From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West
By Philip Goldberg
“You don’t get tired of love, you don’t get tired of joy, you don’t get tired of peace,” said Timothy Gallwey, author of the popular “Inner Game” series of books, when asked why he had continued with the techniques and practices he had learned from his guru, Maharaj Ji, some 40 years ago. At that time Gallwey, and many others who were looking for a way to have a fruitful spiritual life outside the confines of mainstream religion, had turned to the teachings of gurus from India and, in them, had found what they had been seeking.
Many will be surprised at the depth to which Indian spirituality has permeated Western thought and culture. Though the Beatles’ 1968 trip to India with their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, turned the eyes of the media and the public to the East, the influx of Indian thought and culture had actually begun some 200 years earlier. The libraries of John Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson held translations of Hindu texts, and the generations that followed incorporated India’s “science of consciousness” into their lives, with the result that the ancient philosophy of Vedanta and the mind-body techniques of yoga have had a profound influence on everything from our philosophy and religion to our health care and dinner menus.
While some have been disturbed at this trend — especially mainstream religious leaders of the fundamentalist stripe, who worry that people will be consigned to hell for worshipping “false gods” — others have easily accepted the wisdom, practices, and benefits offered by India’s ancient texts and sages and have welcomed the more recent influx of gurus and swamis who have made words like mantra, karma, and asana part of our everyday vocabulary.
Philip Goldberg, an ordained interfaith minister, is the author or coauthor of 19 books, a speaker and seminar leader, and the founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates. His American Veda is both informative and entertaining and an educated romp through history that reveals exactly how, why, and to what surprising degree India’s philosophy and practice have made themselves at home in our midst.