Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna / Edition 2

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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: 9780226453774
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 420
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
A Note on Transliteration
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Approaching the Secret
Defining the Study: Recovering the Text and Revealing the Secret
The Mystical and the Erotic
Ramakrishna's Tantric World
The Study's Symbolic Structure: Kali's Child
The Hindu Unconscious
Ch. 1: Kali's Sword: Anxious Desire and the First Vision
Kali's Sword
From the Village to the Temple, 1836-1856
A Textual Study of Ramakrishna's "Anxious Desire": Discerning a Vocabulary of Desire
Ramakrishna's "Anxious Desire" in the Eyes of His Contemporaries
"Her Sword as His Flute"
Ch. 2: Kali as Mother and Lover: Interpreting Ramakrishna's Tantric Practices
Kali as Mother and Lover
The Secret Years: Textual Considerations
The Secret Years: The Practices according to the Puranas, 1856-1861
The Secret Years: The Practices according to the Tantras, 1861-1865
The Hero and the Child
Cleaving the Bitch in Two
Ch. 3: Kali on Top of Siva: Tantra and Vedanta in Ramakrishna's Teachings and Mystical Experiences
Why Is Kali on Top of Siva?
The Secret Years: From the Practices according to the Vedas to the Jesus State, 1865-1868
The Mansion of Fun and Its Tantric Form
The Love-Body of the Goddess
"Ramakrishna Paramahamsa"
Ch. 4: Kali's Feet: Ramakrishna's Descent into the Forms of Man
Kali's Feet
The Coming of the Disciples, 1868-1885
The Change and the Secret of the Dislocated Hand
Phallic Love and the Incarnation's Erotic Community
Ramakrishna's Foot: The Sinful Touch of God
Ramakrishna Viparitarata
Ch. 5: Kali's Tongue: Shame, Disgust, and Fear in a Tantric World
Kali's Tongue
The Last Days, 1885-1886: The Secret Revealed and Concealed
Gauri's Question
The Secret Door
"Bite Your Tongue!"
Epilogue: The Fog of Bliss
Conclusion: Analyzing the Secret
Emerging from the Fog of Bliss: Defining the Secret
Sexuality and Mysticism: Realizing the Erotic
Appendix: Some Historical and Textual Aspects of Ramakrishna's Secret Talk
Works Cited

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 1.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    The trouble with Kripal is that he does NOT understand Bengali a

    The trouble with Kripal is that he does NOT understand Bengali and sees sex in everything. I am a bengali and have read the original kathamrita from where kripal supposedly sources most of his material. His translations of commonly used bengali words are horribly wrong. His conclusions are not what bothered me so much, what bothered me was that he has used serious mistranslations and non-bengali westerners have not been able to understand that and treats his sources as authentic. This is grossly inaccurate result. Furthermore, he claims that he has discovered secret writings. How can a hugely popular and widely read bengali book be secret at all? The fact that Kripal understands nothing of bengali culture is another hindrance. He keeps assuming things and drawing his own interpretations, yet claims that this is a serious scholarly book. Before promoting this book, the concerned editors, foreword writer, review writers acclaiming this book should bother to find out if the sources mentioned as references actually say what kripal claims they say. Considering his fake and shoddy scholarship, he should not have got a doctoral degree for his thesis on this work. I am a doctoral student in Physics and if use such dubious interpretations in my work, my guide will see to it that i never graduate! All in all, a trashy sensationalist book NOT based on factual evidence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2001

    Taking prejudice out of religion

    In many ancient cultures the homosexuals of the tribe were the spiritual leaders. In my opinion this makes Ramakrishna more holy than ever and raises his status beyond the mundane. I always felt homosexuals had more of a capacity for the spiritual anyway, and Jesus may well have been a homosexual, he probably was. Too think there's something wrong with being homosexual is just ignorance. Also in these cases that energy is transmuted anyway.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2000

    Integrity of Britannica

    Promoting deconstruction of any saint is well within the right of an author in the name of freedom. I am not sure if it is deconstruction or religious pre-occupation? Disappointed to see the poor choice by Britannica in promoting a controversial book as the primary source with no mention or link to much known, well acclaimed book,' Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna'. I did not expect EB to be so unscholarly. Deconstructionism is the way of the day but the readers should also have a chance to know what is being deconstructed. Britannica has failed to provide that!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2000


    The author's imagination and wishful thinking permeate this book. His claims that Ramakrishna was homosexual are totally unfounded. This book was the author's thesis and was an attempt to gratify his thesis adviser, Wendy Donniger, whose jaundiced eye sees sex in every area of religion. It's like writing a book about the homosexuality of Jesus Christ, deducing this from the relationships that Jesus had with his Disciples...travelling together, sleeping together, and Jesus' incessant talk of love. There is no evidence, not even implied, for this premise. Ramakrishna is highly revered in India and by many of his Western followers. He was a teacher of the highest truths. The trend towards deeming notable people homosexual, e.g., Emily Dickinson, Jack Kerouac, Michelangelo, etc., is prevalent and popular today. But this is carrying it a bit too far. The BEST authority on Ramakrishna is, 'The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna', written by 'M', who recorded his every word and deed over a period of many years. In the interest of TRUTH/INTEGRITY I suggest this book be labeled for what it is...TRASH!!!

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