The Hindu thinker Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) was and remains an important figure both within India, and in the West, where he was notable for preaching Vedanta. Scholarship surrounding Vivekananda is dominated by hagiography and his (mis)appropriation by the political Hindu Right. This work demonstrates that Vivekananda was no simplistic pluralist, as portrayed in hagiographical texts, nor narrow exclusivist, as portrayed by some modern Hindu nationalists, but a thoughtful, complex inclusivist.
The book shows that Vivekananda formulated a hierarchical and inclusivistic framework of Hinduism, based upon his interpretations of a four-fold system of Yoga. It goes on to argue that Vivekananda understood his formulation of Vedanta to be universal, and applied it freely to non-Hindu traditions, and in so doing, demonstrates that Vivekananda was consistently critical of ‘low level’ spirituality, not only in non-Hindu traditions, but also within Hinduism.
Demonstrating that Vivekananda is best understood within the context of ‘Advaitic primacy’, rather than ‘Hindu chauvinism’, this book will be of interest to scholars of Hinduism and South Asian religion and of South Asian diaspora communities and religious studies more generally.
Table of Contents
1 Contexts and Complications
2 Religion and Reform in Nineteenth Century Bengal
3 Master and Pupil
4 Formulating Hinduism
5 Critiquing Christianity, Buddhism and Islam
6 The World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893
7 Locating Vivekananda
Stephen E. Gregg is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, UK. His interests include religion in contemporary society and method and theory in the study of religion. He is a member of the executive committee of the British Association for the Study of Religions and his books include Jesus Beyond Christianity (2010) Engaging with Living Religion (2015) and The Insider/Outsider Debate: New Approaches in the Study of Religion (2019).