Why Have a Forum?
Shabda Forums started out as an attempt to answer questions raised by readers of the books published by Shabda Press and the blog posts published here. The discussion, however, is not limited to these books and blogs. Anything connected to Vedic philosophy and science can potentially be discussed.
The forum is open to anyone and the content is searchable by anyone, including search engines. We don’t like to answer personal questions, or something that is not of general relevance. We are not unsympathetic to personal issues, but we don’t wish to get involved in anyone’s personal problems.
Since the content of the forum is complementary to the Books and Blogs noted above, we recommend that you read these too. You can read the books and/or blogs, and post topics here. Or you can start with topics here, and then use the Books and Blogs later. It is better to ask intelligent and informed questions unless you are a beginner. We appreciate and welcome your attempts to educate yourself.
Pros and Cons of a Forum
The question and answer method of learning has been used in the Vedic tradition since antiquity. Many Upaniśads and Purāṇas are formulated in precisely this style, and they sometimes describe very long conversations, lasting several days. The Śrimad Bhāgavatam for instance is one conversation lasting seven continuous days. The Bhagavad-Gita is also a several-hour-long conversation before the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Shabda Forums can be seen as the continuation of the same style of learning.
However, in the conversations of antiquity, the Vedic worldview was not alien to those asking about it. The existence of the soul, God, and karma was not in question. That material nature is qualities (rather than quantities) was never in question. That life exists in various parts of the universe, with higher living entities (demigods) controlling the world of lower living entities (humans and animals) was not in question. That transcendence from this world is the goal of life was not in question. Within this agreement, the conversation was more productive, as the speakers and listeners agreed on the basics.
This is not true today and conversations are less productive because most of the time is spent trying to agree on a common set of assumptions. Even if we appear to use the same words, we often intend different meanings. You can imagine the difficulties in a conversation without a common vocabulary.
This problem can be minimized if we know that in Vedic philosophy common words like space, time, causality, God, soul, matter, reason, experience, etc. have different meanings than commonly prevalent today. Learning Vedic philosophy means learning a new vocabulary. It requires more commitment than a casual conversation, or even formal school education that employs a widely prevalent vocabulary.
Guidance on the Best Use
Learning Vedic philosophy is about personal transformation. We can begin by learning to think in a different way. Personal transformations are not easy, quick, or simple. Rather than try to fit Vedic knowledge into the molds of our minds, we should try to mold our minds to fit Vedic philosophy. Any difficulty we feel in this process is quite natural. Only time and repetition are cure to this problem.
As a rule of thumb, everything we talk about can be realized by practice and should ideally be realized by practice. Vedic philosophy is called darshan which means “vision” and “perception”. There is a process of perceiving the reality that lies behind the sense perceivable phenomena. In fact, there are hundreds of realities behind the sense perceivable phenomena. In Sāñkhya, these are identified as the senses, mind, intellect, ego, moral sense, the unconscious, the soul, and various realms of transcendence all the way to the Supreme Person. Everything can be perceived and there is a process by which our perception is enhanced to perceive it. Everyone can and should try to develop this perception through practice.
Discussions are not substitutes for perception and perception is not a prerequisite for discussion. Nevertheless, the discussion is always more fruitful when there is also perception. Hence, if something is not understood, the reason most likely is perception. We try to substitute that perception of deeper reality with the effects of deeper reality on the sense perceivable phenomena. This is in the hope that people will realize that there is more to reality than what we can perceive by our senses.