Combining Hinduism with Western concepts and values, a new hybrid form of religion has developed in the United States over the past century. In Transcendent in America, Lola Williamson traces the history of various Hindu-inspired movements in America, and argues that together they constitute a discrete category of religious practice, a distinct and identifiable form of new religion.Williamson provides an overview of the emergence of these movements through examining exchanges between Indian Hindus and American intellectuals such as Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and illuminates how Protestant traditions of inner experience paved the way for Hindu-style movements’ acceptance in the West.Williamson focuses on three movements—Self-Realization Fellowship, Transcendental Meditation, and Siddha Yoga—as representative of the larger of phenomenon of Hindu-inspired meditation movements. She provides a window into the beliefs and practices of followers of these movements by offering concrete examples from their words and experiences that shed light on their world view, lifestyle, and relationship with their gurus. Drawing on scholarly research, numerous interviews, and decades of personal experience with Hindu-style practices, Williamson makes a convincing case that Hindu-inspired meditation movements are distinct from both immigrant Hinduism and other forms of Asian-influenced or “New Age” groups.
I've been a yoga teacher for many years and originally began practicing yoga for health and fitness. Like many of my students though, I naturally began to learn more about meditation and yogic philosophy as my practice deepened. But I had many questions about how these seemingly ancient and foreign practices have found their way into mainstream America...and indeed, into my own personal life! As a yoga teacher, this book gave me the historical perspective I was looking for to be able to intelligently dis..
This truly outstanding book is a major contribution to the study of Hinduism, the study of religion in America, and the study of religion in general (particularly the field of comparative mysticism and the epistemology of religious experience). Williamson manages to combine empathy for her subject matter with scholarly rigor to produce a work that is not only intellectually engaging, but that also rings true for those of us who practice within Hindu-inspired meditation traditions.Though it is not the cente..