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My Guru and His Disciple by Christopher…

My Guru and His Disciple

by Christopher Isherwood

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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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0816638640, Paperback)

"My Guru and His Disciple is a sweetly modest and honest portrait of Isherwood's spiritual instructor, Swami Prabhavananda, the Hindu priest who guided Isherwood for some thirty years. It is also a book about the often amusing and sometimes painful counterpoint between worldliness and holiness in Isherwood's own life. Sexual sprees, all-night drinking bouts, a fast car ride with Greta Garbo, script-writing conferences at M-G-M, and intellectual sparring sessions with Bertolt Brecht alternated with nights of fasting at the Vedanta Center and a six-month period of celibacy and sobriety. Seldom has a single man been endowed with such strong drives toward both sensuality and spirituality, abandon and discipline. . . . In these pages, Isherwood has reinvented the spirit of devotion for the modern reader." Edmund White, New York Times Book Review

"This book is a humbling tribute to someone who revealed to Isherwood inner grounds for spiritual awareness." Alan Hollinghurst, New Statesman

A major figure in twentieth-century fiction and the gay rights movement, Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) is the author of Down There on a Visit, Lions and Shadows, A Meeting by the River, The Memorial, Prater Violet, A Single Man, and The World in the Evening, all available from the University of Minnesota Press.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:45 -0400)

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