American Veda

From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

From the jacket copy: “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, American Veda, 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 of Americans and radically altered the religious landscape.

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Praise for American Veda

“American Veda is an illuminating, gracefully written and remarkably thorough account of India’s spectacular impact on Western religion and spirituality.”Deepak Chopra

American Veda shows us how we got to where we are. It chronicles a revolution in consciousness initiated by the voices of India’s Sanatana Dharma (eternal religion) and describes its lasting influence on our culture, from gurus, meditation, and yoga to sitar music and aromatic curries. Savor it.” – Michael Bernard Beckwith, author of Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul’s Potential

“In a delightful, compelling way, American Veda shows how India’s ancient wisdom has permeated our lives, including many of the self-improvement teachings that have benefited millions. I loved reading this book.” -Marci Shimoff, NY Times bestselling author, Happy for No Reason and Love for No Reason

“This book fills a void: scholars have mined the subject of Indian spiritual philosophy, but mostly for the academy, despite the broad impact of Vedantism on popular culture. Goldberg gets it.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Demonstrates the far reach of Indian thought into the American psyche and sense of spiritual self. Goldberg presents a well written, superbly researched book. It should be read by all the 15 million Americans practicing meditation and yoga!” – Christopher Chapple, Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Loyola Marymount University

In American Veda, Philip Goldberg offers us an authoritative and highly entertaining look at the  contemporary history of Hindu-inspired spirituality in the West. Written with a practitioner’s heart and a journalist’s eye, this book is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the deeper philosophy and culture behind today’s yoga boom.” – Sally Kempton, author of Meditation for the Love of It and Awakening Shakti

“A wonderfully comprehensive history … that is positive, tremendously insightful, and illuminating. For anyone interested in the deep influence of yoga philosophy in American culture, I highly recommended this masterful book.” – John Friend, Founder of Anusara Yoga

“An immensely smart, wise, brilliantly written account of Vedanta in America. This book should be required reading for everyone interested in ecumenical spirituality which is the one hope for the survival of the human race, and India’s great gift to us in our crisis.Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: The Guide to Social Activism and The Sun at Midnight
“American Veda is a thrilling examination of how deeply the ancient, vibrant philosophies of India have penetrated western culture. No American can read this book without being amazed at the degree to which these factors affect our daily life. This book is not a dry sociocultural analysis; it contains wisdom on every page, in Phil Goldberg’s splendid style. This is a hugely significant contribution.” — Larry Dossey, M.D., author of The Power of Premonitions, Reinventing Medicine and Healing Words

“Philip Goldberg has provided an excellent overview of the Yoga movement in the West and its Vedic connections. . . .I hope that the western Yoga community is able to understand the importance of his work and can look to a presentation of Yoga that embraces and ennobles the entire human spirit and liberates our deeper Self and consciousness, not simply afford, us greater flexibility at a physical level!” – David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), founder and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies

“Intriguing reading, fascinating profiles and great storytelling of Yoga luminaries adapting the teachings to fit their modern American life. This book inspires us all to continue to grow, deepen in our body, mind, and spiritual journey.” – Lilias Folan, PBS Host and author Lilias! Yoga Gets Better with Age

“Documents an important cultural change and is an impressive book: informed and informative, well researched and readable.” – Roger Walsh MD, Ph.D., University of California Medical School, author of Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices

Reviews & Endorsements

Goldberg presents the history of America’s fascination with Hinduism in very readable prose packed with anecdotes and biographical details that immediately draw us in. . . . There have been several books for a mainstream audience that trace Buddhism’s history in America …, but we’ve been without the equivalent for Hinduism until now. American Veda, as entertaining as it is informative, ably fills the void.– Tricycle magazine

“[A]n authoritative, engaging survey of why …  the flowers of Eastern practices have thrived in Western soil. . . . [C]hapters move like a succession of ocean swells, easily accessible, and Goldberg applies sharp strokes of the brush to capture particular viewpoints or dilemmas. . . . The popularity today of all things Eastern, including retreats, mala beads, mindful eating and yoga, is a hopeful sign, he says, that we are experiencing a genuine ‘uptick in interreligious and interethnic harmony.’” – Los Angeles Times

“In this important and engaging book, Philip Goldberg astutely examines how Hinduism has been constructed and consumed within the larger American spiritual landscape. A must read for those interested in Hinduism and its transmission.”Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California
“Goldberg weaves a tale as only a true storyteller can, drawing the reader into this Vedic web that has no weaver, providing us with a fresh view of how Vedic strands have woven their way into the daily fabric of every American, whether they like it or not. I hope you enjoy, as much as I did, Goldberg’s assemblage of characters as he masterfully unfolds this ancient play of spiritual unfolding that is just now beginning to emerge into early adolescence in America.” – Richard Miller, PhD, author of Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing, founding president of the Integrative Restoration Institute.

“Before setting out on Philip Goldberg’s breathtaking trek across time, few would guess how deeply our culture has imbibed the Indian wisdoms. American Veda shows us something extraordinary, surprising, and precious about where we come from, who we are at this moment, and what we may yet become.” – Chip Hartranft, author of The Yoga-Sutra Of Patañjali: a new translation with commentary. “Nothing short of remarkable. Within the pages of this fairly short volume, Goldberg manages to cover every major figure, movement, and idea that originated in India’s spiritual terrain and arrived on our shores to forever alter the landscape of our thought and culture….Writing with empathy and discernment, he covers highly controversial issues regarding the impact of the transmission of Indian spiritual culture in a way that inspires deeper understanding. American Veda is an insightful guide to the fascinating history of a phenomenon that will be seen in the future as one of the watershed moments of American history.” – Rita D. Sherma, Ph.D., Executive Director, School of Philosophy & Religious Studies, Taksha University

“American Veda is a landmark! Easy to read, it shines a light of understanding on the American Vedic Hindu path, which started with the transference of knowledge from India and its acceptance by the Americans of Western orientation. It is a path on which now, the immigrant Vedic Hindu community and its progeny are grafting onto and traveling along with many in the mainstream community, resulting in increased understanding. The integrated approach of this book helps fill in the gaps of this historical journey, especially for those of us who see ourselves as fellow travelers working to bridge the East-West divide.” – Anju Bhargava, Management Consultant and Founder of Hindu American Seva Charities

“Goldberg does yeoman service in chronicling the many ways India has influenced American—and, by extension, Western—culture, often very subtly.Kirkus Reviews
“American Veda is a bright light on the historical path to enlightenment in America. Philip Goldberg is an acharya of words and research. Highly recommended.” Larry Payne Ph.D., co-author, Yoga for Dummies, Yoga Rx & The Business of Teaching Yoga

“American Veda delights readers as it analyzes developments that enrich the ground from which yoga in the United States now blossoms.” – Yoga Journal

“[A] vividly detailed account of how Indian spirituality, and particularly the concept from the Rig Veda of ‘one truth, many paths,’ has transformed American consciousness.” – Yoga International

“Goldberg’s chapters are campfire classics, dinner conversation, trivia facts that ignite and excite. He is telling a tale that is part epic melodrama, part detective novel and – of course – part love story. And for a reader (like myself) who was sparked by reading Emerson and Thoreau in high school, entranced by George Harrison’s use of the sitar in Beatles albums, well, American Veda is a must-read.” – LA Yoga magazine

“Whether the reader is a baby boomer and remembers the gurus and teachers of the 1960s and 1970s or a newcomer to Yoga and Eastern thought, there will be some reference to someone known or read or remembered, and a memory is triggered and a smile comes, savoring the journey. In that sense, American Veda is comfortable like a pair of favorite pajamas. It is clear that American society has moved ever closer to a worldview that resembles the core principles of the Vedic tradition.” – Beryl Bender Birch, Yoga Therapy Today

“The book is fascinating and entertaining, a history of the awakening consciousness in the West of which we are a part.” Light of Consciousness magazine
“We are living at a time of a profound awakening of consciousness that is changing the world. Much of that awakening is due to the influence of Indian spirituality and its practical applications. . . . How that came about needed to be documented, and Philip Goldberg has done just that. And he has done it with a novelist’s gift for story-telling and a palpable love for many of the men and women who either brought the teachings from India or discovered it here and made it their own.” – Common Ground Magazine

“From the transcendentalists to today’s cultural creatives, no aspect of American culture is left unexamined. The reader is led to a great appreciation of Eastern thought’s indelible imprint on life in America.” –  Science of Mind magazine

“We imagine the US as a Christian island far from the exotic teachings of India. We imagine wrong. As Phil Goldberg’s masterful American Veda shows we have been under the sway of Hindu spiritual thought for centuries. If you want to understand American spirituality today, and get a glimpse into its future, read this book.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Recovery, the Sacred Art

“American Veda offers both long-time students of Yoga and Vedanta and those new to this spiritual path an invaluable look at the trajectory of light shining from the East into Western culture. The research covered is extensive, yet Phil Goldberg’s writing style brings it forth with grace and ease. Students of Yoga will come away with a much clearer sense of the breadth and depth of the profound influence of the Vedas on the West.” – Ellen Grace O’Brian, Director, Center for Spiritual Enlightenment

“Compelling and insightful. Goldberg’s fine book is more evidence that we all share the same planet and that we have been influencing one another for millennia. There are no easy demarcations, no “east and west,” and no borders when it comes to the intellect and the spirit.” – Nathan Katz, Professor of Religious Studies; Director of the Program in the Study of Spirituality at Florida International University.

“It is true that the Beatles’ encounter with “mystic” India was an important religious event in the story of America’s encounter with Indian spirituality, but it was only one of the many events that have shaped that encounter, and our relationship.  Goldberg does a wonderful job of exposing many of the other important pieces of that pivotal relationship.  In the process, he helps show how much Hindu thinking has permeated and influenced so much of what America is today…and why it has made us better.” – Ramdas Lamb, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Hawai’i

American Veda is a jewel!  A masterful, superbly written and lucid account of the transformative impact of Vedic thought and practice on American spirituality.  Goldberg covers it all.  From Emerson and Vedic texts to Swami Vivekananda and the Vedanta Society, from the Self-Realization Fellowship, the Beatles, Transcendental Meditation and Yoga to Amma the contemporary ‘Hugging Saint,’ Goldberg is a superb guide.   This is the book to read if you want to know how Vedanta, Yoga, and Meditation became main-stream in the West.– M. Darrol Bryant, author of Religion in a New Key and Director, Centre for Dialogue and Spirituality in the World Religions, Renison University College/University of Waterloo, Canada

In American Veda, Philip Goldberg surveys the subtle but surprisingly pervasive influence of Vedantic teachings in America with careful scholarship, deft writing, and wit. . . . A superbly researched and written description of Vedanta’s migration to the United States.” – John J. Prendergast, Ph.D., senior editor of The Sacred Mirror and Listening from the Heart of Silence, Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies.

Those who read American Veda will be amazed by the tremendous influence India has had on America.  Readers will appreciate Goldberg’s attention to details and sense of humor as he deftly takes them on a delightful journey through time, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, connecting the dots that link India’s spiritual and cultural heritage to America’s.”  – Lola Williamson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Director, Peace Studies Millsaps College

This excellent book relates, probably for the first time in a single volume, the history of Hindu-inspired religious movements in America. From karma to gurus to yoga, it’s all here.  Based on solid research, but also written in a highly accessible fashion, American Veda is a very good starting point for anyone who is interested in learning more about the influence of Hinduism in America.  Goldberg gets it.  His writing rings true. This chronicle of what may yet emerge as a distinctively American form of Hinduism will continue to be a valuable reference work for many decades to come.– Dr. Jeffery D. Long, Associate Professor and Chair, Religious Studies, Elizabethtown College Co-Director, Asian Studies Minor, Elizabethtown College