Mere retreat, passivity or compromise cannot overcome past adversaries or the new dangers that are lurking in our conflicted media age, its invasive technology and the disruptive clash of cultures. India needs to benefit from the opportunities of the dawning knowledge era where its dharmic traditions can prosper once again. A new spiritual warrior, equipped with yogic power and Vedantic insights, is necessary like Arjuna was under the guidance of Sri Krishna.
This book is a call for new Arjunas to emerge among us, learn the skills of the information age and uphold the cause of dharma with discernment and dedication on both intellectual and spiritual levels. Only through this can we awaken our spirit to uplift our world at this critical juncture of human history when the very foundations of life are threatened.
Honoured with the Padma Bhushan Award (the third highest civilian award of the Government of India) in 2015, Dr Frawley has a D Litt from S-VYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana), Bengaluru, and another D Litt from Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University, Uttar Pradesh. He is also the recipient of a National Eminence Award from the South Indian Educational Society (SIES), Mumbai.
Vamadeva, as he is popularly known, carries on the teachings of Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni, the chief disciple of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. He is a disciple of Sadguru Sivananda Murty of Andhra Pradesh and has been associated with many Hindu organizations including Swaminarayan BAPS, Chinmaya Mission, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Sri Ramanashram and the magazine Hinduism Today. He is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies
As Pandit Vamadeva Shastri himself says in this new edition, the book comes at a crucial juncture when Bharata walks towards the threshold of perhaps the most definitive Kurukshetra-the 2019 national elections. To appreciate the real significance of the upcoming elections, one needs to hark back to the dark decade of 2004-14.
Perhaps very few people will truly understand or even believe the scale and extent of destruction that Bharata underwent during this period. The most visible facet to many is the numerous corruption scams that occurred under the two-term Congress-led UPA government. Further, this extended to massive cultural denigrations culminating into the charges of Hindu and saffron terror and giving communist and leftist scholars the prime place in writing national textbooks. India's ancient cultural and philosophical traditions, its spiritual institutions and its rishis and gurus were called into question, if not rejected, by the academia and media, often with government approval, if not support. If you are the type to believe such things, I will say that Divine Providence, or the millennia of tapas of our rishis saved Bharata on that fateful summer of 2014. There seems to be no logical explanation for the manner in which the adharmic forces were shattered so spectacularly in 2014.
However, that was a battle only partially won. The same adharmic forces are regrouping against Narendra Modi, the most important prime minister of recent decades, who is trying to awaken the dharmic ethos of the country. Given the events of the last four years, this time, these forces have dropped all pretences of decency, fairness and constitutionality and are openly calling for his removal even if that means splintering India with the assistance of foreign forces.
As with the previous edition, Pandit Vamadeva Shastri fittingly uses the metaphor of a dejected, demoralized and confused Arjuna refusing to fight the climactic Kurukshetra war to describe the current plight of Hindus in Bharata-only they're faced with a far greater and urgent calamity. However, on the positive side, with the ascent of Shri Narendra Modi as prime minister, Hinduism has also acquired a renewed prestige and interest globally. Indeed, while the move of the United Nations adopting the World Yoga Day maybe cynically interpreted as mere 'skillful diplomacy' by Shri Narendra Modi, its true importance lies elsewhere and is far deep-rooted. Numerous, similar efforts to spread various facets of Sanatana culture have also been accomplished in these four years. Constraints of space don't allow me to list them all. Which is what justifies the subtitle of Pandit Vamadeva Shastri's book-Hinduism Resurgent in a New Century.
However, a certain inertia also continues to cripple the Hindu psyche, which prevents it from asserting the innate, universal value of Dharma as also from defending it with vigour and confidence. Perhaps the rest of the problems that Hindus continue to face stems from this phenomenon of internalized cultural neglect and self-alienation. The clarity of thought and lucidity of Pandit Vamadeva Shastri's exposition of each of these problems is evident in the manner in which he has categorized the issues as well as in his treatment of them.
Of the numerous seeming complexities in 'understanding' Sanatana Dharma, the fundamental one is definitional in nature. Therefore, the first place to begin in understanding is not to view Sanatana Dharma through the prism of the term 'religion' as the academic and intellectual class of the West defines it. This terminological problem is an evil in itself and clouds one's understanding and perception. Indeed, dubbing Hinduism as 'religion' is precisely what makes it easy to conjure non-existent parallels between Christian or Islamic fundamentalism and to lazily conclude that 'all religions are the same'. Because all religions have gods, not all gods are the same, and even worse, not all religions are equal. Yet, this obvious rebellion against logic has attained the status of a self-evident truth. This is one of the underlying strands that bind Arise Arjuna, and the book does a very good job of unclouding such sloppy reasoning and arrogant conclusions.
One can approach this problem by delving into ample instances that history provides us. A clear break occurred in Europe with the advent of Christianity and the sway it exercised after it became the state religion of the decaying Roman Empire in the fourth century CE. Every notion of human impulse, thought, behaviour, creativity and consciousness itself was supplanted by Christian dogma and superstition akin to how Lysenko 'interpreted' science so that it would 'obey' communism. For the next thousand years, Europe became the true Dark Continent.
Given the size, scope and funding for those opposed to the resurgence of India's dharmic civilization, it cannot be defended in an apologetic, compromising or merely defensive manner. A bold, decisive and well thought-out strategy must be adopted and implemented on many levels reflecting the nature of society and the current technology in order to counter this assault. Yet, it must also promote the cultural strengths and spiritual power behind the Indic or Bharatiya civilization, and the many great yogis, rishis and sages who continue to support it by their influence.
Arise Arjuna is not a new book out for the first time but rather a new version of a book that has gone through a dozen reprints since it was first published in 1995, more than twenty years ago.
Yet, this edition is not merely a reprint of the old. My aim with the new edition is to preserve as much of the original material as is relevant and yet update it in the light of current circumstances so many years later. I have thoroughly recast and rewritten the older text.
The book consists of what have also been different articles on related themes. So, they approach some of the key issues facing Hinduism today from various related perspectives. I have brought in my own voice and experience in a few instances to reveal the background of my ideas.
Looking Forward to 2019
The original book, though it warned of such events, was written long before the war on terrorism and attacks, such as 9/11. It was completed at a time when PVN Rao was the prime minister of India-before the Vajpayee and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) eras.
The original book came long before the time of Narendra Modi when the idea of a major Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) victory at a national level in 2014 was unthinkable. This new edition of Arise Arjuna is scheduled to appear during the prelude to the important 2019 national elections, which is a new Kurukshetra that will be crucial to the history of India. While the book was not written with reference to any single election, its ideas remain of particular relevance now. Will Arjuna arise for this 2019 battle that will be a watershed in the political scenario for the coming century? That is our new call for today.
The call for Arjuna, the inner warrior for Dharma, to arise remains more relevant now and has broader global implications for India's new prominence in the world. India is experiencing both economic development at home and a new expansion in the realm of foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific region and in the world as a whole. India's yoga and Vedic traditions are not only being revived within the country, but have also moved worldwide as part of a global dharmic awakening.
Themes of the Book
The topics presented here are among the most difficult and controversial ones, which many people may not want to examine for fear of offending someone. However, unless we critically examine the most intractable issues, I don't think we can arrive at the truth, particularly in this time of worldwide crisis, when the foundations of what we call civilization are shaking, which requires that we question everything.
The ancient sages of India did not confine themselves only to spiritual teachings or metaphysical issues. They provided profound guidance about society and critiques of cultural and religious practices. They produced numerous Dharma sutras and many other teachings regarding conduct in the world at both individual and collective levels. Modern gurus who wrote on social issues include Sri Eurobond, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha and Ganapati Muni who provided the inspiration for what I have attempted in this book. This extends to gurus I have worked with, including Sadguru Sivananda Murty and Swami Dayananda (of Arsha Vidya).
Knowing Sanskrit, travelling widely in India and meeting people of all backgrounds have allowed me to see the tremendous ignorance and many misconceptions (often intentional) that have been created about Hindu Dharma and its representatives. People today rely on second-hand information, obtained mainly through media or academic sources, which are generally unsympathetic and inaccurate; so, the picture they get is highly distorted and requires a clear alternative to counter it. This is what has compelled me to speak out.
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