"Sanatan Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived … When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists."
Sri Aurobindo spoke these words at Uttarpara in 1909. A century later, they continue to resonate with individuals from across the world, inspiring them to discover and practice Sanatan Dharma in every aspect of their life.
One such individual is Patrick Von Brauckmann, a Sanatani by practice, Vedantin in thought, and Canadian by origin. Travelling across India, Patrick ji experienced Sanatan Dharma in all its entirety – sometimes in silence under the moonlight, sometimes in the company of rishis and Vedic scholars, and sometimes in the presence of beautiful Ganesha from Mamallapuram, that now resides at his forest temple in Canada.
In this interview, Patrick ji tells us about his love for India and what Sanatan Dharma means to him.
What drew you to India and its traditions, knowledge, and literature?
I started reading books on Ayurveda in my early teens for health and wellness ideas. In my early twenties, I developed a desire to experience more in life. I thus sought out a very well-known Hindu, who was a disciple of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was teaching meditation in the US.
When I discovered that Vedanta represented a set of truths that embody the ultimate truths about the nature of the universe, our existence as humans, and the relationship between the individual and the whole, I was captured. If we look at Dharma as a set of rules that govern the world and human activity, one’s life becomes a reflection of Dharma, to the degree, we are able to incorporate these truths into our daily lives. My love for Sanatan Dharma grew at the same pace as the profound experiences I started having from my sadhana practice.
My interest in India only came about when I felt I had exhausted the resources available to me in North America that furthered my knowledge of the nature of consciousness and Hinduism in general.
In your opinion, what are India’s most significant contributions to mankind?
When I see India, I only see Dharma. That is a choice, so for me, India’s greatest contribution to humanity is its Gurus and Sanatan Dharma. Prior to colonisation, former India known as Bharat had already contributed more to our world than any single nation in history, ranging from science to commerce. When a westerner hits the wall and is looking for the meaning of life, they invariably head to India. From my perspective, this is India’s greatest gift to the world.
How does Dharmic living help in fulfilling the ideals of a sustainable and harmonious life?
The mistaken belief in the separate self is one of the greatest problems we face. Our horrible treatment of animals has injured our minds and our natural environment. When we see all life, all beings, as part of a greater collective, we are forced to make a decision to engage in self-harm. Among the many false ideas, Abrahamic religions gave to the world is the belief that humans are superior to other forms of life.
However, when we see each other and all life as a necessary component of our collective survival and our prosperity, we stop doing harm and immediately raise our collective standard of living. This doesn’t mean that all people and life are equal, only that they deserve equal protection from those who seek to diminish their value. Sanatan Dharma is rooted in the idea of respect and harmony between all living beings – humans, animals and nature, and even inanimate objects. Keeping the above in consideration, while making decisions, be it at the community level or at the national level, is important for the grooming of responsible leaders.
How did travelling across India enhance your experience and understanding of Sanatan Dharma?
I have received some of the best teachings from Vamadeva Shastri ji ji (Dr. David Frawley) when we travelled through some of Bharat’s best places, Ujjain being one of them.
However, one of the most cherished memories I have of India is walking through a small village in Kerala in the early evening. The moon was full and the air filled with the various scents and sounds you can only find in India. Because so much of daily life revolves around either temple life and sadhana, a simple stroll can become a spiritual experience. The moon captured me and I dissolved for a time and transcended my place in time and space. Everywhere you go in India, the country can offer that same reality.
How do you see India as a Vishwaguru and the influence it will have on the world?
Insofar as India encourages individual entrepreneurship and actively limits the role of government in commerce and people’s daily lives, such abstract ideas like Vishwaguru are possible. Socialism has plagued India’s intellectuals and institutions and kept India in the last century at most levels. India’s so-called secularism has targeted Hindus actively, diminished the role Dharma is able to play.
To reverse this, Hindus need to play a greater role in the sharing of Dharma by being greater representatives of Dharma itself. Studying the Shastras, deepening our awareness through a greater connection to historical practices is key. Abstaining from cutting animal flesh, is the greatest contribution any person can make to the wellbeing of our world, according to me.
If temple management is taken away from the government and India’s Hindu population becomes a living example of Sanatan Dharma, Vishwaguru is not only possible, it is inevitable. This is a great vision for the world.