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Kali’s Child

The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna

2d edition
In a book now marked by both critical acclaim and cross-cultural controversy, Jeffrey J. Kripal explores the life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a nineteenth-century Bengali saint who played a major role in the creation of modern Hinduism. Through extended textual and symbolic analyses of Ramakrishna’s censored "secret talk," Kripal demonstrates that the saint’s famous ecstatic and visionary experiences were driven by mystico-erotic energies that he neither fully accepted nor understood. The result is a striking new vision of Ramakrishna as a conflicted, homoerotic Tantric mystic that is as complex as it is clear and as sympathetic to the historical Ramakrishna as it is critical of his traditional portraits.

In a substantial new preface to this second edition, Kripal answers his critics, addresses the controversy the book has generated in India, and traces the genealogy of his work in the history of psychoanalytic discourse on mysticism, Hinduism, and Ramakrishna himself. Kali’s Child has already proven to be provocative, groundbreaking, and immensely enjoyable.

"Only a few books make such a major contribution to their field that from the moment of publication things are never quite the same again. Kali’s Child is such a book."—John Stratton Hawley, History of Religions

Winner of the American Academy of Religion’s History of Religions Prize for the Best First Book of 1995

420 pages | 6 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: South Asia

Gender and Sexuality

Religion: South and East Asian Religions

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
A Note on Transliteration
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Approaching the Secret
Defining the Study: Recovering the Text and Revealing the Secret
The Mystical and the Erotic
Ramakrishna’s Tantric World
The Study’s Symbolic Structure: Kali’s Child
The Hindu Unconscious
Ch. 1: Kali’s Sword: Anxious Desire and the First Vision
Kali’s Sword
From the Village to the Temple, 1836-1856
A Textual Study of Ramakrishna’s "Anxious Desire": Discerning a Vocabulary of Desire
Ramakrishna’s "Anxious Desire" in the Eyes of His Contemporaries
"Her Sword as His Flute"
Ch. 2: Kali as Mother and Lover: Interpreting Ramakrishna’s Tantric Practices
Kali as Mother and Lover
The Secret Years: Textual Considerations
The Secret Years: The Practices according to the Puranas, 1856-1861
The Secret Years: The Practices according to the Tantras, 1861-1865
The Hero and the Child
Cleaving the Bitch in Two
Ch. 3: Kali on Top of Siva: Tantra and Vedanta in Ramakrishna’s Teachings and Mystical Experiences
Why Is Kali on Top of Siva?
The Secret Years: From the Practices according to the Vedas to the Jesus State, 1865-1868
The Mansion of Fun and Its Tantric Form
The Love-Body of the Goddess
"Ramakrishna Paramahamsa"
Ch. 4: Kali’s Feet: Ramakrishna’s Descent into the Forms of Man
Kali’s Feet
The Coming of the Disciples, 1868-1885
The Change and the Secret of the Dislocated Hand
Phallic Love and the Incarnation’s Erotic Community
Ramakrishna’s Foot: The Sinful Touch of God
Ramakrishna Viparitarata
Ch. 5: Kali’s Tongue: Shame, Disgust, and Fear in a Tantric World
Kali’s Tongue
The Last Days, 1885-1886: The Secret Revealed and Concealed
Gauri’s Question
The Secret Door
"Bite Your Tongue!"
Epilogue: The Fog of Bliss
Conclusion: Analyzing the Secret
Emerging from the Fog of Bliss: Defining the Secret
Sexuality and Mysticism: Realizing the Erotic
Appendix: Some Historical and Textual Aspects of Ramakrishna’s Secret Talk
Works Cited

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