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 in India. 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 in India converting to Christianity and Islam than to Vedic culture, 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 practicing Krishna bhakta 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 in India, 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 in India do 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.”
[This article is available at: www.stephen-knapp.com]