The Power of a United Hindu Community
By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)
[This is the strong keynote lecture that I gave at the Hindu Unity Day Festival (Hindu Sangathan Divas) on July 10th, 2011 at the Hindu Temple Auditorium in Flushing, New York. This was very well received by everyone who wanted to meet me, shake hands, have photos taken, or talk to me about what I had to say. The event was shared with Dr. Subramanian Swamy as Chief Guest and Kamal Kumar Swami as the additional speaker, both of whom I had met before at an event in Tirupati for protecting Hindu temples from government control. However, this is the complete version, which is a few paragraphs longer than what I presented at the festival.]
Namaste. It gives me great pleasure to be here, and I especially thank the organizers of this important event for inviting me, namely Arish Sahani and Narain Kataria. I am honored to be here. And I thank all of you for attending.
First of all, for those who may not know that much about me, Iím a Hindu, a follower of Sanatana-dharma, or what I prefer to call a Dharmist, and a Krishna bhakta. And I will be one until the day I die. No one can stop that.
Vedic culture and its spiritual knowledge saved me, it saved my life and gave me the real purpose for being here and what to do while I am here in this world. And now this is all I doómy spiritual sadhana and practice, my speaking engagements, and writing over 20 books so far to help spread and explain the importance of this Vedic spiritual knowledge to as many people as possible. This is all Iím living for. This is my only motivation. I also help manage my local Krishna temple in Detroit as the Chairman of the Board, which can involve all kinds of things. Iím also the president of the Vedic Friends Association. Iím also a direct disciple of His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, which is how I got my name Sri Nandanandana dasa. So Iíve been doing meditation and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, and visiting the holy places of India for over 40 years. And all of this has only deepened my conviction of the profound nature of the Vedic system of spiritual realization.
And I will tell you, I love what I do. I love being a Hindu, I love being a Krishna bhakta, a follower of Santana-dharma. I love following the Bhagavad-gita, and I love writing books about various aspects of Vedic culture and telling other people about it and what it has done for me, and what it can do for them.
So, I like to share with others the good things I have found in life, and now that I=ve found Vedic Dharma, I like letting others know more about it. But I=ll also fight to keep it, and to keep my freedom to follow it. Why should I let anyone else take it away from me when it took 20 years of my life to find it? I wasnít just born into it, I had to look for it. It is a karmic privilege to be born into Vedic culture, so do not take it for granted. But by working to preserve and protect it is also my way of being a good Hindu. And this is what I call being a Vedic Ambassador.
We need more Vedic Ambassadors, or those who can easily and willingly share the good points about Vedic culture and its philosophy, traditions, and its deep spiritual knowledge with others, especially those who are curious, and there are many who are looking for this spiritual knowledge, but they just donít know where to look. So we need those who can also tell their story of how Vedic culture has improved their lives or had a positive affect on them. That is not so difficult, and many people like to hear the story of someoneís life and how they have grown or developed.
So, in this way, let us all be Vedic Ambassadors, persons who are not afraid to say they are Hindu and then share it with others.
Iím also a Krishna bhakta because Krishna wanted action from Arjuna, not a passive and apathetic person that runs away from battle or does nothing. But He wanted Arjuna to stand up and take a stance for defending Dharma. This is the whole reason why Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita, to motivate Arjuna to become free from the illusion and stand up and fight for defending and preserving Sanatana-dharma so others can also take advantage of it. This is my motivation.
Everyone can do something and we need to understand that if everyone does a little, then something great and miraculous can happen. Because letís face it, being a follower of Sanatana-dharma is also a freedom. This is a freedom, and sometimes you have to work to protect your freedoms or you will lose them when someone else takes them away. History has shown this time and time again.
Some people, however, ask how I can feel so strongly about this when I was not born in India, not born a Hindu. But that is only because they do not see the big picture. And what is the big picture? That this is not our first or only life in this material world, and that I obviously had a previous birth in India. Anyone who knows me knows that I must have been a Hindu, a Krishna bhakta in India in a previous life. Now Iíve taken birth in America to continue my mission of helping preserve, protect and promote Vedic Dharma. I=m only taking up where I left off from my previous existence. That is why I=m so comfortable when I go to India, and so far I have traveled through all of India except for the three small states of Tripura, Meghalaya, and Mizoram. That is also why I=m so comfortable around all of you. You are my Indian and Hindu family.
However, now it is time to increase our efforts to work together and make Hindus a concerted force that is recognized by everyone. Of course, we know this is not easy and is going to take time, but the sooner we all get started, the sooner we can accomplish it. But there are those of us, such as those I am sharing the stage with, who have already been working on this for years. We only ask that you all make a stand to join together, to make a powerful and strong Hindu community.
Vedic culture has been changing the world throughout the ages. For example, many have offered their respects to the Vedic culture, such as Henry David Thoreau who said: "In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial."
Or Arthur Schopenhauer: "There is no religion or philosophy so sublime and elevating as Vedanta."
And, of course, Ralph Waldo Emerson who mentioned, "I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-Gita. It was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us."
Many other quotes could be included but you get the picture. Vedic culture will continue to change the lives of many people, but we can accelerate this positive change the more we unite and the more we work together. Let us all move forward in this direction and become the great force we were meant to be, and that this world needs.
This means that we must be good Hindus, good Dharmists, followers of Vedic Dharma. And that means that we must follow our principles, uphold the yamas and niyamas, and observe our traditions. Is that so difficult? I don=t think so. But that means we also need to be educated in them. Let us not relinquish or let go of our standards because of too much Western influence. We must know what they mean and their real purposes. Let us interact with Western society, as we already do, but let us not forget who we areBwhat is our real identity. The fact is that more Westerners than ever before are adopting the ways and philosophy of Vedic culture, whether it is through yoga and meditation, or adapting the philosophy of karma and reincarnation. Many are those who want to follow this path. I=m an example of that, and there are many more out there, and many more who want to but don=t know it yet. We need to be willing to share it with them. That itself is a great contribution to the world from the Vedic path. The more we uphold our principles and let others know why they are important, the more they will also adopt our ways.
For example, I have one Indian friend who is a strong vegetarian and would always hide his meal when he took it to work so no one would see it. But then someone started asking questions about it, so he had to explain why he was a vegetarian, and included information about the Ayurvedic reasons and benefits about the spices we use, like tumeric, cumin, and others. In a short while, most of his work crew, which consisted of 80 other workers, became wild about Indian vegetarian cooking. Then he also did the same thing with explaining the benefits of doing the Surya Namaskar, after which nearly half of his co-workers started practicing it. So what is the difficulty? All you have to do is share what you already know, and people will become interested.
This is also why real Hindus need to be educated in their culture to realize how profound, deep and special it is, and what knowledge it contains. Then they will be proud of their culture and follow it. After all, we have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be afraid of. We are representations of and participants in the most profound and oldest of all spiritual traditions and cultures, and it has the deepest of all spiritual knowledge. The only thing is that many people don=t know that. I dare say that many Hindus also do not fully know how deep and profound it is because of lacking the education of their own path. This needs to change. And this lack of knowledge is the prime reason why Hindus in India may convert to some other religion.
To help make this change, we also need to understand that it is a fact that without proper measures of defense and promotion of our culture, you cannot give proper protection to it. It is a tough world and things have changed. Most wars in this world are now 80% intellectual. We now have to use our intelligence to show what our culture is in order to really protect and preserve it from those who are always trying to demean and criticize it. We must understand that apathy is an enemy. Apathy, the tendency to do nothing, is our greatest enemy. We must conquer our own apathy where we find it. This, in fact, is the teaching of Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, as previously stated. Are you are follower of the Bhagavad-gita? Are you a follower of Sanatana-Dharma? Then we must conquer our apathy and take a stand for doing something to maintain Vedic Dharma.
We have to be fearless to protect and promote Vedic Dharma. I am honored and proud to be on the same stage as Dr. Subramanian Swamy and Kamal Kumar Swami, who are examples of the fearlessness of which I speak. I am honored and proud to be in front of all of you, and I am honored and proud to be called a Hindu, a Krishna bhakta, a follower of Sanatana-dharma. We should all be honored and proud in the same way and willing to work together. We don=t have to proselytize, but we can all share the benefits of what our culture has given to us and to the world.
For example, in Secunderabad near Hyderabad, a few years ago there was a Krishna temple the government wanted to move in order to widen the road, but all the local Hindus came together with a big demonstration to protest, and the state government backed down. This shows what can be done and what has been done when Hindus unite, and shows what we must continue to do. Then people will take us more seriously and reconsider before they simply get up to offend Hindus and think there will be no reaction. People will hesitate before taking Hindus lightly or making us upset. But we have to have the determination to make a stand. And once we begin to work in this way, we cannot stop but must continue for the long-term, and never stop until the goal is reached.
Sometimes just by doing a little endeavor we donít know and may even be surprised at what doors of opportunity will open for us. Sometimes all it takes is that we just start, step one foot in front of the other, and suddenly we step into a force, a current of energy that lifts us along like nothing we have experienced. Like a reciprocation from something that is far greater than we are that assists us to do things in ways that far exceeds our own expectations.
You have no idea how many times this has happened to me, and Iím sure many of you know exactly what Iím talking about. So can you imagine what would happen if all of us stepped forward in unity for the Dharma and open ourselves to that opportunity to make a difference? Plus, the more we all step forward to do something together, the easier it gets for everyone.
It is one thing to say we are united, and quite another to work and act united, engaged in concerted efforts as one community to protect, defend and properly promote our culture. It should not matter whether we are Vaishnavas, Shaivites, Brahmanandis, Shaktas, or Bengalis, Gujaratis, Tamils, Rajasthanis, or Americans, or any ethnicity, because when one aspect of the Vedic tradition is threatened, demeaned or unnecessarily criticized, then it is to the whole culture that is under attack. We must see it that way. We must step forward and be strong Dharmists, and make a stand for our tradition and its future.
Sanatana-dharma is universal. It is actually beyond the universe, it is spiritual. We are essentially all Dharmists. It goes beyond all materialistic labels and definitions, and that is how we should act as united Hindus, followers of Santana-dharma.
Such materialistic labels and identities are part of the illusion, maya, and Sanatana-dharma is meant to lift us out of the illusion and into reality, the ultimate and supreme reality. Working in this way and helping each other as well is real unity.
So, let us also support each other in friendship, in Dharmic brotherhood and sisterhood. Let us not become divided by minor or superficial differences or labels, but let us gather and see our unity, our similarities as spiritual beings, all parts of the Supreme Spirit. That is the ultimate teaching of Bhagavad-gita and the Vedic shastra. That perception of reality is becoming increasingly rare these days in society, but it is an inherent principle and basic reality of Vedic Dharma and Dharmic civilization. That is why I call it the Last Bastion of deep spiritual truth. It goes beyond basic moralistic ethics and gives you the higher principles of self-realization. It gives you direct access to the Absolute, the Supreme, not only by descriptions but by offering the methods by which we can perceive and directly experience it by spiritualizing our consciousness. It gives us one of the last hopes for world peace. Let us not forget that and also help each other raise our consciousness and maintain that spiritual vision of who and what we really are. That will also pave the way for a truly united Hindu society.
There is no greater need for Hindu unity than right now, since there are forces that are also gathering that are trying to work against us. The problem is that it is in our nature to respect everyone, but not everyone wants to return the same respect back toward us. In fact, there are those who would like to see our complete extinction, the complete demise of Hinduism or Vedic culture if they could, such as we have seen in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir, and so on. How long does it take before it becomes obvious that we must stand together even if only to preserve and protect what remains of our culture, and preserve and protect the homeland of our culture, Mother India, Bharathvarsha.
We must also recognize those people or groups who mean to do us harm, or even wish for our extinction, and then defend ourselves and our culture from their attacks, whatever they may be. But we need to be pro-active and develop plans, not merely wait for something to happen and then show some knee-jerk reaction. There are many who know this and already working in this way, but can you imagine if the whole Vedic community acted in this way together and supported such plans? It would have profound effects. We must look to see what we need to do and where we need to be in our measures to preserve and protect Vedic Dharma in 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years, and make pro-active plans to accomplish those goals. Major industrial companies do this, other religions do this, so there is no reason why we should not do this. Many of the more detailed action plans I have developed can be found in my book, "Crimes Against India: And the Need to Protect its Ancient Vedic Tradition."
We still have a sizable population of nearly one billion Hindus around the world, but have you ever wondered why we are still not as formidable a force as we should be? In places like America, Indians, most of which are Hindus, are one of the wealthiest ethnic groups in the country. We are certainly gathering influence here in many ways, and many are those who are entering politics and gaining influential positions, but we still have not become as formidable a force in the world as we could be. Why is that? Itís simple really. Itís because of a lack of organized effort, too much apathy, but primarily a lack of unity amongst us.
With a united force, we could more easily see to it that laws in government are passed that help defend Hindus rather than take our freedoms away. If we were a united and pro-active force, politicians would be scrambling to get our favor. We would get respect from politicians. We would create a greater recognition on the importance for them to acquire the Hindu vote, especially in India. We could also have more control over the media that today thinks that being secular means to be anti-Hindu. We would get non-Hindus or critics of Hinduism to feel that they cannot just say any damn thing against us because we wonít do anything about it. We need to be a force to be reckoned with, a force that is watching what others are doing for or against us, and listening to what they are saying about us, and be ready to stand up and do something about it when it is unjust.
We must unite around a common set of values, concepts and traditions that can be the universal uniting factors for all Hindus. This does not mean we give up our distinctions, lineages or paramparas, but that we focus on uniting on the basis of what we can all easily agree on, such as the basis of the Bhagavad-gita. Everyone knows the Bhagavad-gita, and should know it. There are all kinds of knowledge within it. But the thing that many people seem to forget is that the Bhagavad-gita is a call to defend Dharma. It is a call to action. That was one of the motivating factors for Arjuna from Lord Krishna. That Arjuna must not run away to the forest simply to meditate, which is what he wanted to do, but he must stand up and fight to defend Santana-dharma. And we must do the same because as we can plainly see all around us, that without it the whole world is falling into hell and confusion. As exhibited by the Mahabharata, sometimes when all else fails, you have to stand up and fight to protect Dharma and its spiritual principles.
We must also have the attitude that no Hindu is left behind, at least no sincere Hindu. A true Dharmic leader or Vedic Ambassador will feel this in the core of his heart. Everyone is a part of the whole, the complete. We merely have to awaken that completeness within ourselves. When everyone shares this vision amongst the whole community, then it becomes extremely powerful. When everyone is imbibed with spiritual unity, then the spiritual vibration is no longer something to seek or acquire, but it is something to witness, to experience, and we should bring together all like-minded people to work in that unity and to expand that spiritual vibration, that higher energy that exists within us all.
Everyone in the Vedic community must see all other Hindus as Dharmic brothers and sisters who are eligible to make the same spiritual progress as anyone else. Why? No Hindu left behind. That means everyone is eligible to enter the temples, everyone is eligible to practice its customs, everyone is eligible to participate in the core identity of being a Dharmist. 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. No Hindu is left behind. 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 want to join. Everyone wants to be on a winning team, and then feel they can stand up and do their part. Then we all become very powerful in our ability to change this world, and bring in and manifest the spiritual vibration for one and all. Then we all become a part of that uplifting force, which is the ultimate destiny for all humanity, which is also described in the Vedic shastra, like Bhagavad-gita.
This is also, if I may say so, one of the main principles of what Kamal Kumar Swamiji is doing on his padayatras in India. He goes everywhere, whether it is the villages, the streets, the dusty roads, even the houses of the Hindus, anywhere it takes to inspire everyone to remain a part of the Vedic family, and then work together to help preserve it. I have seen it. I have been with Kamal Kumar Swami in Tirupati for this very reason, and I applaud his work, and many others should be going out to reach the people in similar ways.
This is the ideal of no Hindu left behind, and the Dharmic leader and Vedic Ambassadors know how to instill this unity for everyone to take a stand, become involved and to defend and preserve the culture and all who participate in it. Any apathy amongst Hindus is what must be given up and left behind as we all gather momentum to make sure we all have our freedom and facilities to follow the principles, the customs, and the traditions of the Vedic path.
So to wrap this up, we have covered a number of points, such as:
We all need to be Vedic ambassadors.
We must be educated in the profound nature of our culture.
Practicing the Vedic tradition is a right and a freedom which must be protected.
Apathy is an enemy.
Everyone can and must do something.
The Bhagavad-gita is a call to action.
No sincere Hindu left behind.
We must become united and work in concerted efforts, and become a formidable force for Vedic Dharma.
So how do we do this? We must become united under common principles, such as the teachings of Bhagavad-gita, united for stopping cow slaughter, united to stop the deceitful conversion practices that try to take people away from Vedic culture, united for such things as saving the sacred Yamuna River from all the pollution that is killing it. We should also be united to stop the corruption in Indian politics, and united to keep India the homeland of a dynamic and thriving Vedic tradition, united for preserving all aspects of the Vedic spiritual knowledge, and for passing it to the next generations. We should be united for the protection and promotion of the glorious character of Vedic culture that everyone can appreciate. Who among us cannot join and be united for these objectives? And the more people who participate and work together, the easier it is for all of us. The more we work in such concerted efforts, the more we establish a unified, global Vedic community.
It is said that the war of Kurukshetra, the war to uphold Dharma, lasted 18 days, which changed the world. If all Hindus, Dharmists, gurus, sadhus, bhaktas, etc., etc., all over the world ever really and truly united and worked together as a single force, we could change the world in 18 days. Isnít that a goal worth working for? Isnít that a goal worth fighting for? That, my friends, my brothers and sisters in Dharma, is one of the primary purposes of my life. This is all Iím living for. This is my vision, but we all have to share the vision. And I will work with anyone who shares that vision. In this way, we can stand united, and in this way we stay united.
So, if you help me and I help you, if you wish me well and I give you my best wishes, and we all work together like that, it creates an atmosphere of strength and positivity. It makes our future very bright and full of potential. And if everyone does a little something to help, fantastic things can happen. Many people will become attracted and want to be a part of it. So let us all work together, encouraging each other and become more united as Hindus, followers of Sanatana-dharma, and show the world the great contributions that the culture of Vedic Dharma has given and continues to give to all of humanity. If we take care of Dharma, Dharma will take care of us. But we have to take the first step. Together as united Hindus we can do this. That is the potency and power if we stay together, stand together and work together as a united, global Vedic community.
Thank you very much.
Dharma Rakshati Rakshita
Jai Sri Krishna
[This article and more information at www.stephen-knapp.com]