David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)
David Frawley in 2007
|Born||September 21, 1950|
Wisconsin, United States
|Occupation||Vedacharya, Ayurvedic teacher, Vedic astrologer, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Yogini Shambhavi Chopra|
He has written numerous books on topics spanning the Vedas, Hinduism, Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology. Whilst rejected by academia as fringe sectarian scholarship, his works have been popular among the common masses. In 2015 he was honored by the Government of India with the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India.
Early life and educationEdit
David Frawley was born to a Catholic family in Wisconsin and had nine siblings. Though largely an autodidact, Frawley studied under Dr. B. L. Vashta of Mumbai for a span of about a decade and had also obtained a Doctor of Oriental Medicine degree via a correspondence course from the International Institute of Chinese Medicine, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Views and worksEdit
Frawley is the founder and the sole instructor at the American Institute of Vedic Studies at Santa Fe, New Mexico and is a former President of the American Council of Vedic Astrology. He often publishes in pro-Hindutva vernacular newspapers in the UK and is a strong advocate of the Hindu Holocaust hypothesis.
Frawley rejects the Indo-Aryan migration theory in favor of the Indigenous Aryans theory; accusing his opponents of having a “European missionary bias”. Martha Nussbaum and others consider him to be the most determined opponent in this regard. In The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India, Frawley has criticized the 19th-century racial interpretations of Indian prehistory and rejects the theory of a conflict between invading caucasoid Aryans and Dravidians.
In the sphere of market-economics, Frawley opposes socialism, claiming that such policies have reduced citizens to beggars.
Edwin Bryant notes that a Westerner rejecting the Aryan Migration Theory has an obvious appeal in India and Frawley (along with Koenraad Elst) fits in it, perfectly. Thus, despite being rejected by academia, he has been much more successful in the popular market and his works are clearly directed and articulated at such audiences.
Frawley has been well-received by the Indian community and has a significant effect upon them and the diaspora population. Rajiv Mehrotra (2003) of the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, India, interviewed Frawley as one of twenty important spiritual teachers in his book The Mind of the Guru. Frawley's Swami Vivekananda: The Maker of a New Era in Global Spirituality occurs in a Ramakrishna Mission book anthology, published in honor of the one hundred and fiftieth birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
Prabuddha Bharata (2014), a publication of the Ramakrishna Order, reviewed Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound as "a revelation in terms of the astonishing width of literature". Guy Beck glowingly praised In Search of the Cradle of Civilization in a review for the Yoga Journal. Frawley has a significant following on Twitter, as well.
He has been described as a prominent figure of the Hindutva movement and numerous scholars have also described him as a Hindutva ideologue and apologist. He has been widely accused of practicing historical negationism.
Meera Nanda asserts that Frawley is a member of the Hindu far right, who decries Islam and Christianity as religion for the lower intellects and whose works feature a Hindu Supremacist spin. Sudeshna Guha of Cambridge University notes him to be a sectarian non-scholar and as a proponent of a broader scheme for establishing a nationalist history. Irfan Habib rejected considering Frawley as a scholar, and instead, noted him to be a Hindutva pamphleteer, who "telescoped the past to serve the present" and was not minimally suitable of being defined as a scholar, of any kind. Bryant notes him to be an unambiguously pro-Hindu scholar. Peter Heehs deems of him to be part of a group of reactionary orientalists, who professed an avid dislike for the Oriental-Marxist school of historiography and hence, chose to rewrite the history of India but without any training in relevant disciplines; he also accused Frawley of misappropriating Aurobindo's nuanced stance on the Indigenous Aryans hypothesis.
Bruce Lincoln attributes Frawley's ideas to "parochial nationalism", terming them "exercises in scholarship (= myth + footnotes)", where archaeological data spanning several millennia is selectively invoked, with no textual sources to control the inquiry, in support of the theorists' desired narrative. His proposed equivalence of Ayurveda with vedic healing traditions has been rejected by other Indologists and David Hardiman considers Frawley's assertion to be part of a wider Hindu-nationalist quest. Joseph Alter notes that his writings 'play into the politics of nationalism' and remarks of them to be controversial from an academic locus.
In a review of Hymns from the Golden Age: Selected Hymns from the Rig Veda with Yogic Interpretation for the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Richard G. Salomon heavily criticized Frawley's fanciful approach that was in complete contrast to the available linguistic and scholarly evidence and perpetuated Vedic myths in what seemed to be a bid to attract readers for the recreation of the ancient spiritual kingdom of the Aryans.
A review by M. K. Dhavalikar in Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute called In Search of the Cradle of Civilization a "beautifully printed" contribution that made a strong case for their indigenous theory against the supposed migratory hypotheses but chose to remain silent on certain crucial aspects which need to be convincingly explained. Prema Kurien noted that the book sought to distinguish expatriate Hindu Americans from other minority groups by demonstrating their superior racial and cultural ties with the Europeans.
Dhavalikar also reviewed The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India and found it to be unsupported by archaeological evidence. Irfan Habib criticized the premises of his invoking the Sarasvati River in the book, as an assault against common sense and deemed that all claims built upon its greatness ought be treated as castles in the air.
An essay in Cultural Anthropology noted Frawley's Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide to be a self-help book, that presented Ayurveda in a simple, elegant and well-organised fashion and chose to be respectful of cultural boundaries and relevant intricacies.
Referring to his book Yoga and Ayurveda, Frawley is mentioned as one of the main yoga teachers of Deepak Chopra and David Simon in their book, the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga (2005). In 2015, Chopra said of Frawley's book, Shiva, the Lord of Yoga, "Vamadeva Shastri has been a spiritual guide and mentor of mine for several decades. For anyone who is serious about the journey to higher divine consciousness, this book is yet another jewel from him."
In 2015, the South Indian Education Society (SIES) in Mumbai, India, an affiliate of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, conferred upon him their special "National Eminence Award" as an “international expert in the fields of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Vedic Astrology.”
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It is important to note the marriage between far-right-wing Hindutva ideology and western New Ageism in the works of writers like David Frawley (1994, 1995a, 1995b) who is both a key apologist for the Hindutva movement and the author of various New Age books on Vedic astrology, oracles and yoga
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