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American Dharma

American Dharma

After dropping nuclear bombs on Japan, Americans hungered for its wisdom. The spiritual teachings they lapped up as Zen owed as much to interpreters as to ancient Asian ways. These mystical insights helped dropouts and "squares" to find new meaning. They also fired up debate on transcendent experience. But beguiling suggestions of change in social order petered out. Buddhism quietly endured. It's resurgent today in psychologised mindfulness. Practice might help free our minds, but where that leads is up to us.

Postcard From Rishikesh

Postcard From Rishikesh

Straddling the Ganges, beneath Himalayan foothills, Rishikesh calls itself "Yoga Capital of the World". As Yoga Journal tells visitors: "your destination is ultimately the Self.” Spending a morning in one of its cafes makes this clear: plenty of tourists are getting absorbed in self-indulgence, along with higher-minded matters (sometimes drug-fuelled). Still, it's a beautiful place, and you can train to teach yoga in less than a month, with no experience. Which isn't to say there aren't good local teachers... 

China: Yoga Superpower

China: Yoga Superpower

A decade ago, hardly anyone in China practiced yoga. Now it's almost as popular as in America. Recently, China and India staged a "yoga summit". Aged 92, B.K.S. Iyengar taught a masterclass. He urged the Chinese to practice deeply, for liberation. The one-party state appears enthused. Yoga isn't seen as a threat like Falun Gong, or the Dalai Lama; it supports "social harmony". Besides, a summit organiser said: "China has a tradition of embracing foreign cultures and making them its own. That's why it's been so vibrant."