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Gurus in America

Thomas A. Forsthoefel, Cynthia Ann Humes

Publication Year: 2005

Gurus in America provides an excellent introduction to the guru phenomenon in the United States, with in-depth analyses of nine important Hindu gurus—Adi Da, Ammachi, Mayi Chidvilasananda, Gurani Anjali, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Osho, Ramana Maharshi, Sai Baba, and Swami Bhaktivedanta. All of these gurus have attracted significant followings in the U.S. and nearly all have lived here for considerable periods of time. The book’s contributors discuss the characteristics of each guru’s teachings, the history of each movement, and the particular construction of Hinduism each guru offers. Contributors also address the religious and cultural interaction, translation, and transplantation that occurs when gurus offer their teachings in America. This is a fascinating guide that will elucidate an important element in America’s diverse and ever-changing spiritual landscape.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-13

Mystics and storytellers in South Asia have woven this deceptively simple observation into the Indic consciousness for millennia. Hindu scriptures warn that the true nature of endlessly changing phenomenal reality can be lost to us as we thrash about the crashing waves of life. Yet the Hindu emphasis on the phenomenal fact of impermanence is tempered by the promise of something...

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1. RAJA YOGA AND THE GURU: Gurani Anjali of Yoga Anand Ashram, Amityville, New York

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pp. 15-35

ONE DISTINGUISHING FEATURE of spiritual life is the need for a guide or preceptor. While the specific texture of spiritual life differs among religious traditions, it is safe to say that, differences notwithstanding, the spiritual teacher provides a map for a deepened spirituality.The teacher in effect marks the path toward “home,” that is, the most complete expression of human fulfillment in...

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2. WEAVING THE INWARD THREAD TO AWAKENING: The Perennial Appeal of Ramana Maharshi

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pp. 37-53

THE EVER-BURGEONING LITERATURE on mysticism has assessed, scrutinized, evaluated, and critiqued the so-called perennial philosophy, most notably articulated by Aldous Huxley, which holds for common religious experience at the heart of all religions, “superficial” cultural patterns and practices notwithstanding. The mountain of that literature is indeed large, and I have added my...

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3. MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI: Beyond the TM Technique

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pp. 55-79

NINETEENTH-CENTURY Hindu Renaissance leaders openly offered Vedantic wisdom to the West. Western Transcendentalists, Unitarians, and Spiritualists offered their own wisdom and, enjoying the dialogue, picked and chose which aspects of Oriental thought they wished to appropriate to fold into what they deemed to be a “universal religion,” the essence of which could be discerned...

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4. KRISHNA AND CULTURE: What Happens When the Lord of Vrindavana Moves to New York City

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pp. 81-95

IMAGINE A SEVENTY-YEAR-OLD SCHOLAR journeying from India aboard a steamship bound for America. His personal effects consist of but a few sets of saffron renunciant’s cloth, a pair of white rubber shoes, and forty rupees (“hardly a day’s spending money,” he would later remark after arriving in New York City). Though asking for alms is a privilege of his calling, he has no...

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5. BABA’S WORLD: A Global Guru and His Movement

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pp. 97-122

AMONG DEVOTEES of Bhagavan Shri Satya Sai Baba, a central—perhaps the central—belief is that he is God or, more accurately, God-man.1 He is not simply guru or mahaguru, but the Divine Being in toto and an avatar of that being as well.2 The title of one documentary-style devotional video states it simply and unmistakably in the present tense: God Lives in India. For the many...

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6. PASSAGE TO AMERICA: Ammachi on American Soil

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pp. 123-146

FOR NEARLY THREE DECADES, a tiny dark-skinned Indian holy woman has comforted, blessed, and—many believe—healed millions of devotees of all ages, races, religions, and walks of life, simply by her gentle, loving spiritual embraces. Mata Amritanandamayi, the Mother of Immortal Bliss—affectionately called Amma or Ammachi (Mother)—has emerged as one of the most...

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7. THE PERFECTIBILITY OF PERFECTION: Siddha Yoga as a Global Movement

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pp. 147-167

IN THE EARLY 1950s in the tiny village of Ganeshpuri located in the Indian state of Maharashtra, a man, dressed in only a loincloth, receives visitors. People from cities and villages around the state and farther travel great distances and stand in line in the hot sun for hours to take sight (darshan) of this holy man (sadhu), Nityananda. They may or may not see his face, for often he lies on a...

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8. OSHO, FROM SEX GURU TO GURU OF THE RICH: The Spiritual Logic of Late Capitalism

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pp. 169-192

FEW RELIGIOUS LEADERS of the last century have been as controversial, scandalous and yet also financially successful as the infamous “Sex Guru” and “Guru of the Rich,” known in his early years as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and in his later life simply as “Osho.” Born in India in 1931, Rajneesh developed a radically iconoclastic brand of spirituality that became enormously popular...

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9. RIDING THE DAWN HORSE: Adi Da and the Eros of Nonduality

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pp. 193-217

THE MOUNTAIN OF ATTENTION SANCTUARY is just down the road from Middletown, California, one of those small mountain communities that lay up the road a torturous two and a half hour drive from the Golden Gate Bridge. The Sanctuary is one of three ashrams belonging to Adidam, an American siddha guru tradition deeply influenced by Hindu and Buddhist systems of...

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pp. 219-225

EVEN CASUAL OBSERVERS are likely to notice differences among the many religious movements established over the last decades by Hindu gurus in the West. In some movements, most members regularly wear Indian dress; in others, most don’t. The local branches of some movements appear highly uniform; those of others appear less so. Differences stem in good part from the...


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pp. 227-229


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pp. 231-236

E-ISBN-13: 9780791482698
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791465738
Print-ISBN-10: 079146573X

Page Count: 244
Publication Year: 2005