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My Guru and His Disciple

by Christopher Isherwood

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1935117,557 (3.64)1
First published in 1980, Isherwood's overlooked last book is central to an understanding of his life and work. WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY SIMON CALLOW In 1939, as Europe approaches war, Isherwood, an instinctive pacifist, travels west to California, seeking a new set of beliefs to replace the failed Leftism of the thirties. There he meets Swami Prabhavananda, a Hindu monk, who will become his spiritual guide for the next thirty-seven years. Late-night drinking sessions, free love, and the glamour of writing for the Hollywood studios alternate with meditation, abstinence and the study of religious texts in a compelling tug of war between worldliness and holiness.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
Isherwood is one of my heroes and I have read most of his fiction so thought I'd try this out...[in progress] ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A reworking of Isherwood's diaries from 1939 through 1975. The main theme of the book is his relationship to his guru in the Vedanta Society. I found Isherwood's continued devotion puzzling, but moving, though I'm glad he found another path for his life other than living as a Hindu monk which was clearly making him crazy. This also touches on his pacifism during World War II and his work for the Hollywood studios. ( )
  aulsmith | Sep 16, 2013 |
Christopher Isherwood moved with his friends W. H. Auden and Winston Somerset Maugham to the USA in 1939. This book, mainly constructed around Christopher Isherwood's diary from 1939 to 1976 is his memoir of his life in America but especially in relation to his friendship with (and devotion to) Swami Prabhavananda. Swami Prabhavananda was a Hindu monk of the Ramakrishna order founded by Swami Vivekanada in 1897. Swami Prabhavananda was sent from India to America by the order to assist at several centres of the movement and eventually founded the Vedanta Society of Southern California.

I was expecting a personal story of the spiritual search of a gay man, a further explanation of why gay men seem especially drawn to a spiritual life. My initial reaction to Christopher Isherwood's explanation was that it was very superficial, even dishonest. He had met a young man in Germany who had been conscripted into the Nazi army. Unable to conceive of doing anything that could directly or indirectly bring about Heinz's death, Christopher Isherwood was determined to have nothing to do with the coming war and was therefore a pacifist, however thinking that he needed a more substantial basis for his pacifism, he moved into a circle (including Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard) in which he came into contact with the Vedanta Society and Swami Prabhavananda.

However further into the book I realise my initial reaction was false. The last thing that can be said about Isherwood is that he is dishonest. Later in the book, he is worried about speaking about religion and taking a high profile in the Vedanta Society because he thinks his homosexuality and openness about his life as revealed in his novels makes him not respectable. The Swami reassures him that the most important thing is his honesty. His approach to religion (and his writing) is emotional, sensual and devotional rather than intellectual and there is very little of the philosophy of Vedanta in this book. I guess Christopher Isherwood had never really rationalised the process that drew him to a religious life and I can say nothing wrong about that. ( )
  marq | Mar 30, 2013 |
Christopher Isherwood was a famous author, playwright and screenwriter, first in his native Engalnd and then in America, his adopted home. 'My Guru and His Disciple' is the story of his long relationship with Swami Prabhavananda, the Ramakrishna monk who was his spirtual mentor and friend.
  saraswati_library_mm | Mar 15, 2010 |
Christopher Isherwood was a famous author, playwright and screenwriter, first in his native Engalnd and then in America, his adopted home. 'My Guru and His Disciple' is the story of his long relationship with Swami Prabhavananda, the Ramakrishna monk who was his spirtual mentor and friend.
  Saraswati_Library | Jan 13, 2010 |
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Toward the end of Jnuary 1939, Wystan Auden and I arrived in New York, by boat from England.
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First published in 1980, Isherwood's overlooked last book is central to an understanding of his life and work. WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY SIMON CALLOW In 1939, as Europe approaches war, Isherwood, an instinctive pacifist, travels west to California, seeking a new set of beliefs to replace the failed Leftism of the thirties. There he meets Swami Prabhavananda, a Hindu monk, who will become his spiritual guide for the next thirty-seven years. Late-night drinking sessions, free love, and the glamour of writing for the Hollywood studios alternate with meditation, abstinence and the study of religious texts in a compelling tug of war between worldliness and holiness.

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