01 Oct 2012
During our Sunday, September 23rd dialog, Shyam Dodge shared the moving, painful personal story of his family’s harrowing ordeal after his father’s sudden, unexpected death. His dad had been the longtime guru of an ashram in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, and Shyam was widely regarded as his likely successor. But the buried life-denying shadows of some approaches to Vedanta sabotaged the plan, while deepening Shyam’s consciousness and humanity.
What unfolded led to the story he recounts in his book, Wet Hot & Wild American Yogi. As we talked, it felt as if the 30 year-old Shyam and I were building an intergenerational bridge, while at the same time looking at the well-explored topics of transcendence, humanity, gurus, and the links between them all, in a fresh and intimate way.
There is raw tenderness in the way Shyam tells his story and a fresh aliveness to his awakening to his “humanity.” Today, Shyam is growing in an embodied spirituality where individuality, the personal, and human relationships are compassionately embraced, rather than suppressed and devalued, and where spirituality is about becoming more human, not less. I invite you to listen to Shyam’s journey .
23 Sep 2012
Terry Patten (Integral Heart/Integral Obama founder) chats with Shyam Dodge in his Beyond Awakening podcast series. Shyam discusses life as a monk, the transformative power of grief and emotions in spiritual practice and a possible 'next step' in spiritual thinking that honors our humanity.
29 Dec 2011
I didn’t expect to like Shyam Dodge’s Wet Hot & Wild American Yogi at all. The title seemed inauspiciously hackneyed; the cover art way too self-consciously and garishly camp. But after reading two exceptionally interesting posts by Shyam on EJ, I got past my initial turn-off and ordered it. And I’m very glad that I did. Because after reading it, I felt like I’d unexpectedly stumbled across some rough-cut emerald half-buried in the mud. It’s that surprising, that incongruous – and that good.
Although I still hate the title, I found Wet Hot & Wild to be a brilliant little gem of a work. At only 155 pages, it’s a quick read. (I devoured it in two nights). But it’s unpredictably full of beautiful phrasing, evocative imagery, pitch-dark humor, and stop-you-in-your- tracks insights. And, it has surprising wisdom to offer.
Wet Hot & Wild is an unconventional memoir, written to prioritize organic emotional immediacy over traditional narrative structure. In vivid jump-and-cut prose, Shyam writes about being born into his parents’ devotional ashram in Hawaii (later transplanted to SoCal), stepping into the role of mini-bodhisattva at five, suffering the trauma of his father’s sudden death at 21, being “officially” proclaimed an enlightened guru by the leader of another L.A. cult at 25, abandoning gurudom in favor of authenticity and a girlfriend a month later, coping with being shunned by his family and community as an apostate, following his girlfriend to a creepy Tantric sex temple in India, and . . . it just goes on from there. (That’s only the first chapter.)
While all this may sound simply lurid and crazy, it's not. On the contrary: this short book with the stupid title really moved me. It's disturbing, intriguing, unusual, and inspiring. I found myself thinking about it a lot after I'd finished it. So I started writing Shyam a message just to tell him how much I'd liked it (ah, the wonders of social media!) – only to find myself moved to request this interview instead. Shyam graciously agreed to discuss his work (which currently includes studies at Harvard Div School) – and so, here we are.
28 Sep 2010
Scott Hartwig of Calif.-based Rose Ave Press, which specializes in smaller-name memoirs, said he had misgivings about Patrick’s sizable advance. “I question the logic of giving that big of an advance,” Hartwig said. “Especially if he’s not effective politically.”
He added that the niche industry relies on the author making headlines, or finding a way to be exceptionally relevant. Otherwise, he said, “It could look kind of silly.”
04 Jun 2010
Wet Hot and Wild: American Yogi is a memoir by a young man who grew up in a Hindu community based in Hawaii and Los Angeles, led by an increasingly authoritarian American guru. Shyam Dodge wrote this book in three weeks, at the age of 27. It is a coming of age story—how Shyam left the ashram—as well as an elegy to his father, who gave his son an extraordinary spiritual education.
This book is an act of self-healing; it is a document, not a study. I believe its special contribution is its focus on how, why, and when this young person, thoroughly socialized into a restrictive community, became aware that he had the power to “become human,” as he puts it: to feel and think for himself. It seems that apostate memoirs more often dwell on what goes wrong when a charismatic leader becomes drunk with power; we have many such studies. But what does it take to leave?
This account may be helpful to anyone considering leaving an oppressive, closed group, or anyone who has already left but has not yet figured it out. It should also be useful for scholars interested in the social and psychological supports that are needed to resist coercive persuasion. And finally, Wet Hot and Wild (a deliberately silly title for a serious little book) recounts an authentic spiritual journey. It flows like a stream of consciousness from an unusually conscious person.
20 Dec 2005
"She Loved to Cook"--There's a good chance you haven't heard of this one yet, but the author, Shyam Dodge, is one to watch. This story appears in Book II of the literary journal Sweet Fancy Moses. It's ripping good stuff. Psychological horror at its rawest.
21 Nov 1986
"One of my strong hopes as an actor is to break the gap between the Asian and the Caucasian," Bishop said. "I'd like to go beyond the stereotype of the bucktoothed, servile cook or houseboy. There's just so much more than that.