"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving."
~ Eknath Easwaran
Eknath Easwaran (December 17, 1910 – October 26, 1999) is known as a spiritual teacher and the author of books on meditation and how to lead a fulfilling life, as well as a translator and interpreter of Indian literature.
In 1961 Easwaran founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press, based in northern California. Nilgiri Press publishes over two dozen books he authored.
Eknath Easwaran was influenced by Gandhi, whom Easwaran 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 great religions— which later came to be known as Passage Meditation.
He set up a publishing activity, Nilgiri Press, which printed his first bookGandhi 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 discplines that he developed first appeared in 1978.
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."
Essence of the Upanishads (see article), originally entitled Dialogue with death: The spiritual psychology of the Katha Upanishad, and 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."
Books on meditation
His book Passage Meditation (original title Meditation) describes the Eight Point Program that Easwaran developed, while his book Conquest of Mind goes further into the practice of these disciplines in daily life. Timeless Wisdom is a companion book to Passage Meditation and contains passages for meditation drawn from across the world's spiritual traditions. His book Mantram Handbook: a practical guide to choosing your mantram and calming your mind addresses The Mantram, the second point in the program.
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 Timeexplores "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.
Easwaran's program for spiritual growth consists of eight points was introduced with his 1978 book 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 entitledLaurel'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.
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 one recently published by Chang (2006). 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, popular spirituality, and articles on management theory. Psychiatrist Aaron Beck and his colleagues quoted from Easwaran's commentary on the Katha Upanishad.