Rise of Nondualism in Bengal

Ferdinando Sardella

in Modern Hindu Personalism

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199865918
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979998 | DOI:
Rise of Nondualism in Bengal

Show Summary Details


This chapter addresses the formulation of a one-sided interpretation of Indic religions during the early colonial period, prompted in part by three predispositions that originated from the early Scottish and British missions: 1) a disdain for the worship of “idols” such as Vaishnava images; 2) a high regard for rationalism, egalitarianism and science; and, 3) a contempt for sexual expression, which created a disrespect for the content of India's bhakti and tantric traditions. In addressing this critique, Bengal's emerging bhadralok creatively sought for answers from within their own Indic and Islamic traditions, as in the case of Rammohun Roy. What arose by the end of the 19th century was the understanding that nondualism, in all its varieties, was the primary core of Hinduism—a perspective that simultaneously aligned the advaita philosophy of Śaṅkara, the legacy of Islamic iconoclasticism, Christian sensibilities and the growing national aspirations of the bhadralok. This nondualistic outcome, epitomized by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, was in turn aligned with comparative Indo-European research as well as Western esotericism and occultism.

Keywords: advaita; bhadralok; Christian missions; love mysticism; nondualism; Western esotericism; Rammohun Roy; Vivekananda; iconoclasticism

Chapter.  16680 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.