iMahal Interview Series:
Robert Arnett
August 15, 2000

iMahal:  Looking at your background, we see that you have gone from being a student of economics, to a US military man, to an art collector, to a student of India. Could you give us some hints as to how and why this all came about?

Arnett:  I would be glad to. I was in college in the sixty's, when the Vietnam war was going on. During this period, serving in the military was mandatory. Knowing this, I opted to serve as an officer. I enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in college. Upon graduation from college, I served in a Strategic Communication Command in Turkey for 19 months during the war.

I was very fortunate that I did not have to go to Vietnam and suffer a lot of the trauma that my classmates did. Though I was proud to serve my country as an American citizen, I did not want to make the military my career. Over time, I developed a particular affection for India and her people.

iMahal:  This affection for India is interesting. What is your interest in India - is it social, cultural, religious, philosophical, anthropological, historical? What events or thinking led to this interest?

Arnett:  My first interest in India came from art. After the military service, I was in the fine arts business with my brother. At that time, we dealt with Oriental Art for the most part, and some Greek and Roman antiquities, and Pre-Columbian Art. So my interest in India first grew from collecting Asian Art. I was so fascinated by the art forms that I wanted to explore the religion and religious beliefs that led to the art. I wanted to find out why they created those beautiful objects of art, sculptures, and bronze castings.

The Great Stupa of Sanchi
Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
I'll always remember being at a professor's house at the University of Florida at Gainsville, Professor Roy Craven - a great lover of India. He showed me slides from one of his many trips to India. I saw this wonderful Buddhist Stupa of Sanchi that so captured my imagination visually that I said I must go there one day. So the initial impetus of my interest in India was the Indian art, but what really fascinated me and got me going was the spiritual aspect of her people and their artwork.

I remember going to Detroit on a business trip in 1969, in connection with my earlier dealing in fine art. I was invited to a Yoga Meditation Service at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It sounded interesting, so I went. At that time in my life, I was as happy as the next person. I was raised in an upper middle class family and had everything I wanted -- but I knew something was missing. I didn't know what it was, nor did I even know how to go about looking for it. Off I went to this meditation class that was conducted by a spiritually advanced American Yogi. He gave us instructions on how to meditate based on the Pantanjali technique. Through God's grace, I had a very deep meditation experience -- the first time I ever meditated. It enabled me to get a glimpse of my higher self, my soul or atma [Hindi variation of Sanskrit word atman meaning soul], or whatever you want to call it. That changed my life, just as it would change anyone's life who has experienced it. It was then that I learned what was missing in my life.

   ... When I had this spiritual experience, I learned that happiness comes from within ...
Prior to that experience, I was always looking for happiness through things around me - this is how we are brought up to find happiness in the West. When I had this spiritual experience, I learned that happiness comes from within. This may seem like an intellectual statement, but I experienced it. I subsequently studied Raja Yoga, particularly the meditation aspect of it, in earnest for the next 15 years. Yoga and meditation are very scientific. If you practice them, the results are inevitable. Practice with some devotion and the results are even greater. Yoga and meditation helped me to find the key to my inner peace. Then, I decided that I wanted to see the culture that has taught the world, for thousands of years, how to find lasting inner peace regardless of race, religion, or philosophical orientation.

India Unveiled
Robert Arnett, Atman Press
In 1988 I was able to make my first trip to India. I immediately fell in love with her people and culture. The trip was an eye opener! Upon my return to the US, I wanted to share India with the American people who haven't a clue what India is all about.
  ... I decided to share with the West, through presentations and lectures, the "true India." ...  
I decided to share with the West, through slide presentations and lectures, the "true India." Over the next eight years, I made a total of five trips to India. It was from these trips that I was able to create the book India Unveiled.



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