Death Must Die

51p84xrFRoL._AC_US218_

Death Must Die

A Western Woman’s Life-Long Spiritual Quest in India with Shree Anandamayi MaBased on the Diaries of Atmananda
Ram Alexander
Publisher: First Impression New Delhi
ISBN: 81 86569 32 4

Swami Atmananda never thought her diaries would be read by anyone but herself. A uniquely independent woman for her time, as a young girl maturing in the 40s she was absorbed in Western intellectual and artistic culture. At the first touch of spiritual knowledge she was inspired to explore more deeply her own nature and the nature of reality. Eventually she gave Western comforts up to seek the truth.

Her first spiritual influence was the Theosophical Society, and so she gravitated to Krishnamurti. Dissatisfied still, she was led to the great saint Anandamayi Ma but not without conflict as to whose presence she would take refuge. As a Westerner and a woman, the Brahmin orthodox tested her determination to be accepted as a disciple by Anandamayi Ma.

There is a natural mystery in the drama of her spiritual life, which she takes seriously. Her diaries are frank, honest and sometimes tortured as her spiritual unfolding progresses. She is tormented by the desire for personal love and a personal life, and the longing for liberation, which set up an internal conflict that tears her apart. Doubt is a deadly poison on the path, but ultimately she resolves these two passions and accepts her destiny as a disciple and swami.

On January 23, 1946 she writes:

I am not sincere, my surrender is only a farce. Therefore I cannot concentrate. Nowadays thoughts about the details of how I am going to drop work and what to do with all my things etc. creep into my mind. Then when I think of giving all I have to Her, it occurs to me that suppose I do not get on in the Ashram, what will I do? Suppose She won’t give me money to travel with Her, etc. Is that surrender? But I feel happy to prostrate myself on the ground before her and say: “Take all and make me the smallest particle of yourself.”

Atmananda eventually became a translator for many Westerners who found themselves at Ma Anandamayi’s Ashram. She also edited the writings and books that were published during and after her life. One of the most beautiful excerpts from a conversation Ma had with Swami Premanand was translated by her. Ma advised him:

Meditate on God all the time, whatever you do, wherever you are. Remember that whatever you see, whatever you hear, is He alone. Pain exists because you believe yourself to be separate. Don’t consider anyone as separate from yourself. Regard everyone as your friend…

American Veda

This book is by Philip Goldberg, an ordained interfaith minister, and founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates who has thoroughly researched Hinduism’s impact on North America from the 50s until now.

51Txp+JI-XL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

 

American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation
How Indian Spirituality Changed the West
Philip Goldberg
Publisher: Harmony Books, Random House
ISBN: 978 0 385 52134 5

This book fills a unique niche as a commentary on the rise of Vedic teachings, and the Gurus who transmitted them in America. Philip Goldberg is a wonderful writer and spiritual analyst who examined the Vedic exodus from the East to the West, and its considerable influence on American culture.

He writes:

Vedanta-Yoga is a kind of empirical science of the inner life; its postulates can be tested in the laboratory of one’s own consciousness, using the test tubes and Bunsen burners of yogic disciplines. And the goal does not have to be union with God, or Self-realisation; it can be something instrumental, like reduced stress or a clearer mind. In other words, what some saw as theology, others saw as testable hypotheses. What some viewed as spiritual practices, others viewed as therapies.

Even though Goldberg focuses on America, he addresses a dilemma a lot of Westerners face. Buddhists call themselves Buddhists, Christians call themselves Christians, and Jews call themselves Jews. But what do Westerners who have a Guru and have embraced Hindu teachings like yoga and meditation, call themselves? Goldberg made a choice to move away from calling the teachings ‘Hindu’ or ‘Hinduism’ and instead calls the movement by the book’s title ‘American Veda’.

Goldberg eloquently discusses the evolutionary relationship between East and West as a kind of cultural ‘transmission,’ which is seeping into every aspect of American thought and life. He relates stories and anecdotes of the most influential Gurus, practitioners and students of Eastern thought. He traces the spiritual history of Vedic teachings in America, from the first hatha yoga teacher, to the present teachers.

This book is readable, entertaining and immensely interesting. Goldberg is not just a scholar, he is also a practitioner who brings his years of experience and understanding of yoga to the pages.

 

How To Know God

imgres-1

Translated with a commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

Vedanta Press  ISBN 0 87481 041 8

I recommend this book for beginning practitioners who want to deepen their understanding of meditation and yoga.

 

 

The authors offer us a clear exposition of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. There are wonderful anecdotes and metaphors that explain the complex mental gymnastics of yoga.

Yogis often use sleep as an analogy to describe a deep state of meditation and how we come close to the inner Self in sleep. Sutra 1.10 states, ‘Sleep is a wave of thought about nothingness’. The writers explain that the sleep state is actually a ‘positive experience of nothingness’. There is a sense of self, a witness of our experience, even when we sleep for when we awaken we know that we slept.

In my early years of meditation I went into a deep trance state that felt similar to sleep except that when I came out of it I felt a lot of energy. Over time I became more awake in my meditation, more conscious of what was happening in my mind. My meditation went from ‘sleep’ to ‘waking’. True to Patanjali’s sutra, I was aware of what had happened both when I was ‘asleep’ and when I ‘awoke’.

Another striking commentary is Sutra 1.36: ‘Concentration may also be attained by fixing the mind upon the Inner Light, which is beyond sorrow.’

‘The ancient yogis believed that there was an actual centre of spiritual consciousness, call the “lotus of the heart”, situated between the abdomen and the thorax, which could be revealed in deep meditation. They claimed that it had the form of a lotus and that it shone with an inner light. It was said to be “beyond sorrow”, since those who saw it were filled with an extraordinary sense of peace and joy.’

Their writing is inspirational and encouraging. They reassure us that with perseverance we can attain ‘peace and joy.’

Yoga School Drop-Out

I love to read spiritual books. Perhaps my favourites are biographies describing ‘sadhana’ or spiritual journeys. Who hasn’t wanted to manifest the ‘life plan’!

imgresYoga School Drop-out

Lucy Edge, Ebury Press ISBN 009189922 2

Lucy, a high flying British advertising executive is disenchanted with life. Realizing she needs a change she travels to India hoping to discover the secret to happiness and a gorgeous man.

“The Plan: find a guru and return a yoga goddess – a magnetic babe attracting strong and sweaty yet emotionally vulnerable men with my pretzel like body and compassionate grace.

Needless to say things didn’t work out quite as planned. Yoga School Dropout describes my journey from the ad agencies of London into the arms of the Hugging Mothers and Swoony Swamis of Kerala. I encountered the Gucci’d Guru of Pune, an enlightened waiter from Rishikesh and faked an orgasm for a Tantric washing machine repairman from Byron Bay.”

Lucy visits many trendy yoga schools and ashrams and writes honestly of her impressions. As she navigates the pitfalls of her self-worth in the yoga world she eventually learns to love and accept herself.

.