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My Guru and his Disciple

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  211 ratings  ·  17 reviews
In 1939, as Europe approaches war, Isherwood, an instinctive pacifist, travels west to California, seeking a new set of beliefs to replace the failed Leftism of the thirties. There he meets Swami Prabhavananda, a Hindu monk, who will become his spiritual guide for the next thirty-seven years. Late-night drinking sessions, free love, and the glamour of writing for the Holly ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 4th 2013 by Vintage (first published 1980)
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Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful memoir of Isherwood's appretenceship in Vedanta practice and a loving portrait of his guru, Swami Prabhavananda. The book is also a great "inside" view of the beginnings of the settling of eastern wisdom teachings on western shores, here in sunny southern California. Isherwood's writing is disarmingly clear, terse, and honest, and he writes movingly of his struggles with Vedanta practices and ideas and openly of his homosexuality and sexual adventures. The book moves between reflective ...more
Stephen Brody
At a youthful age Christopher Isherwood wrote a couple of highly successful novels, successful I think it’s fair to say because although largely deriving from his own experiences he nevertheless viewed other people he’d come across in a very detached and sympathetic not to say amusing way (“I am a Camera”). This detachment diminished over time so that his ‘novels’ became almost undisguised autobiography and his maturer fame to derive not so much from his writing as from his own ‘charisma’, in th ...more
I find it difficult to understand how a man of such literary talent desired to leave the material world behind and follow an Indian holy man into a Hindu cult. Actually, Christopher Isherwood never was completely successful in renouncing worldly pursuits, especially sexual relationships, though he briefly took up residence in the temple and aspired to be a monk. But his friendship with the guru was strong enough to withstand a return to his heretical lifestyle. It was a complex relationship. He ...more
Sumangali Morhall
I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book. It's one of few books I'm sure I'll read again and again. I almost wished I could wipe it from my memory as soon as I'd finished it, so I could go back and discover it anew right away. Isherwood's writing itself is a work of genius – the descriptions of inner and outer experiences are pure elegant simplicity, completely transparent windows on his experience. His honesty as a spiritual seeker is itself a triumph.
Nicola Pierce
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn't read Christopher Isherwood in a long, long time and I don't ever remember knowing that he had pursued a spiritual life, albeit on his own terms. I admired his honesty in this book, it's what makes it so easy to read, the fact that Isherwood was doing his best to be 'good' without going on a diet to avoid sex, drugs, alcohol and more sex. After briefly considering becoming a monk, he realises that it's not for him but continues to nurture a spirituality that he can return to again and ag ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to get into this book. I don't know if that was me taking a while to get into it or Isherwood taking a while to warm up. At any rate, a few dozens of pages in it grabbed me. I really enjoyed this gentle, honest, revealing account of Isherwood's relationship with Swami and his religion. There was a sense of peace and enlightenment unfolding throughout the text. It felt less detatched than some of his other autobiographical works, with names and details less obscured, and more c ...more
Sarah LaFleur
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of my favorite books of all time. Isherwood combines reflections and diary entries to paint a picture of his relationship with his teacher. I found so much of it moving, honest, and very human. He describes himself without pretense and it is so refreshing. I had the feeling reading it like I was sucked into a romance novel, only the romance wasn't with a sexual partner, but with a love of
God and his guru. So beautiful.
Seth Kupchick
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I only read 25 pages of this book in an anthology but I'd highly recommend it for anyone interested in spirituality and literature, and the strange crossroads between the two. Isherwood was a famous underground gay English novelist that the Swami asked to help him write a book, so his place in the group was never really sustained, not being a true believer, but almost, and this was an interesting position that Isherwood wrote from, both of privilege and contempt. I really liked how the book drif ...more
Richard Jespers
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In his final book Isherwood attempts to chronicle his struggle to be an adherent of the Hindu religion. Over the many decades of study he is not always successful, and yet there are times in which he attains a certain level of satisfaction—particularly concerning his relationship with Swami, his guru. Importantly, Isherwood seems never to stop struggling, and the last two paragraphs of his book capture his feelings:

“Meanwhile, my life is still beautiful to me—beautiful because of Don, because o
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My priest gave this book to me to read, probably because, as Edmund White said in his New York Times review, "Seldom has a single man been endowed with such strong drives toward both sensuality and spirituality, abandon and discipline." I would say that pretty much describes me--sensuality and spirituality, abandon and discipline!

I learned much that I didn't know about Isherwood. As the author's blurb on the back of the book says, He was a "major figure in twentieth-century fiction and the gay
Jeff Howells
Sep 07, 2014 rated it liked it
This book (the last he wrote in his lifetime) takes up Isherwood's story from the time he lands in America through to nearly the end of his life. However this isn't really a memoir, more a study of his relationship with his 'guru' Swami Prabhavananda. Surprisingly he maintains a belief in this for the remainder of his life and wasn't a flash in the pan - predating the hippy sixties by nearly 30 years. This isn't as interesting as the other books I've read by him, partly because to me it's all a ...more
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This started off promisingly but didn't really play to its strengths. The use of direct journal entries becomes overbearing and tedious and it becomes hard to see the forest for the trees. It seems like the most important parts of the story are always happening off page, and Isherwood makes very little effort to step back and explain the significance of some of his experiences with Swami. Not quite interesting enough to be a document of the times (Huxley, Heard etc. aren't given much time in the ...more
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is probably one of the books on which I fell asleep more often since I started. Im still unsure whether to attribute the responsibility of my drowsiness to Isherwood or to the topic (even if I really wanted to read this book), but I think 50/50.

Questo é probabilmente uno dei libri sul quale mi sono addormentata piú spesso da quando l'ho iniziato. Sono indecisa se attribuire la responsabilitá della mia sonnolenza ad Isherwood o all'argomento (anche se io volevo leggerlo veramente tanto quest
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I liked about this book was how open minded and forgiving the guru was to Isherwood when he "confessed his sins". Unlike Christianity which can be such a judgmental religion, Hinduism is very welcoming, without the guilt tripping.
Not the type of book to which I am usually drawn, but I love his writing. A very personal account of the unfolding of one man's spiritual life. Very interesting to see how people in the 1930's reacted to concepts like yoga and meditation, things that are often taken for granted now.
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A classic of spiritual literature", I could not agree more. This book makes me want a Guru! The devotion that Isherwood has toward Swami, his Hindu priest, is certainly something to be admired.
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Christopher Isherwood was a novelist, playwright, screen-writer, autobiographer, and diarist. He was also homosexual and made this a theme of some of his writing. He was born near Manchester in the north of England in 1904, became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and died at home in Santa Monica, California in January 1986.

Isherwood was the grandson and heir of a country squire, and his boyhood was privile