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Vedanta for the Western World by Christopher Isherwood (1985-10-02)

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Review Text

  • By David Kiebert on November 3, 2011

    This book is a very interesting introduction to the ideas of Indian Vedanta philosophy for the Western reader. Many of the essays included were written by eminent Westerners such as Christopher Isherwood and Aldous Huxley, but there are also very eloquent essays by Indian clerical writers. There are a couple of very illuminating essays about the practice of meditation that I found especially useful. The only things I disliked were the apparent attempt to express Hindu ideas in Christian or Biblical terms and the seemingly puritanical attitude toward the human body and the physical world. All in all, though, a very good read.

  • By Yehudit on June 8, 2016

    A MUST READ for all religions! I am a Jew, and I learned and grew so much from reading this!

  • By Larry McClain on May 7, 2016

    Many of the essays found in this book were first published in a magazine edited by Isherwood and Aldous Huxley in the 1940s and 1950s. It's great to have them published again in book form.

  • By Steven H Propp on August 15, 2011

    Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) was an English-American novelist who was also very influential in the Vedanta Society of Southern California.This 1945 book is a very broad and fascinating collection of essays by such persons as Aldous Huxley; Swami Prabhavananda; Swami Yatiswarananda; Gerald Heard; not to mention Isherwood himself. He wrote in the Introduction, "'Vedanta and the West' (the magazine) has always had an extremely small circulation, a fact that we much regret... We hope to reach some ... by publishing this book. From another point of view, however, I cannot say I am sorry that 'Vedanta and the West' has always remained, as it were, a parish magazine, a family affair... Several of our contributors have distinguished names, but their work has not been hired. They have written for us simply because they are interested in Vedanta and are our personal friends."Here are some quotations from the book:"Brahman does not interfere in the world's affairs. The question 'why does God permit evil?' is, to a Vedantist, as meaningless as 'why does God permit good?' The fire burns one man and warms another, and is neither cruel or kind." (Pg. 5)"(Q:) 'If we had past lives, why can't we remember them?' (A:) 'Can you remember exactly what you did this time yesterday? Can you remember what it felt like to be sitting on your mother's lap at the age of eighteen months?'" (Pg. 13)"What is the purpose of working and living? To find freedom from the bondages of misery and death. There is no other purpose." (Pg. 69)"Patanjali was one of those philosophers who claimed that belief in God is not a necessary prerequisite for spiritual life. To him religion is experience; therefore... whether you believe in God or not, does not matter." (Pg. 80)"Vedanta ... asserts that, when viewed from the point of view of the Absolute, there is neither good not evil, neither pleasure nor pain. Then evil no longer exists, not because the magical power of the Absolute changes evil into good, but because both good and evil have ceased to exist." (Pg. 110)"If you go to the source, to the actual founders of the world's great religions, to Christ, to Buddha, to Krishna, or to Ramakrishna, you will find that one truth expressed: Realize God IN THIS LIFE." (Pg. 317)"This is a fundamental principle of spiritual life: that you must control the mind." (Pg. 329)

  • By Christopher R. Travers on February 13, 2010

    Disclaimer: I didn't read every essay in the book. I picked and chose, and read the half of the essays (those that appealed to me). Fortunately, this book allows you to do just that.This is a book about modern Hindu thought as it relates to spirituality and religion by a group of Western and Indian writers. Like many Vedanta books aimed at a Western audience, Christian ideas serve as reference points rather frequently. Much of this I think has to do with Ramakrishna's ventures into both Islam and Christianity, his return to Hinduism, and his message that one could find spiritual value in any of the religions.There are many elements of the book that I found challenging and am not sure if I accept, but I also think that one reads a book like this to provide food for contemplation and thought, not to provide answers to questions that we accept without question. In particular the question of celibacy strikes me as inconsistent with how I look at religion and spirituality, in part because my view of concepts analogous to Brahman and Maya differ in fundamental ways from the contemporary Hindu approach. This isn't to say one side is right and the other wrong. They may well both be correct from limited perspectives.On the other hand, I found many essays in the book to be quite interesting. Gerald Heard's essay "Return to Ritual" was quite striking and I found it resonated with me a great deal, and the general description of what drives folks from modernism towards Vedanta and other religions echoed elsewhere seems as valid today as when it was written.

  • By Pariah Sojourner on June 6, 2015

    I really can't add anything new that hasn't been mentioned by the other reviewers. I found this book a few years ago at a Goodwill store. There is such excellent content that I find myself constantly pulling it off of my bookshelf.Here's a full-text online version that I found:

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