Joshua Pollock has an interesting background. An accomplished Western classical violinist, he has performed and taught throughout the world, including multiple collaborations with composer A.R. Rahman. Pollock holds a Bachelor of Musical Arts degree from Indiana University and two master’s degrees from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He currently resides in India with his wife and their two children. We spent some talking about his favorite places in Chennai, my hometown in India, where he lived while working with A.R. Rahman.
I asked Joshua – “I have seen a number of highly successful people turn towards practices where they search for inner peace in midlife – why does this search become so meaningful at this stage in their lives? What are they missing? What are they seeking?” I loved the analogy that he gave me while answering by saying, “If a bird soars with one wing, soon, it is going to move in circles with no upward trajectory, directionless and lost. Similarly, human beings need an investment of time and energy in both aspects of their lives – material and spiritual. Over many years, if they have invested only in material success, then, that leads to a yearning for something more. Even the nameplate on their desks seems to mock them. Their material possessions seem to add up to very little. Soon, the only thing that seems to give meaning in their lives is the inward journey.”
And, that’s where the book that he is promoting – The Heartfulness Way – in a tour that took him to 32 cities in America – comes in. It attempts to demystify the process of meditation so that everyone can try this method of achieving inner balance.
Looking back at the ways in which Indian mystical thought entered the American mainstream, Joshua said, “Swami Vivekananda’s talks at the World Parliament of Religions were a seminal point in the spread of Hindu thought here.” Instantly, I remembered that the universality of the human quest for spiritual fulfillment was an important part of Swami Vivekananda’s speech as exemplified by this quote where he declared, “The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me.”
From this starting point, there were American writers like Emerson and Thoreau who further spread ideas of Hindu mysticism in their writings. In the 60s, Joshua said, “Meditation and Indian spirituality were perceived as a subculture. But, really, the power of meditation transcends Indian culture and is truly universal. Today, with the growth of the Internet, there are thousands of sources about meditation online. This book attempts to cut through the clutter to provide authentic and clear instructions on the heartfulness way of meditation which has transformed many people’s lives.”
Joshua continued by recounting, “Daaji (Kamlesh Patel) told us that even during the golden age in Indian history, meditation was shrouded in mystery and had an esoteric quality to it. Practicing meditation is like tasting a mango. It is a very personal experience. Today, with many studies studying the positive effects of meditation on human health, if you try and see the effects for yourself, external validation will not be needed. The subtlest effects on the body are deeply transformative,” he declared. Rather than during meditation, the state that it leaves you in is more important, he felt.
Joshua shared that people came to meditation from different backgrounds and with differing goals. For the true practitioner, the transformation was experiential and real, contributing to individual change. He concluded by saying that when people talk of concepts like world peace and stability, he believes that being an advocate and meditation practitioner is his way of contributing in a small but meaningful way to ideals that he firmly believes in.
Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the Managing Editor of India Currents.