How Thoreau's Walden Pond Mixed with the Ganges and Yoga Came to America with Swami Vivekananda
Reflections on Water
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“The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred waters of the Ganges.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
One early morning during the winter of 1846-47, Henry David Thoreau looked out the window of his small cabin on Walden Pond and witnessed a part of the global ice trade. He saw over a hundred men with horses and saws, cutting the ice of Walden Pond into blocks. From there, the ice was taken to the railroad that ran across the western edge of the pond, conveyed to Boston harbor, packed into a clipper ship and transported over 16,000 miles to Calcutta, India where it quickly sold to grateful members of the East India Company. Thoreau imagined that ice would eventually melt and run down into the Ganges river and this was what he was referring to when he wrote: “The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred waters of the Ganges.”
Thoreau envisioned not just a mingling of waters, but of cultures as well; that of an America, just before the civil war and the ancient Indian religious culture of the Vedas; after all, he was reading the Bhagavad-Gita every day. What he did not foresee, is that nearly fifty years later, those now-mingled waters of Walden Pond and the Ganges would return (symbolically) when Swami Vivekananda traveled to America to take part in the Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago as part of the Worlds Fair in 1893. Representatives of nearly every religion in the world had gathered together in the same room for the first time in history and his famous talks marked the first presentation of the ancient Yoga of God-Realization in America.
This story explores these mingling waters and the Yoga brought to America by Swami Vivekananda as well its roots in India. In the process, we will examine some of the differences between the Yoga Vivekananda taught and what is generally called Yoga today.
This enhanced ebook offers a video introduction and is filled with over 200 photographs and many photo galleries. There are over 150 pop-ups filled with additional material, quotations and background information as well a rich glossary of terms.
Peter Malakoff has a BA in Religious Studies, trained in Vedic Studies, obtained a degree in Ayurveda and is currently on an extended sojourn in the ancient land and culture of India.
Fascinating story of the roots of yoga
As a young woman I read Thoreau’s “Walden Pond” and part of it has always stayed with me. Reading “Reflections on Water” has been a new look at not only Thoreau but also his connection to sacred India, the ice trade and the great sage Vivekananda who touched thousands of people’s hearts with his message and brought yoga to America. The author has obviously deeply researched the history presenting the reader with all manner of interesting stories and characters, wonderful photos and information woven into a tale. Thanks for the great read.