21st Century Bookstore Newsletter (December 2005)
This month I have read three books, which I most highly recommend. First, is India: Mirror of Truth, A Seven Year Pilgrimage, by Steve Briggs. Steve, who lives in Fairfield, was a member of Purusha (an American monk) sent by his guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to India to teach meditation. Steve made the most of this unique opportunity, traveling all over India, visiting many of the most holy places, temples, saints, shamans, politicians, pundits, swami’s, astrologers, and even humble folk. This is an incredibly fascinating memoir, both personal and universal. While I doubt this book will ever gain the stature of Autobiography of a Yogi, (Yogananda) or A Search In Secret India, (Paul Brunton) two of my favorite books of all time, I would rank Briggs’ book right up there and in the same lineage. Briggs catches the soul of India. The book is well-written and truly a joy to read. The author’s experiences and insights are both memorable and enlightening. Everyone who is a meditator, spiritual seeker, or an adventurer at heart must read this book.
—Len Oppenheim, owner 21st Century Bookstore
The Iowa Source (February 2006)
Land of Truth
India Mirror of Truth: A Seven-Year Pilgrimage by Steve Briggs
By Tony Ellis
A former University of Arizona tennis star sent to India by his guru to teach meditation may be an unlikely scenario, but it provides the platform for an inspiring and deeply personal account of this perplexing and mystifying culture. Many western writers have failed to understand India, bamboozled by the quantum meandering of the country’s complex psyche. In India Mirror of Truth: A Seven-Year Pilgrimage, Steve Briggs succeeds because he meets India on its own terms. With an open heart and mind, he reaches beyond the chaos of sight, sound and smell to appreciate the hugely beneficent spirit embedded in every aspect of Indian life. It is this welcoming spirit that gives India the flexibility to absorb and adapt to new influences and is one of her greatest strengths. Generations of stiff-lipped British gentlemen attempted to impose their authority on India only to find that while they weren’t looking India had assimilated some of their most familiar icons—cricket, railways, bureaucracy and tea—added a few spices and claimed them as her own. Earlier Mogul invaders suffered a similar cultural fate.
The author arrives in India as teacher, but it is obvious that he is more interested in being student. His seven-year odyssey takes him from the coastal waters of Kerala to the high Tibetan plateau. Along the way, he encounters saints and shamans, politicians and pundits, astrologers and ascetics, entrepreneurs and artisans as well as enjoying the most important heartland of India, the family. He visits ancient holy sites, encounters swamis living at the source of the Ganges, participates in arcane purification rituals, experiences the excitement of thirty million pilgrims at the Kumbha Mela as guest of a maharaja, and shares the company of lamas at Tibetan monasteries in Ladakh. Deep in the Himalayas, his search for spiritual India reunites him with an ageless Master who seems to have been expecting his arrival. Somewhere in between, he gets to teach meditation to some of India’s elite. Finally, his dream of pursuing spiritual liberation in a remote ashram is realized.
Briggs’ account is far more than travelogue. It is journey of personal experience. As the title suggests, India acts as a mirror for him to find his own truth. For many years people have traveled to India seeking enlightenment. There is probably no other country where God is so alive in every day life. Briggs understands the real truth lies within a person’s own heart and that India can provide the roadmap to reach this truth. As India leapfrogs into the age of high technology and economic prosperity, one can only wish she doesn’t lose this spiritual treasure house that Briggs so beautifully describes. Hopefully sadhu and Samsung, Microsoft and Mother Divine can co-exist in harmony.
BARNES AND NOBLE
Full of Love, February 15, 2006
Reviewer: Roger Kirk, Bozeman, Montana
For me, this book has been a great inspiration. I didn’t want to do anything but read the book from beginning to end for the feeling it seems to instill. Usually about half way through a book I really like, I start getting upset and even mad that it is going to be over — how could the author write this book and then end it without having another available right behind it? With Steve Briggs book, while I would gladly have another book to continue with, I did not feel a void at the end but instead more full. That is a first. Don’t know why it happened but am very happy for it.
How is the book different? The writing is simple and straightforward but somehow it instilled feelings of deep gratitude, fullness, and a longing, not unlike missing a lover, but without the pain. Fascinating and rich accounts of people, places, and experiences atypical to the west portrayed in a simple and honest manner.
A Renewal of Purpose, February 10, 2006
Reviewer: Opus22 "RR" (IA)
I have recently read this excellent book on Steve’s travels in India. I did not expect the book to be as good as it is — it starts slowly and builds ‘forcing’ me to stay up late to read just a little more. I found my self in tears several times for the book is more than just about a complex diverse culture and country but a spiritual odyssey that is captivating and reminding me of my own journey in life. Having spent a little time in India enlivened the book even more as it is a country and experience one can only have be visiting there. I found it to be a very provocative book in that it brings one back to his own self — and to that I thank Steve for this marvelous read.
A Service Ace From Tennis Professional & Meditation Expert, February 2, 2006
Reviewer: David Kramer (Chino Hills, California)
Steve Briggs was a fellow tennis professional in the late seventies shortly before he first traveled to India. It does not surprise me how well written his recollections of his seven year pilgrimage to India is, for he discovers the soul and spirit of the Indian people, the heart of their culture, and their tradition of knowledge which continue to be of timely importance for those who find the game of life so fascinating and enjoyable.
As an educator/instructor, and now as a writer, Steve is perfectly capable of guiding his students/readers on a journey that will satisfy the timeless thirst for the most important discovery of all — the awakening to one’s Self and living a life of value, enlightenment, and service to humanity.
“India: Mirror Of Truth,” is a composite view the author shares with his reader on his journey through a country that is home to the world’s most ancient wisdom and mature family values, while uncovering the very personal ambitions that were accomplished by Steve’s own search for knowledge of that illumination.
I feel this book is a must read for anyone who has ever had the desire to take the trip of a life time to a country whose magnificence is a reflection of it’s inner spirit which is available to all seekers looking for truth! His book is an absolute mirror of the heart, heroic character, and noble reflections of a man whose experience demands that he write another book, the sooner, the better.
India: Mirror of Truth, December 5, 2005
Reviewer: David Saunders (Cumbria, UK)
Soon after I first learned to meditate in 1973, people mentioned ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahansa Yogananda, which was a truly wonderful book that gave insights into India’s rich spiritual heritage and what it was like to be a true exponent of the land’s spiritual teachings. Forty years later, Steve Briggs’ remarkable book feels like reading ‘Autobiogarphy of a Yogi’, all over again, but this time from the standpoint of a westerner, himself an exponent of those teachings, and obviously becoming an adept. As a westerner myself, somehow this brings it far closer to home, with a very uplifting core message, and stories of the land that tell me it’s time to make my own pilgrimage.