December 2015 Book of the Month

A couple years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda, speak to an audience at the University of Michigan. Sponsored by the Michigan Creativity and Consciousness Studies Faculty Committee, Goldberg told the mesmerizing story of India’s impact on Western religion and spirituality.

Goldberg was invited to U of M by his friend Ed Sarath. Professor Sarath, a well known musician, is the founder of the first program at a mainstream institution to significantly integrate meditation practice and related studies into an academic curriculum. There is no doubt that Sarath’s work has been profoundly impacted by the very themes explored in Goldberg’s book.

American Veda chronicles the story of the slow “Vedicization” of American spirituality. Ever since the first translations of Hindu text found their way into the libraries of prominent Americans, the science of consciousness studies has informed our poetry, literature, music and language. Goldberg outlines – in great detail – the impact this knowledge has had on broader cultural themes. For example, the massive shift in the collective understanding of the mind/body connection, the health benefits of meditation and yoga and the science behind “we are all one” statements.

Goldberg introduces the reader to every great saint, sage, philosopher and poet to take the stage in this conversation. His follows this east-west transmission of thought from the pages of Thoreau to the lyrics of the Beatles. American Veda shares the stories of the great leaders – from Swami Vivekananda to Ram Dass and every great yogi in between. As I listened to Goldberg speak, I could not help but feel the distance of how far we have come. Given my own experience of integrating transcendental meditation into the curriculum of a college course, I know that I am but one player in an on- going revolution of sorts. Consciousness studies, integral spirituality, contemplative practices are the “hot” topics on campuses around the country. There is no doubt this transformation of American thought has come in large part through the influence of eastern spirituality. I, for one, would argue that we are all better off as a result.

Molly Beauregard