Eastern Spirituality in America: Selected Writings

By Robert S. Ellwood | Go to book overview

II

HINDUISM

NEO-VEDANTA

Movements in India to reform and reinterpret Hinduism, stimulated by pervasive contact with the Christian West, gathered force in the nineteenth century. Two powerful if not entirely consistent drives impelled them: to meet through apologetics and reform efforts the often-searing criticisms of Hindu faith and society leveled by missionaries and liberal faultfinders from the West, and to shore up the defenses of Hindu tradition before it was overwhelmed by the same West. Examples were the Brahmo Samaj of Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), whose work as we have noted in the introductory chapter influenced the Transcendentalists, and the Arya Samaj of Dayananda (1824-1883), a more conservative movement that attracted the attention of early Theosophists. Broadly speaking, early and mid-century movements like these exalted the monistic and monotheistic strands in the Vedas and the Bhagavad-Gita while deploring Hinduism's mythological and polytheistic strata. They promoted high ethical ideals, social reform, and intellectual renewal. But they reached only an elite in India, while winning much sympathy but few real converts in the West.

A second stage, often called Neo-Vedanta, emerged in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Part of a broader "Hindu renaissance" aligned with the sentiment from which the Indian independence movement was growing, it managed to combine a liberal modem temperament with a broad affirmation of Hindu culture as a whole. Neo-Vedanta was chiefly associated with the saintly Ra

-45-

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Eastern Spirituality in America: Selected Writings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Eastern Spirituality in America - Selected Writings *
  • Contents v
  • Preface 1
  • General Introduction 4
  • I - Introduction 5
  • II - Hinduism 45
  • Hindu Selections *
  • III - Buddhism 114
  • Buddhist Selections *
  • IV - Taoism 195
  • Taoist Selection *
  • V - Theosophy 215
  • Theosophy Selection *
  • Bibliography of General Works on Eastern Spirituality in America 235
  • Index to Introduction 237
  • Index to Texts 240
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