The Art and Science of Vedic Counseling
- by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar
Reviewed by Bruce Davis
The Art and Science of Vedic Counseling by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar is aptly named. Their interest is as much in the art as the science of Vedic healing. The authors present and simplify the core elements of Vedic science, intending that practitioners and teachers of Jyotish, Yoga, Ayurveda and Vastu employ a wider range of these tools to guide and counsel their clients. In addition, they go beyond the more technical traditional knowledge to describe the art of Vedic counseling, with attention to the more relational and spiritual aspects of healing and growth that are a major part of the work of Vedic practitioners. As the authors point out, a discipline whose purpose is body, mind and spirit together, we should notice that two-thirds of the aim of this work is rightly devoted to mind and spirit.
The authors released their collaborative text in 2016, now almost six years prior to this current issue of the CVA Journal. As two masters of Vedic studies, the authors bring their two singular backgrounds as Vedic scholars and practitioners into the preparation of this book about the theory and clinical applications of Vedic counseling. We the readers become the beneficiaries of the merger of their diverse knowledge. This book is well worth the attention of practitioners and students of the Vedic arts and sciences, and its message is as timely now as it was then. Indeed it is a book that deeply explores the integration, knowledge and deeper intention of the ancient tradition of Vedanta, and as such will continue in its usefulness for many years to come.
The wide range of topics in Vedic Counseling is evidence of the broad knowledge of these authors—both traditional knowledge of the Vedic teachings as well as practical knowledge of their application in the process of caring for clients. One of their primary purposes with this book is to demonstrate that the value of each of the Vedic healing disciplines can be amplified greatly when it is understood and practiced in a way that integrates with the other Vedic disciplines. The beneficiary of this integrated approach is finally the client who is being served by this work. In this way, the efficacy of Jyotish would be enhanced with an active core knowledge of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Vastu, as well as the underlying principles of Vedic philosophy and Dharmic living.
But the intention of Vedic Counseling goes a step further, and for me, this is the book’s ultimate value. The Vedic counseling model that the authors present is much more than an integration of Vedic knowledge and tools. It is a radical step forward in the spiritual dimension of counseling for Vedic practitioners, in which the ultimate purpose of working with the client is not merely technical: curing a malady, preventing an illness, or finding the best day to start a new business, for example. What is most important about the release of this book is its “call” to all of us who study or practice the Vedic arts and sciences to ensure that our underlying purpose is not only physical or psychological but simultaneously profoundly spiritual.
Ultimately, according to the authors, our purpose with clients over time is to assist them with knowledge and practices that open to them richer and deeper life experiences. Coming out of the Vedic spiritual tradition, the integrated practices of Vedic counseling rightly serve the Dharma of that tradition. Providing Ayurvedic care for stomach aches, yoga for physical fitness, Jyotish to plan a wedding, and Vastu to simplify interior decorating all are at risk of missing the deeper meaning of these Vedic arts and sciences, unless the fundamental Dharma of Self-realization is not also part of the intention.
Although the book has been available for six years, a review of its content is timely. The authors speak powerfully to the continuing need for students and practitioners of Vedic arts and sciences to integrate the wider Vedic knowledge in their work, giving the client the benefit of a more comprehensive assessment and plan. They point to the dynamics of the healing process that transpires between practitioner and client when the work is going well. And they invite those oriented primarily to Vedic modes of care and counsel to expand their interest in and use of counseling tools from non-Vedic origins, which have the potential to deepen the counseling relationship and increase its effectiveness.
The authors set a high bar for the work of Vedic counselors. As I read this book, with its wealth of tools, core principles, Vedic disciplines, and goals for profound spiritual growth, it is clear that it will take many years of learning and practice to get anywhere close to the ideal. Reaching for proficiency as a Vedic counselor will itself be a lifelong practice.
The book succeeds in its stated intention. It not only offers a compelling and practical application of astrological wisdom towards global transformation, it provides unique insight into the usefulness of planetary energy as a paradigm for understanding the depth and range of the human psyche. As a book of “Vedic Astrology Appreciation,” it’s a suitable introduction for anyone, particularly those with some knowledge of Western Astrology since Laube references it in a number of places. But I believe the book to be of value even to those most experienced in Vedic Astrology. Its creative vision, delightful style, and cogent message make it a great read. Also, it’s important to step back at times from the intricacies of astrological technique and take a look at the broad perspective—understanding how basic concepts, thoroughly digested and assimilated, can become powerful agents of evolution.
Just What Is Vedic Counseling?
The authors propose an expanded approach to practice in the Vedic healing arts and sciences. We can’t say that this approach is new because it has its origins in a tradition that is thousands of years old, but it may be new or renewed for many of the readers of this book. Much complexity comes into the definition of “Vedic counseling” that the authors suggest, and for this reason, we find no single, succinct, or complete definition of the term. The definition arises from the wealth of Vedic knowledge, and it derives from many elements of the complex healing relationship that exists between Vedic practitioners and their clients.
Considering a complex definition from many levels and many vantage points is not unlike the parable of the blind men who do their best to define what an elephant is. Each perceives the reality of the huge animal from where he stands, so that what each knows is based on the specific and unique interaction he has with the elephant. The complexity of the elephant can ultimately be understood best when the knowledge gained from each viewpoint merges into a complex whole. In this way a more holistic definition of Vedic counseling emerges by incorporating the diverse needs and intentions of the practice.
A definition of Vedic counseling would look different, for example, from the viewpoint of an active Ayurvedic practitioner primarily working with symptomatic clients compared to a teacher of Yogic meditation whose client may be on a lifelong spiritual quest. The intention of the authors in this book is to create a complex definition that can embrace both of these situations, while at the same time affirming that the deeper intention of both of them is ultimately the same.
The authors point to the Jyotish aphorism, “Avert the danger that is yet to come….” This can mean two things. First, it can mean to adjust the life choices and directions to avoid harmful experiences. But it can also mean to help the client re-interpret challenging and uncomfortable events from the vantage point of higher consciousness. In this case it is not the events as such that are shifted but the client’s perception and interpretation of those events. Challenges that seem to threaten may be, as our colleague Dennis Flaherty is oft heard saying, “opportunities dressed up in work clothes.” So we may at times be able directly to guide a client out of harm’s way. But when we can’t, perhaps we will be able to help them shift to a different relationship with what is happening, in a way that reduces the suffering and optimizes the potential for growth.
When a complex definition is needed in scientific inquiry, the term “operant” definition is often applied. Often the definition of a complex process that is being observed is best allowed to arise from the activity within that process; that is, how the process “operates” becomes its working definition. Because Vedic counseling may have different specific intentions in diverse settings, with dissimilar practitioners in the various Vedic arts and sciences, and with clients who have dissimilar purposes in the work, the process of its practice will inevitably be complex. And a complex operant definition is what ultimately surfaces as the authors explore the nature and essence of Vedic counseling from a variety of vantage points.
The first part of the book approaches an understanding of Vedic counseling from a conceptual and philosophical viewpoint. The authors present fundamental “Principles of Vedic Counseling.” This is followed by a section focusing on “Living according to Your Dharma.” A third section, “The Practice of Vedic Counseling,” addresses more practical elements of counseling and describes the uniquely Vedic and spiritual dimensions of this counseling practice. Each of these sections of the book reveals how in various ways Vedic counseling ideally operates between practitioner and client to maximize the client’s healing and growth.
The authors explore various definitions of Vedic counseling as they deepen their exposition, especially through the first half of the book. Again, thinking in terms of an operant definition, each of their reflections points to the depth and complexity of a process that by its nature cannot be captured in a few succinct words. The complex definition becomes more meaningful as we endeavor to integrate its elements in our understanding.
In the Preface the authors set the stage for this exploration, saying, “We welcome the reader to the vast, dynamic and transformative field of Vedic counseling.” The Preface goes on to delineate “three primary aims” of Vedic counseling, compared to what is commonly understood as counseling in the West.
First is to bridge the gap between eastern and western forms of counseling and combine what is best in each.
Second is to integrate the different forms of Vedic counseling, such as found in Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish and Vastu, noting the relevance of each.
Third is to provide clear counseling skills for Vedic practitioners of all types, who may not be trained in these and can greatly benefit by them.
This purpose is further extended in the wonderful introduction by the revered Ayurvedic physician, Dr. Vasant Lad. “Counseling is an ancient Vedic art of providing guidance and motivation, balancing the body, mind, and consciousness.” Dr. Lad goes on to say, “In Vedic counseling, the patient is inspired with the right motivation, intention and attention, which then unfolds a deeper awareness that brings balance and healing on all levels.”
The authors proceed to offer further clarification of the uniqueness of Vedic counseling and its importance for our clients. In their words:
The Vedic counseling model reflects a dynamic and transformative system of Self-realization, with special teachings and practices for all levels of our nature as body, senses, mind, prana and consciousness. (pg. 19)
Vedic counseling rests upon a Vedic understanding of the nature of the human being and the nature of the greater universe. It requires recognizing an inner consciousness that guides all life from within—the inner guru or Divine presence, the Divine voice within us. It is not limited to ordinary knowledge through education, information, or outer systems and institutions, however helpful these may be. (pg. 20)
Vedic knowledge is part of an entire set of “Vedic sciences,” and does not stand by itself. Vedic counseling helps us to appreciate and access all these Vedic approaches along with their parallels in spiritual teaching and healing disciplines worldwide…. Vedic sciences are not simply sciences of the external world rooted in ideas and information but ways of harnessing the forces of the inner world of awareness, which can take us beyond the limitations of time, space, and person. (pg. 21)
Vedic science is a “qualitative science” that reveals and unfolds the sacred and immeasurable—the essence of life. It is not another quantitative approach that examines things from the outside. As such, Vedic knowledge leads us to a quantum leap in awareness, a revolution in higher consciousness and a greater integration with the universe. Vedic counseling is one of its primary tools and expressions, if not its very foundation. (pg. 21)
The remedy [to violent emotions] then, would not be to find a way to get our tangible human needs met, but rather to ascend beyond them and become one with Atman, or Spirit. In this way, spiritual satisfaction can alter egoic desires and our needs in life become fundamentally changed. From the locus of a limited being living in self-ignorance, there is always desire, fear and attachment but with the knowing of “I am that” or “What I am is Brahman,” there is absolute freedom and a sense of love for all. When this union happens there is no need to fix anything in our lives because everything is whole and enduring. (pp. 28, 29)
"Vedic counseling can be defined as karmic management…. Yet the goal of all karmic management is not simply to help us get what we want, or to further our actions in the realm of desire. It is to further the unfolding of our higher awareness that leads us beyond karmic bondage to the external world and into the creative response of Self-awareness…. We can move beyond time and karma only by contacting our eternal essence—the Self beyond karma, as the essence of our consciousness that is the witness of the mind.” (pg. 73)
Though each of these definitions has different nuances, we begin to understand that Vedic counseling is a discipline with profoundly spiritual intent. Its practice is clearly intended to be holistic, addressing physical, mental and spiritual dynamics of all sorts of people, men and women, children, elders, even whole families. I’m remembering when Family Medicine was in its reawakening as a mostly Allopathic health care discipline, calling itself the “field of medicine that specializes in you” whoever you are, whatever problems you bring. Like that, Vedic counseling might be described as “one-stop shopping” to assist a great diversity of clients with a wide-ranging array of needs. Always with the intention of deeper guidance.
In this difficult time in our world, people struggle with a great variety of suffering. Children are isolated as schools have closed, parents are distressed at their lack of progress. People have lost their jobs in the pandemic crisis, while others, like hospital nurses, are overwhelmed. This diversity of problems faces a system of care that is very specialized. Go to one clinic for the children, another for the elders, another for career counseling, and another for relationship counseling. This idea of “one-stop shopping” has real merit in an era when the system of care is so very fragmented. The fully trained and experienced Vedic counselor should be ready to provide support to all kinds of client distress, according to the authors.
The Role of the Vedic Counselor
A key addition to this growing understanding of the essence of Vedic counseling is the authors’ investigation into the role and responsibility of the Vedic counselor in this process of personal and spiritual transformation for her clients. The authors rightly suggest that most clients access the Vedic astrologer, Ayurvedic doctor or other Vedic practitioner by bringing current and pressing concerns forward. We often encounter in a first visit a client who is suffering in various ways, and what they are asking for is relief. We may wish to provide them with comprehensive help with their whole life situation, but first we must pay attention to what has brought them in the door. Coming to some clarity and finding some support with their chief complaint, the client might feel less stressed-out and more hopeful. This is not a small step, as the authors point out. We must begin where they are right now. If they experience us as having been worthy of their trust, caring about their concerns, and fully present to them during that first hour, then frequently they will return for more work—and deeper work, getting closer to the origins of their situation and the potential of significant personal and spiritual growth.
Let us reflect for a moment on that word “counselor.” In English it has many connotations, from legal support to psychotherapy. In Sanskrit, from which the term Vedic counselor draws its essential qualities, the process of counseling we are referring to within the tradition is “Samupadeshan” and the counselor is “Samupadeshak.” The key root here is the Sanskrit word Upadesha, which is the offering of guidance by a spiritual teacher or guru. “The guru does not merely ask his disciple to perform a task; he helps him by remaining by his side and directing him, indeed remaining close to his heart and showing the pupil the path he must follow in his life. (from “Dictionary of Spiritual Terms.”) The role of the Samupadeshak or Vedic counselor is lofty and challenging.
The authors put great emphasis on the qualifications of a Vedic counselor. In knowledge it includes the range of Vedic arts and sciences we’ve talked about here. In intention the role has a steady aim at spiritual guidance for the client. Over time the relationship is one that allows the guide to walk with his clients toward their realization of Self, toward their deepening presence, toward an experience of unified consciousness. The authors indicate that it is a Masters level of preparation, needing at least three years to complete a course of study in the fundamentals of its application. They indicate that the personal and spiritual growth of the Vedic counselor, on an ongoing basis, is an essential ingredient in its practice. Becoming a Vedic counselor means becoming a Vedic spiritual teacher who leads by example, who walks his talk.
Again we turn to the authors’ own words to better understand how they see the role of the Vedic counselor in support of the client’s growth to her personal and spiritual potential:
A Vedic counselor is one who is trained in one or more of the Vedic sciences or Vedic ways of knowledge and their corresponding practices and technologies of higher awareness. A Vedic counselor brings to these Vedic teachings special counseling tools to communicate and share this knowledge with society as a whole, and introduce it on an individual level for improving our lives overall. Such Vedic counseling skills are helpful, if not necessary, for all Vedic and Yoga teachers and therapists. (pp. 22, 23)
This counseling dimension has at times been lacking in many Vedic teachers—whether in the field of Ayurveda, Vedic astrology, Yoga or meditation—who may think that passing on information and techniques is enough. Our purpose here is to show its relevance, importance and practical means of application. We need to know how to develop a deep rapport with the client, or anything we give them, however profound, may not be accessible to them. (pg. 23)
Vedic counseling is not a specialization but a synthetic discipline. It helps us adapt and coordinate all that is helpful to our greater urge towards unity and wholeness. Vedic counseling does not exclude any helpful approach to the greater harmony and well-being, but arranges these in a broader view based upon consciousness as the primary force in the universe. (pg. 23)
For the most part, the role of the Vedic counselor is quite different from the “life guidance” that may be offered by many teachers and practitioners.
Most professional counselors know that this expectation of having another person solve our lives’ problems for us is far from the truth. Without actually working on ourselves, including confronting our problems and understanding how we ourselves create them, we cannot change our lives in a fundamental way, no matter how wise or skilled our counselor. The term “guidance” denotes explicit directions given by an informed person regarding an important aspect of life…. [Vedic] counseling, on the other hand, is more dynamic and looks at life as a whole…. [Vedic] counseling is an interactive process between the counselor and the client in which solutions emerge as a joint venture between the two. It is a journey in self-discovery in which the optimal human potentials can arise and be developed. (pp. 33, 34)
And yet, again that complexity of an operant definition arises in our exploration of this dynamic process of caring for our clients, where direct “guidance” may become an important part of our work at times:
We can define Vedic counseling as dharmic guidance on right living, right action, right relationship, and right awareness. Its basis is self-understanding and bringing us to a direct perception of the truth, not imposing a belief system, formula, or set of preconceptions upon anyone. A Vedic counselor is a teacher of Vedic ways of knowledge. He or she can be defined as “Vedic educator,” guiding others on Vedic ways of improving communication, social harmony, respect for nature, and inner realization. A Vedic counselor is a guide to higher living and deeper awareness. (pg. 38)
A Vedic counselor is an aware and compassionate guide who knows the core Vedic knowledge of universal unity, through the underlying principles and practices of Vedic philosophy and psychology. He or she is able to guide others at an individual level on the principles and practices of dharmic living in a meaningful, creative and adaptable manner. (pg. 39)
A Vedic counselor should set in motion a deeper process of investigation in the client. It is not enough to provide them ready-made answers from the outside. A Vedic counselor works to awaken the deeper intelligence in a person, which is overall to empower them and make them independent. (pg. 53)
The [Vedic] counselor should function like the light of being, providing a transparent presence in which the client can perceive his or her true nature. Yet the counselor should be able to provide a hotter fire and power of purification as necessary to remove deep-seated blockages and traumas. [Vedic] Counseling is part of an ancient fire alchemy of inner transformation. (pg. 88)
My sense of this evolving role of the Vedic counselor as presented by Drs. Frawley and Suhas is that there is always an interaction between facilitation and guidance in this work. On the one hand we may feel it helpful to point out a clear direction of care or life change for a client. We may at times do well to present a direction, a vision of great possibilities for healing and growth. On the other hand we may often find it helpful to facilitate the client’s process more tangentially, giving them cues that open their perception to new possibilities in their life. For me there is no contradiction between these two intentions in our complex work with clients and therefore in our complex understanding of Vedic counseling.
The authors point to the need for steady personal and spiritual work for Vedic practitioners and their students who would expand the meaning of their service toward the ideals of the Vedic counselor that they have described.
A Vedic counselor has a high level of requirements and must be on a continual journey of self-discovery. He should follow a Vedic life-style and a life of Yoga, meditation, non-violence and compassion for all. (pg. 131)
The Vedic counselor is a life-style guru, not simply and expert in one field or another. But he should remain first of all a teacher and not become an object of worship or transference. He should provide right guidance without breeding dependency. (pg. 132)
It is clear in these reflections and others that the Vedic counselor must endeavor to live the Vedic principles and values, which she shares with the client and to which the client aspires. Only in such a way may the ideal of this Vedic counseling relationship be reached.
A further question is raised by the authors regarding the role of the Vedic counselor—a question that may be important to some clients with whom we practice Vedic arts and sciences. The ancient Vedic sources are undoubtedly deeply spiritual, and yet practice in the fields of Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish and Vastu may be offered and received in an entirely practical and secular manner, as well, such as Ayurvedic diet for weight loss or Asanas for physical fitness. With the author’s emphasis on the realization of Vedic aspirations as the deepest purpose of Vedic counseling, the question may arise, might this work be seen as essentially religious in intention? Might it be thought a variety of pastoral counseling by those with a secular worldview? The authors address this question in this section of the book:
A Vedic counselor is rooted in a core knowledge of Sanatana Dharma with access to all the branches of Vedic and yogic knowledge that provide an unparalleled set of resources for right living. (pg. 43)
Is Vedic counseling a type of religious knowledge? Vedic counseling is a way of Self-knowledge and cosmic knowledge that includes all aspects of life and consciousness. It can accept any religious or non-religious approach that honors the universal laws of dharma…. It does not rest upon belief or faith, but upon inner knowledge. It is relevant to all human beings and helps us understand the greater universe. Vedic counseling does address the key issues of the spiritual life, including our ultimate destiny as a soul—how to come into a living contact with the Divine or universal consciousness, whatever one wishes to call this power of immortality. (pg. 44)
Vedic counseling is also Vedantic counseling and is part of the Vedantic path of Self-knowledge. (pg. 56)
This is a question that we might encounter from time to time in our work in Vedic arts and sciences, especially when we are with clients whose cultural orientation does not link directly to this Vedic path. Indeed, even practitioners may have some challenge with this question from time to time. Teaching meditation with Vedic Mantras, in our predominantly secular time, may have no overt connection with the Vedic tradition, neither in the meditation instruction nor in the expectations of the client. My own evolution as a counselor in the Vedic arts has brought me to a differentiation between pastoral counseling, which addresses client concern in the context of specific traditional religious precepts, and spiritual direction/coaching, which openly orients to the world view and self-described personal/spiritual framework of the client. Depending on the situation, Vedic counseling, in my growing understanding of its role, may borrow from both.
The authors mention numerous times that the effectiveness of any one of the Vedic arts is greatly enhanced with a fundamental knowledge of all of the Vedic arts. But they take a further step to include those modern counseling approaches that add particular value to the practice of Vedic counseling. It is their contention that there is a real similarity and therefore synergy between certain of the effective models in current counseling practice and the behavioral intentions within the Vedic arts.
In the course of the book the authors mention the value of several important current models and areas of growing knowledge that may be useful in the practice of Vedic counseling. These three are mentioned specifically.
The Active Listening model is a process whereby the practitioner learns to gently feedback to the client what she is hearing, at the level of what is said and more deeply at the level of emotions and feelings. Being deeply listened to in this way supports the client’s self-exploration. The Non-violent Communication model, echoing the core value of Ahimsa in Yoga philosophy, helps the client to shift her language to a less-blaming and more self-revealing mode, opening greater compassion in the process of communication. A third model that they mention is Neuro-linguistic Programing, which they describe as “a system of thinking [that] investigates the connection between neurological processes, language, and behavioral reprogramming…. It becomes a matter of relearning rather than any emotional confrontation.”
It is of great value for Vedic counselors to keep an eye to these and other useful approaches that may add to the effectiveness of our work, and so doing become part of our Vedic counseling. In a future edition of this book, if and when, I believe readers would benefit from an appendix that speaks to such models and elaborates on their value in the context of Vedic counseling. In addition, I think that references to these models, their authors, and websites might be included in the section of the book called “Resources,” to provide greater access to the Vedic counseling practitioner or student.
Notable Strategies in Vedic Counseling
The authors cover a great deal of useful and practical information in the course of the book that is worthy of specific mention. Their intention is not to be comprehensive in the many areas of Vedic thought and practice that they consider but instead to provide a strong basis for the student or practitioner to actively integrate new information and tools in their work. For me they have narrowed the enormous field of Vedic thought to a useful core knowledge within which each Vedic counselor would develop competence. I’d like to mention several of these.
Understanding of Self, Nature and Universe
This very useful section of the book reviews the subtle “spiritual anatomy” of the science of Vedanta. It is of course the context in which the work of Vedic counseling in all its dimensions takes place. This ancient information will not be entirely new to readers of the book. Even for those who are more familiar with this background material will find that it provides a clear reference for the information. Topics include Purusha, Atman, Brahman, Unitary reality, five Koshas, three levels of body, seven levels of existence, Prakriti, three Gunas, Dvaita and Advaita. This section of the book may be particularly useful for students of specific Vedic disciplines who need to learn and understand these core tenets of Vedanta.
The authors review in this section the topics of Dharma, Karma, Four Purusharthas, levels of Agni as our inner fire, Ananda, Prana, energy/will, and the Shiva/Shakti qualities of sexuality. Again the information is not new, but it is presented clearly and provides a very useful reference for those who aspire to the ideals of Vedic counseling.
Mantric Tools and Mediation
This is a particularly valuable section of the book, and much of this information may not have been as easily and clearly available to students of the Vedic arts and sciences as it is here. The role of Mantra in personal growth is explored, including developing one’s own Mantras for the purpose of self-affirmation and growth. The authors describe the value of certain traditional Sanskrit Mantras that may be of value to the Vedic counselor in his work, with attention to the positive impact they can provide the client. Planetary Mantras are mentioned in terms of Vedic Astrology remedies, and the tools section concludes with a list of six Mahavakyas (traditional Sanskrit affirmations) explaining the role each can play in Self-realization and transcendence.
This section goes on to describe the central importance of meditation in Vedic counseling. The authors suggest starting with simpler approaches of witnessing with the client: “Meditation begins very simply with cultivating an honest observation of oneself and conscious awareness of life as it is.” (pg. 150) Then a variety of approaches to meditation are considered, with a step-by-step process that the practitioner may find useful with clients.
This discussion of meditation is by no means a “one-size-fits-all” plan. The authors suggest that we accept where on a path toward self-understanding the client may be and offer suggestions based on that. Even the use of Vedic and planetary mantras is specific to each client, and our assessment may give us clarity on what to offer. Do their core Ayurvedic assessment and basic Jyotish chart considerations indicate more of a need for solar intention or lunar intention in the choice of mantra? “Hreem” brings a bright energy into the meditation akin to the early morning sun, described by the authors as “…the seed mantra of the heart that connects us to our inner prana, Shakti and creative force.” While “Shreem” brings a quieter energy of opalescent beauty, “the seed mantra of creative development, evolution,… ascent and transformation.” This is just one example of the depth of integrated Vedic discrimination that the authors call us to on behalf of our Vedic counseling clients.
The reflection on the meditation process culminates in a presentation of Sattvic living as a goal in itself, and this practice is taken up in greater detail later in the book.
The Four Central Vedic Practice Arts/Sciences
Much of the book provides a detailed look at Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedic Astrology and Vastu. For any practitioner or student who has studied one of these fields in depth, they will see that their own field has not been presented comprehensively. But what they will find is a wealth of fundamental information in the other three fields. This is the intention of the authors, to present what might be considered “core knowledge” in the four disciplines that would be useful for every Vedic practitioner to know. What the authors indicate is that a basic knowledge of all four fields allows for a more integrated way of addressing the acute and ultimate needs of our clients.
This section of the book is of particular value as a reference. One may have had a basic introduction to the breadth of Vedic thought and practices, but it is not always easy to remember enough information to be really useful in a client situation. Not being primarily educated in Ayurveda or Vastu, I can turn to these pages to remind myself of important principles that I easily forget if I’m not using them frequently. I particularly appreciate the format of the authors’ exposition of this material that makes the information clearer and more accessible.
Vedic Laws of Right Living
This final section of the book is quite simply a treasure. Much of it I have not seen presented in this way, almost a snapshot of “right living.” It considers elements of Dharma, self-care, relationships, higher mind, happiness, right intention, motivation, spiritual well-being, harmony of self and Divine, ecological harmony, and harmony in relationship with all human beings. In a sense it is a lofty set of laws and ideals, to which we may aspire. In another sense it provides a template for practice toward a life well-lived. And with that, it becomes a vehicle we can use with clients and students as they begin to realize the breadth and depth of their work toward health, well-being, right living and ever-deeper Self-realization.
Maybe an evolving definition of Vedic Counseling might be something like this:
Welcome the client at the level of their concern or interest, whatever that may be. Accept whatever presuppositions and world views they may bring with them, for this is where they must begin. Draw from the wealth of knowledge and practices contained in the Vedic arts and sciences, to augment your own Vedic approach to practice. In addition to addressing the initial felt needs, invite shifts of attention and intention in our clients, toward deeper self-awareness and self-understanding. To be with them over time, if this is their wish, offering encouragement and inspiration along the way. This, while deepening our own relationship with the Vedic tradition.
There is a resonance between the Vedic practitioner and her client. Our work is their work. What we learn, how we grow, will determine our ability to draw them into deeper levels of their own learning, their own growth. The practitioner-client relationship, based on a connection mediated by presence, itself may become the primary means of our healing work. Even a kind thought toward a student or client may at some level provide support and momentum.
It is a process that is step by step. But who has not noticed those small shifts in awareness and in purpose when our clients really connect with us and with their work.
I am grateful to Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar for this book, which is a call to deepen our practices in the Vedic arts and sciences. I am grateful to have an accessible reference of core Vedic knowledge that I can rely on, so that I can readily refresh my work in each of its dimensions. I am grateful to have a text that I can trust as I facilitate and guide my own clients and students of Jyotish to the fuller potential of Vedic counseling.