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Transcendent in America

Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion

Lola Williamson, 0, 0

Publication Year: 2010

“Bringing together history and ethnographic interviews, (NYU Press, $23) argues that Hindu-inspired meditation movements are a distinct type of new religious movement, even if their followers and leaders may repeat the “mantra” that they are “spiritual but not religious.””

Published by: NYU Press

title page

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p. v

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A Note on Transliteration

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p. vi

Hindi and Sanskrit terms are italicized the first time they appear with the exception of words that are becoming part of the American lexicon, such as “guru” and “ashram.” Transliteration of words does not employ diacritical marks (i.e., Shiva and not Śiva, kundalini and not kuņḍalinī). ...

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pp. ix-xiii

Well before dawn when most Americans are asleep, Walter rises early to sit for meditation. He has been practicing the techniques he learned through Self-Realization Fellowship every day since 1961. “Something essential is missing,” he says, “if I don’t meditate.” Meanwhile, Aaron goes to the “Dome,” where he is joined by ...

Part I : Background

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1. What Are Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements?

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pp. 3-25

On a jumbo jet filled with meditators headed for Switzerland, I awakened to the sound of a stewardess’s voice. “I have been instructed to wake you twenty minutes before breakfast so you have time to concentrate,” she softly intoned over the PA system. Some of us chuckled quietly at her choice of words. Our guru, Maharishi, ...

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2. Laying the Foundation for American-Style Hinduism

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pp. 26-52

While my classmates in eleventh-grade English class yawned their way through Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays, I could hardly contain my excitement. My inclination toward idealism blossomed upon discovering Emerson. The idea that spirit is more real than matter, and that everything is somehow bound together in one ...

Part II : Three Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements

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3. Self-Realization Fellowship

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pp. 55-79

The first passenger boat sailing from India to America after the end of World War I carried a man who, like Vivekananda, was to stir the imaginations of thousands as he delivered public lectures throughout the United States. The year was 1920, and the person aboard the ship was Paramahansa Yogananda. He came to America ...

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4. Transcendental Meditation

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pp. 80-105

On February 5, 2008, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi passed away at his home and headquarters in Vlodrop, the Netherlands, where he had lived since the late 1980s. He was believed to have been ninety-one years old. In the last years of his life he rarely met with anyone face-to-face, preferring to speak with followers by closed-circuit television. ...

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5. Siddha Yoga

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pp. 106-132

“Be with Baba!” the large bold headlines of a newspaper-style encyclical read. Below the caption, a large picture of a bearded man with sunglasses and an orange ski cap smiled at me. I read every article, most of them testimonies about the power of shaktipat. Apparently, “Baba” (an endearing term that people used for Muktananda ...

Part III: In Their Own Words

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6. The Guru-Disciple Relationship

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pp. 135-160

The guru-disciple relationship is a defining characteristic of HIMMs. Followers of HIMMs consider the guru to be an enlightened human being or even a manifestation of God. Some of those who practice TM do not enter into a guru-disciple relationship with Maharishi, but many do. With SRF and Siddha Yoga, the guru-disciple ...

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7. Mystical Experiences

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pp. 161-185

The mystical experience of inner light has been recorded in religious traditions around the world and throughout history. We could call it a perennial experience—one that is not bound by culture or time frame. The way a person describes the experience of inner light is bound by culture—in this case, the culture created ...

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8. Worldview

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pp. 186-214

Existential questioning at a young age and the suffering that often accompanies it was a predominant theme among those I interviewed: “I would look up at the stars and ask, ‘Why am I here?’” “I was always searching, searching, searching.” “I felt something was really missing.” “Always in the back of my mind I was thinking, ...

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pp. 215-234

Let us end where we began—with three meditators who follow three different HIMMs. Since 1969 Walter has meditated twice a day under the auspices of SRF and has attended a weekly satsang at his local center for almost as many years. Aaron has been practicing Transcendental Meditation since 1970 and performs his ...


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pp. 235-242


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pp. 243-250


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pp. 251-260

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About the Author

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p. 261

Lola Williamson is an assistant professor in the Religious Studies Department of Millsaps College in Mississippi. She has been meditating daily since she was eighteen. She is currently researching a new generation of non-Indian gurus born in the United States.

E-ISBN-13: 9780814794708
E-ISBN-10: 081479470X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814794494
Print-ISBN-10: 0814794491

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 647835904
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Transcendent in America

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Spiritual life -- Hinduism.
  • Hinduism -- United States.
  • Meditation -- Hinduism.
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