American Institute of Vedic Studies
Founded and directed by Dr. David Frawley, (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)
The American Institute of Vedic Studies is a web-based educational center providing a broad range of resources and publications for an international audience. It focuses on Ayurveda, Yoga-Vedanta, Vedic astrology, and their interconnections. It provides examinations of Veda and Tantra along with the background system of Hinduism or ‘Sanatana Dharma’. It emphasizes bringing together the greater Yoga tradition in an integral manner with regard to its Vedic origins. It holds a special regard for the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni, and Sri Aurobindo.
Founded and directed by Vedacharya David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), the Vedic Institute serves as a vehicle for his work, offering on-line access to go along with his many published writings. The institute works with associated organizations throughout the world. It encourages a deeper study of the Vedic teachings in all forms and branches and is interdisciplinary in approach.
In light of the information age, and the publication basis of our work, the institute is aiming to develop a greater on-line access to our work and that of our friends and associates. This has begun with a new website design in the summer of 2012, and regular updates will continue, including bringing our courses on-line over the next year. Our website addresses our international audience, its views and its concerns, and tries to maintain a global perspective.
Acharya Frawley founded the ‘Vedic Research Center’ in 1980 as a vehicle for his work on the Vedas that he had been pursuing since 1970. This early work focused on research into theRigveda, the oldest Vedic text, along with a translation of Vedic hymns. In 1988, Vamadeva expanded the center into the ‘American Institute of Vedic Studies‘ to promote additional study in Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. Yet the Vedic research has continued and formed the background of this work, affording it a special Vedic angle. The Vedic Yoga remains the prime concern for future projects.
Though called ‘American Institute of Vedic Studies,’ we have many foreign web visitors, particularly from India, and address special topics relevant to India. Our webmaster is located in Goa, India, which gives our site a special India flavor and language.
As our work is educational and web-based, you can easily connect with us through the internet, including our many on-line articles. Note that we do not have an on-site center that is open to the public. We do not operate any clinic or store for people to visit or receive treatments. You are always welcome to email us with your interests and concerns. Our Vedanet resources feature over a hundred listings in the Vedic field, including various schools and training programs. We view our center as but one facet of the greater and growing Vedic universe.
We have several special fields of research:
- Translations and interpretations of the Vedas, particularly the Rig Veda, and an explication of the original Vedic Yoga.
- Vedic Yoga and teaching prime Vedic practices of mantra, pranayama and meditation.
- Projection of Vedic knowledge in a modern context for the coming millennium as Sanatana Dharma or the Eternal Tradition.
- Vedic and Tantric mantras and their practical application, connecting to nature and Self-realization.
- Vedic Shaivism: the Integration of Shaivite and Shakti teachings or spiritual Tantra with the older Vedic teachings.
- Studies of Herbs, including in the Himalayas.
The background and philosophy of the American Institute of Vedic Studies can be understood by the following presentations of Vedic Knowledge and Hindu (Sanatana) Dharma.
The Vedas are a vast set of spiritual teachings dating from the dawn of history. They consist of the mantras of numerous great Himalayan yogis and seers, who were said to have founded the spiritual paths for humanity at the beginning of this world-age over ten thousand years ago. The Vedas are the origin of Hindu religion and culture and have influenced religions and philosophies all over the world. The Vedas contain the basis for the spiritual traditions of India that arose in the Himalayan region, including those of Yoga, Vedanta, Puranas, Tantra, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology. The Vedas also contain keys to the Pre-Christian traditions of all Indo-European peoples – the Greeks, Romans, Celts, Germans and Slavs – whose ancient languages and cultures resemble the Vedic. The Vedas reflect the ancient solar religions and enlightenment traditions that once dominated the world from Mexico to China.
As such, the Vedas represent the ancient global spiritual culture and yogic approach to life behind the earliest mystical traditions of the world and our deepest spiritual heritage as a species. The Vedas are centered in the deepest spiritual and self knowledge – the unity of the individual soul with the Divine. They teach us that there is only One Self in the universe, in which is bliss and liberation from the cycle of karma and rebirth. Vedic knowledge expands from this central point to help us understand the meaning of our entire existence on all levels including the physical body and the world of nature. The Vedas present the mantric key behind the entire process of cosmogenesis, but this key is cryptic and requires special insight and instruction in order to access it. Vedic science represents an integral spiritual science, necessary to bring about a truly harmonious global civilization. It provides both knowledge of our True Self as well as that of the conscious universe in which we live, revealing all the secrets of nature and natural law. As such, it is probably the most important body of knowledge for all humanity.
The Rig Veda is the oldest of the four Vedas and presents the key wisdom of the ancient Rishis. It reflects the power of the Divine Word or universal mantra. It is the most important Vedic text that all the others derive from or are based upon. The Yajur Veda presents the Vedic ritual, which inwardly is a practice of Yoga involving speech, breath and mind. About a third of it are mantras from the Rig Veda. The Sama Veda is the Veda of music and song showing the ecstasy of Self-realization. It consists entirely of Rig Veda mantras set to a different and more complex chants. The Atharva Veda provides additional special mantric insights for particular issues including healing. It contains many mantras from both Rig and Yajur Vedas, as well as many of its own.
The Brahmanas provide ritualistic interpretations of Vedic mantras that also reflect yogic and mantric practices, much like the Yajur Veda. The Aranyakas extend this knowledge on a meditational level. There are numerous and long Brahmana texts, notably Taittiriya and Satapatha, but only a few Aranyakas, notably Taittiriya and Aitareya.
The Upanishads are clearest and most understandable portion of the mysterious Vedas. They present the spiritual secret of the Vedas, the knowledge of the Supreme Self or Divine I-am. They contain many yogic secrets as well. There are over a dozen old Upanishads of the late Vedic period with over a hundred Upanishads from later times.
There are six limbs of the Vedas of which the most important is Jyotish or Astrology. The others are Chandas (Meter), Nirukta (Etymology), Shiksha (Pronunciation), Vyakarana (Grammar), and Kalpa (Ritual). Most of these deal with sound and mantra. Vedic astrology unfolds the entire science of time and karma, making it essential for our right living both individually and collectively. Knowledge of our birth chart through Vedic astrology helps us navigate through the winding streams of our karma toward the timeless goal of our soul. Jyotish has its own vast literature like the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra or the works of Varaha Mihira.
There are four Upavedas or Secondary Vedas of which the most important is Ayurveda or Vedic medicine. The others are Dhanur Veda (martial arts), Sthapatya Veda (Architecture) and Gandharva Veda (Music). Ayurveda is not just a medical system but shows us how to find well-being and harmony in terms of body, mind and soul, covering our entire nature physical, psychological and spiritual. Knowing our individual Ayurvedic constitution and the appropriate life-style for it we can maximize all the potentials of our being and attain the full life of our soul. Ayurveda has many classical texts like Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and the Ashtanga Hridaya of Vagbhatta.
Yoga is the practice of Vedic knowledge that develops our inner faculties through meditation, leading us ultimately to Self-realization. While there are many forms of Yoga, the main classical system is the eightfold or Ashtanga system which constitutes the Raja Yoga of Patanjali. This in turn reflects older traditions found in the Mahabharata, Puranas, Upanishads and Vedas. Raja Yoga is an integral science of asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation based upon dharmic living principles. Its popular physical side in the West today is only its outer aspect.
Vedanta is the practical philosophy that arises from the Upanishads and systematizes their teachings. Its Advaita or non-dualistic form, such as found in the works of Shankaracharya, teaches the unity of the soul (Jiva) and the Creator (Ishvara) in the Supreme Self (Paramatman) or Absolute (Brahman) beyond time, space and karma. Devotional philosophies of Vedanta, like those of Ramanuja, Madhva and Chaitanya, emphasize the Divine as the Supreme Person (Purushottama).
These are encyclopedias of sacred knowledge and stories, covering all aspects of life and culture. There are about twenty Puranas and two Itihasas, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the stories of Krishna and Rama. Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Jyotish are common topics in them, often explained in great detail. The Puranas are probablly the most extensive and profound yet neglected spiritual literature coming out of India.
Tantra is a profound yogic path of ritual, mantra, and meditation. It centers on the devotional worship of Lord Shiva and his consort, the Goddess or Divine Mother. Real Tantra is concerned with the integration of male and female energies in the psyche through internal yogic practices. The sexual Tantra popular in the West is only the lower side of this greater system.
Tantric insights and practices are important in Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology. The worship of the Ten Great Wisdom Forms of the Goddess (Dasha Mahavidya) is one of the key Tantric practices, as is the Sri Vidya or knowledge of Sri Yantra.
The following definition of Hinduism comes from the Supreme Court of India:
- Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophical matters and the Vedas as interpreted by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy.
- Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent’s point of view based on the realization that truth is many-sided.
- Acceptance by all six systems of Hindu philosophy (Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Vedanta and Mimamsa) of a great world rhythm, vast periods of creation, maintenance and dissolution that follow each other in endless succession.
- Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy of rebirth and preexistence of the soul.
- Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to liberation are many.
- Realization of the truth that though the Gods to be worshiped may be many, yet there are also Hindus who do not believe in the worship of images.
- Unlike other religions or religious creeds the Hindu religion is not tied down to any final set of philosophical concepts or beliefs as such.
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