- Isherwood, Christopher
- (1904–1986)British novelist and Western Hindu pioneerChristopher William Bradshaw-Isherwood, a prominent Anglo-American novelist and early gay activist, was also an outspoken apologist for the VEDANTA SOCIETY and its ADVAITA (non-dualist) VEDANTA perspective.Isherwood was born into a well-to-do fam-ily in Cheshire, England. He was educated at Repton School and Corpus Christi College at Cambridge, though he did not finish his degree program. In 1925 he reestablished a friendship with his fellow writer W. H. Auden, whom he had met in prep school, and, along with Ste-phen Spender, would constitute the so-called Auden Gang of angry young writers who made their mark on the English literary scene in the 1930s. Isherwood’s initial contributions were his novels, All the Conspirators (1928) and The Memorial (1932).In 1939 Isherwood moved to the United States and began to write for Hollywood films. At this time he became associated with the VEDANTA SOCIETY and became a disciple of Swami Prabha-vananda, who headed the Los Angeles center. An emergent pacifism, fed by his experience in Ger-many during the 1930s, was integral to his adopt-ing advaita VEDANTA as a philosophical-religious perspective. Over the next several decades, he assisted Prabhavananda in preparing translations of Hindu texts and wrote several books on Vedanta himself. His edited volume, Vedanta for the Western World (1945), later issued as Vedanta for Modern Man, was arguably his most lasting contribution. Among his later works was an autobiographical volume describing his relationship with his teacher, Prabhavananda, My Guru and His Disciple (1980).Beginning in 1953, Isherwood lived with his significant other, Don Bachardy. His 1964 autobio-graphical novel A Single Man represented his public acknowledgment of his gay life. He later became involved in various gay-rights efforts. His last novel mixed his Hindu and gay experience. A Meeting by the River (1967) tells the story of a bisexual movie producer who tries to stop his younger brother from taking vows as a Hindu monk.Further reading: Christopher Isherwood, An Approach to Vedanta (Hollywood, Calif.: Vedanta Press, 1963); — ——, Essentials of Vedanta (Hollywood, Calif.: Vedanta Press 1969); ———, My Guru and His Disciple (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1980); Christopher Isher-wood, ed., Vedanta for the Western World (Hollywood, Calif.: Marcel Rodd, 1945).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.