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My Guru and His Disciple

Product no.: 978-1250254870
In 1939, as Europe approaches war, Isherwood, an instinctive pacifist, travels west to California, seeking a new set of beliefs to replace the failed Leftism of the thirties.

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Publisher's Synopsis
There he meets Swami Prabhavananda, a Hindu monk, who will become his spiritual guide for the next thirty-seven years. Late-night drinking sessions, free love, and the glamour of writing for the Hollywood studios alternate with meditation, abstinence and the study of religious texts in a compelling tug of war between worldliness and holiness.

"My Guru and His Disciple is a sweetly modest and honest portrait of Isherwood's spiritual instructor, Swami Prabhavananda, the Hindu priest who guided Isherwood for some thirty years."     ~New York Times

"In some ways, Isherwood's most ambitious book. There is a sense of wholeness and of the joy of spiritual quest. We can believe such a believer."     ~The Boston Globe

"Gerald had already started his own drastic program of self-preparation; every day he sat for three two-hour periods of meditation — in the early morning, around noon, and in the early evening. During these six hours he was engaged, as far as I could gather, in somehow fixing his thoughts upon what he called 'this thing' — 'this thing' being the source of inner peace which he was trying to contact. I think it was Gerald's natural fastidiousness which prevented him from calling it 'God' — to say that he was looking for God would have sounded pretentious, ungentlemanly. Perhaps, also, he guessed that I would have a prejudice against the word. If he did, he was right. I loathed it.

My interpretation of the word 'God' had been taken quite simplemindedly from leftwing anti-religious propaganda. God has no existence except as a symbol of the capitalist superboss. He has been deified by the capitalists so that he can rule from on high in the sky over the working-class masses, doping them with the opium of the people, which is religion, and thus making them content with their long working hours and starvation wages.

I soon had to admit, however, that Gerald's 'this thing' — leaving aside the question of its existence or non-existence — was the very opposite of my 'God.' True, it was by definition everywhere, and therefore also up in the sky, but it was to be looked for first inside yourself. It wasn't to be thought of as a Boss to be obeyed but as a Nature to be known — an extension of your own nature, with which you could become consciously united. The Sanskrit word yoga, ancestor of the English word 'yoke,' means union, and hence the process of achieving union with this eternal omnipresent Nature, of which everybody and everything is a part.

During the past few years, I had kept declaring that I knew religion was a lie, because I knew that I hadn't got an eternal soul. Now, after talking to Gerald, it became obvious to me that I had been misusing the word 'soul' to mean my ego-personality. I had merely been saying (quite correctly) that my ego-personality, Christopher, was subject to change, like my body, and therefore couldn't be eternal. If I did have a soul, it could only be 'this thing,' seen in relation to Christopher. I might call it 'mine' for convenience when thinking about it, but I must remind myself that Christopher could never possess it. If the two were ever to become united, Christopher would cease to exist as an individual. He would be merged in 'this thing'; not vice versa."

With his guru Swami Prabhavananda, Isherwood translated from the Sanskrit The Bhagavad-Gita and The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Later he wrote a biography of Ramakrishna and his disciples (1965). In My Guru And His Disciple (1980) Isherwood broke from the strictly chronological format to create a spiritual autobiography wherein the values of Vedanta Hinduism counter his life as a Hollywood scriptwriter.

Author Isherwood, Christopher
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 352 pp.
Publisher Picador 2020
Browse these categories as well: Spiritual Biography and Autobiography, Inspirational Poetry, Prose and Sacred Art, Hinduism: Gurus and Advaita Vedanta, Noteworthy Releases 2020

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