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by Narasingha P. Sil

Since the publication of Sri Ramakrishna's first biography, readers have been familiar with the awesome figure of a spiritual personality who established a direct liason with the divine and preached the most enlightened religious eclecticism in simple vernacular. All subsequent studies on the paramahamsa have been predicated on the monastic Vedantic interpretation of his career and character.This study is a pioneering attempt to uncover the human face behind the mask of the Paramahamsa. Using rare Bengali sources, it is an entirely new look at the saint. In his search for the historical and human figure, the author reexamines the saint's life and thought, and delves into his childhood experiences presenting him as a simple, gregarious, semiliterate rustic with a complex sexual dilemma and spiritual hunger who sought a solution to his troubled psyche in an eclectic piety of faith and fun.
Download Ramakrishna Revisited: A New Biography epub
ISBN: 0761810528
ISBN13: 978-0761810520
Category: Religion
Subcategory: Other Eastern Religions & Sacred Texts
Author: Narasingha P. Sil
Language: English
Publisher: UPA (July 2, 1998)
Pages: 368 pages
ePUB size: 1232 kb
FB2 size: 1786 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 702
Other Formats: lrf mbr txt lrf

Godman or Madman? A psychological, critical analysis of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Was Ramakrishna a depraved lunatic? Or, a modern spiritual giant, godman?

Critical scholar, Narasingha P. Sil, in 'Ramakrishna Revisited: A New Biography' argues that the revered Ramakrishna was more pathological and human than divine. Using the original Bengali sources, Sil presents intimate details of the god-man, his family and his disciples, and analyzes (or pathologizes) the Master's speeches and actions.

‘Ramakrishna Revisited: A New Biography’ is an attempt to strip-down and humanize Ramakrishna and his teachings.

Ramakrishna's Androgyny and Sexuality: The effeminate boy, Gadai, before he became Ramakrishna, was passive, devotional, and beloved by the women in his village. He would dress up as a woman, Radha, the legendary female consort of the lord Krishna of the Hindu Puranic scriptures. Our author speculates that the adolescent Gadai may have been molested by adult men and women in his village. Following this premise, Sil outlines the psychological effects that molestation or sexual repression would have had on the adult Ramakrishna, the impact on his celibate relationship with his wife, his repressed homo-erotic and tantric sexuality expressed with his mostly young male disciples.

The Godman, His Disciples, and the Married Monk: Disciples of Ramakrishna revered him as a godman. The guru, Ramakrishna, encouraged claims that he was an avatar, god made flesh. The tantric goddess, Kali, was Ramakrishna's ecstatic love. Sil makes an argument that Ramakrishna's trances and devotion for his Mother Kali were caused, in part, by repressed sexuality and an infantile need for affection that went unmet as a child. Though married, Ramakrishna never consummated his marriage. His wife, Sarada Ma, was worshipped as the holy mother by Ramakrishna's disciples. Ramakrishna, as guru, seemed to require constant attention from disciples. Sil quotes historian Anthony Storr: "Some historians have proposed that all messianic character's have secret doubts about their missions, and that is why they strive to gain disciples." Followers, then, would serve to validate the guru and his teachings.

Ramakrishna Revisited is an alternative biography--a critical scholar's effort to present the human-side of a revered ecstatic saint. The book tries to illuminate the creepy humanity that lurks inside and around a spiritual giant or godman.
An excellent book -- well-researched and well-written on a subject that is difficult and could (and does) become controversial. Ramakrishna, as most people know him now and similar to many other godmen like him, is a product of the imagination of his disciples and followers. After a hundred-plus years after his death, the time-lapse is sufficient to start separating the man from the myth and Sil has done it remarkably well. This is the raison d'être of historians and Professor Sil is a historian. A historian's discipline and his personal erudition are obvious in the widely cross-referenced book. I like the broad coverage where he examined almost every major component of the Ramakrishna phenomenon. And, of course, the language, Sil's language! The book addresses a complex topic and Sil uses the power of the language nuances ever so well to probe and expose the issues as well as document the inferences. However, I wonder if such a rich exposition may come across as a harangue to readers nurtured on Time magazine and Six-o'clock News. I, for one, will vote for the richness any time.

The typos in the book are downright distracting. A minor point of argument: I believe that in sections six through eleven of the last chapter, titled 'Vivekananda's Ramakrishna', Sil presents what could be an excellent conclusion to this complex book. I wish that he showed it in a separate chapter as such, rather than hiding it in chapter ten. I give the book four-and-a-half stars, taking a half point from a perfect score for the poor editing. I also believe this book is meant for open-minded readers who are willing to take some risk in having their beliefs examined; not fanatics, not devotees, not people who cannot digest anything stronger than a hagiography staple. Such, however, is the historian's lot and I am sure Professor Sil is well aware of it.
Ms. R. Chakravarti seems to be suspended, ontologically it seems, between an anxiety to rescue a hallowed cultural icon from being deconstructed and an urge to say something intellectually meaningful at the same time. She in fact does a mixed job at both: she has correctly pilloried the production as sloppy (with which I agree wholeheartedly) and she has indulged in the vacuous excuse most common among readers of her/his ilk by repeating the banal "out of context" routine. Any out of context conclusions must be critiqued by pointing out what the critic means or suggests by "context" which is found lacking in the material reviewed. Moreover, my book is not meant for crypto-devotees of the Ramakrishna Order but for scholars and informed readers who are willing and able to go through the sources used by the author. Additionally, the reviewer of a quasi-psychohistorical study such as this must be able to be knowledgeable in and appreciative of the psychology of mysticism, sainthood, asceticism, and holiness. Chakravarti is innocent of these stuff(s) and thus her/his review is really not a book-review but an angry outburst of an outraged bhakta. As a fellow ethnic Indian and a born Hindu, I sympathize, though as a scholar and the author I cannot take it lying down.