The Nirvana Express w/ Mick Brown

19 Mar 2024 – 14:00 GMT
Oxford Literary Festival
Oxford Martin School
Seminar Room
University of Oxford
34 Broad Street

Broadcaster and journalist Mick Brown investigates the West’s love affair with Indian spirituality from the orientalism of empire to modern counterculture.

Brown says the Victorians were fascinated by Indian spirituality but suspicious at the same time of the religious beliefs and practices. However, within a couple of generations young westerners were following the hippie trail to India in search of enlightenment. Brown looks at the eccentric history of obsession with the Indian faith through a cast of scholars, seekers, charlatans and saints, and through stories of epic poems on the Buddha, murder plots, magic and the occult.

About the book

In 1897, an Indian yogi exhibited himself at London’s Westminster Aquarium, demonstrating yoga positions to a bemused audience. Four years earlier, Hindu philosopher Swami Vivekananda spoke at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where Annie Besant extolled the ‘exquisite beauty’ of his spiritual message.

The Victorians were fascinated by, yet suspicious of, Indian religious beliefs and practices. But within two generations, legions of young Westerners were following the ‘hippie trail’ to the subcontinent, the Beatles meditating at the feet of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Journalist Mick Brown’s vivid account charts this eccentric history of Western obsessions with Indian faith, through a curious cast of scholars, seekers, charlatans and saints.

From bestselling epic poems on the Buddha to murder plots, magic and the occult, The Nirvana Express is an exhilarating, sometimes troubling journey through the West’s search for enlightenment.

About the author

Mick Brown writes regularly for the Telegraph and has also written for the Guardian and Sunday Times. His previous books include The Spiritual Tourist: A Personal Odyssey Through the Outer Reaches of BeliefThe Dance of 17 Lives: The Incredible True Story of Tibet’s 17th Karmapa; and Tearing Down The Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector.

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