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The Search for the Buddha: The Men Who Discovered India's Lost Religion
The Search for the Buddha: The Men Who Discovered India's Lost Religion
by Charles Allen
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Same thing, different title(s)., 10 Nov 2012
Don't buy this overpriced item ; instead, buy the identical UK edition, entitled 'The Buddha and the Sahibs' at a fraction of the cost. You can find it on Amazon. Better still, buy the book on which it was (heavily) based, John Keay's dazzling 'India Discovered', which is one of my favourite EVER books on India (just as it was for William Dalrymple). Same story, essentially - how the colonial Brits gave India her ancient history back - only much better written, in my opinion.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2014 9:04 AM BST


India Discovered: The Recovery of a Lost Civilization
India Discovered: The Recovery of a Lost Civilization
by John Keay
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For all India-lovers, an absolute must., 9 Oct 2012
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This marvellous book is one of my very favourite books on India. Its illustrations are superb, often beautiful, and the text is an absolute joy to read. Keay is one of those scholars - Gregory Schopen is another - whose acquaintanceship with his material is so masterly that he can be both acutely funny and perceptive, a rare quality indeed among academics. The book was also ground-breaking in being the very first to document for the general public the part played by those much-maligned 'Orientalists' - Sir William Jones, Alexander Cunningham, James Prinsep and others - in laboriously revealing India's past both to the world and to Indians themselves, and to whom we all owe an incalculable debt of gratitude as a result. Buy it. You won't regret it if you do. The hardback version, by the way, is the one which really brings out the full glories of the illustrations, and is well worth the extra cost.


Rip Tide: A Liz Carlyle novel
Rip Tide: A Liz Carlyle novel
by Stella Rimington
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Straight from the shoulder., 31 Aug 2012
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The intriguing thing about all the Rimington novels is, of course, that you're getting a spy story straight from a former Director-General of M15, a fact which rather tends to add to the credibility of what you're reading. This time it's the so-called 'War on Terror', and the somewhat coy, occasionally breathless heroine lets us in on all the everyday details of the recruitment and manipulation of British Muslims to the Western cause. That said, for me at least, the best part was the view from the 'other side', as presented in a bitter, hard-hitting tirade against the newly-found enemy that the West has now adopted - Islam - now that the Cold War is over. All good stuff, from someone who knows the territory better than most.


Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor
Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor
by Charles Allen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 21.91

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dispelling the Asokan darkness, 9 April 2012
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This is a worthy - and highly readable - attempt to redress the appalling neglect still accorded to one of the greatest rulers of world history. Asoka was the Indian king who brought the world's attention to the teachings of India's greatest son, Siddhartha Gautama (known to the world as the Buddha) yet his name and reputation still remain largely ignored in India, and virtually unknown to the West. Why so? Charles Allen here supplies us with the answer. In raising Buddhism - then an obscure sect - into the state religion of his great Indian empire, Asoka thereby incurred the lasting enmity of the Brahmins, since Buddhism preached against caste and condemned priestly sacrifices. Whilst Asoka's reign thus supplied the world with some of its greatest art - let alone some of its deepest and most profound religious teachings - the priestly caste were not about to renounce their enormous privileges and power, and they have fought Buddhism ever since - often bitterly - and indeed, almost succeeded in erasing the name of Asoka from history as a result. It was only painstaking work by Western scholars - and British scholars in particular - that slowly succeeded in dispelling the Asokan darkness, and it is much to Allen's credit that he has not only chosen to bring Asoka into the full light of day here, but that he also identifies the culprits who, then and now, have continued to draw a veil over this wonderful king and his astonishing legacy. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that in bringing the teachings of the Buddha to the world Asoka has exerted a wider and more profound legacy than Alexander the Great ever did. He really is as important as that.

That said, I was nevertheless saddened to see Allen using this book to rehearse his continuing vendetta against those who consider the Piprahwa finds to be a hoax (pp. 326-30). Not only has this problem no place in such a book - the Piprahwa finds are not considered Asokan - but Allen delivers us several howlers: Piprahwa and Gorakhpur are in Uttar Pradesh not North Bihar, and if he spells Oudh as Oude just one more time..... We are also told that though `doubts continue to be raised about the authenticity of the Piprahwa site and its inscription', such doubts are confined to the `lunatic fringe' of Buddhism. Yet as Allen himself knows perfectly well, there are at least two professors - one a very eminent Indologist indeed, of worldwide academic reputation - who have such doubts, and such authorities can scarcely be relegated to any `lunatic fringe' of Buddhist studies. Perhaps he entertains some sort of personal agenda on the Piprahwa `relics' for reasons which he has yet to publicly divulge. If so this is a pity, since it mars an otherwise fine and worthy book.


Fairies at Work and Play (Quest Books)
Fairies at Work and Play (Quest Books)
by Geoffrey Hodson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.14

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life-changing book., 12 April 2011
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This is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary - and one of the most beautiful - books that I have ever read. A copy of it was presented by Jean Overton Fuller to Noor Inayat Khan, when she went on her fatal mission as a British SOE agent in France during WW2 (she was finally captured, brutalised, and shot by the Nazis). Its author, Geoffrey Hodson, was a Kabbalistically-trained psychic whose speciality was that of examining and describing nature spirits, i.e. the faery world. If it is fantasy, then one somehow has to account for its astonishingly detailed - and often exquisitely beautiful - description of elemental life, and it has an overwhelmingly convincing truth about its pages. Just ignore Leadbeater's introduction - he wouldn't have known a sylph if he fell over one - and treat yourself to a copy of this wonderful work. It is, quite simply, one that you will never, ever forget.


Dark Side of History: Magic in the Making of Man
Dark Side of History: Magic in the Making of Man
by Michael Edwardes
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars A magical history tour., 14 Aug 2010
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While the so-called occult (i.e.`hidden') aspect of history has been dealt with much more comprehensively by the likes of James Webb, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Colin Wilson etc, the book is still worth a read for Edwardes' fascinating account of the magical antics of the Tibetan ecclesiastical establishment in their attempts to counter the assaults of the Chinese. Though he gives no sources for these outlandish events, Edwardes was well-connected to Asian intelligence sources, and I have little reason to doubt the veracity of his account. Alas, as always, magical spells and rituals are no match for the mechanised slaughter offered by the AK-47 (as the Brits had earlier discovered with the Gatling and Maxim guns) and the Chinese (who also reported Tibetan child sacrifice) simply ignored such mumbo-jumbo and swept all such resistance before them. Evolve or die, as always.


Indian Epigraphy; The Inscriptional Bases of Indian Historical Research
Indian Epigraphy; The Inscriptional Bases of Indian Historical Research
by John Faithfull Fleet
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.15

1.0 out of 5 stars Half a loaf, 3 July 2010
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It used to be said that half a loaf was better than no loaf at all, but alas, this certainly isn't true of this dreadful edition of Fleet's work. Misspelt, ungrammatical, and so badly presented as to be virtually unreadable, I soon gave up and threw it in the bin. Fleet was one of those Victorian greats who gave India its history back. He was the first Indian Government Epigraphist, whose knowledge of the early Indian dialects and scripts was immense, and his contribution to Indology was equally great. Now his grave (in Ealing Old Cemetery) lies mournful and neglected, and it appears that his literary output is now to be equally mistreated too (all part, no doubt, of the present colonial guilt which is being so assiduously fostered these days). Tragic indeed.


Ahmed's Lady
Ahmed's Lady
by Jon Godden
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some book!, 2 April 2010
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This review is from: Ahmed's Lady (Hardcover)
This is by far Jon Godden's best book, a slow-burning shocker that eventually builds to a nightmare, hallucinatory climax, and anyone familiar with mountains - and with the mighty Himalaya in particular - will know of that God-awful, terrible temptation to go just beyond that next ridge, and to see what lies beyond. A wonderful book, every bit as film-worthy as her sister, Rumer Godden's 'Black Narcissus', and equally as dark and powerful too. This is one of my favourite books, ever, an astonishing tour de force.


Strange Death of British Birdsong (Landmark Countryside Collection)
Strange Death of British Birdsong (Landmark Countryside Collection)
by Michael Waterhouse
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Telling it like it is., 11 Feb 2010
Despite what another reviewer has written (a farmer, perhaps?) this is a very good book indeed, charting the catastrophic decline in many British bird species over the past fifty years. And it simply isn't true to say, either, that this is a book that one might have bought in 1956 (I was sixteen then, and a keen amateur birder) since the rot really set in in the early 1960s, and was announced by Rachel Carson's apocalyptic book `Silent Spring'. And although the information may indeed be available on the Internet to those diligent enough to search for it, the value of this book is that it collates that information for those of us who don't have the time to do so. Beautifully illustrated too: bravo, Mr Waterhouse! Can we now have a similar book charting the decline of other British flora and fauna over the same period (hares down 50%, water voles by 95%, and when I was a nipper sand lizards were a common enough sight too). Buy it, and grieve.


The life of Nyanatiloka Thera : the biography of a Western Buddhist pioneer.
The life of Nyanatiloka Thera : the biography of a Western Buddhist pioneer.
by Bhikkhu and Hecker, Hellmuth Nyanatusita
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing the mystical point, 1 Jan 2010
Before the hippies and the Beatles made it superficially fashionable, I undertook two years' non-stop Buddhist satipatthana practice under the great Bhikkhu Pannavaddho. This was the spiritual equivalent of going to the moon, and every bit as exciting and dangerous. My two literary companions on that extraordinary journey were Nyanatiloka's `Path to Deliverance', and T. S. Eliot's `Four Quartets'. I still believe that the former remains the best book ever published for anyone wishing to seriously undertake Theravadin Buddhist practice, and that the latter, if properly understood, is the best book to understand its results.

It was with much excitement therefore that I bought this book. The result, though intriguing, left me greatly disappointed, I confess. If I buy a biography of a great Buddhist monk, I shall do so with the expectation of reading of his inner life, rather than the details, however startling, of his outer adventures. I would like to have read of the inner turmoil which prompted him, as a well-connected young man, to abandon a very promising musical career for that of a homeless wanderer. And did he ever fall in love, or contemplate marriage? What about his spiritual experiences as a bhikkhu? Which practices did he undertake, and with what results? Of these we hear nothing. The `Path to Deliverance' itself offers us two tantalising hints, perhaps, of such details, The first is when Nyanatiloka himself refers to Insight-Wisdom which `like lightning suddenly arises and penetrates to the true nature of all existence'; and the second is when he states that in jhana (absorption) `the monk appears to the outside world as if dead', only life and warmth remaining. Such tantalising snippets are absent from this book however, which has little, if anything, to do with this great man's real life, which was that which he found within.


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