This is an account of the meeting of two very different cultures by which the ideas of the East became integrated into the everyday lives of millions in the West. It begins with a group of Armenians led by G I Gurdjieff at the beginning of the 20th century who set out in search of truth, recognising that something was missing from the Western world view. Returning to the West after a ten year quest he began to teach. In Russia he met P D Ouspensky, who had also spent years searching for sacred knowledge, and passed on to him much of what he had learned. Ouspensky recognised the wisdom and power of what Gurdjieff had rediscovered, but also came to realize that they only had ‘fragments of an unknown teaching’ and urged his successor to find “the source”.
With the arrival of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the West in 1960, many were introduced to a form of meditation, specially designed to suit people with commitments to family, work and society. While the Maharishi went on to popularise meditation, the seekers never lost sight of the need to establish a link with “the source”.
A few years later, during a visit to India with the Maharishi, Ouspensky’s successor was introduced to Sri Shantananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of the North, an exponent of the ancient teaching of Advaita or non-dualism. Here, Dr. Roles recognised, was ‘the source’ they had been seeking. Over the next thirty years the Shankaracharya continued to advise, answer questions about the teaching, and encourage the practice of meditation which had been devised by his predecessor to help humanity after the ravages of the Second World War. Through these meetings and conversations, knowledge and spiritual practices that had been known only to a few were transmitted to the West.
The book is partly autobiographical in that it relates the author’s own experience with a number of the teachers and organisations that have taught meditation, Eastern Philosophy, and the “Work”.
John Adago has been a student of the “Work” of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky since the sixties. He was a member of the group lead by Willem Nyland, who had worked with Gurdjieff since the twenties. During that time his wife attended the School of Practical Philosophy in New York. The School introduced both of them to meditation. After Nyland’s death in 1975 he continued with the School. He was fascinated by the body of knowledge the two independent groups had in common; and spent many years seeking the connection between the ‘Work’ of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, The School of Economic Science, The Study Society in New York and London, and the master teachers in the East that inspired them. A builder by profession, a writer and lecturer who has lead study groups that introduced seekers to the study of philosophy, the “Work”, and meditation, he was influenced by the master teachers of the twentieth century whose stories he preserved. He knew many of these teachers, gathered information from interviews and unpublished transcripts of conversations, and records the fascinating history that connects the lives, “Work”, and philosophy of the master teachers who brought the sacred knowledge and spiritual traditions of the East to the West.
Keywords: Meditation, Advaita