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How Yoga Has Transformed American Spirituality: An Interview with Phil Goldberg, “American Veda”.

I am pleased to welcome special guest Philip Goldberg to Elephant Journal. Phil is the author of the startling new book American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West.

Phil Goldberg is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, including “Roadsigns: On the Spiritual Path” and “The Intuitive Edge.” Based in Los Angeles, he is an ordained interfaith minister, a public speaker and seminar leader, and the founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates. He is director of outreach for SpiritualCitizens.net and blogs regularly on religion for the Huffington Post. Visit philipgoldberg.com or americanveda.com for more information.

(See also my review of American Veda: True or False?: Physical Yoga Has Had a Far Bigger Impact on America than Yoga Spirituality.)

Bob: Why did you decide to write American Veda?

Phil: Because I think it chronicles one of the most important trends in American history—certainly in American spiritual history. In a sense I started researching the book over forty years ago, when my own life was transformed by Vedantic ideas [Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads] and yogic practices. I was not the only one at that time, of course, but I gradually came to see that it was more than a counterculture phenomenon.

Over time, as the teachings seeped into the fabric of American society, not only through the Indian gurus but also through Western transmitters—artists, scholars, psychotherapists, doctors, etc.—I saw that the assimilation was more subtle and more pervasive than most of us realize. As both a writer and a proponent, I wanted to tell the story.

So I proposed a book in the mid-80s. I couldn’t interest a publisher. Twenty years later, the phenomenon had become so much more visible that an editor at Doubleday had the same idea, and our paths crossed at the right time.

Bob: What are the most important things you’d like the Yoga world to learn from American Veda they don’t know already?

Phil: It’s been very satisfying to hear from both new practitioners and long-time teachers that they learned something new from the book. It gives them a full picture of what brought us to this moment of time and how the current Yoga scene fits in the social and historical context of America. It goes back further and penetrates more deeply than most people realize.

I hope that teachers and practitioners, especially the young ones, also come away with greater reverence for the full scope of the tradition and resolve to protect and preserve its integrity, so it does not get reduced to a form of physical fitness or a therapeutic modality. Those are wonderful in and of themselves, but the body of spiritual teachings that underlay the physical practices are not only precious but vital for the ongoing evolution of our troubled species. India has given us a great gift, and we should make sure we don’t squander it.

Bob: What are the biggest difficulties you had in writing the book, and how did you overcome them?

Phil: In a nutshell, time and space. The book took almost two years longer to complete than I anticipated, and it could easily have been a thousand pages in length. There were difficult choices along the way, since a lot of juicy details had to be left out and worthy teachers and lineages could not be given the space they deserve.

As with most books, organizational structure presented challenges along the way too. In the end, it worked best to keep it somewhat chronological, but not rigidly so, in order to keep it flowing and be able to show all the streams and tributaries through which the teachings filtered into the culture.

Bob: What is most surprising experience you had in writing American Veda?

Phil: I thought I knew a lot going in, but it was amazing how much I discovered on a regular basis—and how much I still learn. I have a file of information to post on americanveda.com, and I seem to add to it every day.

One surprising thing was discovering gurus and yoga masters who spent time in the U.S. whom I somehow never heard of. They had small followings, and in some cases ashrams and centers, in places I would never have suspected, and some of their followers went on to have a significant impact in the transmission of Vedantic ideas and yogic practices.

Bob: How did you come to choose the title, and what were some of the other possibilities you considered?

Phil: I’d like to take credit for the title, but it was my editor’s idea from the start. I tried to think of alternatives, just in case there was a better choice, but everything I came up with was either too boring or too cute. One candidate was “The Full Lotus.”

Bob: Why did you choose to use the word “Veda” in the title, whereas you avoid that term in the text itself in favor of “Vedanta” or “Vedanta Yoga”? Wasn’t Vedanta Yoga in fact somewhat of a rebellion against the elaborate, ritualistic, priest-driven, superstitious organized religion of the Vedas?

Phil: You’re right of course, but we weren’t thinking of it in a literal or historical way, but rather “Veda” as “knowledge” and as a pithy way of evoking an ancient, complex tradition that was the fountainhead of all the wisdom that flowed out of India. In short, like many titles it’s meant to evoke, or suggest, or get attention.

Bob: What’s the most interesting question I should be asking that I haven’t thought of yet?

Phil: In my first few public appearances for the book, I was asked to summarize the influence of the Vedic tradition on America. So I now build it into my presentations. Here’s my list:

India gave people who are indifferent to, uncomfortable with, or hostile to conventional Western religion a way to be authentically spiritual. “Spiritual but not religious” would be an empty phrase without the framework and methodologies we imported from the East.

It changed the way we understand consciousness, the mind, the mind-body relationship and the connection between individual awareness and the larger whole.

It added higher levels of development to our understanding of human potential.

It changed the way we see ourselves and human nature. As one scholar put it, from original sin to original bliss.

It placed direct experience of the divine in the forefront of spirituality, as opposed to belief.

It stimulated a revival of Western mystical practices.

It gave us a vision of Oneness and a framework for a healthy, unity-in-diversity pluralism, with “Truth is one, the wise call it by many names.”

Bob: Phil, thanks for joining us here. Your book is amazing, and I again urge everyone to read it.

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Uncategorized

True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

Answer: False! The reverse is true. Spiritual Yoga has had a far bigger impact on America than the physical poses most people think of as Yoga.

You’ll almost certainly agree after reading the startling new book American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West by Philip Goldberg

(See accompanying interview with Phil Goldberg.)

The spirituality of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, the original texts of Yoga, has found its way into the very core of spiritual life in America, according to Goldberg, even though this is often masked by the form it has taken, and sometimes through outright repression of historical facts.

American Veda is an absolute must-read for anyone serious about Yoga. It is one of the most important books I’ve personally ever read about Yoga, or anything else, for that matter. It is surprising, entertaining, and highly readable throughout, and it will cause you to forever think differently about the impact of Yoga in America.

This book is so momentous, that at first I had trouble imagining how I could adequately describe it’s message and scope in a “review”. Then I suddenly realized that this would be the easiest review I’ve ever written. Here it is:

The following is just a partial list, just to give you an idea, of the famous people who, as documented in American Veda, have been profoundly influenced, not just a little bit influenced, but profoundly and pivotally influenced, by the Yoga of the original ancient Yoga texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, often referred to as “Vedanta Yoga” (Most are Americans, but I also included others who heavily influenced Americans.):

Authors

Ralph Waldo Emerson Henry David Thoreau Walt Whitman Aldous Huxley

Samuel Taylor Coleridge William Wordsworth William Blake Emily Dickinson

Robert Frost Jack Kerouac Allen Ginsberg Alan Watts Gotham Chopra

Tim Gallwey (Inner Game of Tennis) Herman Hesse Oliver Wendell Holmes

Somerset Maugham J. D. Salinger Christopher Isherwood Timothy Leary

Huston Smith T.S. Eliot William Butler Yeats

Psychologists

William James Carl Jung Abraham Maslow Stanislav Grof Daniel Goleman

New Spirituality/Self-help

Eckhart Tolle Deepak Chopra Michael Beckwith (Agape) Ken Wilber

Joseph Cambell Madame Blavatsky (Theosophical Society) Wayne Dyer

Marianne Williamson Norman Vincent Peale Tony Robbins

John Gray Joan Borysenko Andrew Harvey

Musicians & Entertainers

The Beatles (especially George Harrison) Philip Glass Judy Collins

Russell Simmons Elvis Presley John Coltrane Alice Coltrane Donovan

Mick Jagger Marianne Faithful Mia Farrow Mike Love

Paul Horn Madonna John McGlaughlin

Yehudi Menuhin Van Morrison David Lynch Shirley McClaine

Jerry Seinfeld And many others

Religious Figures

Mary Baker Eddy (founder Christian Science) Ernest Holmes (Religious Science)

Thomas Keating Thomas Merton Father Bede Griffiths Rabbi David Gelberman

The “New Thought” Movement (source of many modern congregations)

Politicians/Activists

John Adams Martin Luther King (through Mahatma Gandhi) Booker T. Washington

Philosophers

Arthur Schoepenhauer Friedrich Hegel Alfred North Whitehead

Scientists

David Bohm (quantum physicist) Rupert Sheldrake (biologist) Fritjof Capra (The Tao of Physics)

J. Robert Oppenheimer Erwin Shroedinger (physicist, close friend of Einstein)

Nikola Tesla (legendary inventor) John Hagelin Amrit Goswami

Health and Wellness

Andrew Weil Dean Ornish Mehmet “Dr.” Oz. Herbert Benson (The Relaxation Response)

See also: How Yoga Has Transformed American Spirtuality: An Interview with Phil Goldberg, Author of “American Veda”, and then read the book!

Phil Goldberg is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, including “Roadsigns: On the Spiritual Path” and “The Intuitive Edge.” Based in Los Angeles, he is an ordained interfaith minister, a public speaker and seminar leader, and the founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates. He is director of outreach for SpiritualCitizens.net and blogs regularly on religion for the Huffington Post. Visit philipgoldberg.com or americanveda.com for more information.

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Bhagavad Gita for a Fish.


Gita for a Fish

Let’s say you are a fish
Swimming in the sea.

Only you’re a very very smart fish,
Smart enough to realize
That being a fish swimming in the sea
Isn’t all there is.

You can see that you’re part of
A vast unknown ocean.

You can see there are many other creatures
And countless wondrous things
To learn about and enjoy
In this vast unknown ocean.

You can even imagine
That there may be a vast unknown world
Beyond even the vast unknown ocean.

You can also see
How wondrous and amazing it is
To be a fish,
To revel in all the unfathomable workings
Of your amazing fish body
And your amazing fish mind.
And how amazing it is
To simply be able to swim around
In this vast unfathomable ocean.

You can’t ever fully figure out
The vast reality
Beyond your little fish world,
The vast unknown ocean
And the vast unknown world
Beyond the vast unknown ocean.

You can’t ever really figure out
The incredible workings
Of your little fish body
And your billions of little fish cells
And your amazing fish mind.

But you can swim
In continual awe and wonder
At the vast unknown ocean
And the vast unknown world
Beyond the vast unknown ocean

And you can be in continual amazement
At the incredible workings
Of your little fish body
And your billions of little fish cells
And the wonders
Of all the other creatures and things
You see all around you as you swim.

You can think about it.
You can meditate on it.
You can love and celebrate it.

And meanwhile you can settle in
To simply being the best fish you can be.

Categories
Uncategorized

Bhagavad Gita for a Fish.


Gita for a Fish

Let’s say you are a fish
Swimming in the sea.

Only you’re a very very smart fish,
Smart enough to realize
That being a fish swimming in the sea
Isn’t all there is.

You can see that you’re part of
A vast unknown ocean.

You can see there are many other creatures
And countless wondrous things
To learn about and enjoy
In this vast unknown ocean.

You can even imagine
That there may be a vast unknown world
Beyond even the vast unknown ocean.

You can also see
How wondrous and amazing it is
To be a fish,
To revel in all the unfathomable workings
Of your amazing fish body
And your amazing fish mind.
And how amazing it is
To simply be able to swim around
In this vast unfathomable ocean.

You can’t ever fully figure out
The vast reality
Beyond your little fish world,
The vast unknown ocean
And the vast unknown world
Beyond the vast unknown ocean.

You can’t ever really figure out
The incredible workings
Of your little fish body
And your billions of little fish cells
And your amazing fish mind.

But you can swim
In continual awe and wonder
At the vast unknown ocean
And the vast unknown world
Beyond the vast unknown ocean

And you can be in continual amazement
At the incredible workings
Of your little fish body
And your billions of little fish cells
And the wonders
Of all the other creatures and things
You see all around you as you swim.

You can think about it.
You can meditate on it.
You can love and celebrate it.

And meanwhile you can settle in
To simply being the best fish you can be.

Categories
Uncategorized

How Yoga Has Transformed American Spirituality: An Interview with Phil Goldberg, “American Veda”.

I am pleased to welcome special guest Philip Goldberg to Elephant Journal.  Phil is the author of the startling new book  American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

Phil Goldberg is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, including “Roadsigns: On the Spiritual Path” and “The Intuitive Edge.” Based in Los Angeles, he is an ordained interfaith minister, a public speaker and seminar leader, and the founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates. He is director of outreach for SpiritualCitizens.net and blogs regularly on religion for the Huffington Post. Visit philipgoldberg.com or americanveda.com for more information.

(See also my review of  American Veda: True or False?: Physical Yoga Has Had a Far Bigger Impact on America than Yoga Spirituality.)

Bob: Why did you decide to write American Veda?

Phil: Because I think it chronicles one of the most important trends in American history—certainly in American spiritual history.  In a sense I started researching the book over forty years ago, when my own life was transformed by Vedantic ideas [Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads] and yogic practices. I was not the only one at that time, of course, but I gradually came to see that it was more than a counterculture phenomenon.  

Over time, as the teachings seeped into the fabric of American society, not only through the Indian gurus but also through Western transmitters—artists, scholars, psychotherapists, doctors, etc.—I saw that the assimilation was more subtle and more pervasive than most of us realize.  As both a writer and a proponent, I wanted to tell the story. 

So I proposed a book in the mid-80s. I couldn’t interest a publisher.  Twenty years later, the phenomenon had become so much more visible that an editor at Doubleday had the same idea, and our paths crossed at the right time.  

Bob: What are the most important things you’d like the Yoga world to learn from American Veda they don’t know already?

Phil: It’s been very satisfying to hear from both new practitioners and long-time teachers that they learned something new from the book.  It gives them a full picture of what brought us to this moment of time and how the current Yoga scene fits in the social and historical context of America.  It goes back further and penetrates more deeply than most people realize. 

I hope that teachers and practitioners, especially the young ones, also come away with greater reverence for the full scope of the tradition and resolve to protect and preserve its integrity, so it does not get reduced to a form of physical fitness or a therapeutic modality.  Those are wonderful in and of themselves, but the body of spiritual teachings that underlay the physical practices are not only precious but vital for the ongoing evolution of our troubled species.  India has given us a great gift, and we should make sure we don’t squander it.

Bob: What are the biggest difficulties you had in writing the book, and how did you overcome them?

Phil: In a nutshell, time and space. The book took almost two years longer to complete than I anticipated, and it could easily have been a thousand pages in length.  There were difficult choices along the way, since a lot of juicy details had to be left out and worthy teachers and lineages could not be given the space they deserve. 

As with most books, organizational structure presented challenges along the way too.  In the end, it worked best to keep it somewhat chronological, but not rigidly so, in order to keep it flowing and be able to show all the streams and tributaries through which the teachings filtered into the culture.

Bob: What is most surprising experience you had in writing American Veda?

Phil: I thought I knew a lot going in, but it was amazing how much I discovered on a regular basis—and how much I still learn.  I have a file of information to post on americanveda.com, and I seem to add to it every day.

One surprising thing was discovering gurus and yoga masters who spent time in the U.S. whom I somehow never heard of.  They had small followings, and in some cases ashrams and centers, in places I would never have suspected, and some of their followers went on to have a significant impact in the transmission of Vedantic ideas and yogic practices.

Bob: How did you come to choose the title, and what were some of the other possibilities you considered?

Phil: I’d like to take credit for the title, but it was my editor’s idea from the start.  I tried to think of alternatives, just in case there was a better choice, but everything I came up with was either too boring or too cute.  One candidate was “The Full Lotus.”

Bob: Why did you choose to use the word “Veda” in the title, whereas you avoid that term in the text itself in favor of  “Vedanta” or “Vedanta Yoga”?  Wasn’t Vedanta Yoga in fact somewhat of a rebellion against the elaborate, ritualistic, priest-driven, superstitious organized religion of the Vedas?

Phil: You’re right of course, but we weren’t thinking of it in a literal or historical way, but rather “Veda” as “knowledge” and as a pithy way of evoking an ancient, complex tradition that was the fountainhead of all the wisdom that flowed out of India.  In short, like many titles it’s meant to evoke, or suggest, or get attention. 

Bob: What’s the most interesting question I should be asking that I haven’t thought of yet?

Phil: In my first few public appearances for the book, I was asked to summarize the influence of the Vedic tradition on America.  So I now build it into my presentations.  Here’s my list:

India gave people who are indifferent to, uncomfortable with, or hostile to conventional Western religion a way to be authentically spiritual.  “Spiritual but not religious” would be an empty phrase without the framework and methodologies we imported from the East.

It changed the way we understand consciousness, the mind, the mind-body relationship and the connection between individual awareness and the larger whole.

It added higher levels of development to our understanding of human potential.

It changed the way we see ourselves and human nature.  As one scholar put it, from original sin to original bliss.

It placed direct experience of the divine in the forefront of spirituality, as opposed to belief.

It stimulated a revival of Western mystical practices.

It gave us a vision of Oneness and a framework for a healthy, unity-in-diversity pluralism, with “Truth is one, the wise call it by many names.”

 Bob: Phil, thanks for joining us here.  Your book is amazing, and I again urge everyone to read it.

Categories
Uncategorized

True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

Answer: False!  The reverse is true.  Spiritual Yoga has had a far bigger impact on America than the physical poses most people think of as Yoga.

You’ll almost certainly agree after reading the startling new book  American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West  by Philip Goldberg

(See  accompanying interview with Phil Goldberg.)

The spirituality of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, the original texts of Yoga,  has found its way into the very core of spiritual life in America, according to Goldberg, even though this is often masked by the form it has taken, and sometimes through outright repression of historical facts.

American Veda is an absolute must-read for anyone serious about Yoga.  It is one of the  most important books I’ve personally ever read about Yoga, or anything else, for that matter.  It is surprising, entertaining, and highly readable throughout, and it will cause you to forever think differently about the impact of Yoga in America.

This book is so momentous, that at first I had trouble imagining how I could adequately describe it’s message and scope in a “review”.  Then I suddenly realized that this would be the easiest review I’ve ever written.  Here it is:

The following is just a partial list, just to give you an idea, of the famous people who, as documented in American Veda, have been profoundly influenced, not just a little bit influenced, but profoundly and pivotally influenced, by the Yoga of the original ancient Yoga texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, often referred to as “Vedanta Yoga” (Most are Americans, but I also included others who heavily influenced Americans.):

Authors

Ralph Waldo Emerson     Henry David Thoreau     Walt Whitman     Aldous Huxley

Samuel Taylor Coleridge     William Wordsworth     William Blake     Emily Dickinson

Robert Frost     Jack Kerouac     Allen Ginsberg     Alan Watts     Gotham Chopra

Tim Gallwey (Inner Game of  Tennis)        Herman Hesse     Oliver Wendell Holmes

Somerset Maugham    J. D. Salinger     Christopher Isherwood     Timothy Leary

Huston Smith    T.S. Eliot     William Butler Yeats

Psychologists

William James     Carl Jung     Abraham Maslow     Stanislav Grof     Daniel Goleman

New Spirituality/Self-help

Eckhart Tolle     Deepak Chopra     Michael Beckwith (Agape)     Ken Wilber

Joseph Cambell    Madame Blavatsky (Theosophical Society)    Wayne Dyer

Marianne Williamson     Norman Vincent Peale     Tony Robbins

John Gray     Joan Borysenko     Andrew Harvey

Musicians & Entertainers 

The Beatles (especially George Harrison)     Philip Glass     Judy Collins

Russell Simmons    Elvis Presley     John Coltrane     Alice Coltrane    Donovan

Mick Jagger     Marianne Faithful     Mia Farrow    Mike Love

Paul Horn     Madonna     John McGlaughlin

Yehudi Menuhin     Van Morrison     David Lynch     Shirley McClaine

Jerry Seinfeld     And many others

Religious Figures

Mary Baker Eddy (founder Christian Science)     Ernest Holmes (Religious Science)

Thomas Keating    Thomas Merton     Father Bede Griffiths     Rabbi David Gelberman

The “New Thought” Movement (source of many modern congregations)

Politicians/Activists

John Adams     Martin Luther King (through Mahatma Gandhi)     Booker T. Washington

Philosophers

Arthur Schoepenhauer     Friedrich Hegel    Alfred North Whitehead

Scientists

David Bohm (quantum physicist)     Rupert Sheldrake (biologist)     Fritjof Capra (The Tao of Physics)

J. Robert Oppenheimer     Erwin Shroedinger (physicist, close friend of Einstein)

Nikola Tesla (legendary inventor)     John Hagelin     Amrit Goswami

Health and Wellness

Andrew Weil     Dean Ornish     Mehmet “Dr.” Oz.     Herbert Benson (The Relaxation Response)

See also:  How Yoga Has Transformed American Spirtuality: An Interview with Phil Goldberg, Author of “American Veda”, and then read the book!

Phil Goldberg is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, including “Roadsigns: On the Spiritual Path” and “The Intuitive Edge.” Based in Los Angeles, he is an ordained interfaith minister, a public speaker and seminar leader, and the founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates. He is director of outreach for SpiritualCitizens.net and blogs regularly on religion for the Huffington Post. Visit philipgoldberg.com or americanveda.com for more information.