240 x 160 mm. 276pp Illustrated (3 b&w).... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]
This study examines the nexus between sexuality and religiosity in the mystical experiences of 19th-century Calcutta's famous Bengali saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-86). Dr. Sil's pioneering psychological study of this personality (Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A Psychological Profile, Leiden, 1991) led to another book on Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna Revisited: A New Biography published in 1998, which strongly argued against the saint's widely publicised homosexual orientation in the Anglo-American academe.
Sil's current undertaking offers a somewhat nuanced analysis of Ramakrishna's religiosity (rather than spirituality in that he was not a homo spiritualis but a homo religiosus par excellence), a psychological hermeneutic of his ecstasy, his conflicted androgynous and misogynistic consciousness and behaviour, his emphasis on world weariness [vairagya] and sermons against lust and lucre [kamini kanchana] and yet his preference for worldly comforts, and concludes that far from being a Shakta (sometimes confused with Tantrika) devotee of the Mother Goddess Kali (he was a priest of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar, in the northern suburb of Calcutta), he was essentially a bhakta (devotee) in the Vaisnava tradition - his cultural and family inheritance.
His idea of the divine and his life and logia as a priest and a saint provide ample justification to consider him essentially a Vaisnava whose spiritual battle cry was to demand to have a mystical dalliance with God. Ramakrishna's free-wheeling God-mindedness and a spontaneous personal relationship with God as well as his earthy and entertaining anecdotal sermons together with his frenzied dances and emotionally charged devotional songs arousing uddipan [enkindling] and vyakulata [eager longing] for the divine endeared him to the men and women of Renaissance Bengal during his lifetime. Following his death, his great disciple Swami Vivekananda publicised his guru throughout India and in the West resulting in Ramakrishna's emergence as a cultural icon of postcolonial India.
This study is situated squarely in the ongoing hermeneutical battle on the Ramakrishna studies or Ramakrishnayana since the late 90s of the past century, but it offers something more. It is a cross-cultural and historical comparison of Ramakrishna's bhakti [devotion] and the Martin Luther's devotion [devotional piety] as well as with a comparison with Shrichaitanya's Vaisnava devotionalism (fully analysed in a forthcoming article in Religion).
Written in reader-friendly prose avoiding fashionable clichés and with its extended bibliography of the vernacular and English sources, glossary and biographical sketches of Ramakrishna's contemporaries, this study will interest lay readers as well as be helpful to undergraduate and graduate students in religious studies, history of religions, anthropology, comparative religions, sociology, and the history and culture of South Asia.
Narasingha P. Sil is Professor of History at Western Oregon University.
^ Religion ^
|Artist / Author||Narasingha P. SIL|
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