SV: Vicious Debate

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at BLR.VSNL.NET.IN
Sat Dec 5 05:45:26 UTC 1998


> To call Swami Vivekananda a racist taking some select quotations from
> his writings without reference to the circumstances prevailing at that
> time is bad and without doubt motivated analysis.

You will surely remember that at that time I wrote that I was not
looking for such statements, nor did I wish to see them. I mentioned
them as a necessary corrective to a totally uncritical adulation of
Vivekananda which is based on a highly selective reading of his writings
-- selective in a different manner.

> We should not forget Swami Vivekananda was
> a great admirer of American people and a number of westerners and
> Americans in particular became his devotees. Some of them adopted
> India as their country and did selfless service to India. If Swamiji
> was a racist they would not have done that.

Things are not so simple as that. We know of coloured people in South
Africa who faithfully went to the churches that advocated apartheid and
who quietly sat in the pews allotted to them. Apparently they wanted
that kind of religion. An eye-witness just recently told me how in a
public lecture Lakshman Joo of Kashmir told some female devotees of his
that they were ugly because they were Americans, and they were

And by the way, V.'s simplistic essentialisations of ethnic groups deal
not only with Euro-Americans. And V. was also selective in his
admiration of Americans ("You Americans worship what? The dollar." --
Complete Works vol. 7, p. 283). Of course it is ridiculous to admire
Americans or whatever people totally and indiscriminately (thus
S.N. Subrahmanya, Bijoy Misra a.o. have seen that I refuse to admire
uncritically each and every thing that comes from India and claims to be
"Indian"). That Vivekananda said nice things about America does not mean
that he did not have some nasty ideas as well. A balanced, unbiassed,
truthful evaluation demands that we look at all sides of the issue and
are not carried away by our very personal appreciation of a famous

> Even when Dr.Zydenbos wrote earlier about Swamiji I felt very bad and
> wanted to write, but refrained because I put myself in his place and
> examined what will be my reaction if as a christian I read those
> things.

(Do you think that I am a Christian? I have never said so. I also do not
see the relevance.)


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