The Indian mystic Ramakrishna (1836-1886) profoundly influenced not only Hinduism in India but also Western interpretations of Hinduism. Ramakrishna has played a critical role in IndiaÍs religious revival and the growing influence of Hinduism in the West. While he has generally been viewed in the past century as an exemplar who taught interreligious harmony and individual spiritual striving, this view was shaken with the publication of Kali's Child, with its provocative assertions of Ramakrishna's alleged "troubled" past and homoerotic proclivities. Was Ramakrishna a troubled mystic and homoerotic Tantrik, whose secrets have been hidden from public view? This book offers both a spirited critique of Kali's Child as well as an indepth examination of Ramakrishna scholarship over the course of the past century, identifying how Ramakrishna has been viewed according to the changing tenor of the times. Providing a thoughtful examination of the problematics inherent in translation and interpretation, it presents a new model for interpreting historical religious figures that is consistent with rigorous scholarship while maintaining its roots in indigenous paradigms. Interpreting Ramakrishna is, according to Harvard professor Francis X. Clooney, "the best resource we have for understanding Sri Ramakrishna today."
Interpreting Ramakrishna is a substantial and conscientious work of scholarly and religious reflection-our best resource for understanding Sri Ramakrishna today. Instigated by recent debates on his identity and significance, the book fruitfully invites us to the much longer perspective, a century's worth of scholarship by devotees, monastic writers, and academic scholars. But this book also charts a path for fruitful reflection on Ramakrishna for the 21st century. We can only thank Swami Tyagananda and Pravrajika Vrajaprana for providing us with critical scholarship that is honest, unpresuming, and deeply spiritual.- FRANCIS X. CLOONEY, S.J. Parkman Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School
Much has been written, pro and con, about Jeffrey J. Kripal's controversial book, Kali's Child. Now the time may be ripe for a thoughtful overview of the many issues related to the controversy. such a balanced overview is now available in Pravrajika Vrajaprana's and Swami Tyagananda's new book, Interpreting Ramakrishna: Kali's Child Revisited. Overall their treatment of the issues, though clearly from their perspective as devotees of Ramakrishna, is balanced, scrupulously fair, and generous to all sides in the debate. The book will be well received, I think, by all participants in this on-going conversation and will surely elicit spirited but balanced responses from other participants. - Gerald James Larson, Tagore Professor Emeritus, Indiana Univ., Bloomington, and Professor Emeritus, Religious Studies, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
Interpreting Ramakrishna: Kali's Child Revisited is a responsible and balanced response to Kali's Child that returns the critical focus to the text, sets it in historical and cultural context and issues a urgent call for constructive dialogue between scholars and insiders. It is a patient and elaborate illustration of the possible dangers and limits of cross-cultural studies. This is a welcome contribution to Ramakrishna that treads the uncommon middle ground between the extremes of the uncritical insider and the unexamined assumptions of the scholar.-Anantanand Rambachan Professor and Chair, Religion Department Saint Olaf College.