18 May 2012

An Excerpt from Swami Tyagananda’s Rebuttal of "Kali’s Child"

[Here is an excerpt from Swami Tyagananda’s brilliant rebuttal of Jeffrey Kripal’s Kali’s Child (1995) on Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa. The filth in Jeffrey Kripal’s book is perhaps more shocking to us than Peter Heehs’s Lives of Sri Aurobindo. But there is one interesting similarity between them – both cheat with their documentation. It is not only the distasteful topics they discuss (the alleged homosexual relationship of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa with Swami Vivekananda or Sri Aurobindo’s romantic relation with the Mother), but also the way they arrive at these preposterous conclusions on the basis of flimsy and wrong documentation. The first objection to their lack of taste and refinement can be dismissed as a cultural difference between the East and the West (though even here I would disagree), but how can you dismiss the second? Proper historical documentation and intellectual honesty go beyond cultural barriers and are indispensable for writing the history of any great men. There is no such thing as a Western and Eastern (or Indian) method of historical documentation. The fundamental rules of scientific documentation apply everywhere, whether in the East or the West. This is how Swami Tyagananda stumps Jeffrey Kripal in his rebuttal. Likewise, many of the articles on this site have exposed Peter Heehs’s wilful misrepresentations of Sri Aurobindo’s life.

But there is a deeper kinship between the two authors. The blurb on the back of the Lives (2008) is written by Jeffrey Kripal, who, in his book on Esalen (2007), refers to the then unpublished MS of the Lives. This could not have been possible had they not exchanged notes with each other. Thus many of Kripal’s theories are echoed in Heehs’s book, such as the obsession with the Vama Marga or left-handed Tantra, the idea that spirituality could be a form of madness or repressed sexuality and that there is always a difference between what the Guru taught to his disciples and what he himself practised. So if Peter Heehs has followed such a “noble” (or rather ignoble) lineage, one should not be surprised at all by the contents of his book. In fact, one should thank him that he did not make it worse!]



An Excerpt from: Kali's Child Revisited

Or Didn't Anyone Check the Documentation?

− by Swami Tyagananda


“The documentation indeed looks impressive until one actually checks the references Kripal quotes. That is what happened in my case. As I began to browse through Kali's Child, I would say to myself, “I know the Kathamrita quite well and I’ve never seen that before!” As a sample check, I compared a reference with the original in Bengali and saw that there was a problem. So I began checking more references, comparing Kripal's translations with the Bengali originals and I too found myself “smiling often and laughing almost as often” – but for reasons quite different from those that provoked a similar reaction on a beach several years ago.

“The second edition of Dr. Jeffrey Kripal's Kali's Child begins by telling us that much has changed since the book's initial release. While the American Academy of Religion had bestowed upon Kali's Child the History of Religions Prize in 1996 for the best new book, Kali's Child had also provoked a flurry of criticism and, according to Kripal, the specter of "censorship" in India.

“Why the strong reaction? Kripal tells us that the negative reaction was due to a "deep cultural rejection of homosexuality" (KC xxi); it was an angry response to exposing the "secret" of "Ramakrishna's homoerotic desires" (KC xv).

“In fact the truth is much more simple: yes, the criticism the book received was due to its conclusions regarding Ramakrishna's purported homosexuality. But Kripal's conclusions came via faulty translations, a willful distortion and manipulation of sources, combined with a remarkable ignorance of Bengali culture. The derisive, nonscholarly tone with which he discussed Ramakrishna didn't help matters either.

“To make the facile claim that the criticism leveled against Kali's Child was due to homophobia is to deflect from the real issue of shoddy and deceptive scholarship. Should a person with a good grasp of Bengali language and culture seriously read the Bengali source books on Ramakrishna and then come to the conclusion that Ramakrishna was a conflicted homosexual, I would respect that person's freedom to come to this conclusion. I would strongly disagree with him or her, but I – and many other devotees of Ramakrishna – would fully support that person's freedom of inquiry and thought. What I and others will never support is the freedom to distort the text and the freedom to misuse citations.”

Link to full article which is around 90 pages:


1 comment:

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