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Philip Goldberg is a spiritual counselor, meditation teacher and ordained Interfaith Minister. The author or coauthor of 19 books, he lectures and leads workshops throughout the country. A novelist and screenwriter as well, he lives in Los Angeles, where he founded Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates (SWAHA). He is Director of Outreach for SpiritualCitizens.net. and blogs regularly on the Huffington Post and Intent.com
AMERICAN VEDA: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West, chronicles the history and influence of India's spiritual teachings in America.
Huffington Post named American Veda one of the top ten books on religion for 2010. And the American Library Association's Booklist Online gave it the same honor for 2011. It was recently given an Award for Special Distinction by the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies.
Spiritual coach and author Goldberg (Roadsigns) is a knowledgeable and sympathetic chronicler of the past 150 years or so of Indian spiritual ideas' influence on American spirituality. Correctly starting with Emerson and American transcendentalism, Goldberg follows a trail that gets broader, more diverse, and more powerful until yoga is as American as Starbucks, and "spiritual but not religious" becomes a cultural catchphrase describing millions whose notions of the transcendent are more shaped by India's Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion) than by Yankee divines and Southern Baptists. Goldberg sorts gurus and systems of yoga, correctly understanding the spiritual aspects of what many Americans think of as a physical fitness discipline. He's on point in tracing the influence of the spiritual philosophy of Vedanta on a legion of influential artists and writers beyond the titular ones--think John Coltrane and the late J.D. Salinger. 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. (Nov.)
I give presentations of various lengths - from 20 minute lectures to weekend workshops - on AMERICAN VEDA and related topics. The venues include universities, yoga studios, religious institutions, interfaith gatherings, and other sites. For information about topics and formats, and for a list of forthcoming and past events, click the links below. For information on my availability, e-mail Phil@PhilipGoldberg.com.
Recently released by Sentient Publications with a gorgeous new cover and a title that better reflects the nature of the book, this is an indispensible resource for spiritual veterans and newcomers to the path -- any path. For more information, click on the title in the left-hand column.
THE INTUITIVE EDGE
The definitive book on intuition, finally back in print. Click on the title in the left-hand column
In the right panel are announcements and links to information and other sites.
In the left panel is a selected list of my books. For a synopsis of each, click MY BOOKS in the menu. For details about a specific book -- description, reviews, ordering copies, etc. -- click on the title.
Now that “The Secret” has been revealed on “Larry King Live” and “Oprah,” it’s tempting to say it is no longer a secret. Millions of people are adjusting the contents of their thoughts to align their minds with “The Law of Attraction” and get the things they want. It seems to me this latest craze offers a good opportunity to contemplate some deep spiritual truths.
First, before I’m accused of being too critical, a couple of caveats:
1. I have no argument with the principles expressed in “The Secret.” Whether it’s accurate to call them “laws” the same way that gravity and thermodynamics are laws is arguable, but the idea that thoughts have power and energy is consistent with every metaphysical system I’m aware of. That the content of our thoughts has a strong influence on what happens to us in life is also consistent with spiritual teachings, not to mention common sense. Clearly, sick people who think they’ll heal are likely to do much better than those who think they’re doomed, and I’d rather invest in entrepreneurs who believe they’ll succeed than in someone who’s consumed by the fear of ruin.
2. I have nothing against material prosperity. Going after the good things in life is not, in itself, an impediment to spiritual fulfillment. It can even be a steppingstone.
What gives me pause about “The Secret” is not the secret itself but the hype surrounding it: specifically, the emphasis on getting rich, and the assertion that anyone who follows instructions can, should and will fulfill every one of their desires, guaranteed. The danger is that people will forget about the deeper spiritual laws and look for happiness in all the wrong places.
The secret that’s missing from “The Secret” is at the heart of every spiritual teaching, whether Jesus’s “lilies of the fields” sermon or Buddha’s Four Noble Truths: what you desire matters a great deal, as does the intensity with which you crave it and the degree to which you’re attached to having it.
In a culture that stokes the fire of acquisitive craving at every turn—to the detriment of the planet as well as our souls—it’s useful to remember what all the wisdom traditions teach: don’t pin your hopes for lasting happiness on sensory pleasures or material possessions; they are, by their very nature, impermanent, perishable, or incomplete. Every teaching, East and West, holds that feverish cravings are a setup for disappointment and frustration; whatever joy and satisfaction we gain from a desire fulfilled will inevitably fade, only to be replaced by another craving.
Not that we should stop wanting pleasure and prosperity and worthwhile achievements—as if we could—but rather that we should play those worldly games without any illusion that winning will give us what we’re really, truly searching for deep in our hearts: the imperishable peace and bliss that comes only from awakening to our divine Essence. Material wealth might make that search more comfortable, but it’s not a prerequisite and it can also be a distraction. Therefore, we are advised to direct the energy of desire first and foremost to the inner quest and enjoy the fleeting pleasures of worldly life as icing on the cake.
To their credit, the spokespersons for “The Secret” emphasize that one key to getting what you want is to be grateful for what you already have. This comes close to indicating the spiritual truth that the source of happiness, peace and fulfillment is present within us at the core of being, and it’s ours to access, whether we get the things we want or not. Awakening to that truth—not just intellectually but by direct contact—would seem to be the premiere goal, and a fine platform on which to use principles like “The Secret” to achieve worthy goals (seek ye first the kingdom, as Jesus put it, and all the rest will be added).
So, go for it. Think right, do right and get what you want. But while you’re doing it, keep some things in mind: 1) the satisfaction you gain from any fulfilled desire will be temporary, 2) don’t let yourself get overly attached to getting what you think you want, 3) be prepared to accept graciously what the universe delivers (to paraphrase Bob Dylan, your mind knows what you want, but God knows what you need), 4) seek the sublime union with the Sacred in the depths of your being, where the ups and downs of outer life can’t penetrate.
While you’re at it, think carefully about what you really want, beyond all the glitter and gold and ego gratification. “When all your desires are distilled,” sang the Sufi poet Hafiz, “you will cast just two votes: to love more, and be happy.” Why not adjust your desires upward, toward that which is most generous, noble and enduring? And why not apply some portion of your mind power for the good of others and our wounded planet as well?
When I was in the 6th grade, my mother fought to make an African American woman president of the PTA at my school. It seems absurd now, but that small victory was a big deal in my neighborhood. Never mind that the black woman, Mrs. Mason, was the only college graduate among the candidates. Never mind that this was in multi-ethnic Brooklyn, where white and black people rode subways, went to school and sometimes worked with each other. Never mind that Jackie Robinson had already been playing for the Dodgers about 8 years at the time.
I wish my mother were here today. I wish my father were too, because Jackie Robinson was his hero on and off the field.
I wish they were here because they gave me spending money and their blessings when I went south in 1965, a few months after the Voting Rights Act was passed, to help register black voters. I piled into a car with five classmates and drove through the night to Georgia. We spent our Christmas vacation in a rural area somewhere near Athens, living with black families. Many of the residents were too afraid to go into town to register. When we started receiving death threats, the SNCC leaders told us to hold off on the registration efforts, so we used our time to help turn an abandoned building into a community center for kids. One day, a white woman in a shiny new car drove up and gave us a wad of bills to help cover the costs. She asked us not to tell anyone because her husband would beat her if he found out.
I hope that woman is still around. I’m betting that a lot of people like her voted for Obama yesterday and did not tell their spouses or their friends.
When my friends and I got back to New York, we raised some money and sent it to Georgia to help a young black activist named Bobby, who had been arrested on trumped-up charges to intimidate him. He was released. I don’t know what happened to him, but I hope he is cherishing this moment.
I hope the kids who grew up playing ping pong or checkers in that community center are telling their own children about the days when their parents and grandparents could not even vote.
I hope Mrs. Mason’s children and grandchildren know that a white woman helped her become the first black president of P.S. 144’s PTA.
One final thought: the child of a black father and white mother carried the state of Virginia. In 1961, when Obama was born, his parents’ marriage would have been illegal in Virginia.