1. While Nussbaum's book rings a much-needed alarm about India's increasing intolerance and violence, her assessment of the Kālī's Child controversy reveals a surprising lack of knowledge. Nussbaum links Kālī's Child to religiously inspired violence, since among the Indian readers who were outraged by Kālī's Child were members of the nationalist group RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), who have taken a hard line against what they consider to be anti-Hindu sentiments. While this is not the place to thoroughly examine Nussbaum's book, it is important to address some of her more egregious errors.
She writes, for example, that Kripal "drew on a diary of Ramakrishna that had previously been published only in part, in a version edited by Ramakrishna's own disciples, who, it emerges, had omitted many sexual and scatological references" (250). The "diary" in question (later published as the Śrī-Śrī-Rāmakṛṣṇa-Kathāmṛta) was not Ramakrishna's diary but M's. M published his diary himself, without one word changed. It was not edited or overseen by anyone apart from himself. Moreover, M's book was never "edited by Ramakrishna's own disciples"—the diary/book was entirely M's own project. M was, of course, Ramakrishna's disciple and M famously informs the reader that the Kathāmṛta only contains the words that he heard directly from Ramakrishna and the actions he personally observed.
It would appear that Nussbaum refers here to Swami Nikhilananda's much later English translation of M's Bengali Kathāmṛta, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Yet it is important to keep in mind that the Kathāmṛta is in Bengali, not English. The great majority of M's readers are not English readers, but Bengali readers who have read the text exactly as M wrote it. Even Nikhilananda's English translation retains nearly everything that M wrote in the original Bengali edition.
2. Again, this is not the place to deal with these parallel controversies, the only factor in common with the Kālī's Child controversy being the targeted academic and the enraged Hindu community. Paul Courtright's book Gaṇeśa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings (1985) and James Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India (2003) were both viewed as attacks on the Hindu tradition. The latter book was banned by the state of Maharashtra in 2004.
3. For example, we read in Mark Juergensmeyer's Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence: "When an American scholar published a study of one of the RSS's spiritual heroes, Ramakrishna, revealing the homosexual aspects of his mysticism, the clamor of protest in India was enormous, especially among the right-wing supporters of the RSS and the political party they have spawned, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)" (207). It would be much more accurate to say that those in India who were familiar with Ramakrishna and Ramakrishna literature and who subsequently became aware of the Kālī's Child controversy were, by and large, outraged. This was universally true, no matter with which political party Ramakrishna devotees were aligned. There was outrage among Western Ramakrishna devotees as well, who know nothing of, or are indifferent to, the machinations of Indian politics.
4. Swami Tyagananda is currently the Hindu chaplain at both Harvard University and MIT and has been President of Harvard's United Ministry (now known as Harvard Chaplains).
5. See, for example, Parama Roy's Indian Traffic. Gwilym Beckerlegge's The Ramakrishna Mission takes several of Kripal's assertions at face value, and Peter Van der Veer's excellent Imperial Encounters: Religion and Modernity in India and Britain seems to accept Kripal's theses without question. Nicholas F. Gier's otherwise quite good Spiritual Titanism (SUNY Press, 2000) also accepts Kālī's Child as an authentic interpretation of Ramakrishna, and Malcolm McLean's Devoted to the Goddess: The Life and Work of Ramprasad recommends Kālī's Child for "a comprehensive study" on Ramakrishna (SUNY Press, 1998, 159). We have already noted Mark Juergensmeyer's reference to "the homosexual aspect of [Ramakrishna's] mysticism" (Juergensmeyer, 207).
1. Part of the colonial enterprise was to essentialize the native population by ascribing to it fixed characteristics: Bengalis, for example, were effeminate, weak, dreamy, irresolute, irrational. By contrast, the British were rational, masculine, courageous, resolute. Those colonized often challenged the characteristics ascribed to them by radically inverting the pattern imposed upon them. Thus we encounter a reversed essentialism as a means of acquiring the power which lies behind the ability to control the stereotype. In this way the East was essentialized by a number of colonized Hindus as "spiritual" in contradistinction to an essentialized "materialistic" West. Vivekananda famously used this stereotype, along with his explicitly masculine Hinduism, as a native retort to the stereotype of the weak, effeminate Hindu. Throughout this book we employ overarching categories such as "East" and "West" to refer not so much to geographical locations as to general patterns of thinking and training.
2. For a larger discussion of this topic, see Sumit Sarkar's An Exploration of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Tradition and Partha Chatterjee's The Nation and Its Fragments.
3. See Stephen Hay (ed.), Sources of Indian Tradition, vol 2. Second edition.(New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 37.
4. For M's wish that the Kathāmṛta "should spread far and wide and its influence reach every corner of the land," see Vivekananda in Indian Newspapers 1893-1902, Sankari Prasad Basu and Sunil Bihari Ghosh, eds. (Calcutta: Basu Bhattacharyya & Co., 1969), 611. For reasons that prompted the writing of the Līlāprasaṅga, see Akshayachaitanya (95).
5. Taken from the Preface and Acknowledgements of Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita Centenary Memorial, D. P. Gupta and D. K. Sengupta, eds. No page number given.
6. According to Vivekananda scholar Sunil Bihari Ghosh, it is reasonable to assume that the "Part Three" of Paramahaṁsadeber Ukti was considered a sequel to the two booklets already published by the Brahmo Samaj—Part One referring to the book by Keshab Chandra Sen (1878) and Part Two to the book by Girish Chandra Sen (1887). Part Three of Paramahaṁsadeber Ukti was M's compilation (1892). Since Vivekananda expressed his appreciation for M's work in writing on February 9, 1889, it seems clear that either M read out his manuscript to Vivekananda while the latter was in Antpur or Vivekananda read the manuscript himself. Vivekananda conveyed his appreciation in writing rather than verbally as he was observing silence (mauna) during that time. An alternate theory about Parts One and Two of Paramahaṁsadeber Ukti, this one propounded by Vivekananda scholar Sankari Prasad Basu, was that M wrote all three parts of Paramahaṁsadeber Ukti, with the first two parts probably being published before 1889. Since neither the copies of these two parts are available nor is their existence confirmed by any evidence, the authors of this book are inclined to agree with Ghosh's theory.
7. See also CW 6.412-13 for more of Vivekananda's enthusiastic response to M's pamphlets.
8. See Nityatmananda, Śrīma-Darśan, 16 vols.
9. Time, "Religion" (November 2, 1942): 48-50.
10. The New York Herald Tribune, Book Review Section, Sept. 25, 1949.
11. "Master," a common term for a male schoolteacher in Bengal, was how M was occasionally referred to by Ramakrishna and others. In Nikhilananda's translation, "Thakur" was translated as "Master," as in spiritual master. The "Master" in the Kathāmṛta was replaced by "M."
12. According to Mahendranath Dutta, not only was Narendra unhappy with Ram's Jībanabṛttānta, but Balaram Bose and Suresh Mitra—both prominent householder disciples of Ramakrishna—were displeased as well. Besides mentioning these two specific names, Mahendra Dutta writes: "Narendra and others" (Narendranath ityādi . .) Who these "others" are remains unclear. (60-61)
13. See CW 6.207.
14. See, for instance, the text of the lecture Ram gave at the City Theater in Calcutta in 1893 in Mahātmā Rāmacandrer Boktṛtābalī, Part I, 3rd ed. (Calcutta: Sri Sri Ramakrishna Samadhi-Mahapith, 1938). Ram refers to Vivekananda as "a joyful presence free from the hold of lust and greed" (484) and affirms that whatever Vivekananda says is filled with truth and great power (486).
15. The Jībanabṛttānta was first published by the Order in 1945, with a foreword by Swami Madhavananda. In recent years there have been eight Bengali editions published since 1995.
16. See Aseshananda's Glimpses of a Great Soul and Prabuddhaprana's Saint Sara: The Life of Sara Chapman Bull. Both Vrajaprana and Tyagananda have met several disciples of Swami Saradananda as well as North American children of parents who were disciples of Swami Saradananda. Those children, now aged, nevertheless retain the memory of their parents' warm reminiscences of Swami Saradananda, who was loved for his kindness and sweet disposition.
17. See also Saradeshananda's reminiscences in Purnatmananda, 38-39.
18. The word "bhāvamukha" is difficult to translate into English. A study of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava texts is helpful in understanding bhāva, but a detailed analysis of "bhāvamukha" is beyond the scope of this book. Saradananda's elaborate explanation can be found in Līlāprasaṅga 3.1-121.
19. Apart from the unique material on Ramakrishna that was recorded by Ramakrishna's monastic disciples, also indispensable are Swami Nityatmananda's collected sixteen volumes of M's recorded reminiscences, which are available both in Bengali and English.
20. Śrī-Śrī-Rāmakṛṣṇa-Deber Upadeś [The Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna] was compiled by Suresh Chandra Dutta, one of Ramakrishna's close disciples. Many of the 595 sayings of the book were translated into English and published in the Brahmavadin from September 14, 1895-October 1, 1897 (Burke, 303).
21. While it is tempting to speculate that Saradananda's material would eventually form the core of what later became his Līlāprasaṅga, Saradananda had no idea at this point that he would ever write a biography of Ramakrishna. The material which Saradananda pulled together for Müller was based upon his own memory of whatever was known at the time. For this reason there is some incorrect information in Müller's book—for example, Müller writes that Ramakrishna's year of birth was 1833 instead of 1836. The lack of biographical sources and time was difficult enough, but Saradananda also had little idea of the type of information Müller wanted—that is, what material Müller would deem veridical and what would be dismissed as myth. In the end, the biographical material Müller received from Saradananda was written in a matter of weeks with few resources or guidelines to aid him.
22. It is fascinating to see how Mazumdar absorbed Western Victorian virtues and assimilated them thoroughly. As a born-and-bred Bengali, Mazumdar would have been well aware of the nuances in the Bengali language. Further, Mazumdar admits to being drawn by Ramakrishna's lack of sophistication, simplicity and candor. Describing Ramakrishna as a "poor, illiterate, shrunken, unpolished, diseased, half-dressed, half-idolatrous, friendless Hindu" and himself as a "Europeanized, civilized, self-centered, semi-skeptical, so-called educated reasoner," Mazumdar rhetorically asks: "Why should I sit long hours to attend to him, I who have listened to Disraeli and Fawcett, Stanley and Max Müller, and a whole host of European scholars and divines?" (Mazumdar, 3).
23. Prabuddhaprana 1990, 209. Taken from Romain Rolland's journal of May 14, 1927.
24. Mukerji studied at the University of California, Berkeley, transferred to Stanford, and married fellow-student Pat Dugan in 1918. Mukerji lived for some years in the West, never succeeding in fitting into either the West or India. Suffering from depression, Mukerji committed suicide in New York in 1936.
25. Ernst van Alphen astutely notes that "the preference for the other in the case of exoticism is not produced by an interest in and subsequently knowledge of the other, but by a negative view of the observer's own identity or culture. The other is not a description, not even an interpretation of a reality, but the formulation of an ideal, desired identity" (2-3). This is precisely what we find in Mukerji's and Rolland's interpretations of Ramakrishna.
26. Published by Advaita Ashrama in Calcutta, the Life was written by Swami Nikhilananda and edited by Swami Madhavananda. The Foreword was written by Mahatma Gandhi.
27. Rolland describes Ramakrishna being anguished by not having attained the vision of Kālī. In desperation, Ramakrishna reached for Kālī's sword and was overwhelmed: "I saw an ocean of the Spirit, boundless, dazzling" (LR, 33). "Je perçus un océan d'esprit, sans limites, éblouissant" (Rolland 1947, 46).
28. Speaking of Ramakrishna's childhood ecstasies, for example, Rolland wrote that in Europe "the child would have been placed in a lunatic asylum and given a daily shower of psychotherapy" (On mettrait le petit dans une maison de santé, sous la douche quotidienne de psychothérapie) (1929, 25).
29. Swami Tripurananda, letter to Pravrajika Vrajaprana, February 6, 2004.
30. He was once asked what his name meant. "Gnaneswar," he explained, "is a common name, like Joe." "Ananda," he said, "means bliss. So you can call me Joe Bliss."
31. Tolstoy discovered Ramakrishna in 1903 by reading the German journal Theosophischer Wegweiser. He underlined Ramakrishna's aphorisms and wrote in his diary: "Much here is the same as my own understanding." In 1906, excerpts from Max Müller's Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa were sent to Tolstoy. Referring to the book, Tolstoy told a friend that Müller's "selection of the 'sayings' is wonderful. Ramakrishna died 50 [sic] years ago. The most brilliant wise man!" (Vrajaprana 2006, 1100-101).
32. In 1945 Henry Miller returned to America from Paris, making a crosscountry American journey while reading Romain Rolland. "Now that the trip is over," Miller later wrote in The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, "I must confess that the experience which stands out most strongly in my mind is the reading of Romain Rolland's two volumes on Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. . . . [and] the most masterful individual, the only person I met whom I could truly call 'a great soul,' was a quiet Hindu swami in Hollywood" (Miller, 18). The swami was Swami Prabhavananda.
33. Isherwood later decided to remove his own biographical material and pub lish it separately as An Approach to Vedanta (Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1963).
34. According to the reminiscences of the late Swami Pramathananda, the secretary of Swami Madhavananda: "They had requested Swami Madhavanandaji to proof-read the text and ensure its authenticity prior to its publication. Swami Madhavanandaji wavered at the outset and only reluctantly agreed to do so. Once he had agreed, however, his commitment ... his thoroughness, all at the cost of his own personal comfort and ease, at an age when most individuals would much rather take things easy, was very touching. . . . For the last chapter Swami Madhavanandaji had begun work at 7 a.m. and continued for almost eight hours without a break of any kind." A Devotee, "In Gratitude," Vedanta 319 (Sep-Oct 2004): 224.
35. Pravrajika Anandaprana, interview by Pravrajika Vrajaprana, March 27, 2003, Santa Barbara, California. Pravrajika Anandaprana copyedited the book and is thanked by Isherwood in the book's dedication.
36. Isherwood never did—Prabhavananda being virtually impossible to embarrass—yet Isherwood continually worried that he might. Also apparent in some of Isherwood's writings is his guilt that he never succeeded as a monk. For example, see Diaries 250, 261-62; Lost Years, 72, 81.
37. Don Bachardy, Isherwood's partner from 1953 until the latter's death in 1986, said in a phone conversation with Pravrajika Vrajaprana: "Chris believed that Ramakrishna was always acting freely. All later accounts of him restrict the freedom that he [Ramakrishna] exercised." Don Bachardy/Pravrajika Vrajaprana, June 7, 2004.
38. One of Isherwood's diary entries records, for example, that Prabhavananda says something apparently quite ordinary, the effect of which gave Isherwood goose pimples. "It is quite impossible to convey in words the effect made on you by things like this said by someone like Swami—because, of course, it is the man himself, present and speaking to you, and conveying in some otherwise banal sentence, a glimpse of what he is, that makes all the difference." (Isherwood 1997, 656)
39. See, for example, Nancy Wilson Ross, "Madman or Saint?" review of Ramakrishna and His Disciples, by Christopher Isherwood, New York Times Book Review (November 14, 1965), 22-24.
40. While one hesitates to generalize here, it is tempting to observe that in approaching a personality from the Hindu tradition, the lingering shadows of Orientalism would dictate that if God were to assume human form, the EuroAmerican world would know which ethnic group would be favored by his descent. If God's incarnation could be seriously considered, it could be considered only in terms of twentieth-century secularized Christianity—that which Europe and North America considered normative and "rational." That the idea of God incarnating as a Hindu would be automatically considered preposterous says a good deal about how entrenched Orientalist values were, and are. One may doubt that God exists or that a man born of a virgin could be an incarnation of God, but these beliefs can be discussed seriously and respectfully, without them automatically being deemed absurd. No such latitude could be given to Hindus and their avatars.
41. George Woodcock, review of Ramakrishna and His Disciples, by Christopher Isherwood, Commonweal (September 24, 1965): 703.
42. Don Bachardy said that writing under such constraints "took the mickey out of the book." Telephone interview of Don Bachardy by Pravrajika Vrajaprana, June 7, 2004.
43. See, for example, Francis X. Clooney's "Neither Here Nor There: Crossing Boundaries, Becoming Insiders, Remaining Catholic" in Identity and the Politics of Scholarship in the Study of Religion (New York and London: Routledge, 2004) as well as Jeffery D. Long's "Who Am I to Write a Book about Hindu Identity? Confessions of an Irish American Hindu," in his A Vision for Hinduism: Beyond Hindu Nationalism (London: I.B. Tauris & Co., 2007).
44. It needs to be mentioned that this depiction is not accurate in that it portrays Ramakrishna as a passive participant in the process. Ramakrishna's version of what happened is entirely different: "With a firm determination (dṛḍhasaṁkalpa koriyā) I sat for meditation again and, as soon as ... the Divine Mother appeared ... I looked upon knowledge as a sword (gyān ke asi kolpanā koriyā) and cut it mentally in two (dvikhaṇḍa koriyā phellām) with that sword of knowledge. There remained then no idea of differentiation (vikalpa) in the mind; it at once rose above the domain of all name and form, and I entered into samādhi (samādhi-magna hoilām)" (LP 2.295). Moreover, Neevel himself mentions in several places that Ramakrishna was strong-willed; no one could make him do what he did not want to do.
45. That Ramakrishna endorsed jñāna as well as bhakti is confirmed by no less a source than Sarada Devi. When the young Swami Vimalananda sought Sarada's support in pursuing some devotional practices at the Mayavati ashram (which was created exclusively for Advaita practice), Sarada famously replied in a letter dated August 31, 1902: "He who is our guru [Ramakrishna] was an Advaitin. You are all disciples of that guru, so you too are followers of Advaita. I can firmly say, you are all surely followers of Advaita." (Āmāder guru jini, tini to advaita. Tomrā śei gurur śiṣya, takhon tomrā-o advaitabādī. Āmi jor koriyā bolte pāri, tomrā abaśya advaitabādī [Lokeswarananda 1985, 785]).
46. Patricia Cohen, "Freud Is Widely Taught at Universities, Except in the Psychology Department," New York Times, November 25, 2007.
47. Ruth Vanita, co-author of Same-Sex Love in India, has written: "Gay activist Ashok Row Kavi recounts that when he was studying at the Ramakrishna Mission, a monk told him the Mission was not a place to run away from himself, and that he should live boldly, ignoring social prejudice. Row Kavi went on to found the Indian gay magazine Bombay Dost. (http://www.galva108.org/hinduism.html). See Row Kavi, 12-15; Vanita and Kidwai, 216. See also his interview, "India's Pioneer: Ashok Row Kavi" by Perry Brass: http://gaytoday.badpuppy.com/garchive/interview/050399in.htm, where he gratefully acknowledges the "sensible counseling" he received from Swami Harshananda of the Ramakrishna Order, who advised Row Kavi: "Accept it as natural."
48. Row Kavi writes: "It's not only the erroneous attitudes of Thakur's alleged sexuality that are wrong, what I found annoying was Kripal's derisive attitude towards Ramakrishna's various other qualities too. He is culturally condescending and hence insensitive, a quality that is a no-no in any anthropological work." E-mail correspondence with Swami Tyagananda, January 23, 2007. An earlier e-mail from Ashok Row Kavi to Pravrajika Vrajaprana and Swami Tyagananda states that Row Kavi has read Kālī's Child a number of times and has "very strong feelings about the book." He characterizes Kripal as "derisive and diabolic." E-mail correspondence: Ashok Row Kavi to Pravrajika Vrajaprana and Swami Tyagananda, May 15, 2006.
49. Śāktādvaita recognizes only the apparent, and not real, distinction between nirguṇa Brahman and its saguṇa Śakti. When Śakti dwells in Brahman in an unmanifested form, she is called nirguṇa. When she becomes manifest, she is called saguṇa. Thus: Tvam eva sūkṣmā tvaṁ sthūlā vyaktāvyaktarūpiṇī / Nirākārāpi sākārā kastvāṁ veditum arhati, "You are subtle, gross, manifest, unmanifest, with form and also without form. Who indeed can understand you?" (Mahānirvāṇa Tantra, 4.15). On the plane of relative existence, the power which helps manifest the real nature of Śakti is called vidyāśakti, and the power which makes a person forget the real nature of Śakti is called avidyāśakti (Dhireshananda 1962, 75).
50. Ramakrishna used to say, Dayā jār nāi śe mānuṣ-i noy, "A person without compassion is not really a human being." (KA 1.154)
51. It is important to keep in mind how profoundly different cultural roles and expectations are in India compared to the West. Alan Roland writes in Cultural Pluralism and Psychoanalysis: "For boys, the triangular relationship with mother and father is of another order from that of Westerners. The boy never loses his mother. Beginning with prolonged, early symbiotic mothering with intense gratification and physical affection ... it is expected that he remain deeply attached to his mother and deeply involved with his original family throughout life. The young child, boy or girl, sleeps next to his mother until the next sibling is born, and then with another sibling, aunt, or uncle, but almost never alone. Strivings for separation, autonomy, initiative, and self-direction—the hallmark of current American child rearing—are discouraged in the Indian context for dependence and interdependence." (Roland 1996, 136-37)
52. E-mail from Narasingha Sil to Swami Tyagananda, July 26, 2007.
53. Kripal asserts that the Ramakrishna Order, which he characterizes as "the renouncer tradition," developed "a tortured reading of Ramakrishna's Tantric practices ... [that] completely misses the whole point of Tantra" (KC, 124). It is more accurate to state that Kripal and the Ramakrishna Order disagree on what constitutes the "whole point of Tantra."
54. Bhajanananda quotes G. S. Ghurye's Indian Sadhus (Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1966), 235.
55. Bhajanananda notes that "Sri Ramakrishna did not believe ... that all religions are one. He fully accepted the uniqueness of every religion as a separate path to the same ultimate Reality." (Bhajanananda 1980, 88)
56. For example, Bhajanananda's views on worship, taken from his May 1980 Prabuddha Bharata editorial, are discussed at some length in Usha Harding's Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar (York Beach, ME: Nicholas-Hayes, 1993). His writings have been reproduced widely on the internet and have appeared in the North America-based Monastic Interreligious Dialogue as well.
57. See also Sen 2001, 113-14.
58. For example, Ramakrishna says: "It is not harmful for one who follows the path of knowledge to have sex now and then with his own wife. The discharge of semen can be considered the same as the discharge of urine and feces. It is like defecation; once done, it is forgotten. You may enjoy a sweet made of homemade cheese (chānā) occasionally. (Mahimacharan laughs.) This is not so harmful for a householder. But it is extremely harmful for a sannyāsin." (KA 4.68)
59. For a fascinating background on the colonial construction of masculinity, see Mrinalini Sinha's Colonial Masculinity: The "Manly Englishman" and the "Effeminate Bengali" in the Late Nineteenth Century (New York: Manchester University Press, 1995) as well as Indira Chowdhuri's The Frail Hero and Virile History: Gender and the Politics of Culture in Colonial Bengal (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998).
60. This information is provided in the opening pages of all the volumes of the Kathāmṛta and has been included in the single-volume Udbodhan edition as well.
61. See McLean 1989, 14-15.
62. See Kurtz, All the Mothers are One, 34-38; Roland 1996, 13-14.
63. For example, in Ramakrishna Revisited Sil cites and discusses Kathāmṛta 4.238 in which Ramakrishna relates his vision of the chakras. Sil's translation reads as follows: "'I saw a twenty-two or twenty-three years old young man, just like myself, enter the suṣumnā nāḍī and engage in fellatio with the cunt-shaped lotuses: first with the anus, then the penis and the navel. The four-petalled, sixpetalled, and ten-petalled lotuses, which had been drooping, now stood erect." Sil continues: "He also dreamt of the soul with a lolling tongue of fire touch dirt and taste shit—most probably a dream of anal intercourse." (1998, 77)
64. As Sumit Sarkar observed: "The remarkable thing about Ramakrishna's nature imagery is the unselfconscious ease with which he passes from similes conventionally 'beautiful,' to others that would seldom be mentioned in chaste late 19th century bhadralok [educated middle-class] writing. . . . Steadfastness in yogic devotion is conveyed by the image of a bird sitting with total concentration on its egg. But villagers defecating around a Kamarpukur pond can serve Ramakrishna's purpose as well, and as often, as sea or birds. . . . There is no 'dissociation of sensibility' [borrowing from T.S. Eliot] in Ramakrishna, no marking out of a distinct realm of subject or diction as proper or poetic." (Sarkar 1993, 15-16)
65. Jeffrey Kripal writes in "On Devotion, Debate and Dissent," his Foreword to Sil's later publication Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṁsa, that he and Sil came up with similar findings concerning Ramakrishna, though they do not share each other's conclusions. (Sil 1998, xiii-xiv)
66. Sil writes: "Quite possibly he was ... an 'unknown psychotic' in that he remained outwardly a normal individual, while 'forgetting' or 'repressing' his childhood experiences or traumas, and grew up to be a severely neurotic individual. . . . Thus his neurosis or psychosis accounts for his theosis." (1991, 38)
1. Kripal writes that his textual study combined with his mystical/sexual experiences in Kolkata had profoundly changed and healed him: "I realized that ... I had somehow, through dream and ecstasy and textual study, resolved the crisis of the crucified erection that had almost taken my life. . . . The incestuous connection between Mother and Lover had been severed, and both the Virgin Mother of my Catholic upbringing ... and the Tantric goddess of Bengal ... had been transformed into an imaginal Presence far closer to the Lover of my original myth-dream. . . . The Tantra, mediated through Freud, had helped to heal me" (2001a, 252-53).
2. About this aversion to chicken Kanchan Gupta writes: "Till as recently as the mid-20th century, Bengali bhadralok Hindus would not touch chicken or eggs—both were seen as 'Muslim food' or food meant for the mlechchho, both Muslim and Christian. Even Anglicized Bengalis who flaunted their disdain for conservative Hindu society by eating beef and cooking the prohibited meat at home, would not allow chicken to be served on their tables, leave alone consume it. If poultry had to be consumed to keep up with the Europeans, it was duck meat and duck eggs. The Brahmos were more liberal and chicken was served at some Brahmo homes ... but it had to be cooked in a separate kitchen, most often in the courtyard. Later, this became the practice in most Bengali bhadralok Hindu households, although women rarely touched chicken or eggs; their bias against both did not, however, dampen their enthusiasm for maachher jhol and mangshor jhol [fish curry and mutton curry]." "A Chicken and Egg Story," The Pioneer, February 4, 2008.
3. For example, Kripal translates KA 2.67 as: "He grins again and again!" (KC, 232). Yet when we check KA 2.67 we find: Mukhe ek ekbār hāsi jeno phāṭiyā poḍiteche, which means, "Now and then a smile keeps appearing on his face." Again, where M describes Ramakrishna as "slightly smiling" (īṣat hāsya koritechen), Kālī's Child translates the words as "quipped with a grin" (KC, 132). On the same page of Kālī's Child, citing KA 2.141-42, Ramakrishna is reported to "growl" about those who "engage in sinful pleasures in the name of religion" (KC, 132). Yet on checking the citation, one finds instead: "he is saying" (bolitechen) (KA 2.142). There is nothing to suggest that Ramakrishna "growled".
4. Aditi Sen's e-mail states: "Jeff waS my student for 8 months in Calcutta. He came from the University of Chicago with some Bengali. In his case it was fairly elementary. He did not have much knowledge of Indian culture or background. He was very serious & hardworking & a sweet person. My feeling for his book is he had a preconceived notion & worked on that. His Bengali definitely improved after 8 months but not beyond the intermediate stage." E-mail correspondence from Aditi Sen to Pravrajika Vrajaprana, October 25, 2000.
5. Since the Divine is all that exists and is the apparent source of everything, "creation" in the Hindu traditions represents the appearance of everything as a distinct entity, "preservation" is the state in which the distinction is sustained by the divine will, and "destruction" represents the return of everything to the divine source.
6. Another fascinating example is Hugh Urban's The Economics of Ecstasy: Tantra, Secrecy and Power in Colonial Bengal. In the book's Acknowledgments, he thanks both Rachel McDermott and Jeffrey Kripal, who have "helped to show me that it is possible to survive, transcend, and transform the debilitating neuroses that plague so many of us in the academic world" (2001, xii).
7. In Roads of Excess Kripal's journal entry of March 29, 1996, relates that a friend advises him to "see the pain of the [Kālī's Child] controversy as a beginning of a wonderful journey that will deepen and develop my and Ramakrishna's emotional lives. Astonishingly, he thus mirrored back to me ... my own 'memorable fancy' about the work for the saint" (Kripal 2001a, 256; italics in text).
8. For example, the national anthem of Bangladesh, written by Tagore, contains the following line: Takhon khelā dhulā sakal phele, O Mā, tomār kole chute āśi: "Then setting aside all play, O Mother, I run back to your lap." One famous song to the Divine Mother says: Kole tule nite āy Mā "Come, O Mother, take me on your lap" and another: O Mā tor kole lukiye thāki: "O Mother, keep me hidden in your lap." In describing a mother holding a child, a person would normally say, Māyer kole śiśu jīśu. A contemporary painting of Sarada Devi, depicting her holding a child on her lap, appears in many Indian homes today.
9. The other two citations KA 4.245 and KA 4.278 refer to two middle-aged visitors, Pandit Shyamapada Bhattacharya and Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar.
10. M writes in the Kathāmṛta: "Kāche Nityagopāl chilen, tām̐hār kole pā chodāiyā dilen" (KA 3.172). This was translated by Nikhilananda as: "He [Ramakrishna] placed his legs on the lap of Nityagopal, who was sitting near him" (GSR, 778). Dharm Pal Gupta translated the sentence as: "Nityagopal is close to him. Thakur stretches his legs out on Nityagopal's lap" (3.316). Malcolm McLean translates the phrase as: "He [Ramakrishna] put his feet in his [Nityagopal's] lap" (1983, 915). Finally, Sachindra Majumdar translates the sentence as: "He [Ramakrishna] spread his legs on his [Nityagopal's] lap" (3.165). It would appear that, at least in this instance, Bengalis have translated pā as "leg" whereas those unfamiliar with Bengali culture refer to pā as "foot." Similarly with on the lap or in the lap. This variance in translation could be another instance of an outsider/insider divide.
11. Ramakrishna literally says here: seikhānei tini, "there one finds tini." Tini is a third-person pronoun in Bengali, which could mean either he or she (or even "it", when the reference is to Brahman). Ramakrishna often employed this pronoun to refer to the ultimate Reality, which he—at various times—identified with Brahman, the Divine Mother, Śiva or Viṣṇu, depending on the context. In this context of neti neti, it seems clear that tini refers to Brahman.
12. A Bengali equivalent would have been śekhāne.
13. The only indication a reader might have of this would be to read the second half of an endnote which states: "When the English translation (GM) paragraph numbers diverge from the Bengali text, I will note the English reference in parentheses" (KC, 337). What is not disclosed is that while Swami Jagadananda's English translation has paragraph numbers, the Bengali original does not have them. Thus providing paragraph numbers to locate the Līlāprasaṅga reference from the Great Master is completely useless and pointless.
14. The English "monomaniac" appears in parenthesis in the Bengali original (LP 5.66). This may or may not be due to the fact that Narendra reports that at this time he was reading "Abercrombie and other English philosophers."
15. We read, for example, in the Caitanya Caritāmṛta: "Vijuli Khān ... fell down at the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and the Lord placed his foot on his head" (Madhya Līlā, 18.209). A temple which Caitanya used to frequent in Narasiṁha Palli has an ancient statue of Narasiṁha which shows Prahlāda directly under Narasiṁha's foot. In the Śrīvaiṣṇava tradition, Nammālvār, whose parents left him at the feet of Viṣṇu's statue, is said to be the incarnation of the Lord's feet. Examples of the "infinite blessings" to be found at the Lord's (or the Divine Mother's) lotus feet are too copious to enumerate here.
16. It is difficult not to make a connection between Kripal's memories of his seminary dreams of "women bearing rich, milky food" and his seeming preoccupation with Ramakrishna's reference to his young disciples as "new pots"—that is, unspoiled by kāminī kāñcana. Ramakrishna often said that milk stored in a new pot will not turn sour, but should milk be stored in a pot where yogurt has been kept, it will turn sour. Perhaps predictably, Kripal sees "pure pots" as an illustration of Ramakrishna's homoerotic desires for his young male disciples.
17. See MK, 213. Amiya Sen also writes in this connection that in addition to the volumes M had already completed, he "was contemplating at least six to seven volumes after which he hoped to rearrange the entire material chronologically, possibly within a single volume" (2001, 47).
18. On the same note, Kripal's claim that "renouncer interpreters" have "sought to expel M from [Ramakrishna's] inner circle" (KC, 12) is simply breathtaking. Those with knowledge of the Ramakrishna tradition know how profoundly M is revered by monastics as well as by lay members.
19. The letter continues: "No doubt, Jeffrey J. Kripal one day appeared here, met several swamis, including myself, but what he has mentioned in his book is a fictional account. . . . I was amused to read in page 330 that Swami Prabhananda of the Ramakrishna Order is the only living person who had the opportunity to study the diaries in detail. Well, I do not think I have seen all the diaries, for, the diaries which are the possession of the descendants of M are their family property; they claim that all the diaries that were taken by interested persons for reading were not returned. One of the diaries seemed to have been lost. At my suggestion the late Anil Gupta, a grandson of M microfilmed the diaries, but I am sure all the diaries were not micro-filmed." Letter from Swami Prabhananda to Pravrajika Vrajaprana, March 5, 1997.
20. Elaine Pagels, "The Gospel Truth" in The New York Times. Op-ed, April 8, 2006.
21. Within the Hindu tradition, the imparting of spiritual teachings is governed by adhikāribheda. An adhikārin is a qualified spiritual aspirant, a fit student. Adhikāribheda addresses the fact that there is a difference in fitness between one student and another. Some have the ability to assimilate higher spiritual truths and some need to practice more sādhana (in this or future lives) before they will be able to do so. Therefore, when discussing Ramakrishna's guhya Kathā, one needs to keep in mind that these talks were directed to those students whom he considered capable of understanding higher spiritual truths.
22. Kālī's Child also quotes G. M. Carstairs, Stanley N. Kurtz, Wendy Doniger, and others.
23. See Alan Roland's revealing Cultural Pluralism and Psychoanalysis as well as his In Search of Self in India and Japan: Toward a Cross-Cultural Psychology. Further, Sudhir Kakar makes it clear that the psychological makeup of Indians is significantly different from that of Westerners. Kakar's The Analyst and the Mystic reveals a culturally and psychologically nuanced approach to Ramakrishna. For approaches to Indian psychotherapy, see Girindrasekhar Bose, J. S. Neki, S. B. Verma, Ashis Nandy, Erna Hoch, et al.
24. In his Foreword to Adi Da Samraj's Knee of Listening (Middletown: Dawn Horse Press, 2004), Kripal enthuses that Adi Da relates "his Teaching to ... earlier paradigmatic gurus, particularly Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda [and others] ... Adi Da manages to balance an obvious appreciation ... to those who have come before him with a keen critical sense of where their teachings are inadequate or limited" (xiv).
25. The "Five M's" refer to the pañca makāra—the five transgressive elements whose Sanskrit names begin with the letter "M." The practice of the vīra, heroic devotee, entails the actual use of the five elements: wine (madya), meat (māṁsa), fish (matsya), parched grain (mudrā), and sexual intercourse (maithuna). The kind of Tantra practiced by an animalistic devotee (paśu bhāva) is identified with tamas, signifying that the person is not yet ready for the heroic practice of the pañca makāras. The heroic approach (vīra bhāva) is identified with rajas—passion and dynamic activity. The divine approach (divya bhāva) is identified with sattva and the rituals entailed are purely internal and symbolic.
26. See Nivedita 1983, 168. Vivekananda himself mellowed, as far as his own attitude toward Vāmācāra is concerned. Swami Sadashivananda recalled that when Vivekananda was asked by a Buddhist monk whether he believed "all the religions of the world have produced siddhas (the perfected ones)," Vivekananda "not only replied in the affirmative but emphasized this with many illustrations. He added, 'Even in the condemned Vāmāchāra Tantra there have been great siddhas. But you know, our Guru Maharaj [Ramakrishna] used to say that that path is a dirty one'" (RSV, 400). Again, in a letter to the members of the Ramakrishna Order which provided some monastic rules, Vivekananda wrote: "None of you are fit for the Vāmāchāra form of practice. Therefore this should on no account be practised at the Math" (CW 7.494). Thus Vivekananda was not saying that it was not a spiritual path, but rather that the path was not suitable for monastics.
27. Nikhilananda translated a good deal of material which must have raised eyebrows in 1942. For example, "Gauri used to say that when a man attains ecstatic love of God all the pores of the skin, even the roots of the hair, become like so many sexual organs, and in every pore the aspirant enjoys the happiness of communion with the Ātman" (GSR, 346). Or again: "In the course of spiritual discipline, one gets a 'love body,' endowed with 'love eyes,' 'love ears,' and so on. . . . One even gets a sexual organ made of love" (115). Kripal himself acknowledged in a conversation with Vrajaprana that it took great courage for Nikhilananda—one of the few Hindus then living in the United States—to publish this in 1942.
28. KA 2.16 discusses hṛt-padma, "lotus of the heart"; KA 2.37 mentions the difference between a bee and a housefly, how the former drinks only the honey of the flowers, but the latter sometimes sits on the flowers and other times on garbage; KA 2.54 has a song in which Kālī's feet are compared to a blue lotus; KA 4.192 and KA 5.83 compare the relationship between God and the devotee as that between a flower and the bee, and KA 4.147 has no mention whatsoever of flowers.
29. Chetanananda's source is Swami Shantananda, "Svāmī Turiyānanda Mahārājer Sahit Kathopakathan," Udbodhan, 49 (1949), 530.
30. While "dressing Ramakrishna" could be construed to mean "providing Ramakrishna with clothes," the ambiguous way in which the sentence is constructed along with the highly sexualized context of the quote raises the question of whether Mathur literally dressed Ramakrishna himself.
31. It is not unlikely that Kripal picked this up from Sil's Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṁsa: A Psychological Profile. About Tota, Sil writes: "Most probably the naked phallus of the big man made an abiding impression on Rāmakṛṣṇa" (1991, 67). Given the above, it is interesting that Sil has taken umbrage at Kripal's theory that Ramakrishna was homoerotically inclined.
32. The "proof" of Ramakrishna's purported "excitement" is that his "penis responds with a 'pearl' of lubricatory fluid, a physiological response that implies an actual erection" (161). But Kripal's "proof" is based on an incorrect translation combined with cultural ignorance: "it became adorned with a pearl!" (161, quoting KA 4.106) rather than the correct "A pearl would be put on it" (muktā parāno hoto). It is quite common during worship to decorate a Śiva liṅgam with jewels such as pearls.
33. Ramakrishna's disciples often referred to him as "Ṭhākur" or "Paramahaṁsadeva" or "Guru Mahārāj." Swami Vivekananda referred to him also as "Ātmarām"—one immersed in the Ātman.
34. Not only are not all secrets sexual, they are also not always associated with religion. Every country has intelligence services which work under a mandatory code of secrecy. Even Coca-Cola prosecuted a former employee for attempting to sell their secret formula. We tend to take any number of secrets for granted, unless they are associated with religion or sex.
1. "Revealing and Concealing the Secret: A Textual History of Mahendranath Gupta's ŚrīŚrīrāmakṛṣṇaKathāmṛta" was published in Calcutta, Bangladesh and Bengal Studies in 1992; "Ramakrishna's Foot: Mystical Homoeroticism in the Kathāmṛta" appeared in 1992 in Religion, Homosexuality and Literature, edited by Michael L. Stemmeler and José Cabezón; "Kālī's Tongue and Ramakrishna: 'Biting the Tongue' of the Tantric Tradition" was published in History of Religions in November, 1994.
2. Raab writes: "Psychological explanations alone are inadequate to account for [Ramakrishna's] later behavior and spiritual insights. . . . If Ramakrishna's visions had been solely the product of a sick psyche, it is doubtful that his teachings would have retained such a wide appeal among respected persons of both eastern and western traditions. Hence, an exploration of some alternative explanations of Ramakrishna's mystical visions is also needed." (326)
3. Conveyed to Vrajaprana in a conversation at his home in New York in 2002.
4. Even in India, where insider readership is highest, only 2,000 copies were printed. A second printing of another 2,000 copies was done in March 2003. E-mail to Pravrajika Vrajaprana from Swami Prabhananda, then head of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, December 15, 2004.
5. As we have mentioned earlier, Nussbaum places the Kālī's Child imbroglio within the context of Hindu rightwing extremism and the threat this holds to India's history of democracy, tolerance, and religious pluralism.
6. Wendy Doniger writes in the book's Foreword, for example: "I found myself smiling often and laughing almost as often as I read it." So great was Doniger's delight that as she was reading the manuscript at the beach, Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer offered to trade her their novels "so evident was my pleasure in [reading] it," Doniger attests. (KC, ix)
7. The Statesman is published in Kolkata but has a Delhi edition as well. According to The Statesman website (http://www.thestatesman.net), the paper's weekly circulation is approximately 180,000 with a Sunday circulation of 230,000. By contrast, The Times of India, one of the most widely read newspapers in India, has a daily circulation of 2.4 million.
8. While Sil's language should have been expected by those familiar with his scholarship, it is surprising that the staid, determinedly middle-class Statesman would print it. For example, Sil writes: "Indian Tantra with its secret sex, shit, piss, cock and cunt ..." Sil's conclusion was equally raw: "Kripal has ransacked Ramakrishna's chora kuthuri [lit., "back door," which Kripal believes to be the anus], unearthed its 'treasures' and served them on a rich platter—plain shit."
9. It should be noted, however, that for one living in India at that time, obtaining a copy of a book published by the University of Chicago, and extremely expensive by Indian standards, would be no easy task.
10. Apparently William Radice tried to defend Kālī's Child in a letter to The Statesman, but the letter was not published.
11. "Now Let It Rest," The Statesman, Vol CXXXI, No. 42, (February 18, 1997): 10.
12. To his credit, Kripal took it on the chin and apologized in Kālī's Child's second edition for his error and for any wounded feelings his error may have caused.
13. This point was also corrected in Kālī's Child's second edition.
14. There is no evidence of this, though it is clear that Narendra (later Swami Vivekananda) did not think highly of the book and did not want his name included in it. He was not, however, the only disciple of Ramakrishna to make this stipulation.
15. The scholar who was misquoted is Robert Ellwood. It should be mentioned that while Swami Tyagananda also never met Isherwood, Pravrajika Vrajaprana was acquainted with Isherwood and has known several of his friends for over forty years.
16. Sumit Sarkar, "Ramakrishna and the Calcutta of His Times" in The Calcutta Psyche ed. Geeti Sen. (Calcutta: Rupa & Co, 1991).
17. Telephone interview of Sumit Sarkar by Swami Tyagananda, February 8, 2005.
18. Sarkar's footnote states: "I feel now that my initial paper on Ramakrishna, entitled "Kathamrita as Text: Towards an Understanding of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa," despite its title, was insufficiently aware of these dimensions [the authorial strategy of M., for example ]." (Sarkar 1993, 5)
19. Anita Katyal, "Book on Ramakrishna Kicks up a Controversy," The Sunday Times of India, April 6, 1997.
20. E-mail correspondence between Pravrajika Vrajaprana and D. P. Bagchi, June 5, 2005, and June 7, 2005.
21. In this connection Takayuki Yokota-Murakami has written: "When two cultures of considerably disproportionate political and economic forces meet, first, the alien conceptual framework of the culture of the greater power is imposed on the culture of the lesser power; second, what is important to be known in the former is grafted onto that of the latter, to the distortion and the deletion of aboriginal significations; third, the paradigms thus imposed become objectified and reified. The way of knowing is culturally specific, and deserves equal rights." (108)
22. Marshall was staying at the then-existent retreat house of Sarada Convent, where she was under the care of Gerda Zinn, a householder devotee. According to an interview with Zinn, Marshall had informed her that she was writing a book about Ramakrishna, and Zinn asked if she could read it. Zinn stated in a telephone interview with Vrajaprana on March 11, 2004, that she "remembered the incident vividly, as if it were yesterday." Zinn stated that Marshall was "influenced by Freud," and her manuscript suggested that Ramakrishna had a homosexual desire for Vivekananda. Zinn, who says she was "aghast," called Prabhavananda "to let him know." Prabhavananda asked Marshall to come to the convent to meet him. Apparently Prabhavananda, initially outraged, spoke extensively with Marshall and according to Zinn: "She changed her mind about Ramakrishna." According to the diary of Sarada Convent, Oct 6, 1962, their meeting and long lunch was friendly and enjoyable for all participants.
About this incident Isherwood writes in My Guru and His Disciple: "Swami was outraged. He met with the author, who was persuaded or intimidated into deleting this passage from the manuscript. I could understand Swami's indignation, although, as a homosexual, I couldn't altogether share it. Certainly, the author's statement about Ramakrishna and Vivekananda was irresponsible and unsupported by any convincing evidence. Still, it didn't shock me so much that I was unable to examine it, and my reactions to it, calmly." (247)
23. See, for example, Sarkar, 1992, and Sarkar, 1993. Sarkar reports that Ramakrishna is no longer the focus of his work.
24. The discussion occurred during a tea and conversation in 2001 at Boston College between Jeffrey Kripal and Swami Tyagananda, which was arranged and attended by Francis X. Clooney.
25. The monk in question is Robert Adjemian (also known as Brahmachari Nirvana Chaitanya). It also needs to be stated that this monk was never asked or expected to change his opinions.
26. Kripal writes that a "conspicuous feature of the controversies surrounding Kālī's Child ... [is] the fact that my critics have been so strangely silent about any number of Indian intellectuals who have addressed the homoerotic dimensions of Ramakrishna's life both well before and after me" (Kripal 2004, 203). The Indian intellectuals Kripal cites are Sumit Sarkar, Parama Roy, and Sudhir Kakar, whom we have discussed in earlier pages. Astonishingly, Kripal also includes in this list Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai's book Same-Sex Love in India. One wonders whether Kripal actually opened the book, since there is nothing in Ruth Vanita's chapter, "Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa," which supports any of Kripal's theses. Indeed, the chapter includes a long quotation from Ramakrishna's disciple Swami Vijnanananda on how Ramakrishna transmitted spiritual power to him as well as Vivekananda's familiar story of how Ramakrishna greeted him as an incarnation of Nārāyaṇa. The chapter's sources are Ramakrishna and His Disciples, Nikhilananda's Gospel and the Great Master.
Same-Sex Love in India does not define "love" via sexuality or eroticism. As Vanita and Kidwai point out in their Preface, their book "focuses on love, not sex." As importantly, they write that "ideas of what is sexual and what is not change with place and time" (xiii). Hence, Vanita notes in her essay on Ramakrishna that when Ramakrishna asked Narendra why he had continued to visit him, even when he was ignored, Narendra replied, "Do you think I come here just to have you speak to me? I love you. I want to see you. That is why I come." Vanita states that Ramakrishna's "most intense emotional relationships were with the young men who were drawn to him," but she also notes that "Ramakrishna had loving relationships with many devotees, married and unmarried, men and women." (231)
27. We can recall the famous apocryphal incident of Mīrābāi and Jīva Gosvāmī (Rūpa Gosvāmī according to another version): Jīva Gosvāmī was the head of the Vaiṣṇava community in Vrindaban. Mīrā wanted to meet him, but he refused to see her because he did not allow women in his presence. To this rebuff Mīrābāi replied: "Everybody in Vrindaban is a woman. Only Giridhar Gopāla is a man. Today I have discovered that there is another man besides Kṛṣṇa in Vrindaban." Deeply ashamed, Jīva immediately went to see Mīrā and paid his respects to her.
28. As Vivekananda told Nivedita: "I loved the man you see, and that held me. I thought him the purest man I had ever seen, and I knew that he loved me as my own father and mother had not the power to do" (Basu, 156). Or as Vivekananda said to M, seven months after Ramakrishna's death: "He tamed us by his love" (tini bhālobeśe āmāder bośībhūto korechilen) (KA 3.268).
29. While Narendra's arrival in Dakshineswar was generally a joyful occasion for Ramakrishna, suddenly Ramakrishna began treating Narendra with indifference. Ramakrishna did not acknowledge his presence, did not ask about him, and instead talked to others in the room. A week later when Narendra returned, the same thing happened. Narendra spent the day there, and Ramakrishna gave no sign of interest or even recognition. This continued for over a month and the entire time Narendra kept returning to see him. Noting that Narendra was continuing his visits despite the indifference he received, Ramakrishna said, "How is it that though I don't speak a word to you, you still continue to come here?" Narendra replied, "Sir, it is not your words alone that draw me here. I love you and want to see you, therefore I come." (LSV, 289-90)
30. The scare quotes around "homosexuality" are Roy's own.
31. See http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kalischi/secret.html. This was later reiterated in Kripal 2002, 199.
32. Most branches of the Ramakrishna Order perform the autumnal worship of Kālī, and many Ramakrishna devotees, including many monastics of the Order, have a personal devotion to her. It is not unusual for both lay and monastic members of the Ramakrishna Order to have in their personal shrines a small picture or image of Kālī, who is offered daily worship.
1. Kālī's Child employs "two hermeneutical strategies" in its interpretation: psychoanalysis, which is "a product of [Kripal's] own cultural heritage" and the Hindu Tantra, which is "indigenous to Bengali culture" (KC, 6). But the Tantric categories manufactured for Kālī's Child have nothing to do with the philosophy that guides Tantra and everything to do with "magical power, strangeness, seediness, and sex," which is the book's reductionistic presentation of Tantra. According to Kripal, the philosophical expositions of Tantra are inauthentic because they are "designed to rid Tantra of everything that smacked of superstition, magic, or scandal" (KC, 28-29). Since this understanding of Tantra is neither supported by Tantra practitioners nor indigenous to Indian culture, the Tantric categories used in the book cannot be treated as indigenous.
2. Kripal was certainly addressing one "specific audience" when he warned his "devotional and Indian readers" that if they rejected him for his theses, they would find themselves rejecting "their own saint" Ramakrishna. He counseled them not to walk down that path (KC, xiv).
3. Ernst van Alphen writes in this regard: "When 'I' speak about the other, I remain in fact caught in the process of defining or demarcating my selfimage. . . . 'We' cannot analyze alterity without at the same time analyzing 'our' identity." (Van Alphen, 15)
4. Kripal writes: "It is not my ideas that are the most troubling ... it is my skin color and the accident of my birth. It is ... the fact that these truths were spoken by an ethnic outsider that constitutes the deepest scandal" (Kripal 2004, 203). Yet as Kripal knows, two of his most vocal critics, Pravrajika Vrajaprana and Swami Atmajnanananda, are "ethnic outsiders" whose skin tone matches his own.
5. Kripal has responded to this criticism, disputing the "'one hundred million Hindus cannot be wrong' argument" by noting that this "works astonishingly like the 'one hundred million Christians cannot be wrong' thesis (remember evolution and the Scopes trial?) or the 'one hundred million Muslims cannot be wrong' position (jihad as a primarily internal or psychological category?). . . . In any case, it turns out that they can all be wrong, and this for a very simple reason: ethnic or religious identity carries absolutely no necessary intellectual force and in many cases actually works against free radical inquiry and probable historical conclusion" (Kripal 2004, 203). However, linguistic incompetence and cultural ignorance cannot be classified in the same league as jihad and evolution. In the areas of Bengali language and Bengali culture, millions of Bengalis will surely have a deeper and more comprehensive knowledge than Kripal who lived in India for eight months and whose language skills, according to his Bengali tutor, never advanced "beyond the intermediate stage." (E-mail correspondence from Aditi Sen to Pravrajika Vrajaprana, October 25, 2000.)
6. For the danger of subjectivity in translating religious texts, see Nida, 154-55.
7. See KC, 325-28.
8. See KC, 4 ("mystico-erotic energies"); 6 ("mystico-erotic experiences"); 44 ("mystico-erotic union"); 45 ("mystico-erotic energy");196 ("mystico-erotic love"). The book abounds in such usages. For more examples, see KC, 24, 33, 44, 45, 50, 51, 89, 157, 188, 196, 199, 227, 236, 237, 240, 263, 266, 279, 291, 308, 313, 315, 316, 323, 325, 326. Instances of "erotic" used as simply "erotic" in the popular sense are too numerous to be mentioned here, but see KC, 5, 33, 67, 88, 96, 124.
9. See also White 2003, 13.
10. The Five M's consist of madya, wine; māṁsa, meat; matsya, fish; mudrā, parched grain, and maithuna, sexual union. These are used in the Vāmācāra (left hand) sect of Tantra. In the Dakṣinācāra (right hand) sect, the five forbidden substances are replaced with coconut juice, cheese, ginger, rice and honey. There are also sects which practice only the internal observances of the Five M's: steadying the mind, breathing in, breathing out, holding the breath, and meditation.
11. For a different view of what Tantra "feels like," see McDaniel 2000, 72-80.
12. Hugh Urban's criticism bears repeating here. According to Urban, Kripal's understanding of "Tantra" and his identification of Ramakrishna as a "Tantrika" is problematic because he ignores the fact that "the category of 'Tantra' as a singular, unified entity is itself an imaginary construction of 19th century British Orientalists. Ramakrishna and his disciples were themselves an important part of the way in which Tantra came to be defined in Western discourse. Second, Kripal lapses all too often into a very popular misconception of Tantra as something 'scandalous,' 'seedy,' 'sexy,' and 'dangerous,' which is defined primarily by the equation of eroticism and mysticism. . . . Sexuality is in fact but one, rather limited, and not necessarily the most important element of ... Tantra." (Urban 1996)
13. See KC, 31: "In Ramakrishna's own words, this Tantric world is 'beyond form and the formless.'"
14. Kripal writes: "Everything depends upon one's hermeneutical stance" (KC, 45). While he recognizes this, he also displays remarkable impatience with the "hermeneutical stance" of those who disagree with him and summarily dismisses their views with allegations of censorship and denial.
15. While Kripal selectively quotes from Tantra books, his view of Tantra is primarily based on what he believes is "Tantric" in the Kathāmṛta, a book which does record some of Ramakrishna's Tantric practices and visions but is far from being a book on Tantra.
16. The non-academic translations of Nikhilananda, Majumdar and Dharm Pal Gupta skip yonirūp and translate ramaṇ as "commune" (GSR, 744, 830; Majumdar 4.242; Gupta 3.253). Gupta translates ramaṇ in the Kathāmṛta's fourth volume as "play intimately" (4.448).
17. Kripal translates yonirūp as "vagina-like" (KC, 196, 324) or "vaginashaped" (KC, 45, 127-29), and ramaṇ as "erotically playing" or "made love" (KC, 127). McLean translates the contested words as "intercourse with vaginalike lotuses" (McLean 1983, 4.1355). Sil translates them as "engaged in oral sex with the vagina-shaped lotuses" (Sil 1991, 64).
18. Nikhilananda's rendering of the vision appears on pages 744, 830, and 934 of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Page 934 significantly differs from the first two references. In contrast to the earlier references, Ramakrishna here speaks of the person in the vision who shook his iḍā, piṅgalā and suṣumnā nerves: "When I attained this state of God-Consciousness, a person exactly resembling myself thoroughly shook my Idā, Pingalā, and Sushumnā nerves. He licked with his tongue each of the lotuses of the six centers, and those drooping lotuses at once turned their faces upward. And at last the Sahasrāra lotus became full-blown."
19. We are indebted to Francis X. Clooney for this translation.
20. Patricia Leigh Brown, "Hey There, Couch Potatoes: Hot Enough for You?" New York Times, July 27, 2003.
21. Miller visited Swami Prabhavananda in Los Angeles in 1945 after returning to the United States from Paris. Depressed and anxious, Miller met with Prabhavananda and later wrote that he had "found the most masterful individual, the only person I met whom I could truly call 'a great soul,' [who] was a quiet Hindu swami in Hollywood" (Miller, 18). Miller met Prabhavananda only once but the meeting "left a great impression on my mind," as he wrote in a letter to Prabhavananda on August 2, 1956 (archives of the Vedanta Society of Southern California). On June 16, 1962, Miller wrote in a letter to the managing editor of Vedanta Press: "I shall remember [Prabhavananda] to the end of my days." In the same letter Miller wrote: "I can only say that Swami Vivekananda remains for me one of the great influences in my life—one of the great exemplars" (Letter of Henry Miller to Ursula Bond; archives of the Vedanta Society of Southern California).
22. An inquiry to the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, the publisher of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, elicited the following information: "I am sorry to say that our records for the early years (beginning with the publication in 1942) are very scanty. But, taking our best guess, we would give you a total figure of approximately 60,000 copies sold to date." E-mail from Swami Vidananda to Pravrajika Vrajaprana, September 12, 2005. This number dims in comparison with the sale of the Bengali original, which has sold, literally, millions of copies. See the following note.
23. Swami Lokeswarananda has written: "After the first volume of the fivevolume Śrī Śrī Rāmakṛṣṇa Kathāmṛta was published, seventeen more editions came out, and the seventeenth was reprinted twenty-two times. The second volume went through eleven editions, and the third volume had nine editions. The fourth volume also had nine editions, and the ninth was reprinted twentythree times. The fifth volume had six editions, and the sixth edition was reprinted sixteen times." When the Kathāmṛta's copyright with the Kathamrita Bhavan expired in 1983, "six publishing companies published various versions of the Kathāmṛta; within a few days, at least ten more companies also published the book. Yet the books from all these publishers—adding up to several hundred thousand copies—were completely sold out within a few days. . . . As a result of the tremendous competition, the price of the book was greatly reduced, thus allowing [it] to be read by more people. . . . In fact, in one Calcutta neighborhood there was such a rush to buy the book that the police had to be called in. . . . Articles in newspapers appeared bearing such captions as, 'The Kathāmṛta Sales Explosion.' One article published in Cochin's The Week bore the title, 'Ramakrishna Outsells Marx.'"(Lokeswarananda 1992, 15-16)
24. The quote comes from Kripal's "Textuality, Sexuality, and the Future of the Past: A Response to Swami Tyagananda" (http://www.hds.harvard.edu/dpa/news/news/kripal.html), which was written to counter Tyagananda's "Kali's Child Revisited: Or Didn't Anyone Check the Documentation?" Kripal characterizes Tyagananda's response as weak when addressing Kālī's Child's homoerotic theses, "the subtleties of which Swami Tyagananda clearly does not understand, perhaps because he is not familiar with contemporary gender studies, queer theory, psychoanalysis, or feminism." A revised version of Kripal's article was later published in Evam (2002) and does not include this passage.
25. Personal correspondence from S. S. Sankaranarayanan to Swami Tyagananda, March 10, 2003.
26. See previous note. The quote is from Aurobindo's Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol, rev. ed. (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1993), 528.
27. McLean translates the same passage in this way: "Krishna himself had to do much sadhana with Radha. She was the Brahmayoni, he had to worship it and meditate on it. From this Brahmayoni many universes were born. It's very mysterious! I used to see visions under the bel tree—flashing like fire!" (McLean 1983, 4.1348). Mazumdar translates it in a similar way: "Krishna himself went through intense spiritual practices with the emblem of Radha. The emblem is the birth sign [fn: symbol] of Brahman from which universes arise. Worship of that emblem and meditation on it. Billions of universes are coming into being from this sign of Brahman (Brahma yoni). Very great secrets. I had visions of it under the bel tree. It scintillated." (Mazumdar, 4.237)
28. The richly diverse and often overlapping mythological accounts of these stories can be found in the Mahābhārata as well as many Purāṇas, especially Śiva, Skanda, Kūrma, Vāmana, Liṅga, and Brahmāṇḍa. For a good summary of the various versions, see Kramrisch, 153-61.
29. See Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, 6.9: na tasya kaścit patir asti loke, na ceśitā naiva ca tasya liṅgam.
30. Amiya Sen points out that the Vedānta/Tantra dialectic "reflects in many meaningful ways the far older contestations between the Purva-Mimamsa and Uttara-Mimamsa traditions. In its aversion for asceticism or speculation but the emphasis on kriya [action], Tantra may indeed have been a derivative of the Mimamsa traditions." Sen writes that Alex Sanderson's "Purity and Power among the Brahmins of Kashmir" in Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy and History "broadly uphold[s] this claim" (2001, 127; 147). Significantly, Sen continues: "This suggests to me that the Vedanta-Tantra polemic is not so much a Brahminical-non-Brahminical, Great Tradition-Little Tradition polemic as inner differentiation within the polyvocal Brahminical tradition" (127).
31. For further reading along these lines, see Sugirtharajah 2003, 45-46. We are reminded here of Max Müller who was convinced that he alone had the hermeneutical key for understanding the Vedas. Hindus, were quite incapable of doing so. Müller urged: "Accept the Veda as an ancient historical [in contrast to religious] document, containing thoughts in accordance with the character of an ancient and simple-minded race of men. . . . Accept the past as a reality, study it and try to understand it, and you will then have less difficulty in finding the right way towards the future." (Müller 1902, 111)
32. McLean writes: "I think [Ramakrishna's] ambivalence tending on dislike of women, this fear of their presence and their power, stems from his homosexuality" (1983, lxxxv). Olson identifies Ramakrishna as a misogynist, yet adds: "Because Rāmakrishna was a product of his culture, he inherited and espoused many of the negative attitudes toward women in general gained from his cultural heritage" (1990, 38). Sil writes: "Ramakrishna's contempt for women was basically a misogynist attitude of an insecure male, who thought of himself as a woman in order to fight his innate fear of the female" (Sil 1998, 64). Sarkar wrote: "In conversations with male—and particularly young—disciples, Ramakrishna often struck a positively misogynist note" (Sarkar 1987, 27). Kripal's early writings on Ramakrishna show consistency on the subject: "[Ramakrishna's] relationship to Sharada was often marked by a flagrant misogyny" (1995b, 364).
33. Dharm Pal Gupta writes in his translation of the Kathāmṛta: "Sri Ramakrishna used the Bengali words kamini kanchana very frequently in the original five volumes of Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita. We believe he used this phrase to warn his disciples of lust and greed, which are the main obstacles to spiritual progress. Moreover, Sri Ramakrishna looked upon all women as the very manifestations of the Divine Mother. Accordingly, we have used the term 'lust and greed,' or 'lust and gold,' instead of 'woman and gold' as a translation of kamini kanchana" (3. xiii).
34. See Atmajnanananda, 405-406.
35. One of the most famed and one which Ramakrishna sang often is: "Rone eśeche kār kāminī?" ("Who is that Woman yonder who lights the field of battle?") (KA 5.61). Other Bengali songs which use kāminī are easily found in songbooks such as Saṅgīt-Saṅgraha (Deoghar: Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith), for instance: "Kāminī jāmini-barone bāmā ke elo rone," "Ke re kāminī naba daminī," "Kakhono ki roṅge ... kāla-kāminī."
36. See also Parama Roy, 96-97.
37. To this day, the Gauḍīya tradition does not shy away from these teachings. A quick survey of the internet shows several contemporary references to, for example, the "8 Aspects of Subtle Sex Life" (http://www.prabhupada.org/rama/?p=2748) or "Eight Aspects of Brahmacarya" (http://wiki.gaudiyakutir.com/Brahmacarya).
38. From the Vairāgya Mārtaṇḍa: Smaraṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ keliḥ prekṣaṇaṁ guhya-bhāṣaṇam / saṇkalpo'dhyavasāyaś ca kriyā-nirvṛtir eva ca / etan-maithunam aṣṭāṇgaṁ pravandanti manīṣiṇaḥ / viparītaṁ brahmacaryam etad evāṣṭa-lakṣaṇam. "Thinking of women, talking to them, playing with them, looking at them again and again, talking with them in secret, intending to have sex with them, making the effort to have sex, and indulging in sex—these, according to the wise, are the eight types of sexual intercourse, and it is these very eight aspects which are opposed to celibacy."
39. From Śaṅkarā's Sarva-Vedānta-Siddhānta-Sāra-Saṁgraha, 109-110: Smaraṇaṁ darśanaṁ strīṇāṁ guṇakarmānukīrtanam / samīcīnatvadhīstāsu prītiḥ saṁbhāṣaṇaṁ mithaḥ / sahavāsaśca saṁsargo'ṣṭadhā maithunaṁ viduḥ. "Thinking of women, looking at them, lavishly praising their qualities and deeds, imagining their proximity, loving them, talking to them in private, living with them, and having sex with them—are said to be the eight kinds of sexual intercourse."
40. We read Ramakrishna's words in another section of the Kathāmṛta: "He [Rakhal] lives with his family. He has a wife. And a son has been born to him. But he has realized that all these are illusory and impermanent. Rakhal and others will never be attached to the world" (KA 2.27). Rakhal's son died at a young age. Rakhal's wife, a sister of Ramakrishna's disciple Manomohan Mitra, was maintained by Rakhal after he left to become a monk, until her death at a fairly young age.
41. Sumit Sarkar writes a great deal on the hardships borne by Kolkata's ill-paid lowly clerical workers. Their work was demoralizing and culturally alienating, yet increasingly difficult to obtain. Sarkar quotes from the 1885 play Kerani-Charit: "We lose the day's salaries if we reach office a minute late ... half the salary goes on fines ... there is not a single gap in our day's routine" (1990/91, 105. See also 1993, 28-31).
42. A few days before this conversation, Maku's baby son had died and another son had just been born to her.
43. Kripal presents as distorted a view of Sarada in "Perfecting the Mother's Silence" as we find in his distorted presentation of Ramakrishna in Kālī's Child. While we cannot address the many problems in that article here, it is enough to say that the number of errors—factual, linguistic and cultural—are simply stunning. To enumerate and address them all would require a lengthy essay. Apart from a large number of basic factual errors, however, the article's pervasive disparaging tone is as problematic as its gross inaccuracies. Throwaway remarks such as "perhaps she enjoyed the attention" (Kripal 2001b, 173) regarding Kripal's thesis that Sarada began to believe in her own divinity, are a case in point. Not only do they not provide more knowledge about Sarada, they only serve to make the article appear meanspirited.
44. Ramakrishna's disciples—Trigunatitananda, Abhedananda and M— were also given mantras by her.
45. We also read in Māyer Kathā what Sarada said about his concern for her: "Thakur, who was such a tyāgi (renunciant) nevertheless worried about me. One day he asked me: 'How much do you need for your expenses?' I replied, 'Five or six rupees will be enough.'" (MK, 348-49)
46. Rimli Bhattacharya writes: "One of the frequent charges against Girish Ghosh was that he 'ran his theatre with whores.'" (14)
47. Bhattacharya's endnote about this incident says: "Ramakrishna suffered from cancer of the throat. . . . In the course of his illness, he rested for a few months in a rented house in Shyampukur Street where entry to his chamber was strictly guarded by zealous disciples; Binodini, disguised as a saheb, succeeded in meeting him with the help of another devotee." (125)
48. Pravrajika Anandaprana, A Historical Record: From Conversations with Swami Prabhavananda. Unpublished reminiscences of Swami Prabhavananda. This excerpt is dated September 27, 1973.
49. For example, Kripal uses Bipinchandra Pal as a source on Ramakrishna, yet Bipinchandra never met Ramakrishna. Kripal uses the text to make a point (KC, 51), but admits in an endnote the unreliability of the source (KC, 341), and then uses the material again (KC, 77) to cement his thesis.
50. See also Chetanananda 1989, 155-71.
51. These reminiscences were originally written in English. Aseshananda (1899-1996) came to the United States in 1947 and never returned to India. All his writings were in English, hence the use of "Sri Ramakrishna" and "the Master" rather than "Thakur," etc.
52. Vrajaprana spent a good deal of time with Aseshananda, a disciple of Sarada Devi, who was in the United States from 1947 until his death in 1996 in Portland, Oregon.
53. According to Devamata's Introductory Note: "What I have told in these pages came to me from many sources—from the widowed wife [Sarada], from the immediate disciples and from householder devotees, with all of whom I was closely associated in India." (xv)
1. See also Nida, 1-2.
2. Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 594.
3. See also Bhagavad Gītā 10.38, 18.63, 18.68, 18.75. Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2.1.1; Kaṭha Upaniṣad 1.3.17, 2.2.6; Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 2.10, 3.20; Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 2.1.10, 3.1.7; Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad 2.4. This is only an abbreviated list. One could produce, literally, pages of references for guhya.
4. It is tempting to wonder whether we are not harking back here to Kripal's earlier teenage fantasy of an ithyphallic Christ (Kripal 2001, 91) rather than the non-ithyphallic Śiva whom Ramakrishna worshiped in the Dakshineswar's Kālī temple.
5. Kripal is supposedly referring to a poem of Ramprasad here, as there is a citation from Jivani o Samgraha (Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 1971), no. 277. While Kālī's Child states: "Streams of blood ... let loose no doubt by her sword, flow ceaselessly down her round sexy thighs" (KC, 51), there is nothing even close to this in the cited text.
6. For other examples, see: KC, 4, 5, 32, 57, 65, 66, 68, 71, 75, 79, 86, 87, 91, 100, 108, 109, 130, 140, 142, 162, 163, 171, 209, 211, 220, 264, 269, 297. In this way, Kālī's Child can speak of Ramakrishna's transformation from a "troubled mystic" to a "confident god" by page 220.
7. See, for instance: KC, 78, 80, 81, 82, 100, 105, 108, 110, 115, 163, 173, 209, 220, 240, 300. In fact, there is an entire subheading entitled: "The Problem and the Scandal of Ramakrishna" (79).
8. The correct reference for this passage is: LP 4.73-74.
9. Here are a few examples of Ramakrishna's Vedānta teachings selected at random from the Kathāmṛta: īśvara-i satya ār sob anitya, "God alone is real, everything else is evanescent" (KA 4.65), highlighting an important Vedāntic insight that equates reality with eternality. See also KA 1.21, 1.94, 1.112, 1.114, 4.8, 4.88, 4.186, and 4.189. Ramakrishna also taught the real/unreal nature (mithyā) of māyā (KA 1.41); the identity of Self-realization and God-realization (4.9); the indivisible Saccidānanda being beyond the "play" (līlā) of God (2.192); śakti is the reflection, Brahman is the "real sun" (1.163); the personal God is a wave in the ocean of consciousness (cidānanda sāgar) (1.94); and the individualized Self (jīva) is in reality none other than Brahman (5.143).
10. Kripal hedges his bets by an early disclaimer. The "historical record" of Ramakrishna's life, he points out, is "at best ambiguous and at worst impossibly distorting." He acknowledges that "the sequence or dating" of events in his account is "at best a tentative reconstruction and may well be revised with further historical research" (KC, 53-54). A "tentative reconstruction" would normally lead to a "tentative" conclusion. But the rest of the book displays the author's unflinching certainty in the truth of his own thesis and his summary dismissal of competing views.
11. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda are replete with references to Vivekananda's profound devotion to the Divine Mother. Apart from his wellknown poems "Kali the Mother" (CW 4.384) and "And Let Shyama Dance There" (CW 4.506-10), there are, for example, enthusiastic affirmations of her in his letters such as "Jai Kali!" as well as more sober pronouncements: "Without the grace of Shakti, nothing is to be accomplished" (CW 7.484). One could add pages of citations on this subject because Vivekananda was an ardent devotee of Śakti and was deeply devoted to Sarada Devi.
12. Śiva śaktyā yukto yadi bhavati śakta prabhavitum / Na ca devam devo na khalu kuśalaḥ spanditum api (Saundarya Laharī, 1).
13. A close examination of the 86 songs Narendra sings in the Kathāmṛta demonstrates an extremely eclectic selection in vocal music. While some songs reflect Narendra's earlier Brahmo background, many more are distinctly and unapologetically devotional in character and come from Vaiṣṇava, Śākta (and occasionally Śaiva) traditions. None of these songs are in Sanskrit, none are "chants," and all are deeply imbued with bhakti. Reminiscences from his disciples indicate that he often sang devotional songs to Kālī.
14. For example, we see Swami Madhavananda, later the President of the Ramakrishna Order (and interestingly, the swami to whom Isherwood sent chapters of Ramakrishna and His Disciples) visiting M. Upon seeing M, Madhavananda does a complete sāstaṅga pranam (a full-body prostration) at his feet—an act which demonstrates Madhavananda's great reverence for M (Nityatmananda 6.98-105). Throughout the volumes of M's conversations, we see streams of both monastics and householders visiting M. He speaks incessantly of Ramakrishna and both monastics and householders seek his blessings and wisdom. Madhavananda, for example, asks him details about Ramakrishna's life. Far from a "divide," M constantly tells his nonmonastic visitors to spend time with the sādhus at Belur Math. Monks from Belur Math and surrounding areas go to M to learn from him. We repeatedly see M pressing the point that sādhusaṅga—association with the sādhus—is vital for spiritual life. M himself lived with the monks at the Baranagore Math for six months (Nityatmananda 6.iii-iv). M tells devotees to send their sons there in order to be inspired, adding: "Going there once is not enough. Repeated visits are needed" (Nityatmananda 6.45).
15. We should remember that very young village children in India do not wear diapers, only an upper garment, if that. Thus when they let loose, so to speak, it is obvious to all and it is not seen as particularly offensive.
16. One interesting instance: "When in Singapore Netaji [India's patriot Subhash Chandra Bose] would often commune with the monks of the Ramakrishna Mission and late at night he would drive to the Mission, change into priestly silk dhoti, shut himself up in the prayer room, rosary in hand and spend a couple of hours in meditation." Quoted in The Springing Tiger by Hugh Toye. In Lt. Col. N. C. Guha, "Swami Vivekananda's Influence on Netaji Subash Chandra Bose," Vedanta Kesari (August 2007): 308-12.
17. "Haripada has fallen into the clutches of a woman of the Ghoṣpārā sect. He cannot leave her. He says she takes him on her lap and feeds him, and it seems calls it Gopāla bhāva. I have alerted him many times. They call it maternal love! It is this kind of 'maternal love' that leads to danger." (KA 2.154)
18. The man's name was Yadavkishore Goswami and he belonged to the thirteenth generation of direct descendants of Nityānanda. Ramakrishna loved him dearly and had great regard for him not only for his august lineage but also for his character, learning and deep devotion. A man of renown among Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, Yadavkishore was "the favorite student of 'Nyāya Ratna' Mahesh, the principal of the Sanskrit College, and in 1879 ... obtained the 'Vidyā Ratna' degree in literature" (Prabhananda 2001, 139).
19. Balaram, for example, asks Ramakrishna how it was possible for Purna to know all of a sudden that the world is illusory (saṁsār mithyā gyān, Pūrṇer kemon kore holo)? Ramakrishna's reply is significant: "The knowledge was acquired in earlier births. He has done a lot [of sādhana] in previous births. It is only the body that begins small and grows old, not the Ātman. You know how these [youngsters] are? They are like plants which grow fruit first and then flowers." (Janmāntorīn. Pūrba pūrba janme śob korā āche. Śarīr-i choto hoy ābār bṛddha hoy—ātmā śeirūp noy. Oder kemon jāno,—phol āge tārpor phūl) (KA 4.230-31).
20. In Bengali religious texts, āliṅgan is also used to denote the embrace of fellowship, generally between two men, less often between two women.
21. Kripal writes that he is "indebted to Narasingha Sil" for this interpretation. (KC, 352)
22. Ramakrishna was unhappy about M living apart from his father and stepmother, but as M maintained that it was his stepmother who broke up the family, perhaps Ramakrishna was more tolerant of M's separation.
23. Kripal quotes the Līlāprasaṅga here (LP 5.7.20), but the citation is nearly useless since it refers not to Saradananda's Bengali Līlāprasaṅga as it should, but to its English translation, The Great Master. What one finds when reading the Līlāprasaṅga (5.170-71) is the well-known boat incident in which Yogen (later Swami Yogananda), en route to Dakshineswar by boat, was asked by a fellow passenger where he was headed. When Yogen said that he was going to visit Ramakrishna, the passenger began to criticize Ramakrishna saying that Ramakrishna was only posing as a holy man. Ramakrishna, the man said, "eats good food, sleeps on a mattress, and turns the head of school boys in the name of religion" (bhālo khāccen, godite śuccen ār dharmer nām kore joto śob skūl cheleder māthā khāccen). That is, while parents were trying hard to get their sons to study so that they could have successful careers and well-arranged marriages, Ramakrishna was teaching renunciation. No one accused Ramakrishna of sexual interest in, let alone sexual activity with, the boys. In fact, one of his young disciples suspected Ramakrishna of having sexual relations with Sarada Devi, and it was the same Yogen whom we see above in the boat. When Ramakrishna left his room in the middle of the night to relieve himself, Yogen decided to follow him—thinking that perhaps Ramakrishna was visiting Sarada in her quarters at night. When Ramakrishna discovered Yogen on his way back to his room, Ramakrishna congratulated him and approvingly said: "Observe a sadhu both by day and by night." That is, never be gullible about holy people. Their actions must be consonant with their words; they should be watched and tested.
1. E-mail from Ashok Row Kavi to Swami Tyagananda, January 23, 2007.