5 classic books about Indian Spiritual Journeys

Reading Piers Moore Ede’s All Kinds of Magic, just out with Bloomsbury, has got us thinking about the time honoured tradition of Western seekers visiting India. Indiaphile chooses 5 of the best spiritual journeys.

(1) All Kinds of Magic by Piers Moore Ede

The latest in a long line of travelogues about finding oneself in India, Piers Moore Ede brings an intelligent sceptics view to the sights and sounds of the mystic trail. Contrasting a rapidly globalising India with the ancient traditions of renunciation, oracular healing, shamanism and pilgrimage, Moore Ede writes beautifully about the numinous heart of all spiritual traditions. It includes a section in Turkey and South America but the heart of the book lies in India. Highly recommended.

(2) A Search in Secret India – Paul Brunton

One of the first and best spiritual travelogues. Brunton became of the foremost Western mystics of the 20th century. His book is notable for its clear, evocative prose, as well as for his extraordinary encounter with the great saint of south India, Sri Ramana Maharshi. A classic.

(3) Holy Cow by Sarah Macdonald

Macdonald’s irreverent and witty romp through the colourful religious traditions of South Asia has become a classic of the backpacker trail, and common reading in every hostel from Manali to Kovalam. It’s lighthearted in the extreme and a surface take, at best, of the real heart of India’s spiritual traditions but taken in this spirit it’s great stuff.

(4) The Spiritual Tourist – A Personal Odyssey through the Outer Reaches of Belief – by Mick Brown

Well known journalist Mick Brown visits the Dalai Lama, Mother Meera in Germany, and the infamous Sai Baba in India, offering his wry, intelligent viewpoint along the way. It blends detailed research into the various spiritual movements of the 20th century with the author’s genuine desire for an experience of truth.

(5) Travels through Sacred India – by Roger Housden

This underappreciated gem of a book is a little out of date now but still one of the best out there when it comes to spiritual India. Housden knows his stuff and writes convincingly in a format that’s part travelogue, part guide book. This is a weighty and intriguing book about the deeper levels of Indian spirituality.

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