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Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India…

Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India

by Paul William Roberts

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From Publishers Weekly
Reminiscent of the work of Bruce Chatwin, this soul-searching literary travelogue turns a keen and uncompromising eye toward India. A Westerner in love with this most un-Western of countries, Roberts (In Search of the Birth of Jesus) evokes in lush prose?and almost too vividly?the profound spiritual heights and sordid depths of humanity he encountered during his years in India in the 1970s and his several return trips in the '90s. The spiritually inclined will be fascinated by Roberts's truth-seeking missions with the famous guru Sai Baba and various traditional Hindu yogis, but they will meet less lofty characters here as well?at one point, Roberts accompanies a sadistic drug-lord to his hashish-oil operation. Roberts describes in excruciating detail unsanitary washroom facilities, fetid food and extremes of poverty?slums, crippled beggars, child prostitutes. His views of the Western seekers he meets along the way are just as unvarnished, especially of the sex-obsessed followers of Bhagwan Rajneesh. Yet the haunting splendor of this ancient, religion-drenched land shines through. At the end of his travels, in Siva's city of Benares, Roberts ponders the cremation-ash laden Ganges River and comes to know his own truth. Going deep within the paradoxes that form the fabric of India, this book offers far more than a postcard depiction
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist
Roberts' travel narratives, including In Search of the Birth of Jesus , reflect the intensity of his journeys and his acute attention to place, abiding interest in history, and profound fascination with the spiritual, perspectives crucial to interpreting the paradoxes of India. British by birth and Canadian by choice, Roberts confesses that India is the only country that actually "feels like home" to him. To explain why, he recounts his experiences living in India during the 1970s, then reports on his return visits in the 1990s. Like many a hippie, Roberts traveled to India in pursuit of enlightenment and got more than he bargained for, and his most compelling tales revolve around holy men and life in an ashram. Vigorous, imaginative, and witty, Roberts re-creates his younger, more callow self in these frequently surreal reminiscences, then, in the book's final chapters, offers knowing insights into present-day India. On a more personal note, he shares an epiphany: finally, 25 years later, he understands what his maharishi had been trying to teach him. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0773727388, Hardcover)

One of the finest travel writers has taken on the most impenetrable country, describing his spiritual pilgrimages of the '70s and return visits of the '90s. Paul William Roberts says "[India] is the only country that feels like home to me, the only country whose airport tarmac I have ever kissed upon landing." But no sentimentality dulls Roberts's keen eye as he visits ashrams, junkie dens, and Mother Teresa's order, explaining the complex history of castes and colonialization as he goes. He ferrets out beauty and hypocrisy with an insightful take on the masses of humanity that travel and live there.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:41 -0400)

Paul William Roberts's journeys through India span twenty years, and in Empire of the Soul, he creates a remarkably sweeping portrait of the political, cultural, and spiritual life of the subcontinent. He shows us the crumbling palaces where maharajas live much as they did five centuries ago; the ashrams, temples, and caves, where the holy men are often as terrifying as they are tender; the remote villages reached by torturous journeys on ramshackle buses; and a. millionaire drug dealer's heavily guarded fortress on India's border with China. Roberts brings historical perspective to his observations of modern India. The decadence of a settlement of hippies stranded in the paradise of Goa is juxtaposed with an account of the brutality of the Inquisition in India. The plummeting fortunes of a family of Calcutta aristocrats serve to illustrate the fate of the entire city over the last few decades.… (more)

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