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Razors Edge

The Katha Upanishad Recitation by Christopher Isherwood The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard. —Katha-Upanishad, 3.14 So begins Somerset Maugham's bestselling twentieth century novel The Razor's Edge (1944),  whose main character gives up a life of privilege in search of spiritual Enlightenment. Maugham himself visited Ramana ashram where he had a direct interaction with Ramana Maharshi in Tamil Nadu, India in 1938. But, it is said that Maugham received his inspiration and direct translation for this epigraph from Christopher Isherwood, with whom he had become acquainted through The Vedanta Society's Hollywood Hills center. This reading by Isherwood of the Katha … [Read more...]

Poetry in Translation

One of the pleasures in reading Christopher Isherwood is the ease with which he writes in the first person. He creates an atmosphere of intimacy where one is privy to all kinds of internal and external dialogs. The reader becomes complicit in a constant barometric recording of success and failure. Unfolding narratives explicate on topics ranging from sexual aspiration, neurotic deliberations, spiritual sleuthing or (most satisfying) his own grappling with the writing process. Here is an excerpt from My Guru and His Disciple where he shares an aha! moment, a discovery that allows him to move forward with the translation of the Bhagavad Gita text. What starts out as a pedantic laborious effort at transcription … [Read more...]

In the Heart of All Things

Isha Upanishad, as read by Christopher Isherwood By Nancy Cantwell Hollywood was first exposed to the philosophical and religous texts of India when Swami Prabhavananda was charged with opening the Vedanta Society of Southen California (VSSC) in 1930. It was Prabhavananda's discourses and ministries that attracted southern California cultural luminaries Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, Gerald Heard, Henry Miller and composer Igor Stravinsky to Vendanta. Isherwood went on to collaborate with Swami Prabhavananda translating "The Song of God: Bhagavad Gita", 1944, "Shankara's Crest-Jewel of Discrimination (Viveka Choodamani)", 1947, and "How to know God, the Yoga Aphorisms … [Read more...]