Shorter “Yoga, Meditation and Vivekananda”

From this excellent piece a while back here

JD Salinger was very into yoga and meditation, a main tool to combat depression and ultimately which led him to renounce fame and writing itself.

He was a close follower of Swami Vivekananda, as were George Harrison, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, William James, and thousands launching from his famous 1893 talk at Chicago’s Worlds Fair that drove the intelligentsia mad.

He coined and popularized Hinduism as the name for the ideas stemming from Vedanta (the Vedic texts), the Bhagavad Gita, including the practice of Yoga and Meditation. He wrote Raja Yoga, which is a quick must read. It’s an instruction manual for reaching the superconscious state of samadhi.

Before him was the key illiterate teacher Ramakrishna who died in 1880, and in the west there had been encounters by the Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau.

//In 1875, Walt Whitman was given a copy of the Gita as a Christmas gift, and it is heard unmistakably in “Leaves of Grass” in lines such as “I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and am not contained between my hat and my boots.” Though the two never met, Vivekananda hailed Whitman as “the Sannyasin of America.”

He or his ideas reached and influenced the Boston Brahmins, Gertrude Stein, Henry James, John D Rockefeller, Leo Tolstoy, Sarah Bernhardt, Nikola Tesla and by reach into Gandhi, Jung, Santayana, Joseph Campbell and Henry Miller.

Some readings suggested by Nikhilananda, the mid-century guru to Salinger —

//Isherwood’s commitment to Vedanta, like Salinger’s, was unswerving and lifelong. Over the next 20 years, he co-translated with Prabhavananda the Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali’s “Yoga Aphorisms” and Shankara’s “Crest Jewel of Discrimination,” and was the author of several books and tracts on Vivekananda and Ramakrishna.

//In Salinger’s last published work, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” in 1965 in “The New Yorker,” Seymour bursts into a manic tribute to Vivekananda. “Raja-Yoga and Bhakti-Yoga, two heartrending, handy, quite tiny volumes, are perfect for the pockets of any average, mobile boys our age, by Vivekananda of India.”

More stars: Igor Stravinsky, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and W. Somerset Maugham. Garbo.

In a couple of lines

// But if there were a single takeaway line that boils down his teachings to one spiritual bullet point, it would be “You are not your body.” This might be bad news for the yoga-mat crowd. The good news for beleaguered souls like Salinger was Vivekananda’s corollary: “You are not your mind.”

And, a year-end charity to consider.

//In between his two treks to the West, Vivekananda returned to India and founded the Ramakrishna Order as both a monastery and a service mission. Today it is among the largest philanthropic organizations in India—providing food, medical assistance and disaster relief to millions. His prescription for his countrymen, however, who had been demoralized by colonialism, was to borrow a page from the West, he said, and instill itself with the “can do” spirit of Americans. “Strength! Strength is my religion!” he exhorted. “Religion is not for the weak!”

Amol Sarva, Ph.D. // 530-727-8277 // [email protected] // // @amol