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1 Introduction From Wave to Soil Ann Gleig and Lola Williamson Some would argue that the term “Hinduism” is woefully inadequate because it enforces a false uniformity on such a wide variety of practices, philosophies, and beliefs. Yet this English word identifying religious pro‑ pensities of the Indian subcontinent, based on a much earlier Persian designation for the people who lived in the area of the Sindhu (Indus) River, has been in use since the late eighteenth century, and it is likely here to stay. Thus, we somewhat reluctantly continue to use the word “Hinduism.” In this book, however, we move to a new problem: how does one characterize this vast array of beliefs and practices we call Hinduism after it has been removed from its original Indian context and begun to mingle with Western worldviews and customs in America? Thomas Forsthoefel and Cynthia Humes employ the metaphor of waves in Gurus in America to chart the phenomenon of Hinduism in America.1 The first wave began with nineteenth‑century teachers such as Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), and the second wave is dated to those Indian gurus who came in the wake of the lifting of the Asian immigration act in 1965.2 This book might be viewed as a continuation of Gurus in America. It examines the challenges and changes that have occurred in response to the earlier two waves of Hindu gurus, as well as the legacies that have been carried forward from them. In one sense, then, the gurus appearing here consist of what might be thought of as a third wave of gurus. Many of these gurus, for exam‑ ple, are students and successors of second‑wave gurus and so historically 2 / ANN GLEIG AND LOLA WILLIAMSON represent a third manifestation of Hinduism in America. We employ the concept of a third manifestation, however, primarily as an analytical rather than chronological category in order to signify American‑born gurus in Hindu lineages. For example, Helen Crovetto discusses the innovations of American guru Swami Rudrananda, or Rudi, that occur partially in opposition to his own second‑wave guru, Muktananda. The American Rudi and the Indian Muktananda were acting in the capacity of guru at the same time. Muktananda’s style, however, was decidedly Indian while Rudi’s style conveyed his American roots. After more than a century of experimentation during which Hindu gurus adjusted their teachings to accommodate their American milieu, a new stage in the development of Hinduism in America appears to be taking shape. It can now rightly be called its own tradition—“American Hinduism”—rather than an imported religion. As American‑born gurus are increasing in number and their innovative styles reflect a distinc‑ tively American cultural and religious ethos, the metaphor of waves washing over the surface breaks down. Given that these gurus, teachers, retreat centers, and organizations come not from across the far shore but are produced from the ground up in America, we prefer to think of them as homegrown. What happens when we replace “wave” with “soil” or “ground” as our fundamental metaphor? One consequence is the tilting of the balance between Indian and American cultural matrixes. To understand these homegrown gurus, we need to fully comprehend the cultural soil in which they have grown as well as the foreign traditions that have sustained them. Numerous studies have discussed the influence of West‑ ern Enlightenment, Romantic, and liberal Protestant discourses on the shaping of Hinduism between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries.3 One Western lineage we want to draw particular attention to here is Western esotericism.4 Elizabeth De Michelis’s groundbreaking study of modern yoga, A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericism, brought attention to the role of modern esotericism in the construction and promotion of Hinduism in the West.5 As De Michelis correctly notes, the seminal role of Western esotericism has been consistently overlooked and neglected in the study of modern and contemporary Hinduism. Similarly, Catherine Albanese has drawn attention to the deter‑ minative role that she terms “American metaphysical traditions” has played in the assimilation of Asian religions in America.6 In a lineage stretching from colonial New England to the Californian New Age, and incorporating traditions as diverse as Transcendentalism and the Human Potential Movement, Albanese shows how American metaphysical tradi‑ tions express a distinct American religious ethos that is strongly flavored INTRODUCTION / 3 by American cultural values such as individualism, pluralism, antiau‑ thoritarianism, egalitarianism, democracy, and pragmatism. Albanese examines how early...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781438447933
Related ISBN
9781438447919
MARC Record
OCLC
862746284
Pages
246
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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