Guru to the World: The Life and Legacy of Vivekananda

Belknap. Oct. 2022. 560p. ISBN 9780674247475. $39.95. REL
A century ago, Westerners would readily recognize the name of Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), the man who helped introduce Hinduism to the United States, England, and Europe and influenced Gandhi and Freud. Wolfson Prize–winning historian Harris (Oxford Univ.; The Man on Devil’s Island) has written perhaps the definitive book on the Indian monk and philosopher that seeks to present his complexity as a person and in his teachings. Harris shows him first as a disciple of Hindu mystic Ramakrishna, and then as master, in his own right, of an important disciple, Margaret Noble (known as Sister Nivedita). She also writes that Vivekananda taught inclusive religious universalism even as he advocated Hindu nationalism as a means to fight colonialism and paternalistic thinking. Arranged chronologically in three parts (“India”; “The West”; “India and the World”), this work is scholarly in nature, with more than 70 pages of endnotes; readers might find it to be very detailed and dense.
VERDICT Useful and perhaps even fascinating for readers interested in Hinduism or in scholarly literature on Vivekananda.
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