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Of gurus, maharajas, swamis and the other practitioners who have come to American shores bringing "India's leading export"—Hinduism, that is.
Practitioner Goldberg (Roadsigns: On the Spiritual Path—Living at the Heart of Paradox, 2006, etc.), one of many prominent "Hinjus" (Jewish Hindus) who espouse the traditions of South Asia, opens by observing that his book is "about Hinduism," which, narrowly defined, is "a specific set of precepts and practices derived from India's primary religion." Given that Hinduism is the source of Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism, the other major indigenous faiths of the subcontinent, the concentration on Hinduism as a shortcut for Indian religion seems defensible, though still apt to provoke argument. The author blends scholarly interest with firsthand experience, but his insistence that America is thoroughly Veda-ized—since we all use words likeguru, karma,yoga,mantra and maybe evennamaste—already seems arguable as well, given the resurgence of fundamentalist Christianity.Still, Goldberg has a point, and he does a capable job of showing the influence Hinduism has had for at least the last century and a half, beginning with the Transcendentalists and winding through the sounds of just about any band that has ever used a sitar. The author also sets his sight on loftier exponents, such as T.S. Eliot, a close student of Sanskrit, and J.D. Salinger, whose texts he reads as Vedanta parables. And then there are the Beats, of course. The organization is a little haphazard and the puns ("Maharishi's little helpers," "the cart before the source," "living the vida veda") may be a little too frequent for some tastes, but Goldberg does yeoman service in chronicling the many ways India has influenced American—and, by extension, Western—culture, often very subtly.
For budding mahatmas, a worthy and vigorous introduction, though less well-written than its closest Buddhist counterpart, Rick Fields'sHow the Swans Came to the Lake (1981).
"American Veda shows us how we got to where we are. It chronicles a revolution in consciousness and describes India’s lasting influence on our culture, from gurus, meditation, and yoga to sitar music and aromatic curries. Savor it."
– Michael Bernard Beckwith, author of Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul’s Potential
"This book demonstrates the far reach of Indian thought into the American psyche and sense of spiritual self. A well written, superbly researched book, it should be read by all the 15 million Americans practicing meditation and yoga!"
– Christopher Chapple, Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Loyola Marymount University
"Wonderfully comprehensive, positive, tremendously insightful, and illuminating. For anyone interested in the deep influence of yoga philosophy in American culture, I highly recommended this masterful book."
– John Friend, Founder of Anusara Yoga
"Immensely smart, wise and brilliantly written. This book should be required reading for everyone interested in ecumenical spirituality which is the one hope for the survival of the human race, and India’s great gift to us in our crisis."
– Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: The Guide to Social Activism and The Sun at Midnight
"In this important and engaging book, Philip Goldberg chronicles the long neglected history of Hinduism's encounter with the US. He astutely examines how Hinduism has been constructed and consumed within the larger American spiritual landscape. A must read for those interested in Hinduism and its transmission."
- Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California
"American Veda documents an important cultural change and is an impressive book: informed and informative, well researched and readable."
– Roger Walsh MD, Ph.D., University of California Medical School, author of Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices
"Intriguing reading, fascinating profiles and great storytelling of Yoga luminaries adapting the teachings to fit modern American life. This book inspires us to continue to deepen in our body, mind, and spiritual journey."
– Lilias Folan, PBS Host and author Lilias! Yoga Gets Better with Age
"Goldberg weaves a tale as only a true storyteller can, drawing the reader into this Vedic web that has no weaver, providing us with a fresh view of how Vedic strands have woven their way into the daily fabric of every American. He masterfully unfolds this ancient play of spiritual unfolding that is just now beginning to emerge into early adolescence in America."
– Richard Miller, PhD, author of Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing, co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapy and the founding president of the Integrative Restoration Institute.
"A breathtaking trek across time, American Veda shows us something extraordinary, surprising, and precious about where we come from, who we are at this moment, and what we may yet become."
– Chip Hartranft, author of The Yoga-Sutra Of Patañjali: a new translation with commentary
"In a delightful, compelling way, American Veda shows how India’s ancient wisdom has permeated our lives, including many of the self-improvement teachings that have benefited millions. I loved reading this book."
– Marci Shimoff, NY Times bestselling author, Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul
“Nothing short of remarkable. Within the pages of this fairly short volume, Goldberg manages to cover every major figure, movement, and idea that originated in India’s spiritual terrain and arrived on our shores to forever alter the landscape of our thought and culture….Writing with empathy and discernment, he covers highly controversial issues regarding the impact of the transmission of Indian spiritual culture in a way that inspires deeper understanding. American Veda is an insightful guide to the fascinating history of a phenomenon that will be seen in the future as one of the watershed moments of American history.”
– Rita D. Sherma, Ph.D., Executive Director, School of Philosophy & Religious Studies, Taksha University
“American Veda is a bright light on the historical path to enlightenment in America. Philip Goldberg is an acharya of words and research. Highly recommended.”
– Larry Payne Ph.D., coauthor, Yoga for Dummies, Yoga Rx and The Business of Teaching Yoga
"We imagine the United States as a Christian island far from the exotic teachings of India. We imagine wrong. As Phil Goldberg's masterful American Veda shows we have been under the sway of Hindu spiritual thought for centuries. If you want to understand American spirituality today, and get a glimpse into its future, read this book."
– Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Recovery, the Sacred Art
"This book, American Veda is a landmark! Easy to read it shines a light of understanding on the American Vedic Hindu path which started with the transference of knowledge from India, and equally important by its acceptance by the Americans of western orientation. It is a path on which now, the immigrant Vedic Hindu community and its progeny are grafting on to and traveling along with many in the mainstream community, resulting in, we hope increased understanding. The integrated approach of this book helps fill in the gaps of this historical journey, especially for those of us who see ourselves as fellow travelers working to bridge the east-west divide."
– Anju Bhargava, Management Consultant and Founder of Hindu American Seva Charities
Posted September 30, 2010
No text was provided for this review.
Posted September 11, 2012
No text was provided for this review.
Posted March 6, 2011
No text was provided for this review.