Kali's Child Revisited
Didn't Anyone Check the Documentation?
by Swami Tyagananda*

© 2000 by Swami Tyagananda

Part 3 of 4

(86) KC p. 103: Haladhari refuses to ennoble Ramakrishna's madness by comparing it to a classical bhava. Rather, he sees only his crazy cousin peeing from the trees of the Panchavati (LP 2.8.14). For Haladhari, wearing a cloth tail, jumping around on all fours, and peeing from trees has nothing to do with devotion. It is madness, pure and simple.

Response: At LP 2.8.14 there is no indication whatsoever that what Haladhari saw is connected with the Hanuman bhava episode of Ramakrishna's life. Kripal's sentence beginning with "For Haladhari…" is completely his own invention; nowhere in the Lilaprasanga is there any passage connecting Haladhari with Ramakrishna "wearing a cloth tail, jumping around on all fours." Unfortunately, unless the reader can check the Lilaprasanga, he or she won't know that the documentation is deceptive.

(87) KC pp. 103-4: Kripal transposes two passages which have no connection with one another. He makes two assumptions, unsupported by any text: (1) By wearing a silk cloth for worship, Ramakrishna is wearing women's clothes and this constitutes cross-dressing, and (2) this happened when he was practicing sakhi-bhava in Mathur's household.

Response: Kripal quotes from KA 2.154-55 about Ramakrishna's sakhi-bhava sadhana and provides an endnote (#30, p. 347), in which he says:

The tone of KA 3.83 suggests a certain anxious necessity in Ramakrishna's becoming a Handmaid: "I used to say over and over, 'I am a Female Servant of the Blissful Mother!'"

At KA 3.83 we see nothing equivalent to Kripal's "over and over." There we simply have, ami boltam, "I used to say." Kripal deliberately inserts "over and over" to support the "anxious necessity" theory.

(88) KC p. 104: Here we see the same worship context and the same silken clothes, but here Ramakrishna becomes a "Handmaid of the Mother," not to live with Mathur and his household but to conquer his sexual desire for his wife back at the temple (KA 5.140).

Response: At KA 5.140 we merely see this: "I spent one year as handmaid-the handmaid of the Divine Mother, the Embodiment of Brahman (brahmamayi). I used to dress myself as a woman. I put on a nose-ring. One can conquer lust by assuming the attitude of a woman."

These words of Ramakrishna are preceded by his teaching that as long as one has the ego, one must establish a definite relationship with God. Then he describes his own practice and the benefit such practice can bring.

There is no mention whatsoever here about his practicing this discipline, as Kripal would have us believe, "to conquer his sexual desire for his wife back at the temple." But by placing the KA reference in parentheses after the quotation, Kripal misleads the reader into thinking that there is a valid documentation for his statement.

(89) KC p. 106: He then goes on to describe such a Woman: "I had a vision of Sita's image. I saw that her whole mind dwelt only on Rama. She paid no attention to her vagina, hands, feet, dress, or ornaments. It was as if her life was filled with Rama-if Rama were not, if she could not have Rama, she would die!" (KA 4.36)

Response: Kripal translates the Bengali word yoni as "vagina." This is no doubt one meaning of the word among several others, such as "source" and "birth" or "family lineage." When a Bengali reads the word yoni in the above passage, he or she is not thinking of Sita's vagina, I can assure you. "Family lineage" is the correct meaning for the given context. Ramakrishna is describing how Sita's entire mind was centered on Rama: she was completely oblivious of her own family lineage, her body, her clothes and her ornaments.

(90) KC p. 106: He explicitly identifies Sita as one of the figures who, driven by a passionate love to "know" God in man, practiced asceticism to win a female body.

Response: There is no documentation in parentheses and the idea has no textual support of any kind. In endnote # 36 Kripal directs us to pp. 232-36 of Kali's Child, but there is nothing in those pages to support his claim that Ramakrishna identifies Sita as one who practiced ascetism to win a female body.

(91) KC p. 107: M records a similar scene: "I was almost always unconscious. Mathur would take me to Janbajar and keep me there for days. I began to see that I had actually become the Female Servant of the Mother. The women of the house would feel no shame in regards to etiquette, as one feels no shame when looking at a small boy or girl. With Mathur's wife I used to lay Mathur's girls down near him" (KA 2.49-50).

Response: This is another case of faulty translation. I would translate the passage this way: "I was almost always unconscious. Mathur kept me (niye rakhle) at his Janbazar mansion for a few days. I began to see that I had actually become the Female Servant of the Mother. The ladies of the house did not feel at all bashful with me, as one feels no shame when looking at a small boy or girl. I used to escort Mathur's daughter to her husband's chamber with the maidservant."

If we compare the two translations, we can see how the author has distorted the text. Kripal writes: "Mathur would take me to Janbajar," which suggests that it was a regular practice. But there is no such evidence in the Bengali text. There is also nothing there to correspond to Kripal's "in regards to etiquette."

How, given the text, Kripal could translate the last sentence-"With Mathur's wife I used to lay Mathur's girls down near him"-is a complete mystery to me. Because of this mistranslation, the endnote (#38, p. 348) pondering whether Mathur's daughter (meye) is really a reference to an "adult, sexually active woman" is comical.

"The word meye," Kripal informs his readers in the endnote, "is often used in the texts to refer to adult, sexually active women." That's completely untrue. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Bengali knows that meye means a girl or a daughter. The question of sexual activity is not a factor in the use of the term meye.

In the first edition of Kali's Child, Kripal was more forthcoming when he openly expressed his doubt about whether "they" were really Mathur's "daughters" (though God alone knows how he got a plural number!) or Mathur's "well-known lovers" who lay down near him along with his wife. In the second edition, he has concealed his opinion but not changed it. Expressed or concealed, his version has no textual support.

(92) KC p. 107: Ramakrishna, who could never tell a lie and always offered information to all who asked, was a valuable informant for Mathur's prying wife, who would ask Ramakrishna about Mathur's adulterous affairs. Ramakrishna always offered her plenty of information, angering Mathur and winning for himself the reputation of a fink (KA 4.72).

Response: This gives the idea of a recurring practice. There is nothing at KA 4.72 to support that Ramakrishna "always" offered Mathur's wife "plenty of information." We see, in fact, Ramakrishna reporting to her just one incident. Further, Ramakrishna didn't "offer" information; he was closely questioned by Mathur's wife and had no choice but to tell the truth. Perhaps Dr. Kripal thinks that Ramakrishna should have lied to cover for the "temple boss"? The latter part of the sentence: "angering Mathur and winning for himself the reputation of a fink" is not only untrue, it's also needlessly contemptuous.

We have here again the same problem: Kripal interposes his own speculation and conclusions before giving a reference in parentheses. If a reference is given, one expects the author to either present the quotation accurately or to offer an honest summary of the passage being quoted. Kripal does neither and this is a consistent practice throughout Kali's Child. The author's interpretation or commentary should come after the reference in parentheses, not before.

(93) KC p. 109: Kripal takes up for discussion "Ramakrishna's worship of the goddess in a cat." Kripal informs us that while Saradananda and Datta only mention it, "the Kathamrita, on the other hand, records at least four accounts of the incident."

Response: In endnote #44, p. 348, Kripal gives four references from the KA where the cat incident is mentioned: KA 3.68, 4.35, 4.77, 4.144.

When I checked the originals, however, I found the cat incident to be mentioned in only one of the four references: 4.35. Where are the other three? While this point may seem minor, it clearly demonstrates that Kripal doesn't hesitate to make erroneous statements then back them up with false documentation.

(94) KC p. 109: In another passage, Ramakrishna relates this same incident, describing how, like one mad, he began to worship everything with flowers.

Response: Kripal is referring to KA 3.68. There is no evidence in the text that it is the "same incident." There is no mention here of the feeding of the cat.

(95) KC pp. 109-10: This then reminds him of another time when, just as he was about to worship the Shiva-lingam, he was shown that "this universe is the very form of Shiva," that is, he was shown that the entire cosmos was a Shiva-lingam (KA 3.68).

Response: This is quite interesting. At KA 3.68 there is no mention whatsoever of a Shiva-"lingam." What we find instead is the mention of "Shiva." We can see how Kripal has deliberately inserted the word "lingam" twice into the sentence above when it does not exist in the text. Why Kripal would do so becomes apparent when we read his concluding sentence: "The phallic dimensions of this experience are significant."

Phallic dimensions? As a lifelong worshipper of Shiva I can testify that never in my life has thought of a phallus entered into my mind while worshipping Shiva. Again, this is characteristic of every practicing Hindu. "The phallic dimension of this experience" might be "significant" to Kripal, but they are not a part of the experience of those within the tradition.

(96) KC p. 111: Marked or not, Ramakrishna's family had to pay a fee of three hundred rupees to convince the Mukherjees to marry their daughter off to such a character.

Response: Kripal makes it appear as though no one wanted to marry Ramakrishna and that Ramakrishna's family had to bribe the Mukherjees to marry their daughter to "such a character." This is a willful distortion of facts; there is absolutely no textual ground anywhere for making such a claim. If this is his conjecture, as the texts make apparent, Kripal should clearly indicate that this is the case. Paying a bridal fee was a customary practice in that part of India in the 19th century.

(97) KC p. 112: Hriday, Ramakrishna's nephew, paid an especially heavy price for his Tantric practices. He was expelled from the temple for worshiping the feet of Mathur's young granddaughter in some unspecified immoral way (LP 2.APP.26).

Response: When we check the Bengali original, we merely see the following: "Hriday foolishly (buddhi-hina-vashatah) worshiped the feet of Mathurbabu's granddaughter of tender age." One can easily see that there is nothing here to indicate that the worship was done, as Kripal says, "in some unspecified immoral way." Yet whatever the original text lacks in sexual interest, Kripal more than makes up for with his imagination. Further, once again, the author has placed his scenario before the reference in parentheses. Worshiping young girls as embodiments of the divine is not an exclusively Tantric practice; it is a part of the Shakta tradition as well.

Moreover, from the way Kripal discusses the incident, it might appear as if Hriday was expelled because of "the unspecified immoral" nature of his act. The LP, however, is quite clear about why Hriday was expelled. In the very next sentence of the LP we read: "Her father, apprehending that evil might befall the child, became much annoyed and dismissed Hriday from the service in the Kali temple." Trailokyanath, the child's father, was apprehensive because Hriday was a brahmin whereas he belonged to a lower caste: a brahmin worshiping one belonging to a lower caste is not a part of the tradition and is believed to bring some calamity.

(98) KC p. 112: Haladhari and Hriday were by no means alone in their secret practices.

Response: There is no evidence to indicate that Hriday's worship of Trailokya's young daughter was done in secret.

(99) KC p. 113: Regardless of their traditional allegiances during the day, almost everyone, including Ramakrishna's own wife (LP 5.11.9), seems to have led secret midnight lives. Dakshineswar was a very secret place.

Response: At LP 5.11.9 there is an incident where one woman who had received a mantra from the Kartabhaja tradition visits Ramakrishna. He knew about her initiation even though he hadn't been told about it. Later when the woman mentioned it to Sarada Devi, Sarada told her that she, too, had received that mantra before coming to Dakshineswar. Sarada had told Ramakrishna about it and he had advised her to offer the mantra at the feet of her Ishta, chosen ideal.

Some points need to be mentioned here: (1) Receiving a mantra from the Kartabhaja tradition does not necessarily imply actively participating in their way of life; (2) Sarada had received the mantra before she came to Dakshineswar and, having reached there, had offered it at the feet of her Ishta; (3) there is no textual evidence indicating any kind of "midnight lives" led by Sarada and others in Dakshineswar; (4) there was no "secret" about Sarada receiving the mantra: were it so, Saradananda wouldn't have known about it and wouldn't have mentioned it in the Lilaprasanga.

(100) KC p. 114: The term [milan] is commonly used to mean sexual union.

Response: No, milan is commonly used to mean "meeting." It means "sexual union" only in a specialized sense, and this can be understood easily from the context.

(101) KC p. 116: A disciple's bitter comment is pertinent here: he saw no use for such songs expressing this "lovey-dovey stuff" (prema-trema) unless one wanted to get married (KA 4.287).

Response: The disciple Kripal refers to is Mahimacharan and the quote is misleading. Mahimacharan does say at KA 4.287 that he doesn't care for "love and all that stuff." What he says next is entirely different, however, from what Kripal would like us to believe was said: "Besides, I live here with my wife and children. Why all these songs here?"

Mahimacharan did not say that the songs were useful only if one wanted to get married; in fact, his condition seemed to be just the opposite. Being a married man, he was uncomfortable with those songs.

(102) KC p. 116: For his part, while Ramakrishna did not hesitate to sing such songs to his young disciples, he found it very disturbing when a woman sung them to him.

Response: Ramakrishna did not sing those "to his young disciples." When he sang, he sang out of his love and devotion to God (in the form of Krishna or Kali). There is no textual evidence to show that Ramakrishna sang songs "to his young disciples."

(103) KC p. 117: … after four years of sometimes "bizarre" and "grave" (KA 3.24) rituals with her.

Response: At KA 3.24 I found the Bengali phrase bhari utkat, which simply means "extremely difficult" or "extremely severe." How Kripal was able to construe "bizarre" and "grave" from bhari utkat serves to demonstrate yet again his amazing creativity.

(104) KC p. 120: The fourth M. mudra or "parched grain" does not appear explicitly.

Response: In an endnote (#63, p. 348) Kripal says: "There are passages in which a mudra-like grain or dish is consumed (KA 3.141), but it is difficult to tell whether the ritual of the Five M's is implied in such cases."

First, Kripal begins by saying that "There are passages…" and he can refer to only one; that one passage does not refer to the consumption of any "mudra-like grain or dish" at all.

At KA 3.141 we see Ramakrishna describing one of his visions when he saw a Mussalman feeding others with rice, and he also offered a few grains to Ramakrishna. This was seen in a vision and it is very clearly mentioned in KA 3.141. Why, then, did Kripal find it so "difficult to tell whether the ritual of the Five M's is implied in such cases"? He admits that the fourth M does not appear in the text "explicitly"-but it doesn't appear "implicitly" either. That is why the author has to allude to visions seen in meditation without mentioning the fact. Witness his statement: "There are passages in which a mudra-like grain or dish is consumed…" We see in KA 3.141 that what was consumed was rice (bhat), but in order to connect it to the fourth M, Kripal calls rice "a mudra-like grain or dish"!

(105) KC p. 124: Kripal quotes a passage from KA 2.89 when Ramakrishna visited the Kartabhaja sect:

There is one opinion that holds that one should take a woman in one's mystical practice. Once someone took me into a group of Kartabhaja bitches. They all came and sat down near me. When I began to address them all as "Ma," they began to talk among themselves. "This one is just a beginner, he's still not aware of his own shortcomings." According to their view, the undeveloped state is called the beginner; after that comes the striver and after that the perfect of the perfect. A young woman sat down near Vaishnavacharan. Vaishnavacharan said, "Hers is the nature of a little girl!" In the state of the Lover one quickly falls. The state of the Child is the pure state.

Response: My translation of the passage would be as follows:

There is one sect which prescribes spiritual practice in the company of women. I was once taken to the women belonging to the Kartabhaja sect. They all came and sat down near me. When I addressed them as "mother," they began talking among themselves: "He is still a pravartaka, he doesn't know the way." According to their view, pravartaka is a beginner; then comes the sadhaka, the struggling seeker; then comes the siddha's siddha, the supremely perfect. A young woman sat down near Vaishnavacharan. When asked, Vaishnavacharan said, "Her nature is that of a young girl." One quickly strays from the religious path by looking on woman as wife. But to regard her as mother is a pure attitude.

Kripal's deviations from the Bengali text are clear. But note particularly three: First, Kripal's "into a group of Kartabhaja bitches." In the Bengali text we read: kartabhaja magider bhitar, "women belonging to the Kartabhaja sect." The word magi is a colloquial usage for "woman"; the word is not as plain as two other Bengali words for "woman," stri or mahila, but neither does it carry the connotation that "bitch" does in English.

Second, where the original says ghat chinen nai, "He doesn't know the way," Kripal twists into: "He is still not aware of his shortcomings." He later emphasizes this point about "shortcomings."
Finally, where the original speaks about regarding woman as mother (matribhav shuddhabhav), Kripal inexplicably changes it to regarding oneself as the Child. There is no justification for this change.

(106) KC p. 124: Kripal wrongly translates magi as "bitches" whereas it is a term that is commonly used in rural Bengal to refer to "women." It is not an urban term, it is true, but neither does it carry the baggage that the English word "bitch" does. Kripal's translation is in keeping with his general technique of using loaded words to create a cumulative effect.

(107) KC p. 126: Another of Ramakrishna's secret visions might provide us…

Response: Kripal then goes on to translate the "secret talk" that occurs in KA 4.238 when Ramakrishna describes his mystic vision of a young man and the blooming lotuses. Interestingly, in the endnote (p. 349, #69) he mentions two other places in KA where the same description occurs (3.138 and 4.283).

What must be noted is that in these two places (KA 3.138 and KA 4.283), what Kripal calls "secret visions" are not a "secret talk." Even in places where Ramakrishna expressly uses the phrase guhya katha, which Kripal translates as "secret talk," it is seldom "secret." The conversation is held in a room in which many others, besides M, are present. In KA 3.138 for instance, there are many devotees (anek bhakta) in the room, both older men and young disciples. There are also women devotees (meye bhaktera) present. Kripal envisions that surrounded by this crowd, Ramakrishna is secretly narrating his "secret visions."

(108) KC p. 127: Granted, the fact that Ramakrishna was horrified at the thought of actual intercourse, indeed, that he seemed incapable of it (his penis was said to pull back up into its sheath, like the limbs of a tortoise, at the touch of a sexy woman [LP 4.APP]),…

Response: At the end of this reference from LP, Kripal provides in an endnote (#70, p. 349) another reference: KA 4.8. There we see that Ramakrishna is referring to the Bhagavad Gita verse regarding withdrawing the senses as a tortoise withdraws its limbs. The KA text does not refer to Ramakrishna's own reaction "at the touch of a sexy woman." The only thing that is common to the two references is a tortoise!

(109) KC p. 127: Ramakrishna once compared men attached to lover-and-gold to the jackals and dogs who "wet their faces" in their mates' behinds (KA 5.215),…

Response: In an endnote (#72, p. 349) Kripal makes this accusation: "Nikhilananda tones this down considerably by translating 'wet their faces in' (mukha jubare thake) as 'revel in' (GSR, 1013)."

If Nikhilananda merely "tones this down," Kripal distorts it completely. If mukha jubare thake is to be translated as "wet their faces in," the question is "where?" Or, "in what?" Ramakrishna says (in the KA passage which Kripal is apparently quoting): kamini-kanchane, "in kamini-kanchana." Does kamini-kanchana mean "in their mates' behinds"? On the next page (KC 128) Kripal adds another adjective "disgusting" ("…resonate quite well with Ramakrishna's jackals wetting their faces in their mates' disgusting behinds.")

To my mind, mukha jubare thake is best translated as "remain immersed in." If a person is "immersed" in something, that person's face is likely to be touched with whatever he or she is immersed in. I would therefore translate the phrase as: "remain immeresed in sex and money." Nikhilananda's translation catches this idea fairly well. Kripal's, as usual, is inaccurate and is designed to mislead.

(110) KC p. 127-128: The association between the vagina and flowers is common enough in Indian culture…. [Kripal then goes on to give references from select Tantra texts to prove his point. And then ends up by saying:] The Kathamrita is just as rich in symbolic equations between the vagina and flowers.

Response: At the end of the above sentence, he provides an endnote (#76, p. 349). Cleverly enough, in the endnote he prefaces the KA references with: "For lotuses and their symbolic associations, see…" Just "symbolic association"? In the main body of the text he promised his readers that the "Kathamrita is just as rich in symbolic equations between the vagina and flowers" (endnote #76).

In the six references from the KA which Kripal provides, not even one deals with the vagina and flowers.

KA 2.16 has hrt-padma, "lotus of the heart"; KA 2.37 mentions the difference between a bee and a housefly, how the former drinks only the honey of the flowers, but the latter sometimes sits on the flowers and other times on garbage; KA 2.54 has a song in which Kali's feet are compared to a blue lotus; KA 4.192 and KA 5.83 compare the relationship between God and the devotee as that between a flower and the bee, and KA 4.147 has no mention whatsoever of flowers.

Thus we see that none of the references which Kripal provides has anything to do with what he promises the readers they contain.

(111) KC p. 128: In the very next sentence, Kripal continues: "In it, Ramakrishna compares the Kartabhaja practice of coitus reservatus with the bee who sits on the flower without sipping the honey."

Response: There is no reference to this whatsoever. Not even the references he provides along with the earlier sentence deal with this.

(112) KC p. 130: As a householder, the Hero is the husband who takes the goddess in the form of a woman in order to cut the bonds of illusion (KA 3.24).

Response: In KA 3.24 we see that Ramakrishna is describing one of the rituals in a marriage ceremony. So "the goddess in the form of a woman" is really the bride, not just any "woman."

(113) KC p. 131: The Hero's sadhana ends when he can live with his sexy spouse and yet refrain from sex (KA 4.134).

Response: The word in Bengali is ramani, which can simply be translated as "woman" or "spouse"-depending on the context. Kripal's adjective "sexy" is unnecessary and unjustified.

(114) KC p. 132: "Have you attained [a] Krishna?" their guru would ask them. "Yes, I have attained," they would answer, uniting religious achievement and sexual pleasure in a single ambivalent phrase (KA 4.164).

Response: This is yet another example of how Kripal slips in his own commentary and interpretation into the cited text. For accuracy's sake, the reference in parentheses should have come before the final phrase: "uniting religious achievement…." This phrase belongs to Kripal, not Ramakrishna.

(115) KC p. 132: It was Achalananda who claimed to have drank [sic] wine mixed with menstrual blood (KA 3.51).

Response: At KA 3.51 we find nothing whatsoever to substantiate this. There is of course a reference to Achalananda. In the next paragraph, Ramakrishna denounces the practice of the 5 M's which people perform to achieve worldly ends, and in that context does refer to the practice of drinking ritual wine (karan-bari). In the Kathamrita there is no mention of "wine mixed with menstrual blood"-this is Kripal's commentary and it shouldn't be legitimized by placing it before the KA reference in parentheses. Not only is there no mention of "menstrual blood," there is nothing in KA 3.51 to substantiate that Achalananda claimed to have drunk it.

(116) KC p. 134: Of course, Ramakrishna knew that no disciple could ever match such a feat-"If I piss standing, you sons-of-bitches will do it spinning around"-but at least they could accomplish "one-sixteenth" of it (LP 3.4.21).

Response: The Bengali word which Kripal translates as "sons-of-bitches" is shalara. This word carries different shades of meaning depending on the context: it could mean "fellows" or an indulgent "rascals." But never, ever can it mean "sons-of-bitches."

Further, since Kripal has used the more benign verb "pee" on earlier occasions, it's interesting that he has chosen the word "piss" here with its angry, crude undertones. We can see below the usage in the Lilaprasanga:

LP 3.4.21 jadi dandiye muti... "If I urinate standing..."
LP 2.8.14 mutratyag koritecchi... "passing urine..."

In the first case, the word is used as a verb-mota, "to urinate." In the second case, it is a noun-mutra, "urine"-which is common in the usage: mutra-tyag kora, "to pass urine."

Mutra is a Sanskrit term and mota is the Bengalicized version of it. This version is common in other Indian languages also. It is this non-Sanskrit version that is popularly used, not the Sanskrit one.

As regards translating the two versions in English, I don't see any special reason why two different words should be used. Considering the two contexts and the Bengali usage, there doesn't seem to be any justification for using the loaded word "piss."

(117) KC p. 134: For Saradananda, Ramakrishna is thus the model householder, the ideal husband who enacted "a strange, never-before-seen play of love" (endnote #97, which refers us to LP 3.4.14, Great Master 3.4.23) with his wife and yet never engaged, not even once, in that "wretched physical union" (endnote #98, which refers us to LP 3.4.13 Great Master 3.4.22).

Response: The material does not exist in the referenced text.

(118) KC p. 138: Consequently, when his discourse concentrates on woman as Lover, he ridicules their breasts as embodied symbols of excessive lust. They are a "bad sign."

Response: There is no reference given. Ramakrishna does speak of "bad signs" in KA 4.206-7. According to him, among the several physical signs which indicate that a person may not make spiritual progress is: una-panjure lakkhan, "having a rickety condition." Because of Kripal's limited acquaintance with Bengali, it is possible that he looked up Nikhilananda's translation, where this term is translated as "[having a] pigeon breast" (Gospel, 597). Seeing the word "breast," Kripal has taken the ball and run with it, creating the false image of misogynism in order to bolster his own thesis. Nowhere in the Kathamrita do we find Ramakrishna ridiculing "breasts as embodied symbols of excessive lust."

(119) KC p. 138: And he frankly confesses that he is terrified of women, that they remind him of female demons with their huge vaginal and mammary "holes" (chidra) (KA 4.201).

Response: We find in the Bengali: aar anga, pratyanga, chidra sab khoob bado bado dekhi. Sab rakshasir mato dekhi, "I find that their bodies, their limbs, and even their pores are very large. This makes me look upon them as she-monsters." (Gospel, 593: Nikhilananda's translation is true to the original). Compare this with the loaded words Kripal uses: … huge vaginal and mammary "holes." Even if chidra is translated as "holes," one would like to know why Kripal mentions only "vaginal and mammary" holes? There are references in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads which refer to the openings in the human body and they include, among other "holes," eyes, nostrils, ears as well (but not "mammary" holes).

(120) KC p. 138: In numerous places, for example, Ramakrishna slams his disciples' desires to build "hospitals and dispensaries" and found communities as so many pacifiers (i.e. fake breasts), mere distractions that offer no real nourishment or joy. The toys and dolls of society are fine until the Child becomes really hungry, throws down its pacifier, and begins to cry… (KA 5.35).

Response: There is no mention in the text of a "pacifier." (And in case the reader doesn't know what a pacifier is, Kripal informs us: "i.e. fake breasts.") At KA 5.35 the word Ramakrishna uses is putul, which simply means "doll." But since Kripal is dealing with "breasts" in this section, he slips a pacifier into the discussion. Of course he is free to do so, but Kripal shouldn't attribute it to Ramakrishna and then attempt to legitimize it by providing a KA reference after the phrase.

By the way, Kripal begins by saying "In numerous places…" but offers just one reference (KA 5.35).

Further, the example of the child playing with a doll (KA 5.35) is given in an entirely different context. It is not given to "slam the disciples' desires to build hospitals and dispensaries and found communities" but to show that detachment (vairagya) does not come until the desire for enjoyment (bhoga) has run its course.

Thus we see that Kripal manages to: (1) misquote Ramakrishna, and (2) use Ramakrishna's illustration in the wrong place.

(121) KC p. 138: In a similar vein, Ramakrishna's metaphors equate "analytic reason" with the Child's cry. When the Mother comes and offers her breast, that too will stop (KA 2.35). Unlike the Mother's breast, reason is "dry" (KA 5.131).

Response: This is another example of how Kripal connects two separate passages, inserts his own comment, and then provides a reference number in parentheses. Here for instance in KA 5.131, we merely see Ramakrishna telling Hazra that he is "dry" because he only resorts to reason. Kripal's version? "Unlike the Mother's breast, reason is dry." But this is not what we find in KA 5.131. There is no reference whatsoever to a breast.

(122) KC p. 138: As a Tantric reality, the Lover's lap was a "place of disgust" (KA 3.51).

Response: Kripal seems to have a difficult time making up his mind. On p. 132 he gives the same reference and there, according to him, the "place of disgust" is the female genitals (this is how he arrives at the interpretation of "wine mixed with menstrual blood"); and now, six pages later, he uses the reference again, and this time the "place of disgust" has miraculously become "the Lover's lap."

(123) KC p. 138: And when it did appear in his visions, it purified itself by appearing as the beautiful lotus (KA 4.238), that pure flower to which even water cannot stick.

Response: There is no reference whatsoever in KA 4.238 to any "lap." Kripal is merely referring the reader to the same vision of the young man and the blooming lotuses. What puzzles me is how does this fit into what he is discussing in this paragraph (viz. "the lap" symbol in "Ramakrishna's discourse")?

(124) KC p. 138: The Mother's lap, on the other hand, is a place of refuge, a place to which one flees from the world: "In childhood one fears the world. One only thinks of how to get close to Ma" (KA 2.21).

Response: Here again there is no reference to "lap" in the text which Kripal quotes. Let us remember, though, that in the present section Kripal is trying to establish the use of "in the womb," "in the lap," and "at the breast" in Ramakrishna's discourse. Since he evidently cannot find material for the "in the lap" segment, he inserts his own material and then cites a reference from the Kathamrita. But when we go to the referenced material, we find no mention of the lap at all.

The example in KA 2.21 actually deals with the Homa bird: how the fledglings fly upward toward their mother when they discover they are falling down due to gravity. Then Ramakrishna says: "These children [meaning Rakhal and others] are exactly like that. They are wary of the world from their childhood itself. They have only one goal: how to go to mother, how to attain God."

(125) KC p. 138: For Ramakrishna, this maternal intimacy is likened to the attainment of God.

Response: Kripal suppresses the fact that Ramakrishna's quote relates back to the example of the Homa bird given above. This example clearly indicates that going to the mother is compared to the attainment of God.

In other places, Ramakrishna has used other imagery to convey the same idea. For instance in KA 2.57, he compares the attainment of God to the preparation of makara-dhvaja; once this ayurvedic medicine is prepared, it doesn't matter whether the mud pot in which it is prepared remains or is destroyed; similarly, once God is attained, it doesn't matter whether the body remains or is destroyed.

(126) KC p. 139: In the saint's mind, the issue was not who was acting like a child or an infant. Everyone was. After all, the scholars and the social workers had their own dolls and pacifiers. The issue rather was who had the real breasts. Ramakrishna was convinced that social and intellectual activity are nothing more than painted red pacifiers, paltry imitations of the real thing.

Response: As seen above in note #120, Kripal completely fabricates the quote about "pacifiers." Now on the basis of this totally false reference, he feels free to make a point about fake breasts and real breasts.

(127) KC p. 140: But because the goddess did not always cooperate, Ramakrishna the Child had to resort to other means of coercion. No longer able to win her over with childlike love and devotion, he sometimes had to embarrass her: "My state is that of the Child. When the goddess of illusion sees this state, she becomes embarrassed and steps aside to let one pass" (KA 5.105; also endnote #120).

Response: Kripal is quoting out of context here. The word in Bengali is maya-devi, which Kripal translates as "goddess of illusion." This is not a reference to Kali or the Divine Mother. Therefore Kripal's statement: "No longer able to win her over with childlike love and devotion, he sometimes had to embarrass her: . . . " is misleading. No one ever seeks to win over maya "with childlike love and devotion." Certainly Ramakrishna never did.

Oddly enough, in endnote #120 Kripal refers the reader to KA 2.88 and LP 3.8.35. In both these texts there is no "goddess of illusion"; there is simply "maya." One wonders why he gave these references at all since they don't support his theory of embarrassing the "mother." In fact, they clearly negate the point he is trying to make.

(128) KC p. 140: The prostitutes, once embodiments of the goddess of illusion (i.e. the Lover), found themselves transformed into mothers, and as mothers they could only be ashamed of trying to seduce their own child.

Response: Throughout Kali's Child, Kripal dwells endlessly upon Kali as Mother and Lover (this is also the title of the chapter in which the above passage occurs). But now he equates the Lover with "maya"-not Kali. It appears that the author is unfamiliar with the ontological status of maya in Indian philosophy.

(129) KC p. 140: "Beware of the Gopala state!" he would shout (KA 2.154).

Response: We don't see Ramakrishna "shouting" and, what's more, we don't even see him saying, "Beware of the Gopala state!" Yes, there is a discussion about this in KA 2.154, but neither the words quoted nor the description ("he would shout") can be found in KA 2.154.

(130) KC p. 141: "Haripad and the boys know nothing," Ramakrishna complained (KA 4.164).

Response: This is not a serious error, but nevertheless one worth mentioning since it reveals yet again the author's ignorance of Bengali. Haripad chelemanush, kichu bojhe na
would be correctly translated as: "Haripad is an innocent boy, he doesn't understand."

Notice that "Haripad is an innocent boy" has become in Kripal's translation, "Haripad and the boys"!

(131) KC p. 141: Again, the motherly Paramahamsa puts the boy in his lap and tries to nurse him with his strangely full breasts (KA 5.31).

Response: Again we see the author's habitual ploy of placing his own words, nonexistent in the citation, before the reference in parentheses. In KA 5.31 we read: thakurer rakhaler sambandhe gopal bhab. Jemon ma'r kole choto chele giya bose, rakhal o thakurer koler upar bhar diya basiten. Jeno mai khachhen, "The Master looked upon Rakhal as his child. Rakhal would sit leaning on the Master's lap as a young child leans on its mother while sucking her breast."

One can easily see how skewed and misleading Kripal's version is.

(132) KC p. 142: "This is the meaning of Tantric ritual. The Mother is the Lover." Dr. Sarkar's insight, focused through the curved surface of my own cultural lenses, has functioned as the thesis of the present chapter.

Response: But it's an erroneous thesis because Kripal quotes Sarkar incorrectly. Sarkar's words were: E Tantrik upasana. Janani ramani, "This is Tantrik worship: looking upon a woman as mother" (KA 3.230). Kripal distorts the phrase into the bizarre "The Mother is the Lover" and then identifies the passages dealing with maya as the Lover-Kali.

(133) KC p. 142: On the contrary, he insisted, to the utter horror of those around him, that, since the goddess incarnates in every woman, sex with any woman is a "raping of the mother," an act of incest.

Response: This is a powerful image: the insisting Ramakrishna, the horrified looks of those around him, and the shocking words: sex with any woman is a "raping of the mother" (since these are in quotes, we must assume Kripal is quoting from some text). This dramatic description and quotation need a reference. But alas, none is given. The reason no reference is given is because there is none to give. The image and the words exist only in the author's imagination, not in any source book on Ramakrishna.

(134) KC p. 142: Ramakrishna the Child remained a child. As he had counselled his tempted disciples to do, the saint had successfully "cleaved" the goddess in two: "You bitch! You're going to ruin my ideals! I'll cleave your body in two!" (KA 3.86)

Response: This is a cleverly worded sentence which is designed to mislead. The quoted words are not addressed to the goddess. At KA 3.86 we see that Ramakrishna tells Mani Mallik and others that a person should not remain quiet in the face of untruth and injustice. He gives the example of a lewd woman (nashta stri) who is trying to drag a man from his highest goal. At such times, one should be strong (virer bhab) and say, "You wretch (shali)!….."

As he has done in other places, Kripal uses Ramakrishna's words out of context.

Chapter Three

(135) KC p. 148: Samkhya is an ancient "philosophical vision" (darshana) in India that posited two distinct but related aspects of reality, an inactive transcendent male principle called purusha and an active immanent principle called prakriti.

Response: Kripal isn't quoting anyone here, so we must assume that what he is writing comes from his own understanding. In Samkhya philosophy, purusha is indeed "an inactive, transcendent" principle, but Kripal is incorrect when he adds to it the adjective "male". There is no gender involved in the Samkhyan categories of purusha and prakriti, although grammatically the "word" (not the "principle") purusha is masculine and the "word" (again, not the "principle") prakriti is feminine.

(136) KC p. 148: [Tantra] also, again much like Samkhya, identified the feminine principle as the active agent….

Response: Again, it must be mentioned that in Samkhya, prakriti is not the "feminine principle," although the "word" prakriti is in the feminine gender.

(137) KC p. 153: Having realized the (essentially Tantric) identity of brahman and shakti, Tota bowed his head to Kali and took his leave (LP 3.3.31).

Response: I could not find any reference at LP 3.3.31 about Tota. Wherever the reference may occur, it is good to remember that (1) the parenthetical remark is Kripal's own, and (2) Vedanta does not say that brahman and shakti are different.

(138) KC p. 155: Kripal gives here the Kathamrita version of the Bhavamukha command:

…Ma came to me dressed as Rati's mother and said, "Remain in existence, my child." I also told Haladhari this. Occasionally I forgot these words and suffered for it. Not remaining in existence, I broke a tooth. And so, when I don't hear divine words or see things, I'll remain in existence-with devotion I'll remain!" (KA 4.2-3)

Response: I found Kripal's translation, "Remain in existence," really very entertaining. What ever does this translation mean? The author obviously realizes that it's incomprehensible, so he decodes the meaning for the reader. Kripal explains (KC 156): "Remain as you are, on this side of the dialectic. Go on worshipping forms. You are fine." In other places, Kripal translates bhava differently. At KC 189, he translates bhava as "identity."

In Bengali we find: tui bhabei thak, "Continue to remain in bhava." An understanding of the concept of bhava as developed in Bengal (Gaudiya) Vaishnavism is necessary to correctly understand the term bhavamukha.

The bhava as used in this context has nothing to do with "existence." The word is not the opposite of abhava, "nonexistence" or "absence." I would translate the sentence as: "Continue to maintain your bhava" (tui bhabei thak). What this command means is: "Do not merge your identity with the Absolute, but continue to do good to people while you live in the direct knowledge that your real nature is one with the Absolute."

(139) KC p. 158: It was only after the six-month samadhi, Saradananda tells us, that Ramakrishna began to awaken fully to the realization that resulted in such a "liberal doctrine," namely, the realization that all religions meet in Vedanta. And it was only after the six-month samadhi that he became convinced that it was his destiny to be the divinely ordained teacher of this truth to the world and move away from thinking of himself as "the humblest of the humble" (endnote #15 which references LP 3.4.1; 3.3).

Response: This is not an honest summary of the references that Kripal provides. The sarcastic tone and language are quite apparent. To mention only two important points: (1) Nowhere does Saradananda say that Ramakrishna had the realization "that all religions meet in Vedanta." (2) Saradananda mentions the identification with the Cosmic "I" as opposed to the little "I" which is identified with a person's psychophysical personality. This is a far cry from Kripal's "[moving] away from thinking of himself as 'the humblest of the humble.'"

While the author is free to make these comments he should at least take the responsibility for making them himself. He shouldn't mislead the reader into believing that what is being said has textual support.

(140) KC p. 159: This is a long way from Saradananda's belief that the six-month samadhi and its famous command taught Ramakrishna that the goal of all states is a formless brahman and that Vedanta is the highest truth!

Response: This is Kripal's summary of his own ideas. There is no reference given. Nowhere in the Lilaprasanga do we find this "Saradananda's belief" expressed.

(141) KC p. 160: Ramakrishna is describing a vision he used to have of another naked paramahamsa: "A naked person used to stay around-I would play with his little penis with my hand. Then I would laugh a lot. This naked form used to come out of me. It was in the form of a paramahamsa-like a boy" (KA 4.231).

Response: In the second edition of Kali's Child, Kripal translates the Bengali word dhan as "little penis"-a marked improvement over "little cock," which is what he wrote in the first edition. By now we're familiar with Kripal's "troubled by his desire for the boys" subtext and his practice of using loaded words to promote his thesis. Literally, dhan means "treasure," and rather than having a provocative connotation ("little cock" or "little penis"), it is on the contrary a word which is euphemistic and not at all vulgar. In KC endnote #18, p. 351, Kripal says that "it is a crude word" and that his Bengali tutor had to whisper its meaning to him. By the time the second edition was printed, Kripal has changed the word from "cock" to "penis" but not the story that his Bengali tutor had to "whisper" its meaning. We are left wondering whether his tutor whispered the 1st edition version or the 2nd edition version! I am not happy with either version.

In any case, in the endnote to the second edition, Kripal has at least confessed: "But it is also meant to be affectionate and funny, something a mother might jokingly say when talking to or about her little boy." That gives us a simple test to find out if "little penis" is an appropriate translation of the Bengali word dhan. Is "little penis" an affectionate and funny usage, something a mother might jokingly say when talking to or about her little boy?

(142) KC p. 160: This vision, however, does more than hark back to the memories of the hut in the trees: it also answers those memories by reversing the relationship that no doubt existed between Tota and the young Ramakrishna, for here the paramahamsa, not the saint, appears as the sexual object, as the boy.

Response: What makes Kripal so certain that "the relationship no doubt existed between Tota and the young Ramakrishna"? He hasn't shown any textual evidence to prove his point. Are his own theories enough to count as "evidence"?

(143) KC p. 160-61: Just a few lines down, Ramakrishna reveals another secret. After telling his audience how he used to perform Tantric rituals with the Bhairavi, Ramakrishna becomes excited and turns to a disciple: "In that state I couldn't help but worship the little penises of boys with sandal-paste and flowers" (KA 4.232).

Response: The Bengali word used is the same as earlier: dhan (see note #141). In endnote #19, p. 351, Kripal quotes a ritual from the Yoni-Tantra and speculates that Ramakrishna might have been in fact "rubbing" sandal-paste, not "worshipping" with it. Having made this speculation, it now becomes a "fact" in Kripal's mind and he now feels free to say in the main body of the text:

The vision has entered waking life: the boyish penis he once fondled in a dream-like vision he now rubs with sandle-paste in the light of the day; and the laughter of the dream has been replaced by the seriousness and compulsion of the ritual act.

We can see that what was merely "touching" (hat diye) in the original, "playing with hand" in Kripal's earlier version, has now become "fondling" just a few lines later. To add to this troubling atmosphere, thick with pederastic insinuations, Kripal further adds "the seriousness and compulsion of the ritual act." One certainly can't accuse him of subtlety. But one can accuse him of willfully distorting the texts to create a scene fetid with sexual abuse, a scene which does not exist anywhere, either historically or in any text. It is solely a product of the author's imagination.

(144) KC p. 161: In volume 4, that book of secrets, the saint speaks of this "worship of the living lingam": "The paramahamsa's state of madness also used to come [upon me]. I would become mad and worship my own penis with the awareness that it was Shiva's penis. This is called the worship of the living lingam [jivantalingapuja]. And it became adorned with a little pearl! Now I'm not able to do that" (KA 4.106).

Response: There is quite a bit of mistranslation here:

(1) In this entire section, Ramakrishna is describing the nature of a paramahamsa. Paramahamser abar unmader avastha hoy, "A state of [divine] madness can, again, come upon a paramahamsa." There is nothing in the text or the context to support Kripal's words "…used to come [upon me]."

(2) Jokhon unmad holo, shiva-linga bodhe nijer linga puja kortam, "When that madness came upon me, I used to worship my genitals looking upon them as a shiva-linga."

In Bengali and other Indian languages, linga doesn't carry the kind of loaded meaning which "penis" does in English. Moreover, Shiva-linga by no stretch of imagination can be translated as "Shiva's penis." Even if the phallic origin of the symbol is granted (for argument's sake), the "penis" itself is the symbol of Shiva. It cannot be called "Shiva's penis." In reality, however, when a Hindu worships a Shiva-linga, he or she has in mind neither a "penis" nor "Shiva's penis," but just the presence of the Lord or the Divine. Thus Kripal's translation is not only inaccurate but also culturally insensitive.

(3) ekta abar mukta parano hoto, "A pearl used to be put on it." Inexplicably, Kripal's translation goes way off the mark. It's odd that someone who is ostensibly a stickler for literal accuracy (read some of his sarcastic comments about Nikhilananda's translation) should do this. When we read his endnote #21 (p. 352) we understand why he translated it the way he did. He says: "I am indebted to Narasingha Sil for his interpretation of the pearl as a ball of seminal fluid." The actual explanation is much simpler. It's customary in India to decorate the Shivalinga with garlands and ornaments such as necklaces.

(145) KC p. 162: In another passage, yet again in volume 4, we learn that Ramakrishna's habit of garlanding Purna with flowers and rubbing sandal-paste on his "body" would send the boy into samadhi (KA 4.212).

Response: I have already discussed this passage elaborately in note #55. What is interesting is that on that page, Kripal translates this same passage as:

If you put a garland on his neck and sandal-paste on his body and then burn incense, he goes into samadhi!

Now, after almost 90 pages, "putting" sandal-paste on Purna's body is transformed into "rubbing" sandal-paste, and Kripal puts the word "body" within quotation marks. His implication is clear.

This is typical of Kripal's methodology: first, mistranslate a passage or make a speculation, then build on it as if it were a proven "fact."

(146) KC p. 162: No wonder that Purna's parents, like Gadadhar's own mother, worried about such practices and suspected more than religion in this worship (KA 3.149).

Response: This entire sentence is Kripal's speculation; I searched KA 3.149 in vain in the attempt to verify what Kripal is saying. The passage in KA 3.149 has already been discussed in note #57.

(147) KC p. 163-64: And the suffering continued. Saradananda notes that Vedantic paramahamsas began coming now, filling Ramakrishna's room with their philosophical debates. Ramakrishna acted as umpire as he took refuge again and again in a chamber pot kept in the corner of the room for him (LP 2.16.1).

Response: I don't know whether Kripal is trying to be humorous, but there is no reference whatsoever to a "chamber pot" in LP 2.16.1.

(148) KC p. 165: The vision of the bearded Muslim, for example, occurs in at least two other places, both in the Kathamrita. In both passages, one of them listed as secret talk (KA 3.141), the vision clearly carries a Tantric message: the bearded Muslim (a defiled source of food for any good brahmin) distributes grains of rice …

Response: The vision occurs in two places and only one of them is listed as "secret talk"-which shows just how "secret" that secret talk was. Another point that should be remembered is that during the so-called "secret talks" which Kripal incessantly dwells upon, the doors of Ramakrishna's room were wide open and the room was almost always full of people. If we check the "secret talk" reference that Kripal gives (KA 3.141), we see that many devotees (anek bhakta) were present-both older men (Girish, Balaram, Trailokya, Jaygopal, M, et al) as well as younger ones (Paltu, Dvija, Purna, younger Naren), plus women devotees (meye bhaktera).

(149) KC p. 165: In one of the visions (KA 3.46), Ramakrishna takes this lesson of the bearded Muslim to his usual Tantric extremes and tastes the disgusting substances of feces and pee with a flaming visionary tongue. Purity is transcended in a typically Tantric fashion. In the end, whether Ramakrishna saw Vedanta or Tantra in the "Muslim" teachings of Govinda is difficult to say. The textual record is ambiguous at best.

Response: There is nothing "ambiguous" in the "textual record." Why didn't Kripal quote the passage? Because if he had done so, it would indicate that there wasn't any ambiguity at all. The vision Kripal quotes ends with these words of Ramakrishna: dekhale je sab ek, "I was shown that everything is one."

The vision was not about "transcending purity in a typical Tantric fashion" but realizing the unity and oneness of existence. The vision of the bearded Muslim begins with this sentence KA 3.46: ami ek din dekhlam, ek chaitanya-abhed, "One day I saw that consciousness is one-undivided." There is clearly no ambiguity about the nature of Ramakrishna's vision.

(150) KC p. 166: When challenged by the women of the village with the simple fact that Ramakrishna wished to be with his wife, the Bhairavi would snap back with the retort: "What can he say? It was I who opened his eyes!" (LP 2.17.10)

Response: Misquoted. When we go to LP 2.17.10 we see this: "If anyone raised a question before her [Bhairavi] on any spiritual matter and said that he would ask Ramakrishna and have his opinion on it, she would flare up and say, 'What can he say? It is I who opened his eyes.'"

Bhairavi's words were spoken in a context entirely different from what Kripal says.

(151) KC p. 166: Finally, when the Bhairavi broke a village custom, a verbal battle ensued that led to her eventual defeat and humiliation. She apologized to Ramakrishna, rubbed his body with sandal-paste, and left for Benares.

Response: This is clearly a deliberate distortion. Note the phrase: "rubbed his body with sandal-paste." Kripal provides no reference, but I checked in LP 2.17.14: tini bhakti-sahakare vividh pushpamala svahaste rachana o chandana-charchit koriya sri-gauranga-jnane thakurke mahohar-beshe bhushita korilen evam sarvantahkarane kshama-prarthana korilen, "with devotion she made garlands of various flowers and smeared them with sandal-paste, and having beautifully adorned the Master as Sri Gauranga, asked his forgiveness with all her heart."

The Bhairavi smeared the garlands of flowers with sandal-paste; in Kripal's version she "rubbed his body with sandal-paste."

(152) KC p. 166: Once the party finally arrived at the holy city, Ramakrishna found that it was not at all what he had expected. Because he did not dress like a holy man and wore no sectarian marks on his body, no one recognized Ramakrishna as the paramahamsa he thought he was (JV[5], 66).

Response: This is not a summary of what is found in the reference that Kripal gives. Dutta doesn't say anything even remotely close to: "…no one recognized Ramakrishna as the paramahamsa he thought he was." Kripal is inserting his own comments and making it appear as if it's in the documented material.

(153) KC p. 167: It was in this holy city that Ramakrishna ran into his old Tantric guru, the Bhairavi. She somehow managed to take him to another of her Tantric circles, this one held under the cover of darkness on the bank of the Ganges… (KA 2.142)

Response: This is completely false. In KA 2.142 there is no mention of the Bhairavi escorting Ramakrishna to the circle and, again, the circle being held "under the cover of darkness" is Kripal's speculation. It may well have been held in the dark; we don't know. But the text to which Kripal refers us says nothing about the time.

In Bengali we read: ek din bhairavichakre amay niye gelo, "One day I was taken to a bhairavichakra (meaning "a circle of bhairavas and bhairavis")." Kripal probably-and wrongly-split the word into two: bhairavi chakre, and thus managed to say that it was the Bhairavi that took Ramakrishna to the circle. Further, Ramakrishna usually referred to the Bhairavi as "Bamni" (from Sanskrit "Brahmani").

To give credance to his thesis, Kripal provides an endnote #29 (p. 352) in which we are asked to "see also LP 4.4.39". When we look it up, we find only this statement: "…The sadhakas' improper conduct at Kashi due to excessive drinking after performing the divine Mother's nominal worship, to witness which they had invited Ramakrishna…" There is no mention of the Bhairavi and no mention of the time of the day when the circle was held. We can also see that "they had invited Ramakrishna." There is no mention at all of the Bhairavi taking Ramakrishna there.

(154) KC p. 169: Saradananda tells us, Ramakrishna saw a man of fair complexion coming toward him. He knew that it was a foreigner because "his nose was flat." The foreigner spoke: "Jesus-he who gave his heart's blood in order to save humanity from suffering and pain and who endured death at the hands of men, he is one with the Lord, the greatest yogi, the loving Jesus Christ!" (LP 2.21.3)

Response: Kripal's summary is inaccurate. In LP 2.21.3 we don't see that Ramakrishna could identify the foreigner as Jesus because "his nose was flat." He simply said that the foreigner's tip of the nose was flat. It was not a factor that helped Ramakrishna recognize Jesus. Moreover, it is not the "foreigner" who speaks those words in quotes; Saradananda tells us very clearly that the words arose "with a ringing sound from the depths of Ramakrishna's pure heart" (thakurer poot hridayer antasthal hoite dhvanita hoite lagilo).

(155) KC p. 181: Ramakrishna turns toward the Panchavati or "Place of Five Trees" and says to M: 'I used to sit in this Panchavati. In time I became mad! O what happened! Kali is brahman. She who has sex with Shiva is Kali, the Primordial Power! She arouses the Unmoving …. There is the Self of Consciousness and the Power of Consciousness. The Self of Consciousness is a man, the Power of Consciousness is a woman. The Self of Consciousness is Krishna, the Power of Consciousness is Radha. The devotee is a particular form of this Power of Consciousness" (KA 4.60).

Response: This passage abounds in egregious mistranslations.

(1) kalai brahma means: "Kala is Brahman." Kripal's translation: "Kali is brahman."
(2) jini kaler sahit raman koren, tini-i kali-adyashakti means: "That which sports with Kala is Kali, the primal energy." Kripal's translation: "She who has sex with Shiva is Kali, the Primordial Power!"
(3) atalke taliye den means: "She moves the Immovable." Kripal's version: "She arouses the Unmoving."
(4) chidatma purush, chitshakti prakriti means: "Chidatma is Purusha, Chitshakti is Prakriti." Kripal's version: "The Self of Consciousness is a man, the Power of Consciousness is a woman." As he has done earlier, Kripal ignores the technical categories of Purusha and Prakriti, and replaces them with man and woman.

(156) KC p. 189: For Ramakrishna, the nature of the mystical experience varies according to psychological temperament and the consequent bhava or "identity" that the aspirant takes on to approach the divine (endnote #57).

Response: When I saw endnote #57 I understood why Kripal translated bhava as "identity" here-as opposed to his earlier translation of the same word as "existence" ("You remain in existence" KC 155). In the endnote, Kripal says:

Interestingly, the word bhava can also be used to refer to a person's sexual orientation or intention. For example, in JV(5), 49, Ramakrishna's implied intention to join Mathur and his wife in bed and Mathur's desire to lie down with Ramakrishna are both described as bhavas.

I checked the Jivanavrittanta and marveled to see how much the original text had been distorted. The problem lies in the Bengali word bhava, which can be used in a great variety of ways. In JV[5], 49 we find:

Whenever Paramahamsadeva wished to go some place, he would go there without bothering about the appropriateness of the place, the time or the people. He would immediately retreat after entering the room if Mathur and his wife were sleeping on the bed. Mathur and his wife would become dismayed and say, "Father! Why do you go away after seeing us? Do you have any different intention (bhava)? You don't even have the 'knowledge' that children have." When on some day Mathur's mind felt uplifted by the divine (mane kono prakar bhaboday hoito), he invited Ramakrishna to sleep near (nikat) him. Paramahamsadeva did not object to that.

The points to be noted are:

(1) Ramakrishna did not enter the room with (as Kripal says) the intention of joining Mathur and his wife in bed;
(2) Inviting Ramakrishna to sleep "near" is different from "lying down with Ramakrishna." In KA 4.72 we read: "I used to sleep in the same room in which Mathurbabu and his wife slept. They cared for me as if I was their child. In those days I was in a state of divine madness (unmada avastha). Mathurbabu would ask: 'Father, are you able to hear our conversation?' I would say yes."
(3) The word bhava has many meanings, depending on the context.
(4) Finally, we are dealing with a cultural issue here. It is not at all unusual for people in India to share the same room for sleeping. It is more common than uncommon.

(157) KC p. 191: The milkmaids' love was free from lust, he says repeatedly, as if to reassure himself (endnote #61 which references KA 2.110; 5.52).

Response: "As if to reassure himself" is Kripal's comment and should not be included in the referenced matter.

(158) KC p. 192: It would not be too much to say that Ramakrishna's metaphors are somewhat confused … Somehow devotional love is lustful, and somehow it is not. Or in Ramakrishna's words, "the lust of devotional love is not within lust" (KA 3.246).

Response: First of all, a technicality. In KA 3.246, the words are not Ramakrishna's but M's. Since Ramakrishna agrees, however, with them, we can let that pass.

In the Kathamrita we read: bhakti-kamana bujhi kamanar madhye noy, "The desire for devotion, I suppose, is not a 'desire'?"

M asks this question to Ramakrishna because he had earlier said to another person: "I have a desire for devotion."

Like bhava, kamana is another word that can have different shades of meaning such as lust or desire, depending on the context. Kripal understands this, and he does translate the same word differently in different places, but he frequently translates the word simply to suit his thesis, without regard to the context of the source material from which he quotes.

Chapter Four

(159) KC pp. 202-4: have several references from a mysterious source called RJS. Nowhere in the book are we told what RJS refers to.

(160) KC p. 203: In other songs, the poet is more explicit about the sexual dimensions of his Mother's feet: "She is immersed in sexual delight on top of her husband. He trembles as he tries to hold the weight of her feet" (KA 1.196).

Response: This is a very misleading translation. The Bengali song runs like this:

Shiva sange sada range anande magana,
Sudhapane dhala dhala tale kintu pade na (ma).
Viparita ratatura, padabhare kampe dhara,
Ubhaye pagale para, lajja bhaya ar mane na (ma)
My Translation:
Behold my Mother playing with Shiva, immersed in joy!
Drunk with celestial wine, She reels but she does not fall.
Filled with love she stands on top [of Shiva], and the earth trembles under Her feet:
Both are mad with frenzy, unmindful of fear and shame!

The points to be noted are: It is not Shiva who trembles but the earth (dhara). The word rati has various shades of meaning, Kripal translates ratatura as "immersed in sexual delight on top of her husband." To me it seems that a more accurate translation-one that comes closer to reflecting the song's context-would be: "filled with love she stands on top [of Shiva]."

(161) KC p .220: "Now I'm telling you something very secret-why I love Purna, Narendra, and all the others so much. I broke my arm while embracing Lord Jagannath in the erotic state. Then it was made known to me: 'You have taken a body. Now remain in the different states-the Friend, the Mother, and the rest-in relation to other forms of man'" (KA 4.227-28). There is something secret, even scandalous, about this incident.

Response: When we go to KA 4.227-28 we don't find anything even remotely secretive and scandalous. Kripal's translation: "while embracing Lord Jagannath in the erotic state" is in Bengali, jagannather sange madhur-bhabe alingan korte giye, which I would translate as: "while embracing Jagannath in a state of madhur-bhava." The madhur-bhava is one of the states in Indian devotional schools in which the Supreme Being is perceived as one's beloved.

Kripal defines "the erotic" as "a dimension of human experience that is simultaneously related both to the physical and emotional experience of sexuality and to the deepest ontological levels of religious experience" (KC 23). If this is what Kripal means by "erotic," then his translation of madhur-bhava as "the erotic state" is completely erroneous. In Hindu devotional tradition, madhur-bhava is characterized by the intimacy, trust and total selflessness that is present in the relationship with one's beloved. The "physical and emotional experience of sexuality" is not a fundamental feature of madhur-bhava.

Having thus mistranslated the text as "embracing Lord Jagannath in the erotic state," Kripal raises a doubt: "What precisely was Ramakrishna doing in the vision...?" Two pages later (KC 223), "embracing" has mysteriously evolved into an "erotic encounter." Some sixty pages later (KC 291), the "embracing" reference returns with: "... he tried to embrace a male god in an erotic state" (emphasis mine).

If only Kripal had known the tradition connected with Lord Jagannath, he wouldn't have had to struggle so much to "interpret" the vision. The explanation is simple: Every year there is a Chariot Festival (ratha-yatra) in Puri, where Lord Jagannath's ancient temple stands. During this festival, it is customary for devotees to "embrace" the Lord. What this essentially means is an opportunity to touch the image that is taken out of the temple in a chariot which is pulled by thousands of devotees. This act of "embracing" is a sacred ritual in which every devotee is free to participate. No Hindu considers this as an act "to engage Lord Jagannath in an erotic encounter" (KC 223)! In fact, I know Hindus who have performed this rite over a hundred times. They would find the term "erotic encounter" either mystifying or hilarious.

(162) KC p. 224: For Vaishnavacharan, such a faith certainly carried homoerotic dimensions. Ramakrishna, for example, points out that Vaishnavacharan liked to look at pictures of men (manusha), for they aroused in him feelings of "tenderness" (komala) and "love" (prema) (KA 4.75).

Response: Again, more mistranslation. At KA 4.75 we see Ramakrishna saying: Vaishnavacharan manusher chhabi dekhe komal bhab-premer bhab-pachhand karato, "Vaishnavacharan liked pictures of persons expressing tenderness and love."

Kripal has mistranslated manusher chhabi as "pictures of men." Manush in this context doesn't specifically refer to "men" but to "human beings" in general.

Then Kripal adds:

Ramakrishna, we might recall, sexually aroused himself with a very similar practice (KA 5.108).

This misleading translation and assertion have been dealt with in the introductory essay preceding these notes (see pp. 9-10). We should also observe Kripal's use of the mischievous phrase: "a very similar practice."

(163) KC p. 224: More to the point, Datta records a rhyme of Ramakrishna's that explicitly connects Vaishnavacharan's "depraved" Kartabhajas with the Hijras, a religious community of castrated men known for their homosexual practices: "When the woman is a Hijra and the man is a khoja (eunuch), then you will be a Kartabhaja" (Tattvasara, 99).

Response: I checked the Bengali original of Datta's Tattvasara and found a number of inaccuracies.

(1) This is not a "rhyme of Ramakrishna." Datta very clearly says: Kartabhajadiger mate o ullekhita achhe, "it is also said in the traditions of the Kartabhajas and others."
(2) The Hijras are not a "religious community."
(3) In the endnote (#34, p. 355) Kripal comments: "Datta misreads the passage as referring to the desexualized nature of the 'final state.'" There is no reason to believe that Datta "misreads" the passage, unless Kripal can show from an independent source what-according to him-is the "real meaning" of the passage. Kripal has no other source to support his "reading" of the text. One must ask, then: On whose authority should we reject Datta and accept Kripal? Unfortunately, this is a pattern throughout Kali's Child. The source books become authentic when they suit his thesis, and when they don't, either he doesn't quote them, or he skips the passages that interfere with his interpretation, or he declares the authors' understanding to be imperfect. From the context, Datta's reading makes perfect sense, and Datta should know because he is describing a contemporary movement and its practices.

(164) KC p. 225: Sharada would later recall how she feared Ramakrishna's reaction but was relieved to discover that he did not become angry upon learning of her Tantric past (LP 5.11.9).

Response: This gross distortion has already been addressed in note #99. In the above sentence, Kripal speculates: "Sharada would later recall how she feared Ramakrishna's reaction…" There is no mention in LP 5.11.9 of Sharada's fearing Ramakrishna's reaction.

(165) KC p. 226: "Now I only like God's play as man," the Paramahamsa noted calmly, as if it were now a self-evident truth instead of a detested Tantric practice (KA 4.75).

Response: KA 4.75 refers only to the quoted words, and the parenthesis should have been put immediately after "God's play as man," (naralila, "play as a human" would be an accurate translation, because the Bengali nara in this context does not refer specifically to "man"); what comes after the quote is Kripal's own comment. Unless the reference is put in the correct location, how will the reader know whether what is written are M's words or Kripal's commentary?
There is, of course, a particular reason why Kripal wants to continue to use the word "man." In the following paragraph, he develops the idea of how when Ramakrishna's disciples started coming, he "finally had a man, indeed, young attractive boys, to desire."

Second, seeing God's play in human forms is neither a "detested practice" nor specifically a "Tantric practice."

(166) KC p. 228: In one such passage, Ramakrishna is caressing the body and mouth of Narendra. "Why?" M asks himself and his readers. "Is it because he sees Narayana himself in Narendra? Is he having a vision of God in man?" M's question is not answered as Ramakrishna rubs and presses Narendra's body and feet in an ecstatic state. M asks again, not at all sure of himself: "Is he transmitting his Shakti?" (KA 1.204). M still receives no answer.

Response: This is a fine example of a both a stunning mistranslation as well as a misleading interpretation. In KA 1.204 the Bengali phrase used is the same: gaye hat bulaitechhen, but Kripal renders it in two different ways: "caressing the body" and "rubs and presses Narendra's body." In actuality what this phrase implies, given the context, is simply "patting the back."

Second, Kripal says "M's question is not answered" and "M still receives no answer." M is not asking the question to anyone. These are purely rhetorical questions and their answer is obvious in the Kathamrita. I fail to understand how Kripal could postulate that M was "not at all sure of himself." What I do understand is that it is not mentioned in KA 1.204 and the remark should have been put outside the parentheses.

(167) KC p. 230: The renouncers, after all, like to quote a passage in which Ramakrishna refers to his penis as "all dead and gone."

Response: No reference is given. We have no idea what passage Kripal is referring to-if indeed any such passage exists.

(168) KC p. 230: In a strikingly translucent passage, Ramakrishna explains that it is this love, likened to a mystical phallus, that the incarnation shares with his disciples (KA 4.193).

Response: What Kripal calls "mystical phallus" is in KA 4.193 svayambhu linga, meaning "the Shivalinga which is found in a natural state" (svayam+bhu=self-made); in other words, it is a Shivalinga that is not sculpted by hand.

KA 4.193 says that Raga-bhakti, a higher form of devotion (as opposed to Vaidhi-bhakti), is practiced by the incarnation and his apostles/disciples (sangopanga). In Kripal's version, this gets mystically transformed into the "love, likened to a mystical phallus, that the incarnation shares with his disciples."

(169) KC p. 231: Perhaps, but such was certainly not the case for Ramakrishna, who, we must remember,… prayed to the "place of the father" (lingam) and the "place of the mother" (yoni) not to be born again (KA 2.155)…

Response: This is completely incorrect. In KA 2.155 we see that Ramakrishna is explaining the essence of the worship of Shiva (shivapujar bhab): he says that the worship of the Shivalinga is really the worship of the "place of the father" (pitri-sthan) and the "place of the mother" (matri-sthan); the devotee worships with the prayer not to be born again. Note that the KA does not say that Ramakrishna prayed thus.

(170) KC p. 232: Sometimes the boys would dance naked (KA 3.99).

At KA 3.99 there is no reference whatsoever to boys dancing naked. We read there about a group of devotees (the group which Kripal calls the "householders"-as opposed to the "boys" who belong to the group of "renouncers") who dance along with Ramakrishna. Vijaya Krishna Goswami (a householder and an adult, not a "boy") nritya korite korite digambar hoiya padiyachhen; hunsh nai, "was not even aware that his clothes had slipped while he was dancing."

Note that "dancing naked" is different from "clothes slipping unawares while dancing." Only the instance of Vijaya Krishna Goswami is mentioned in KA 3.99 and he was not a "boy." He was born in 1841 and, at the time of this incident, he was 43.

Kripal continues:

Such practices did not always sit well with the locals. One scholar, after visiting the saint and witnessing a show of dancing and singing, was supposed to have commented curtly: "Yes, a paramahamsa indeed."

In an endnote (#50, p. 356) Kripal tells us: "Quoted in Sil, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, 108." We go to Sil's book and he tells us that he got the quote from the Gospel, p. 1023. So we go back to the Gospel and find that it is in fact a letter that Ashwini Kumar Dutta wrote to M, giving his reminiscences of Ramakrishna.

(1) Kripal's statement: "Such practices did not always sit well with the locals" is completely unsupported by any evidence. If he thinks he is substantiating it with what follows, it must be pointed out that Ashwini Kumar Dutta was not a "local."
(2) Ashwini Kumar Dutta's account of Ramakrishna is very respectful and it is obvious that his words: "Yes, a paramahamsa indeed" were said in a very positive sense. No one knows how Kripal got the idea that the scholar "commented curtly." Ashwini Kumar Dutta, who made the comment, doesn't say it; Sil (from whom Kripal is ostensibly quoting) doesn't say it; and the Gospel and the Kathamrita, the original sources of this text, don't say it. Thus we have again more of the author's personal speculations, which are cloaked under the guise of "documentation."

(171) KC p. 232: For Ramakrishna, nudity was a natural expression of the mystical state. . . . Nakedness was also seen as an instrument to loosen the bond of shame (LP 3.8.29).

Response: In LP 3.8.29 we see that Ramakrishna is merely narrating what he had heard from Tota Puri regarding the traditions among the Naga sannyasins.

(172) KC p. 232: Sometimes, he would go further: one day, for example, he asked the boy Prasanna to strip for him, whereupon Ramakrishna exclaimed: "What a boy!" (KA 3.124)

Response: The Bengali expression is: ki chhelemanush, "How innocent!" But Kripal erroneously translates it as, "What a boy!"

(173) KC p. 234: True, he became a woman when he lived with his wife, Sharada, in order to conquer his desire for her. And he succeeded: "I'm not able to call you a he," she confessed (KA 2.154-55).

Response: The Bengali original of KA 2.154-55 translates as: Ami apanake pu (purush) bolte pari na, "I cannot speak of myself as man." In Kripal's version this mysteriously becomes transfigured into Sharada's confession: "I'm not able to call you a he"-obviously at great variance with what is in the Kathamrita.

Kripal continues: "But he also took on the nature of a woman to live with and lie down with Mathur…" (KC 234). In note #156 this point has already been answered.

(174) KC p. 235: Narendra in particular has a man's nature and so naturally tends to a "very high state," to a formless state (KA 4.228).

Response: In KA 4.228 these are two entirely different sentences. To connect disparate sentences with "and so" is to intentionally distort the text.

(175) KC p. 235: It is interesting to note that, although many men are said to have feminine souls, the saint never speaks of women as having masculine souls. Indeed, when women show masculine marks, at least in their bodies, the saint rejects them as malformed.

Response: Kripal provides no reference. In any case, Ramakrishna never referred to any masculine or feminine "souls." Second, although he did refer to the masculine or feminine natures of some of his visitors, in the Kathamrita we have on record what Ramakrishna said to the male visitors because that was the only time M was present. So to phrase that "the saint never speaks of women…" must be qualified by the understanding: "in the Kathamrita, the primary text on which Kripal has supposedly tried to build his thesis."

(176) KC p. 237: But Narendra, Ramakrishna reports with an excited exclamation point, was in the middle of the thousand-petaled lotus in the head, where Shiva sits waiting for his lover, the goddess Shakti (KA 4.228).

Response: In KA 4.228 we merely find this: anya padma karu dasha-dal, karu shodasha-dal, karu shata-dal kintu padma-madhye Narendra sahasra-dal!-"some are ten-petaled lotuses, some are sixteen-petaled, some hundred-petaled, but Narendra is a thousand-petaled lotus."

Everything other than this is Kripal's commentary alone and not in KA 4.228.

Chapter Five

(177) KC p. 243: But there is still more, for there is something essentially shameful about a woman-even if she happens to be a goddess-standing on top of a man. Bengali wives, after all, do not normally stand on top of their husbands. Only whores and illicit lovers dare to stand on top of their men (endnote #1).

Response: The endnote says: "It is no accident this passage occurs in volume 4." Perhaps it is an accident that Kripal does not tell us volume 4 of which book and on which page of it. We must assume he is referring to the Kathamrita. I don't remember having read this passage in any of the 5 volumes. And yes, why "Bengali wives"?

(178) KC p. 247: Perhaps one of Ramakrishna's disciples summed up this troubling history best when he capitalized on Kali's popularity among the Sonthal tribes and jokingly referred to her as "that Sonthal bitch" (endnote #6).

Response: In the endnote, Kripal gives three references from the KA (1.235, 1.236, 4.267). While the first and the last can be located, the middle reference leads nowhere.

Two points:
(1) the statement is made by Dr. Sarkar, who was by no means Ramakrishnna's "disciple." Interestingly, Kripal himself admits as much a few pages later (p. 256): "[Dr. Sarkar] remains to the end a friend, but certainly not a disciple."
(2) the Bengali words were: santhali magi, "Santhali woman." The word magi is a colloquial, rural term for a more sedate mahila or stri. But magi does not carry the kind of connotation that the word "bitch" carries in English.


© 2000 by Swami Tyagananda

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