Author: Jyotirmaya Sharma
This is not a book for somebody who is yet to understand the three protagonists that the book speaks about, namely Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Hinduism. Trying to understand any of these using this book could be misleading while also doing injustice to the author’s extraordinary intellectual analysis. The book is a part of the Author’s ongoing research into Hindutva and restatement of Hinduism. After reading this work, I am personally excited and look forward to read the fourth book in the series that the Author intends to publish based on Mahatma Gandhi.
As an ardent reader of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, my understanding of their unique individual personalities has deepened post my reading of this book. But this has also led to my re-reading a lot of the original literature to understand how and why these two personalities who were almost like chalk and cheese in their gross manifestations, seem to connect, collaborate, synergise and give to the world a lasting message and an institution.
Hinduism in my limited understanding is a foreign word. It is a label provided to us by those who don’t belong to it. Historically India lived by what is called ‘Sanatana Dharma’ which reasonably translates to ‘ Eternal Principles of Living’ . It is because of this strong foundation of Sanatana Dharma, that we have had a glorious history of openness, sharing, giving and embracing. We have always looked towards the greatest truths of life and living while providing adequate pointers to what one can do in life to enable realise those eternal truths. Hinduism has been created and is being used as a vehicle to propagate limited ideologies based on individual faiths. While these may have been motivated by the context, situation and need at various stages in our history, it only makes me feel the need to forego this limited understanding of Hinduism as a religion and attempt to connect Hinduism to the way a person in Hindustan lives, which is essentially based on Sanatana Dharma.
The book highlights how Vivekananda has shifted the focus of Ramakrishna order from one of bhakthi to a more rational, scientific, masculine and nationalistic world. One the surface these seem very far from Ramakrishna’s world of love, ecstasy, irrationality and faith. The Author’s intellectual analysis is logical, extremely incisive and at many places brilliant. In the limited context of the subject under study the case made by the author seems interesting and provides a much needed alternative perspective to look at the celebrated relationship between Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. In fact this book has made me start re-reading the original literature of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda and look for lessons on how different personalities can come together for the sake of a higher cause. It has also triggered in me the curiosity to understand the guru-shishya relationship in a much more serious manner.