Jyotirmaya Sharma’s reading of Vivekananda is partial and incomplete (Dharma for the State?, Jan 21). There are a number of links he has left out in his eagerness to poke flaws in his teachings. Firstly, it’s puzzling why Sharma thinks Swamiji saw Christianity and Islam as ‘sects’, being someone who said, “I think and dream of an India with an Islamic body and Vedantic soul.” Secondly, Sharma should know that in Indology, ‘dharma’ is not religion but ‘conduct’, one determined by behaviour and nothing else. Sharma has really tried to enter a zone unknown to him, he is neither an expert on it nor passionate about it.
Nirmalya Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sri Ramakrishna had said: “The pundits are like vultures; their minds soar high, but their sights are focused on charnel pits looking for rotten carcasses”. Sharma has constructed a false theory by quoting out of context, distorting meanings and coming up with bizarre interpretations of innocuous statements. Swamiji described Islam and Christianity as sects not derisively, but to distinguish the external practices of a faith from true religion, which he said was a manifestation of divinity. He also believed that all faiths were valid paths that led to the same transcendental reality. Sri Ramakrishna had come to the same realisation. Unlike many teachers, Vivekananda is easy to understand. By distorting his message, Sharma is looking to serve a political purpose.
Devashis Mukherjee, Gurgaon
We either create impossibly high pedestals for our heroes, or horribly vilify our adversaries. Moreover, we love to hate people who try to show our icons as mere mortals, with all too human indiscretions. It has happened with recent books on Gandhi, and it will now happen to Jyotirmaya.
Meraj Uddin Khan, Lucknow
Funnily, the subtitle under the photo of the book cover reads ‘Cosmic Love and Human Empathy’, yet the photo clearly shows it to be ‘Cosmic Love and Human Apathy’! Sabotage by the swami’s right-wing fan?
Ajit Hegde, Bangalore
Sharma says Vivekananda was casteist. Wrong. In his lecture ‘The Future of India’, published in Lectures from Colombo to Almora, he says: “The days of exclusive privileges and exclusive claims are gone, gone forever from the soil of India.... The solution is not by bringing down the higher caste, but by raising the lower up to the level of the higher.”
Sharmila Lal, Delhi
Vivekananda talked about Brahminhood and Shudrahood as qualities within the self, not as Jyotirmaya Sharma claims to understand it.
Aditya Raghavan, Bangalore
It’ll only be a matter of time before Jyotirmaya is offered a position in the divinity or political science department of a US university. As a professor in the US told me, the modern academic is all about strategy and working towards where the lobbies are the strongest in the media and in terms of funding. JS is on his way, with a one-way ticket to US universities.
“Those to whom religion is a trade are forced to become narrow and mischievous by their introduction into religion the competitive, fighting and selfish methods of the world.” So said Swamiji in a letter to Dharmapala from the US in 1894.
Subrah Katakam, Chennai
Anyone who has depth in reading will realise that Vivekananda was indeed a Hindu supremacist and casteist, whose teachings had little resemblance to the teaching of greats like Ramakrishna Paramhansa. He upheld the Manusmriti, which truly great Hindu philosophers never championed.
The article is simply atrocious, and a classic example of a pea-brained person trying to assess a great personality.
Vaibhav Srivastava, Calcutta
A majority of Islamic nations won’t allow a Hindu temple; those which do demolish them at a whim. Put that in the context of a Hindu majority country in which a great Hindu philosopher gets a bad name for calling Islam a ‘sect’!
Vikram Rathore, New York
Jyotirmaya Sharma reveals himself to be a talentless hack whose only claim to fame are his outrageous claims.
I have a serious problem with Jyotirmaya Sharma and not because I think he belongs to this or that side of the ideological spectrum. I am a student of philosophy and strongly believe he has set himself a task bigger than he’s capable of accomplishing. Does he even know the epistemology behind the various words/phrases of different philosophers-scholars? He seems to transpose the sociological definitions of different words to interpret Vivekananda’s teachings. Certainly an intellectual understanding of the sayings of a monk or mystic is shallow without knowing what metaphysics, mysticism, philosophy and religious experience is like. The very fact that Sharma accepts Ramakrishna and rejects Vivekananda makes his scholarship suspect.
Viswanath V., Kurnool, AP
The author should be commended for his painstaking and scholarly work as well as the courage to write such a book in the current Indian environment. Instead of the irrational attacks, let’s see if anybody can provide reasoned evidence that any of Vivekananda’s quotes have been misrepresented.
H.M. Siddhanti, Richmond
Despite all the dissent and criticism, Swami Vivekananda will remain an icon for moderate Hindus.
G. Anuplal, Bangalore
Vivekananda was part of a 19th-century reform movement that focused on monism and the context of the time. And that is a crime in the eyes of 21st century political scientists like Jyotirmaya Sharma!
Priya Madhavan, Rochester
Men like Sharma are intellectual terrorists who cause immeasurable damage to a people’s culture by killing its soul.
Shyam Sarvodey, Mysore
Sharma should read Swami Saradananda’s The Great Master where he discusses the Master’s Islamic sadhana. He quotes Ramakrishna as saying that in the absence of unity at the Vedantic level, there is little in common between Hindus and Muslims. Where then is the contradiction between him and Vivekananda?
Rakhal Ghosh, Philadelphia
To me Jyotirmaya is as serious as Banta Singh or Santa Singh!
Mahesh Babbar, Delhi