THE genesis of this essay can be traced to two specific events from my own personal history. One summer, when I had just finished coursework in my doctoral program and was looking forward to my thesis, I took a retreat at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, a Hindu ashram in the Pocono Mountains region of eastern Pennsylvania. Before one of the discourses that constituted the retreat, a lay devotee of the Arsha Vidya movement stood to offer a testimonial to the Gita Home Study Program, published by the ashram press. The study program itself is pretty simple: the text consists of sections of the popular Hindu scripture Bhagavad-Gītā, along with discourses by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the chief guru of the ashram. Members of the movement form groups of between 4-10 people for shared study.

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