Kalpa Tree Press
Contemporary Classics in Vedanta




Vedanta Online

This issue features "Universal Values for the World Conscience" by Shelley Brown

Vedanta Glossary
of Sanskrit and Bengali words, with guide to English pronunciation



“Marie Louise Burke was a well-to-do writer in San Francisco when she met a Swami from India. During the following decades she embarked on the transition from a young woman wishing to “be a real person,” to Sister Gargi, a highly respected monastic and literary figure in the Hindu tradition of Vedanta. At the heart of her spiritual unfoldment was the relationship to her Guru, Swami Ashokananda (1893–1969). In A Disciple’s Journal, Sister Gargi shares the intimate, little known and less understood workings of a Guru with his disciple. What is at stake is the transformation of the person, the spiritualization of everyday life.

Many lively conversations are included in accounts of her discipleship, Swami Ashokananda’s teachings, his work in Northern California and the devotees that gathered around him. Probably the best way to give a flavor of this book is to share some of the chapter titles: “Cartwheels,” “Swinging Up to Freedom,” “Don’t Wobble!” “Balancing on a Rail,” “Fiasco,” and “Riches.” A rare treasure of a book. Notable also is a companion volume, A Heart Poured Out: A Story of Swami Ashokananda, by the same author and publisher. Sister Gargi passed away in January 2004. Her book Shafts of Light will also be published by Kalpa Tree Press”
Light of Consciousness
“A Disciple’s Journal: In the Company of Swami Ashokananda by Sister Gargi (Marie Louise Burke) is the compelling and true personal testimony of one woman’s spiritual training during the course of two decades at the hands of Swami Ashokananda (1893-1969), the spiritual teacher of the Ramakrishna Order and head of the Vedanta Society of Northern California. Sister Gargi’s journey began in the 1950s as she learned meditation in the Hindu tradition of Vedanta, and as she pursued her spiritual quest Sister Gargi became a literary figure in the Vedanta movement. Sister Gargi’s inner development, the highs and lows of the path she followed, and the rewards of patient dedication are all contained in this thoughtful and uplifting account, recommended to all dedicated students of Religion, Spirituality, and Metaphysics.”
Midwest Book Review
“In 1948, Burke (also known as Sister Gargi) walked into the San Francisco temple of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, fell under the spell of its leader, Swami Ashokananda, and began to seek her way according to the path of the Ramakrishna Order of Advaita Vedanta. Here she draws upon entries in her personal journal to chronicle her spiritual trials as well as the ups and downs of her relationship with Swami Ashokananda. Ashokananda’s assignment for Burke, that she write about the revered Swami Vivkenananda’s 1890s mission in the United States, led to many of those downs but also to Burke’s growth and her six-volume Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries. This new volume presents an important supplement to Burke’s biography of Ashokananda, A Heart Poured Out, and a touching, well-written portrait of the interaction of one student with the guru who changed her life. This spiritual memoir is recommended for public and academic libraries.”
Library Journal
Moving remembrance of Gargi's spiritual training over two decades with Swami Ashokananda, the leader of the Vedanta Society of Northern California. Religious studies students and seekers of all things spiritual will find themselves drawn to this well-written book.
The Boox Mentions, New Times Naturally
“When she first came to the San Francisco Vedanta Society in late 1948, Marie Louise Burke met the teacher who would influence and transform every aspect of her life . . . when he asked her what she wanted, she replied, ”I want to be a real person.” So began the great spiritual adventure chronicled in A Disciple’s Journal, newly published by Kalpa Tree Press.
. . . Spanning the twenty years of her close relationship with Swami Ashokananda, this book affords a heretofore unprecedented personal glimpse into the day-to-day training, in example as much as in word, by an extraordinary spiritual teacher who selflessly poured his heart out in service to generations of spiritual seekers in the West. . . . A Disciple’s Journal reveals the ways and means the author and her gurubhais were instructed, encouraged, and goaded to strive for the full realization of their “real person” potentialities.
. . . With her keen ear and memory for nuanced detail, Sister Gargi captures the livingness of the experience of being in the company of Swami Ashokananda as well as the immediacy and freshness of his teachings. His words—fiery, sweet, witty, always instructive to those who cared to listen and reflect—emanated from the depths of his direct, illumined perception of the highest truths of Vedanta, and ignited in his listeners the longing for realization of their own.
. . . Sister Gargi has accomplished one of her finest works as a writer by so generously and vividly welcoming her readers into the magical, transformative company of Swami Ashokananda.”
—MARJORIE KEWLEY, American Vedantist (Fall 2003)

A Disciple’s Journal vividly portrays the struggles of the earnest disciple, her self-doubts, her initial problems as a writer, and the constant chidings, admonitions and encouragements of her ever-affectionate father-like guru, even as she traverses through the low and high points of her spiritual journey.

At the time this review was being written, the media announced the sad news of the p assign away of Sister Gargi. We may justifiably believe that she was chosen by God for a specific mission on earth and she gave up the mortal coil happily after fulfilling the assignment to her entire satisfaction. A book which stands out from the rest both in content and convention.”

Prabuddha Bharata

“’What can I tell you? I only did what Swami Ashokananda asked me to do,’ Sister Gargi once told me many years ago when I vainly sought to interview her for an article. To those who knew her, such humility was characteristic of this slightly built, intense woman who not only wrote a brilliant biography of her guru, A HEART POURED OUT, but also over a span of several decades produced a meticulously researched published record of Swami Vivekananda’s life in the West that stretched over six volumes.

Also, typically, she notes in her preface to A DISCIPLE’S JOURNAL that she never expected this record to be read by anyone other than ‘her doting older self.’ Fortunately for us, it is now in published form. Through its intimate revelations, she tells us a great deal about what it is like to be a true disciple. Sister Gargi is painfully honest in revealing the weaknesses, fears, and doubts that assailed her during her years of association with Swami Ashokananada . . . But Sister Gargi seemed to sense that with each jostling of her ego, she was growing inwardly. Her deep affection for and complete dedication to her teacher would never leave her. Apparently, the Swami earned this affection through his deep concern for her as well as for his other disciples. She notes: ‘Swami Ashokananda’s concern for his disciples extended to every aspect of their lives, for there was nothing that did not bear upon their spiritual lives. He kept his finger on our every thought and deed.’

. . . We can be grateful for the outstanding editing and publishing effort of Dr. Shelley Brown. I am certain that if Swami Ashokananda were alive to read this remarkable book, he would applaud it. And, of course, Sister Gargi would no doubt respond, ‘Well, I only did what I thought you would ask me to do.’ (Thank you, Swami Ashokananda!)”
Sri Sarada Society Newsletter, Spring 2004


"All students of Swami Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna movement have long admired Sister Gargi's meticulous six-volume sourcebook, Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries. Following up on the recent publication of her biography of Swami Ashokananda, she now offers a personal account of her twenty years as a student under Ashokananda's spiritual guidance.
      Scholars as well as general readers will find much to savor in Gargi's very human account of her close relationship with one of the Ramakrishna movement's most important figures. Happily, the volume not only reveals much about the personality and role of the Swami, but also allows the reader to get to know more about the remarkable life and contributions of Sister Gargi."
—CARL T. JACKSON, author of Vedanta for the West and The Oriental Religions and American Thought
“A Disciple’s Journal is so interesting that I finished the whole book in four days. Really wonderful! It will be very useful as a guide for us and the devotees.”
—SWAMI SWAHANANDA, Head of the Vedanta Society of Southern California and author of Vedanta and Ramakrishna, Hindu Symbology, Panchadasi, and other books
"A Disciple's Journal is a rich treasure of a book. Deeply inspiring and a sheer pleasure to read, A Disciple's Journal gives the reader entry into the rarefied domain of the earnest spiritual seeker and the illumined teacher. This book will be of interest to many readers,
not only for its beguiling prose but more importantly for its universal spiritual relevance and applicability. For the genuine spiritual seeker, this book will be profoundly valuable."
—PRAVRAJIKA VRAJAPRANA, author of Vedanta: A Simple Introduction

“Reading A Disciple’s Journal is like having a ringside view of a very precious event. Most impressive about the writing is Sister Gargi’s complete lack of ego, being who she is! Her guru is great; but she also stands tall beside him through all her trials. All in all, the book is a wonderful tale of discipleship that will be useful to anyone who is interested in spiritual life.”

—SHUBHRA CHATTERJI, Executive Director of Vikramshila Educational Resource Society, India






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