Views on Ramakrishna

Views on Ramakrishna

Ramakrishna (1836-1886) was a famous nineteenth-century Indian mystic. His personality and religious experiences have been studied by many notable scholars. Academic studies have also been carried out on the influence of Ramakrishna's personality in the growth of the Ramakrishna religious movement,Cite journal
author = Leo Schneiderman
date = Spring, 1969
title = Ramakrishna: Personality and Social Factors in the Growth of a Religious Movement
journal = Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
volume = 8
pages = 60-71
publisher = Blackwell Publishing
location = London
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/1385254
year = 1969
] the Ramakrishna Mission, [cite book
last = Copley
first = Antony
title = Gurus and Their Followers: New Religious Reform Movements in Colonial India
publisher = Oxford University Press
date = 2000
pages = 235
] ["Children of Immortality. The Ramakrishna Movement with Special Emphasis on the South African Context" by Anil Sooklal] [Swami Atmajnanananda] Ramakrishna's contribution to the harmony of religions, [Cite journal
last = Bhawuk
first = Dharm P.S.
title = Culture’s influence on creativity: the case of Indian spirituality
journal = International Journal of Intercultural Relations
volume = 27
issue = 1
pages = pp. 1-22
publisher = Elsevier
date = February 2003
quote = "He may very well be the first, if not the only, person topractice the major religions of the world to come to the conclusion that they lead tothe same God. His contribution to humanity is particularly significant for the worldafter the bombing of the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11,2001. Clearly, Islam is not to be blamed for the incident of September 11, and noreligion should be blamed for any act of terrorism,…"
] psychoanalysis, and mysticism. [Kakar 1991; Sil 1991, 1998; Kripal 1995; Raab 1995; Roland 2002; John Stratton Hawley 2004]

Language

Ramakrishna used rustic colloquial bengali in his conversations. Ramakrishna had an extraordinary style of preaching and instructing, conveying to even the most skeptical visitors to the temple.Cite journal
author = Leo Schneiderman
date = Spring, 1969
title = Ramakrishna: Personality and Social Factors in the Growth of a Religious Movement
journal = Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
volume = 8
pages = 60-71
publisher = Blackwell Publishing
location = London
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/1385254
year = 1969
] Christopher Isherwood writes, [cite book
last = Isherwood
first = Christopher
authorlink = Christopher Isherwood
title = Vedanta for the Western World: A Symposium on Vedanta
publisher = Vedanta Press
date = 1945
pages = p.267
isbn = 9780874810004
] — Quote|Ramakrishna had a gift for words, as his parables and his conversation show; nor was he at a loss when assailed by intellectual philosophers. Another side of Ramakrishna which seems to me important is that he had a sense of fun, and that he was joyous.

Philosopher Arindam Chakrabarti contrasts Ramakrishna's talkativeness with Buddha's reticence, and makes seven comparisons between Ramakrishna and Socrates. He then analyzes a song that Ramakrishna was fond of ("The Dark Mother Flying Kites") and pulls out six philosophical elements: a nondualistic metaphysics, a spiritualistic ethic, the doctrine of "karma", a playful goddess, the possibility of "moksha", and the theory of psychological causation. [Arindam Chakrabarti, "The Dark Mother Flying Kites: Sri Ramakrishna's Metaphysic of Morals" "Sophia", 33 (3), 1994]

Scholars like Max Muller, A.W. Stratton, opine that few religious practices and sayings of Ramakrishna which are natural to a Hindu, may sound strange, offensive [cite book
last = Muller
first = Max
title = Râmakrishna his Life and Sayings
date = 1898
chapter = Preface
chapterurl= http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rls/rls01.htm
quote = I am quite aware that some of his sayings may sound strange to our ears, nay even offensive.
] [Cite journal
author = A. W. Stratton
date = Oct., 1899
title = Reviewed work(s): Râmakrishna: His Life and Sayings by F. Max Müller
journal = The American Journal of Theology
volume = 3
issue = 4
pages = pp. 761-762
publisher = The University of Chicago Press
location = American
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/3153037
year = 1899
quote = Some of the sayings may at first sound strange, but these are natural to a Hindu.
] and abominalcite book
last = Muller
first = Max
title = Râmakrishna his Life and Sayings
date = 1898
pages = pp.62-63
chapter = Râmakrishna's Language
chapterurl= http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rls/rls17.htm
] to the western mind. Max Muller gives an example,Quote
Unless we remember that harem means originally no more than a sacred and guarded place, the following saying will certainly jar on our ears:

'The Knowledge of God may be likened to a man, while the Love of God is like a woman. Knowledge has entry only up to the outer rooms of God, but no one can enter into the inner mysteries of God save a lover, for a woman has access even into the harem of the Almighty' (172).

Regarding Ramakrishna's language, Max Muller writes, "His speech at times was abominably filthy. For all that, he was, as you say, a real Mahâtman, and I would not withdraw a single word I wrote in his praise". Muller writes that the language may sound filthy, because of the plain speaking among oriental races, where certain classes of men walk stark naked, and the languages too is not likely to veil what for the west requires to be veiled and the directness of speech which would be most offensive in west is not regarded in that light in India. Muller further argues that, the charge of intentional filthiness or obscenity cannot be brought against Ramakrishna. Giving the examples of classical poems like "Bhartrihari", the Bible, Homer in Shakespeare, Muller argues that few of the sayings may have to be bowdlerized.Scholars like Amiya P. Sen argue that certain terms that Ramakrishna may have used only in a metaphysical sense are deliberately invested with new, contemporaneous meanings.cite journal
last = Sen
first = Amiya P.
title = Sri Ramakrishna, the "Kathamrita" and the Calcutta middle classes: an old problematic revisited
journal = Postcolonial Studies
volume = 9
issue = 2
pages = p.165-177
publisher =
location =
date = June 2006
url =
doi = 10.1080/13688790600657835
]

Medical viewpoints on Ramakrishna's "Samadhi"

Ramakrishna entered "samadhi" (ecstacy) several times a day, over a period of many years till his death. [cite book
last = Isherwood
first = Christopher
authorlink = Christopher Isherwood
title = Ramakrishna and his Disciples
chapter = The Vision of Kali
date = 1964
pages = p.63-64
] When this came on him, he became unconscious. He would sit in a fixed position for a short time, or for hours, and would then slowly return to consciousness. When he was in this condition, the best doctors could find not trace of pulse or of heart beat. It is also said that he already had the power of introducing "samadhi" in others. [cite book
last = Farquhar
first = J. N.
title = Modern Religious Movements in India
publisher = Kessinger Publishing
date = 2003
pages = p.189
]

Dr.Mahendralal Sarkar , a renowned physician of Calcutta, who treated Ramakrishna during his final days is one of the first hand witnesses who examined Ramakrishna during his "samadhi". Dr. Sarkar was a rationalist, who did not share the religious views of Ramakrishna, nor did he see him as an "avatara"cite book
last = Rolland
first = Romain
title = The Life of Ramakrishna
date = 1929
pages = pp.204-205
chapter = The River Re-Enters the Sea
quote = "To say that the Infinite came down to earth in the form of a man is the ruin of all religions."
] He was present during several ecstasies of Ramakrishna and studied them from a medical point of view. The doctor observed that the stethoscopic examination of the heart and the condition of the eyes during "samadhi" showed all the symptoms of death. Even on the occasion of Ramakrishna's death, it was perceived as the normal "samadhi".Ramakrishna had experienced "samadhi" daily for many years. In the process, his whole physical organism had been transformed; it was extraordinarily sensitive and delicate. [cite book
last = Isherwood
first = Christopher
authorlink = Christopher Isherwood
title = Vedanta for the Western World: A Symposium on Vedanta
publisher = Vedanta Press
date = 1945
pages = p.20
]

According to Professor Somnath Bhattacharyya, a psychoanalyst and psychologist, Ramakrishna's "samadhi" states were accompanied by very profound inward withdrawal of consciousness, and remarkable physiological changes, consistent with the highest stages of meditative absorption as documented in Hindu Tantra, Yoga and Buddhist literature.cite web | last =Bhattacharyya | first =Professor Somnath | title =Kali's Child: Psychological And Hermeneutical Problems | publisher =Infinity Foundation | url =http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/s_rv/s_rv_bhatt_kali_frameset.htm | accessdate =2008-08-23 ] Another study in this field has be carried out by G.C.Ray of IIT—"Journey through higher consciousness and the physiological changes" [cite journal
last = Ray
first = G.C.
title = Journey through higher consciousness and the physiological changes
journal = IEEE
volume =
issue =
pages = p.59/60
publisher =
location =
date = 2002-08-06
url = http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?tp=&arnumber=508689&isnumber=11132
doi = 10.1109/RCEMBS.1995.508689
accessdate = 2008-10-04
]

Religious Practices and Experiences

The Oceanic feeling

Ramakrishna's experiences of "Samadhi" [Quote|… all of a sudden, the buildings with their various parts, the temple and all, vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever; and in their stead I found a limitless infinite, effulgent ocean of consciousness or spirit, and, as far as the eye could reach…] were termed as "Oceanic feeling" by Romain Rolland. Scholars note that the same term was adapted by Freud in his book "Civilization and its Discontents". [cite book | author = Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson | title = The oceanic feeling: The Origins of Religious Sentiment in Ancient India | chapter = The oceanic feeling : Origin of the term | pages = p.33 | year = 1980 | publisher = Springer]

Scholars have noted similarities between Ramakrishna's oceanic feeling and other religious personalities:
* St. Paul, after a similar experience, was struck blind.Cite journal
author = D. S. Sarma
date = March 1927
title = The Experience of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
journal = The Journal of Religion
volume = 7
issue = 2
pages = pp. 186-203
publisher = The University of Chicago Press
location = America
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/1195240
year = 1927
]
* Suso, a German mystic of the fourteenth century, suffered at the time of his awakening so greatly in body that it seemed to him that none even in dying could suffer so much in so short a time.
* Richard Rolle of Hampole has recorded that his heart burned with a sensible fire, "truly not imaginingly."
* St.Theresa of Avila. [cite book
last = Rolland
first = Romain
title = The Life of Ramakrishna
date = 1929
pages = p.16
chapter = Kali the Mother
]

wami Vivekananda

One of first disciples to look at Ramakrishna's ecstasy and experiences as pathological and hallucinations and to question Kali as the "mother of universe" as Ramakrishna preached, was his most ardent and prominent disciple—Swami Vivekananda. When he first approached Ramakrishna, he was an iconoclast, the hater of superstitions and idols,and was against the worship of Kali. [cite book
last = Clarke
first = Peter Bernard
title = New Religions in Global Perspective
publisher = Routledge
date = 2006
pages = p.209
quote = [Vivekananda was] at one time a member of the protestant-like, puritanical, anit-image worshipping, and deistic Brahmo Samaj movement.
] cite book
last = Rolland
first = Romain
title = The Life of Ramakrishna
date = 1929
pages = pp.169-193
chapter = Naren the Beloved Disciple
] During the initial days, Vivekananda regarded Ramakrishna's experiences as "creations of sick brain, mere hallucinations" and did not accept him as an "avatara". [cite book
last = Rolland
first = Romain
title = The Life of Ramakrishna
date = 1929
pages = pp.169-193
chapter = Naren the Beloved Disciple
quote = Even if millions of men called you God, if I had not proved it for myself, I would never do so.
] Vivekananda regarded the "Advaitist Vedantism" of identity with absolute as blasphemy and madness. After a period of revolt, Ramakrishna was accepted as a "guru". [cite book
last = Vivekananda
first = Swami
authorlink = Swami Vivekananda
title =
page = 263
volume = Vol.8
chapter =
quote = "How I used to hate Kali!" he [vivekananda] said, referring to his own days of doubts in accepting the Kali ideal, "And all Her ways! That was the ground of my six years' fight — that I would not accept Her. But I had to accept Her at last! Ramakrishna Paramahamsa dedicated me to Her, and now I believe that She guides me in everything I do, and does with me what She will. . . . Yet I fought so long!
]

Referring to the practice of "Madhura Bhava", by his guru, years later in 1896 in one of his speeches "My Master", Vivekananda said,cite book
last = Vivekananda
first = Swami
title =
date = 1896
pages = pp.154-188
chapter =
]

Referring to the teaching of "Kama-Kanchana", Vivekananda said,

Romain Rolland

In his book "The Life of Ramakrishna" (1929), Romain Rolland, argues that Ramakrishna's experiences were not pathological. Rolland also argues the inapplicability of psychoanalysis on Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and other mystics.cite book
last = Rolland
first = Romain
title = The Life of Ramakrishna
date = 1929
pages = pp.143-168
chapter = The Master and his Children
quote = Let the learned men of Europe, who are preoccupied by the problems of mystic psycho-analysis, put themselves in touch with these living witnesses while there is yet time. I myself, I repeat, have little curiosity about such phenomena, whose subjective reality is not in doubt, and I believe it my duty to describe them; for they are hedged about by all possible guarantees of good faith and analytical intelligence. I am more interested in the fact of great religious intuition in that which "continues to be" rather than in that which "has been", in that which is or which can be always in all beings rather than in that which is privilege of a few.
] Rolland had correspondence with Freud. In his letter of December 5, 1927, Rolland indicated that he was researching a book on the Hindu saints Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. The references to Freud and psychoanalysis in these books are considered as direct response to "Civilization and Its Discontents". [Fisher, "Sigmund Freud and Romain Rolland: The Terrestrial Animal and His Great Oceanic Friend", p. 29,] [Werman, "Sigmund Freud and Romain Rolland", p. 236]

Leo Schneiderman

Leo Schneiderman, in this work "Ramakrishna: Personality and Social Factors in the Growth of a Religious Movement" (1969) argues that Ramakrishna's "bizarre" behavior ("samadhi") must be judged within its proper cultural context. According to Schneiderman, since Ramakrishna was a Brahmin priest who combined the performance of traditional religious functions with demonstrations of divine possession, especially in "samadhi", he could appeal to a wide clientele and he was both an exemplar of Redfield's "great tradition" of Hinduism, and of village shamanism, sublimated to a very high plane. Schneiderman argues that Ramakrishna's trances and other dramatic manifestations, including, perhaps, even his psychotic behavior, were not truly aberrations from the standpoint of the non-Sanskritic popular culture.

Walter G Neevel

In the 1976 essay, "The Transformation of Sri Ramakrishna" [cite book
last = Neevel
first = Walter G
authorlink =
coauthors = Bardwell L. Smith
title = Hinduism: New Essays in the History of Religions
chapter = The Transformation of Ramakrishna
publisher = Brill Archive
date = 1976
location =
pages = pp.53-97
] , Walter G. Neevel argues that Ramakrishna's life went through three 'transformations'. The first—the transformation of the 'madman' of the early years to the benign, saintly figure of the later years—appears to have been brought about more by shifting public gaze than some personal spiritual progression. According to Neevel, the second and third transformations, are seen to reflect not historically verifiable ideas or events in the life of the saint, but myth-making and misrepresentation, often performed by his most intimate followers and disciples. Neevel argues that, the saint is incorrectly depicted as an advaitin of the Sankarite school.

Amiya P. Sen argues that Neevel's essay overlooks certain problems. Neevel does not situate the ascriptions of Ramakrishna as an advaitin or vedantin in the historical context of Indian philosophy which had the influence of Western-educated intelligentsia like Ram Mohan Roy. Sen further argues that "Vivekananda derived the social service gospel under direct inspiration from Ramakrishna rests very substantially on the liminal quality of the Master's message". [cite journal
last = Sen
first = Amiya P.
title = Sri Ramakrishna, the "Kathamrita" and the Calcutta middle classes: an old problematic revisited
journal = Postcolonial Studies
volume = 9
issue = 2
pages = p.165-177
date = June 2006
quote = Ramakrishna's 'mandate' to Vivekananda that he consume his life in doing 'good' to the world is ambiguous enough to permit very different interpretations. In all likelihood, the 'good', in the saint's own perception, was the growth of religious fervour; on the other hand there remains room enough for a synthetic integration of spirituality and social service.
]

Regarding Ramakrishna's "samadhi", Neevel writes that "it is clear that his ability to enter into trances so easily derived largely from his esthetic and emotional sensitivity — his capacity to so appreciate and identify with beauty and harmony in what he saw and did that he would become totally overcome by ecstasy".

Narasingha Sil

In 1991, historian Narasingha Sil wrote "Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A Psychological Profile", an account of Ramakrishna that argues that Ramakrishna's mystical experiences were pathological and originated from alleged childhood sexual trauma.Sil, Narasingha, "Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. A Psychological Profile", (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1991), p.16] Narasingha Sil links Ramakrishna's teaching of "Kamini-Kanchana" to traditional rural Bengali misogyny.Sil, "Divine Dowager", p. 52] Sil also says that Ramakrishna made his wife into a deity in order to avoid thinking of her as sexual.Sil, "Divine Dowager", p. 55]

Other scholars, most notably psychologist Sudhir Kakar, argued that Sil's study to be simplistic and misleading.Kakar, Sudhir, "The Analyst and the Mystic", (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), p.34] Sil's theory has also been argued as reductive by William B. Parsons, who has called for an increased empathetic dialogue between the classical/adaptive/transformative schools and the mystical traditions for an enhanced understanding of Ramakrishna's life and experiences.Parsons, William B., "The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism", (New York, Oxford University Press, 1999), pp.125-139]

Bengali Scholars - William Radice, Dr.Jean Openshaw argue that Sil's works are unreliable. Openshaw terms Sil's book as "virulently antagonistic "psycho-biography" of the saint".cite paper
author = Dr.Jeanne Openshaw
authorlink = http://www.div.ed.ac.uk/jeanneopensh
title = Crucifying a Saint
publisher = Times Higher Education
date = 11 December 1998
url = http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=161020&sectioncode=40
format = html
accessdate = 2008-08-21
] Radice in his review of Sil's book argues,Cite journal
last = Radice
first = William
authorlink = William Radice
date = 1995
title = Reviewed work(s): Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A Psychological Profile by Narasingha P. Sil
journal = Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
volume = 58
issue = 3
pages = 589-590
publisher = Cambridge University Press
location = London
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/620150
year = 1995
quote = What makes one ultimately distrustful of his book, entertaining though it is, is his willingness to manipulate his sources with a merry abandon worthy of Ramakrishna himself. … Sil knows perfectly well that Vivekananda often made provocative, throw-away remarks that were at odds with the main lines of his thought. … If Sil can misuse Vivekananda's writings to support his hypothesis, can we trust him to use the Kathamrta fairly?
] that Sil manipulates his sources and misuses Kathamrita and Vivekananda's writings to suport his hypothesis. Radice argues that another weakness of the book is the ridicule of Ramakrishna's ecstasy and terming it as pathological is not supported by any clear view. Openshaw argues that Sil's book discredits the saint, "through a heady mix of tendentious argument, speculation and innuendo".. Openshaw argues that the "sleight of hand" in the book should be seen in light of another psychoanalytically based book, "Kali's Child", with which Sil's own work is dangerously easy to identify. Openshaw argues that Sil's potrayal of Ramakrishna as homosexual which is attribued to sexual abuse in childhood is based "on no evidence". Openshaw argues that the evidence used by Sil could not have "escaped so many sophisticated first hand witnesses".

Dr.Jeanne Openshaw

Dr.Jeanne Openshaw, a senior lecturer in Religious Studies, and who specializes in the area of Bengali Vaishnavism and Culture, argues that the behavior or religious practices of Ramakrishna are not necessarily abnormalcite paper
author = Dr Jeanne Openshaw
authorlink = http://www.div.ed.ac.uk/jeanneopensh
title = The mystic and the rustic
publisher =
date = 15 December 1995
url = http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=161271&sectioncode=40
format = html
accessdate = 2008-08-23
] . Openshaw argues that from the context of devotional Bengali "Vaishnavism", where femininity represents the highest attainable condition, the cultivation of femininity by men in various ways is not necessarily abnormal, nor can it necessarily be taken as a sign of homosexuality. Openshaw writes that in rural Bengal, male celibacy, and conservation of semen are considered important. Openshaw argues that Ramakrishna's attempt to see all women as mothers rather than as sexual partners, cannot be termed as homoerotic tendencies.

udhir Kakar

In 1991, Sudhir Kakar wrote "The Analyst and the Mystic" [In The Indian Psyche, 125-188. 1996 New Delhi: Viking by Penguin. Reprint of 1991 book.] Gerald James Larson wrote, "Indeed, Sudhir Kakar...indicates that there would be little doubt that from a psychoanalytic point of view Ramakrishna could be diagnosed as a secondary transsexual." [cite journal
author = Gerald James Larson
date = Autumn 1997
title = Polymorphic Sexuality, Homoeroticism, and the Study of Religion
journal = Journal of the American Academy of Religion
volume = 65
issue = 3
pages = 655–665
publisher = Oxford University Press
location = London
url = http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-7189%28199723%2965%3A3%3C655%3APSHATS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-M
month = Nov
year = 1997
] Kakar sought a meta-psychological non-pathological explanation that connects Ramakrishna's mystical realization with creativity. Kakar also argues that culturally relative concepts of eroticism and gender have contributed to the Western difficulty in comprehending Ramakrishna.Kakar, Sudhir, "The Analyst and the Mystic", (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), p.34] In 2003, Sudhir Kakar wrote a novel, "Ecstasy", in which an aspiring "sadhu" in 20th century India endures sexual molestation as a child, and has a feminine appearance and ambiguous sexuality. According to the author, the characters were modelled on Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. [cite web
title = The Rediff Interview/Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar
url = http://www.rediff.com/news/2001/apr/19inter.htm
accessdate = 18 August 2008
]

omnath Bhattacharyya

Somnath Bhattacharyya, in his work "Kali's Child: Psychological And Hermeneutical Problems" further elaborates on the views related to transvestite and transsexuality traits of Ramakrishna.cite web | last =Bhattacharyya | first =Professor Somnath | title =Kali's Child: Psychological And Hermeneutical Problems | publisher =Infinity Foundation | url =http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/s_rv/s_rv_bhatt_kali_frameset.htm | accessdate =2008-08-23 ] Bhattacharrya argues that dressing up in a feminine attire as a part of a legitimate and culturally accepted sadhana for a short period of time does not amount to transvestism, since Ramakrishna also dressed like a "Shakta" and a "Vaishnava" during his Shakti and Vaishnava sadhana days and like a Muslim during his Islam sadhana, which were male attires. Bhattacharrya argues that Ramakrishna's dressing habits were inline with this religious practice. Bhattacharrya also argues that Ramakrishna cannot be termed as a secondary transsexual.cite web
last =Bhattacharyya
first =Professor Somnath
title =Kali's Child: Psychological And Hermeneutical Problems
publisher =Infinity Foundation
url =http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/s_rv/s_rv_bhatt_kali_frameset.htm
quote = The American Psychiatric Association (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV) defines trans-sexuality as a strong and persistent cross-gender identification, and not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex. It is a disorder always involving distress to the person, with a feeling of estrangement from the body and a felt need to alter the appearance of the body. If Ramakrishna sometimes talked about his feminity he was also clear about what he meant by it – "Formerly I too used to see many visions, but now in my ecstatic state I don't see so many. I am gradually getting over my feminine nature; I feel nowadays more like a man. Therefore I control my emotions; I don't manifest it outwardly so much. …"(GSR 798; KA 4.214)
accessdate =2008-09-24
]

Jeff Kripal

In 1995, religious scholar Jeffrey Kripal wrote "", a psychoanalytic study of Ramakrishna. [ [http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/hfs.cgi/00/13682.ctl Kripal, Jeffrey J.: Kali's Child ] ] Kripal, Jeffrey J., "Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna", (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995, 1998)] William Parsons described "Kali's Child" as a book "which performs a classic Freudian interpretation by seeing symptoms of repressed homoeroticism in the visions and acts of Ramakrishna, but then, in exemplifying the interdisciplinary approach of this dialogue, legitimates Ramakrishna’s religious visions by situating psychoanalytic discourse in a wider Tantric worldview." [WILLIAM B. PARSONS, "PSYCHOLOGY" in "Gale's Encyclopedia of Religion", 2005]

The book caused intense controversy among both Western and Indian audiences which still persists unresolved.cite journal
last = Urban
first = Hugh B
title = Reviewed work(s): Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna by Jeffrey J. Kripal
journal = The Journal of Religion
volume = 78
issue = 2
pages = pp. 318-320
publisher = The University of Chicago Press
date = Apr., 1998
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/1205982
] cite journal
last = Roland
first = Alan
title = Ramakrishna: Mystical, Erotic, or Both?
journal = Journal of Religion and Health
volume = 37
issue = 1
pages = pp. 31-36
publisher = Springer Netherlands
date = March, 1998
DOI = 10.1023/A:1022956932676
url = http://www.springerlink.com/content/hu55hq066jh60241/?p=9568dbec04cb4ae387947dfe3d2c33a3&pi=1
quote = "... Kali's Child still swirls around in controversy"
] [ J. S. Hawley, "The Damage of Separation: Krishna’s Loves and Kali’s Child", 2004] The book came into limelight and created controversy in India after a scathing review written by religious scholar Narasingha Sil was published in "The Statesman". The review also produced a great deal of angry correspondence. [cite journal | quotes = no
author = Brian A. Hatcher | date = August 1999 | title = Kali's problem child: Another look at Jeffrey Kripal's study of Ramakrishna | journal = International Journal of Hindu Studies
volume = 3 | issue = 2 | pages = 165–82 | publisher = World Heritage Press Inc
url = http://www.springerlink.com/content/lt711m70323r2w60/ | quote = Most of the people in the room were familiar with the book, since not long before there had been a scathing review of the book and a welter of angry correspondence in the pages of Calcutta's major English daily, the Statesman. Judging from those reviews, one would have thought "Kali's child" had to be right up there with Lady Chatterly's lover. | doi = 10.1007/s11407-999-0002-3
] [Sil went even further when "in one Calcutta newspaper, The Statesman, Narasingha Sil recently decried Kripal as a shoddy scholar with a perverse imagination who has thoughtlessly "ransacked" another culture and produced a work which is, in short, "plain shit" (January 31, 1997)..." cite journal | last = Urban | first = Hugh | title = Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna | journal = The Journal of Religion | volume = Vol. 78, No. 2 | pages = pp. 318–320 | date = Apr., 1998 | url= http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-4189%28199804%2978%3A2%3C318%3AKCTMAT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-G| accessdate=2008-03-18 | month = Apr | year = 1998 | issue = 2 | doi = 10.1086/490220 ]

In 1998, the second edition of "Kali's Child" was brought out, in which Jeffery Kripal claimed that he had corrected the translation errors. Further, In 1999, Brian Hatcher argued that although some scholars had their misgivings, the overall verdict of religion scholars and of experts on South Asian culture regarding "Kali's Child" has been approving, and at times highly laudatory. [cite journal | quotes = no | author = Brian A. Hatcher | date = August 1999 | title = Kali's problem child: Another look at Jeffrey Kripal's study of Ramakrishna | journal = International Journal of Hindu Studies | volume = 3 | issue = 2 | pages = 165–82 | publisher = World Heritage Press Inc
url = http://www.springerlink.com/content/lt711m70323r2w60/ | quote = As a glance at the reviews will show, "Kali's child" has been praised by scholars of religion (see Haberman 1997; Parsons 1997) and by experts on South Asian culture more generally (see Radice 1998; Vaidyanathan 1997). Granted, some of these reviewers have their misgivings--and later in this essay I will raise one of my own---but their overall verdict has been an approving, and at times highly laudatory, one. | doi = 10.1007/s11407-999-0002-3
]

However, the deductions of "Kali's Child" and psychoanalytical credentials of Kripal were questioned by several scholars, including Jean Openshaw Citation
last = Openshaw
first = Jean
title = The mystic and the rustic
url = http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=161271&sectioncode=40
] , Gerald Larsoncite journal
last = Larson
first = Gerald James
title = Review: Polymorphic Sexuality, Homoeroticism, and the Study of Religion
journal = Journal of the American Academy of Religion
volume = 65
issue = 3
pages = pp. 655-665
publisher = Oxford University Press
date = Autumn, 1997
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/1465656
] , Hugh B. Urban, Narasingha Silcite web
last = Sil
first = Narasingha P.
title = The Kripal Conundrum - A Critique
url = http://invadingthesacred.com/content/view/64/52/
] , Swami Tyaganandacite journal
last = Tyagananda
first = Swami
coauthors = Pravrajika Vrajaprana
title = Kali's Child Revisited or Didn't Anyone Check the Documentation?
journal = Evam: Forum on Indian Representations
volume = 1
issue = 1-2
date = 2002
url = http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/s_rv/s_rv_tyaga_kali1_frameset.htm
] , Swami Atmajnananandacite journal
last = Atmajnanananda
first = Swami
title = Scandals, cover-ups, and other imagined occurrences in the life of Ramakrishna: An examination of Jeffrey Kripal's Kali's child
journal = International Journal of Hindu Studies
volume = 1
issue = 2
pages = pp.401-420
publisher = Springer
location = Netherlands
date = August, 1997
url = http://www.springerlink.com/content/k1g8l97203k25047/
doi = 10.1007/s11407-997-0007-8
] , Somnath Bhattacharyacite web
last = Bhattacharyya
first = Somnath
authorlink = Somnath Bhattacharyya
title = Kali's Child: Psychological And Hermeneutical Problems
publisher = Infinity Foundation
url = http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/s_rv/s_rv_bhatt_kali_frameset.htm
] , Huston Smithcite journal | last = Smith | first =Huston | title = Letters to the Editor | journal = Harvard Divinity Bulletin | volume = 30/1 | pages = Letters | date = Spring 2001] , Alan Roland, Pravrajika VrajapranaCite Journal
last = Vrajaprana
first = Pravrajika
title = Review of Kali's child, by Jeffrey Kripal
journal = Hindu-Christian studies bulletin
volume = 10
pages = 59-60
Year = 1997
] , William Radicecite journal
last = Radice
first = William
authorlink = William Radice
title = Reviewed work(s): Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna by Jeffrey J. Kripal
journal = Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
volume = 61
issue = 1
pages = pp. 160-161
publisher = University of London
date = 1998
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/3107328
] , Rajiv Malhotra.

Swami Tyagananda's "Kali's Child Revisited or Didn't Anyone Check the Documentation?" argues the presence of serious errors ["Invading the Sacred", p.29] in "Kali's Child". Copies of "Kali's Child Revisited" were distributed at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion [cite journal
last = Sharma
first = Arvind
title = Hindus and Scholars
journal = RELIGION IN THE NEWS
volume = 7
issue = 1
publisher = trincoll.edu
date = Spring 2004
url = http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/RINVol7No1/Hindus%20and%20Scholars.htm
accessdate = 2008-07-17
] and subsequently published in the journal "Evam".cite web
title = EVAM - FORUM ON INDIAN REPRESENTATIONS ~ Issue 1
url = http://www.swaveda.com/journal.php?jid=2&j=Evam
accessdate = 2008-08-20
]

Kripal's translations, his conclusions, and his authority to apply psychoanalysis to Ramakrishna were questioned by several scholars, including Alan Roland, Huston Smith, and Somnath Bhattacharya. [Smith derided Kripal's work as "colonialism updated".cite journal | last = Smith | first =Huston | title = Letters to the Editor | journal = Harvard Divinity Bulletin | volume = 30/1 | pages = Letters | date = Spring 2001] "Freud never had access to non-Western patients, so he never established the validity of his theories in other cultures. This is a point emphasized by Alan Roland, who has researched and published extensively to show that Freudian approaches are not applicable to study Asian cultures." Ramaswamy and De Nicholas, p. 39.] [Somnath Bhattacharyya is emeritus professor and former head of the Psychology Department at Calcutta University(Ramaswamy and DeNicholas, p. 152), and a practicing psychotherapist(Ramaswamy and DeNicholas, p. 152) who is fluent in Bengali(Ramaswamy and DeNicholas, p. 152) and familiar with the primary source material used by Kripal(Ramaswamy and DeNicholas, p. 152). In addition to pointing out that Kripal is not qualified in psychoanalysis, he says the textual errors in Kali’s Child are “particularly grave”, and “large scale distortions of source material in an ill attempted effort at establishing a thesis, is certainly not academically acceptable.” Ramaswamy and DeNicholas, p. 162.]

Kripal responded to the criticisms in journal articles and postings on his website, but stopped participating in the discussion in late 2002. [ [http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kalischi/textuality.html Kali's Child] ]

J.S. Hawley

John Stratton Hawley, Professor of Religion at Barnard College, in his paper "The Damage of Separation: Krishna’s Loves and Kali’s Child"cite journal
last = Hawley
first = John Stratton
title = The Damage of Separation: Krishna’s Loves and Kali’s Child
journal = Journal of the American Academy of Religion
volume = 72
issue = 2
pages = pp.369-393
date = June 2004
url = http://jaar.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/72/2/369?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=ramakrishna&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT
doi = 10.1093/jaarel/lfh034
accessdate = 2008 Aug 18
] examines the following:
* Is it right to think of the religious and erotic realms as overlapping, particularly when a homosexual dimension is involved.
* Second, if Hindus and Hinduism are the subject, should non-Hindus refrain from speaking?

In this study, J.S.Hawley, revisits the Kali's Child debate highlighting one of its central terms — the "vyakulata" feeling of Ramakrishna. J.S.Hawley argues that neither the gopis’ torment nor Ramakrishna’s must be allowed to devolve to a bodily level. Hawley further argues that communities of people who respond to different sexual orientations should not indiscriminately impose their thoughts on religious communities.cite journal
last = Hawley
first = John Stratton
title = The Damage of Separation: Krishna’s Loves and Kali’s Child
journal = Journal of the American Academy of Religion
volume = 72
issue = 2
pages = pp.369-393
date = June 2004
url = http://jaar.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/72/2/369?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=ramakrishna&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT
doi = 10.1093/jaarel/lfh034
quote = neither the gopis’ torment nor Ramakrishna’s must be allowed to devolve to a bodily level that could be indiscriminately shared—either between religious communities, or between the erstwhile colonizers and their erstwhile colonial victims, or between communities of people who respond to different sexual orientations. Eros is too dangerous.
]

Alan Roland

Attempts by modern authors to psychoanalyze Ramakrishna are questioned by practicing psychoanalyst Alan Roland, who has written extensively about applying Western psychoanalysis to Eastern cultures, [Roland, Alan. (1996) "Cultural Pluralism and Psychoanalysis: The Asian and North American Experience". Routledge. ISBN 0415914787.] [Roland, Alan (1998) "In Search of Self in India and Japan: Toward a Cross-cultural Psychology". Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691024588.] [Roland, A. (1991). "Sexuality, the Indian Extended Family, and Hindu Culture". J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 19:595-605.] [Roland, A. (1980). "Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Personality Development in India. Int. R. Psycho-Anal.", 7:73-87.] and charges that psychoanalysis has been misapplied to Ramakrishna. [cite journal | last = Roland | first = Alan | title = Ramakrishna: Mystical, Erotic, or Both? | journal = Journal of Religion and Health | volume = 37 | pages = 31–36 |date=October 2004 | doi = 10.1023/A:1022956932676] [Roland, Alan. (2007) "The Uses (and Misuses) Of Psychoanalysis in South Asian Studies: Mysticism and Child Development". Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America. Delhi, India: Rupa & Co. ISBN 978-8129111821] Roland decries the facile decoding of Hindu symbols, such as Kali’s sword and Krishna’s flute, into Western sexual metaphors—thereby reducing Ramakrishna’s spiritual aspiration to the basest psychopathology.Roland, "Ramakrishna: Mystical, Erotic, or Both?", p. 33.] The conflation of Ramakrishna’s spiritual ecstasy, or samadhi, with unconscious dissociated states due to repressed homoerotic feelings is not based on common psychoanalytic definitions of these two different motivations, according to Roland. He also writes that it is highly questionable whether Ramakrishna’s spiritual aspirations and experiences involve regression—responding to modern attempts to reduce Ramakrishna’s spiritual states to a subconscious response to an imagined childhood trauma. [Roland, "The Uses (and Misuses) Of Psychoanalysis in South Asian Studies: Mysticism and Child Development", published in "Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America". Delhi, India: Rupa & Co. ISBN 978-8129111821, p. 414.]

Kelley Ann Raab

While most of the studies have been conducted from either a primarily psychoanalytic perspective or from the perspective of a devotee, Kelley Ann Raab's work — "Is There Anything Transcendent about Transcendence? A Philosophical and Psychological Study of Sri Ramakrishna", focuses upon Ramakrishna from both a philosophical perspective and a psychoanalytic perspective.Cite journal
author = Kelley Ann Raab
date = Summer, 1995
title = Is There Anything Transcendent about Transcendence? A Philosophical and Psychological Study of Sri Ramakrishna
journal = Journal of the American Academy of Religion
volume = 63
issue = 2
pages = 321-341
publisher = Oxford University Press
location = London
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/1465404
year = 1995
] The study argues that neither a purely psychological explanation nor a solely philosophical account of his visions is adequate to understand his madness or his godliness, but that together psychology and philosophy can deepen our understanding of Ramakrishna and find a common meeting ground. Raab argues that,
* By philosophical analysis of Ramakrishna's devotional mysticism and tantric underpinnings, his visions and behavior were in keeping with his culture and tradition.
* By psychological analysis of Ramakrishna's behavior, he broke through dualistic thought patterns defining gender, humanity, and God by dressing as and imitating a woman.

Ramakrishna's Tantra "Sadhana"

Several scholars have expressed different views on Ramakrishna's tantric sadhana, which consisted of heterodox practices but not limited to the Vamachara — "left hand path", which involves drinking wine, eating rotten flesh, sexual intercourse and Kularnava,
Mahanirvana and Kamalakala Vilasa which are termed as "right-handed path" involving celibate vegetarian lifestyle [cite book
last = Mahatyagi
first = Raman Das
title = Yatan Yoga: A Natural Guide to Health and Harmony
publisher = YATAN Ayurvedics
date = 2008
pages = p.19
] , japa, breath control, concentration, meditation. Depending on an aspirant's disposition, Tantra prescribes a particular method for spiritual practice. In general, the Tantras classify people into three major groups "pasu" (animal), "vira" (hero), "divya" (godlike). According to Saradananda, Ramakrishna was in the "vira" stage during the practice of vamachara. ["The Great Master", "Tantra Sadhana"] Elizabeth U. Harding writes that the Tantra practices are aimed at rousing the "Kundalini" and peircing the six "chakras". Elizabeth argues that Tantra is one of the paths for God-realization and cannot be branded as sensualism.cite book
last = Harding
first = Elizabeth U.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar
publisher = Motilal Banarsidass
date = 1998
pages = p.74-75
isbn = 9788120814509
quote = Through the steadfast spiritual practice, the godlike aspirant rouses the Kundalini and makes her pierce the six centers of mystic consciousness. […] It is sheer nonsense and gross perversion to truth to brand it as gross egoistic hedonism or unrestrained sensualism. Rama Prasada, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Bama Ksepa, and other Sakta saints attained God-realization
]

Christopher Isherwood writes that the object of the tantrik disciplines is "to see, behind all phenomena, the presence of God and to overcome the obstacles to this insight — attraction and aversion"."Ramakrishna and his Disciples", p.101-102] Further Isherwood argues that words which normally carry sensual associations suggested higher meanings to Ramakrishna in his exalted state. For example, the word "yoni", which normally means the female sex-organ, would mean for him the divine source of creation. According to Isherwood, for Ramakrishna the most unconditionally obscene words were scared to him as the vocabulary of the scriptures during the tantra "sadhana". Religious scholars note that the word "linga" represented "purusha", and "yoni" represented "prakruti". [cite book
author = Jean Varenne
coauthors = Derek Coltman
title = Yoga and the Hindu Tradition
publisher = University of Chicago Press
date = 1977
pages = p.151
] [cite book
author = Pi. Si Muralimadhavan
title = Facets of Indian Culture
date = 2000
pages = p.66
quote = Remember that in tantra "yoni" does not mean generative organ of a woman. It means "karana" or cave-the womb of the universe.
]

Neevel argues that, Ramakrishna's followers tend to be apologetic about his taking up tantric practices because of the eroticism that has discredited tantric schools in general and those of Bengal in particular. Neevel argues that the infulence of tantra on this spiritual development is underestimated. [cite book
author = Neevel
title = Transformation of Sri Ramakrishna
pages = p.75-76
quote = Their anxiety about misunderstanding leads them, in my opinion, to underestimate and obscure the importance of tantric influences on his spiritual development.
] . Ramchandra Datta one of the early biographers of Ramakrishna is reported to have said, "We have heard many tales of the Brahmani but we hesitate to divulge them to the public."Sil, "Divine Dowager", p. 42]

In "Kali's Child", Jeffery Kripal argues that "Ramakrishna's world, then, was a Tantric world" ["Kali's Child", p.27] . Kripal further argues that Ramakrishna's Tantric practices were "omnipresent, defining virtually every point along Ramakrishna's spiritual development." ["Kali's Child", p.71] However, other scholars — Swami Tyagananda ["'Kali's Child Revisited", Note.16, Note.51] , Somnath Bhatacharyya, Hugh B. Urbancite journal
last = Urban
first = Hugh B
title = Reviewed work(s): Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna by Jeffrey J. Kripal
journal = The Journal of Religion
volume = 78
issue = 2
pages = pp. 318-320
publisher = The University of Chicago Press
date = Apr., 1998
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/1205982
quote = Kripal lapses all too often into a very popular misconception of Tantra as something "scandalous, seedy, sexy, and dangerous" (p. 32), which is defined primarily by the equation of eroticism and mysticism.
] , Narasingha Sil [Cite journal
author = Narasingha Sil
date = November, 1997
title = Is Ramakrishna a Vedantin, a Tantrika or a Vaishnava? — An Examination
journal = Asian Studies Review
volume = 21
issue = 2
pages = pp. 220
publisher = The University of Chicago
location = American
year = 1997
quote = In order to fit the square peg of a Tantrika Ramakrishna into the round hole of a homosexual Paramahamsa, Kripal manufactures evidence by distorting the meaning of sources.
] , William Radicecite journal
last = Radice
first = William
authorlink = William Radice
title = Reviewed work(s): Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna by Jeffrey J. Kripal
journal = Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
volume = 61
issue = 1
pages = pp. 160-161
publisher = University of London
date = 1998
url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/3107328
] argue that Kripal's conclusions are incorrect.

Notes


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