Hindus Must Stand Strong for Dharma
By Stephen Knapp
I’m sure that most of you who are reading this are quite ready to stand strong to defend Hindu Dharma in all kinds of situations and answer all kinds of questions about it. But I’m also sure that you know there are plenty of Indian born Hindus who are not. And this should change.
Some Hindus may simply be too timid to want to enter what could become a confrontation with others. Some Hindus may simply not want to deal with those who may be ignorant of the ways of Hinduism and yet remain quite presumptuous about it. Some people, without knowing the customs of the Hindu tradition, may want to demean or criticize it. Thus, they may make derogatory statements about it to embarrass or provoke Hindus. Or some Hindus simply do not have enough knowledge to feel confident about properly presenting Vedic Dharma to others or in answering questions.
Some Hindus also do not have sufficient pride in their own culture to feel bold enough to take on some criticism that they may hear others say at times. So they would rather remain silent and unnoticed.
We have to help such people feel differently about this by giving them what they need, such as the proper information and views so they realize and understand the greatness of Vedic Dharma and how to present it to others. And they should be able to answer questions of all kinds, at least to cover the basics. These should be answered in a quick and concise and effective manner, regardless of whether they are criticisms or simply asked by those who are misinformed but sincerely interested. This way they can show that the Hindu tradition is not some shallow philosophy or a bunch of ancient myths or superstitions, which is exactly what some non-Hindus think. We have to show them that this is a profound way of life that has been descending down through generations for thousands of years. And that it contains deep insights and spiritual knowledge that has been found no where else and which has been a guiding light for all of humanity. But to do that all Hindus must be properly educated in their culture.
Defending Vedic Dharma should be accepted as a collective effort for each of us. If we do not defend Dharma in the world, then ruin to you and society is automatic, either gradually or quickly. Dharma means the universal Spiritual Truths that maintain balance in the world. Without that, imbalance and deterioration will surely follow.
So just as when a person wants to be expert in martial arts, he or she must practice regularly so he can defend himself in any number of situations or from any kind of an attack. Similarly, we have to practice defending our culture in any kind of circumstance in which we may find ourselves or from any kind of questions that may be presented. And we need to be able to take on such questions without getting emotional or defensive or provoked into anger. We must take them on coolly, calmly, and confidently. And this takes practice.
Regular workshops should be held in temples or even in homes so Dharmists or Hindus can practice being prepared with the proper information and response. If this is done in a group setting with others involved, this could be quite fun, entertaining, educational, and certainly bolster pride in their own culture and invoke the courage to defend it whenever the need arises.
If someone asks you questions about Vedic culture, then suddenly you become a representative for the whole Hindu culture and everyone else who is a Hindu. Then you and all Vedic Dharmists will be judged not only by your response, but also by the depth of your answer, as well as your attitude, meaning whether you are cool, calm or confident, or if you become flustered, emotional, defensive, angry, or have little depth to your response. Thus, we have to be prepared. We all have to have the pride and be educated in our culture to defend it and provide succinct, accurate, and thoughtful answers. And these have to make sense, whether it is to those who are looking to criticize, or to those who may sincerely be asking a question but simply do not understand Vedic culture.
An example of what I mean is when I was in Siliguri, India back in 2003 when I was on a lecture tour. I, along with some of the elders from a local Hindu organization, attended a press conference. The press from the local newspapers started asking various questions. I thought they were simple enough, but the questions were not answered in an uncomplicated manner. The elders started getting worked up by the questions and the lack of understanding of the press, and then members of the press also started getting aggravated. Emotions started running high with misunderstandings all the way around. Then I got up to speak and made a simple introductory statement and then took questions. I answered each one directly and briefly.
As I did so, I could see members of the press become quiet, possibly because I was a Westerner and they wanted to hear what a non-Indian had to say about Vedic culture. But I could see their heads nodding up and down in a positive way. Then, as they were taking notes, they said, “Yes, these are the kind of answers we wanted to hear. We can use this in our reports.” So they were satisfied. And a positive press report was published in the next day’s paper. But I wondered what would have happened, and what kind of news article would have been printed, if I had not answered some of the questions and handled the press conference the way I did. I’m sure it would have come out much more negatively. At that press conference, I had become a representative of the Hindu community, and the local Hindus that were there were not adept at handling questions and the press appropriately. This certainly does not attract others to their point of view.
So when it comes to who will speak for Hinduism, we all must be ready to speak for it, but we must be educated to know what to say. We need to make all the necessary information easily accessible to everyone. We need to be sure the proper books are available. We need to use modern technology to our advantage to make inspiring presentations. We must have classes for presenting powerful views on the advantages of Vedic culture with insightful speakers. And if we do not know what to say to others, we must learn from those who do know.
This is one of the reasons why I have written and supplied so many books, such as “Vedic Culture: The Difference It Can Make in Your Life” and “The Power of the Dharma.” These books not only show the various ways Vedic culture can be used for people to reach their highest potential, but also explains the basics of the Hindu culture and Dharmic philosophy so people can understand it quickly and easily and then be able to explain it to others. As Hindus become prolific in sharing the advantages and benefits of their culture, others will also see the importance of its spiritual philosophy and way of life.
Another example of what I’m talking about is that at a conference in Houston in July of 2006, I met one Westerner who had put a slide show together on Hindu culture and had shown it at a school and three churches, Catholic and Methodist. These were for people who were sincerely interested. However, the teachers at the school told him that they had asked the parents of some of their Indian students if they would like to give a presentation on India and Hinduism. However, the parents responded that they did not know enough about their own culture to give such a talk. So here was an opportunity wherein Indians could give a correct understanding of what the Vedic tradition is all about in a friendly environment, but they could not do it. This should not be the case. Fortunately, the need for such a presentation was fulfilled by a Westerner who had sufficient knowledge and interest to give the students and teachers at the school some genuine insights into the Vedic tradition.
Sometimes it is plain to see that Western, non-Indian Hindus, those not born into the tradition but have enthusiastically adopted it, have more pride and knowledge of the culture than many Indian Hindus. This should be a source of inspiration for Indian-born Hindus. We have many such bold and inspiring speakers in my organization, called The Vedic Friends Association who can lecture and have written books on the dynamics of Vedic culture. Anyone can contact them to schedule talks and check out their books.
Furthermore, if the parents do not know enough about Hindu culture and do not have enough pride or care to teach their children properly, or at least enroll them in classes at a local temple or balgokulam, then with all the emphasis on conversions displayed by the monotheistic religions, that Indian Hindu family will no longer be Hindu in about two generations. However, I’ve talked to some Indian Hindus who have said it would take only one generation for the sons and daughters in that family to lose their Hindu faith. This is a reason why in many areas strong Hindus may be disappearing. There is a solution to this, and that is to make sure Hindus are educated in their own culture enough to know how and why they should pass it along to the next generation.
WHAT IS VEDIC CULTURE
A simple explanation of Vedic culture is that the Vedic tradition is a spiritual path and a way of life. It is a process by which we understand how to be better human beings, how to realize our spiritual nature, how to recognize that spiritual essence in each and every living being, how to understand our relationship with God and the universe and all other living entities, and how to live according to that relationship. It is the most dynamic means of elevating the consciousness of humanity and society available today.
It is also a means of understanding our spiritual connection with each other. By having respect for everyone’s spiritual identity, we can perceive that my contribution to your well-being is an automatic contribution to my own existence. Thus, we all work together toward attaining a clean mind and pure heart. In this way, by working together, society at large is in a state of constant improvement. That is one of the goals of the Vedic way of life, and all those who seriously follow it. So who should be afraid to repeat this? It is quite simple.
BEING A VEDIC AMBASSADOR
In this way there is a need for what I call Vedic Ambassadors. This is similar to the term Intellectual Kshatriyas, meaning those who are strong enough to stand up for Vedic Dharma. As Vedic Ambassadors:
A. We need to be educated in our scripture and traditions, and why we do things.
B. We need to show and share how it has improved our own lives.
C. We need to defend ourselves against the ignorance or simple misunderstanding of others.
D. We need to be pro-active both politically and socially. There are already organizations that are working in such ways in which we can participate.
E. We don’t proselytize, but we are ready and willing to open our doors to all community members to let them see what we have and who we are, and even how they may also participate.
F. We must also support our own community and its causes, and those programs that support and defend our culture. After all, we are here to pool our resources and channel them in a way for the upliftment of all people as well as for the protection of our own culture, Vedic Dharma.
G. We need to show the universal nature of the Vedic Dharma and how it is based on Universal Spiritual Truths that are applicable to anyone from any background. It is such a profound culture that we need to show that it is not only for a few Hindus, but for the upliftment of all humanity.
We are a part of the hope for the future. We should have confidence in what we can do because history has shown that we have already made a difference. In this way, if we all become Vedic Ambassadors, then you will see a great coalition that brings a bright future wherein people respect all beings and all religions. You will see a freedom for all individuals to develop according to the spiritual level most suitable for him or her. At that time, we will see a spiritual and cultural freedom like we have never known before. Then the Universal Spiritual Truths as found and presented in the Vedic tradition will gain respect and be accepted by many more millions of people across the planet. This could certainly change the course of history and manifest the spiritual dimension in the world.
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