In February 1968 the Beatles went to India for an extended stay with their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It may have been, posits interfaith minister Philip Goldberg, "the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those 40 days in the wilderness." In his "illuminating, gracefully written and remarkably thorough account of India's spectacular impact on Western religion and spirituality" (Deepak Chopra), Goldberg explains how the ancient philosophy of Vedanta and the mind-body methods of yoga have informed the perspectives of millions of Americans, not just since the 1960s, but through figures like John Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Krishnamurti and B.K.S. Iyengar.
"Although Veda is not a household word for many Americans, yoga, guru, and karma are commonplace, and each is rooted in Vedic, or Indian, spirituality, which 'evolved from the Vedas, the world's oldest sacred texts.' A spiritual counselor and interfaith minister as well as an author, Goldberg delineates the Vedic tradition—which encompasses Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, and involves meditation and yoga—then traces its flowering in the U.S., from its profound impact on Emerson to the 'Vedic bonfire of the 1960s,' the Transcendental Meditation movement of the 1970s, and today's passion for hatha yoga. Because Veda, which translates as 'knowledge,' respects all religious practices, 'recognizes a transcendent Oneness,' and embraces science, it has particular appeal for Americans who identify themselves as 'spiritual but not religious.' In relaxed control of a veritable ocean of material, Goldberg provides lively profiles of influential Vedic gurus, including Krishnamurti, Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and B.K.S. Iyengar, and such key followers as the Beatles, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Merton, John Coltrane, J.D. Salinger, Eckhart Tolle, and Deepak Chopra. From meditating movie stars, scandalous gurus, and psychedelic drugs to genuine spiritual breakthroughs and devotion to helping others, Goldberg's history of 'American Veda' takes measure of a powerful, if underappreciated, force."—Booklist