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Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors [Kindle Edition]

Sudhir Kakar
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $27.50
Kindle Price: $14.39
You Save: $13.11 (48%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Shamans, Mystics and Doctors is a detailed and thoroughly fascinating account of the many ways in which the ancient healing traditions of India—embodied in the rituals of shamans, the teachings of gurus and the precepts of the school of medicine known as Ayurveda—diagnose and treat emotional disorder.
            Drawing on three years of intensive fieldwork and his own psychoanalytic training and experience, Sudhir Kakar takes us into a world of Islamic mosques and Hindu temples, of assembled multitudes, and dingy, out-of-the-way consultation rooms… a world where patients and healers blame evil spirits for emotional disturbances… where dreams and symptoms that would be familiar to Freud are interpreted in terms of a myriad of deities and legends… where trance-like “dissociation states” are induced to bring out and resolve the conflicts of repressed anger, lust and envy… where proper grooming, diet, exercise and conduct are (and have been for centuries) seen as essential to the preservation of a healthy mind and body.
            As he witnesses the practitioners and their patients, as he elucidates the therapeutic systems on which their encounters are based, as he contrasts his own Western training and biases with evidence of his eyes (and the sympathies of his heart), Kakar reveals the universal concerns of these individuals and their admittedly foreign cultures—people we can recognize and feel for, people (like their Western counterparts) trying to find some balance between the pressures and rewards of the external world and the fantasies and desires of the internal.
            This is a major work of cultural interpretation, a book that challenges (and should enhance) our understanding of therapy, mental health and individual freedom. 

Product Details

  • File Size: 1681 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (April 3, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CGI3IB2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,102 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Kakar is an American-trained psychoanalyst who returns to India to explore shamanism and mysticism. Thus, he has the dual perspective of both an insider and and outsider. He has written an engrossing book which tells indepth stories of the lives and practices of Indian shamans, mystics and therapists. His fascinating narrative includes case studies of individual patients. For example, his discussion of Tantric and Kundalini yoga gives details beyond my wildest imagination. I found myself both disgusted at some of the descriptions and laughing at his own experience!
I couldn't put the book down. The only drawback is his psychoanalytic perspective. He is a Freudian, and his own analysis of the healers and patients gets mighty boring and repetitive. One guru critiqued him for his perspective, and I tended to agree with her. I learned to skip these sections.
Otherwise, this is a riveting book, although not one for people looking for New Age techniques. It is an accessible look at shamanism for those with a more serious interest in the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Perspective on Mental Health October 12, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mental illness is a subject near and dear to my heart. I deal with mental illness at least once a month in the course of my job as a criminal defense lawyer. Some of my clients are what they call "dual diagnosis" which typically means substance abuse + mental illness. Of course I'm interested in different approaches to curing mental illness, from western psychiatry to eastern Shamanism. Here is a truth about this entire area: Anything works as long as the patient and the doctor share the same believe system. This means that the curative power, for all these practices, lies with the patient rather than the Doctor/Shaman/Wizard.

This is the central thesis of Sudhir Kakar's illuminating Shamans, Mystics and Doctors. Kakar is an Indian Psychotherapist who wrote a book about the curative practices of a variety of Indian traditions: Muslim and Hindu Shaman. Shamans is divided into several chapters, each of which profile a different Guru or discipline with an approach to treating mental illness.

Considering the depths that traditional Freud inspired Psychotherapy has reached since Kakar wrote this in the early 1980s, his medical Doctor psychiatric oriented appears almost as dated as the Muslim and Hindu shaman's who exorcise demons by name. However, Kakar is right on when it points out that ANY approach to healing and mental health can work so long as there are a healer and a patient who believe in the SAME THING.

Kakar also notes that the central experience held in common by all the various methods of Indian mental curing is the disassociation of the self- getting "outside" your self, how you do it doesn't matter, but it needs to be guided by someone else, you can't do it yourself.
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5 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where is the fire? December 7, 2003
If you are considering this book or others, such as The Shortest Journey (Unwin Paperbacks.
ISBN 0-04-291018-8) / Kakar, Sudhir M.D. 1982, then please ignore the majority of the reviews here. Most are written by current members of the Quasi-Religious Group / Cult and as such as completely biased.
Whilst you could argue that their intentions are good, I would definitely recommend reading up on the organisation before taking part or `experiencing' it's practices.
There is a lot of information available on the web supporting and praising the group as the salvation of mankind, with it's leader Shri Mataji the second coming of Jesus or even as God. You should also be aware that also many accuse the Cult of many well publicised / documented scandals e.g. the child abuse, tax evasion etc.
While members of the group would have you believe that those who criticise it are bitter, failed members, I am sure that you will have the common sense to realise that there always are at least two sides to every story. There is a lot of smoke billowing around this group and it's self proclaimed God. Where is the fire then?
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