The Hindu-derived meditation movement, The Art of Living (AOL), founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Bangalore, has grown into a global organization which claims presence in more than 150 countries. Stephen Jacobs presents the first comprehensive study of AOL as an important transnational movement and an alternative global spirituality. Exploring the nature and characteristics of spirituality in the contemporary global context, Jacobs considers whether alternative spiritualities are primarily concerned with individual wellbeing and can simply be regarded as another consumer product. The book concludes that involvement in movements such as AOL is not necessarily narcissistic but can foster a sense of community and inspire altruistic activity.
Stephen Jacobs has a background in both Religious Studies and Media Studies. He is a senior lecturer in Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Wolverhampton. His main areas of interest are the interactions between religion and the media, and Hinduism in the contemporary context. His PhD thesis from the University of Wales Lampeter explored the impact of globalization on Hinduism. Recent publications include ’Virtually Sacred: The Performance of Asynchronous Cyber Rituals in Online Spaces’,The Journal of Computer Mediated Communication (2007); ’Communicating Hinduism in a Changing Media Context’, Religion Compass (2012); and a textbook, Hinduism Today (2010).
’This study of a large educational and humanitarian NGO, informed by spirituality, is an exemplary portrayal of spiritual humanism in action. The scholarship and research is outstanding, and serves to illuminate many an issue beyond the study of the Art of Living Foundation as such.’ Paul Heelas, author of Spirituality in the Modern World ’This is a timely and informative work, providing the most complete picture to date of the highly popular Art of Living organisation and its vast transnational networks. Jacobs provides an engaging commentary on the appeal of the guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in the context of modern unchurched spirituality, seekership, and therapy culture. Lucid, thoughtful, and highly accessible, this work is essential reading for those interested in modern guru movements and Hindu-derived forms of 'multinational ' spirituality circulating in the world today.’ Maya Warrier, University of Winchester, UK