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Ecstasy [Paperback]

Sudhir Kakar

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Product details

  • Paperback: 251 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press; Reprint edition (Oct 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585674583
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585674589
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.8 x 1.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,698,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What the BLEEP was that? 29 Mar 2007
By Marina Amarose - Published on Amazon.com
Sudhir Kakar is obviously a well-repected and accomplished thinker and writer. His non-fiction books include The Inner World: A Psychoanalytic Study of Childhood and Society in India, and The Analyst and the Mystic, among many other "essential writings." His understanding of children and mysticism apparenty runs pretty deep.

So how is it possible that in this novel the rape of a child (the young, semi-hermaphrodidic Gopal--who goes on to become the revered spiritual leader Ram Das Baba) is accounted for in the narrative as no more than the method by which "his Kundalini" was awakened from "where she slept at her seat above the anus"? The child's subsequent painful contraction of his anal muscles to withstand the torture, his weeks of listlessness, dullness, bursts of screaming, incoherent babbling, and glazed eyes, "as if there were no one at home in the body" are never related back to his molestation by the adult tantrik. By this I mean that Gopal never speaks or thinks about what happened to him, and neither, in any sense I can find, does the author.

I'm baffled. These are the possibilities I can think of:

1) Because the novel is based on real historic events, the author may have been following the facts without feeling at liberty to question them further than the real historical personages did. If Ram Das's real life counterpart claimed his Kundalini was awakened with the aid of a helpful tantrik who ordered him out of his clothes and "crushed his will" to refuse, who's a novelist to doubt it?

2) The author may not have realized that the events he relates WERE the rape of a young child. I know this sounds silly, but there is something elliptical and detached in the langugage and imagery, and in how quickly the scene cuts off. Is it possible the writer is implying something else, spiritual and edifying, took place after Gopal lost consciousness?

3) Maybe the book really does mean to allow that on the road to spiritual enlightenment the sexual abuse of a child by an adult is helpful. Certainly, Ram Das Baba's worldview is never questioned as being in any way bogus or over-compensating. He's meant to be read, I think, as the real thing, at least in the eyes of the disciples who interact with him. But his genuineness is never given the chance to stand up to integration with his abuse. Is Ram Das Baba running from something? Sudhir Kakar doesn't seem to want to know.

I've focused on one very brief episode in a complex novel, but I can't help it. I'm drawn back to the question of the child and the tantric in a way that overrides all the interest and pleasure the book might otherwise have provided me.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecstasy, A Review 20 Sep 2003
By Heidi M. Hawkins - Published on Amazon.com
Sudhir Kakar's novel is a fascinating weave of fiction and history. Beautifully written, ordinary life in India and its ordinary and extraordinary places are memorably captured. Though not a mystic himself, Kakar does a splendid job also of capturing the weird, profound, mind-shattering, and inexplicable path of mysticism. Based on real life stories of real life mystics, the grace, blissful transcendence, horror, and confusion that mystics experience is described in radiant detail. Once began, this engaging book is hard to put down. Excellent reading as both fiction and mystical studies.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the answer 16 Jan 2009
By Jim Richards - Published on Amazon.com
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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