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Yoga, karma, meditation, guru—these terms, once obscure, are now a part of the American lexicon. Combining Hinduism with Western concepts and values, a new hybrid form of religion has developed in the United States over the past century. In Transcendent in America, Lola Williamson traces the history of various Hindu-inspired movements in America, and argues that together they constitute a discrete category of religious practice, a distinct and identifiable form of new religion.
Williamson provides an overview of the emergence of these movements through examining exchanges between Indian Hindus and American intellectuals such as Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and illuminates how Protestant traditions of inner experience paved the way for Hindu-style movements’ acceptance in the West.
Williamson focuses on three movements—Self-Realization Fellowship, Transcendental Meditation, and Siddha Yoga—as representative of the larger of phenomenon of Hindu-inspired meditation movements. She provides a window into the beliefs and practices of followers of these movements by offering concrete examples from their words and experiences that shed light on their world view, lifestyle, and relationship with their gurus. Drawing on scholarly research, numerous interviews, and decades of personal experience with Hindu-style practices, Williamson makes a convincing case that Hindu-inspired meditation movements are distinct from both immigrant Hinduism and other forms of Asian-influenced or “New Age” groups.
A Note on Transliteration vii
Part 1 Background
1 What Are Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements? 3
2 Laying the Foundation for American-Style Hinduism 26
Part 2 Three Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements
3 Self-Realization Fellowship 55
4 Transcendental Meditation 80
5 Siddha Yoga 106
Part 3 In Their Own Words
6 The Guru-Disciple Relationship 135
7 Mystical Experiences 161
8 Worldview 186
About the Author 261
Posted January 5, 2010
I've been a yoga teacher for many years and originally began practicing yoga for health and fitness. Like many of my students though, I naturally began to learn more about meditation and yogic philosophy as my practice deepened. But I had many questions about how these seemingly ancient and foreign practices have found their way into mainstream America...and indeed, into my own personal life! As a yoga teacher, this book gave me the historical perspective I was looking for to be able to intelligently discuss these topics with my students. But upon reading the book, I was also delighted to find deeply personal and moving interviews with long-time practitioners of meditation. These personal accounts lent the book an intimacy rarely found in a book written with such academic and intellectual authority.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.