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Philosophical Perspectives


Amiya P. Sen

DEBATING VIVEKANANDA: A READER
Edited by A. Raghurama Raju
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 490 Notes on Editor and Contributors, Index, Rs. 1195.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 4 April 2015

As an individual greatly enthused by the life and labours of Swami Vivekananda, this is a book that I have eagerly awaited and indeed, it is doubly rewarding that I should now also be among its reviewers. One of the important features of this book, though not immediately apparent, is that this is a compilation put together by a scholar trained in philosophy, not the social sciences. It is the philosophical perspective that sparkles in the editor’s introduction and offers at places, subtleties of argument and judicious insights that could not have been as natural for a historian such as me. Structurally, there are two broad parts to this work: the editor’s introduction, brief yet crisp, is followed by a selection of essays or articles nineteen in number. The latter, in turn, are thematically arranged into seven sections, each carrying multiple essays. The sections are as follows: ‘Extent and Limits of Impact’ in which are included essays by Brajendranath Seal, Jawaharlal Nehru and Prabha Dixit; ‘Practical Vedanta’, including essays by Paul Hacker, Wilhelm Halbfass and Krishna Prakash Gupta; ‘Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’ including essays by Sumit Sarkar and Carl Olson; ‘Secularism’ including (two) essays by Krishna Prakash Gupta, Nirmal Mukherjee and Ashish Nandy; ‘Fundamentalism’ that includes essays by Nemai Sadhan Bose and Jyotirmay Sharma; ‘Woman’, which has essays by Indira Chaudhuri and Vrinda Dalmia and ‘Science’ with an essay each by Dermot Killingley and Anantanand Rambachan respectively. A good number of essays included here, I imagine, are already well known, especially to scholars of politics, philosophy and culture and their reproduction here does indeed create possibilities of fresh and enlivening debate. Debating Vivekananda strongly suggests that the debate around the enigmatic Swami may not close very soon. While there is every reason to commend the editor on this project, I could not always agree with his selections or the criteria employed for selection. Apparently, the framework adopted here is of two kinds and operates on two levels. Thus, Sections IV (Secularism) and V (Fundamentalism) come closest to what may be termed a visible argumentative framework for the important reason that the authors cited here directly engage with one another or with the general substance of the debate. This is not the case, however, with Section I where the critique by Prabha Dixit (which I first read in the 1970s as a young researcher) has little or no bearing on the ...


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