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Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The author explores the hybrid forms of spiritual practice that emerged in the West, especially in the United States, over the last century as a result of the encounter with Hinduism in its myriad forms."-Frank J. Korom,Religious Studies Review

“In this highly readable study, Williamson not only places Hindu-inspired meditation movements within the larger picture of the historical context of American religion and culture, but also gives us an intimate glimpse into the motivations and experiences of long-time practitioners. Combining both insider and outsider perspectives, she provides a rich, balanced, and sympathetic account of these movements, while not shying away from the controversies they have generated. This book is a ‘must-read’ for those interested in both Indian spirituality and American pluralism.”
-Kathleen M. Erndl,author of Victory to the Mother: The Hindu Goddess of Northwest India in Myth, Ritual, and Symbol

"Overall, this book presents a thorough illustration of guru-following as a 'non-institutional institution' (85), and convincingly articulates the phenomenon of HIMMs [Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements] as a valuable category within present studies of religion. Given its detailed exposition of the commonalities and differences amongst HIMMs, including the controversies surrounding each movement, this book is equally suited to scholars of religion as it is to adherents of contemporary spirituality interested in the practice of meditation."-International Journal for the Study of New Religions,

“Highly recommended.”-Choice,

"The author is to be commended for drawing serious attention to an understudied subset of Hindu-based missionary movements in the West."-Phillip Charles Lucas,Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814794500
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lola Williamson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

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Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration vii

Preface ix

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

Conclusion 215

Notes 235

Bibliography 243

Index 251

About the Author 261

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2011

    Not Worth It

    This book is not worth the money, nor the time to read. Interesting, yes. But the research is shallow, with questionable references; the author will quote an e-mail from an anonymous source.

    Very little is new. Almost anything you want to know about the three organizations she discusses can be found on their respective websites and it looks like that is about all the research she did. Short on new information, thin on meaningful analysis.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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