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

© 2000 by Swami Tyagananda

Part 4 of 4

(179) KC p. 252: The shy housewife, biting her tongue in a public act of restraint, controls by that act an immense reservoir of power capable, at any moment, of dissolving what Ramakrishna called the "bonds of shame, disgust, and fear" and returning the culture to that Tantric midnight "where all jackals howl in the same way" (LP 4.4.30).

Response: Kripal has the extraordinary capacity of selecting stray passages and quoting them entirely out of context. LP 4.4.30 is an example of this: The phrase referring to jackals howling alike concerns the shared highest experience of all enlightened beings. Since their "experience" of the truth is identical, their essential "teaching" is also identical. Kripal's ability to segue from jackals howling alike to a " midnight" is perfectly breathtaking.

(180) KC p. 258: According to Saradananda, only twelve stayed until the very end and completed their "vow of service" (GM 5.13.2.6).

Response: This is a very interesting citation. Kripal quotes from the English version of the Lilaprasanga-Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master-a very rare occurrence. But what is even more interesting is endnote #18 which he has affixed to the quotation given above. The endnote says: "LP lists 5.13.1-3 as appendixes and does not provide paragraph numbers. I am thus following the numbering system from the GM [Great Master] but translating from the Bengali of the LP [Lilaprasanga]."

(1) The only portion Kripal has "translated" in the text is "vow of service"-and this is Jagadananda's translation. Kripal need not have taken the trouble to "translate" it independently and arrive at the same result.
(2) Nothing else in that paragraph is "translated"-but Kripal provides what we must assume is a "summary" since he gives the reference number in parentheses. Unfortunately, however, the summary is distorted. To translate from LP 5.13.1-3:

The pure, selfless love of the Master on the one hand, and the wonderful spirit of friendship of Narendra and his noble company on the other, united together to bind them in such a sweet and tender, yet hard and unbreakable, bond that they actually began to consider one another to be much more intimately related than the people of the same family, so much so that if any one had unluckily to go home on some very urgent business on a certain day, he would invariably come back the same evening or the next morning. Although not more than twelve in number, all of them remained there to the end of the Master's mortal life and completed their vow of service by renouncing the world (emphasis mine).

We can see that the text says something quite different from what Kripal insinuates above. The Lilaprasanga clearly indicates that the number was never more than twelve but all of them stayed to the end. Contrast this with Kripal's summary (or what he calls his "translation" from the Bengali): "According to Saradananda, only twelve stayed until the very end…" This suggests that there were many more who gradually dropped out and finally, "only twelve stayed until the very end…."

(3) Finally, Kripal's endnote itself is misleading. He says that: "The LP lists 5.13.1-3 as appendixes and does not provide paragraph numbers…." It's not just here that the LP does not provide paragraph numbers. It does not provide them anywhere! "…I am thus following the numbering system from the GM but translating from the Bengali of the LP." If he is translating from the Bengali, what is the compulsion to provide the numbering system from the English Great Master? The Bengali book does have page numbers. I am not aware of any other scholar who quotes from a Bengali book but uses the reference-numbers from its English translation.

(181) KC p. 259: Everyone present in the garden at Kashipur received a special awakening on that day, everyone except poor Haramohan. Peeved, no doubt, that the boy had married a woman (KA 4.109), Ramakrishna would not touch him.

Response: There is no mention anywhere of a specific reason why Ramakrishna did not touch Haramohan. Kripal's phrase "no doubt" indicates that Kripal himself has no doubt about the reason. While this is his privilege, he nevertheless goes on to say:

One can imagine the disappointment the left-out disciple must have felt as he watched all of his friends enter ecstatic states. Marrying a woman apparently had made him an unfit object for the saint's homoerotic energies. Haramohan, after all, was now engaged in explicit heterosexual activity. He had dared to defile himself with lover-and-gold.

What Kripal neglects to mention here is the fact that probably all the people who received spiritual awakening that day were "married to a woman." In fact, none of the so-called "renouncers," as Kripal calls them, were present for the occasion. It would seem obvious, then, that being "married to a woman" was not the issue at stake here.

(182) KC p. 262: Narendra's presence and words, like the peacock's display, would indeed be very colorful, a delight for many, just as they had once "lighted the fire" of his peahen, Ramakrishna (KA 5.133).

Response: As he has done in other places, Kripal legitimizes his interpretation by providing a reference in parentheses at the end of the sentence. KA 5.133 only has the phrase "lighted the fire," and it is uttered in an entirely different context. It has nothing to do with peacocks and peahens.

(183) KC p. 266: Such taunts were so pointed (and convincing) that Ramakrishna walked to the bank of the river and almost jumped in at high tide to escape their truths (KA 1.168-69).

Response: We have here again the same deceptive referencing as the note given above. The citation here relates only to the fact that Ramakrishna was going to the river to drown himself to escape Hriday's harassment. The rest of the sentence is Kripal's own commentary.

(184) KC p. 272: Ramakrishna describes frankly the four types of people whose food he will not eat: lawyers, thieves, doctors, and rich kids (KA 5.135).

Response: This is another shining example of either Kripal's ignorance of Bengali or his penchant for distorting the original texts. At KA 5.135 we read: "I don't eat anything offered by miserly people (kripan). Their wealth is squandered in these ways: first, litigation; second, thieves and robbers; third, physicians; fourth, their wicked children's extravagance."

(185) KC p. 274: But those who remained celibate won both Ramakrishna's favor and his food. Hence an ecstatic Ramakrishna feeds the little Nityagopal by grabbing both of his hands and intimately putting them to his mouth (KA 5.129).

Response: At KA 5.129 we see only this: "Seeing Nityagopal in an ecstatic state, the Master put a morsel or two into his mouth."

Note the distortions in Kripal's version: Ramakrishna feeds the "little" Nityagopal (who at the age of 23 or 24 was hardly "little") by "grabbing both of his hands" (not in the text at all) and "intimately" (not in the text at all) putting them to his mouth. And all of this, he wants the reader to presume, is to be found in KA 5.129.

(186) KC p. 282: The rich are especially hounded, for they lose their money from four sides: lawyers, thieves, doctors, and bad boys (KA 5.135).

Response: See Kripal's quote on p. 273 along with my note (#184) discussing it. Kripal here manages to use the same text in two places with two different versions to make two different points.

(187) KC p. 282: The Captain, a disciple of Ramakrishna, praises his wife as if he were possessed by some ghost and did not know it (endnote #46).

Response: Endnote #46 gives these references: KA 1.178 and 2.61-62. There is nothing in KA 1.178 to warrant reference to the quoted sentence. The endnote further says: "Hari is possessed but by an actual witch who lives in a tree" (KA 3.30). There is nothing at all at KA 3.30 about Hari or about a witch.

(188) KC p. 282: Another disciple, this time unnamed, is described as a "slave of a black hag" (KA 3.30). The saint, it seems, thought very little of his disciples' wives.

Response: There is nothing whatsoever at KA 3.30 to suggest that the person was a "disciple" of Ramakrishna. Interestingly, Kripal now translates mag as "hag." Perhaps he finally wearied of the term "bitch."

(189) KC p. 284: Why sleep in seven beds when you can sleep in one? (KA 1.73 plus endnote #5 which says: Cf. KA 1.153)

Response: Neither at KA 1.73 nor at KA 1.153 do we find anything at all to justify these references.

(190) KC p. 291: In another unusual passage, this time in volume 1, Ramakrishna relates the day he went to visit one of his disciples he called "the Captain" and fell into an unconscious state in, among all places, his host's latrine: "One day I became unconscious in the latrine of his house. He's so concerned about purity, and yet he sat down with his foot in the hole [of the latrine] and pulled me out" (KA 1.178).

Response: This is a complete distortion based upon mistranslation. Since Kripal builds his interpretation upon this faulty translation, it is good to know what KA 1.178 actually contains: "Once at his house I became unconscious in the latrine (ami ek din or badite paikhanay behunsh hoye gechhi). He is so particular about his orthodox habits (o to ato achari), but he helped me sit in the latrine with my legs apart (paikhanar bhitar amar kachhe giye pa phak kore bosiye dey). He is so concerned about ritual purity (ato achari), but he did not show any disgust (ghrina korle na)."

Kripal suggests that Ramakrishna became unconscious while defecating and the Captain had to help him get up. Whereas the Bengali text says that Ramakrishna became unconscious and the Captain had to help him sit properly for defecating-which makes it clear that he became unconscious in the latrine but before defecating. When we see how diametrically opposed to the original text Kripal's "translation" is, we can only laugh at his commentary which follows:

The fact that the Captain had to put his foot in the hole of the latrine to lift the saint out suggests that Ramakrishna was frozen in a defecating posture, squatting over the hole. He "became unconscious," in other words, in the very act of defecation."

(191) KC p. 324: He has become, as he claimed, a mystical phallus aroused into ecstasy "by the slightest things" (KA 2.49).

Response: There is nothing whatsoever at KA 2.49 corresponding to the first part of Kripal's sentence: "He has become, as he claimed, a mystical phallus…"


The notes given above are not by any means an exhaustive or even a comprehensive list of the problems inherent in Kali's Child. It would not be an exaggeration to say that to prepare a comprehensive list would be to create a book every bit as large as Kali's Child itself. The notes above are skeletal at best; the essay and notes are simply my own brief response to Kali's Child. There are many more issues to be addressed but this would require more depth and length than the scope of this paper permits. I look forward to having scholars examine some of these issues in greater length-and with greater depth-than I was able to do in this paper.-S.T.

Ramakrishna Vedanta Society,
58 Deerfield Street,
Boston, MA 02214
tyag@earthlink.net

 

© 2000 by Swami Tyagananda

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