When people today learn about India's ancient Vedas they discover a tradition perhaps 5,000 years old, guided by illumined seers living in harmony with nature, chanting arcane mantras, and performing mysterious fire rituals. This image of the Vedic world appears fascinating but is also difficult to understand, suggesting perhaps a mystical fantasy more than any deeper reality.
Yet, this poignant image of the Vedic living is but an introduction into a radically different worldview than our current high-tech society, invoking a cosmic vision that takes us beyond time and space to the origins of the universe much like modern physics, but in an experiential way within our own consciousness.
Today, we find Vedic systems of knowledge spreading worldwide through teachings like Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, Jyotish and Vaastu, along with numerous books, courses and teachers. Some would like to keep Yoga apart from this mix as an independent tradition, but it is easy to see that Yoga originally arose in the Vedas. Yoga took shape as one of the six schools, or darshanas, of Vedic thought and is rooted in Vedic values and practices. We cannot separate Yogic systems of knowledge from Vedic systems of knowledge, though variations between individual systems naturally exist.
What is Vedic Knowledge?
Veda is a vast tradition of knowledge on all levels, not only mundane but also spiritual. Veda itself means knowledge, not mere information but transformative knowledge born of inner perception, deep meditation and higher consciousness, what could also be called Yogic knowledge. The Vedic mantras reflect knowledge of the rishis who were said to have understood the cosmic sound vibration OM and its subtle energies that sustain all existence and guide all life.
The Vedas are not mere religious books and do not propose any articles of faith. They direct us to discover the Divine within us, for which they provide the guidance and the practices for each one of us to apply.
Vedic knowledge represents not only the past but also the future of India. It helped shape the characteristic features of India's vast and enduring Dharmic civilization through the centuries, as the Vedas first of all were formulated to teach Dharma. India's traditional philosophies, arts and sciences have strong Vedic connections. The Vedas were one of the main inspirations for India's Independence Movement, particularly through Dayananda Sarasvati, Lokmanya Tilak and Sri Aurobindo, and India's great gurus today continue to honour them.
The Vedas inspire us first of all to awaken a Rishi vision within us. The Rishis were seers of the highest order, cultural creators and world-makers, working with the powers of cosmic intelligence. Their concern was both with the individual and the society, creating a Dharmic culture and Yogic way of life for all. Such new visionaries are needed again today, who have a vision of the future rooted in eternal wisdom and a respect for the sacred nature of all life.
What is the Vedic vision of India's future?
It is India as a culture and civilization of knowledge, both scientific and spiritual, both inner and outer, culminating in the supreme science of consciousness. Such a Vedic knowledge-based civilization is more than information technology, though it can work with it and possibly transform it. Vedic knowledge is post-industrial and post-modern, one could say, though it comes to us from the dawn of history, its vision is beyond time and space.
Modern Science and Vedic Science
The Western world has certainly succeeded in developing powerful outer systems of knowledge in terms of science and medicine, but remains unaware of the inner powers of the psyche and how to access them. Vedic knowledge systems provide us the inner knowledge of the subtle energies of life, mind and intelligence that permeate the universe, and allow us to link up with these in our daily lives.
The future of humanity consists not just of technological progress but of a deepening awareness and higher evolution of the human mind and brain. The ultimate technology is not that of external machines and computers but arises through mastering the powers of our own awareness and prana, such as the great yogis were able to achieve.
We do not need spaceships in order to travel throughout the universe, however important these may be to develop; we can do this within our own minds, once we discover the inner power, space and silence within us that contains the entire universe.
Mere outer revolutions end in violence without an inner revolution in consciousness. A sophisticated media means little if we do not have the power of attention to control our minds, or discern what is true or false in what the media shows us. Our inner eye once awakened can see more than any outer camera. The best medicinal drugs fall short if we are not aware of or able to work with our own prana and find health and happiness within.
The best internet connection cannot compare with an inner connection to the Cosmic Mind that is the repository of all knowledge in the universe. Let us not forget our deeper soul exploration of consciousness in our expanding exploration of the outer world.
In my various articles I will examine the importance of Vedic knowledge and Vedic culture, its connections with India and with the world as a whole - especially how it can create peace and harmony extending to the whole of life and the boundless fabric of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda) as our own Self-awareness.
(Dr David Frawley, or Pandit Vamadeva Shastri, is a Western-born Vedacharya, who teaches an integral approach to Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Vedic studies. He is the author of 50 books published in 20 languages, and is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India. He is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies.)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)