George Quant Interviews Dr. Debashish Banerji: Return of the Veda (June 2, 2009)

June 2, 2009

GQ:  Welcome to the show. I’m George Quant, your host with special guest Dr. Debashish Banerji. On this show today we are going to tract the foot print of contemporary meditation and modern wisdom to its ancient root. In the beginning there was the Ved and the Ved was with spirit and silence. In the end there was the Quantum and the Quantum was with spirit and science, or is the formless expressing itself in the form of new terminology in an endless expression of wisdom through time immemorial?

The two most popular forms of meditation today are transcendental and mindfulness. Mega best selling author, Dr. Deepak Chopra, is a luminary of the Veda, which is coreless to quantum physics. His meditation, primordial sound meditation, falls in the category of transcendence. Mega best selling author, Eckhart Tolle, is an exponent of mindfulness meditation, which falls in the category of anapana. The blockbuster docudrama, “What the Bleep Do We Know?”, and the more recent phenomenally successful DVD, “The Secret”, were both anchored in the idea that quantum physics makes all things possible.

Has the Veda returned as the quantum? If the Veda and the quantum are evolving theoretical bodies of knowledge, is spirit the subjective experience, the inner experience? Does the unchanging spirit become an experience only when mind contacts it? Is meditation the technology that makes direct experience of the spirit possible in both sciences, Quantum and Veda? And what other forms has the Veda taken over the years?

Here with us to answer these questions with anticipated eloquence is Dr. Debashish Banerji. He is part of a distinguished panel of experts who will enrich our discussion on the origins of modern and ancient wisdom traditions and practices. Dr. Banerji completed his undergraduate studies in English literature from the University of Bombay, and has a PhD in Indian art history from UCLA. Dr. Banerji is an authority on Indian contemporary art and philosophy, which includes the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Veda, especially in its contemporary applicability.  A master story teller, his book is based on his dissertation titled, “The Alternate Nation of Tagore”, presently in press.  He teaches courses at the University of Philosophical Research, Pasadena City College, UCLA, UC Irvine, and a distant learning course on the “Visual Imagination of India” at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco.

Welcome to the show Dr. Banerji.

Dr. B:  Thank you George, glad to be here.

GQ: It’s great to have you Dr. Banerji. I am just so excited to have you with us today. Well, let’s move backwards in time. I’ll start us off with the secular meditation movement that I’ve been a part of over the past several years. The first contemporary secular meditation category that I’d like to talk about is transcendence. Three examples of transcendence come to mind, primordial sound meditation with Deepak Chopra, integrated quantum meditation with George Quant, the Sahaj Samadhi meditation with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. All three programs started around the same time, 1996. All three founders practiced Transcendental Meditation with the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Starting in 1958 under Maharishi’s leadership, TM transitioned from a Hindu-based program to Vedic science, with direct correlates to quantum physics. Prior to TM, Maharishi’s lineage can be traced to his guru, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Northern India.

The next secular category is mindfulness meditation. John Cabotzan and Eckhart Tolle are both popular, secular mindfulness meditation authors, and mindfulness evolved from the vipassana tradition of Buddhism. The icons of contemporary Buddhist meditation would include the Dalai Lama and    ?  The world is enriched by many more modern exponents of classical Buddhism and secular mindfulness meditation teachers. More on that in a future show.

Dr. Banerji, I would like you to explain how both Buddhism and Hinduism are rooted in, or date back to the Vedic wisdom tradition of the Upanishads, but first, I’d like to return to the foundational and intriguing questions I posed earlier. Dr. Banerji, has the Vedas returned as the Quantum?

Dr. B: Thank you George. I think the first question you asked can be woven into the other one you just asked, I’d say yes, and to understand this, we first need to ask the question, what is the Veda? The Veda is a set of text given by ten groupings of seers or Rishis in India going back 5,000 to 7,000 years. The oldest of these are known as the Samhitas. These are poems chanted to what seemed to be nature gods; the god of wind, the god of sun, of lightning and thunder and gods of this kind. This is expressed in a double-speak of outer and inner, of objective and subjective understanding. On the outside there are invocations to the gods of nature to bring material benefits, like children, cows, horses, things of this kind. But in an inner and esoteric sense, meant for initiates, they are psycho cosmic subjective processes of yoga meant to unite man with spirit in consciousness, knowledge, delight and power. This union is the overcoming of all separation, the experience of non-duality. Thus the Veda could be seen as a body of knowledge expressing both a science and a poetry of the experience of non-duality. In terms of the Indian conception of history, the story of time is the gradual obscuration of this time and again, yet it’s repeated return in new forms, each time overcoming some obscuring factor of contradiction.

GQ: The obscuring is then built into … it’s a predetermination, a seed of obscuration that precedes its own return.

Dr. B: Absolutely George. It’s an obscuration that’s carried in the very languaging of spirit, that’s implicit in the way in which we approach spirit. As you said, the spirit is the formless returning in new symbols and languages time and again.

GQ: And …  …

Dr. B: And each time it is limited by the symbols through which we express it. Yet it reveals itself in these symbols. So there is a revelation and an obscuration, a concealment. The concealment grows over time, till we need a new return of the same knowledge in a new language.

GQ: And this is what creates the cycles.

Dr. B: This is what creates the cycles of Indian history.

GQ: The sense of cycles.

Dr. B: Yes George.

GQ: Un huh. Continue.

Dr. B:  So the latest and greatest such obscuration of the Veda is our modern age. In terms of the Hindu cycle, this is known as Kali Yuga, the dark age, when three quarters of the knowledge of purity has disappeared and the rest is fast disappearing.

GQ: Is the image of this three quarters also in some way connected to an image of the full moon losing its fullness?

Dr. B: Yes. You are absolutely right George. The whole idea of the Hindu chronological cycles is sometimes given as the metaphor of the full moon which gets gradually obscured. When the full moon is there, we call it the age of gold, the Satya Yuga.

GQ: But the full moon is actually still there. It’s the shadow, the illusion, the maya that it has diminished.

Dr. B: Correct, correct. You are absolutely right. Time in the Hindu idea of the cycles and the obscuration of truth is really a theory of collective perception.

GQ: Continue.

Dr. B: So when three quarters is gone and the rest is fast disappearing, we have Kali Yuga, and that’s the age Hindus consider we are in right now.

GQ: And that’s the age where we can’t see our hand in front of our face spiritually.

Dr. B: Yes, right. In terms of western knowledge, this is the age of Materialism, when consciousness is reduced to a product of physics and chemistry and only what meets the senses. The form of modern knowledge is Science, George.

GQ: Debashish, repeat that. In terms of western knowledge, this is age of materialism when consciousness is reduced to a …

Dr. B: … a product of physics and chemistry. It’s only material understanding and what meets the senses.

GQ: Oh, I see, I see, and consciousness is reduced to what it sees only with the senses.

Dr. B: Exactly.

GQ: I see.

Dr. B: You know the terminology used is – consciousness is  an epiphenomenon of matter.

GQ: Un huh. Yes.

Dr. B: There is no such independent thing as consciousness or spirit.

GQ: Yes, so this is the case in Kali Yuga. Go ahead.

Dr. B: Exactly. So this form of modern knowledge is science, because science is a description of reality given to us in our modern time. Now from within this description, there now arises a knowledge, a description of reality with speaks of non-duality, non-locality, the collapse of subject and object.  This is the Quantum. Like the Veda, this knowledge can also be taken in an external or internal, a subjective and objective form. Taken objectively, as many scientists wish to restrict it, it is a probabilistic model for describing material reality. But taken analogically, internally and subjectively, it can be both a new science and a new poetry of the union of man and spirit, a science and art of consciousness, a psychology all the way down.

GQ: Yes.

Dr. B: Hence we can see it as a return of the Veda in a universal and secular form in the modern world. Now to just  cap this with a thought, there is a lot of debate about whether the quantum theory, or quantum formalism is an analogy for the spirit and its processes, or  an actual description of the spirit and its processes, what may be called the physics of satchitananda.

GQ: Yes,

Dr. B: But irrespective of whether it is one or the other, I think what you said earlier,  is something we need to remember, that the spirit is illimitable, indescribable and formless.

GQ: And so is the Quantum, really.

Dr. B: Yes. So it depends on our approach to it. How is it that we contact it, that gift of the language with which we speak about it. All languaging of the spirit is just a set of symbols, but they allow us to come into contact with spirit,  to conceptualize it and enter into relation with it and therefore make it real and living and experiencable in our physical body.

GQ: Which takes us to the next question, Dr. Banerji, and that is if the Veda and the Quantum are evolving theoretical bodies of knowledge, is spirit the subjective experience? And I think you just answered that, but elaborate.

Dr. B: Exactly, exactly. We might think of these bodies of knowledge as bodies of languaging and therefore they may have objective meaning, but if we dwell on them subjectively, they can yield to us subjective experiences. What is being told to us in an objective sense, as mathematics, for example, in quantum physics, can hardly be understood as a description of reality. But in a subjective sense, it is experiencable through meditation and in terms of transcendental    experience.

GQ: So this takes us to the next question and that is, does the unchanging spirit become an experience only when mind contacts it and …

Dr. B: Yes indeed …

GQ: And if so, is meditation the technology that makes direct experience of the spirit possible in both sciences, Quantum and Veda?

Dr. B: Yes George. When we talk about meditation, basically what we are saying is the concentration of our inner consciousness on this reality, this formless reality that you talk about, using a certain language as a mediator and you are absolutely right, in that process, that technology of consciousness gives to us the experience of spirit, irrespective of what language we use to enter into relation with it.

GQ: Because language actually falls away. Language and symbols fall away…

Dr. B: Language and symbols fall away. You are absolutely right.

GQ: And then the experience reveals itself.

Dr. B: Experience reveals itself.

GQ: And it reveals itself to the senses, the nervous system, the body, mind and spirit which is the subjective nature.

Dr. B: Absolutely George.

GQ: Which takes us now to the next question, and that is, what other form has the Veda taken over the years?

Dr. B: The depth of this question is like the history of consciousness and its repeated return through the centuries, George.  We may say that the very first appearance of the Veda is accompanied with its obscuration. , That is, as I mentioned, the Veda begins as a kind of double-speak with rituals and material symbols of invocation to the nature gods. And so within that ritualistic nature, it carries the obscuration of its reality into a more material understanding where we are talking socially about rituals mediated by priests and  a  caste system that develops around this, etc. And the inner and subjective power of the Veda to reveal experience recedes to the background.

GQ: I see.

Dr. B: It is kept only with a few initiates. And so around maybe the 10th century before Christ, there is a revolution in wisdom that takes place in India George, and this is essentially the birth of what is known as the Upanishads. We may call this a return of the Veda.

GQ: Ah.

Dr. B: There are initiates, who in a variety of ways begin to realize that if the Veda is to be kept alive, it has to be re-languaged. It has to be given in a new kind of expression, which is more democratic because no longer mediated by priests, direct, which in a sense can raise the questions within the consciousness of the hearer, regarding what the subjective experience is all about. So a whole slew of questions are raised on who am I, what is the nature of reality, what is knowledge, what is ignorance, what is suffering, what is delight, what is falsehood, does evil exist, all these questions, how can man come into contact with consciousness and reality?

GQ: Many of these questions are what society is pondering today.

Dr. B: Exactly. Today the scientist is pondering  questions from the viewpoint of material reality, descriptions of material reality, but surprisingly the scientist is coming up with paradoxical answers that relate back to these kinds of questions.

GQ: Yes.

Dr. B: So we find that, you know, people start finding technologies of consciousness….

GQ: So we are in the Upanishads now…right?

Dr. B: Yes, the Upanishadic age which runs perhaps from  10 centuries before Christ to  say  about the 8th century before Christ. These are approximate dates and we’re not sure of them, but this is the surmise. People are leaving society to make it their life’s occupation, to find answers to profound existential questions of this kind, and  they move to the hills, forests, the caves, and the forest is abuzz with this kind of seeking.

GQ: It sounds exciting. It sounds like there was lots of dialogue going on, lots of debate going on, lots of spiritual inquiry going on.

Dr. B: Exactly George. This is exactly the situation during this time, and in fact the very intense nature of this pondering and this questioning reaches its culmination around 6 centuries before Christ in what the philosopher Karl Jaspers has called the Axial Age.

GQ: I see.

Dr. B: I would call that the next return of the Veda – I mean the Axial Age – when  this  culture of meditation and reflection in a very intense isolated manner finds itself repeated in the whole Eurasian continent. It’s like a meta-phenomenon that suddenly erupts and we find 6 centuries before Christ … in Greece we find the great philosophers Socrates and Plato; In India you have the Buddha and Mahavira, the founder of the Jaina religion. In China we have Confucius and Lao-tzu, and they are all asking questions of the same kind. Mind you George …

GQ: So it sounds to me like consciousness is breaking out all over the world as a meta conscious phenomena.

Dr. B: Quite, quite, and you know, we know these names today, but that’s only because they are only the names that remain, that history has allowed to remain. In India we know when we read about the Buddha’s life that, he himself went to a number of teachers and again, he was going into the forest and the forest was full of teachers whose record history has not kept. So too in China, this entire period is known as the Hundred Schools period, which gives you a sense of the number of seekers and teachers.

GQ: So it was a collective consciousness that was surging.

Dr. B: It was a collective seeking all over the world, an age of wisdom.

GQ: The second return of the Vedas, go ahead.

Dr. B: This is definitely a return of the Veda. The next return of the Veda, I would say occurs in India from the 1st to the 5th century. This is the time of the Christ and early Christianity. In India, to understand this, we need to realize that the seeds of obscuration in the Upanishads lie in the fact that they demand a very rigorous kind of practice, and in a way you could say,  an antisocial practice because people are leaving society for an exclusive contemplation on spiritual truth. In the biographies of the Buddha we find the seeds of this division between the secular life and the life of the wandering seekers, the sannyasis …

GQ: … the recluse…

Dr. B: Yes, the recluse, yes, who leaves society and makes it his business to understand spirit. So from the 1st to the 5th century something new happens. There is a sudden great wave of devotion. There is the birth of mythologies and icons. All the mythologies pertaining to what we today know as the Hindu gods, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, Kali. The Tantras and the Puranas are the bodies of text which talk about these things. The beginnings of what we know today as Hindu temple worship begins at this point.

GQ: And that’s happening around the world as well, the Middle East……

Dr. B: Yes, as I said this is the period of the development of Christianity and its spread through its acceptance by the Roman Empire.

GQ: So the whole sort of temples all the way through the Middle East, all the way across Europe, all the way into China.

Dr. B: Yes. Well what’s happening George, you see, I spoke about the rise of iconic Hinduism in India, but with Buddhism too, there’s an explosion that’s taking place at this time. Buddhism is spreading from India all the way across the Middle East, you know, through the Northwest of India, and now in Buddhism you have images of the Buddha. You know, Buddhism starts off as an aniconic religion. There’s no images to the Buddha before this, but the focusing of devotion through images to the Buddha, and the Bodhsattvas occurs during these times….

GQ: And this is also the birth of Christ, this is also not just the birth of Christ, but also the life of Christ.

Dr. B: Exactly George, and you know, If you look at the first 4 centuries, it begins with the life and martyrdom of Christ in the Middle East, but by the end of the 4th century, you have the spread of Christianity through Europe, the establishment of the holy Roman church and the establishment of the church of Byzantium, the Eastern Christian church. So we see that there is the establishment of a much wider, more inclusive kind of approach to spirit through devotion that develops throughout a large part of the world and we could definitely call this another return of the Veda.

GQ: So not only are the seeds of obscuration present in the laws of the cycle …but the inclusive aspect of it also is a part ….

Dr. B: Yes, and each time it seems to include more ….

GQ: … and the secular aspect.

Dr. B: It becomes more secular, and maybe we should make a note George that the two major traditions of meditation you have talked about, the Buddhist and the Hindu traditions of meditation, mindfulness and transcendence, make their appearance over this period – the first one, transcendence, with the Upanishads, , and mindfulness with Buddhism, which occurs in the wake of the Upanishads in the Axial age.

GQ: The seeds of it …. But the actual …. Buddhism came from the reinterpretation …

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: … in the forest, well actually as reinterpretation of the knowledge.

Dr. B: Correct, correct. The next great return of the Veda, George, I’d say occurs from the 9th through 11th centuries in India. To distinguish this, again we have to look at what obscures the previous great upsurge. We can say that, every time there is a greater, wider more secular movement, there is also a dilution that can occur. Over time it becomes more dilute. Devotionalism takes over the place of the rigorous inner practices of meditation, and by the time we have come to the 9th century or so, there is a new need to engage with the Upanishads. And this is the age of the great acharyas or the philosophical teachers. This is the age of the great Vedantic philosophies. In the 9th century we have Shankarachara, and you mentioned the Shankaracharia of the North who was the teacher of …

GQ: Maharishi’s teacher.

Dr. B: … who was the teacher of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and so …

GQ: So this is where that started. This is where the tradition of the Shankaracharya of the North and the various parts ….

Dr. B: That’s right.

GQ: And it was Shankaracharya who reorganized the Vedas in some sense to make it more accessible, to create a different structure. But once again he’s bringing the Upanishads back in.

Dr. B: Yes, yes, that’s really what he does. He organizes Hinduism. He gives it a certain social form. He creates the ten orders of sannyasis, the renunciants. He prioritizes the Upanishads in a certain interpretation. He sets up 4 major authorities, north, east, south and west in India to oversee  the perpetuation of these teachings. So yes, he is a very important figure … in fact …

GQ: And is he reoranizing for social, spiritual rejuvination in an inclusive way?

Dr. B: He is George, but, you know, one has to look at the flip side of it as well. One might call it the hegemony of a certain interpretation in Hinduism.

GQ: And what was the Buddhist response to that?

Dr. B: You know many people feel that the decline of Buddhism in India was largely due to the very hegemonic nature of Shankaracharya’s activities. But in a sense Hinduism and Buddhism at the time of Shankara were very close to each other. They were, in dialogue, and as you know when you are in dialogue, when you are answering each other, you incorporate the arguments of each other. And so, the language of Buddhists and Hindus at this point, and their methods and technologies of consciousness are very, very similar.

GQ: During this time period when you say there was this cross dialogue between Buddhism and the Hindu model, was there some sense of balance?

Dr. B: Well at this time there is a dialogue going on George, and there is definitely a lot of sharing going on. There is sharing of many different ways to spirit going on between all these traditions including all the Buddhists and all the Hindu traditions. But there is also a debate going on and there is a kind of power struggle going on. So all this is happening at the same time in this period from 9th to the 11th century.

GQ: I see.

Dr. B: Yes. Maybe we can move along to the next great wave, which I believe takes place around the 16th century, George.

GQ: Ah huh.

Dr. B: And this is again like the great Axial age. This is a meta movement, you know. This is actually what one may call the beginning of the seeds of the modern world.

GQ: So where consciousness makes a meta quantum sort of leap across the world and manifests in different ways and different cultures.

Dr. B: Absolutely.

GQ: Elaborate on that Debashish.

Dr. B: Yes, and again in a more inclusive manner. Because, we know the 16th century as a world phenomenon due the Renaissance in Europe. The European Renaissance  … many people think of it as the birth of the modern epoch, because it is accompanied by the collapse of the church and the democratization of knowledge. But at the same time this is also a tremendous age of aspiration. There is an aspiration for the Divine in the very heart of Humanity. There is a shift to concerns of Humanity. But this intense aspiration for the Divine within the heart of humanity is one of the hallmarks of the Renaissance. Along with this we find that all over the world there are very intense devotional movements and mystical movements that begin in the 16th century. You have Sufism in Persia and Turkey. You have the birth of the Sikh religion with Guru Nanak, the mystic teacher of Sikhism in India. You have the birth of the Krishna movement, which today, is so well known all over the world and particularly in America. Sri Chaitanya is the founder of that intense devotional movement and he belongs to this period. You have Kabir, the Sufi teacher in India. You have Zen Buddhism in Japan. All these movements of mysticism are with us even today in a very powerful way.

GQ: Another return of the Veda.

Dr. B: Yes, its really another return of the Veda.

GQ: In the form of the mystic.

Dr. B: In the form of the mystic, yes.

GQ: Intuition.

Dr. B: Yes,  George. And so then what we find occurring after the 16th century, we really start our walk into our present era, because again … the seeds of obscuration, which are contained within the 16th century, have to do with Materialism.

GQ: Yes.

Dr. B: With a disappearance of the spirit and with a denser and denser concentration on matter, science and technology, there arises the Industrial Age and there arises Colonialism. Because on the pretext of arriving at a systematic secular knowledge of the world, there are what is known as the voyagers of discovery. But with that comes the colonization of the non-western world and a greater and greater objectification of knowledge that leads us into what we know as our modern age.

GQ: And is that the … and are we now moving into the 19th century?

Dr. B: Yes George. That leads to the return of the Veda in modern times. You see, there is an internal critique of Materialism that’s going on, and  I’d say from around the middle of the 19th century, this internal critique starts bearing fruit. You find it in Europe itself, in the modernist movements right in the middle of the 19th century and into the 1920’s. This turn of the century phenomena is a  very powerful one in which we find that new paradigms of knowledge in all forms are being created, and we find that there is a shift in the modality of knowledge from rationality towards intuition. That I’d say is the real legacy of the return of the Veda in this period.

GQ: I see.

Dr. B: We find this … you can map it …. and this is really where, you know, what you are talking about, George, regarding the return of the Veda as the Quantum takes place, right at this time. You find the great modalities of modern physics in terms of Einsteinian relativity, and in terms of Quantum Mechanics being born at this time.

GQ: So it is during this particular time that the Veda starts to express itself through what we would call Quantum Physics?

Dr. B: Yes, if, we look at the metaphor  you’ve introduced, that of the return of the Veda, being in a way the return of the spirit in new languages and expressions …

GQ: Yes.

Dr. B: … this is certainly one of the new ways in which it is coming …

GQ: Makes sense.

Dr. B: You find that,  for example with Einstein, he received intuitions, and these intuitions are like conceptual or cognitive contacts with a spiritual reality in consciousness, which he then elaborated in terms of mathematics and physics, theoretical physics. His whole theory of relativity was founded in that fashion.

GQ: But … Debashish …

Dr. B: Yes George.

GQ: It appears as though perhaps even by the nature of things, since intuition is related to the seer, to the rishi, the cognitive aspect of one’s inner spirit ….

Dr. B: You are very right, yes ….

GQ: And he sees this first before he gets the math and before he gets the articulation.

Dr. B: Correct. This is the very method of the Upanishads. The Upanishadic rishis or seers are pointing to exactly this modality of knowledge, of cognitive contacts with reality through intuition as the starting point of our reflections.

GQ: I see.

Dr. B: And so we find Einstein struggling in his last years with what he wanted to call the grand unified theory. He intuited it, but he could not find the mathematics for it. Then we find on the other hand the whole modality of Quantum being created by Max Planck and Niels Bohr and all the many others teachers like Warner Heisenberg, etc., several of whom were  familiar with the Upanishads. They were actually making the comparisons themselves.

GQ: They were?

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: Once again the Upanishads are on the scene in the return of the Veda.

Dr. B: Quite right, and then we find that, you know about a little later from the 1920s to 1940s we find a new breed of theoretical scientists … we have people like David Bohm, who tried to integrate Quantum and Relativity and who also came directly under the guidance of a new wave of Indian spiritual teachers, such as, in this case, J. Krishnamurti. This is a kind of a grand integration of all the various modalities of knowledge that is taking place in somebody like David Bohm.

But I would also like to go back to the turn of the century George, and point out that not only in science or physics, but in other modalities of expression like in art from the middle of the 19th century we have a revolution of subjectivity and intuition. This is a movement from a more naturalistic and objectified art towards the subjective. We find this with impressionism, post impressionism and expressionism – figures like Vincent van Gogh and Cezanne and later people like Picasso. We find this entire movement into the exploration of the subjective world of experience.

Again in philosophy we find the birth of existentialism, phenomenology, ontology, with thinkers like the German Martin Heidegger,

GQ: Yes.

Dr. B: … and all his descendants. It really starts off with Freirich Nietzsche …

GQ: What about the Transcendentalists?

Dr. B: Yes. In America … I’m glad you brought that point up, George, because from around the middle of the 19th century in America, we have a great wave of spiritual philosophy, the thinkers who are known as the Transcendentalists …

GQ: So now we’ve moved to sort of mid century, 1930s to 1950s mid century …?

Dr. B: No, not yet George. I’m talking about the mid 19th century in America moving into the turn of the century. We find that there is a fertilization of the world of mind here in America, with the Transcendentalists. We have Thoreau and Emerson and Walt Whitman, and we have William James the psychologist, and by the time we come to the turn of the century,  they have already created a revolution in thought which has a strong influence from the Upanishadic sources of wisdom.

As you know, from around the early 20th century, anti-colonial struggles have been breaking out all over the world. India is also going through its anti-colonial struggles, and as part of this, the great teachers of the Vedic knowledge in India are voicing the ancient tradition in international language. Yes, at the turn of the 19th/20th century, you have Vivekananda, who came to America. At the same time, you have Sri Aurobindo who is returning to India from his collegiate studies in England, and writing in the English language. You have Rabindranath Tagore who is traveling across the world and who wins the Nobel Prize. These figures are bringing  the Vedic and Upanishadic teaching to the West in a major way. In America,  these are some of the figures who sow the seeds, and then you suddenly have the receptivity of  American culture itself in terms of anti-colonial movements  like the Harlem Renaissance and the intellectual movement of African-American jazz, with be-bop and with figures like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. And so what happens ….

GQ: The return of the Vedas through Charlie Parker. I love it. What about the Bohemian … is this the same time of the Bohemian intellectual alternative movement ….

Dr. B: Yes, they prepared the ground, George.  What results is a tremendous popular movement  spawned by these revolutions. You have an anti-materalist and the anti-colonialist mentality which  breaks across the land  ultimately in the late 60s with the hippie movement, the counter culture. And at the same time you have a whole wave of Indian spiritual teachers who come to America. You have Muktananda, Satchidananda and Prabhupada, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and they are all bringing in this Vedic and Upanishadic knowledge,  and it is being assimilated into the American counter-culture. Now of course we know that this was a kind of  wave, the crest of a wave, and the 80s and 90s saw a complete shutdown of all this.

GQ: Debashish, I want to go back to this transition into sort of the …. every culture had its own alternative …

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: .. and in this particular case we are talking about the hippie movement because  there was a lot of  drug induced shifts in consciousness, but shifts in consciousness, nevertheless.

Dr. B: Correct.

GQ: … and then the gurus, the wonderful gurus that you’ve mentioned, including Swami Satchidananda and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, they sort of became the representation of the organic consciousness … the organic spirituality of the day.

Dr. B: Yes, so what happened … I’d say that the shutdown that took place in the 80s and 90s is a natural consequence of the fact that there were excesses …

GQ: .. too much.

Dr. B: Yes, and there was also an embrace of exotic knowledge and a throwing away of the humanistic tradition of the West. So this is what leads us to today, and what we see today is that we may be on the threshold of a more integrated mainstream return of the Veda. I’d say, in fact George, that the grand symbol of that is the Internet. In fact the term itself is very similar to an ancient Buddhist term, “Indra’s Net.” The whole idea of  Indra’s Net is that there is a  net which is so subtle, one can’t see it, but every point in it contains the entirety of that net. All the other points in the net can be accessed at any point in that net, and that is exactly the paradigm of non-locality that we entered into with the Internet. The only thing is that this omnipresence is mediated by technology. It is today’s world in which our dependence on the external methods of contact has become so great that we have entered into a global consciousness without even realizing it.

GQ: Yes.

Dr. B: But it is exactly where what you are saying becomes so important that we have to understand this return of the Veda as a technology of consciousness, not just a technology of external contact of machinery.

GQ: Yes, and it’s really beautiful, because this Indra’s Net, and this sort of metaphor for the current return of the Veda and the role of the Internet because we are talking really to an Internet audience right now.

Dr. B: Exactly and …

GQ: And we are going out to 25 countries around the world so it’s a sort of … So Debashish you mentioned this sort of idea that perhaps someday we will be able to carry this consciousness out into the world without it riding on the wave of the Internet.

Dr. B: Yes, it’s great that we are reaching out so far with the internet, but if we are to look at the flip side, I’d say the dependence on technology to arrive at global consciousness is a failure of the spirit. It is a kind of external achievement of omnipresence, but consciousness has to equal it. It is very important at this point for a subjective revolution to take place. A revolution like that of the Upanishads where the consciousness of man can equal … that is we can experience the power of Indra’s Net in consciousness. That is the inner correlate of the Internet. With that thought I think that we really come to the threshold of the contemporary possibility of the return of the Veda.

GQ: Well and we’re also talking about the …. Remember we talked about the fact that there’s always this stage of obscuration ..

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: …. and we are now having the wisdom to begin to look at the signs of obscuration …

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: … just based on the fact that we know that it is a part of the cycle.

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: We also know that the secular plays a role in the return …

Dr. B: Correct.

GQ: And we also know that this whole idea of the inclusive …

Dr. B: Yes George.

GQ: … and we also know that maintaining the sacred is an important part of maintaining the purity of the pathway of the entry into spirit or that gets lost and obscured.

Dr. B: Yes, absolutely. So in the mainstream, whether in health care, education, business, or politics, paradigms have to shift and the technologies of consciousness have to enter into these so that we can experience the return in the mainstream. There’s a universality of consciousness that is our technological legacy today.

GQ: I think ….. honoring the fact and looking at the fact that the Vedas and Upanishads are on the scene in so many of these great architects of transformation …

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: … and taking a look at the Vedas and Upanishads and understanding the mystical part of the aspect of Quantum Physics ….

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: .. that is not just stranger than we think. As Deepak mentioned, it’s just not stranger than we think, but stranger than we can think.

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: … which takes us into the whole idea that to understand it is to subjectively experience it.

Dr. B: That’s right. To really understand it is to subjectively… this is very, very true and beautifully put, George. Mankind cannot be satisfied with a mental understanding. That is not really an understanding. True understanding is experience. Only what we experience, we truly understand, and that’s really the invitation that is the return of the Veda today.

GQ: And also, and that’s the reason why, you know, doing the deep spiritual work, you know …

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: … not just embracing the idea of meditation, but really, really learning how to practice it, and to be able to connect with that inner experience. And also Debashish, the other obscuration which is very interesting is that even on the level of such phenomena as “The Secret”, even on the level of such phenomena as the Science of Mind, even on the level of so many the connected … even Deepak Chopra’s “Seven Spiritual Laws”, you know.

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: These are looked at in terms of …. Many spiritual seekers are looking at this as their way to prosperity ….their way to manifestations ….

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: …and that is part of the obscuration.

Dr. B: Yes.

GQ: Because it obscures the quest for the direct inner deep experience

Dr. B: You are really quite absolutely right, George. I mean it takes discipline and rigor and it isn’t just by a set of teachings that we can do whatever we think, but in changing our consciousness through the technologies of meditation and yoga, through the processes of yoga, that we can understand the fulfillment of that return of the Veda.

GQ: And that is not to say that those paths are not wonderful and legitimate, because, you know, they bring out a certain quality of life.

Dr. B: Sure, everything at the beginning, everything has a chance. Everything is the initiation of the change of modality and so, you know, we should embrace all these sort of phenomena and yet we should go deeper, guide ourselves into the experience.

GQ: So, Dr. Banerji I want to thank you so much. We have had a wonderful show today and I am looking forward to the next show with you and I’m just absolutely looking forward to it. It has been really wonderful.

Dr. B: Thank you for conducting this great journey for all of us.

GQ: Thank you again and we will see you on the next show. You’ll be joining us again on the next show so I’ll see you then.

Dr. B: Thank you.

GQ: Okay.

I hoped you enjoyed today’s show. Return next week when Dr. Banerji gives another wonderful discourse on how Purusha returns as pure spirit actually and by all of its names and relations. I want to thank my producer Gary Hoffman and I want to thank Kayren Lyle for her professional input. I want to thank my friend Gina Cloud at Contact Talk Radio and my friends at KPFK Radio, Michelle Anton, Anita Valle and Bobby Zeno for inspiring me to do this 12-part series. So thanks again for being with us and I’ll see you on the next show.

Announcer: Thank you for listening to Return of the Veda with George Quant. Tune in next week for more insight into the wisdom of the Vedic seers. Hear the revelations of the pioneers of quantum physics and discover the da Vinci code of meditation research in the chronicles of meditation segments. For more information on George Quant’s _________


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