Swami Vivekananda: A Reassessment
For the first time since Swami Vivekananda's famous address to the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago on 11 September 1893, this provocative study seeks to rescue the historical Vivekananda from the celebrated Swamiji of the legend and hagiography. Using a variety of primary and contemporary secondary sources, including eyewitness accounts in English as well as Bengali, Professor Narasingha P. Sil examines Vivekananda's early life and education, his meeting and relationship with his future mentor Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, and the circumstances leading to his embracing monastic life. Analyzing Vivekananda's numerous sermons, speeches, conversations, and letters, Sil exposes the Swami's deliberate distortion of facts and purposive misinformation on, and misleading and tendentious interpretation of, aspects of Hindu society and culture.
The book also takes a hard look at his universally acknowledged reputation as a hypercosmological renouncer who championed the causes of the poor and the downtrodden and thus exemplified the doctrines of socialism at their finest. Sil is the first scholar to critically examine Vivekananda's attitude toward women in general and to probe into his experience with Margaret Noble (Sister Nivedita) in particular, and he is the first author to provide a detailed analysis of Vivekananda's popularity as a preacher and lecturer.
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The book tells more about the the author than about the subject.The author seems to be envious of Swamijis good looks and his vast popularity amongst women! This is astrain that continues through the book . I suspect it is the author who has issues with women both eastern and western that are unresolved in his mind rather than his illustrious subject! Thus the author does not approach his subject with the respect and sympathy due to him and is completely ignorant and oblivious of the hard struggle he came through to become the man he was . He fails to empathise with his sympathy for the downtrodden masses of India and his sorrow at the plight of women in contemporary India. Finally it is utterly disrespectful to cast aspersions on someone's inner desires based on flimsy material that does not prove anything. It is difficult for people who are sexually active to comprehend the sannyasins vows of chastity and poverty. My suggestion to the author is to revisit Swamijis complete works after a period of self-control of course after taking due permission from his wife .Since he is a married person and hopefully not an adulterer it should not be an impossible task for him ,because by being married and taken the oath to remain faithful he seems already to have taken the baby-steps towards a spiritual life.
This is neither a review nor a recantation, not even a rebuttal--for I do not care to get into dialogues with knuckle-headed Swami-swooners--but a friendly (at this stage) response by way of pointing to the sources, both vernacular and English, on which my study of this goodlooking godman is based. If you have the language expertise, time, and an open mind (get rid of the mushy and malodorous devotees' superstition in your brain), and revisit some of my sources, you will realize that I sought to (as I have done) reconstruct the hallowed life of a larger-than-life size Bangla superman on the basis of his innate but repressed humanity. As a historian, I have been classified as a revisionist. This does not mean I have become an orthodox and established scholar with another voice. It simply is a characterization of my métier. Let me quote from the preface of my book by way of pleading to my disgruntled and angry readers: "aude partem alteram" ("hear the other side"), as St. Augustine had counseled).