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Philip Goldberg with Srinivas Chari

I had known Philip Goldberg as a prolific writer of self help books and a regular blogger on Huffington Post on spiritual issues. When I met him a few months ago he mentioned that he had been interested in Hindu spirituality for many years and had practised and taught Transcendental Meditation (TM) for some of them. He added that he was presently in the process of putting the finishing touches to his latest book, American Veda1, which would deal with the transmission of spiritual knowledge from India to the West. As an Indian domiciled in America the subject intrigued me, and I sought out a copy soon after it came out in print this winter. It turned out to be a highly readable, lucidly written, comprehensive account of the history and impact of Hindu spiritual and philosophical traditions on American thinkers, writers, artists, scientists and philosophers over the past two centuries. It spans the entire life of this young nation, from the time of its founding fathers such as Adams and Jefferson, through the lives of its great thinkers such as Emerson and Thoreau to modern writers, artists, academics and philosophers, such as Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), Joseph Campbell, Heinrich Zimmer and Huston Smith, among others, and of course the Beatles, most notably George Harrison. It traverses the path taken by many Indian spiritualists such as Swami Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda and other gurus and teachers from India who came to this country and established centers to propagate their Vedantic view of the world and its solution to the problems of life through the practice of yoga and meditation. While the book gives a vivid comprehensive account of the spiritual and cultural assimilation of Hindu practices and beliefs in this western setting, it also raises some questions which I wanted to discuss with the author. The following is a brief account of our rather informal discussions, framed in the format of an interview, on the subjects covered in his book. Srinivas Chari: What got you interested in Hindu spirituality, notably Vedanta and yoga? Was it some specific incident or life experience? Philip Goldberg: No. I was at loose ends as a student in the 1960s, and felt I needed to fill a void in myself. So I began reading a number of books on Indian philosophy and Vedanta, including the Upanishads and the Gita. I found in them an answer to ...

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