It is often considered that the Vedic Aryans are a race of people. Aryan actually means a standard of living, an ideal. It was the Sanskrit speaking people of thousands of years ago that gave the word arya to signify a gentleman, an ideal person, someone on the path of purity. It was a term meant for those who were on the cutting edge of social evolution. Another way of interpreting the word aryan is that ar also means white or clear. Ya refers to God. Ya also refers to Yadu, or Krishna. Thus, aryan means those who have, or are developing, a clear path or a clear consciousness toward God.
In this way, we can understand that Aryanism, or Vedic culture, is a way of life. It is not a race of people or a sectarian creed or religion. It belongs to no particular country or race. It is a path that upholds a code of conduct which values peace and happiness and justice for all. Thus, it is a path open for all who want to be trained to be happy with simple living and high thinking, while engaged in proper conduct, a moral life, and selfless service to humanity. Therefore, anyone who wants to live in such a manner may be called an Aryan, a member of the Vedic culture, no matter from which race or country a person may come.
So what does it mean to follow this Vedic Aryan path? It generally means to learn the ways of a spiritually progressed person. This includes understanding one's spiritual identity, knowing that he or she is not the body but is spirit soul, that there is karma for one's actions, and rebirth in another life after death. Thus, everyone will automatically reap the reward or punishment for his own good or evil thoughts, words, and deeds. By having a solid understanding of such spiritual knowledge, there is automatically a respect for all others regardless of race, sex, or species. This brings a moral and peaceful social behavior in everybody toward everyone. By having respect for everyone's spiritual identity, this also brings an innate happiness in us all. We can understand that we are only visiting this planet for a short time, and that we are all in this together. In other words, my contribution to your well-being, especially spiritual well-being, will be an automatic contribution to my own existence. In this way, society at large is in a state of constant improvement. That is the goal of the Vedic Aryan way of life.
Not everyone, however, wants to reach this stage of life or follow this path. That is why the Vedic system installs rules for moral behavior and regulatory sacraments and practices beginning from the prenatal stage all the way through death. Of course, many of these moralistic rules are also quite common in other forms of religion and behavior. However, anybody who is unwilling to follow such rules for a balanced moral standard is dubbed a non-Aryan. Such a person is not on the spiritual path of life, regardless of what other standards or principles of etiquette he may follow. So a person who lacks spiritual tendencies and acts on the bodily platform of life, willing to do whatever he likes, or who thinks he is a white body, or a black body, or from this country or that, and who holds loyalty only to that conception and shows it by criticizing everyone who is not like him, is a non-Aryan. He may hold love for his family and those who are like him, but makes no elevating contribution to the rest of society. Furthermore, he often instills into his children the same prejudice that he carries, thus perpetuating this view and the misunderstandings of life that he has. In this way, we can see the need to return to the Vedic standards of life through authentic spiritual education.
Therefore, the Sanskrit word Aryan means a way of life that aims at the elevation of everyone in society to a higher level of consciousness. It means to assist ourselves through a disciplined and godly life to understand the purpose of our existence as well as to become a spiritually realized person. It also means that we help every other individual soul because by helping others we help ourselves. That itself is a natural state of being when we can perceive God as the Supersoul, Paramatma, within everyone. All of this is encouraged by, and increases, a natural faith in an all-pervading Supreme Being. Such faith and focus on the Supreme Being can elevate us to return to our real spiritual home after death, which is one of the most important goals of the Vedic lifestyle.
Published with the kind permission of Stephen Knapp
Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana) is the President and Treasurer of the Vedic Friends Association (www.vedicfriends.org). He has been researching Vedic spirituality and comparative religious study for over 30 years in a variety of settings. He has directly engaged in those spiritual disciplines that have been recommended for hundreds of years. He continued his study of Vedic knowledge and practice under the guidance of a spiritual master to get the insights and realizations that are normally absent from the ordinary academic atmosphere. Through this process he has been initiated into the genuine and authorized spiritual line of the Brahma-Madhava-Gaudiya sampradaya, or disciplic succession, under the sanction of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. He has also extensively travelled throughout India to most of the major holy sights and more, and is known for his slide shows on his travels to the holy places and spiritual festivals of India (even nicknamed "the slide show acharya"), and for his lectures on the Vedic and Indian philosophy. He has written several books on the science and spiritual practice of Vedic culture and Eastern philosophy.
Visit his website, at: http://www.stephen-knapp.com.
You can email him at: Srinandan@aol.com.
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