Posts Tagged ‘American Veda’

Author Philip Goldberg Remembers January 12 as A Double Guru Birthday Fest on HUFFPOST TASTE

February 3, 2015

, HUFFPOST Blogger, Interfaith Minister, and author of ‘American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West’ remembers January 12: A Double Guru Birthday Fest

MMY-HUFFPOST

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

January 12 is celebrated throughout India, and in countries with large Hindu populations, as the birthday of Swami Vivekananda. A national hero, Vivekananda is revered for updating the wisdom of India’s ancient sages and bringing those teachings to the West, in 1893. By coincidence – or astrological design, take your pick – another vital figure in that East-West transmission was also born on that date, and he too deserves to be celebrated.

The man who became known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born Mahesh Prasad Varma, on January 12, 1917, or perhaps 1918, in Central India. While attending Allahabad University, he heard that a famous saint named Swami Brahmananda Saraswati was in the area, and he went to him “as a thirsty man at a well.” Mahesh asked to become the swami’s disciple. The reply was the same one many future gurus received when they were eager young seekers: first finish school. After graduating with a degree in physics, he was formally accepted as a disciple. By then, the swami had been persuaded to accept the much-esteemed, and long-vacant, seat of Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math–one of four monastic lineages established centuries earlier by the great reformer Shankara. The Shankaracharya would become a legend, and so would the humble disciple who served him primarily as a clerk for thirteen years.

After his guru died, in 1953, Mahesh spent a few years in the Himalayas before traveling to the sacred sites of South India. In Trivandrum, a stranger asked him to give a public talk. He was evidently good at it. Before long, he found himself on what we now call a speaking tour. At a festival in Kerala in 1955, people were impressed enough to call him a “Maharishi”–maha meaning great, rishi meaning sage–and the appellation stuck. When he became world famous a dozen years later, the naïve press treated “Maharishi” as his name, and that’s what he’s been called ever since.

That global fame, as most people know, resulted from his historic encounter with the biggest celebrities of the postwar era. In August, 1967, at the suggestion of George Harrison’s then-wife Patti, the Beatles went to hear Maharishi speak about his Transcendental Meditation at the London Hilton. They became instant enthusiasts and, six months later, went to India for an extended stay at Maharishi’s ashram. In the opening paragraph of American Veda, I refer to that as “the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those forty days in the wilderness.” It was as if the earth itself had tilted, allowing the insights of India’s yogis to pour into the West at an accelerated pace.

It was easy at the time for reporters to write off “the Beatles’ guru” as a lucky guy who got rich and famous off the lads’ monumental celebrity. It was easy to label him “the giggling guru” because he had an infectious, high-pitched laugh and he found much of modern life rather amusing. It was easy to mock him as the face of guruhood at a time when yoga and meditation were seen as accessories of flower-power counterculture. All of which belies the fact that Maharishi was a very practical man who took his mission–to spiritually regenerate the world by expanding individual consciousness–very seriously, and he worked longer hours in its service than most CEOs could endure.

He had been planting seeds non-stop for a dozen years when the Beatles sought him out, repeatedly circling the globe and teaching his simple, powerful form of meditation to all comers, and he kept at it for another forty years after the Fab Four made Rishikesh a pilgrimage site for Western yogis. If history is fair, he will be recognized as one of the key figures in the transmission, adaptation and assimilation of Yogic teachings into the mainstream of American life.

Nowadays, everyone from ordinary physicians to giant HMOs recommends meditation to reduce stress and prevent illness. This, to put it mildly, was not the case in 1968. It was Maharishi who convinced scientists to study the practice, and he made sure his systematic TM procedures were compatible with research protocols. He understood that ours is an evidence-driven age, and that Americans would embrace something as exotic as meditation only if science demonstrated its value. The first paper on the physiology of meditation was published in 1970, by one of Maharishi’s students, a UCLA doctoral candidate named Robert Keith Wallace. The collective research juggernaut that followed ushered meditation from the fringes of society to the center, and directly into your armchair, cushion or yoga mat.

So, for whatever stars and planets were aligned on those two January 12s, we can be doubly thankful.

Published 01/09/2015 02:30 pm ET | Updated Mar 11, 2015

Varanasi by Mary Oliver in A Thousand Mornings

March 16, 2013

I previously posted Mary Oliver’s poem, Praying, and Philip Goldberg emailed me to say that someone recently showed him the last poem in her new collection (A Thousand Mornings). He said, “It’s called ‘Varanasi,’ and it’s exquisite.” I started looking for it and found the poem posted by another poet, Bob Arnold, on his website. After reading it I agreed – it’s stunning! That’s why I’m posting it here for you to enjoy. I also came across a musical video of the poem with images from the Ganges. After you’ve read the poem, see Diane Walker’s poetic reaction to it below. But take a break from this busy introduction, and then enjoy the enlightened peaceful simplicity of Mary Oliver’s visit to Varanasi.

VARANASI

Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,

where fires were still smoldering,

and gazed, with our Western minds, into the Ganges.

A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;

she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it

over her body, slowly and many times,

as if until there came some moment

of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river’s.

Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her

and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,

no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,

for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker

of the world, and this is his river.

I can’t say much more, except that it all happened

in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt

like that bliss of a certainty and a life lived

in accordance with that certainty.

I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back

to America.

Pray God I remember this.

_______________________

Mary Oliver
A Thousand Mornings
(Penguin, 2012)

Now read this beautiful poetic reaction to the poem, Mary Oliver’s Varanasi, that Diane Walker, a contemplative photographer, posted on her website.

Among the NPR Poetry series is this interview ‘A Thousand Mornings’ With Poet Mary Oliver. You can also read the transcript here. I especially love this remark she makes about poetry:

“One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear. It mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now are – they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.”

Enjoy this wonderful Maria Shriver Interview With Mary Oliver.

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.

Speaking of another famous American visiting the Ganges, see Prudence Farrow — subject of the Beatles song Dear Prudence — visits India’s Kumbh Mela.

 

“Sanctifying Morning” is a poem by Ken Chawkin on one way to be “spiritual but not religious”

February 17, 2013

Sanctifying Morning is a poem I wrote four years and one month ago today. It may remind you of the phrase, “spiritual but not religious,” how millions of Americans now identify themselves, a trend I was not aware of until I learned about it from Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda. TM* is my way of being spiritual but not religious.

Sanctifying Morning

Charcoal in a church,
Incense-filled smoke,
Knees on the ground,
Wafer on a tongue —
Prayers ascend the sky.

It’s Sunday morning,
And I have my own rituals.
The smell of burnt toast sanctifies the morning air.
Orange rinds round out the debris of breakfast.
Fumes float upwards from a hot coffee cup.

Having pacified the body’s urges,
With no work to be done today,
Though the senses focus outward,
It’s time to bring them within,
And prepare for this peaceful morning.

I retire to my meditation room,
Sit comfortably, and close the eyes.
Thinking my mantra, effortlessly,
I descend to the depths of my mind,
And transcend.

My body follows —
Breath slows, and suspends,
Heart beats quieter,
Brain cells speak softly, in unison —
I’m at peace with myself.

This is the true communion of the spirit
Within the church of the Self.
No pews are required here
As one prepares to meet the maker
Of one’s life.

© Ken Chawkin
January 17, 2009
Fairfield, Iowa, USA

*TM stands for Transcendental Meditation. It’s not a religion. To me, it’s a spiritual practice that is compatible with any or no religion. Today millions of Americans admit to practicing some form of meditation. Members of different faiths practice Transcendental Meditation, including monks, nuns, priests and rabbis. Even atheists and agnostics meditate. You may too, some day, if you haven’t, already.

Publication and Update

Carrying the Branch-Poets in Search of Peace

Thanks to Iowa poet and editor Rustin Larson for selecting “Sanctifying Morning,” which was later included in Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace. The book was published by Glass Lyre Press October 1, 2017 and edited by Ami Kaye. My poem is found on page 132. These other poets also submitted their poems and participated as editors soliciting poems and curating their sections for this anthology: Diane Frank, Lois P. Jones, Gloria Mindock, and Melissa Studdard. All profits after printing go to the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

It is also an honor to be included among so many distinguished authors and poet laureates, like Robert Pinsky, W. E. Butts, Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, and Jane Hirshfield, to name a few collected here.

Blogger Chris Rice Cooper was the first to review our anthology, (January 17, 2018): Receiving & Giving Peace in the anthology CARRYING THE BRANCH POETS IN SEARCH OF PEACE . . . She put a lot of work into it with photos, excerpts, and links to an alphabetical listing of the poets and their websites. Next to my photo she provided the link to an article: PR to poetry – how things sometimes happen to Ken Chawkin.

After describing the different problem areas the poems deal with, Cooper says, “In this specific piece I’d like to focus on the poems that offer suggestions of acts and thoughts that we as individual human beings can do or think to bring peace into our own lives, the lives of our communities, and the lives of the entire world.”

Surprisingly, she includes my poem in her review: “In Ken Chawkin’s poem “Sanctifying Morning” the speaker of the poem experiences his own peace by having “church” in his own body, in his own home where he retreats to his meditation room and meditates mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.”

She concludes by saying, “There are numerous lessons to be learned from this anthology but the top two are:  we must love the enemy within and without ourselves; and we must transcribe our experiences down, rather on paper or canvas – only then will the next generation receive their rightful inheritance – their own branch of peace.”

Cheryl Fusco Johnson interviews Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

November 8, 2012

Writers’ Voices host Cheryl Fusco Johnson interviewed author Philip Goldberg on American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West, at KRUU FM studios, October 12, 2012. The show is now available online: http://www.kruufm.com/node/14325.

Philip Goldberg, American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West by Cheryl Fusco Johnson

Philip Goldberg with Cheryl Fusco Johnson in KRUU FM studio  Photo: Ken Chawkin

Los Angeles-based author Philip Goldberg is a screenwriter, Huffington Post religious-issues blogger, novelist, and nonfiction writer. His book American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West was named one of the top ten books on religion in 2010 by the Huffington Post.

The American Library Association’s Booklist Online awarded it the same honor in 2011. Philip has authored or co-authored nineteen books and has much to say about spirituality, publishing, and how both have changed during his lifetime.

From Cheryl’s Blog: Philip Goldberg: How He Became a HuffPost Blogger

Many people ask Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West, how he became a religious-issues blogger for The Huffington Post. During our Writers Voices radio interview today, Philip explained what happened. Waiting at a bookstore to begin giving a book talk, he was thinking about how few people were there to hear him speak. A woman came into the store looking for something she thought she’d left behind. She noticed Philip standing by a sign advertising the topic of his talk and said, “You should be a blogger for The Huffington Post. My daughter’s an editor there.” Was this a lucky break? Or was it a just reward for the many years Philip spent researching spirituality and honing his writing and speaking skills through repeated practice?

Listen to an earlier show on KRUU FM where Dennis Raimondi interviews Philip Goldberg on Speaking Freely about his latest book American Veda, Nov 22, 2010.

Here is an article about Philip Goldberg and his book American Veda: ‘Vedanta and yoga perfect match for certain American values’.

And here are two related articles by Philip Goldberg: George Harrison: The not-so-quiet Beatle, article by Philip Goldberg in LA YOGA Magazine and Huffington Post: Transcendental Meditation: Topping The Bestseller List Since 1975

Red Dirt Report reviews both “American Veda” by Philip Goldberg and “Transcendence” by Norman Rosenthal.

Dana Sawyer, professor of religion and philosophy at the Maine College of Art, reviewed American Veda for tricyle: How Hinduism Seeped into American Soil.

My Empowered World also posted the tricyle book review adding photos: From Emerson to the Beatles. Watch a video of MEW’s Luzzette McDonald’s Interview with Author – Philip Goldberg about his books American Veda and The Intuitive Edge. Answering Luzzette’s final question about the one empowering tool he would recommend Phil mentions meditation. He says all the other practices are improved by having a good deep meditation practice. Phil mentions his TM practice, which he has been doing since 1968, and concludes saying he thinks of it as the empowering tool for all the other empowering tools.

See this related article by Phil on THEWORLDPOST: Beatles in India: The Retreat That Reverberates Across the Universe.

 

‘Vedanta and yoga perfect match for certain American values’

January 31, 2011

‘Vedanta and yoga perfect match for certain American values’
2011-01-09 10:10:00

Chicago, Jan 9 (IANS) There has always been a pervasive but undocumented feeling that Indian philosophy, as manifest in Vedanta on the intellectual plain and yoga on the physical plain, has very significantly influenced the West in general and America in particular. That feeling now finds a meticulously constructed scholastic endorsement in the form of an important new book.

Author Philip Goldberg’s ‘American Veda – From Emerson to the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West‘ (Harmony Books, 398 pages, $26) offers a comprehensive account of the inroads made by Indian philosophy since the early 19th century.

‘The combination of Vedanta and Yoga was a perfect match for certain American values: freedom of choice and religion, individuality, scientific rationality, and pragmatism.  They appealed especially to well-educated Americans who were discontent with ordinary religion and unsatisfied by secularism, giving them a way to be authentically spiritual without compromising their sense of reason, their consciences or their personal inclinations,’ Goldberg told IANS in an interview.

He said Indian teachers who came to the US were conscious of the openness of American society and they adapted the teachings accordingly.

Explaining the mainstreaming of Indian philosophy in the US, Goldberg said, ‘I think the remarkable growth of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ cohort of Americans would have been unthinkable without access to the practices derived from Hinduism and Buddhism.  In addition, the philosophy was presented so rationally that its premises could be regarded as hypotheses, and the practices were so uniform and so widely applicable that they lent themselves to scientific experimentation.’

The book begins with a claim that is deliberately designed to be an attention grabber. ‘In February 1968 the Beatles went to India for an extended stay with their new guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It may have been the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those 40 days in the wilderness. The media frenzy over the Fab Four made known to the sleek, sophisticated West that meek, mysterious India had something of value. Our understanding and practice of spirituality would never be the same,’ Goldberg writes.

He points out that translated Hindu texts were very much a part of the libraries of John Adams, the second president of the United States and one of its most respected statesmen and political theorists, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, an eminent poet and essayist who led the transcendentalist movement in the mid-19th century. From there those ideas permeated to author and philosopher Henry David Thoreau and poet Walt Whitman among others.

In recounting Thoreau’s perspective about the Bhagavad Gita, Goldberg refers to a much quoted passage from the book Walden. Thoreau writes, ‘In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.’

The book has two distinct trends in support of the author’s primary contention about how Indian spirituality changed the West. One trend is at the operational level where words such as mantra, guru, karma and pundits have so seamlessly become part of the mainstream lexicon. The other trend is much deeper in terms of internalising the core values of Indian philosophy.  Asked if the people in the US are conscious of this, Goldberg said, ‘Some are conscious of it, and therefore grateful to the Indian legacy.  Others are not: it’s seeped into the American consciousness in subtle but profound ways.’

Goldberg also talks about the ‘Vedization of America’. On whether it can be attributed to the general secularisation/pluralisation significantly caused by the rise of agnostic information technologies, he said, ‘If you mean, could the trends I describe be attributed to the growth of pluralism and other social forces, independent of the Indian influence, it is very hard to say. Certainly, the combination of factors made for a perfect storm. I tend to think that the experiential practices of meditation and yoga, and the intellectual framework of Vedanta, accelerated, deepened and broadened what might have been an inevitable but amorphous evolution.’

On whether he apprehends any organized backlash or pushback against Indian philosophy, he said ‘Not a big one, but some of it is inevitable. There has always been a backlash from both mainstream religion – conservative Christians in particular – and the anti-religious left. Vivekananda faced up to it in 1893, and all the important gurus were confronted by it. Right now, there’s an anti-yoga campaign by some Christian preachers.  I’d be very pleased if my book becomes a lightning rod for such a controversy. Bring ’em on!’

On a movement in support of a ‘Christian yoga’ that may be gaining some ground Goldberg said, ‘That’s a more complicated issue than is often realised. The question, ‘Is yoga a form of Hinduism’ depends entirely on how one defines both yoga and Hinduism.  That there are people teaching Christian Yoga and Jewish Yoga strikes me as a backhanded compliment to one of the great glories of the Vedic tradition: its universality and adaptability. That having been said, the idea that yoga is ‘a Hindu tool,’ i.e., a form of stealth conversion, strikes me as a projection by Christians of their own messianic drive to convert the ‘heathen’. That conversion is not in the Hindu repertoire – and that the gurus and swamis and yoga masters are content to have their students become better Christians – is hard for many to comprehend.’

(Mayank Chhaya is a US-based writer and commentator. He can be contacted at m@mayankchhaya.net)

Huffington Post named American Veda one of the top ten religion books of 2010.

Listen to this KRUU FM interview with Cheryl Fusco Johnson on Writers’ Voices, Oct 12, 2012 http://www.kruufm.com/node/14325/node/14325.


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