“The Rishi envisions a dharmic culture relative to the organization of society, the economy, science, art, literature and medicine. But he or she does so from a state of higher consciousness, not merely from the standpoint of the human intellect or ego, or according to any particular social or political theory or bias.” – Pandit Vamadeva Shastri
The dominant model of spiritual leadership in the history of India, from ancient to modern times, is that of the Rishi, the seer of universal truth.
The ancient Vedic rishis like Vasishta and Vishvamitra are credited with establishing the dharmic foundation for Indian culture (Bharatiya Sanskriti) over five thousand years ago, on both spiritual and mundane levels.
Great Rishis have come periodically over the centuries in India, up to recent times such as Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi and Swami Vivekananda, to maintain a deep level of guidance for this sacred land of Bharat.
Today, in a new twenty-first century, and complex high tech global era, we above all need a new group of modern Rishis with a vision both rooted in the ancient Rishi wisdom but capable of unfolding a new future that has its own new potentials as well.
The Rishi is first of all the enlightened Yogi and meditative sage, with access to the cosmic mind, who develops for humanity the paths to Self-realization and universal consciousness that is the true and highest goal of human life.
Yet the Rishi is also one who creates culture in the broadest and highest sense of the term (bhuta-krit, loka-krit). The Rishi envisions a dharmic culture relative to the organization of society, the economy, science, art, literature and medicine. But he or she does so from a state of higher consciousness, not merely from the standpoint of the human intellect or ego, or according to any particular social or political theory or bias.
The Rishi is linked to the cosmic mind and is not limited to the human brain for his knowledge, which is not secondhand information but direct wisdom from the universe itself. The cosmic mind thinks in terms of organic wholes and existential powers, recognizing an integral and comprehensive reality in which a unity of consciousness in the universe sustains innumerable diverse processes from subatomic to supragalactic levels in a mutually supportive and interdependent network of forces.
The Rishi mind is different from the ordinary human intellect that is caught up in duality, division, analysis, limited views and contradictory opinions. The human intellect tends to propose mechanical solutions to human problems that can damage the very fabric of life, much as we saw in the last century dominated by such trends as consumerism, socialism, fascism and communism, which have all been found to be wanting.
The Rishi mind will bring about lasting solutions for human problems that are in harmony with all of nature and with the universe as a whole – that arise organically from within us with love and wisdom and are not imposed artificially from the outside by force.
The role of the Rishi is not simply to inform but also to inspire – to awaken and motivate all beings to a higher purpose and eternal goal. That energy of inspiration is one of the key factors that we need today, particularly for the youth. It is not enough to have a good agenda and to follow it correctly. A deeper feeling and intuition is necessary that can adapt enduring principles to the ever-transformative movement of life.
True inspiration is also a higher aspiration – a calling for us to search out our highest potential as spiritual beings. This inner aspiration motivates us to continually expand our awareness, breaking down old constructs in favor of vaster and more adaptable formulations.
A new Rishi order must be capable of using the best in science, technology, the media and communication realms– the main factors in our global society today. But the Rishi will use these tools of technology for a higher idealism and self-transcendence – not merely for ordinary purposes of profit or enjoyment.
The Rishi gives the call to a new sacrifice or Yajna, a new way of service in which we learn to offer our individual lives for the manifestation of a higher awareness for all humanity. The Rishi honors the sacred order of life and brings the sacred into all that we do.
The Eternal Rishi Teachings
Vedanta promotes a higher Self-realization and Self-knowledge that is the essence of all true knowledge. Without knowing oneself, no other knowledge is effective and will ultimately lead to division and conflict. Yet true Self-knowledge is not a knowledge of body or mind but of the consciousness that dwells behind them and beyond time and space.
Yoga in the classical sense facilitates the integral development of body, mind and consciousness through asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation, so that we can access all our higher potentials in a comprehensive manner. It is the foundation for Vedanta.
The Rishi as a great Yogi will bring the vastness of the Yogic vision into all aspects of human action, thought and awareness. He or she will make all culture into a practice of Yoga or integration with the whole.
Ayurveda teaches us the healing and well-being of body and mind through natural methods of diet, exercise, herbs and massage. It not only addresses disease but promotes longevity and rejuvenation to help unfold our greater creativity and awareness.
All children and adults should learn the fundamentals of Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta. This is the root dharmic knowledge of India’s great heritage and relevant to the entire world, particularly in this age of globalization in which we need to understand life as a whole.
Jyotish or Vedic astrology provides an understanding of the secrets of time and karma that rule over our lives, so that our actions are aligned with the universal movement and reflect its efficacy and power.
Vastu gives an understanding of the powers of subtle directional influences, so that we remain in harmony with the energy currents in our natural environment and can create a sacred space in which to live.
Through Jyotish and Vastu we can understand time and space not only from an outer level but also within our own minds and hearts.
These Vedic sciences and disciplines have tremendous practical value for everyone and are universal in their knowledge. They should be given more attention worldwide.
In addition, the Rishi would restore Sanskrit as a universal language of mantra underlying and carrying the deeper knowledge, useful for modern science and psychology as well as for deeper meditational teachings.
The Rishi speaks the language of mantra, which enables us to focus our minds in concise patterns of sound, light, and energy that can extract the essence of truth from all that we see. Sanskrit can help us develop the deeper awareness to solve all the problems of life according to a cosmic vision.
Types of New Rishis
The Rishi political leader promotes a vision of global harmony, honoring all human beings as part of a single family, rooted in the greater family of the whole of life and all of existence.
The Rishi business leader promotes a vision of abundance as the natural right of all beings. India should follow the economics of Lakshmi, not those of scarcity. Abundance for all should be the aim, not simply wealth for a few.
The Rishi artist envisions a deep refinement of expression, using the tools of sound, color, form and light in order to elevate the mind and heart, not simply to stimulate or to entertain.
The Rishi scientist will uncover the unitary field consciousness behind the universe and reveal its unlimited creative powers and profound laws, whether in physics, biology, astronomy or medicine.
The Rishi educator will educate the whole human being, which is as universal soul carrying the powers of infinity and eternity for life, mind and consciousness.
The Rishi will also serve as a living example to follow. The Rishi is the supreme karma yogi who understands the highest truth and works to embody it in a creative manner for the benefit of all.
It is not we as separate individuals who can guide humanity to a better world. We must awaken the rishi vision, the inner Self or Atman of the Upanishads, the universal presence within the heart in order to propel us to our higher goal with certainty and with grace.
The Rishi ideal is indeed daunting to achieve, which may seem beyond our current capacities, but that ideal should propel us to reach for what is highest and not be content with ordinary goals. The Rishi potential exists within each one of us.
I am reminded of a verse from the Rigveda here: “The Rishis found the secret light, with the mantras of truth, they generated the Dawn.”
May we awaken to a new dawn and a new renaissance at both spiritual and cultural levels, honoring not only the outer physical sciences but also the inner science of consciousness.
The Rishi Vision embodied in the Gayatri mantra from the great Rishi Vishvamitra has guided Bharat in the past and can do so to for the future.
Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.
May we meditate upon the supreme transformative light of the divine solar creative power that it may awaken our intelligence.
May that inner sun of universal truth and pure consciousness arise within us. May all our thoughts become mantras full of light!
May this India Ideas Conclave help inaugurate a new Rishi vision for all of India and for the entire world.
Om Nama Paramarishibhyah!
Reverence to the Supreme Seers!
Om Sri Veda Purushaya Namah!
» Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) D. Litt., Padma Bhushan is a recognized Vedacharya (Vedic teacher). He includes in his studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient Vedic teachings going back to the Rigveda. He is the head of the American Institute of Vedic Studies.