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David Frawley, book: How I became a Hindu? Only the foreword included

Sacrificer           Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley)
Sacrifice code       wfor0108
Sacrifice date       December 15, 1999

How I Became A Hindu -
My Discovery of Vedic Dharma

By Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley)



We live in the age of science. The frontiers
of our knowledge are receding everyday.
The method of science is empirical: it uses
experiment to verify or to refute. Science
has dispelled miracles from the physical
world and it has shown that physical laws
are universal. Technology had made
astonishing advances and a lot that was the
stuff of religious imagination has been
brought under the ambit of science.

Why should we then be interested in the
subject of conversion to Hinduism? Isn't
this the age of questioning old-style
religion in the manner of Why I am not a
Christian by the great British philosopher,
Bertrand Russell, or the more recent Why I
am not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq?

David Frawley's remarkable spiritual
autobiography answers this question and
many more. In a fascinating narrative, he
walks us through his own discovery of how
the stereotype of Hinduism presented by
schoolbooks as a tradition of worship of
many gods, social inequity, and
meaningless ritual is false.

Not that there are not social problems in
Hindu society, but these problems are a
result of historical processes, India's
political and economic vicissitudes of the
last few centuries, and not central to the
essence of Hinduism. Apart from this and,
more significantly, he provides us a portrait
of living Hinduism as mirrored by his own
life experience.

Just as there can be only one outer science,
so there can be only one inner science of
the spirit. One can only speak of levels of
knowledge and understanding. The
dichotomy of believers and non-believers,
where the believers are rewarded in
paradise and the non-believers suffer
eternal damnation in hell, is naive.

Also, since the physical universe itself is a
manifestation of the divine, the notion of
guilt related to our bodily existence is
meaningless. Modern science, having
mastered the outer reality, has reached the
frontier of brain and mind.

We comprehend the universe by our minds,
but what is the nature of the mind? Are our
descriptions of the physical world
ultimately no more than a convoluted way
of describing aspects of the mind -the
instrument with which we see the outer
world? Why don't the computing circuits
of the computer develop self-awareness as
happens in the circuitry of the brain? Why
do we have free-will when science assumes
that all systems are bound in a chain of
cause-effect relationships? Academic
science has no answers to these questions
and it appears that it never will.

On the other hand, Vedic science focuses
on precisely these conundrums. And it does
so by gracefully reconciling outer science
to inner truth. By seeing the physical
universe to be a manifestation of the
transcendent spirit, Hindus find meditation
on any aspect of this reality to be helpful in
the acquisition of knowledge. But Hindus
also declare that the notion that the
universe consists of just the material reality
to be false.

Here Hindus are in the company of those
scientists who believe that to understand
reality one needs recognize consciousness
as a principle that complements matter. We
cannot study the outer in one pass; we must
look at different portions of it and proceed
in stages. Likewise, we cannot know the
spirit in one pass; we must look at different
manifestations of it and meditate on each
to deepen understanding.

There can be no regimentation in this
practice. Hinduism, by its very nature, is a
dharma of many paths. Thomas Jefferson
would have approved. He once said,
"Compulsion in religion is distinguished
peculiarly from compulsion in every other
thing. I may grow rich by an art I am
compelled to follow; I may recover health
by medicines I am compelled to take
against my own judgment; but I cannot be
saved by a worship I disbelieve and abhor.''
Not a straitjacket of narrow dogma,
Hinduism enjoins us to worship any
manifestation of the divine to which one is

Yoga is the practical vehicle of Hinduism
and certain forms of it, such as Hatha
Yoga, have become extremely popular all
over the world. This has prepared people to
understand the deeper, more spiritual,
aspects of Yoga, which lead through
Vedanta and the Vedas to the whole Hindu

Hindu ideas were central to the
development of transcendentalism in
America in the early decades of the 19th
century. That movement played a
significant role in the self-definition of
America. Hindu ideas have also permeated
to the popular consciousness in the West -
albeit without an awareness of the source -
through the works of leading writers and
poets. In many ways Americans and other
Westerners are already much more Hindu
than they care to acknowledge.

Consider the modern fascination with
spirituality, self-knowledge, environment,
multiculturalism; this ground was prepared
over the last two hundred years by Hindu
ideas. David Frawley is one of the most
prominent Hindus of our times. He has
made fundamental contributions to our
understanding of the Vedas; he has also
written on Ayurveda and other Vedic
sciences. Most importantly, he has urged a
return to the Vedas as a means to unlock
the secrets of the scriptures that followed.

He has shown how this key can reveal the
meaning behind the exuberant imagination
of the Puranas and the Agamas. It also
unlocks the mysteries of Hindu ritual.
Frawley has also been at the forefront of
questioning the old colonial paradigm
within which Indian history and Hindu
religion had been situated by nineteenth
century Indologists.

He has done this through his writings and
lectures all over the world. His work
shows the way not only for the Westerner
who wishes to understand Hinduism but
also for those Hindus who know their
religion only through the interpretations of
the Indologists.

The Gita says, "Both renunciation of works
and also their practice lead to the Supreme.
But of these to act rather than to renounce
is the better path.'' Frawley's life story is a
testimony to this wisdom of following the
path of action. Frawley's work is informed
by deep meditation and awareness of larger
forces of history. He is a modern rishi in
the same spirit as Vivekananda and

Frawley's work has also shown the
relevance of the Vedas for the rediscovery
of the forgotten past of the Old Religion,
pejoratively called paganism. Ancient
Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Celts, and
Babylonians knew that their religions were
essentially the same.

As the sole surviving member of the Old
Religion, Hinduism provides us many
insights to recognize the universality and
perenniality of the spiritual quest. David
Frawley's discovery of Hinduism for
himself has eased the way for others who
want to reach the same goal.

His life story provides inspiration to all
who wish to be reconnected to the wisdom
of our ancestors everywhere.

Subhash Kak

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

December 15, 1999


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