In February, 1968, the Beatles went to India for an extended stay with their new guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It may have been the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those forty days in the wilderness. With these words, Philip Goldberg begins his monumental work, a fascinating look at India’s remarkable impact on Western culture. This eye-opening popular history shows how the ancient philosophy of Vedanta and the mind-body methods of Yoga have profoundly affected the worldview of millions and radically altered the religious landscape.
From the time of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman, succeeding generations absorbed India’s “science of consciousness” and wove it into the fabric of our lives. Charismatic teachers like Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda came west in waves, prompting leading intellectuals, artists, and scientists—Aldous Huxley, Joseph Campbell, Allen Ginsberg, J. D. Salinger, John Coltrane, Dean Ornish, and Richard Alpert, aka Ram Dass—to adapt and disseminate what they learned from them. The impact is dramatically changing how we view ourselves and our place in the cosmos.
Goldberg paints a compelling picture of this remarkable East-to-West transmission, showing how it moved from the counterculture into laboratories, libraries, and living rooms. Now physicians and therapists routinely recommend meditation, words like karma and mantra are part of our everyday vocabulary, and Yoga studios are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. Rich in detail and expansive in its scope, American Veda shows how we have come to accept and live by the central teaching of Vedic wisdom: “Truth is One, the wise call it by many names.”