Becoming a Dharmic Leader
By Stephen Knapp
Becoming a Dharmic leader, or one who truly represents the Vedic path of Sanatana-dharma, is similar to becoming the ultimate revolutionary, but a spiritual revolutionary. It is being an agent of reality in a world that still lacks reality, meaning the genuine basis of what is our true spiritual identity. This is beyond politics or a violent revolution against the typical establishment construct, or anything like that. But it is working to bring in a new dimension, a higher consciousness, and a loftier awareness of who and what we are. It is like the saying by George Orwell: In a time of deceit, telling the truth itself becomes a revolutionary act. In this way, in this age of Kali-yuga, a time when the basis of most business transactions, politics, or relations in general is deceit and dishonesty, becoming truthful enough to speak the deeper truth of spiritual reality and following Vedic Dharma itself becomes revolutionary.
Of course, "revolution" is a word which invokes many images or ideas. But in the sense in which we are speaking, it has nothing to do with promoting some kind of uprising against the present establishment, government, dictators, or the like. It is much more refined. It is an internal quest of an individual to reach oneís real identity as a spiritual being and then assist others in doing the same. It is a matter of reaching the ultimate freedom a person can attain. Only after becoming truly free can a person help others also become free. You cannot free others if you are tied up or confined in the same trap of ego and ego-based conceptions that are promoted and perpetuated in much of society. In the end truth prevails, thus the main endeavor of a Dharmic leader is to never stop finding the ways to present the real truth and meaning of the deepest spiritual knowledge, which is the Vedic philosophy, for this is what can overcome all obstacles in time. Therefore, Dharmic leaders must operate on many different levels and help others in many different ways.
Therefore, Dharmic leaders and Agents of Reality are:
1. Always working to be in touch with their higher spiritual realizations and perceptions. A Dharmic leader, teacher or guide always makes sure that he works on his own spiritual development in order to stay in touch with the spiritual dimension. That is his foundation, his inspiration, and the basis for his insights and his motivation in helping all others. Without that he knows that he cannot be free enough to lead others to the same freedom.
2. A Dharmic leader must know how to free others from being a prisoner of the false aims and perspectives that are commonplace in materialistic life. Because a true Dharmic leader has a connection with the spiritual realm through his own spiritual development, he naturally wants to give the same to others, and works for that purpose. This kind of freedom cannot be fully appreciated until it is experienced. And that is the object of everything that a Dharmic leader does. Through this process, a Dharmic leader works to help free others from the illusions, the bodily concept of life, and find the ways to deliver the higher perception of the purpose of life in a way that others can understand. This must include everyone so that no one is left behind. Thus, he lives for the benefit of others.
As Dharmic leaders, we are trying to free others from this limited dimension of existence and bring them to a higher level of spiritual reality, at least for those who are acceptable to it. Here the material existence is like a temporary dream from which we need to awaken and of which to be free, and we must know how to maneuver our way through it.
3. A leader also has to fully understand the importance of the Vedic spiritual knowledge and its culture, follow it appropriately, and show by example how others can also benefit from it.
4. A Dharmic leader must also be properly educated in the Vedic spiritual knowledge and to work to spread that genuine spiritual information and culture for everyoneís well-being. When questioned about Vedic philosophy and culture, he must know how to answer with an equipoised mind and with proper responses. He must know how to deal with practical issues, both in the temples and how they operate and are managed, and also in regard to social issues, like casteism, caring for the poor, dealing with discrimination, and other matters that are often found in India.
He must know how to educate others so that they also understand, in whatever way is best for them, the importance of this information and how to apply it to their lives. It cannot be given in a way that appears overly lofty, impractical or too unapproachable by the average person. The point is that if a person does not understand this knowledge, they will never be able to remember it, and if they cannot remember it, they will never be able to apply it to their lives. Thus, the importance of receiving this spiritual knowledge from a Dharmic leader who has the cultivated knowledge from proper references and is also experienced or realized and knows how to explain it in practical terms is most important.
Furthermore, Dharmic leaders must know how to explain the customs and their purpose to others, not merely go through the rituals without describing the reasons for them or what is going on. He must be able to explain the objective of the rituals and the benefits of performing them so that people comprehend their purpose. Otherwise, if such rituals do not make sense, or if people do not appreciate their purpose, soon they will be given up and forgotten.
5. A Dharmic leader must not be afraid to be inventive and look at and try to use new ways to infuse the message of Vedic Dharma that can be fun, enjoyable and entertaining for both the young and old in order to invoke their desire to learn more. There are so many ways to do this. Otherwise, the message can seem to get old and boring, and then people lose interest. Another problem with many Hindus is that they think they already know all they need to know, and there is no longer any reason to learn, study, or take guidance. But when it comes time for them to explain the Vedic culture to someone else, they are at a loss for what to do. This means that, if they cannot even remember enough to repeat or present to others, then actually they have a long way to go, but may refuse to admit it. A Dharmic leader, however, can even invent new ways of teaching the message, while maintaining the proper and traditional standards. The fact is that there will need to be new variations in the approach of teaching it for each succeeding generation to make it interesting.
6. A true Dharmic leader knows that all religions are not the same. Dharmic leaders must understand the profound and deep nature of the Vedic philosophy and not resort to some wimpy idea that all religions are the same. They are not, and you will know that if you seriously study each one. They all take you to different levels of consciousness and understanding of who you are, the purpose of life and the universe, what is God, what is the soul, and so on. Some consist mostly of moralistic principles and rules for living, and hardly touch the higher principles of deep spiritual realization. Others are more like forced dogmas which must not be questioned too much, whereas the Vedic system is to guide a person to their own ability to perceive their spiritual identity and the higher dimension, not to merely depend on blind faith. Thus, all religions are not the same, and a Dharmic leader must know how to distinguish the differences between them.
7. Dharmic leaders understand the need to bring in the spiritual energy and infinite love that is so essential for us to become complete while living in a world that is increasingly ruled and controlled by the darkness of materialism and all the negative qualities that come with it, such as anger, jealousy, envy, prejudice, competition, hatred, etc. Infinite love is the love coming from the Supreme Being. We must be clear mediums through which that love may come so that it can be received and experienced by others.
8. A Dharmic leader will also help free others from false or misleading political views and its corruption, and from sham economic strategies and promises that are often promoted by the agents of this ignorance that misleads the general masses in a way that benefits the few for profit and power at the expense of the many. This is part of the false aims of life that distract one from the spiritual goals that are the real purpose of human existence.
We need to work to set up a life of simplicity as an alternative to the oncoming crisis of peak oil, water shortages, environmental collapse, or other economic or political disasters, the likes of which few are working to prevent. However, if a Dharmic leader becomes successful at receiving large donations of money or land, he shows the proper example by using it for the highest good to help others both spiritually and materially, while he lives a simple life. This leads to the next point:
9. Any Dharmic leader must be beyond suspicion of inappropriate activities or association. They must act in such a way to be free from any rumors or the appearance of any improprieties.
Especially if one is wearing saffron, which is the color of renunciation, he must be free from the association of women. (If such a leader is a woman, then she must be free from unnecessary association with men.) A person wearing saffron should never be alone with a woman. That is the proper etiquette, but also because there may be those who are simply looking for a reason to spread accusations, or who try to bring an important person in the Vedic community down and ruin his or her reputation, influence, position, or life, which thus reflects back on the culture or tradition he represents in negative ways. Therefore, Dharmic leaders must be pure in all of their actions so that they do not become vulnerable to false appearances and so that they may lead by example.
Nonetheless, a Dharmic leader knows the spiritual equality between the sexes, that both men and women are spiritual beings inside different material bodies that are like various costumes or appearances. He realizes and knows the different roles that they can play in family life, temple management, and the importance of women role models in the community and in temples. But he also knows he must never exploit others or use his position to his advantage, and, thus, is never seen in situations that can be controversial, or become food for rumors. He must be beyond suspicion of any kind.
10. Dharmic leaders must know how to collaborate with those who are from various Vedic affiliations so they can all work together to achieve the protection and preservation and practice of the Dharma. Then we can join together as one unit by using each otherís various experiences and talents for reaching something extraordinary.
In this way, unity amongst other Dharmists is also extremely important because there is strength in numbers. And the more who work together, the more force there is for the preservation and proper promotion or defense of the Vedic culture from those who try to unnecessarily criticize it or even try to bring about its extinction. The more we work together, the easier everything becomes.
Therefore, collaborating with the larger community, and with other Vedic organizations, temples, etc., and working with the power of the collective as opposed to small groups, much more can be accomplished. Dharmists in general must let go of their ego and show how to work together. The entire Vedic community, when working in a united way, can more effectively help pass laws, institute changes to suite their needs, get the attention of politicians, and show that their vote can and will make a difference. That will provide much more influence when dealing with local government agencies. This can also help provide assistance for the whole community in times of need. Working with the collective with proper leadership will always show much more efficiency, power, and speed at getting things done than merely working alone or as only one temple or one small group.
11. A Dharmic leader must be able to delegate duties and activities to others who are also enthused to participate in working for Sanatana-dharma. Such people can then become enlivened to continue in their work and endeavors with confidence.
In this regard, a Dharmic leader must also know how to enhance the Hindu/Vedic Community through the temples. This means to understand the importance of uniting the community with festivals, holidays, customs, and through the performance of seva. This seva or service that can be performed by other Dharmists in the community can include helping manage the temple, serving the deities in the temples, providing the means for making the temples more effective and useful to the community, and so on. Community services, such as health fairs, or prasada and food distribution, distribution of clothes to the needy, or so many other programs, can be parts of that seva in the mood of service.
Dharmic leaders must know how to coordinate activities for the protection and promotion of the Dharma, whether it is writing letters, establishing promotional campaigns, doing radio shows, television programs, or producing videos, newsletters, websites, and so on. Each leader may not know all of the ways or details to do each endeavor, but he should know how to coordinate and inspire those who do in order for everyone to work in unity for the ultimate goal.
In this way, a Dharmic leader should recognize and unite people around a common set of Vedic values, concepts and traditions that can be the universal uniting factors between all Hindus or Dharmists.
12. A Dharmic leader must also know that many people everywhere are looking for a higher level of spiritual perception and experience, but they simply do not always know where to look. This may include Indians and westerners alike. Many are those who are looking for deeper spiritual knowledge to which they can feel a stronger connection, and many are those who become attracted to the Vedic spiritual path once they know what it is and learn more about it. It is not proper for Hindus to feel that they are some exclusive group that few others can join. Such an attitude is but a prescription for a slow extinction of Vedic culture, at least in this world. Sanatana-dharma includes everyone as spiritual beings. So a Dharmic leader provides the means and openness so others, meaning non-Dharmists, can learn about the Vedic tradition, its spiritual knowledge, temple rituals and customs, or even attend yoga classes, instruction on meditation, temple festivals, and so on, to see what it has to offer, and how it may assist them in their own spiritual progress, or even bring them a deeper level of joy and happiness. There have been many instances when such people have taken a strong attraction to the Vedic culture to lend much support to other Dharmists and the tradition itself, or who have fully taken it up in their lives and now recognize themselves as Hindus or Dharmists. Such access has often lead to greater degrees of harmony and understanding with the local community.
From this mind-set, from this perception, and from the infinite love that manifests in a true Dharmic leaderís heart, comes the attitude as summarized by the phrase "No Hindu left behind." No Dharmist or devotee should be left behind. A true Dharmic leader will feel this in the core of his heart. He knows that he is merely mirroring the love of God to all others in the life he leads and in the actions he performs, and in the love and patience he shows to everyone. He is concerned for all living entities, but especially for those who are already following the Dharmic path. Thus, it is in his heart where he feels that no Hindu can be left behind. There is space for everyone, just as there is space for everyone in the spiritual world. No one can be left behind. Everyone is a part of the whole, the Complete. We merely have to awaken that completeness within ourselves. When everyone shares this vision, when it is shared amongst the whole community, that community becomes extremely powerful. When everyone is imbibed with such spiritual unity, concerned for the welfare of all, then the spiritual vibration is no longer something to acquire but it is something to witness, to experience, and to bring together through all like-minded people who work in that unity to expand that spiritual vibration, that higher energy that exists within us all.
The key to this love is in everyone, but a Dharmic leader knows how to draw it out and provide the means for everyone to focus on it and perceive it as their own ultimate value, self-worth, and their own offering to God and the community. Everyone in the Vedic community must see all others as Dharmic brothers and sisters who are eligible to make the same spiritual progress as anyone else.
No Hindu left behind. Actually, we do not want to leave anyone out. That means everyone is eligible to enter the temple, everyone is eligible to participate in the rituals, the sadhana or spiritual practice, and the core identity of being a Hindu, Dharmist and devotee. Everyone should feel they have a place and are valued and have something to contribute. This is the basis of enthusiasm, which everyone should feel. This is the power a united Dharmic community. When this is established, it creates a most positive atmosphere in all who participate, it creates a very positive future, and it creates a winning team in which many others will want to join. Who would not be attracted? Everyone wants to be in a warm and loving environment, and there is no reason why Hindus cannot create that for the whole community. And if someone cannot accept this, if someone cannot see the unity that we all share spiritually on the Vedic path, then they have not yet understood the basic Vedic principles of Sanatana-dharma. It means that they are still in the illusion, they are in the depths of maya. Yet, no one should be left in such a condition. Everyone should be taught and shown how to raise their own vision, consciousness and spiritual perception of who they are and the spiritual unity they share with everyone else. We must raise everyone up to higher and higher levels of consciousness, higher and higher levels of perception. Then we all become very powerful in our ability to change this world, and bring in the spiritual vibration for one and all. That is the purpose of the Vedic philosophy and its peaceful and joyful traditions.
With that ideal of no sincere Hindu left behind, the Dharmic leader knows how to instill the unity for everyone to take a stand, to defend and preserve the Vedic culture and all who participate in it. The usual apathy amongst Hindus is what must be given up and cast aside as we all gather momentum to make sure we all have our freedom to follow the principles, the customs, and the traditions of the Vedic path well into the future.
Isnít this worth working for? Isnít this worth fighting for? What else is the purpose of life other than to benefit the spiritual well-being of others?
13. Finally, a Dharmic leader must create the means so that others can become future Dharmic leaders. It is not enough to be a leader, but such a person must also encourage and provide the means, the example and inspiration for others to become Dharmic leaders. We all grow old and eventually leave this world. So there must be those who are younger, who are trained, educated, experienced, and inspired to take up the cause and the position as a new Dharmic leader who can also work to preserve, protect and promote the Vedic tradition well into the future.
Naturally, not everyone may have the qualities, characteristics, or even inclination to be a Dharmic leader, but everyone can instead be a "Vedic Ambassador," for which there is also a huge need. Everyone can join forces in the ranks of being a Vedic Ambassador, and all work together to show the benefits and advantages we all had the fortune to acquire through the practice and development of the Vedic tradition in our lives. How to do this is easy, and has been described in my article, "A Call to be Vedic Ambassadors," which can be found on my website at www.stephen-knapp.com.
Dharma Rakshati Rakshitah, and Jai Sri Krishna.
Other articles on Stephen's website that may also be of interest connected with this article include:
American Hindus: How to Cultivate Your Culture in America
Creating a Spiritual Revolution in India For Protecting Indiaís Vedic Heritage
Why All Religions Are Not the Same
Hindus Must Stand Strong for Dharma
Time to Plan the Survival of Vedic Culture
Vedic Temples: Making Them More Effective
An Action Plan for the Survival of Vedic Culture
Opening Vedic Temples to Everyone
[This article and more information at www.stephen-knapp.com]