Sadly, Kakar is unable to emulate any of his predecessors, let alone achieve anything remotely close to the great epics. After that superbly evocative opening, Ecstasy flounders from one lecture to another. Until, finally, by the time you reach the Epilogue and Vishnu Das congratulates Vivek on his decision to become a full-time worker in the Hindu fundamentalist revival group, The RSS, you're inured to speeches like this one:
"This is what our country needs. Disciplined and dedicated young men forging a strong nation that does not ape the West. A male nation! No more of that irrational emotionalism which has sapped our energy over centuries. Your father would have been proud of you!"
The subsequent paragraphs outlining Vivek's progress in the RSS and the Sangh Parivar's hierarchy read almost like a pastiche of several real-life RSS figures. The final dream of despair he experiences is as thin and cardboard-like as the rest of the novel, unconvincing in its humanity and unfulfilled in its storytelling. You're not quite sure by this point if Kakar is criticising Vivek's decision or simply bemoaning the loss of his mentor and guru, Ramakrishna. Both, probably.
Sudhir Kakar the psychoanalyst is a fascinating writer. Sudhir Kakar the novelist is a gifted and readable writer. Even Sudhir Kakar the religious discurser might be worth reading if he were to choose to write such a book. But, in Ecstasy, he can't seem to decide if he is trying to recreate the stories of two great and influential historical figures or using the guise of their stories to dole out huge dollops of religious dogma. In the end, it comes across as a mishmash of both. Which doesn't make for a good novel. If you want to know what Sudhir Kakar is truly capable of, go back and read The Ascetic of Desire instead. Ecstasy doesn't arouse any ecstasy, divine or literary.