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American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West Paperback – May 14, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Spiritual coach and author Goldberg (Roadsigns) is a knowledgeable and sympathetic chronicler of the past 150 years or so of Indian spiritual ideas' influence on American spirituality. Correctly starting with Emerson and American transcendentalism, Goldberg follows a trail that gets broader, more diverse, and more powerful until yoga is as American as Starbucks, and "spiritual but not religious" becomes a cultural catchphrase describing millions whose notions of the transcendent are more shaped by India's Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion) than by Yankee divines and Southern Baptists. Goldberg sorts gurus and systems of yoga, correctly understanding the spiritual aspects of what many Americans think of as a physical fitness discipline. He's on point in tracing the influence of the spiritual philosophy of Vedanta on a legion of influential artists and writers beyond the titular ones--think John Coltrane and the late J.D. Salinger. This book fills a void; scholars have mined the subject of Indian spiritual philosophy, but mostly for the academy, despite the broad impact of Vedantism on popular culture. Goldberg gets it. (Nov.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Although Veda is not a household word for many Americans, yoga, guru, and karma are commonplace, and each is rooted in Vedic, or Indian, spirituality, which “evolved from the Vedas, the world’s oldest sacred texts.” A spiritual counselor and interfaith minister as well as an author, Goldberg delineates the Vedic tradition—which encompasses Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, and involves meditation and yoga—then traces its flowering in the U.S., from its profound impact on Emerson to the “Vedic bonfire of the 1960s,” the Transcendental Meditation movement of the 1970s, and today’s passion for hatha yoga. Because Veda, which translates as “knowledge,” respects all religious practices, “recognizes a transcendent Oneness,” and embraces science, it has particular appeal for Americans who identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” In relaxed control of a veritable ocean of material, Goldberg provides lively profiles of influential Vedic gurus, including Krishnamurti, Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and B. K. S. Iyengar, and such key followers as the Beatles, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Merton, John Coltrane, J. D. Salinger, Eckhart Tolle, and Deepak Chopra. From meditating movie stars, scandalous gurus, and psychedelic drugs to genuine spiritual breakthroughs and devotion to helping others, Goldberg’s history of “American Veda” takes measure of a powerful, if underappreciated, force. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1 edition (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385521359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385521352
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #279,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In 1963 the United States opened the door to immigrants from Asia,and when they did, lots of gurus, swamis, lamas and roshis poured through to share their cultures' various wisdoms. Some of them had integrity and some of them didn't, but they all changed the way we look at the world and helped shape our present worldview. After nearly fifty years of experimenting with the mystic East, Americans are wiser in many ways; unfortunately, they sometimes fell prey to charlatans, but that was all part of the growth curve. Phil Goldberg's book is an exceptional introduction to the journey into Hindu traditions that many have taken, through meditation, yoga, and other techniques of consciousness expansion. The book is filled with extraordinary stories and entertaining analysis. It is a book for everyone who has studied with an Indian teacher, or thought about it. It is simultaneously a warning and an enticement. His humor and insight make this a wonderful ride, and an accurate telling of what went down. It is certainly the best book today on the subject.
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Format: Hardcover
All of Philip Goldberg's 19 books, from his earliest (The Intuitive Edge, Natural Sleep) through his collaborations with prominent psychotherapists (Making Peace With Your Past, Get Out Of Your Own Way) up to his latest (Roadsigns on the Spiritual Path) have contributed something useful to the community. But American Veda is his crowning achievement. It is the fascinating story of how Indian philosophy and Indian teachers have literally transformed American life, starting with the New England Transcendentalist writers (Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman) who discovered Vedanta in a handful of books, through the arrival on our shores of Swami Vivekenanda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and other prominent gurus, to the present-day crop of teachers - both Indian and American-born - who have been influenced by these visionary pioneers.

We are living at a time of a profound awakening of consciousness that is changing the world. Much of that awakening is due to the influence of Indian spirituality and its practical applications. If you are one of the estimated 20 million Americans who practice Yoga, if you meditate or enjoy kirtan chanting, if you have been turned on to the spiritual path by Autobiography of a Yogi or Be Here Now, read books by Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, J. D. Salinger or Joseph Campbell, or followed the healthcare advice of Dr. Dean Ornish, Indian teachers and teachings are a part of your life. As Huston Smith, the highly-esteemed scholar of world religions, said in his Foreword to Goldberg's book, "Vedanta quietly surfaces in the daily lives of Americans. Yoga, karma, meditation, enlightenment are now household words. How that came about needed to be documented, and Philip Goldberg has done just that.
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Format: Hardcover
Phil Goldberg's American Veda is a survey of India's profound influence on America over the last century. Goldberg has done a substantial amount of research, interviewing the people who have brought India to America in the form of music, film, literature, art, science, and especially philosophy (namely Vedanta) and practice (namely Yoga). He offers lots of stimulating quotes, like this one from Peter Russell, "When science sees consciousness to be a fundamental quality of reality, and religion takes God to be the light of consciousness shining within us all, the two worldviews start to converge." I appreciate that insight, and there's plenty more in American Veda.

Goldberg is balanced in presenting people and ideas, and doesn't rush to conclusions, allowing the reader to consider. Still, Goldberg demonstrates that these programs are very different from one another. For me, the central question he leaves the reader with is this: "Which of the diverse Yoga and meditation programs brought to American shores from India is the most effective for living an engaged life?" Perhaps the best answer to that question comes from science, which is objective, like a level playing field.

As Goldberg points out, there has been research suggesting programs are effective against hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and ADHD. Other research by Fred Travis and Jonathan Shear, published in Consciousness and Cognition, reviewed the various EEG patterns of different meditation techniques, showing that different meditation techniques produce very different brain activity. This type of research seems to me to offer a conclusion to Goldberg's book, which is that some programs are more effective. Perhaps, as Goldberg suggests, those will be the programs that remain closest to their own source, the Veda.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
American Veda is a thorough, comprehensive,balanced and informative report of the tremendous influence of Vedic thought in the United States; from the most obvious literary filters that came through in the 19th century and early 20th centuries (fine treatment of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman) to the more subtle reformation of key Vedic concepts into "Americanese" by the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The author provides a good taste of the deeper esoteric models of mystical experience, without overwhelming the beginner reader who may be still lingering at lower stages of integration. Yet, for the more advanced learner the author gives plenty of historical material that is fascinating and helps thread the missing pieces of fabric.

There is no doubt in my mind that any serious student of American spirituality should have this book on their shelf. As well, aspirants who are beginning their journey beyond the spiritual kindergarten of religion should read this book before venturing too far out beyond the shore.

The author's comments on "fallen gurus" never come across as judgmental or biased. Now this is exceptional reporting at its best.

Goldberg's chronicles of more recent integrations of science (i.e. quantum theory) and eastern structures of consciousness/reality are superb. I have been impressed by some of the more recent dialogue which is learning more about the limits of the brain; i.e. that this organ is not a creator but a transmitter/processer of thought. The author's use of the metaphor of the "tv. set" to describe the primary function of the brain is useful and accessible to the layperson.
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