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Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna Second Edition [Paperback]

Jeffrey Kripal
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Oct 1998
In a book now marked by both critical acclaim and cross-cultural controversy, Jeffrey J. Kripal explores the life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a nineteenth-century Bengali saint who played a major role in the creation of modern Hinduism. Through extended textual and symbolic analyses of Ramakrishna's censored "secret talk" Kripal demonstrates that the saint's famous ecstatic and visionary experiences were driven by mystico-erotic energies that he neither fully accepted nor understood. The result is a striking new vision of Ramakrishna as a conflicted, homoerotic Tantric mystic that is as complex as it is clear and as sympathetic to the historical Ramakrishna as it is critical of his traditional portraits. In a substantial new preface to this second edition, Kripal answers his critics, addresses the controversy the book has generated in India, and traces the genealogy of his work in the history of psychoanalytic discourse on mysticism, Hinduism, and Ramakrishna himself. Kali's Child has already proven to be provocative, groundbreaking, and immensely enjoyable. "Only a few books make such a major contribution to their field that from the moment of publication things are never quite the same again. Kali's Child is such a book" John Stratton Hawley, History of Religions Winner of the American Academy of Religion's History of Religions Prize for the Best First Book of 1995

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Product details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (29 Oct 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226453774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226453774
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 806,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
RAMAKRISHNA PARAMAHAMSA was a nineteenth-century Bengali mystic who experienced hundreds of ecstatic states and visions, experimented with different religious traditions, including something he called "the Jesus state," entertained the belief that he was the latest of the incarnations of God, and played a major role in the creation of modern Hinduism, both directly through his teachings and indirectly through the work and writing of his most famous disciple, Swami Vivekananda. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Full of wrong information. 18 Feb 2014
By Shetty
Book cleary shows author cannot speak Bengali himself and used a dictionary to translate and draw his conclusions. It's full of fallacies, some look deliberate and others wrong translations from Bengali.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars to open-minded students of ramakrishna 14 Feb 2008
By B. Weir
any serious students, please ignore the comments of the previous reviewers. goodness knows there has been enough unenlightened controversy over this book in the past; i would suggest to anyone interested in ramakrishna, both devotees and scholars, to give this book their open-minded attention.

it is engaging, very well-written, extremely sympathetic, thoroughly researched, respectful of the bengali tradition as well as the official ramakrishna image, and it is the most valuable contribution to the study of this curious "mad master".

if approached with preconceptions, of course readers will find only material to fan their anger. it would be far more in the spirit of the master himself to read it with an open mind and look for the truth in the strangeness.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just a bad book 27 Aug 1998
By A Customer
As someone said: love the cover and recycle the rest. It is such poor scholarship that give the academic book bad name.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Weak analysis, puerile interpretation 22 April 2004
By A Customer
This is one of the worst pieces of writing I have had the misfortune ofreading. Rife with self-serving analysis and manipulative(mis)interpretation of "facts", it does little to illuminate the context,the man or his teachings.
I'm sure there is some merit in the book, butI failed to find it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.1 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kripal Gathers Too Much From Too Little 22 Jan 2000
By Allan Carpenter - Published on Amazon.com
While I am a Ramakrishna admirer, I admit I was intrigued by the book at first. Expecting long-supressed secrets about RK, what I got was a very few obscure statements and stories turned into an elaborate Freudian analysis of Tantra. This, along with a meandering hypothesis about what was in RK's subconscious. It's just too shaky, and Kripal is too eager to sniff out a conspiracy. For example, in the book's second edition, Kripal admits that Ram Chandra Datta's book--which he claimed was supressed by the RK establishment--was, to his surprise, published by the Ramakrishna Mission the same summer as the first edition of "Kali's Child"! In the end, Kripal does not convince, and RK remains a mystery.
65 of 79 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Biased Thesis , Flawed Scholarship 27 May 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Jeffrey Kripal, starts with the intention of showing Ramakrsihna to be a homsexual. Several of his arguments are flawed because of his lacking of Bengali and because of his over eagerness to bring down the spirituality of Ramakrishna to suppressed sexuality.
1. The supposed difference between Tantra and Vedanta is fictitious and exists only in the western author's minds and not in practicing Hinduism. Millions of South Indian followers of the Vedantic Shankara use Tantric pujas and practice Sri Vidya Upasana a Tantric ritual. In the monasteries associated with the Advaiatic Sankara Tantric pujas are very common. The author should investigate the Smarta sect of Brahmins to discover this. They have often been clubbed with Saivas but this is not true.
2. The strong association between Tantra and sexuality is false. Western authors have a prurient interest in degrading indigenous religious practices to sexual orgies. Yes, Sex is seen as one of the ways to seek divine bliss, but only in one of the tantric sects the left hand path. Tantra in South India and Kashmir is Kaula and part of the righ hand path. Not that there is anything wrong with Sex but Tantra does not necessarily involve sexual connotations.
3. It is a tradition in Hinduism and some other mystical religions for the spiritual seeker whether male or female to approach God as the only maleand himself as female. Several saints including Maniccka Vachagar, Ramalinga Adigal, Arunagirinathar have sung hymns in Nayaki Bhava where they implore the lord to marry them. This does not mean all of these men are homo sexuals. The reason they use this Bhava is the medeival and (biological reality) , female as the receptive and relatively passive element in the Universe. The devotee remains passive and receptive to god.
The problem of such biased scholarship is the suspicion that it creates about genuine scholars and seekers from the west as to their intentions. Several European intellectuals made it a practice to denigrate India and what she represents during colonical rule to seek justification and reassurance of European imeprialism. The Ramakrsihna Math is a neo-Hindu institution and one of the earliest reinterpreters of Hinduism in the face of modernity and on which much of the pride of the modern Hindu rests. Striking at it root , though masked as scholarship and apparent concern for truth, is easily recognizable by any intelligent observer as something less inoccuous.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The most disgusting book 1 Feb 2011
By A - Published on Amazon.com
I am a Bengali myself. I found that the author has intentionally used very obscure translations of the original Bengali words , and have used those to suit his perverse agenda to degrade one of the greatest spiritual genius of India.
61 of 76 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A white cloth looks green through green eyeglasses 14 Sep 2002
By CourageToQuestion - Published on Amazon.com
The author uses (misuses) freudian psychoanalysis, which reduces all emotions to sexuality, to formulate his opinions. This is highly reductionist (to say the least). The other problem is that a superficial look at something as complex as culture can yield absurd conclusions. For example, using (misusing) freudian principles, one can say the following thing about chistianity.
Jesus was a filthy, unclean man dressed in rags. He learned some magic tricks from the visiting Persian merchants. The Romans often invited him to perform at their parties, and in exchange, they offered him wine. So he routinely got drunk, tried to be "a notorious womanizer," and was a hobo all his life. Since Jesus' mother was a prostitute, fearing social retribution, she did not want to announce the true identity of his father, and had to make up a fantastic story for the illiterate nomads. Therefore, Mary claimed that Jesus was born without physical intercourse. So all his life, Jesus guarded the myth of his mother's virginity and hid the immoral activities of his father and other customers who visited his mother for sex. When Jesus become politically strong, the Roman commanders got rid of him and played a joke upon Jesus by crucifying him using the cross, symbolizing that the cross was the phallus and dildo which his mother must have used for her sexual gratification when customers weren't available. Thus, his followers today carry a cross as the phallic symbol of his immaculate conception. Jesus was a hopeless drunkard, to escape public scorn for his vice, he started a bizzare and revolting cannibalistic ritual of symbolically sharing wine and said that it was his blood. This revolting ritual is followed even today by mindless christians. It is safe to say that the obsession of the west with sex and alchoholism is a direct result of such prurient beliefs and immorality which pass as religious ritual. No wonder christia countries suffer from teen pregnancies, and drug and alchohol abuse.

How would the above be considered if it were written by a non-Christian academic scholar from a non-chistian culture? Who claims he has "found the true meaning of the christian beliefs?"
The problem with people analysing a culture without being part of it is that only the superficial is visible. And even that is perceived through a conditioning process that is outside the culture. A person not aware of christianity is likely to wonder how come these christians worship a bag of bones nailed to a piece of wood and call it divine? Perhaps their obsession with world domination is linked to their innate sense of shame at the inability of this emaciated, begraggled, bag of bones to face up to his tormentors. Maybe the whole of the west needs to be psychoanlyzed. Perhaps this explains how ruthlessly they treated the trusting and friendly american indians. The christians tranfered their own crisis of self-identity on to the Indians and massacred them.
A christian at a church is not thinking, look how indecent Jesus is, he hardly has any clothes on. Look I can count 4 no 8 bones in his ribs. Gosh! he must stink what with all the blood and sweat. Not to mention the fact that he probably didn't have a bath for days. The fact that christians worship this person surely means that they have no sense of shame, who knows perhaps they are all perverts who wouldn't think twice about torturing and killing people. After all, their senses are dulled by the appalling suffering of the figure they call god.
Do you see how absurd it sounds? This, then is the problem with reductionist thinking. You see everything colored by what preconceptions you have...
33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A huge piece of junk 14 April 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
One need not waste his time collecting junks. May read something useful...Should one dare to translate a foreign-language book when he can't speak/write/understand a paragraph without the help of a dictionary? It seems, that's not a problem for Mr. Kripal at all! Without knowing Bengali, the author tries to prepare his "thesis" with the help of several books written in Bengali. Outcome is: massive intentional and stupid mis-translations leading to a utterly crazy (NOT scholarly) hypothesis.
My comment:
If Mr. Kripal's translation from his references are correct, then the other frightening possibility is (I happened to carefully read those original Bengali books.):
I must have absolutely forgotten my mother tongue (Bengali), which I hoped to use until I die!
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