Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Guru and his Disciple by Christopher Isherwood

Book Synopsis  (as per the back cover) 
In 1939, as Europe approaches war, the author Christopher 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 glamor 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.

Extract from the Introduction by Simon Callow
Quite aside from the insights the book may offer into the life of an aspiring adept, My Guru and His Disciple offers a double portrait of two strikingly different personalities who were powerfully drawn to each other: Isherwood - quintessentially English, restless, sexually driven, found of the bottle, the darling of the Hollywood cocktail circuit - and Prabhavananda former anti-British terrorist, chain-smoking, tolerant, tender, subtle, unselfconsciously profound. Isherwood immediately responded to something he perceived in Prabhavananda, a  sense of resolution, of centeredness, of joy; while Prabhavananda, to Isherwood's  frank astonishment, saw in him a potential monk.

The relationship between guru and disciple was without cloud, although Isherwood constantly felt he was failing Prabhavananda, not least when, after a couple of months, he gave up the attempt to live in Prabhavananda's Vedanta monastery in the Hollywood hills; but Prabhavananda was never less than understanding, always sympathetic.

In this regard the book is very unlike most classic accounts of the guru/disciple relationship.
 My Comments
A very interesting , frank and moving narrative. Though not a complete biography of Swami Prabhavananda, his character has been brought out very well.
Recommended for anyone interested in spiritual literature, though it may not go down too well with people with orthodox views.

Goodreads Rating - 3.94 out of 5 ( 116 Ratings)


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