Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) is one of the twentieth century's great spiritual teachers and an authentic guide to timeless wisdom.
He is a recognized authority on the Indian spiritual classics. His translations of The Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishads, and The Dhammapada are the best-selling editions in the USA.
His books on meditation, spiritual living, and the classics of world mysticism have been translated into twenty-six languages. His book Passage Meditation (originally titled Meditation) has sold over 200,000 copies since it was first published in 1978. More than 1.5 million copies of Easwaran's books are in print.
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Born in Kerala, India, Easwaran was a professor of English literature at a leading Indian university when he came to the United States in 1959 on the Fulbright exchange program. A gifted teacher, he moved from education for degrees to education for living, and gave talks on meditation and spiritual living for 40 years. His meditation class at UC Berkeley in 1968 was the first accredited course on meditation at any major university.
In 1961 he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, a nonprofit organization that publishes his books, videos, and audio talks, and offers retreats and online programs.
Easwaran lived what he taught, giving him lasting appeal as a spiritual teacher and author of deep insight and warmth.
* Discovering Meditation *
Easwaran discovered meditation mid-life, while he was teaching on a college campus in central India. In the midst of a successful career he found himself haunted by age-old questions: Why am I here? What is life for? What will happen when I die?
Meanwhile in a few short months he lost two people passionately dear to him: Mahatma Gandhi, whom he’d visited in his ashram, and his beloved grandmother, who was his spiritual teacher. Finally he came home one day to find his dog had been killed by a passing truck, and his sense of loss would not subside. His dog stood for death itself, for all who had passed away.
“Almost instinctively,” Easwaran said, “I went to my room and picked up my Gita, most of which I knew by heart. I closed my eyes, and as I began to repeat the verses silently to myself, the words opened up and took me deep, deep in.” Over the next weeks he continued in the same way, seated in silence in the early morning. His meditation practice had begun.
Still leading a full life at the university, Easwaran looked for guidance in this new inner world. He read the Upanishads, Patanjali, the Catholic mystics, the Buddhist scriptures, the poetry of the Sufis. In addition to his Bhagavad Gita, he found passages for meditation from every major spiritual tradition. Some of the mystics he studied had chosen not to retire into monasteries but, like himself, to seek the spiritual path in the midst of everyday life.
In meditation, he found a deep connection between the wisdom in the passages and the way he conducted himself throughout the day. It was a thrilling discovery. “The passages were lifelines, guiding me to the source of wisdom deep within and then guiding me back into daily life.”
Years passed, and Easwaran’s inner and outer life became richer and more challenging as his meditation deepened.
In 1959 he came to the US on the Fulbright scholarship and lectured widely on the spiritual heritage of India. Some students were eager to learn about meditation, and Easwaran loved teaching. He developed a simple, effective eight-point program of passage meditation based on his own spiritual experience. Thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds now follow this program all around the world.
* Easwaran as a Teacher *
In the introduction to one of his key books, Easwaran described his approach as a teacher. He appealed to people, he said, “partly because I have not retired from the world – I live very much as a family man, a good husband, son, and friend – but also because I have tried to combine the best of West and East.
“I live together with forty friends at our ashram, or spiritual community, and though I have heavy responsibilities in guiding our work, I take time for recreation. I go with friends to the theater; I am fond of Western and Indian classical music; I like to take the children to the ice cream parlor and the dogs to the beach for a run.
“But perhaps what appeals most deeply is that I understand the difficulties of living in the modern world. Before taking to meditation, in my ignorance of the unity of life, I too committed most of the mistakes that even sensitive people commit today. As a result, I understand how easy it is to make those mistakes, and I know how to guide and support those who are trying to learn a wiser way of living.”
* Easwaran Now *
Since Easwaran’s passing in 1999, interest in his work has only increased. People choose to relate to him today in various ways: as an authority on world mysticism; as a wise spiritual writer; as an experienced teacher of meditation; and as a personal spiritual guide.
Easwaran is a recognized authority on the Indian spiritual classics. His translations of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Dhammapada are the best-selling editions in the USA. Over 1.5 million of his books on spiritual living and world mysticism are in print.
The meditation programs that Easwaran created for every stage of life are reaching growing audiences in person and online. He left a vast legacy of video and audio talks which will be shared increasingly over the next years through our website, programs, publications, and digital library.
For those who seek him as a personal spiritual guide, Easwaran assured us that he lives on through his eight-point program.
"I am with you always”, he said. “It does not require my physical presence; it requires your open heart."