Ecstasy by Sudhir Kakar

I bought this book when I was travelling through India because I had finished reading Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and Dawkin’s The God Delusion and wanted something a little more spiritual. This book, well written and very evocative, didn’t hit the spot I was looking for. That’s not to say it isn’t a good book, but for me, at the time, it wasn’t it. The book details the stories of two people: Gopal, a mystic, and Vivek, a middle class boy. Gopal’s life from early stages through his changes is well detailed. Beautiful details of a spiritual life in both the monastery and through the countryside as he searches for his meaning and place in the world. And a view into Gopal’s relationship with his spiritual elder and his own family and followers. This is contrasted with the life of Vivek, also a deeply religious soul, as far from the life of Gopal as East is from West. Vivek is the militant Hindu wanting India to return to something that it might never have been. Vivek eventually also leads an ascetic’s life, but so far from the full of life Gopal, that it breaks Gopal’s heart. And mine.

So, is this a book for you? Well, don’t expect this to be the sort of Indian version of Chicken Soup for the Soul. If you approach it that way, then you’ll walk the right path. Otherwise you’ll still be hungry.

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