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Vivekananda Compendiums

Amiya P. Sen

Edited by Makarand Paranjape
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2005, pp. 307, Rs. 395.00

Edited by Sukalyan Sengupta and Makarand Paranjape
Samvad India Foundation, New Delhi in association with Center for Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, 2005, pp. 212, Rs. 395.00


As a researcher who has just put together a comparable volume and on very much the same subject, Makarand Paranjape’s anthology on Swami Vivekananda naturally brought me great relief and happiness. I am happy that my own anthology will now be preceded by a work as important and agreeable as his. More importantly though, I also feel somewhat vindicated in my belief that major (in Paranjape’s words, ‘mainstream’) publishing houses have shown some surprising apathy to the idea of a Vivekananda Reader. Now it is not entirely true that Parnajape’s is the first work of its kind to emanate from that quarter; I can vouch for the existence of at least one other—an anthology edited by Bimal Prasad (Vikas) of which a reprint appeared in the year 1994. All the same, Paranjape’s point is indisputable for, to the best of my recollection, a leading Delhi- based publisher whom I personally approached and who had earlier brought out standard anthologies in respect of Rammohun Roy and Sri Aurobindo (by Bruce Carlisle Robertson and Peter Heehs respectively) showed no particular enthusiasm for Vivekananda. We have reason to believe therefore that the present work augurs well for committed scholarship and reaffirms the need to look afresh at an individual who has been important both in his time and in ours.   Predictably, the Reader is divided into two (unequal) halves; the first taken up by a Preface and Introduction and the second comprising a selection of readings. The selections themselves are deliberately chosen from a wide variety of literary genres—speeches, writings, interviews, letters and poems as they appear through the nine volume Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. On the whole, the selections go more by chronology than theme, which, I imagine, will particularly assist those who might want to know how the Swami’s social and religious thinking evolved over a length of time. The bulk of the excerpts reproduced are from Vivekananda’s more well known works—the four treatises on Raja, Karma, Bhakti and Jnana Yogas and the speeches delivered back in India and collectively known as ‘From Colombo to Almora’.   The Preface makes interesting reading partly on account of some nostalgic evocations on the part of the editor but no less because of the important methodological questions that it raises. As a student of Indian spiritual traditions, Paranjape naturally seeks to create some space for what ...

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