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Book reviews for "Prabhavananda,_Swami" sorted by average review score:

The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta
Published in Hardcover by Vedanta Press (1963)
Author: Swami Prabhavananda
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Deeply evocative and spiritually comforting
I'm not the kind of person who generally reads these types of books. I gain most of my spiritual solace from Mozart and wilderness hiking. However, this book is surprising. It illuminates Jesus in ways you have never considered and makes you wonder how Christians got things so muddled. This is a refreshing encounter with a subject I usually shun, and you'll never think of Jesus the same way after reading this wonderful book. I highly recommend it to people of all faiths.

timeless sublime truth
i first read this book some 20 yrs ago and found it easy to understand and a clever uniting of vedantic teachings and the core teachings of christianity. over the years i've read it again several times. its simplicity is deceptive. the author is/was obviously a spiritual genius and modern saint. to pack so much universal truth into such a small book is, well, a miracle. if you are a sincere seeker of God, you will love this book. as you begin to live this book, its truths will reveal themselves fresh and new and undeniably true within you. i've read thousands of books in my life and i would rate this one in the top ten without hesitation. don't miss this divine message; it speaks to the heart and soul in a truly wondrous way!

Over the course of my life, I have been presented on various occasions with texts described as being 'comparative' of different religions -- usually one religion being stood up against Christianity, the author being a Christian, in an attempt to debunk the teachings of non-Christian faiths. I saw those books as little more than thinly-veiled attempts at propaganda, attempts to spread the Christian message (as the authors saw it) to the 'unsaved, misled masses'.

This book, which I originally stumbled across quite by accident, couldn't be further in theme and temperament from that lot -- this is aboslutely the gentlest, most respectful, most loving book that I could imagine on the subject. It makes no attempts at conversion, but in a very scholarly -- yet very readable -- way, takes Christ's Sermon on the Mount (paying special attention to the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer) and makes line-by-line comparisons to the ancient teachings of Hinduism.

Prabhavananda was a monk of the Ramakrishna Order -- and one of Sri Ramakrishna's most fundamental teachings was the 'oneness of all religions', that, when sincerely believed and practiced, 'all paths lead to the same goal'. This incredible, tender book shows how deeply true his teachings were. Ramakrishna -- a Hindu saint of the 19th century who worshiped God in the form of the Divine Mother, and who experienced ecstatic visions of Christ, Mohammed and Buddha as well -- was one of the most unique, unpretentious, all-encompassing figures in any religion. He embraced them all. Would that we had, in this 'modern, civilized era', when people are still killing each other over the way they each worship God, a teacher so unifying, so true of heart, that could shine the light of wisdom on our folly.

Prabhavananda's book brings Ramakrishna's unifying word to modern readers in a wonderful way. I was touched to the core of my soul by this book -- I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who honestly, in their heart, practices ANY faith. It was written to unify, not to divide -- it could be treasured for that alone.

For anyone interested in further readings on Sri Ramakrishna, I can recommend THE GOSPEL OF SRI RAMAKRISHNA, or (if this 1000+ page volume is too 'heavy' for you) Lex Hixon's stunning book GREAT SWAN -- MEETINGS WITH RAMAKRISHNA.

Song of God
Published in Mass Market Paperback by Signet Book (1954)
Authors: Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
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aptly called, "the song of God."
perhaps the greatest piece of truly inspired spiritual literature ever written. considered by many to be the epitome of the vast collection of writings that is Vedanta. its the story of lord krishna's holy teachings and advice to a warrior whose heart is in great distress on the eve of battle. and aren't we all warriors on the eve of the battle of daily life? lord krishna lays out the various ways a person can seek and find and know God. i love the book very much indeed and have read it many times over during the past few decades. this particular translation is a thing of sheer beauty and power. this is by far my favorite translation of the several i've read. this book belongs on the reading table of every sincere spiritual seeker. its simply sublime.

This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. If you're at all curious about Hinduism - this book has it all. Now I don't personally believe that a blue-skinned guy named Krishna ever really existed. But I do believe he is an excellent allegory, or character, used to convey the beliefs of Hinduism and the experience (and non-experience) of Brahman(God). My favorite thing about this book is that Krishna is active in everyday life. The story is actually an excerpt from the epic "Mahabarata". It takes place in the middle of a battlefield. Arjuna, a warrior, does not want to fight because he sees that all the guys on the other side are his relatives - his brothers so to speak. Krishna tells Arjuna to fight and then goes on to explain why it's ok - all the while expounding the ideals and beliefs of the Hindus. What's cool is that even though they express that God is in everyone and everything - it's ok to participate in ordinary life according to your nature. Arjuna has the nature of a warrior so he is supposed to fight when there is a battle. Not everybody needs to sit around meditating and smoking hemp.
The book is a masterpiece and it is beautifully done. Check it out.

Beautiful Interpretation
This is not a translation of the Gita as much as an intepretation. Scholars will find much to irritate them here as direct translation was not Isherwood's aim, but rather an interpretation of the text in such a way that was best suited to Isherwood's own aim's of self-enlightenment. This volume is easy to read, and many sections have been put into a semi-poetical form to recall the feel of the original (a big plus, as few modern translations have attempted to do the same). Also, quite interesting is the introduction by Aldous Huxley, in which he relates his "Perennial Philosophy" to the Gita and speaks in detail about Hinduism as well as it's relation to other faiths. An appendix on various Hindoo ideas is included that makes some potentially foreign concepts a little bit easier to assimilate. For anyone who loves the Gita as I do, this book is a treasure trove.

Eternal Companion
Published in Paperback by Vedanta Press & Bookshop (1960)
Author: Swami Prabhavananda
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the bhakti master's life and teaching
this is a fascinating biography of a great indian saint. Brahmananda was a direct disciple of the great Ramakrishna. along with the spiritual giant Swami Vivekananda and other disciples of Ramakrishna, Brahmananda was an important force in founding the Ramakrishna Mission, and was the first head and spiritual leader of that holy order. this book gives us an intimate look at those heady days of young monks seeking and finding God and of their efforts to share those Divine findings with the world. Brahmananda was very much the bhakti yogi, insisting that to find God we must purify ourselves, meditate, and think of God's presence always and seek only Him. he says this search is the highest purpose of life and that failing to seek God was the squandering of God's gift of human birth. he insists that the way, while difficult at first, is the ultimate joy of life and that the spiritual journey is fun. this book is interesting as history and biography but even more as a book of spiritual instruction to benefit any sincere seeker of God. if you have interests in Vedanta and real spiritual light and truth, you will enjoy and benefit greatly from this classic spiritual masterpiece.

"A Guidebook for Spiritual Practice"
Swami Brahmananda spent years with Sri Ramakrishna and absorbed many of his teachings. He urges all people to start to seriously practice spiritual living. This book includes a biography of Swami Brahmananda, his reminiscences, a compilation of his teachings, and a glossary.

My Guru and His Disciple
Published in Paperback by Univ of Minnesota Pr (Trd) (2001)
Author: Christopher Isherwood
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An English writer in America meets an Indian swami
Surely one of Isherwoods finest works. This memoir tells of his time in Hollywood during World War II and of his meeting and subsiquent association with Swami Prabhavananada. Isherwood approaches the subject with candid reflection and in his usual minimal style takes the reader on a a spiritual quest for the truth behind god and the trail of the pacifists dilemma during a crippling war. Auden, Huxley and a host of others walk through the work. An absolute must for Isherwood fans. I cried at the of the best books I've ever read.

account of a heart relationship between student and teacher
One of the most intelligently written books on the subject. Here, Isherwood recounts the events that lead him to meet a man who was to seriously effect the way christopher approached life as a pacifistin a war torn world. A remarkable relationship between a very modern man and a direct desciple from the lineage of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. I think that this is one of the best books I have ever read. Christerpher Isherwood is economical with words and yet is evocative,candid and funny. Auden, Huxley and meany more characters of the time walk through this memoir. I cried at the end. Written by a master. If you are a cynic on the subject of swamis read this... it was written by one..

Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God
Published in Hardcover by Vedanta Press & Bookshop (1993)
Authors: Swami Prabhavananda, Christopher Isherwood, and Swami Prabhavananda
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"The light of a lamp does not flicker in a windless place"
"The enlightened, the Brahman-abiding,
Calm-hearted, unbewildered,
Is neither elated by the pleasant
Nor saddened by the unpleasant"

Every few years I read this extraordinary book...I've read other translations, but seem mostly to be drawn back to this one. Partly prose and partly verse, more interpretive than literal, it's in a flowing style, easy to understand, and with great clarity in its spiritual instruction.
"Shutting off sense
From what is outward,
Fixing the gaze
At the root of the eyebrows,
Checking the breath-stream
In and outgoing
Within the nostrils,
Holding the senses,
Holding the intellect,
Holding the mind fast,
He who seeks freedom,
Thrusts fear aside,
Thrusts aside anger
And puts off desire:
Truly that man
Is made free forever".

Written between the 5th and 2nd centuries B.C., this dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna is an inspiring sacred text, and a must read for anyone interested in the great religions of the world.
This edition comes with an introduction by Aldous Huxley, a background history of the Gita and Mahabharata, 2 appendices, and the text has footnotes to aid in the meaning of certain words and personages.

"He who is free from delusion, and knows the supreme Reality, knows all that can be known. Therefore he adores me with his whole heart.
This is the most sacred of all the truths I have taught you. He who has realized it becomes truly wise. The purpose of his life is fulfilled".

Shankara's Crest Jewel of Discrimination
Published in Paperback by Vedanta Press & Bookshop (1970)
Authors: Swami Prabhavananda , Christopher Isherwood, and Swami Prabhavananda
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Translation of the Vivekachudamani
Prabhavananda used to be an indian monk of the Ramakrishna order directing the hollywood branch of that organisation in the first half of the last century. Isherwood was a famous writer who worked together with Prabhavananda. They translated indian scriptures and wrote several books, either together or independently. This particular book is a translation of the Vivekachudamani, a compact presentation of advaita vedanta, attributed to Shankara. It's pleasant to read and contains deep wisdom. The Ramakrishna Vivekananda Organisation has also another version of the Vivekachudamani on sale, which contains the Sanskrit text as well.

little book, big wisdom
Shankara was a 7th century hindu mystic/saint. he founded a number of monastic orders in his short life,[32 yrs], and showed remarkable spiritual talents and insights from a very early age. this book is a true classic in the field of the jnani yoga tradition. his directives are clear, succint, and leave no doubt in the readers mind he knew where of he spoke. i wouldn't say this should be your entry level book into the advaita philosophy but if the idea of your oneness with brahman, the impersonal ground of being, appeals to you and you're ready for the genuine article, then this little book is for you and will reward your careful study. i'll be quiet now and let the master have the last word with a few quotes from the book: "when the vision of Reality comes, the veil of ignorance is completely removed. when our false perception is corrected, misery ends." and "the self controlled man is illumined when he enjoys eternal bliss. he is entirely merged in Brahman. he knows himself to be the unchangeable reality". and, "teachers and scriptures can stimulate spiritual awareness. but the wise disciple overcomes ignorance by direct illumination, through the grace of God". and, "the treasure i have found cannot be described in words, i am one with Brahman".

Pinnacle of Indian Philosophy
Traditional Hindu philsophy asserts that the true nature of ourselves, other people, and everything around us is Brahman. But that truth is often covered in superficial illusion, or maya (in pop culture terms, 'the Matrix'). Shankara expounds upon the traditional Hindu philosophy and posits that the key to enlightenment is the ability to discriminate between what is True (i.e. Brahman) and what is merely illusion (maya), to look past the appearance of things and seek the Truth that lies beneath the surface. We do not have to go far to apply this centuries old insight to our own lives. With the light of Shankara's simple philosophy to cut through the swirling mists of illusion that surround us, it is soon apparent that very few of the things we have taken seriously matter at all. They are mostly superficial maya and we must not allow ourselves to lose sight of the core Truths that they would obscure. It may sound abstract, but once you start recognizing that very few of the things people say, do, or believe have any foundation in Truth (in the Brahman sense), you will adjust your perspective accordingly and will be surprised to find how unperturbed you are by the concerns that stir others into an emotional frenzy. If you understand what does and doesn't matter, you can devote your energies to the former and shield yourself from concern for the latter.

For an explanation of these principles in prose by my favorite author, I strongly recommend "Maya", a short story that appears in the back of Hermann Hesse's Nobel prize winning novel, "The Glass Bead Game."

The Upanishads Breath of the Eternal
Published in Paperback by Vedanta Press & Bookshop (1984)
Authors: Swami, Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester
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To know God is to know the Self
The term Upanishad has been translated in many ways, "sitting near devotedly", "secret teachings", and the more elaborate, "knowledge of God." It is the knowledge of God that truly captures the essence of the Upanishads.

The 7th century scholar, Shankara, describes the Upanishads as "the knowledge of Brahman, the knowledge that destroys the bond of ignorance and leads to the supreme goal of freedom." Each Upanishad illustrates the path towards discovering this inner knowledge, thus achieving escape from samsara, or this world of suffering.

This translation contains the twelve standard Upanishads, including one of the most famous, the Brihad-aranyaka, which is the oldest and largest of these ancient scriptures.
This work embodies the mystical and esoteric aspects of ancient Hindu philosophy, and serves as an interesting and enlightening guide to knowledge of Self.

The essense of the twelve principle Upanihads
I am so glad to see this classic translation back in print. If you have ever been intimidated by the multi-volume scholarly translations of the Upanishads, then this book is for you. I still marvel at how Prabhavananda and Manchester managed to encapsulate so much of the core content and meaning of the twelve principle Upanishads in such a slim volume. Yet they did- and it works.

Of course if you truly understand these oldest of mystical scriptures then you could condense them down still further to:
Brahma is true, the world is false,
The soul is Brahma and nothing else.

Or if that is a bit wordy for you, then you can sum up the Upanishads, and all the Vedas, with: "Tat tvam asi" (Thou art that.)

Most people need to work up to the true understanding of these statements with a bit more commentary, however....

How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali
Published in Hardcover by Vedanta Press & Bookshop (1996)
Authors: Swami Prabhavananda, Christopher Isherwood, and Patanjali
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My qualification for this review is as an initiate practising samyana for 15 years. Of the many translations of Patanjali's Sutra's this is by far the worst I have ever read. I don't know who Swami Prhabavanda is but he certainly didn't impart any knowledge of value to Isherwood. The description of 'what meditation is' is totally incorrect to the extent of being the total antitheseis of what meditation is in reality, in relation to Patanjali. You can't get your understanding of a thing more wrong than that. Isherwood feels the need on occasions to compare Patanjali with religions such as Christianity, and such comparisons are not only irrelevant but do not hold true. The basic problem seems to stem from the fact that Isherwood has at best only a tenuous grasp of what he is writing about. He understands the words, but the actual concepts behind the words, are foreign to him. There are many far superior translations of Patanjali to be had. Don't waste your money on this one.

Excellent translation, fair commentary
Swami Prabhavananda has done an excellent job of translating the sutras into understandable sentences - something that surpasses 90% of all other translators, and for this reason alone the book should be in everyone's library. The commentary however reaches neither the depth of of Satchidananda's "Sutras" nor the the burning insights of McAfee's "Beyond the Siddhis". It is obscure and sometimes confusing. All in all, however, an excellent book to add to the true seeker's bag of tricks.

How to know yourself.
Although this book is a study of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, it will appeal to devotees of any religion--Hindu, Christian, or Buddhism--or to anyone interested in living a spiritual life. It is not so much a "how-to" guide in knowing God--for "there are innumerable approaches to him" (p. 66), as an examination of knowing one's real Self.

Patanjali's Sutras are dated sometime between the fourth century B.C. and the fourth century A.D. (p. 7), and they offer methods for gaining insights through our own experience into "the Godhead, the Reality which underlies this apparent, ephemeral universe" (p. 15). He observes that in order to know God, one must first cease identifying himself with the mind (p. 213). Our liberation, he tells us, is "retarded" by our past karmas, our fears and desires, our lack of energy (p. 52), our egotism, ignorance, and blind clinging (p. 55), and by such obstacles as sickness, mental laziness, sloth, doubts and despair (p. 64). However, the good news is that no effort to know God, however small, is wasted (p. 52), for God draws us to himself (p. 54). With a little exploration, it is possible to know God everywhere, "both within and without, instantly present and infinitely elsewhere, the dweller in the atom and the abode of all things" (p. 33).

Although I am not qualified to comment on their translation of Patanjali, Christopher Isherwood and Swami Prabhavananda's Vendantist commentary offers worthwhile insights into Patanjali's Sutras.

G. Merritt

The Spiritual Heritage of India: A Clear Summery of Indian Philosophy and Religion
Published in Paperback by Vedanta Press & Bookshop (1979)
Author: Swami Prabhavananda
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The Hindu darshanas explained
The six Hindu darshanas are presented here. This is a topic of many books and they vary by there emphasis on either of the systems or by their location on the spectrum between spirituality and science. Here we have an advaita emphasis and a very spiritual approach. Prabhavananda, as a leading Swami of the Ramakrishna order, which he used to be, stands on the side of practical vedanta. Therefore those darshanas (=systems) are dealt with extensively and well. But Nyaya-Vaisheshika falls short. The book is easy to read and does provide valuable information about Hinduism. Other authors who dealt with the indian systems are, e.g: Hiriyanna, Glasenapp, Heinrich Zimmer, Dasgupta, Mahadevan, and so forth.

Srimad Bhagavatam: The Wisdom of God
Published in Paperback by Vedanta Press & Bookshop (1952)
Author: Swami Prabhavananda
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Worthwhile time spent on the path to enlightenment
For those with an understanding of Hindu concepts and a desire to investigate further the path to Bhraman, reading this book is a worthwhile step. Whether the journey is accomplished via jnana, karma, bhakti yoga, or a combination of the three, one can realize some value by the stories and lessons provided here. The edition I read from the library included a glossary of terms in the back for convenient reference. I found it easier to read and comprehend than the Upanishads, yet encountered numerous references, concepts, and passages common to both. I feel that one read is not enough. This book should be studied like the Gita, and practiced in earnest.

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