Indian Spirituality in the West
Many Indian gurus today have established spiritual empires that stretch from small town America to I inner Mongolia. They have attracted followers ranging from flashy celebrities to simple homemakers. In this article, we look at a few notable Indian spiritual gurus who have opened the doors of Eastern wisdom to western seekers.
The Light of Asia
Gautama Buddha was one of the first and perhaps the most famous Indian master. He taught his followers to be skeptical of dogma and to analyze spiritual teachings thoroughly before accepting them. Eastern nations like Japan and China were enthralled by spiel. In the 20th century, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism entered American thought and consciousness. Today, Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in the US.
Swami Vivekananda’s Stirring Speech
America realized the hoary traditions of Hinduism after hearing Swami Vivekananda’s soul-stirring speech at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 in Chicago. The robust saint then toured all over the US for the next two years spreading the message of yoga and Vedanta. His legacy, the Ramakrishna Mission, still continues to popularize Hindu spirituality in the West.
Yogananda Goes to America
The immortal yogi-christ Babaji requested Paramahamsa Yogananda to travel to America and quench the Westerners’ thirst for spiritual wisdom. Yogananda carried out this task with aplomb teaching kriya yoga which has been described as the airplane route to liberation. His speeches attracted record crowds as Americans thronged to experience yogic knowledge and wisdom.
TM attracts the Beatles
Perhaps the most practical contribution of Indian spirituality is Transcendental Meditation (TM). Research has conclusively proved that TM boosts creativity and inspires calmness, tranquility and peace of mind. Thus, this technique has become a rage among stressed out westerners. TM’s founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi attracted the attention of the Beatles in the 1960’s and the fab four even spent some time in India to get firsthand experience of the country’s famed spiritual hospitality.
Chant Hare Krishna
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) founded by Srila Prabhupada in 1966 popularized Krishna among westerners. In many American cities you can see ISKCON devotees clad in saffron chanting their devotion to Krishna. The counter-culture ideology of this movement attracts westerners fed up with materialism and consumerism. ISKCON has established many beautiful temples across the world and is also involved in charitable activities.
The Controversial Osho
Perhaps no other Indian guru has raised the hackles and consciousness of westerners more than Osho. Baba Rajneesh combined the best of Zen, Sufism and Vedanta to formulate his own unique spiritual package. Westerners were invited to shed their inhibitions as Osho promised them that nirvana can be attained if they lived life to the fullest and celebrated every moment. Even today his spiritual commune in Pune, India, attracts hordes of visitors eager to experience his legacy of unconventional wisdom.
The Art of Living
Sri Sri Ravishankar’s contribution to world health is Sudharshan Kriya – a breathing technique that promises good health and vitality. Millions from Mexico to Mongolia have become avid followers of this guru and his breathing technique.
The Last Word
Indian moksha gurus have definitely enriched the philosophy and lives of countless westerners through their message of compassion, humor, detachment and deep knowledge. Despite controversies and naysayers, Indian gurus continue to tap their nation’s ancient and hoary traditions of knowledge and wisdom to the benefit of avid seekers all over the world.