'The Center for the Study of Dharma and Civilisation'
Dr. Vijaya RajivaThe founder of this Center is Dr. Frank Morales (aka Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya) a young American former university student who turned to Hinduism at an early age and is said to have taken initiation from a Hindu guru and with his early advocacy of what he called radical universalism (to describe Hinduism) he came to be accepted in Hindu circles. However, in 2008 he produced a 2 part video series called Jesus the Dharma Master. This appeared to be something of a u turn and it caused some consternation in the Hindu Samaj. In 2009 he started the International Sanatana Dharma Society and established its Ashram at Omaha, Nebraska. It sounded eerily like the wanderings of Yogananda Paramahamsa into Christianity (Autobiography of a Yogi) which ended with the establishment of the Self Realisation Society in California, with its temple prominently displaying a cross at the front. If reports are to be believed, the Society now has even replaced Yogananda's picture with that of Jesus. This appears to be the inevitable culmination of the process known as Inculturation whereby a native culture is surreptitiously invaded and eventually overcome. Could this happen to Frank Morales and his projects ? The signals are not encouraging.The present writer has written about Frank Morales in a series of three articles, the last of which summarises the issues that the Hindu Samaj should confront in assessing both Frank Morales and his present brainchild the Center (See 'Frank Morales and the Jesus Video ' at http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.in/2012/03/frank-moraless-jesus-video-dr-vijaya.html). These issues are clearly presented and the reader is requested to view them in the article.For the time being one can look at the prospectus of the International Sanatana Dharma Society(founded by Morales) which seems to have spawned the Center (and readers are urged to go to that website) and take stock of its philosophy and program. On the Home Page of Dharma Central (the organisation also founded by Frank Morales) one reads the following:"The teachings and practices of the ISDS are based directly upon the Vedic scriptures. Our scriptures consist of the entire shruti and smriti cannons of the Vedic literature, but with special emphasis on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, Brahma Sutras, Yoga Sutras and Narada Bhakti Sutras" ( the typo should be corrected; it is canons not cannons !).What is curious about this list of sacred scriptures is the omission of the 4 Vedas, the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva Vedas. There is a brief reference to a line from the Rig Veda which extols Vishnu. This omission is significant in that the 4 Vedas worship 33 devas and devatas. The Vedas are the fountainhead of Hinduism. While the monotheistic faiths are able to cherry pick suitable lines from the Upanishads, they are unable to do so from the 4 Vedas, the Brahmanas (prose commentaries) and the Aranyakas. This neglect of the 4 Vedas is in line with the Frank Morales version of Hinduism, which endorses either the rarefied versions of Vedanta or the theism of Vaishnava tradition, both of which lend themselves to Inculturation. Whereas the polytheism of the Vedas and the worship of murthis cannot be so distorted for the purposes of monotheism.On this same Home Page one gets to a short video of Frank Morales as Shri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya inagurating what seems to be the Ashram of the ISDS. He is at pains to tell the audience that at this Ashram there will be no pujas or cultural events. The Ashram will be devoted to the spiritual quest. For models of spiritual behaviour he tells his audience they can look at Sri Rama or the lives of sadhus. So far so good. Wisely, no mention of Jesus, at least in this video !In general the short video shows a relatively young person seemingly in earnest about his spiritual quest. All the same the fact that he calls himself an Acharya (presumably ordained by a Hindu Acharya in India of the Vaishnava persuasion) is not a guarantee that he is a spiritually evolved person. The present writer recalls that in his reply to one of the first two critical articles about him, Frank Morales reported a conversation with a Hindu friend on the phone. Imagine, he said, calling Sankara a Baptist ! Notice that already he is indirectly referring to himself as Adi Sankara ! This itself is a testimony to his immaturity/vanity.
He is very definitely a 'bright' person . Such people can easily simulate spirituality. And he certainly talks about it ! But does this alone call for an endorsement by the Hindu Samaj ? Someone is doing something, said one sympathetic observer about the Center. But is not the identity of this 'someone' important ? Is he authentic ? Is he capable of doing a Bede Griffith (readers are requested to read the third article in the series ' Frank Morales's Jesus Video ' listed above, to understand the reference to Bede Griffiths). Briefly, he was a British monk settled in India who spent many years as a Vedantin ( and fooled many Hindus !)and then ended up doing a u turn and returning to his native faith, Christianity. In that third article there are accounts also of similar u turns by other foreign Christian converts (so to speak) to Hinduism, who did a u turn. Bede Griffths ended by saying that Vedantic mysticism is inferior to the Christian Trinity. He also spoke about the next one thousand years in which Christianity should overcome Hinduism in the same way that it overcame Greek philosophy etc. So did the Pope on his visit to India ! The agenda is always the same.
Dr. David Frawley (aka Vamadeva Shastri) well known to Hindus, has high praise for Frank Morales and is on the Board of Advisors of the Center. Dr. Frawley is now also active in the project of Interfaith Dialogue. This project is, in the opinion of the present writer, an initiative that does not bode well for the Hindu Samaj, which is being asked to do mea culpas for what ? The problem is with the other parties. And each such dialogue has ended with the benightened Hindus either scratching their heads or surrendering abjectly to the opposition on various issues.
Why drag Hindus through this ? Recently, Dr. Frawley made a good speech at the Bangalore Institute for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) which it must be noted is a Christian initiative.
His personal committments to the Vedic heritage cannot be questioned but the political impact of his moves on Hindu India must be taken into consideration. And inter alia can his political judgment be trusted ? Merely his high praise of Morales as the answer to every Hindu's prayer, can it be taken at face value ?
The survival of Hinduism in Bharat is the key. In this, no doubt the NRIs and interested foreigners and as well dedicated converts to Hinduism can play a constructive and helpful role. But their influence should not be allowed to overshadow the work already being done inside India. Nor should it become a distraction from that serious task. If the Center provides a meeting ground for Hindus in the diaspora then it serves a useful purpose, but it should not become a distraction from the work being done in India. Its importance as the first ever such American project ( or so it is claimed) should not be overestimated. It could even be argued that the Center might turn out to be not only a distraction, but a ploy, a front (to use that phrase current in common parlance). This possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand. The defence of the Vedic Agamic tradition is too important to be so treated, especially by those who claim to defend Hindu interests. We simply cannot afford to be nonchalant and look the other way.And a closer look at the main mover and shaker in the project is called for. Here some of the issues raised in the article 'Frank Morales's Jesus Video' by the present writer are relevant. The reader is requested to go through that article(hyperlinked above).The second undertaking the Hindu Samaj should undertake is an assessment of the stated purpose of the Center itself. The blurb tells us the following :" The Centre for the Study of Dharma and Civilisation (CSDC) is the very first academic think tank of the Sanatana Dharma tradition ever created in American history. Established by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya in May of 2012, the CSDC brings together several of the most prominent Hindu scholars in America with the singular purpose of academically affirming the presence of the philosophy, practice and culture of Sanatana Dharma in the intellectual realm."
While at first glance this appears to be a laudable aim, the restricted nature of the enterprise, its intellectual restriction to a certain aspect of Hinduism and its neglect of the grounded reality of Hindu practice in the homeland of Hinduism, gives one pause. Is this another Yoganand misadventure, or a purely rarefied enterprise which may even distract from the work to be done inside Bharat, by its superimposition of a galaxy of names some of whom may be genuine, but others who may be working at cross purposes with the stated aims of the Center ? Or is it simply a front ?
Time will tell. Certainly the Hindu Samaj will be watching. The Hindu Samaj's first duty is to safeguard the Vedic Agamic tradition within Bharat, with the Hindus (and allies) of the diaspora playing an adjunct role. The globalisation of Hinduism has brought some advantages, but the dangers are also there. One sees this readily in the economic front, where the swadeshi approach has been railroaded to serve the interests of the multinationals. A similar process is likely to occur in projects such as the Center, which ostensibly seeks to promote Hinduism but may well be hi jacked by hostile elements.
(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)