This course is both a celebration and a deep analysis of artists who opened Western eyes and ears to the treasures of Hindu Dharma. As Phil Goldberg documented in his book American Veda, and his previous HUA courses, the wisdom of the rishis has filtered into the soil of American life through many streams. They include some of the world’s most beautiful and beloved literature, cinema, music, and other works of art. This creative transmission—which has been both explicit and implicit, both obvious and subtle—has transformed millions of lives while producing expressions of genius that will inspire and illuminate for centuries to come. Each week we’ll meet legendary masters and virtuosos, and we’ll immerse ourselves in the rasa of their brilliant creations. The course will elevate our appreciation of India’s timeless spiritual heritage as well as of certain poetry, novels, films, and music.
In this course, we will explore how Celebrated Artists, Writers, and Musicians embraced Hindu Dharma and Transmitted it Through Creative Works. Each week we’ll explore a different set of artists and art forms, bringing the content alive through images, poems, passages of prose, videos, and especially music. We’ll meet legendary Indian artists—most notably Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, and Maestro Ravi Shankar—whose colossal impact on the West went far beyond the enjoyment of their work; they opened minds and hearts to the spiritual essence of Hindu culture. Most of the course will focus on how Hindu teachings—as disseminated directly by gurus, swamis, and yoga masters, as well as through books and art—transformed the lives and work of leading artists, authors, and musicians in the West. And we’ll see how, in turn, those creative geniuses transmitted Hindu principles to vast numbers of people. Along the way we’ll examine—and thoroughly enjoy—the flowering of genius inspired by dharmic wisdom and liberated by yogic practices. We’ll go back to Britain’s great Romantic poets—William Blake, William Wordsworth, John Keats, et al—the verse of 19th Century icons—Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman (America’s foremost bhakta)—and the explicitly dharmic themes of poets T.S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, Gary Snyder, and Allen Ginsberg. We’ll ponder the Hindu-inspired themes in the luminous prose of novelists such as Herman Hesse, Somerset Maugham, and especially J.D. Salinger. We’ll look at clips from Ray’s immortal Apu Trilogy, and the films of Jean Renoir, Louis Malle, and the Merchant-Ivory company, as well as classics like “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Razor’s Edge” and the “Star Wars” series, even lesser-known films like “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” which was inspired by the Bhagavad Gita. But the art form we’ll spend most of our time with is music. The chief catalyst for the musical transmission was Ravi Shankar. We’ll explore the sitar master’s astonishing impact beginning in the 1950s, when he was introduced to classical music audiences by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin (the pair won a 1967 Grammy for the album “West Meets East”); and on to his discovery by jazz artists, especially John and Alice Coltrane and flutist Paul Horn; and finally, to his watershed friendship with George Harrison. Their mentor-student relationship opened the floodgates to the Beatles’ embrace of meditation, their sojourn in a Rishikesh ashram, their advocacy of Hindu ideas, and of course some of the most memorable—and spiritually transformative—songs of all time. All in all, the course will be a feast for the eyes and ears as well as the mind and heart.
Course Learning Objectives:
In this course students will be able to:
- a) Understand the profound impact of Hindu Dharma on Western literature, cinema, music, and other art forms.
- b) Appreciate the remarkable contributions of leading Indian artists, such as Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, and Ravi Shankar.
- c) Identify and evaluate the subtle (sometimes hidden) ways that Hindu precepts and practices influenced legendary Western writers, musicians, and other artists.
- d) Discover the many ways Hindu Dharma has been adopted by creative Westerners and skillfully adapted to new forms and expressions.
- e) Learn about Western history and culture from different angles.
- g) Appreciate more deeply works of genius you already admire.
- h) Discover artists and works of art you will now cherish.
The class will meet once a week for 10 weeks, for 90 minutes. The teacher’s presentation, with the help of pictures, written texts, and audio and video recordings, will last approximately 60 minutes. The remaining time will be devoted to questions and open discussion. There will be recommended readings and website links for each class, and one assignment: a written reflection—or the equivalent in an art form of their choosing—on what the student learned from the course and how it might influence their life.
Area of Study: Text and Traditions
Prerequisites: Admission into program of study
Required / Elective: Elective
Faculty/Instructor: Dr. Philip Goldberg
Start Date: October 11, 2022
End Date: December 20, 2022
Day: Every Tuesday
Time: 08:00 pm EST – 9:30 pm EST
Quarter Offered: Fall 2022