Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna

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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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Editorial Reviews

David Haberman
[Readers] with a tolerance for scandal will be rewarded with a disturbingly delightful celebration of a complex mystic and his particular brand of religion.
Journal of Asian Studies
An exploration of the gender reversals implicit in the writings about Ramakrishna, raising questions about the sexuality of a man many regard as a saint, the relationship between sanctity and insanity, and the status of historical data that have been filtered through a hagiographic tradition. Examines the textual evidence about Ramakrishna in Bengali and English, and looks at aspects of Hindu mysticism from a Western psychological perspective. Of interest to Indologists, historians of religions, and students of cross-cultural psychology and gender. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
John Statton Hawley
Only a few books make such a major contribution to their field that from the moment of publication things are never again quite the same. [Kali's Child] is such a book.
Hisory of Religions
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226453767
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1995
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 386
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Approaching the Secret 1
Defining the Study: Recovering the Text and Revealing the Secret 1
The Mystical and the Erotic 14
Ramakrishna's Tantric World 24
The Study's Symbolic Structure: Kali's Child 33
The Hindu Unconscious 37
Ch. 1 Kali's Sword: Anxious Desire and the First Vision 47
Kali's Sword 48
From the Village to the Temple, 1836-1856 53
A Textual Study of Ramakrishna's "Anxious Desire": Discerning a Vocabulary of Desire 63
Ramakrishna's "Anxious Desire" in the Eyes of His Contemporaries 77
"Her Sword as His Flute" 83
Ch. 2 Kali as Mother and Lover: Interpreting Ramakrishna's Tantric Practices 85
Kali as Mother and Lover 87
The Secret Years: Textual Considerations 90
The Secret Years: The Practices according to the Puranas, 1856-1861 101
The Secret Years: The Practices according to the Tantras, 1861-1865 112
The Hero and the Child 130
Cleaving the Bitch in Two 142
Ch. 3 Kali on Top of Siva: Tantra and Vedanta in Ramakrishna's Teachings and Mystical Experiences 145
Why Is Kali on Top of Siva? 147
The Secret Years: From the Practices according to the Vedas to the Jesus State, 1865-1868 150
The Mansion of Fun and Its Tantric Form 170
The Love-Body of the Goddess 185
"Ramakrishna Paramahamsa" 196
Ch. 4 Kali's Feet: Ramakrishna's Descent into the Forms of Man 199
Kali's Feet 201
The Coming of the Disciples, 1868-1885 204
The Change and the Secret of the Dislocated Hand 219
Phallic Love and the Incarnation's Erotic Community 230
Ramakrishna's Foot: The Sinful Touch of God 238
Ramakrishna Viparitarata 240
Ch. 5 Kali's Tongue: Shame, Disgust, and Fear in a Tantric World 243
Kali's Tongue 246
The Last Days, 1885-1886: The Secret Revealed and Concealed 252
Gauri's Question 264
Lover-and-Gold 277
The Secret Door 287
"Bite Your Tongue!" 304
Epilogue: The Fog of Bliss 307
Conclusion: Analyzing the Secret 309
Emerging from the Fog of Bliss: Defining the Secret 310
Sexuality and Mysticism: Realizing the Erotic 317
Appendix: Some Historical and Textual Aspects of Ramakrishna's Secret Talk 329
Notes 337
Works Cited 363
Index 371
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2002

    Utter Nonsense

    This is a sub-standard book written by someone how really doesn't understand about india and indian culture. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2000

    A Good Book for those who see Sex in Everything

    The title of my review says it all. I am feel bad that I wasted my time to read this book. For the scholars on Sri Ramakrishna, this book should be listed as one that should not be read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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