You are not your body. You are not your mind.

Swami Vivekananda


WSJ Magazine: What Did J.D. Salinger, Leo Tolstoy, and Sarah Bernhardt Have in CommonThe surprising—and continuing—influence of Swami Vivekananda, the pied piper of the global yoga movement. 

Fascinating article worth reading in its entirety on this man’s influence on Henry & William James, Leo Tolstoy, Salinger, Carl Jung and many others.  A few of my favorite excerpts:

“By the late 1960s, the most famous writer in America had become a recluse, having forsaken his dazzling career…While he no longer visited with his editors, he was keen to spend time with his spiritual teacher, Swami Nikhilananda…”

“Though the iconic author of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ published his last story in 1965, he did not stop writing.  From the early 1950’s onward, he maintained a lively correspondence with several Vedanta monks and fellow devotees.  After all, the central guiding light of Salinger’s spiritual quest was the teachings of Vivekananda, the Calcutta born Monk who popularized Vedanta and yoga in the West at the end of the 19th century.

“These days yoga is offered up in classes and studios that have become as ubiquitous as Starbucks.  Vivekananda would have been puzzled, if not somewhat alarmed.  ‘As soon as I think of myself as a little body,’ he warned, ‘I want to preserve it, protect it, to keep it nice, at the expense of other bodies.  Then you and I become separate.’ For Vivekananda, yoga meant just one thing: “the realization of God.”

“…Salinger discovered Vedanta, which he found infinitely more consoling. ‘Unlike Zen, Vedanta offered a path to a personal relationship with God and a promise that he could obtain a cure for his depression…and find God, and through God, peace.  Finding peace, would, however, be a lifelong battle…Salinger wrote to another monk about his own daily struggle, citing the text of another mystic: ‘In the forest-tract of sense pleasures there prowls a huge tiger called the mind.  Let good people who have a longing for Liberation never go there…Salinger wrote, ‘I suspect that nothing is truer than that,’ confessing despondently, ‘and yet I allow myself to be mauled by that old tiger almost every wakeful minute of my life.’  It was his daily mauling by the ‘huge tiger’ and his dreaded depressions that led Salinger to abandon his literary ambitions in favor of spiritual ones.”

“…Vivekananda promised hope and solace…writing that the ‘same mind, when subdued and controlled, becomes a most trusted friend and helper, guaranteeing peace and happiness.”

“…India has scheduled a yearlong party to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Vivekananda’s birth beginning on January 12, 2013…There will be plenty of readings of his four texts on yoga as a spiritual discipline…but if there were a single takeaway line that boils down his teachings to one spiritual bullet point, it would be ‘You are not your body.’ This might be bad news for the yoga-mat crowd.  The good news for beleaguered souls like Salinger was Vivekananda’s corollary: “You are not your mind.’”

Photo Credit: Swami Vivekananda – On Being


  1. Great read. I’m guessing Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now was influenced greatly by this ideology. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Thanks, Dave, Yesterday, Walter & I watched a program on the OWN network about Fairfield, Iowa, a city/communities that meditates twice a day, has two domed meditation centres, a private school where the students meditate. Oprah interviewed the people and they shared the transformation that has occurred in their lives, beautiful!, — Vera


    • Hi Vera. Sounds like a wonderful program. Don’t think we get OWN on our cable but will need to check it out. Thanks for sharing. Hope you and the family are doing well. Dave


  3. Wow, Dave, that was really good!! I have to call one of my cousins and read it to her. She was just diagnosed with a gynecological cancer. I hope it will lift her up!!


  4. It is true that yoga got lost in the new yoga movement translation.


  5. Thank you!


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