Ramakrishna Miscellany: A Comparative Study 2017 - Studia Orientalia Monographica 7 (Paperback)
  • Ramakrishna Miscellany: A Comparative Study 2017 - Studia Orientalia Monographica 7 (Paperback)
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Ramakrishna Miscellany: A Comparative Study 2017 - Studia Orientalia Monographica 7 (Paperback)

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Paperback 85 Pages / Published: 01/12/2017
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Despite Ramakrsna Paramahamsa's (1836-86) reputation as a Tantrika in view of his being a priest of the Kali temple at the village of Dakshineshvar in the northern suburb of Calcutta, this study posits that his piety had deep roots in Bengal Vaisnavism (cult of Visnu) at large and in the devotional tradition of his family. His family deity Lord Raghuv ra (Lord Rama) was considered as an incarnation of the Vedic-Puranic God Visnu and thus a Vaisnava deity by extension. This counter thesis on the saint's religious identity is supported by an analysis of his emphasis on bhakti [devotion] for and bisvas [faith] in God. My analysis is predicated on a comparison of Ramakrsna with two religious reformers of the sixteenth century: the Bengali saint Sricaitanya (1486-1533), founder of bhakti movement in Bengal and the German monk Martin Luther (1483-1546), the intellectual child of the twin movements of Humanism and Devotio Moderna, and the progenitor of the so-called Protestant movement that foregrounded fiducia [faith] as the highway to divine grace. Ramakrsna's imitation of Caitanyite Vaisnavism, and thus his reliance on devotion and faith appear almost similar to Luther's reliance on a merciful and yet a just God through fides [turst or bisvas]. Such a cross-cultural comparative study has not been attempted by any other scholar. Ramakrsna's Vaisnava orientation also helps us understand his sexuality. The currently influential construction of a homoerotic Tantrika Ramakrsna is countered by exploring the fundamental convergence between the Hindu concept of prema and the Christian concept of agape or caritas-both standing for love for, as well as love of, God. Admittedly, there are marked differences among the three religious personalities, particularly between Ramakrsna and Luther. Both are radically different personalities in respect of their cultural background, social outlook, and theological consciousness, especially in their understanding of human-divine relationship. Luther's Judeo-Christian conception of God as an absolutely sovereign and yet a merciful deity is markedly different from Ramakrsna's Vaisnavic image of God as a loving and playful companion of the devotee. Yet their spiritual experiences in their quest for the divine show a similar reliance on faith and devotion. I also discuss the interface between sexual and spiritual consciousness in Ramakrsna's life and teachings, especially because of his Tantrika identity in the West. The understanding of Tantra as an esoteric cult indulging in clandestine carnal orgies has dovetailed into the saint's imagined "unconscious" homoerotic desires and behaviors. This comparative exercise thus seeks to achieve the author's dual objective of foregrounding Ramakrsna's innate Vaisnavic consciousness that is close to Luther's Protestant faith and to deconstruct the former's homoerotic profile by interpreting his sexuality in the context of his culture and creed. Needless to mention, I use vernacular sources on Ramaksna throughout with my own translation. This has the unique advantage of getting at the facts as recorded by the actors personally or perceived and experienced by the contemporaries and eyewitnesses directly.

Publisher: Institute of Oriental Studies
ISBN: 9788089607594
Number of pages: 85

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