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BOOK REVIEWS: "American Veda" and "Transcendence"

Harmony Books
"American Veda" by Philip Goldberg
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By Andrew W.
Griffin

Red
Dirt Report
, editor

Posted: November 14, 2012

reddirtreporter@gmail.com

BOOK
REVIEWS:

American
Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation – How Indian
Spirituality Changed the West

by Philip Goldberg (Harmony Books) 2010

Transcendence:
Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation
by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal
(Tarcher/Penguin) 2011

With polls in America showing the “Millennial
Generation” (those born between 1982 and 2003) answering that they are more “spiritual
than religious,” it should come as no surprise that many beliefs and traditions
that came out of India, are now a permanent part of the American culture as traditional religious institutions crumble into irrelevance. 

But this doesn't mean people aren't seeking God. They are just looking for different avenues - American avenues - that help them experience the divine.

And this is where Vedantic wisdom comes in - from India, the place that gave Americans everything from Indian food to yoga to meditation to the understanding of “karma,” and the prevalence of “gurus” and “pundits” and so much more.

Believe it or not, approximately 16 million
Americans now practice yoga (see our 2011 review of Robert Love’s The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga
in America
), largely as a result of the tireless efforts of an Iowa native named
Pierre Bernard who was introduced to the practice by an Indian guru back in the
late 19th century.

Of course thinkers, writers and transcendentalists
of that time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau and Walt Whitman
were enchanted by Vedantic thought and helped promote human rights at that time,
as  well as inspiring spiritually-minded
New Thought leaders of that era – Mary Baker Eddy, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Jiddu
Krishnamurti and others.

And while Hinduism, with its colorful rituals and
pantheon of gods and goddesses, has never taken off in the U.S., increasing
numbers of Americans, fed up with rigid religiosity, have found solace in the
philosophical system of Vedanta (the body of knowledge in the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita)
and the mental and physical practices of yoga.”

In Philip Goldberg’s recent book American Veda, he explains how all
things Indian were embraced long before the Beatles went to India in 1968 to
spend time at the Rishikesh ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. No, long before John,
Paul, George and Ringo visited India (an experience that would lead to the
recording of the White Album), and made Hinduism and Transcendental Meditation seem cool, Americans have been embracing wise
visitors from India, ranging from Swami Vivekananda to Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi).

“India’s greatest gift has always been the knowledge
of its ancient seers, whose insights have never lost their power to astound and
instruct. In the 1930s the eminent historian Will Durant wrote, ‘Perhaps, in
return for conquest, arrogance and spoliation, India will teach us the
tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind, the quiet content of the
unacquisitive soul, the calm of the understanding spirit, and a unifying,
pacifying love for all living things.”

Over the course of nearly 350 pages, Goldberg writes
in a breezy, accessible fashion, explaining, via a number of examples,
primarily covering the 20th and early 21st centuries and
how Vedic wisdom – coupled with plenty of ups and not a few downs – has gradually
come to be a part of American life. Sure, there have been gurus enmeshed in sex
scandals while on the flipside, the Maharishi introduced millions of Americans
to the benefits of Transcendental Meditation via a 1975 appearance on The Merv Griffin Show.

American
Veda

is a highly recommended book for both religious scholars, folks interested in
popular culture in America and the merely curious. There is a lot to learn in
Goldberg’s important book.

And noting the influence of Transcendental
Meditation – TM – on people around the world, it is important to note that the
new book from Dr. Norman Rosenthal, Transcendence,
is a down-to-earth explanation of how TM – a technique brought to America in
1959 by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - is basically a nonreligious
practice that involves a person sitting comfortably for 20 minutes at a time,
twice a day, and saying a mantra, while attaining a profound state of
relaxation, or bliss.

In today’s increasingly stressful society, Rosenthal
argues that TM can help people in many profound ways, from de-stressing the
body, improving well-being and physical health and an overall sense of
peacefulness and centerdness.

Breaking up the book into four parts –
Transcendence, Healing, Transformation and Healing – and he talks to people
from all walks of life, showing how TM has changed their lives in many, many
positive ways. And this includes stressed-out school students from poor and
affluent schools alike. He also shows how prisoners who practice TM also have
an improved sense of well-being while behind bars.

And growing numbers of celebrities incorporate TM
into the daily lives, including musicians like Ringo Starr and Moby, actors
like Russell Brand and Laura Dern and directors like David Lynch and Martin
Scorsese. All say TM has improved their creative inclinations.

Rosenthal says numerous medical studies have been
conducted, showing hat TM can help people dealing with depression or bipolar
disorders – and those are just a few examples.

Quoting Dr. John Hagelin, a physicis, former Natural
Law Party presidential candidate and noted TM practitioner, Rosenthal writes
that Hagelin learned TM after a motorcycle accident. Hagelin said the benefits
of TM were almost immediate, particularly when dealing with an abstract subject
like quantum mechanics. So, noting that studying “thick tomes” in the late
afternoon can make the brain fuzzy, a little TM does the trick.

Says Hagelin: “If I were to stop and meditate for 20
minutes, I could open up the same page and the contents would present
themselves with a lucidity that was so concrete, it was more like diving into a
box of Russell Stover candies.”

Hagelin tells Rosenthal, who also practices TM, by
the way, that during transcendence, the meditator’s mind interacts with the ‘unified
field.’

Overall, Transcendence is a great introductory book
for people who may be interested in Transcendental Meditation but may not know
much about it or its benefits.

And as Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, the Maharishi’s
teacher once said: “Don’t hesitate to do good.”

Sage advice.

Copyright
2012 Red Dirt Report

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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