Recently, I’ve been reading a book that’s a fascinating review of the migration of Vedanta and Yoga to the west. The book by Philip Goldberg is called American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation. How Indian Spirituality Changed the West.
His range and depth of coverage are impressive and there is many little known details of the influences behind well-known teachers. Did you know Gandhi was strongly influenced by Emerson? And Emerson by Vedanta? As a fellow traveler of this journey, it’s wonderful to see the larger perspective and gain insights on the journey many of us traveled together. While some effects are obvious, like Yoga studios and meditation teachers, the influences are far more subtle and far-reaching than you might realize.
For example, Christian church’s taught us that the priest was our intermediary with God. Vedanta brought us ideas of self development, personal evolution, and direct access to source/divinity. These ideas moved into the mainstream, including in fundamentalist churches. He covers the Transcendentalists (like Emerson), New Thought, Yogananda, the Beatles with Maharishi, and so on. And I’m still only about half way through.
I’ve also been impressed by his balanced and objective coverage of some of the controversies and issues that many spiritual teachers and organizations have gone through. If you were part of the boomers that “discovered” eastern spirituality or wish to understand the period, it’s a great read.
American Veda website
Philip Giving a talk on the subject (46 min):