Acharya David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)
Vedacharya David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is a western born teacher in the Vedic tradition. In India, Vamadeva is recognized as a Vedacharya (Vedic teacher), and includes in his scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient Vedic texts.
In India, Vamadeva’s translations and interpretations of the ancient Vedic teachings have been acclaimed in both spiritual and scholarly circles. He has worked extensively teaching, writing, lecturing, conducting research and helping establish schools and associations in related Vedic fields over the last more than three decades.
Vamadeva sees his role as a “Vedic educator” helping to revive Vedic knowledge in an interdisciplinary approach for the planetary age. He regards himself as a translator to help empower people to use Vedic systems to enhance their lives and aid in their greater Self-realization.
Vamadeva has worked in several different healing and scholarly fields, with some degree of specialization over certain periods of time. Yet he has endeavored to approach each with a degree of specificity, providing both the background philosophy and practical teachings. For a good overview of his work and background, it is best to examine his book Yoga and the Sacred Fire: Self-Healing and Planetary Transformation (2005). Presently Vamadeva is working on new book on the Vedic Yoga.
Phillip Goldberg in his popular book American Veda (page 223) recognizes Vamadeva (David Frawley) as one of the main acharyas of Vedanta-Yoga in the West today, as well as noting his influence in India as a Vedacharya. Note various comments about his work below.
“Those who know (vidvaamsah) will confirm that the works of Shri Vamadeva Shastri are distinguished by their authenticity. This is so because they are based on (1) his personal quest and experience (2) deep dwelling into the texts and (3) oral learning received from many authentic teachers who are experts in their areas of knowledge. Shri Vamadeva Shastri (Acharya David Frawley) has done this great service to many that he has offered access into knowledge that was often hitherto inaccessible to an average western seeker.”
Swami Veda Bharati, Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, Rishikesh
“David Frawley is one of the most important scholars of Ayurveda and Vedic Science today. I have great respect and admiration for his knowledge and the way he has expounded the ancient wisdom of the Vedas.”
“Frawley is an Indian in an American body. The ease with which he enters into the spiritual of the Indian tradition and renders its deeper concepts in terms of modern thought shows an unusual familiarity with this ancient wisdom.”
M.P. Pandit, Secretary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram
“Certainly America’s most singular practicing Hindu.”
Ashok Malik, India Today
“David Frawley is a formidable scholar of Vedanta and easily the best known Western Acharya of the Vedic wisdom.”
Ashish Sharma, Indian Express, the Express Magazine
Reviving Traditional Ayurveda
Vamadeva is a proponent of ‘traditional Ayurveda’, the older Vedic or Vaidya approach which incorporates Yoga, Vedic astrology, and Vedanta into its teachings. He is working to revive traditional Ayurveda both in the contexts of modern Ayurveda in India and popular Ayurveda in the western world. He is more than an ordinary Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner but a master educator in the field of Ayurveda and Vedic studies. Vamadeva has helped start a number of Ayurvedic schools and organizations, and his innovative teachings on Ayurveda have been used extensively by Ayurvedic groups throughout the world including in Ayurvedic schools in India. He is recognized as one of the most important Ayurvedic teachers and acharyas today.
Vamadeva’s main teacher of Ayurveda was Dr. B. L. Vashta of Bombay and Pune (1919-1997), note photo left. For ten years he remained under the guidance of Dr. Vashta, visiting him regularly in India. Dr. Vashta, a graduate of one of the first Ayurveda programs in India in 1941, wrote many books on Ayurveda and helped formulate Ayurvedic products for Ayurvedic companies. He was also a leading journalist in the state of Maharashtra and became an important guide for Vamadeva. Vashta taught him the value of traditional Ayurveda.
In America, Vamadeva studied Ayurveda with Dr. Vasant Lad, noted Ayurvedic teacher and author. Vamadeva taught regularly along with Dr. Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in 1983-1986 and has remained on the visiting faculty since. Along with Dr. Lad, he wrote the Yoga of Herbs (1986), which was probably the first book integrating western herbs into Ayurveda. Lad remains an important influence on Vamadeva’s work. They share a similar orientation to Ayurveda and the Vedic sciences.
Vamadeva’s main areas of specialization in Ayurveda are herbal medicine, Ayurveda and the mind, and Ayurveda and Yoga. He has written many books on Ayurveda including the Yoga of Herbs, Ayurvedic Healing (with a foreword by B. L. Vashta, 1989), Ayurveda and the Mind (1996), Yoga and Ayurveda (1999), Ayurveda, Nature’s Medicine (with Subhash Ranade, 2001), and Ayurveda and Marma Therapy (with Ranade and Lele, 2003).
Work with Herbal Medicine
New Light on the Vedas – Sri Aurobindo
Vamadeva began his study of the Vedas in 1971 through the works of Sri Aurobindo and started to study the Sanskrit language. In 1979, M.P. Pandit of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram gave his support to his work and personally was responsible for publishing dozens of Vamadeva’s Vedic articles and translations in various Sri Aurobindo publications in India, which occurred regularly from 1980-1984 in World Union, the Advent and Sri Aurobindo’s Action. Pandit first awakened Vamadeva to his “Vedic mission” and encouraged him up to his passing in 1994. Pandit helped publish Vamadeva’s first book in India, the Creative Vision of the Early Upanishads (1982) and serialized material from two of his other books, Self-realization and the Supermind in the Rig Veda (1979), and the Heart of the Yajur Veda (1982).
Vamadeva’s Vedic studies have included the early Upanishads, the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda, and several Brahmanas and Aranyakas, which he has gone over in the original Sanskrit. Vamadeva has made special studies of the Rig Vedic hymn. Vamadeva has followed a spiritual interpretation of Vedic texts, reflecting the work of Sri Aurobindo and Ganapati Muni, showing the yogic meaning of the Vedic mantras, which has remained the inspiration for all that he has attempted.
In 1986, he brought out a volume of his translations from the Rig Veda in India under the title, Hymns from the Golden Age (Motilal Banarsidass, 1986). A revised version of the book came out in the USA and later again in India under the title Wisdom of the Ancient Seers: Selected Mantras from the Rig Veda (1993).
Yoga, Vedanta, Mantra and Meditation
Vamadeva has been a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of South India, since 1970. He carries on the work of Ganapati Muni, one of Maharshi’s chief disciples, whose teachings he received through K. Natesan of the Ramanashram in 1991. He was in regular contact with Natesan up to his passing in 2009 at the age of 96, photo below. Natesan carried both the legacy of Ramana Maharshi and Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni, a great modern Sanskrit writer and a great Raja Yogi as well.
Ganapati Muni’s work that he has taken up includes both the Vedas and Tantra, as well as Ayurveda and Jyotish. Natesan has brought out the Muni’s Sanskrit work in eleven volumes. Vamadeva continues to study and translate the Muni’s great stotras and sutras and add the Muni’s insights into his writings. His study of Vedantic meditation methods, particularly the practice of Self-inquiry as taught by Ramana Maharshi, is the subject of his book, Vedantic Meditation: Lighting the Flame of Awareness (2000).
Vamadeva’s study of Ganapati Muni’s work was the basis of his book Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses (1994), which relates to the deeper aspects of Tantric spiritual and mantric practices. The Muni’s work is also part of his recent, Inner Tantric Yoga: Working with the Universal Shakti (2008).
Vamadeva has spoken before the main Ramana Maharshi centers (Ramana Kendras) in India and has written for the Mountain Path, the ashram’s main publication and an important resource on the direct path of Self-Inquiry.
Since 1994 he has been in contact with the noted South Indian guru, Sivananda Murthy of Andhra Pradesh (Vishakhpatnam), who is also of Ramana’s line and a great yogi as well, with connections to Trailinga Swami. He has worked with Sivananda Murty on the study of the Upanishads.
Vamadeva wrote the foreword to Sadguru Sivananda Murty’s Katha Yoga, a deep yogic tudy of the Katha Upanishad. Sivananda Murty provided an introduction Vamadeva’s book Universal Hinduism. Vamadeva considers Sadguru Sivananda Murty to be one of the most important living spiritual masters in India today. Sadguru is the head of a Sivadvaita-Shaktivasishta order.
Acharya Frawley’s book Yoga, the Greater Tradition (2008) shows a broad view of Yoga and the need to develop its many traditional connections with all aspects of Vedic knowledge. His book on mantra, Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound (2010) has been regarded as a prime resource on mantra and meditation practice.
Spreading Vedic Astrology
Vamadeva began studying Vedic astrology (Jyotish) as part of his Vedic research in the early seventies and brought out a course in the subject in 1985. He continues to use Vedic astrology, particularly in the context of Yoga and Ayurveda, for a deeper understanding of Vedic wisdom.
Vamadeva wrote Astrology of the Seers (1990), one of the first books on Vedic astrology published in the West. This was followed by Ayurvedic Astrology (2005), which pioneers the field of ‘Ayurvedic Astrology’. In 1997, he brought out the book the Oracle of Rama (1997), an important Hindu oracle, which in 2005 has been made into a beautiful set of cards through Mandala Press.
In 1992 Vamadeva helped convene the first major American Conference on Vedic Astrology, which led to the founding of the American Council of Vedic Astrology (ACVA) the following year 1993. He became the first president of the organization for ten years (1993-2003), working with Dennis Harness as the executive vice-president. He later became a board member of the American College of Vedic Astrology from 2003-2011, and after 2011, of the Council of Vedic Astrology. He was a patron/founder of the British Association of Vedic Astrology (BAVA).
Vamadeva’s main Vedic astrology teacher was Dr. B.V. Raman (1916-1998), regarded by many as the greatest Vedic astrologer of modern India and founder of the Astrological Magazine. He has also been associated with Gayatri Vasudev, K.S. Charak, R. Santhanam, K.N. Rao and Bepin Behari. He works closely with Chakrapani Ullal, and considers Chakrapani to be his main teacher after Dr. Raman.
Vamadeva was one of the first Americans to receive Jyotish Kovid title from the Indian Council of Astrological Sciences (ICAS, 1993), the largest Vedic astrology association in the world, followed by the title Jyotish Vachaspati in 1996, and Jyotish Medha Prajna in 2012. He has researched medical astrology and psychology and astrology, as well as the historical origins of Vedic astrology, bringing out ancient Vedic material on the Nakshatras. In Oct. of 2010, he was one of the main guests for the World Council on Mundane Astrology convened by Sri Sadguru Sivananda Murty in Vishakhapatnam, India.
After seeing how the spiritual meaning of the Vedas had been misinterpreted by modern scholars, Vamadeva could easily see how the historical side of the Vedas had similarly been distorted. This led him to a revision of ancient history. His work revising the history of ancient India has brought him into contact with major archeologists and historians. He has has many published books on the Vedas and Ancient India. Note his picture with Pramukh Swami of the Swaminarayan order. His Hidden Horizons: Unearthing Ten Thousand Years of Indian Culture (2007) is a special publication of the Swaminarayan Order (BAPS).
His book on ancient India, Gods, Sages and Kings (1991) was one of the first to propose a new model of history for ancient India. A shorter version of this material Myth of the Aryan Invasion (Voice of India 1994, 2001) has been a popular book on the subject.
Along with Georg Feuerstein and Subhash Kak, he wrote In Search of the Cradle of Civilization (1995) and along with N.S. Rajaram, Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization (1994). His Rig Veda and the History of India (2001) takes this work further, setting forth a reconstruction of the history of ancient India in a Vedic light. Quotes from Frawley’s books on ancient India and an interview with him were featured in Grahman Hancock’s Underworld, Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age book and television series.
Vamadeva has written several books on contemporary issues in India, particularly the challenges to dharmic and yogic culture posed by modern civilization. He views Hinduism in the light of its origins as ‘Sanatana Dharma’, the Universal or Eternal Tradition that is relevant to all human beings.
His books on Sanatana Dharma began with From the River of Heaven: Hindu and Vedic Knowledge for the Modern Age (1991). Additional titles addressing more contemporary issues published through Voice of India in Delhi include Arise Arjuna (1995), Awaken Bharata (1998), and How I Became a Hindu: My Discovery of Vedic Dharma (2000), countering common stereotypes. His book Hinduism: the Eternal Tradition (1995) has been used by ashrams and temples. His Universal Hinduism: Towards a New Vision of Sanatana Dharma (2010) shows its global relevance.
Acharya Frawley’s main teacher of Hindu Dharma was Ram Swarup of Delhi (1921-1998), photo to the upper left, whom Hinduism Today called the most important modern writer on Hinduism, with whom he was associated with from 1992. Ram Swarup wrote the foreword to Vamadeva’s Awaken Bharata. Vamadeva wrote the forewords for Ram Swarup’s collected works, including, On Hinduism; Meditations, Gods, Yogas; and the Word as Revelation: Names of Gods, and other volumes of his collected works.