The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda's Reinterpretation of the Vedas

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9780824815424: The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda's Reinterpretation of the Vedas
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Hailed as one of modern India's cultural heroes, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) has been credited not only with interpreting Hinduism to the west but with interpreting it to India itself. Despite his pervasive influence, critical assessments and attempts to "demythologize" Vivekananda have been rare, and rarer still are historical and hermeneutical clarification of his work. The Limits of Scripture offers a close examination of Vivekananda's understanding of the authority of sruiti (the Vedas) and its relationship to anubhava (personal experience).
Beginning with an analysis of western influences and Hindu responses in the nineteenth century, Anantanand Rambachan moves on to a careful explication of Vivekananda's understanding of the Vedas, the nature and scope of their authority, and the hermeneutical principles employed by him in his approach to the texts. Throughout the discussion, the author also clarifies the generally overlooked distinctions between Vivekananda's view of anubhava as the source of liberating knowledge and that of Sankara (ca. 788-820), the principal systematizer and exponent of the Advaita tradition, who argued for the Vedas as the authoritative source of this knowledge. The task of critically distinguishing Sankara and Vivekananda has not been thoroughly accomplished elsewhere and is crucial for understanding religious and philosophical change in modern Indian thought.
In addition this work evaluates the coherence and consistency of Vivekananda's reinterpretations, drawing attention to important problems in his claim for the supremacy of personal experience, his arguments for "many paths to the same goal," and his attempts to reconcile the insights of Hinduism with the methods and findings of science. In undertaking this assessment and analysis, The Limits of Scripture makes a real contribution to the understanding of Vivekananda's legacy, Indian religions, and the wider study of religion.

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About the Author:

Anantanand Rambachan is associate professor of religion at Saint Olaf College in Minnesota.

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