of the temple for oneself and others, knowing the temple is like the launching pad to the higher purpose of life, and the spiritual dimensions of existence, and certainly to the more refined states of consciousness and fulfillment that everyone seeks, and which the Vedic literature describes.

In this way, the temple and the way it conducts itself should help in the transition of people from being mere observers, to appreciators, to participants, up to taking responsibilities to help the temple in service to the deities and other temple members, or the general community. If the temple can do this, then it and everyone associated with it will secure a bright future, not only for the temple, but for the whole Vedic community, for the Dharmic tradition, and for humanity as a whole.

So first, let us look at these basic points of inspiration the temple must provide, and see how a person can progress from one point to the next:

1. To recognize the benefits of the Vedic tradition.

When you visit a temple, the benefits are not always apparent. Naturally, you may see the beautiful grounds around a lovely temple building. Or you may get darshan of the gorgeously decorated deities, which should be inspiring in and of itself. You may also see the intricate rituals and hear the prayers or chanting and realize you should attend the temple more often. But without understanding the benefits, it may only take a cricket match or ball game on television to distract you away from attending the temple. So it should go deeper than that. People need to be able to comprehend the activities and rituals, at least on a basic level, and then perceive the benefits and blessings we get from such activities, and why it is good to participate. This leads to the next point, which is:

2. To understand the tradition more deeply. We have seen that if the priests or pujaris explain the rituals while they are performing them, or if there is a class in the temple on the meaning of the rituals and the philosophy, or if books are available, or if there are temple study groups to join, we can begin to see and understand the deeper purpose of what goes on at the temple, and why we should be a part of it. Another thing that has always been helpful is if there are prayer books that contain the words of the mantras or bhajans that are used in the temple. But these should be in the original Sanskrit or Hindi with Roman transliteration, and with English interpretations. Then people can follow along or understand it with more appreciation, especially the youth who may not know the traditional languages.

In this way, as people begin to perceive the benefits and purpose of the temple and the meaning of the activities that go on there, people will be encouraged to increase their appreciation for what the temple has to offer, and to support it.

3. The next step is to participate. It is one thing to be an observer with appreciation, but it is another thing to be a participant. When a person decides to participate, no longer is he or she merely watching what others are doing, but he begins to be a part of the pujas, and prayer or chanting sessions, bhajans, or he even begins to help organize festivals on holy days, or with cleaning the temple, and so on. This opens the door for one to receive the higher taste of seva or service, not only to the temple, but for the deity in the temple. This is how a person begins to get to the next point.

4. Getting the higher taste of spiritual happiness and fulfillment by being engaged in spiritual activities. This is the reciprocation between oneself and the Divine. This is when temple management should be able to guide a person in the proper services that guests and progressing devotees can do. This is when one enters the stage of being convinced by direct experience and perception, however simple it may be at first. Combined with Vedic spiritual knowledge, along with sadhana or practice, and with the performance of seva, no other process can deliver one to deeper and deeper levels of that higher taste more effectively than this.

When a person begins to feel this reciprocation, or also begins to understand the importance of this culture, then they naturally want to give back. They feel that they want to provide support for this great path of Vedic Dharma and spirituality, and for the connection with God that they feel. Then they want to do service, they want to contribute to the cause and the temple. I have seen this with people so many times.

5. The temple can also inspire people to recognize it as the preserver and protector of sacred spiritual knowledge, and the center for educating people in it for those who can humbly approach it. The temple can be viewed as the center for the secret knowledge that can hardly be found anywhere else, and which can give a person the means for point number 6.

6. Understanding your true, eternal spiritual identity and connection with the spiritual strata. This only has to be reawakened by being guided in the Vedic formula and process, a part of which is observing the activities in the temple which helps make things easier. Why is this secret knowledge? As it is described by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita: “This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Bg. 9.2)

This means that it is a natural process of purifying or spiritualizing our consciousness so that we can actually perceive that which is spiritual. It is not a mere dogma that must be followed without understanding or without question. But that we advance according to our own development until we eventually reach direct perception of the self. There are few processes that can do that. Nonetheless, just by following the path we can attain the supreme spiritual peace, which is something that is not easy to find. As Lord Krishna also explains in the Bhagavad-gita: “In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self within himself in due course of time. A faithful man who is absorbed in transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.” (Bg. 4.38-39)

Now tell me, where else can you find this kind of advice? This is the significance of this sort of information from the Vedic culture, which everyone should understand. This brings us to point number seven.

7. When a person fully understands all that we have described so far, and especially when one begins to experience the higher taste of such spiritual practice, then he or she will also help in the operation of the temple in some way. This will not only be for his own continued progress and spiritual development, but he will be inspired from within to work for the development of all others in order to give them the same opportunity to experience this deep Vedic culture. There is also no faster way to develop spiritual merit than to assist or help make arrangements for the spiritual progress of others.

 

ADDITIONAL WAYS TO DO THIS

This list should also pave the way to brainstorm to develop new ideas for expanding this purpose of the temples. For example:

1. There can also be Festivals of Inspiration, or festivals to celebrate the Dharmic tradition. Holding such festivals, either combined with other holy days or not, can bring people together to celebrate the Vedic path, and to become more inspired by what it has to offer. Such festivals at the temple can have special events and guest speakers to present such topics as:

A. The history and significance of the tradition;

B. How to overcome certain problems while on the Dharmic path;

C. How to raise or have a spiritual family;

D. How to increase one’s progress on the Vedic spiritual path;

E. How to be practical and realize deeper levels of spirituality.

2. Home study groups, where people get together for basic classes and discussions to help everyone become more familiar with the philosophy, get acquainted with others on the path, enjoy that uplifting association, and also serve prasada, sacred food, and savor a comfortable environment with others that are like-minded.

3. Special classes that outline instructions for home activities in the practice of Vedic spirituality, such as how to establish a prayer and meditation or temple room in the house, or how to engage in a process for one’s own spiritual practice or sadhana at home, etc.

4. How to engage in outreach programs to reach the local community, or how to share your own experience of Vedic culture with other people you meet so they can appreciate it and become more curious about it, or even invite them to visit the temple to see it for themselves.

5. Develop more ways to involve the youth.

These and other programs can be utilized to increase everyone’s enjoyment and involvement in the culture, and use the temple as the center of the tradition.

BASIC SERVICES THAT GUESTS

CAN OFFER FOR THE TEMPLE

These are ideas and services that guests can perform in their service to the temple, but, of course, should be offered under the guidance of temple management who can show people first what and how things should be done. No one should come to the temple and then decide for themselves whatever they want to do, which can be contrary to the overall plan, or in some cases can even be destructive to what is trying to be accomplished.

GENERAL HELP

1. Remove weeds from the flower or vegetable garden.

2. Help with planting flowers,

3. Water flower beds,

4. Assist with Vegetable garden,

5. Lawn Mowing, or raking or blowing leaves,

6. Edging sidewalks,

7. General gardening, mulch & landscaping work,

8. Cleaning the grounds,
9. General pot washing or kitchen clean up,

10. Helping clean hallways, carpets, stairways, etc. in the temple,

11. Assist with Sunday feast clean up or pot washing,

12. Help with picking flowers for deity garlands,
13. Help with flower delivery set up & clean up,

14. Clean up temple: floor, altar gates, Vyasasan, charanamrita set up & hand cleaning area, drain and clean water pots, clean mirrors and windows, dust walls, etc.

15. Clean up bath rooms,

16. Organize shoe area and glass doorways,

17. Assisting with festival preparation & organization or clean up, or car parking,

FOR THOSE SPECIALLY QUALIFIED

18. Help with Sunday feast vegetable cut up,

19. Deity kitchen floor & stoves,

20. Help with deity garland making,

21. Deity laundry,

22. Deity dress repair,

23. Assisting with caring for Tulasi plants,

24. Making a daily sweet for the deities,
25. Brick & cement & stucco repair work,
26. Painting: outdoor & indoor,

27. Electrical,

28. Carpentry,

29. Plumbing.

More ideas can be suggested according to the needs of the temple. But these duties should be planned and ready for those who want to offer service for the temple. Anyone who is willing to do service should not be turned away as if they are not needed. Everyone, if they are qualified and can accept direction, should feel they have something to contribute, and be shown how. This is the beginning in a person’s spiritual growth, which can be very important, and how they continue to contribute to the well-being of the temple, which in turn contributes to their own spiritual well-being.

The Prison of Religion And the Freedom in Vedic Culture, By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)

        The reason why I call it “The Prison of Religion is that religion, when used improperly or without the real essence of spiritual truth, can also be a way of confining and restricting people of their understanding of the universe and themselves, and higher spirituality through the use of fear, guilt, violence, and the oppression of anything that shows a different view than what is being indoctrinated into society through a particular religion. It has been the most militant of religions that has suppressed the ancient avenues of reaching higher levels of understanding our multidimensional nature. Thus, by mere blind faith in whatever the church or priests are giving us, or allowing us to know, we are kept in a lower consciousness than what is really possible. In this way, higher realms of thought, wisdom, love, and knowledge are kept away from the masses. After all, knowledge is power, which means your ignorance is my strength. To keep power over others, the church and other religious institutions have systematically abolished a wide range of spiritual and esoteric knowledge that would, otherwise, give mankind the ultimate freedom. And because people who understand their true spiritual nature and the power that lies within them become impossible to manipulate, it is necessary to keep this knowledge hidden. So the idea would be to keep the truly spiritual knowledge concealed while creating and perpetuating a religion, or a standard of “science,” that keeps people bound by the above mentioned factors: fear, guilt, violence, and intimidation.

        To tread outside the accepted jurisdiction of knowledge or understanding, or outside the rules of the institution, will bring fear. Questioning the present system, or doubting its effectiveness, or desiring to know more about God or whatever else you would like to understand than what the church provides, will bring guilt, at least for those who consider themselves dedicated followers. In this way, some churches or religions have tried to make such ancient sciences as astrology, yoga, meditation, or the deepest understandings of the soul, and much more, to look evil or even absurd, and, thus, be dismissed, or preferably even outlawed. We need to understand and recognize this pattern, which is used in numerous places in the world.

        In this regard, reports have been given about how huge libraries and collections of ancient and esoteric books have been destroyed or were kept out of circulation from the public. This indicates the methodical removal of various levels of spiritual and metaphysical knowledge from society, while claiming that anything other than the established doctrine of the church is satanic, evil, and hell-bound. The Christian Inquisition, for example, was a wonderful method of producing this effect. Even today we can see how some people are so influenced by this tyrannical tendency that they still are afraid of looking at anything other than what the Church condones. However, most of these people are totally unaware of the “pagan” heritage found in Christianity or Judaism, which makes it very similar to pre-Christian ways, but with a different name. It is practically the same medicine yet in a different bottle. To remove this understanding from public knowledge, it became necessary that whenever Christianity or other militant religions conquered a country or culture, the first thing that was done was to capture or destroy all of the ancient sacred texts, or the ways of its worship, such as the temples and deities. However, any organization that destroys the ancient knowledge and historical records of a civilization is never going to present the true history of the world, or the spiritual wisdom of any previous culture. In this way, the view of history is controlled and the population is kept in ignorance and under subtle restraint. And the people who are allowed to understand any of the truth are those of the elite or who are already in power.

        By taking a look at the history of the conventional or western religions, for example, a person can see to what extent such an institution will go to maintain power and control, especially when it feels threatened by what it does not understand. Furthermore, the dark history of some of the religions, for example, represents the fanatically narrow-minded side of it that has continued to the present day in the form of fundamentalists thinking that if a religion or culture is not Christian, or is not Islam, then it must be of the devil or against God. Or at least its followers will not go to heaven. Such fundamentalistic people are often ready to dismiss or criticize other spiritual paths and cultures without understanding them. They may see a ceremony or ritual of another religion and immediately say it is heathen or devil worship or Satanic, without realizing that it is the worship of the same Supreme Being that they worship.

        The point is that all people have to have the freedom to find themselves to the fullest extent on whatever path it takes, providing it is a bona fide or genuine path. So how do we make sure we can continue to have this freedom? By understanding each other and the different cultures of the world and the various paths of self-discovery. And by recognizing the value that they have to offer, as we find in the Eastern traditions, such as Sanatana-dharma. We must also bury our preconceived prejudices that are based on our immature feelings of superiority because, spiritually speaking, we are all the same. We just have to attain that spiritual vision to see the reality of it. And the path we take to do that is the only difference among us.

        One problem with the religions that primarily are based on belief and faith is that they can become an effective means of manipulating the masses who follow it. If you can convince people to believe that by doing something they can go to heaven, then you can get them to do almost anything. For example, Pope Urban II implied to the soldiers who were going out on the first crusade that if they died in the name of Christ, they would ascend to heaven and live in the association of God. Thus, they rode out to fearlessly and mercilessly conquer the “heathens” or non-believers, and were willing to die to reach heaven.

        This is the same effect we see with the Palestinian youth, that if they die in the name of Islam they will immediately go to the seventh level of heaven and take pleasure in wondrous gardens in the company of beautiful virgins. The more fantastic the heaven, the more hope and conviction will be seen in the followers. It is a pattern that anyone can begin to recognize once you are aware of it.

        Another problem with this is that the beliefs that are given to you to accept often change with time, or according to the needs of the church or mosque to keep a congregation. As explained in an issue of Newsweek magazine (August 12, 2002), the concept of heaven has changed with the ages. “Dante saw heaven as the universe, and Thomas Aquinas thought of it as a brilliant place, full of light and knowledge. In the 18th century, Emanuel Swedenborg imagined heaven as a tangible world, with public gardens and parks.” Nowadays you can imagine heaven to be whatever you need it to be. This gives impetus for you to do whatever you feel you should do for your beliefs, and have it justified by your religion. However, in actuality, in the Bible, the Koran, or Torah, there is little in the way of specific information of where or what is heaven. And this leaves much for the imagination, and allows the priest or Imam to say almost anything about it, which is then gobbled up by the gullible followers.

        Another problem with religious processes that rely mostly on faith and belief is that peer pressure and the need for conformity and acceptance or approval stifles and restricts one’s ability to develop or inquire to one’s fullest. We often see children tolerated for their deep and thoughtful questions on spiritual themes, while the adults fear to reveal their ignorance of the topics, or will even stifle a child’s inquisitiveness, or anybody else’s if they seem to ask too many questions. So such religions act like self-policing institutions wherein individuals are not encouraged to develop their own spiritual realizations or ask too many questions, or show any doubts or uncertainties regarding the teachings. They are encouraged to leave it up to faith and the dictates of the institution. They are told that we are not meant to know certain things, and that faith alone in a particular savior or the power of the church is enough to take you to heaven. But if you lack faith or question it, or do not follow the dictates of the church or scripture, you will not go to heaven. You will not receive God’s grace. Thus, you must look good in the eyes of the church authorities and your fellow members or there will be no room for you, and, thus, you will be sent to hell.

        The second kind of fear is the fear that you may be wrong, or the church and its doctrines may be wrong, or there may be weaknesses in its philosophy. So people become defensive of their beliefs, defending it like life itself. Thus, they condemn and criticize those who are of other religions without trying to understand them. Sometimes you can observe this amongst the sects in the same religion. We already see so many divisions within Christianity, as well as Islam and Judaism. And each one often feels they are the only ones that are true followers of Jesus or Mohammed, and all others are going to hell. So it can become extremely divisive even within the same faith, which then leads not only to quarrels but also to war, terrorism, and so many needless killings.

        In fact, some people of particular religions may feel it is their God-given mandate that when someone is a so-called non-believer, he should be converted and “saved” at whatever cost, and then deprived of any freedom to follow an alternative view. A person in another religion may brand “nonbelievers” as infidels, and thus feel it is his duty to convert, destroy, or even kill such a person. In either case, they may use coercion, manipulation, or simply take advantage of poor and vulnerable people to bring them over to their faith. And in both cases, the people of these religions feel they are doing God’s work, and that they are justified in what they do.

        The premise that all spiritual knowledge must be connected with one distinct or localized savior is itself a stifling factor in allowing individuals to progress in spiritual understanding. There is so much more that could be learned if they did not feel that if something is not connected with their particular savior or scripture, then it must be evil, Satanic or wrong. In this way, if it is not in the Bible or Koran, for example, they refuse to acknowledge the value of any additional spiritual knowledge if it comes from a different culture or source. Thus, they act with fear or contempt toward anything outside their own sphere of familiarity or acceptability, or like people who are proud of their own ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

        The straightjacket of Western theological dogma keeps a person from looking at additional resources that could supply answers for questions not considered in western thought, or at possibilities that are elementary in Eastern traditions. What is wrong with learning newer ways of connecting with our higher selves, and with each other and with God? What is wrong with allowing our hearts and minds to expand with new vibrancy, new insights and confidence? Why not allow ourselves new hope and understanding in regard to the purpose of the universe and the nature of God, even if we look to different sources of knowledge? Why not allow ourselves to take up the path that provides the means for direct perception of spiritual reality? Who knows what additional information we can add to what we already know, or newer ways to incorporate and develop ourselves into people who are better and more aware and spiritually developed. This is natural for those who participate in the Vedic system.

        In light of this it is interesting to point out that in 1991 a letter was released from the Vatican to the Bishops which criticized zen and such spiritual practices as yoga and meditation. The letter was written by Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now the Pope at the time of this writing, but the document was also approved by Pope John Paul II. The letter warned against the sensations of spiritual well-being that one gets from practicing yoga or meditation, and said that this could lead to schizophrenia, moral deviations, or even psychic disorders, and degenerate to a cult of the body. Now on what basis do they make these claims? Are they simply using fear tactics to dissuade people from investigating such paths? Of course, if one improperly practices a complicated form of yoga, such as kundalini-yoga, there may be some adverse affects. But for the most part, yoga and real transcendental meditation means to fix the mind and become absorbed, at least for certain lengths of time, on that which is transcendent, which is God. This is real spirituality. So what is wrong with this when this is the goal of any spiritual path? Why would they issue such a letter, unless they are once again simply trying to condemn every other form of religion? If this is the case, this signifies that they are not really interested in true spirituality or in helping people with spiritual advancement. They are more interested in control over their flock. Yoga and meditation have existed for thousands of years before Christianity ever came along. Why should people not look at other cultures to get answers and experiences that are not found in conventional Western religions? The reluctance to do so is merely a reflection of the fear and misunderstanding that people have. Nonetheless, many Christians have risen to new levels of understanding biblical teachings by studying and practicing various aspects of the Vedic path.

        We have to remember that a true religion paves the way for everyone to become spiritually aware, and to establish his or her own relationship with the Supreme. And the Vedic system is an ideal means for supplying that. If a religion is not based on the higher principles of self-realization, but is merely based on dogmatic rules and regulations that it forces on others, then it becomes a trap based on fear, guilt, oppression, and intimidation. One must not be afraid to break free from such a trap. It is greater to see God’s love manifested in many sages belonging to different traditions at different times and places, among different people. Thus, the Vedic spiritual knowledge is for everyone and can assist anyone in their spiritual development. After all, if I, a Westerner can do it, then anyone can do it.

THE FREEDOM IN VEDIC CULTURE

        It is refreshing to see that you usually do not have the kind of divisiveness or criticism that is described above in the Vedic system. It is much more open and provides the individual the freedom to pursue the level of experience that he or she needs for his or her own development and still be a part of the Vedic process. You can especially see this at such huge gatherings as the Kumbha Mela festival where millions of people come together from all aspects and schools of thought within the Vedic fold. It shows that anyone can pursue their own level of spiritual development and inquiry without being restricted from within an institution or church. One can become a part of whatever line of spiritual thought or practice one needs to be in and still be considered on the Vedic path, though there are various systems that bring a person to different levels of development, consciousness, and higher perception.

        For these reasons, India must remain the homeland of a living and dynamic Vedic culture. This will allow the world to retain some of the deepest knowledge and methods of attaining the most profound spiritual insights that have been known to mankind. Thus, India should defend itself from the risk of further partition or divisions of its land. If India is divided up any more, and portions of the country are taken by others, Vedic culture could dwindle or even be lost over the long-term, except for small colonies of Vedic practitioners here and there. This may indeed be what many people would like to see. Yet, if Vedic culture is lost, the world will not even realize the treasure of human development that will disappear. Then such deep spiritual knowledge and insights will begin to permanently fade away from society.

        Once India and Vedic culture is diluted or stamped out, along with other decreasing numbers of indigenous traditions within it, then in time the whole world will be fitted with the straightjacket of Western thought and strict monotheistic religion. Thus, it will be more easily controlled by the establishment, whether that be government or religious, etc. Then individual freedom for the pursuit of higher understanding and spiritual happiness will be limited to the constraints as dictated by whatever regional monotheistic views reign in that area.

        The Vedic culture and philosophy offers deep insights into spiritual knowledge that can be found no where else. It provides for levels of thought and knowledge of the soul and the Supreme and the spiritual reality that are hardly matched elsewhere. I can safely say this because I, having been raised a practicing Christian, also seriously studied in depth all the major religions, and continue to do so, before having studied and then taking up the Vedic path. The Vedic philosophy clearly outlines the processes by which a person can uplift or purify one’s own consciousness to perceive for themselves the spiritual strata and recognize one’s true spiritual identity, which is the essence of all spiritual progress, and from which all further development grows. Many are those noteworthy sages and saints of the past who have followed this path successfully, and left profound teachings for the rest of us. For this reason, Vedic culture is the last bastion of deep and genuine spiritual truth and freedom. It is a culture that allows full liberty of investigation for the individual to practice and reach the highest levels of spiritual perception known to humanity. This is also why it should be clearly understood and preserved for the benefit of all.

Without Promotion Vedic Culture Cannot be Protected, by Stephen Knapp

Vedic culture has more to offer the world than many care to admit. It has always served the people as a gift from God, a gift from the great sages and rishis to bring humanity to a higher standard of consciousness and living, and a gift from all those Hindus who gave their lives for its continuation throughout the attacks of the last 1000 years from the invaders of India who tried to exterminate the Vedic tradition.

            However, many people do not know the profound nature and depth of insights that the Vedic philosophy and tradition has to offer. And no one will know if it is not promoted and taught properly, which seems to be increasingly the case inIndia. It is not enough to simply do the worship or practice of Vedic Dharma, but a person also needs to know why to do these things. They need to know what’s in it for them, and what they are going to get out of it? This is what needs to be explained. It is like this; even if you are an author of a great book, if no one knows about your book, no one will buy it. It has to be promoted. There is no question of this. In the same way, Vedic culture has to be promoted and then taught properly in order for people to realize what it really is and what it actually has to offer.

            If you think you can merely sit back and do nothing, and people will still be attracted to investigate the Vedic tradition and its philosophy, then you do not understand the reality of the situation. If you think the acharyas and spiritual masters can merely sit on their high seats and everyone will come to see them at their ashramas and that is enough to preserve and protect Vedic Dharma, then you do not understand the reality of the situation. If you think that there is nothing to worry about because Sanatana-dharma is eternal and will always exist somewhere, then you do not understand the reality of this world, nor the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. When there are far more people inIndia converting to Christianity and Islam than to Hinduism, this is no time to sit on our laurels and merely watch to see what happens.

            In the West, however, there are still many people who take up Vedic customs, and it continues to grow, but that is primarily because of its promotion, and the freedom that still exists to investigate it deeply. When people see how it can help them reach their true and higher potential, or a deeper level of spirituality and understanding about life, they become interested. They want to know how it can help them. And many are those who look for answers from the Vedic traditions, whether it be through yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, Jyotish, Vastu, or any of the other aspects of Vedic culture. But again, these have to be promoted and taught so people can understand how to proceed and use these for higher benefits.

            For example, I’ve been a practicingKrishnabhakta or Hindu for 40 years, at least in this lifetime. I keep getting stronger in my convictions everyday. But that is because of my deepening realizations that come with the spiritual development that can be attained along the path of Vedic Dharma. And that comes from practicing it and taking it seriously. Then the proof of its validity becomes self-evident. 

            So, for the general masses, we must look to the future to see what Sanatana-dharma can do for society, and how it fits into the lives of others. But we must also see how we must preserve our place in the world, and protect the future of Vedic Dharma. It is one of the few cultures that actually promotes the freedoms of the individual and does not force a dogma on anyone, but offers a person to make their own choice and to take up any portion of it, according to one’s interest and level of awareness. In other words, it does not force a set of rules and then punishments on those who do not follow them. It is not based on the fear that other religions often use to acquire converts and keep everyone in line, and, thus, a part of its congregation. We have discussed this more thoroughly in other articles.

            However, the world today is extremely competitive, and every political party or institution is often engaged in promoting itself as the best of all others, and then criticizing and demeaning whatever competition it has. And that can be plainly seen in the world of religions as well. But it is not the nature of the Vedic tradition to do that. Nonetheless, if we are not going to be a doormat for everyone else, there are certain things we need to do.

First, we need to understand the danger of remaining silent. This is often viewed as apathy by many, which is used to the advantage of those who would rather see an end to Vedic Dharma. If we do not take a stand to defend our culture, then others will certainly use that to gain ground for themselves or whatever institution or religion they represent. Therefore, as I have related in other articles, we must understand the need to protect and even promote the Vedic path. The fact of the matter is that you cannot properly protect and preserve Vedic culture in today’s world without its promotion.

 

A FEW WAYS OF PROMOTION

 

There are many simple and non-imposing ways to do this. It is not like you have to become a salesman, or take to the streets to demonstrate as political activists, or the like. But you can easily do one or a few of several things.    

1. Create a spiritual revolution by widespread distribution of spiritual knowledge. There is no deeper spiritual knowledge than what is offered in the Vedic literature. Thus, the more that people have access to this knowledge, the more they will see the depths of it. Therefore, there is a great need for introductory literature and simple explanations of the lofty philosophy in the Vedic tradition. Such books, along with the likes of Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic texts need to be distributed on a wide-scale basis. People everywhere can take advantage of this and use it in their lives. ISKCON, for example, has shown so many different ways of accomplishing this, which anyone can learn how to do.

2. Books that enter mainstream markets with an accurate portrayal of Vedic Dharma and the reasons for its traditions are also very important, which is one area that I work in, along with making more kinds of introductory literature.

3. In this same line of thinking, websites and blogs have been very effective as well. This has also shown that people from many walks of life, even inIndia, are looking for this knowledge but do not always know where to find it. It has to be more accessible, and websites offer tremendous help in this way.

4. Radio and television shows are also very effective. I have had friends who have taken it upon themselves to arrange for making radio programs about various aspects of Vedic culture, or who have made television shows for the cable networks, which is much simpler than many people may think.

5. Courses for schools are also important. And by schools I do not mean necessarily public schools. There are many private or neighborhood weekend schools that are organized by parents who help train their own children as well as the children of their friends and neighbors in the ways of the Vedic customs, legends, histories, and philosophy. I have met with husband and wife teams in India that do this on Sunday mornings for all the children who want to attend their programs, or even here in America where temples offer fun classes for the children to attend and learn all about the Vedic tradition and the moral values that are part of it. 

6. Classes in the temple for adults. Many temples inIndiado not distribute the Vedic knowledge or teach it. They are mostly open to do the worship and collect donations. But this is not enough to allow people to understand the depth and importance of the philosophy. Therefore, more temples need to create an atmosphere for greater understanding of the traditions they utilize. They need to be centers for higher knowledge and learning, not just a place for rituals that many people do not understand.

7. College and university student clubs and associations. This is easy to do for most any college or university students. They can get permission of the college to form a club or association based on furthering their understanding of Vedic culture, yoga, etc., and have meetings, activities, book readings, slide shows, guest speakers, dinners, and so on. This helps attract more students and encourages everyone to look at and participate in the Vedic tradition more deeply, and see how it really may be able to assist them in their own progress.  

            8. Acharyas and spiritual teachers should get out of the ashramas and tour and do programs, not only in the cities but also in the villages. They need to show how important it is to them that others also have the rights, freedoms and privilege to participate in the Vedic traditions and its philosophy. This can be very important and inspiring for the common masses to see, and it can create lasting impressions in the public that someone cares about their participation in Vedic culture if the Acharyas and spiritual teachers would do this on a regular basis.

            9. Techniques of the Swadhyaya Movement. Beyond merely distributing books, there also needs to be the follow up in ways of engaging people and giving them association for enthusing them to stay together and learn and become active together. The Swadhyaya Movement is an organization that I have admired for a long time now, and who are most successful in this regard. Here is an institution that has been growing intensely for the past 60 years or so, and their techniques of sharing are quite simple but most effective. They mostly do one of two things: first individuals simply invite people they know to come to their meetings in which they learn more about the Bhagavad-gita and the Vedic culture, or they call up people they know and ask to come over for a visit and simply talk and become better friends. Then they may discuss the Bhagavad-gita and invite their new friends to their meetings simply to learn more about their own customs. Then they help serve each other on the basis of the teachings of Lord Krishna. Teaching and inspiring their youth is also very important. They have now developed into an organization of many millions of members worldwide through these simple means. There are many ways that other organizations can do this as well to grow and expand by merely being friends and growing in the Vedic tradition through fellowship.

            10. Being Vedic ambassadors—showing by example & sharing what we know. I have explained more about this in other articles, but the above points can also fit into the idea of merely being a Vedic ambassador and simply showing others how the Vedic tradition and philosophy has helped you, and then share with others your story of how it has done that. This can be done on a personal level or through more technological media, as described above. But it requires very little but a friendly disposition and a little knowledge about your own culture to simply share it with others.

            11. Taking care of others. Simply being nice and known as a Hindu or devotee is also part of being a Vedic ambassador. It lends for a good impression on other people about who and what you are. And often times I have seen that when people know you as a decent and upstanding person who follows a particular culture, they want to know more about it. They may ask questions, and how you respond will make a difference in the impression they have about the culture. This is all part of being a Vedic ambassador and helping promote the qualities that are attained by following the Vedic teachings.

            12. Inviting others to participate in the colorful and joyful Vedic festivals can also be very effective. Everyone loves a good time, and if you invite others to join or participate in such festivals, it can create lasting impressions of good will. And if they are new to Vedic traditions, if you or someone can show them around and explain things to them about the meaning of what is happening, it will only increase their good impressions and what they get out of it. This may also lead to their desire to learn more or increase their participation in the culture. And all you have to do is simply show your friendly personality and be yourself. 

 

            People need a reason to unite, to feel unified for a cause. Are we going to supply the means and the reason for this? Or are we going to sit back and wonder why someone else should have done this? We have to see the need to do this and then get up and be active in the same way that Lord Krishna encouraged Arjuna to be active to defend Vedic Dharma. There are so many ways to do this, of which the above list is a few.

            These are but important suggestions on how to easily promote the Vedic Dharma, which is necessary if we expect to protect and preserve it. There are, of course, many other things that can be done, many of which I have written about elsewhere. But see which ones pique your interest or fit your character and then move forward with a plan to help out, or team up and help with others who may already have some ideas or are engaged in such ways. This will greatly assist everyone in their own spiritual growth and development, and also help the world attain a higher recognition of who we are and the purpose of life, which we all share.

            Further action plans and details of these are given in my book “Crimes Against India: And the Need to Protects its Ancient Vedic Tradition.”

Using Proper Vocabulary to Describe Vedic Concepts, by Stephen Knapp

            Time and time again I see and hear the most improper words used to describe various concepts of the Vedic tradition. The peculiar thing is that this happens not only amongst non-Indians, as you might expect, but also amongst Indian Hindus, even scholars who should know better, and even amongst Indian gurus and teachers. Why should we surrender to the use of words given by foreigners and non-Dharmists that often so inaccurately describe the specific concepts found within the Vedic tradition? Some Vedic writers have written about this before, but it is still an issue that does not seem to be resolved, or people simply don’t understand the damage it can do. So let us take a few examples.

            MYTH OR MYTHOLOGY: This is a word that I see used on a regular basis when describing what some people call the “Hindu or Vedic mythology.” Don’t people understand what they do when they use this word? When you say mythology you immediately take away all reason for taking the Vedic texts seriously, such as the Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayana. When you describe them as myths, you are indicating that they are just fiction, nothing more. They may convey some ideas or principles in them, but the events that they describe have no other purpose. Or that the stories have nothing to do with history or actual events that have taken place.

            The dictionary describes the meaning of the word myth as a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation. This is especially the case when the story is concerned with deities or demigods and includes some practice, rite, or supernatural aspect of nature, all of which are in the realm of myth. Thus, such stories are accepted as invented ideas to include some concept, but it basically imaginary or fictitious. Thus, all places, persons, things, and events in the story have no basis in fact but is a false collection of mere beliefs.

Even the Sanskrit root of the word “myth” means fiction. So why should we use this word? Or is this all the credit we intend to give to the Itihasas and other Vedic texts? 

The fact of the matter is that many scholars of Vedic literature and its traditions have discovered that the stories found therein are filled with historical events and descriptions. They are not fiction. So, naturally, the point is that the word myth or mythology, when using it in connection with the Vedic stories, is completely incorrect. Therefore, we should simply stop using it in connection with our Vedic tradition and its ancient texts.  

             IDOLS AND STATUES: Here are another few words that I hear people use all the time, even India gurus and spiritual teachers, in relation to the deities in the temple. The deities in Sanskrit are called murtis. And when the murtis or deities have undergone the Prani Pratishta ceremony, which calls and invites the Divinity to accept the form of the deity and the service that we can offer to Him or Her, the deities are then accepted as having the life force of the particular Divinity residing within. Thus, they are no longer mere idols or statues, but are indeed worshipable. But as soon as you say idol or statue, you are again taking away all credibility from the image and indicating that it is merely stone, paint, or wood, and nothing more. This is a complete misrepresentation of the true meaning of the deity. Therefore, we should stop using these words in relation to the deities in the temples. 

             RELIGION: This word is also easily used in connection with Hindu or Vedic Dharma, as if it is just another religion. So why shouldn’t we call it a religion?

            The word yoga, based on yuj, the root of the word, means to “link up” or “unite.” Interestingly enough, the word religion is based on the Latin word religio, which means to “bring back” or “to bind.” What is to unite with or to bind to is the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. This involves uniting one’s body, mind, will, emotions, and intellect to God while becoming detached or less attracted to the material world. Thus, the ultimate aim of yoga and religion is the same, which is to spiritualize our consciousness, transcend all forms of temporary material happiness and distress, and increase our understanding and realization of the Supreme.

            However, religion is usually accepted to mean that we establish our relationship with God through the church or some institution or church authority, and in that way we attain salvation, or are “saved” from our sinful ways. And if we do not have a proper or approved connection with the church, mosque, or some authority in the religion, then we have no relationship with God. Whereas dharma means to reawaken what is already there, and act according to our duty as a spiritual being. This means that we are not necessarily “saved” from our sins and brought to God, but we merely reawaken our spiritual identity and then, with proper guidance, we learn how to act in that way. In other words, we are already a spiritual being with a connection with God. It only has to be reawakened. This is the path of dharma, which brings us to the state of dharma, or spiritual balance and realization. The premise is that we are always a spiritual being and are connected with God, and we merely use whatever tools the Vedic tradition provides to act in that way and to realize and perceive our spiritual identity and connection with God. By such guidance, knowledge and realization, we begin to perceive the spiritual dimension and our existence in it. It is not that someone or some institution is the via media between us and God and give us the means to be “saved”, but we have to do the work ourselves but with the assistance of God and the Vedic system. It depends on us. We cannot simply sit back and think we can do whatever we want because we are “saved.” But we must still work to spiritualize our consciousness to reach moksha, liberation from material existence by entering the spiritual domain.

            Furthermore, when it comes to understanding the meaning of Sanatana-dharma, we have to be aware of its Sanskrit definition. The root of the word dharma comes from dhri, which means to uphold or maintain. The Sanskrit says dharayati iti dharmaha, which translates as dharma is that which upholds. However, not only what is supported is dharma, but that which does the supporting is also dharma, dhriyate iti dharmaha. So dharma consists of both the force that sustains as well as what is sustained. It can also be said that there is the path of dharma as well as its conclusion, the object of dharma, or what we are seeking, the goal of life. So dharma is the means as well as the goal.

Dharma is also said to be the force which maintains the universe. Where there is dharma there is harmony and balance individually, socially, and inter-galactically. So the path of dharma brings about the harmony and contentment that is also another aspect of what we are seeking. In this way, we want harmony inwardly, in our own consciousness, but we also cannot have individual peace unless there is harmony or cooperation socially, amongst the masses. So where there is no dharma, there is disharmony and a state of being that is out of balance. And socially it means that without dharma, there is a lack of cooperation, along with escalating quarrel and fighting. When we act against the law of dharma, we disrupt the very harmony and cooperation that we want.

Doing what should not be done is called vidharma, which is a type of adharma or nondharmic activity. The conclusion, therefore, is that if we want happiness and peace we must learn how to live according to the path of dharma.

The practice of dharma should be done not out of compulsion but out of love due to the perception of the Supreme in all living beings. With this motivation, dharma can assist in preventing injury to others and treating each other respectfully. Dharma also means righteous conduct. This includes following social laws and proper moral activity and behavior. It encourages truthfulness of thought, word and deed. The point of which is to reach the goal of dharma.

Dharma also means truth. So we follow the path of dharma to free ourselves from illusion and reach the ultimate Truth, which is the topmost reality, the spiritual strata. The Absolute Truth means the final philosophical goal and end of all knowledge, or Vedanta, which is God, the Supreme Being. So when we want to attain liberation from material existence, after realizing the futility of its temporary nature, and wish to reach God, then it becomes much easier to follow the path of dharma and overcome the temptations of the temporary material world. Then we can let go of the illusory objects that are, in fact, hurdles on the path to Truth and God, and happiness in general.

On a national, ethnic, or racial level, dharma is an instrument of unity, not divisiveness. That which helps unite everyone and develop love and universal brotherhood is dharma. That which causes discord or disharmony or provokes hatred is adharma. And we can plainly see that many religions, being based on the idea that they are the only way to God, actually perpetuate differences between us all, especially with such ideas that say some are “saved”, and those who are not are going to eternal damnation. Thus, it becomes obvious that the basis for many quarrels in the world is the differences in religions.

That which works against or tries to destroy dharma is adharma. With this understanding we can perceive that certain religions that exist on this planet actually encourage divisiveness between those that are “saved” and those that are supposedly going to hell, or those which primarily focus on differences between their sect and others. This is actually adharmic. Those religions that do not teach that we are all spiritual beings, all children of the same God, all equal in the eyes of God, are adharmic. They may merely be limited in their depth of knowledge and awareness, but until they adopt the dharmic principles they will continue to produce disagreements, restlessness, harsh attitudes and even hatred amongst people in the name of religion. The reason is that they are absent of real transcendental knowledge and deep spiritual insights. Since such religions lack dharma, they will not be able to deliver one to dharma, or to the Absolute Truth. They remain too much absorbed in the bodily condition of life. Thus, lack of peace and harmony amongst various religions will be commonplace until this is remedied. In this way, the path of dharma is more than a religion or belief system. It is the means to directly perceive and live according to that higher reality and spiritual unity between us all. Therefore, the Vedic path is not merely a religion, it is Sanatana-dharma.

 HINDU: This is another word that has been given to the people who practice the Vedic tradition by outsiders and which does no justice for expressing any concept or idea about the Vedic tradition. It is odd that in some circles if you use the word Hindu, you are frowned upon, while in other circles if you do not use the word, they feel you are offensive. There is much that has been discussed about this label, and I have fully written about it elsewhere. But for the above reasons in regard to Sanatana-dharma, we should also consider how accurate or inaccurate the name Hindu really is, and why we should continue to use it, except due to over-familiarity with it by most people. Otherwise, I would prefer, as a follower of Sanatana-dharma, to be called a Dharmist or something like that. At least that label is certainly connected with the actual Sanskrit upon which the Vedic practice is based.

             CASTE: This is another word that carries much baggage with it, and as soon as you mention it, you get people who want nothing to do with it, or who require a long explanation about what it really is. Here again is a word that comes from outsiders that give a misconception about what should be called by its proper Sanskrit term, varna, and not caste.

            Caste is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “an endogamous and hereditary social group limited to persons of the same rank, occupation, and economic position.” The word caste is derived from the Romance word casta (seen in Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian), which (in addition to representing the same concept as English caste) can mean “lineage” or “race.” It comes from Romance casto, which can mean “pure” or “chaste.” Casto in Latin means “chaste,” which is derived from castus, meaning “pure, cut off, separated.”

            What is also explained is “What remains, however, and is common to many cultures is the “outcaste,” the people considered below the level of common humanity of all the others, “untouchable.” They and their descendants, the dalit in India, the burakumin in Japan, the baekjeong in Korea, all have faced discrimination, and some continue to do so today.” [http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Caste_system]

            The problem with this is that in the Vedic tradition, no one was considered an untouchable or something sub-human. In the Vedic system, outcastes were those who were so materialistic, or evil, or barbaric that they would not follow any portion of the progressive Vedic principles. So where do you put them?  

            So this should make the foreign origins of the word obvious, and make us ask again why we have surrendered to using a term that immediately misrepresents the real concept of varna and varnashrama dharma. As we have written elsewhere, the system of Vedic varna was never to restrict the upward progress of a person, but was meant to encourage it as a social design for the growing progress of a individual, the contentment of one in their occupation and contributions to society, while still making proper spiritual advancement. One’s varna as judged by birth alone, which is the way things seem to be in the modern caste system, was never established in the Vedic system. In fact, there are shastric injunctions and rules that establish the direct opposite of that. However, once one’s varna was established by their talents, abilities, interests, level of intelligence, etc., than that was considered the best classification for an occupation for that person to reach perfection in life. Thus, again, we should use the word varna and not caste to help establish what was really meant by the social design for humanity in the Vedic tradition. 

            HINDU MONKEY GOD: This is another demeaning label when describing Hanuman. But I have even heard Indian gurus use this term. If you cannot say Hanuman, then it may be better to just keep quiet. The point is that it indicates that Dharmists worship monkeys as gods, without understanding that Hanuman was not merely a monkey. He was part of a specific race of beings that existed and helped Lord Rama in His pastimes of rescuing Sita, as explained in the Ramayana. Hanuman was also known as the son of Vayu, the god of the winds. This is why Hanuman was so strong, could jump fantastic distances, and was able to live so long. He was an extraordinary being, and people still worship him as the most exemplary devotee of Lord Rama, and who can give blessings for us to increase our own devotion to God. So to call him the “monkey god” is a complete disregard and misrepresentation of what and who he really is.

            However, this could also be said when we refer to Lord Ganesh as the “elephant god.” He was far more than an elephant. Plus, saying that he is “the Hindu elephant god” again creates demeaning and inaccurate impressions in the minds of people that we worship elephants as gods, when the respect and admiration for Lord Ganesh is far more specific than that. Therefore, once again, to more accurately describe who and what they really are, we should use the correct terminology and title for the Divinities in the Vedic tradition. 

            HINDU TERRORISTS: This is another phrase that is a contradiction in terms. I have always said that Hindus make lousy terrorists, which means they just don’t have it in their hearts to do such things. They are generally the most tolerant of all people. And I have seen so many times when there has been some terrorist activity that is blamed on Hindus, it usually comes out, after proper investigation, that someone else was the cause, yet the media does little to apologize for improper information, or to correct the report, or change public opinion. So whenever Hindus try to provide the proper information, or defend themselves from those who try to demean or criticize them, or who try to defame their culture, they are immediately called communalists or “saffronites,” as if they are simply trying to “saffronize” the nation, which means make everything a part of Vedic culture.

            So when the term Hindu Terrorism, or saffronization, or communalists comes up, you can be pretty sure that it is merely for the convenience of politicians trying to blame an easy target to get the votes of non-Hindus in India. Or it is because of the secular (meaning the non-Hindu) media who try to show their impartiality by being anti-Vedic and anti anyone who is following Vedic Dharma. All this needs to change. But Dharmists / Hindus in general need to be less apathetic when it comes to speaking out against such things, or for voting good politicians into office in India, if there are any good politicians in India.

For example, I once gave a lecture at a temple in Mumbai to a crowd of about 1500 people. As I was talking about the politicians in India who actually work against the Vedic tradition and Hindu population, I asked how many people voted in the last election. Not one hand went up. This is another of those things that need to change. Politicians will never care about the Hindu people if they won’t vote. They will always cater to those who will support them. And, meanwhile, the anti-Vedic people will gain more power and control at the expense of the Dharmists who will become overruled by those who participate in politics and the electoral process. This means that gradually Dharmists will continue to watch as more and more of their freedoms are taken away. Yet, if they do not do anything about it, what else can they expect?

            Therefore, it is time for people who follow Sanatana-dharma to unite and make a stand for what they want in their own future. Otherwise, as the generations unfold, the new youth will be increasingly less loyal or interested to participate in or preserve whatever remains of the Vedic tradition. Using the above points and changing our vocabulary in regard to the words that are mentioned herein and many others will help at least a little to change that scenario.