Journal of Dharma Studies 2 (2):175-187 (2020)

Ayon Maharaj
Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University
According to the influential German Indologist Paul Hacker, Swami Vivekananda was a “Neo-Hindu” who mistakenly clothed what were essentially Western values in superficially Indian garb in order to promote Indian nationalism. I argue that Vivekananda’s philosophy of “practical Vedānta”—which upholds the ethical ideal of serving all human beings as manifestations of God—has its roots not in Western values but in the teachings of his beloved guru Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna often spoke of his own spiritual experience of “vijñāna,” which revealed to him that everything in the universe was a manifestation of God. Sri Ramakrishna derived from this vijñāna-based worldview a spiritual ethics of service—“śivajñāne jīver sevā” —that directly shaped Vivekananda’s later formulation of practical Vedānta. I conclude the paper by arguing that we should reject the “Neo-Vedāntic” paradigm in favor of a more nuanced and dialectical “cosmopolitan” approach to modern Vedānta.
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DOI 10.1007/s42240-019-00046-x
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