Last week I had the pleasure of meeting a great Vedic scholar who has expertise in Yoga and Ayurveda, and who is presently Head of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This Vedacharya was born David Frawley, but because of his passion for Hinduism and India he has come to be known as Vamdev Shastri.
I was invited to a function to felicitate the American scholar on his sixtieth birthday, his Shashtipoorthi.
A select group of his admirers assembled at the function organized at Shri Venkaiah Naidu’s residence in New Delhi. All the speakers, who included Shri Chandan Mitra, M.P. and Shri Dattatreya Hosbale, Asst. Gen. Sec of RSS lauded him for the invaluable work that he was doing by explaining to the world that the values and concepts which Hinduism propounded had a validity not just for Hindu Society but were meant for the entire universe.
Dr. Frawley has written many books. His latest work is “UNIVERSAL HINDUISM: Towards a New Vision of Sanatana Dharma”. Dr. Frawley works with Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon and has been a faculty member of the Chopra Wellness Center.
Last week’s interaction of mine with Dr. David Frawley brings to mind the names of several Western celebrities who once they came in touch with any Hindu savant became so passionate devotees of Hinduism as well as of India that he or she promptly decided to change the course of their respective lives.
It happened with Margaret Elizabeth Noble, an Anglo-Irish social worker who met Swami Vivekananda in 1895 in London, and with him traveled to India in 1898. Swami Vivekananda initiated her into Ramakrishna Mission and gave her the name Nivedita (dedicated to God).
Then there has been the case of Madeleine Slade daughter of British Rear Admiral Sir Edmund Slade. She left her home in England to live and work with Mahatma Gandhi.
Actually she was passionately devoted to Beethoven’s Music. When she heard about a biography of the great musician written by Romain Rolland, she went and met him. Romain Rolland felt the intensity of her adoration of Beethoven was a spiritual trait, for which a more appropriate object of veneration would be a spiritual leader like Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji advised her to utilise her basic training as a school teacher to devote time to teach girls in India.
Annie Wood, also of Britain, after her marriage to Frank Besant became Annie Besant. Annie Besant was a women’s right activist and Theosophist. In 1898 she traveled to India and became involved in politics and the activities of the Indian National Congress. In 1917 she was elected President of Indian National Congress.
At the Shashtipoorthi function of Dr. David Frawley, I recalled these instances and said that as a journalist myself I was greatly impressed by Mark Tully (BBC Correspondent in India who after retirement has chosen to adopt India as his home) whose understanding about Hinduism has been so deep as to make him write about his book, India’s Unending Journey :
“This book describes what India’s tolerance, and pluralism, its argumentative and discursive tradition, its acceptance of the uncertainty of certainty, have meant for me and the message I thought India could give to the world of today”.
Mark Tully’s book itself says: “My experiences in India forced me to think again about the faith I had been taught because I felt I couldn’t ignore what was right before my eyes: the existence of many ways to God. ….When I came to understand that, for thousands of years, in changing historical circumstances, in different countries, and cultures and climates, people had experienced what appears to be the same reality, although describing that reality differently, I saw that a universal God made far more sense rationally than one who limited his activities to Christians.”
Like many of us who waged a grim battle against the Congress regime’s Emergency. Mark Tully also put up stout resistance against it, unlike many of our own newspersons to whom I had to say that when Government wanted you only to bend, some of you were willing to crawl! Tully certainly had to suffer for his stand. He was summarily externed from India, and could return only when there was a change of government and the emergency was lifted.
26th September, 2010