International Journal of Tantric Studies

New Titles

Meditation Revolution: A History of Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage

By Constantina Rodhes Bailly, Douglas Renfrew Brooks, Swami Durgananda, William H. Mahony, Paul E. Muller-Ortega, S. P. Sabharathnam

New York: Agama Press, 1997

ISBN: (pbk) 0-9654096-0-0; (hc) 0-9654096-1-9

Review by Enrica Garzilli, March 30, 2001

This book traces the history of the Siddha Yoga movement from its origins in the obscure Tansa Valley of Maharasthra up to the Constitution of the Siddha Yoga composed by Swami Muktananda in 1961. Each essay of this book claims "to take up an aspect of the Siddha Yoga that is crucial for understanding its origins, development, teachings, and practices".

It is divided into two parts, the history of the movement, and its theology. The first part of the book is written by Swami Durgananda, a monk of the SarasvatI Order who took vows in 1982, who edited a few Muktananda's books and is one of the principal Siddha Yoga teachers.

The second part of the book is written by scholars and deals with the movement, the guru-disciple relationship, the canons, the concept of the Self, the Fall of Power on disciples, kuNDalinI, Siddha Yoga as MahAyoga and the Ashram, under theological point of view.

Nevertheless, besides more informative articles such as "The Canons of Siddha Yoga: The Body of Scripture and the Form of the Guru" by Douglas Renfrew Brooks, which devotes half of the pages to the actual oral and written sources of the movement, and "The Ashram, Life in the Abode of a Siddha" by William H. Mahony, which, though devoting paragraphs on ashrams as centres of spiritual discipline, on the implications of the word Azram (spelled in the Sanskrit original), and on "The Ashram as Indian Religious Institution", is very instructive, the second part of the book is generally vague and superficial, giving general information that any 1st year college student of a Hindu class after a few months knows (and any good traveller knows).

In this second part outstands for superficiality the paper by Paul E. Muller-Ortega titled "Shaktipat: The Initiatory Descent of Power" who not only writes on well-known facts, already written by him in his book and papers, but uses a study bibliography only focused on the works by editors of the editorial board of the SUNY, and writers of the same press.

The context of the book is religious, and footnotes -- inconveniently placed all together at the end of the book as endnotes -- should be integrated in the text itself to give some more realia and references on something a bit too talkative.

In the bibliography some name is misspelled -- such as Sheldon Pollock, which has become Pollack! -- and the bibliography itself, with the exception of the French M. Biardeau and L. Dumont, the Italian M. Falk and R. Gnoli, the Dutch T. Goudriaan and a few others, is rigorously in English and mainly American. The books in (translated) languages other than English are old and well-known. There is a complete lack of a more recent scholarship, even though I should admit that, talking of Tantra/Siddha/Yoga, every recent bibliography is essentially the same and could be copied from one book to another.

The book can be valuable to college students of the first religion class but its first mistake is to be too long: the same things could have been written without getting readers bored in half of the pages and, strange enough, the redundant pages are concentrated in the second part of the book written by scholars!

La liberazione in vita: jIvanmuktiviveka by VidyAraNya

Roberto Donatoni (transl.)

Milan: Adelphi, 1995

ISBN: 88-459-1157-8, Pp. 374, ITL 45.000

Review by Enrica Garzilli, March 30, 2001

It is a pleasure to present our new IJTS editor through this book, which offers the 1st Italian translation of the jIvanmuktiviveka, namely Liberation of Life of the advaitavedAnta (non-dualistic VedAnta) teacher VidyAraNya. The jIvanmuktiviveka is the famous work of the ZaGkara's follower VidyAraNya who lived at the beginning of the 14th and was perhaps the master of the sRGgeri monastic centre established by ZaGkara. He is also well known and very important in the political history of India by being guru and advisor, under the name of Madhava, of the brothers Harihara and Bukka, in Karnataka. Following his advice, they established the Vijayanagara Empire, one of the last medieval kingdoms, which lasted for more than three hundred years and was able to stop the Muslim expansion in Deccan.

The present translation follows a long eighty-three page introduction on VidyAraNya's life and elaboration of his doctrine, which describes the spiritual path that leads to the abandonment of the worldly life by love of knowledge, the identification with Brahman and furthermore brings men, by the means of yoga, to dominate the sensorial and empiric world and to become -- extreme contradiction -- liberated from life while living, namely people who breath and live like any human being and, at the same time, have perfectly overcome their body and their Ego. Unfortunately this book is in Italian, though scholars all over the world will find it useful for its critical apparatus.

The introduction which is extremely rich of erudite footnotes, covering sometimes almost half of a page, the precise world-by-world yet enjoyable translation -- written in elegant Italian which does not resort to redundant sophistications and idiomatic expressions of the beginning of the century, still in use in certain contemporary scholarship, which would make even more difficult this already difficult text -- the Appendix of the passages cited by VidyAraNya and the useful analytic index, all this makes of this book a "must" in Indological studies.

Looking for God: A Seeker's Guide to Religious and Spiritual Groups of the World

By Steven Sadleir

New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 2000

ISBN: (pbk) 0-9654096-0-0; (hc) 0-9654096-1-9, Perigee edition, Pp. XVII+426, US$ 15.95, Can.$ 22.99

Review by Enrica Garzilli, March 30, 2001

"This is dedicated to those who seek God". And this is true: in a very concise and straightforward way, Sadleir leads us to a remarkable array of belief systems. We have a great choice of "gods" here: from that of "Eastern Religions" -- from Hinduism and Buddhism to Reiki and Feng-shui -- to the god of "Early Spiritual Paths" -- such as Druids, Freemasonry, Builders of the Adytum and the Rosacrucian Order. There is a the god of "Western and Middle Eastern Religions"-- such as Judaism and Christianity -- that of "Contemporary Spiritual Teachings" -- Theosophy, Scientology and so on -- and that of "Eastern Masters and Movements" -- Sri Ramaksrishna, Gurdjieff, Mother Meera, The International Sufi Movent, Kriya Yoga etc.

The Author gives for each religion a paragraph on its history, belief system, rituals and holy days (when possible), additional information such recommended contacts and bookstores, recommended and additional readings, recommended websites.

This book, though the poor quality of paper and the light paper cover, which are compensated by the very affordable price, is not a profound or scholarly book nor claims to be. It is not a theological book and does not gives analysis or disquisitions -- and how could it do it, if for each main religion no more than 6 pages are dedicated? It is too superficial for an academic study.

Nevertheless, it is a very useful and practical handbook including bizarre and semi-unknown religious groups, of which some of them, I guess, most people have never heard of. Moreover, it is a good guide and reference book to people who are not only curious about spirituality, but also want to start walking to find metaphysical bookstores, centres, temples, mandirs, mosques, churches and holistic healing centres of all kinds: in short, for people who want to find God on earth.

Ananya: A Portrait of India

By S. N. Sridhar and Nirmal K. Mattoo, eds.

The Association of Indians in America, 1997

ISBN: 0-9659771-1-0, Pp. 927

Review by Enrica Garzilli, March 30, 2001

This book was printed in celebration of the 50th anniversary of India's Independence on August 15, 1997. It was kindly given to me as gift and not as a review copy, therefore I feel a bit ashamed not have considered it before, but I should say that it is so thick that discouraged me at the beginning -- even though beautifully printed in Garamond characters on good paper, and well hard cover-bound.

The aim of the book is to offer a wide overview of India and Indian issues: "Historical Background" -- from the Indus Civilization to the "Colonial Impact on India" -- "Indic Religions and Philosophy" -- where only one paper is devoted to Jainism and Buddhism while six are devoted to orthodox Hinduism -- "Society and Politics" -- with only five papers, none of them dealing specifically with Indian Women but just one on Women's education in India -- "Science and Technology" -- including two papers dealing with the same subject, "Science in Ancient India" and "Science and Technology in Ancient India"! -- "Business and Economics", "Art and Architecture", "Language and Literature", "Performing Arts", "Makers of Modern India" -- including two papers on Gandhi and one on "Jawaharlal Nehru's Sense of History" -- "Identity and Diaspora" and "Epilogue".

It is the Epilogue, I think, that gives a clue on this book: it is written by V. S. Arunachalam, Scientific Advisor for the Defense Minister of India for more than ten years, covering so many honorary positions that this screen is not long enough to include all of them, and presently Distinguished Service Professor in the Dept. of Engineering and Public Policy, Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh (PA). He writes very realistically on "This Time, A Tryst with Technology" and urges India "to become strong industrially and militarily". While not even one political matter is addressed in this book and is not made any political analysis of India, this seems to reveal the aim of Indians in America: To make their country similar, too similar to America.

The book does not address Indologists, is not thought-provoking and the choice of its authors is not always the best one, even picking only among Indians -- there are only four non-Indians out of thirty-six authors -- even though we learn from S. R. Rao, superintendent of archaeology of several circles of India and scientist for marine archaeology in the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, that he has deciphered the Indus script written on Harappan seals. Nevertheless, the interest of this book is on the fact that is a good representation of what Indians think of themselves especially in the articles on and by Indians in America, giving news, diagrams and perspectives not easily found anywhere else.

ZaGkara e il KevalAdvaitavAda

By Mario Piantelli

Rome: Azram VidyA, 1998

ISBN: 88-85405-45-2, Pp. 368, ITL 30,000, 2nd rev. ed.

Review by Enrica Garzilli, March 30, 2001

This is the second revised edition of an excellent work of twenty-four years ago titled ZaGkara e la rinascita del bramanesimo, namely ZaGkara and the Brahmanical revival, dealing with the great advaitavedAnta master who lived between the 8th and 9th century.

In this edition the chapter on sources has been placed at the beginning of the book. It includes some 48 pages and has been divided into ZaGkara's Work, External Literary Sources, Archaeological Sources, Biographies [on ZaGkara]. Is this followed by a very useful and completely revised Appendix listing the works attributed to ZaGkara, conveniently divided into works collegially attributed to him and works of which attribution is debated.

The second chapter deals with ZaGkara's life and legend and covers 112 pages; it includes paragraphs 23 and 24 on ZaGkara's sojourn in Kashmir and his encounter with the zAkta teacher Abhinavagupta who lived in Assam -- who he is not the famous Kashmiri teacher Abhinavagupta, who lived in the 11th century --while paragraph 26 deals with his trip to Nepal and his supporting the building of the PazupathinAth temple in Kathmandu.

The following hundred pages are devoted to the study of ZaGkara's doctrine. It follows 52 pages of Bibliography which is, even though including works in Sanskrit and Indian modern languages as well as non-Indian works, forcibly incomplete since works on ZaGkara and bibliographies are published almost weekly either in the Internet or in hard copy. One small note: Did I overlook it or the works in the bibliography are neither arranged alphabetically (according to authors' names or titles written in any language), nor according their date of publication?

It is regrettable that this book is in Italian. It is a precise and comprehensive work, which is not only written in scholarly form and contents -- even diacritics are usually correct! -- and as such indispensable to serious Indologists, but it is also pleasant to read. It can be properly placed between the classical work on ZaGkara by Govindachandra Pande (1994) and the six-volume source-book by Anthony John Alston (1980-1989).