One day, in January of 2013, I was daydreaming at my computer, staring into the black hole of the Google search box. I had just finished reading the umpteenth article on the evolution vs intelligent design debate and while I generally appreciated the back and forth arguments between the two sides, that day I was bored of the whole thing. I wanted something different.
For the past seven years, besides being an avid follower of these debates, I had also been studying the ancient Sanskrit writings of India, dabbling into yoga, and generally being fascinated by the high theological concepts and the life-improving benefits of the Indian traditions. Not to mention Indian food.
But I had never actually considered how the Vedic teachings could contribute to modern science. Physical, mental, and spiritual health? Yes, Ayurvedic medicine and the yogic paths have worldwide applications today. But what about applications in biology, chemistry, or physics? What would this philosophy have to say about the evolution vs design/creation debate, for instance?
I weakly typed into Google: “Vedic creationism.”
Mind promptly blown
The first entry that came up was Ashish’s blog vediccreationism.com [which is now changed to shabda.co]. Apparently, Google had read my mind because, among the post titles, “Intelligent Design and Vedic Creationism” stuck out. I leaned forward from my chair—my curiosity had been triggered.
As I read, the author began to address the very same questions I had about intelligent design (ID) — if the world is indeed designed, why is it designed in just this way and not another, and how was (is) the design implemented? If the designer turns out to be God, then how does He interact with the world and what is the meaning of this design? Can ID identify the form of the designer?
Although I was already familiar with the general concepts of Vedic philosophy as treated by Vedantic scholars such as Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva or recent Acharya scholars such as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I had not been able to detect a path connecting them with today’s scientific knowledge. It seemed that Ashish Dalela had been able to translate the ancient cosmogonic ideas or concepts such as karma and reincarnation into scientific language. Fascinating read.
For the weeks that followed, I started dipping more and more into the blog, including sharing the posts with friends interested in Indian philosophy. They were all impressed. I also e-mailed links to the blog to leading figures in the ID movement, such as Jonathan Wells, Stephen Meyer, and Casey Luskin—maybe these ideas could be inspiring for the debates, I thought. I also bought the e-book version of Vedic Creationism, linked to on the website.
The promotional void
As fascinated as I was by the high level of thought and the direct connections the author was making between Vedic ideas, modern science, and Western philosophy, I also began to be underwhelmed by the virtually non-existent activity in the blog’s comments section. Moreover, the look and feel of the book’s appearance—which had many grammar issues and an uneventful cover—seemed a bit off.
The sweeping, revolutionary ideas, the bold and nicely paced writing style did not match the sub-par publishing implementation. While this did not discourage me from reading the book twice in a row and sharing excerpts from it with people, the communication and advertising training I’d had told me that this book was not being properly highlighted. A wasted opportunity, I thought.
However, Ashish’s website was, according to Google’s search spiders, the leading authority on “Vedic creationism”. Why the low activity? I went on Amazon and checked the book’s ranking—it was in the millions. Were there really no people interested in these bold ideas? I couldn’t believe that. The Western world is full of yoga studios and Ayurvedic healing centers. What about the philosophy behind it all? What about how it all got started?
So, after mulling things over for a while, I sent an e-mail to Ashish expressing my opinion of how his insight into the recesses of Vedic philosophy and science had impressed me. I also communicated tentative regret that while the ideas in the book were revolutionary, and—I felt—many people would appreciate them given the chance, at this point it seemed there were not too many takers. Although my feelings about the matter were stronger, I left it at that.
Ashish replied promptly, thanking me for my message and telling me that he had received other e-mails over the years, with people expressing the same level of enthusiasm.
Wheels turning, while the self-publishing revolution rages on
In the time that followed, I started to make some connections between my other passion—writing—and Ashish’s material. As a fiction writer on the side, I had read a lot about writing and publishing. I had been particularly impressed with the feats of indie writers like Hugh Howey, a bold evangelist of self-publishing—who initially snubbed Simon & Schuster to continue the indie way [he only took half the deal, boldly refusing to sell his ebook rights, something unheard of before]. Or Guy Kawasaki—the author of Author Publisher Entrepreneur, THE reference book for indie writers. Or the guys at Realm&Sands who were making waves on Amazon with their smartly marketed fiction books. These visionaries, and others like them, expanded their role as writers into that of publishers and marketers, taking advantage of the self-publishing revolution. And they did it in full view, sharing their step-by-step learning curves with other aspiring authors. These, and other entrepreneurial authors, have, by the power of their determination and professionalism, managed to considerably raise the profile of self-publishing, erasing some of the “vanity publishing” stigmas.
I had been absorbing this information for some years now, while writing my fiction, preparing for some future, undefined date when I could also, perhaps, become an indie writer-entrepreneur myself. But my novels were taking a lot of time to complete, while here was a situation that needed immediate attention, and onto which I could unleash my accumulated knowledge of self-publishing, combined with my experience in communication and advertising. But this was just wishful thinking on my part. How would I approach the author about it, when I didn’t even have a clear plan?
From daydreaming to start-up fever
And then the Vedic creationism website went down. Now, this was something I could act on. So, I contacted Ashish again and asked him about the website—he was surprised that anybody was actually using it. He will set up a new version, soon, he said. As we chatted he revealed that he was in the process of re-editing the book Six Causes, a shorter version of Vedic Creationism and that he had written a new one, Sankhya and Science. Was I willing to read and help with editing them?
I accepted, then suggested that maybe he could have some Q&A on his website for people like me to ask him stuff—I had a lot of questions. One thing led to the other, and at the end of the conversation, Ashish asked me if I wanted to do online marketing for him.
So, of course, I said yes.
Fancy Vedic Philosophy Term + Runaway Parrot = Shabda Press
For the following months, we embarked on the project to improve the books and republish them.
We started re-editing all the books, we hired professional designers to make better-looking covers, we learned book layout and ebook conversion, we made two websites and we put together a marketing plan. We took cues from the experience of dozens of other indie publishers out there, banking on their trials and errors and I also cashed in on my experience in advertising and communications. We found ourselves having long Skype sessions brainstorming over book cover briefs for designers, SEO keywords and HTML coding for the Amazon book descriptions, and many other tasks.
The name for Shabda Press was chosen a few months before the official registration. In Vedic philosophy ”Shabda” means “sound vibration” or “utterance”, referring to the original information injected at the beginning of creation—the very same information that cannot satisfactorily be explained today by science. It seemed very appropriate and, why not?, kind of cool.
As far as the logo, there was no contest—we immediately decided to immortalize our unofficial mascot—Ashish’s parrot, who had escaped out of his window one day because Ashish couldn’t bring himself to put it in a cage.
This was the long and convoluted birth of Shabda Press, which, like many indie projects grew from combinations of vague thoughts, passion, and good intentions into a full-blown, professional endeavor.
Our goal is to publish books that appeal to intellectuals who are aware of the conceptual difficulties in science, are open to inquiry and alternative ideas, and want to change the world by impacting science.