Filmmakers crowdfunding for documentary on Vivekananda

A week ago, we pointed out that a new film is debuting in fairly wide release this month on Yogananda.

Turns out, the SRF founder isn’t the only one getting the Hollywood treatment, if you will. (Or should it be Bollywood?)

Turns out there is an Indiegogo campaign happening now for a film to explore the life of Vivekananda. There are about 11 days left.

Here’s a link to the film’s website and its Facebook page. And here is the fundraising page.

The folks behind the project do have a long way to go: They are just above $3,100 now and have targeted $90,000. (If I am right, Indiegogo still funds you even if you miss your goal, unlike Kickstarter.) Here is a little about the project from the Indiegogo page:

On 11 September 1893, exactly 121 years before the start of this campaign, an unknown 30 year old Indian monk stood up at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago and single-handedly brought about a spiritual revolution in America and around the World. Swami Vivekananda brought Yoga and the universal truths of Vedanta and Hinduism to America. This film, Vivekananda, is the untold story of this remarkable and yet almost forgotten man, and the impact he had on American history and culture.

Vivekananda: America’s First Guru is a new film by Raja Choudhury andUniversal Quest. Our mission is to create films that inspire, enlighten and motivate us to change our lives. Our research is done, the script is almost ready, we have already started filming, our team is assembled and  some amazing people have agreed to appear in our film.

And here’s the trailer:

It looks like they were hoping for a January 2015 release — not sure how that timing would work. I guess it would be quick movie magic.

Posted by Steve

Counterpoint: No need to thank Vivekananda

Last weekend, we highlighted a piece in the New York Times that drew a hard and fast yoga line back to Vivekananda.

The crux was: Vivekananda’s appearance in 1893 at a religion conference in Chicago kicked off the yoga craze in America.

Not so fast.

In a counterpoint at Religion Dispatches, Andrea R. Jain says it isn’t so easy to trace Western yoga back to this one guy. “No, I Don’t Owe My Yoga Mat to Vivekananda” is the title. Quick highlights:

I wasn’t surprised, since Vivekananda is often valorized as the great deliverer of yoga to “the West” or the “Father of modern yoga” in the popular press. But frankly, I’m tired of hearing it. And it’s just not true.


Before Vivekananda came to the United States with his version of yoga and gave his famous speech to the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, which triggered the speaking tour that would take him all over the country, other Americans’ embrace of yoga was stirring plenty of conversation.

Jain goes on to discuss Pierre Bernard and Ida C. Craddock as to other early yogis and notes that Vivekananda was never “popular” in the way we think of that word. (He was no Bikram, in other words!) She also points out there was plenty of interplay between the “physical culture” of the West and Indian elites that created the asana practice we all know today.

She concludes: “So no, I will not thank Vivekananda for my mat. He wouldn’t approve of what I do on it anyway.”

Posted by Steve

Blame Vivekananda for all those yoga studios on your block

I’m not precisely sure of the reason for this article, but there’s a piece in Sunday’s New York Times on Vivekananda, who brought yoga to the West and America. It was he who came to Chicago 1893, wowed crowds, wowed the Harvard set, wowed the Hollywood types and “introduced” yoga.

My headline is drawn from a line in the piece. It also points out that “an exercise cult with expensive accessories was hardly what he had in mind.”

Apparently there will be big celebrations in a year and a half to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Still, why this piece now? I don’t know, but it’s the New York Times. It’s yoga history. It’s Vivekananda.

So, it’s worth a read, right?

A key part:

For most of the rest of the month, Vivekananda held the conference’s 4,000 attendees spellbound in a series of showstopping improvised talks. He had simplified Vedanta thought to a few teachings that were accessible and irresistible to Westerners, foremost being that “all souls are potentially divine.” His prescription for life was simple, and perfectly American: “work and worship.” By the end of his last Chicago lecture on Sept. 27, Vivekananda was a star. And like the enterprising Americans he so admired, he went on the road to pitch his message — dazzling some of the great minds of his time.

Link is here.

Posted by Steve