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Spiritual teacher, author, translator and interpreter of spiritual literature, teacher of Passage Meditation
Eknath Easwaran (December 17, 1910 – October 26, 1999) was an Indian-born spiritual teacher, author, as well as a translator and interpreter of Indian religious texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.
Easwaran was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, whom he met when he was a young man. Easwaran developed a method of meditation – silent repetition in the mind of memorized inspirational passages from the world's major religious and spiritual traditions – which later came to be known as Passage Meditation.
Eknath Easwaran was born in 1910 in a village in Kerala, India.Eknath is his surname, Easwaran his given name. Brought up by his mother, and by his maternal grandmother whom he honored as his spiritual teacher, he was schooled in his native village until the age of sixteen, when he went to attend St. Thomas College, Thrissur, a Catholic college fifty miles away. Here he acquired a deep appreciation of the Christian tradition. He graduated at the University of Nagpur in English and law.:118 He served as Professor of English literature at the University of Nagpur.
Eknath Easwaran teaching what is thought to be the first credit course on meditation offered at a major university in the U.S. at U.C. Berkeley in 1968
From 1960 he gave classes on meditation in the San Francisco Bay Area. He met his wife Christine at one of these talks. Together with his wife, he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in 1961. After a four-year stay in India, he returned to the Bay Area in 1965.
In 1970 he founded Ramagiri Ashram as a community of dedicated followers in Marin County.
He set up a publishing activity, Nilgiri Press, which printed his first book Gandhi The Man, telling the story of Gandhi as a spiritual as well as a political leader. His first major work was his 3-volume commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, the Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living, the first volume of which was printed in 1975 and the last in 1984. His book Meditation on the program of meditation and allied disciplines that he developed first appeared in 1978.
By 2018, Easwaran's methods of spiritual practice had been the focus of two major scientific research programs that had produced thirty refereed research reports.
Easwaran's written works may be grouped into several major categories--primarily books, but also articles in newspapers and other periodicals. Most of his books have been reviewed by spiritually oriented publications or websites, or by nationally known media such as The New Yorker, or the New York Post.
In addition, a large number of Easwaran's recorded talks have been published in video and audio formats.
Easwaran's translations of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Dhammapada(see article) have been critically acclaimed. Religion scholar Huston Smith is cited by the publisher as writing: "No one in modern times is more qualified – no, make that 'as qualified' – to translate the epochal Classics of Indian Spirituality than Eknath Easwaran. And the reason is clear. It is impossible to get to the heart of those classics unless you live them, and he did live them. My admiration of the man and his works is boundless."
In Buddhism: A Concise Introduction Smith and his coauthor Philip Novak wrote that "Our favorite translation is Eknath Easwaran's The Dhammapada. His Indian heritage, literary gifts, and spiritual sensibilities... here produce a sublime rendering of the words of the Buddha. Verse after verse shimmers with quiet, confident authority. A bonus is the sparkling 70-page introduction to the Buddha's life and teachings."
Since 2009, Easwaran's three translations "have each been the best-selling translations of these scriptures in the USA.":96 In the US in 2016, each of Easwaran's translations outsold the second best-selling translation in its category "by more than 3:1",:96 and the second editions have together sold more than 470,000 copies.
Essence of the Upanishads(see article), originally entitled Dialogue with death: The spiritual psychology of the Katha Upanishad, explains how the Katha Upanishad embraces the key ideas of Indian spirituality within the context of a powerful mythic quest – the story of a young hero who ventures into the land of death in search of immortality. "Essence of the Upanishads is a westerner's guide to this vitally important Indian text and its modern relevance to the Indian mindset and spirituality."
In Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, Easwaran places the Gita's teachings in a modern context and comments on the Gita's view of the nature of reality, the illusion of separateness, the search for identity, the meaning of yoga, and how to heal the unconscious. The book views the key message of the Gita as how to resolve our conflicts and live in harmony with the deep unity of life, through the practice of meditation and spiritual disciplines.
In Essence of the Dhammapada, Easwaran comments on the Dhammapada, sayings attributed to the Buddha himself, presenting it as a guide that gives straightforward teachings about spiritual perseverance, progress, and enlightenment.
His book Strength in the Storm is an introduction to The Mantram, containing many stories and practical examples to help the reader learn how to harness the inner resources for dealing with challenges in daily living. His book Take Your Time explores "Slowing Down" and "One-Pointed Attention" in daily lives. Renewal is a pocket book of short readings on themes such as loving relationships, raising children, living simply, and aging wisely; Patience, the second in the pocket book series, shows how to cultivate Patience – "the ornament of the brave" – at any age. Other (older) books describe various aspects of leading a spiritual life: Climbing the Blue Mountain, Compassionate Universe, and Undiscovered Country.
Daily readers and reference
God Makes the Rivers to Flow is an anthology of writings from the sacred literature of the world, selected by Easwaran as useful for meditation. A larger (and earlier) version of Timeless Wisdom, it contains dozens of passages from diverse traditions, and identifies passages for particular stages in life, such as caregiving, families with small children, death and dying, grief and loss, and for building positive qualities such as patience, courage, devotion to God, and putting others first. Words to Live By is a set of daily readings with Easwaran's commentary on applying the reading to daily life.
The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living
The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living is a manual for living a spiritual life, comprising a verse-by-verse commentary on India's timeless scripture the Bhagavad Gita. The work is in three volumes, published in 1975, 1979 and 1984 respectively, in hardcover and later also in paperback. When the first paperbacks were published the volumes were given new subtitles: the End of Sorrow;Like a Thousand Suns; and To Love is To Know Me.
In 2020 the three-volume set was reissued as a second edition, and as a single-volume ebook.
In Volume 1 (the first six chapters of the Gita) Easwaran explains how readers can begin to transform themselves, even as householders engaged in busy lives. In Volume 2 (the next six chapters) Easwaran addresses the seeming divide between scientific knowledge and spiritual wisdom, and explains how the concept of the unity of life can help people in all their relationships. In Volume 3 (the final six chapters) he makes the connection between the Self within and the Reality underlying all creation - and how to make a difference to heal the environment and establish peace in the world.
Many of Easwaran's recorded talks have been published in video and audio formats.
Several dozen of Easwaran's talks have been published as video DVDs, and now as downloadable MP4s as a free subscription from the Blue Mountain Center.
Before publication as DVDs, videos of Easwaran's talks were first released in VHS videotape format.
Some talks are published in downloadable audio/MP3 formats.
Instructions for meditation by Easwaran have been published in audio form as CDs. Some of Easwaran's talks were earlier published as cassette tapes or LP records.
Magazines have reviewed some of Easwaran's published talks, both audio
since the 1990s.
Easwaran's program for spiritual growth consists of eight points, and is described comprehensively in his book Passage Meditation – A Complete Spiritual Practice (originally published in 1978 as Meditation). Each point had a dedicated chapter:
Meditation: Silent repetition upon memorized inspirational passages from one of the world's great religions. Practiced for one-half hour each morning.
The Mantram: silent repetition of a mantram, holy name or hallowed phrase from one of the world's great religions.
Slowing Down: set priorities to reduce stress and hurry
One-Pointed Attention: give full concentration to whatever matter is currently at hand
Training the Senses: enjoy simple pleasures in order to avoid craving for unhealthy excess
Putting Others First: denounce selfishness and cultivating altruism
Spiritual Companionship: practice meditation in the company of others
Reading the Mystics: draw inspiration from the writings of the scriptures of all religions.
A variety of influences of Easwaran's life and work have been documented. Easwaran's students, inspired in part by his teachings about compassion and stewardship for the environment, published a well-known vegetarian cookbook entitled Laurel's Kitchen (1976), later republished in revised form as The New Laurel's Kitchen (1986). The book contained extensive nutritional information from a scientific point of view, and sold more than a million copies.
Easwaran's teachings or practices have sometimes been taught as part of traditional college courses,
or as tools for self-management by health professionals.
Outside of the US, Easwaran's life and teachings were profiled, along with those of a variety of other spiritual teachers, in a book published in India entitled Meditation Masters and their Insights.
Easwaran's words have been included in collections of wisdom teachings, such as ones recently published by Chang (2006) and Parachin (2011).
Quotations from Easwaran's translations have been used many times by both scholarly and popular writers.
Easwaran's other writings have also been quoted by various types of authors, including writers of novels and short stories,
and articles on management theory.
Psychiatrist Aaron Beck and his colleagues quoted from Easwaran's commentary on the Katha Upanishad.
The NAPRA ReView wrote that "The volume of [Easwaran's] work and the quality of his discourse suggest a man who has had a profound impact on the spiritual lives of many."
Easwaran's method of passage meditation was followed by the poet Robert Lax.:273 Near the end of his life, Lax's only reading each day was from Easwaran's book Words to Live By.:272,281
Easwaran has been listed in reference works on spiritual and religious leaders.
In his survey of commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, Nadkarni described Easwaran as "respected worldwide as one of the most profound writers and orators on religion and spirituality".
Easwaran's books, initially written in English, have also been translated into more than 20 other languages, and published in non-US editions by indigenous (non-US) publishers. Languages in which his books are currently in print include Bahasa Indonesian, Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovenian, Spanish, and Telugu. His books have also been translated into Chinese (PRC).
Eknath Easwaran (1969). "To all mankind". Ramana Pictorial Souvenir Commemorating the Kumbhabhishekam on June 18, 1967. Tiruvannamalai, India: Board of Trustees Sri Ramanasramam: 7. (contribution to edited volume)
Eknath Easwaran (1996). Preface (pp. ix-x) to Devi Vanamali (1996). The play of God: Visions of the life of Krishna. San Diego, CA: Blue Dove Press. ISBN978-1-884997-07-5
Eknath Easwaran (1997). Roger S. Powers; William B. Vogele; Christopher Kruegler; Ronald M. McCarthy (eds.). Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988). Protest, Power, and Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from Act-Up to Women's Suffrage. New York: Garland. pp. 284-286. ISBN9780815309130.
^ abJones, Constance A.; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Infobase Publishing / Facts On File. ISBN978-0-8160-5458-9. "Easwaran was born on December 17, 1910, into an ancient matrilineal family in Kerala, India" (p. 143)
^However, after he came to the United States, "Easwaran" generally functioned as his last name (analogous to a surname) for authorship credits and other public activities.
^ abBill McKibben (September 24, 1984). "Notes and Comment" (in "The Talk of the Town"; discusses Easwaran's A Man to Match His Mountains, a biography of Abdul Ghaffar Khan). The New Yorker, pp. 39-40. "A straightforward yet devoted biography ... By his example, [Khan] asks what we ourselves, as individuals made from the same stuff as he, are doing to shape history" (pp. 39-40).
^Huston Smith, quoted on back cover and on page 383 of Eknath Easwaran (2007). [ The Upanishads] (2nd, rev. ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press. ISBN978-1-58638-021-2
^Huston Smith and Philip Novak (2003). Buddhism: A Concise Introduction San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN0-06-050696-2 (p. 222: "Our favorite translation is Eknath Easwaran's The Dhammapada. His Indian heritage, literary gifts, and spiritual sensibilities (which have given us excellent translations of Hinduism's Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) here produce a sublime rendering of the words of the Buddha. Verse after verse shimmers with quiet, confident authority. A bonus is the sparkling 70-page introduction to the Buddha's life and teachings that precedes the translation.")
^Spirituality and Practice, review of Take Your Time
"Easwaran is one the most powerful Hindu teachers lecturing and writing in America ... this book is meant to be a companion for the difficult but joyous interior work of spiritual transformation that is at the heart of his teachings", wrote Publishers Weekly in a review of the original edition: Henry Carrigan (1996). "Your life is your message: Finding harmony with yourself, others, and the earth." Publishers Weekly, v243 n29, p69.
(republished in 2009 as Renewal)
^Several articles that Easwaran published in the Little Lamp (ISSN0460-1297, LCCN: 83641607 sn 80000451) appeared later in revised form in his books; most copies of Blue Mountain (LCCN sf92093327) that appeared after 2000 can be downloaded from the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation website. Although primarily quarterly, each of these journals appeared at times on other schedules.
^ abDownloadable MP3 talks include 50 talks in the "Thomas à Kempis Series", 9 "Individual talks", and 5 sets of talks or readings by Easwaran in "Following Series", as well as Easwaran (2008), "Following the Teachings of the Upanishads" ASINB001NDD8HK (178 minutes); Easwaran (2008), "Following the Way of the Buddha" ASINB001KPW8MC (172 minutes).
^Examples of talks by Easwaran published as videos include Kabir: Stages of Desire (containing talks "Desire: Our Real Wealth" and "Meeting the Beloved"), Breaking Chains (containing talks "Breaking Chains" and "Fetters and Freedom").
^Examples of talks published as VHS include Saint Francis: becoming an instrument of peace (2002, on the Prayer of St. Francis and its use in meditation) (68 minutes)
^See Worldcat listings. Examples of talks published as cassette tapes are Gandhi: a personal encounter (1984, describing Easwaran's visit to Gandhi's ashram, 66 mins) OCLC26587764 (Petaluma, CA: Nilgiri Press) and The Tree of Life (1975, commenting on ch. 15 of the Bhagavad Gita) OCLC12997702 (Berkeley, CA: Blue Mountain Center of Meditation).
^Issued as an LP record was a 1969 commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (chs. 2, 12), OCLC5431631 (publisher: Sadhana Records).
^Easwaran's (1987 original publication) translation of the Upanishads, abridged, read by Jacob Needleman. The Upanishads [Audiobook on Cassette]. San Bruno, CA: Audio Literature, 1999. ISBN9781574532647, OCLC41928931 (ca. 3 hours)
^Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, & Brian Ruppenthal (1986). The new Laurel's kitchen. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press. ISBN0-89815-167-8. The 1986 edition is dedicated to "our teacher, Eknath Easwaran" (p. 13), and the back cover states "over a million copies sold" (see link ). In an introduction to the 1986 edition, Flinders wrote of "the collection of friends who helped produce Laurel's Kitchen ten years ago", that "we share a commitment to meditation" (p. 20).
^Aaron T. Beck, Gary Emery, & Ruth. L. Greenberg (2005).
Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective (15th anniv. ed.). New York: Basic Books. ISBN978-0-465-00587-1 ("E. Easwaran uses the metaphor of channels in the brain to describe how a person's major concern develops ... Patients respond well to this metaphor," p. 293)
^Mangipudi (2016) stated that "First time I met him [Obama] was as a Senator in December of 2006. When he came to New Hampshire, I gave him a book with a personal note wishing him success. The title of the book was 'Gandhi the Man: The Story of His Transformation' by Eknath Easwaran. In February of 2007, he came to one of the State Senator's home for a house party where I was also invited as he was my friend. Obama looked at me and said, 'Aren't you the woman who gave me the Gandhi book?'"
^J. Gordon Melton, Religious leaders of America: a biographical guide to founders and leaders of religious bodies, churches, and spiritual groups in North America (1999, 2nd ed.), ISBN978-0-8103-8878-9, p. 174.
^Lynn Garrett (January 12, 1998). Gandhi in China. Publishers Weekly, v245 n2, p30. "Nilgiri Press... was surprised to receive an e-mail in September from the Sichuan Copyright Agency in the People's Republic of China, expressing interest in publishing a Chinese edition of its Gandhi the Man (especially since relations between China and India have not always been the best) ... the book will be released in China on January 30" (p. 30).