India and Her Traditions

S.N. Balagangadhara

in Reconceptualizing India Studies

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780198082965
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081936 | DOI:
India and Her Traditions

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This is an open letter to the scholar of religion, Jeffrey Kripal, author of a book that uses Freudian psychoanalysis to explain Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s mysticism as a way of coping with the trauma of sexual abuse. When this book created outrage among the Indian community in the USA, many academics explained this as an expression of ‘Hindu fundamentalism’. The chapter shows the genuine cognitive reasons behind the Indian readers’ reaction. Kripal’s explanation trivializes the phenomena it seeks to explain: instead of explaining Ramakrishna’s mysticism, it suggests that his sexual trauma and unconscious homoerotic tendency ‘somehow’ generated his religious life. Yet, this purported explanation also inflicts violence: by re-describing Ramakrishna’s religious life in terms of sexual pathology, it trivializes, distorts and denies the experience his followers have of the saint. Consequently, they are denied access to their own experience because someone else’s experience is presented as a true explanation of Ramakrishna.

Keywords: Ramakrishna Paramahamsa; Kali’s Child; sexual trauma; psychoanalysis; explanation; violence; Jeffrey Kripal

Chapter.  11232 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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