While some rangolis are still being seen in doorways and the sound of firecrackers have faded into the background, preparations are on, for another kind of festival. …..meet Advaita Vedanta teachers, Swami Brahmavidananda and Swamini Brahmaprajnananda , founders of the Vedic Wisdom festival to know what is unique about it and why it is worth your while to attend.
Tell us about the what and why of Vedic Wisdom festival?
Sw Brahmavidananda: The Vedic Wisdom festival is conceived and presented by Aarsha Vidya Foundation, a registered trust to share ancient Vedanta teachings for contemporary living.
One day the two of us were discussing about how we could present an authentic view of Hinduism and its source. Hinduism or Sanaatana dharma rooted in the Vedas, is so vast and multi-dimensional. No wonder people are confused and hence have distanced themselves, especially the modern, educated city person.
At the core of Hinduism is Vedanta, the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. We thought about presenting teachings through different teachers under one roof and the idea of the festival was born.
Through this festival format, we are making available the wisdom & teachings to seekers and people who are looking for a unique experience that will open their minds.
We have curated the speakers to include topics of interest to all, retaining the authenticity of the tradition. The speakers include monks as well as householders and even a foreigner.
Sw Brahmaprajnananda: In India, there are festivals and festivals and then there is even the Great Indian Amazon festival. (They did not pay me for any promotion). When it comes to ‘preserving heritage’ people generally think of vintage wine, heritage structures and antique pieces dating less than a few hundred years.
All our traditional festivals are a celebration. They trace their source to the teachings of Hinduism for a life of freedom with the foundation of dharma and moksha, freedom from a sense of bondage. The teachings proclaim the oneness of all forms and we want to celebrate the source or mother of all festivals.
We welcome people to join in the celebration of the tradition of wisdom of the Rishis, dating to a few thousand years ago. A tradition that we have all inherited.
What is Aarsha Vidya Foundation? Who is organizing this?
Sw Brahmavidananda: Aarsha Vidya is a Sanskrit term referring to the wisdom of the Rishis, seers, loosely translated as Vedic wisdom. Aarsha Vidya foundation is a registered trust set up almost 15 years ago.
Under its aegis, we have been sharing Vedic wisdom through traditional classes, workshops for personal growth, seminars, corporate workshops and intensive retreats. The festival is our latest offering to you and the tradition.
Sw Brahmaprajnananda: Aarsha Vidya, was a term used by our guru, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji (1930-2015), a renowned global Advaita teacher of his times and a guru of gurus. In honour of his presence and our lifelong commitment to carrying forward the teaching tradition with authenticity, Aarsha Vidya Foundation responds to the needs of society with various offerings as Swamiji mentioned.
Why this timing? How is this different from so many other events?
Sw Brahmavidananda: Our society is going through an upheaval where a lot of Indian wisdom and practices are still seen through a Western lens. Being products of a Western education ourselves, a qualified Marine Engineer (myself) and the other (Sw Brahmaprajnananda), a psychologist we continue to be steeped in the Vedic tradition. We clearly see that there is a need for a truly Indian narrative to emerge which offers us the stability of being rooted to our tradition and having the wings to fly globally, unapologetically.
Sw Brahmaprajnananda: The narrative in print and social media is getting shriller by the day. One extreme is Hindu nationalist discourse and the other extreme is the secular, by-the-way Hindu discourse on matters of living and religion.
Our backgrounds give us a unique position to offer a well considered balanced perspective and present the teachings of Hinduism authentically.
What is the need for Vedic wisdom or Vedanta?
Sw Brahmavidananda: Everything that the human being does, is for a sense of fulfillment and happiness. And still, this fulfillment proves to be elusive and illusive.
For true fulfillment, you need to discover who you are. For everything else there is Google! The need to know who one is, exists in every generation and there are teachers in every generation unfolding this wisdom.
Sw Brahmaprajnananda: One good sign of our times is that so many young people are interested in spiritual matters having ‘been there, done that’. With all the promises of the most blissful spiritual experience, there is much confusion too.
Vedanta is not yet another experience but cuts through all of your experiences to points to who the experiencer is, the I underlying all your identities.
The highest teaching of our main scriptures – Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas and Ramayana, Mahabharata is Vedanta, that points out, all that is here is one. There is no more seeking and sorrow after that, much like it was for Arjuna.
How will they benefit ? What will people get?
Sw Brahmavidananda: In a span of just two days, about ten speakers, all spiritual masters, will highlight key topics in Vedanta which will offer doorways of understanding and many take home points for action.
The topics range from Vedanta and Science to Vedanta for growth and success, Vedanta for managing one’s emotional life, sowing the seeds of our heritage for today’s children, tomorrow’s leaders, the role of Astrology and mantras, myths about Hinduism and Vedanta for contemporary living.
Participants will gain many insights into our own heritage and how to enhance their lives with these tried, tested and proven insights. There will be Q and A sessions with every speaker.
Sw Brahmaprajnananda: After patiently answering a host of questions from Swami Chinmayananda ji who was still in his earlier journalistic avatar, Swamiji Sivananda said to him,’ Young man, you ask many questions.
When will your questions, turn into a quest?” And that proved to be one of his many turning points. We hope that the festival answers many questions and offers clear direction to those who have a quest.
Who does this festival address?
Sw Brahmavidananda: It is for everyone. When this wisdom was imparted, it was given to all of humanity and not to a particular community or religion. It just happened to be preserved as a systematic teaching tradition in the Indian region.
Sw Brahmaprajnananda: Our prayer, ‘Sarve bhavantu sukhinah’ ...praying for the happiness of all shows how inclusive the Vedic vision was. We also have foreigner students who have different religious backgrounds. The main eligibility for this knowledge is the willingness to want to know and hence it is available to all.
Sw Brahmavidananda: I have been teaching for more than thirty years through different formats starting from the traditional class format to contemporary workshop formats. We hope to have a gurukulam for traditional teachings one day.
We are excited about presenting so many spiritual masters under one roof through this festival format. We hope to make this an annual feature. The synergy has been possible because of the love and commitment of all these spiritual masters in sharing Vedic wisdom with all.