Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Society, Spirituality

Episode 40: God, Dharma, & Vedic Spirituality for all Seekers — Interview with Sri Acharya


Acharya-Aug2016_600

“Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya”

is his full name: it means “He Who Sets Dharma In Motion”. For the past 40+ years, Sri Acharya has been a sincere transmittor of peace and authentic Vedic spirituality. Though he has an unimaginable list of academic qualifications, he is no armchair philosopher – he is an everyday activist and regularly speaks to large groups and officially teaches Sanatana Dharma to students. He left the academic life to pursue the spiritual path of Sanatana Dharma, specifically, and to share his wisdom and knowledge with others.

In our first episode together, we touch on a few fundamental questions that should begin every spiritual conversation. Here is a brief synopsis of what we cover.

1. Are all spiritual paths the same, eventually leading everyone to the same goal, since we are all in Samsara, after all?

We can take many angles with this question, depending from the standpoint – Jewish, Vedantan, or Buddhist, etc – but is everyone going in the same direction, regardless of the spiritual path or lack thereof? Sri Acharyaji goes on to explain this in a logical fashion, which leads into our next question:

2. How and why can we know that Vedic scriptures are more valid sources than other spiritual scriptures? What’s the difference?

I ask, because almost all holy books I’ve come across have a claim of transcendent nature. This is why, when devoutly religious people are asked challenging questions about the nature of life and reality, they usually revert to two tactics: instead of making up their own mind from experience, they go into the scriptures and quote the answer, as they are believed to be transcendent. Secondly, if the answer is not found in the scriptures for one reason or another, then they say “that’s the way it is, because God is mysterious” or “only God knows the answer, and I trust God”. When we want answers, though, what good is it to give our power of intellect, emotion, and mind to a source when we are not sure how accurate that source is? (I have talked previously about the pitfalls of trusting in outside, authoritative, sources in my post, here, with Greg Lawrence.) So, we either have to experience for ourselves (find out if the fire is hot by touching it) or we have to make sure the source is trustworthy. However we approach a source, it should lead us back into our own experience for validation. From here, I ask Sri Acharya:

3. As in Buddhism, which relies heavily on experience and experimentation, how does experience play into Sanatana Dharma and knowing Krishna as the absolute?

I picked this quote out of our interview, because it is extremely telling. Acharyaji says:

“If we think we are our own guru, then we have a fool for a disciple”.

What does this mean? It means that, before we can teach or even learn, we need to have a clear goal and also have a clear and true answer that either comes from ourself or our guru/master – that is, a guru who is not lying and has cleared his way, such as the Buddha and other awakened beings walking this earth. (See footnote below on the subject of the authentic guru.¹) Many aspects of ourself can get in the way – this is called “ego” and consists of our biases, past experiences as individual bodies/minds, and feelings or emotional tendencies that may actually be leading us astray. So, experience is essential, but weeding out the true from the false experience is also a skill we must learn as spiritual beings.

4. Why do we have this material body? Did we choose this before coming into existence?

Karma is a hefty subject in both Vedic and Buddhist teachings, but the simple answer is because of our karma. We will do another episode on karma, so don’t worry about the nitty-gritty details just yet. Acharyaji gives a brief synopsis of how karma functions.

5. What is this whole ‘unconditional love’ business about, and why does God need it?

Does God need anything? Why does the pendulum swing towards love and not another facet of our being? I’ve always wondered this. It is in my understanding, thus far, that the Supreme does not need anything but if there is a truth regarding this question, then there must be an answer. And as beings who experience a whole range of emotions and sensations that continually change, then we must whittle it down to the base perception and what that actually is. Could it be unconditional love?

6. What role does intuition or the personal intuitive factor play in Sanatana Dharma?

As above, since we all are independent agents (or at least think that we are) and have a broad range of feelings and emotions, we must be able to tell a true feeling from an untrue feeling. Some people have better intuition than others and this guides their experience in a harmonious direction; yet, all of us have a degree of intuition, or we wouldn’t be able to function. Should I walk left or right? Should I duck down if that bird is flying my way? Should I give my money to that person or not? These all rely on some ‘sense’ we have, and that sense can be honed – we may not even realise when we are using our intutitive force! Acharyaji talks about intuitive recognition in Sanatana Dharma from here.

I hope you enjoy our episode, and please drop me a line at curiousbodhi@zoho.com or see Sri Acharya’s contact at www.dharmacentral.com.

Peace to you, however you are and whatever stage of life you are in! May you and everyone you know be happy and free from all forms of suffering!

Namaste!

¹ A teacher, guru, or rishi, one has to undertake many years of training to earn this sort of title – “Acharya”, “Swami/Swamini”, etc.

In Vedanta (of which there are many, many schools) and Sanatana Dharma, the role of the guru is regarded as of utmost necessity on the path, because they have done the work of cleaning up their own act and their own mind to be a true transmittor. Too often in our world, whether in politics or business or in spiritual circles, leaders abuse their power, because they have hidden motives and this is due, really, to the unclean mind of grasping and ignorance. I recommend two videos by Sri Acharya that touch on this subject: How to Recognize an Authentic Guru and The Age of Anti-Guru.

5 thoughts on “Episode 40: God, Dharma, & Vedic Spirituality for all Seekers — Interview with Sri Acharya”

  1. „Many aspects of ourself can get in the way – this is called “ego” and consists of our biases, past experiences as individual bodies/minds, and feelings or emotional tendencies that may actually be leading us astray.“

    A very important point. The Sufis say: “He who has no sheikh, Satan (the ego) is his sheikh.” –
    this is a timeless principle in all authentic wisdom traditions. “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Bhagavad Gita 4.34) 🙂

    Like

  2. I’m still new to Sanatana Dharma, but through Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya’s YouTube channel (through which I found Curious Bodhi), I’m really treasuring everything I’m discovering. This interview has been an illuminating one, and has helped me shed light on some questions I had.

    Like

    1. Dearest DK,
      Thank you SO much for your kind donation. This type of love makes the world go round. Can you tell me where you’re at in your spiritual journey? How did you come to Sanatana Dharma (and possibly sister-paths)? I’d love to give as much advice as possible if you have any questions or just want to open up about all of this 🏵 Hare Krishna and Namaste, brother 🔱

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      1. Oh, hello Jnana B.

        Sorry I didn’t donate more, but I at least wanted to make a small gesture, because the work that you do is–as Sri Acharya said–what the world needs, so thanks for the work you (and people like you) do.

        As for where I’m at in my spiritual journey…well…even that question can have so many answers, depending on how you look at it. But I think what I can say is that, above all, I’m a truth seeker.

        I am a church-going Presbyterian (well…church-going until the lockdown), but I think I’m open-minded and not really attached to any particular worldview.

        As for how I came to Sanatana Dharma (and really, I’ve only really known the term Sanatana Dharma for a few months), I suppose I can say it’s a two-part story that’s still unfolding.

        Years ago, maybe around 2010 or 2011, I was downtown here in Montreal, and I saw a festival where food (prasadam?) was being offered to masses of people. There were people chanting and singing.

        I came to know these folks as the “Hare Krishna people.” I met one of them and agreed to take a few lessons from them.

        That was my first real exposure to this path. But although I did go to a “Hare Krishna’s” home and take a few lessons, I never went very far with it. To me, it was just a nice side journey.

        Then, in…say…March or April, as the effects of the current pandemic was beginning to seriously take hold on North America, I was on a forum, and among a number of videos that were posted, one was an interview with a man named Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya.

        I think it was an interview conducted by AJ Hoge, and his guest really impressed me.

        Here was a man who’s learned, speaks well, and…he said some things (predictions, I guess) that caught my attention.

        Basically, something–the Dharma philosophy–struck me as either true, or something worth investigating.

        From then on, I’ve been enthusiastically following the DharmaNation channel, doing my best to soak up as much information as I can. It’s really only recently that I’ve come to understand the term Sanatana Dharma, and why it’s generally more preferred than “Hindu.”

        For years, I had Bhagavad-Gita As It Is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, and in the past, I glanced through it, intimidated by it’s size, but now, having been inspired to read it, it seems to be a very inviting book, and I only regret that I’m reading it slowly.

        I also have a few of Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya’s books. Though I have his Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way, I’ve decided to first read it’s companion book, The Sanatana Dharma Study Guide, as a way to prepare for the deeper read.

        So, that’s where I am as far as Sanatana Dharma is concerned. I hesitate to call myself a Dharmi, because I’m not sure I meet all the requirements yet, but the interest is there.

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      2. Dearest DK,
        That’s great that you are expanding your consciousness into these realms! Once we start connecting the dots, so to say, it all makes sense in perfect harmony. If only we would all take the time to connect with God more often and bring that force back into our world — then our problems would be solved. I am sure! On a sidenote, I also grew up Catholic and had to find myself through much effort, and I’m still efforting. But, I realise that life is endless — truly infinite by design — and we can always reach higher levels without barrier. Our barriers are really just “stumbling blocks”. The path is the path and the end is the divine manifestation of who we really are: true love. I can’t wait to be just that 🙂 Keep in touch, kind soul… feel free to share…

        Liked by 1 person

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