Eknath Easwaran

Eknath Easwaran

Eknath Easwaran (December 17, 1910 – October 26, 1999[1]) was a spiritual teacher, an author of books on meditation and ways 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[2] – which later came to be known as Passage Meditation.

Eknath Easwaran



Eknath Easwaran was born in 1910 in a village in Kerala, British India.[1] Eknath is his surname, Easwaran his given name.[3] Brought up by his mother, and by his maternal grandmother whom he honored as his spiritual teacher, he was schooled in his native village until the age of sixteen, when he went to attend a Catholic college fifty miles away. Here he acquired a deep appreciation of the Christian tradition. He graduated at the University of Nagpur in English and law.[4]:118 He served as Professor of English literature at the University of Nagpur.

In 1959, he came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.[5][6]

Eknath Easwaran teaching what is thought to be the first credit course on meditation offered at a major university in the U.S. at U.C. Berkeley in 1968

From 1960 he gave classes on meditation in the San Francisco Bay Area. He met his wife Christine at one of these talks. Together with his wife, he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in 1961. After a four-year stay in India, he returned to the Bay Area in 1965

In 1970 he founded Ramagiri Ashram as a community of dedicated followers in Marin County.[7]

He set up a publishing activity, Nilgiri Press, which printed his first book Gandhi 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 disciplines that he developed first appeared in 1978.

Written works

Easwaran's writings may be grouped into several major categories—primarily books, but also articles in newspapers and other periodicals. Most of his books have been reviewed by spiritually oriented publications or websites, or by nationally known media such as The New Yorker,[8] or the New York Post.[9]


His translations of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Dhammapada (see article) have been critically acclaimed. 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."[10] In Buddhism: A Concise Introduction[11] 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, 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."[12]

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[13] 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 Time[14] explores "Slowing Down" and "One-Pointed Attention" in daily lives. Renewal[15][16] 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[17] 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[18] is a set of daily readings with Easwaran's commentary on applying the reading to daily life.

The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living

The three volumes of the Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living are conceived as handbooks for applying the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita to lives today. End of Sorrow[19] concentrates on the individual – how one can discover one's innermost nature, and transform one's life through self-realization, selfless service, and meditation. Like a Thousand Suns[20] addresses relationships – how one can heal divisions in society, within one's relationships, and within oneself, and realize the unity governing all creation. To Love is To Know Me[21] gives a global view, describing what individual readers can do to make a difference in the world today, and ends with a description of bhakti yoga, the path of devotion.

Spiritual biographies

Gandhi the Man[22] traces how Mohandas Gandhi transformed himself into one of the world's great spiritual leaders.

Nonviolent Soldier of Islam is the life story of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a Pathan (or Pushtun) of Afghanistan and a devout Muslim, who raised the first nonviolent army in history to free his people from British imperial rule. This book was favorably discussed in The New Yorker.[8] The book also inspired[23] filmmaker and writer T.C. McLuhan, daughter of Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, to make the film The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, a Torch for Peace, which won the 2009 Black Pearl Award for Best Documentary Film.[24]

Commentaries on Christian literature

Love Never Faileth is a commentary on the writings of St Francis, St Paul, St Augustine, and Mother Teresa, Original Goodness is a commentary on the Beatitudes, and Seeing with the Eyes of Love is a commentary on The Imitation of Christ.

Newspapers and other periodicals

In the 1980s and 1990s, Easwaran published a variety of commentaries on public events in prominent periodicals, especially the Christian Science Monitor,[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34] and also in the New York Times,[35] elsewhere in the US,[36] and internationally.[35] He also wrote numerous commentaries that appeared in the Little Lamp (1961–1995), and in Blue Mountain (1990–present), quarterly journals published by the meditation center that he founded.[37] In the 1960s, Easwaran published articles in other spiritual journals, such as the Mountain Path, published by Sri Ramana Maharshi's ashram.[38][39] Before coming to the US in 1959, Easwaran contributed short stories and other writings to literary anthologies,[40] and to magazines such as the The Illustrated Weekly of India.[41]

Eight-point program

Easwaran's program for spiritual growth consists of eight points was introduced with his 1978 book Meditation. Each point had a dedicated chapter:[42]

  1. Meditation: Silent repetition upon memorized inspirational passages from one of the world's great religions. Practiced for one-half hour each morning.
  2. The Mantram: silent repetition of a mantram, holy name or hallowed phrase from one of the world's great religions.
  3. Slowing Down: set priorities to reduce stress and hurry
  4. One-Pointed Attention: give full concentration to whatever matter is currently at hand
  5. Training the Senses: enjoy simple pleasures in order to avoid craving for unhealthy excess
  6. Putting Others First: denounce selfishness and cultivating altruism
  7. Spiritual Companionship: practice meditation in the company of others
  8. Reading the Mystics: draw inspiration from the writings of the scriptures of all religions.

Other Influence

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 entitled Laurel'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.[43]

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.[44]

Easwaran's words have been included in collections of wisdom teachings, such as ones recently published by Chang (2006)[45] and Parachin (2011).[46] Quotations from Easwaran's translations have been used many times by both scholarly and popular writers.[47][48][49] Easwaran's other writings have also been quoted by various types of authors, including writers of novels and short stories,[50] popular spirituality,[51] and articles on management theory.[52] Psychiatrist Aaron Beck and his colleagues quoted from Easwaran's commentary on the Katha Upanishad.[53]

Easwaran has been listed in reference works on spiritual and religious leaders.[1][54][55]


Easwaran's books, initially written in English, have also been translated into more than 20 other languages, and published in non-US editions by indigenous (non-US) publishers. Languages in which his books are currently in print include Bahasa Indonesian, Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovenian, Spanish, and Telugu.[56] His books have also been translated into Chinese (PRC).[57] (Some non-English translations are not currently in print—for example, the German biography of Gandhi.[58]).

Contributions to works by others include:


  1. ^ a b c Jones, Constance A.; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Infobase Publishing / Facts On File. ISBN 9780816054589. http://books.google.com/books?id=hZET2sSUVsgC&pg=PA143&dq=eknath+easwaran+1910+born#v=onepage&q=eknath%20easwaran%201910%20born&f=false.  "Easwaran was born on December 17, 1910, into an ancient matrilineal family in Kerala, India" (p. 143)
  2. ^ "In Memoriam: Sri Eknath Easwaran (1911–1999)". Monastic Interreligious Dialogue. http://www.monasticdialog.com/a.php?id=576. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  3. ^ However, after he came to the United States, "Easwaran" generally functioned as his last name (analogous to a surname) for authorship credits and other public activities.
  4. ^ Flinders, Tim; Carol Flinders (1989). The making of a teacher: Conversations with Eknath Easwaran. Petaluma, CA: Nilgiri Press. ISBN 9780915132546. http://books.google.com/books?id=YsgkdFk4XWYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=isbn:9780915132546#v=onepage&q&f=false.  ISBN 0915132540, ISBN 0915132559, ISBN 9780915132553, OCLC 18983479
  5. ^ "Eknath Easwaran". Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/1192. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  6. ^ Holly Hammond (1996, Jan/Feb). "Finding balance in a hurried world." Yoga Journal n123, pp. 86–92, 139–141 ISSN 01910965.
  7. ^ Tim Flinders, The Making of a Teacher: Conversations with Eknath Easwaran, 1989, Foreword.
  8. ^ a b Bill McKibben (1984, Sep. 24). "Notes and Comment" (in "The Talk of the Town"; discusses Easwaran's A Man to Match His Mountains, a biography of Abdul Ghaffar Khan). The New Yorker, pp. 39–40. "A straightforward yet devoted biography.... By his example, [Khan] asks what we ourselves, as individuals made from the same stuff as he, are doing to shape history" (pp. 39–40).
  9. ^ Bill McKibben (1989, May 21). "A guru who offers no guarantees: Easwaran teaches a practical method of self-mastery." New York Post, pp. 4–5. Review of Gandhi the Man, A Man to Match His Mountains, Meditation, The Mantram Handbook, and Conquest of Mind.
  10. ^ Huston Smith, quoted on back cover and on page 383 of Eknath Easwaran (2007). [ The Upanishads] (2nd, rev. ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press. ISBN 9781586380212
  11. ^ Huston Smith and Philip Novak (2003). Buddhism: A Concise Introduction San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0060506962 (p. 222: "Our favorite translation is Eknath Easwaran's The Dhammapada. His Indian heritage, literary gifts, and spiritual sensibilities (which have given us excellent translations of Hinduism's Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) 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 that precedes the translation.")
  12. ^ Midwest Book Review Aug-09 http://www.midwestbookreview.com/wbw/aug_09.htm
  13. ^ Spirituality and Practice, review of Strength in the Storm http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=10113
  14. ^ Spirituality and Practice, review of Take Your Time
  15. ^ "Easwaran is one the most powerful Hindu teachers lecturing and writing in America.... this book is meant to be a companion for the difficult but joyous interior work of spiritual transformation that is at the heart of his teachings," wrote Publishers Weekly in a review of the original edition: Henry Carrigan (1996). "Your life is your message: Finding harmony with yourself, others, and the earth." Publishers Weekly, v243 n29, p69. (republished in 2009 as Renewal)
  16. ^ Spirituality and Practice, review of Renewal http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=19302
  17. ^ Spirituality and Practice review of God Makes the Rivers to Flow http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=5807
  18. ^ Spirituality and Practice review of Words to Live Byhttp://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=15735
  19. ^ Spirituality and Practice, review of End of Sorrow, http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=1122
  20. ^ Spirituality and Practice, review of Like a Thousand Suns, http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=1123
  21. ^ Spirituality and Practice, review of To Love is To Know Me, http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=1124
  22. ^ Spirituality and Practice, review of Gandhi the Man http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=5135
  23. ^ India Journal Nov 7, 2008 http://www.indiajournal.com/pages/event.php?id=5057
  24. ^ Black Pearl Award http://www.meiff.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/MEIFF-09-Black-Pearl-Awards_Final.pdf
  25. ^ Eknath Easwaran (January 30, 1980). "Gandhi: A sympathetic report; Gandhi: A memoir, by William L. Shirer (book review)". Christian Science Monitor: pp. 17. http://www.csmonitor.com/1980/0130/013006.html. Retrieved May 1, 2011. 
  26. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1985, Feb. 11). Revisiting the Raj – an Indian perspective. Christian Science Monitor, p. 18.
  27. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1985, Jun. 12). Mohandas K. Gandhi in South Africa. Christian Science Monitor, p. 15.
  28. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1985, Nov. 13). India and Pakistan: time to encourage trust. Christian Science Monitor, p. 17.
  29. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1986, Sep. 17). Young people, idealism – and drugs. Christian Science Monitor, p. 14.
  30. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1988, Dec. 10). Gandhi's lesson for the Philippines. Christian Science Monitor, p. 19.
  31. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1990, Aug. 27). Find a Peaceful Solution, in the Name of Islam. Christian Science Monitor, p. 19.
  32. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1990, Nov. 14). Nehru's Lesson From Gandhi. Christian Science Monitor, p. 16.
  33. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1991, Apr. 11). The Dignity of Ancient Culture. Christian Science Monitor, p. 16.
  34. ^ Eknath Easwaran (2002, Apr. 17 (posthumous)). An Island of Calm in a Sea of Hostility. Christian Science Monitor, p. 18.
  35. ^ a b Eknath Easwaran (1998, May 21). "What Would Gandhi Think?" New York Times, accessed Nov. 11, 2009. This commentary was republished later that week in Dawn (Pakistan), "What would Gandhi think of N-tests", May 22; in The Hindu (India), "Don't imitate the Western folly", May 26; and in the International Herald Tribune, What would Gandhi think?, May 21.
  36. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1991, Jan. 26). Gandhi's Message of Nonviolence. San Francisco Chronicle.
  37. ^ Several articles that Easwaran published in the Little Lamp (ISSN 0460-1297, LCCN: 83641607 sn 80000451) appeared later in revised form in his books; most copies of Blue Mountain (LCCN sf92093327) that appeared after 2000 can be downloaded from the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation website. Although primarily quarterly, each of these journals appeared at times on other schedules.
  38. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1964). "The Candle of the Lord". Mountain Path (Sri Ramana Ashram) 1 (3). http://www.ramana-maharshi.info/m_path/1964_3/july_1964_frameset.htm. 
  39. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1968). "Eating the Mangoes". Mountain Path (Sri Ramana Ashram) 5 (3): 204–206. http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/bookstall/img.php?pat=../mpath/1968/July//204.jpg. 
  40. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1958), "The Postmaster" (pp. 39–42). In Lionel Wigmore & Canberra Fellowship of Australian Writers, ed (1958). Span: An adventure in Asian and Australian writing. Melbourne, Australia: F. W. Cheshire. pp. 39–42. http://books.google.com/books?id=07UqAAAAMAAJ&q=eknath+easwaran&dq=eknath+easwaran. 
  41. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1956). "The funeral". Illustrated Weekly of India (India) 77 (3): 33. ISSN 0019-2430. http://books.google.com/books?id=urY5AQAAIAAJ&q=easwaran+%22the+funeral%22+granny&dq=easwaran+%22the+funeral%22+granny.  OCLC 6772824
  42. ^ The Eight Point Program of Passage Meditation – A Complete Approach to Spiritual Growth (easwaran.org)
  43. ^ Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, & Brian Ruppenthal (1986). The new Laurel's kitchen. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press. ISBN 0898151678. The 1986 edition is dedicated to "our teacher, Eknath Easwaran" (p. 13), and the back cover states "over a million copies sold" (see link [1]). In an introduction to the 1986 edition, Flinders wrote of "the collection of friends who helped produce Laurel's Kitchen ten years ago," that "we share a commitment to meditation" (p. 20).
  44. ^ Luis S. R. Vas (2009), Meditation Masters and their Insights. Mumbai, India: Better Yourself Books. ISBN 9788171087037. [2](Easwaran is profiled in chapter 25, pp. 185–195; others profiled include Ramana Maharshi, Thich Nhat Hanh, D. T. Suzuki, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and Thomas Keating)
  45. ^ Larry Chang (Ed.) (2006), Wisdom for the soul: Five millennia of prescriptions for spiritual healing. Washington, DC: Gnosophia Publishers. ISBN 0977339106 (NB: Easwaran's words are quoted on pp. 100, 160, 235, 279, 316, 485, 515, 548)
  46. ^ Chapter 11, "Eknath Easwaran: Inter-religious mystic" (pp. 110-119), in Parachin, Victor M. (2011). Eleven modern mystics and the secrets of a happy, holy life. Pasadena, CA: Hope Publishing House. ISBN 9781932717259. http://books.google.com/books?id=EPSWx8ia8ngC&pg=PA110&dq=Eleven+Modern+Mystics+paraching+easwaran&hl=en&ei=sa6fTobXFYbWiAKBl4BQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  47. ^ A scholarly example is: Kelly James Clark (2000). Readings in the philosophy of religion ISBN 9781551112466 (see pp. 363–371)
  48. ^ A scholarly example is: Ramnath Narayanswamy (2008). Why is spirituality integral to management education? My experience of integrating management and spirituality. Journal of Human Values, v14 n2, pp115-128. DOI: 10.1177/097168580801400203
  49. ^ A popular example is: Gayle Clayton (2004). Transformative Meditation: Personal & Group Practice to Access Realms of Consciousness Llewellyn Worldwide ISBN 0738705020
  50. ^ Charles Johnson (2002), Afterword (pp. 229–242) in John Whalen-Bridge & Gary Storhoff, The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. ISBN 1438426534.
  51. ^ Elizabeth Lesser (1999). The Seeker's Guide Random House/Villard. ISBN 9780679783596 (p. 346)
  52. ^ Lillas M. Brown (2001). Leading leadership development in universities: A personal story. Journal Of Management Inquiry, v10 n4, pp. 312–323. DOI: 1056492601104005
  53. ^ Aaron T. Beck, Gary Emery, & Ruth. L. Greenberg (2005). Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective (15th anniv. ed.). New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465005871 ("E. Easwaran uses the metaphor of channels in the brain to describe how a person's major concern develops.... Patients respond well to this metaphor," p. 293)
  54. ^ J. Gordon Melton, Religious leaders of America: a biographical guide to founders and leaders of religious bodies, churches, and spiritual groups in North America (2nd ed. 1999), ISBN 9780810388789, p. 174.
  55. ^ James R. Lewis, The encyclopedia of cults, sects, and new religions (1998), ISBN 9781573922227, p. 84.
  56. ^ Foreign editions of Nilgiri Press Books, http://www.easwaran.org/page/150, accessed Oct 19, 2009.
  57. ^ Lynn Garrett (1998, Jan. 12). Gandhi in China. Publishers Weekly, v245 n2, p30. "Nilgiri Press... was surprised to receive an e-mail in September from the Sichuan Copyright Agency in the People's Republic of China, expressing interest in publishing a Chinese edition of its Gandhi the Man (especially since relations between China and India have not always been the best).... the book will be released in China on January 30" (p. 30).
  58. ^ Eknath Easwaran (1997) Der Mensch Gandhi. Sein Leben ist eine Botschaft. Freiburg:Herder ISBN 978-3451045646

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