About the author
Amiya P. Sen, born 1952, was educated at St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, and went on to take a doctoral degree from the same university. After a brief career in the civil services, he settled down to a life of teaching and research with which he has been engaged for over twenty years. He is currently Professor, Department of History and Culture, lamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Prior to this, he was at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, and the University of Delhi. He was also Agatha Harrison Fellow at the University of Oxford and, thereafter, a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi. He has published extensively on the intellectual and cultural history of modern India.
About the Book
Fiery patriot, social crusader, philosopher or worlds renounce-who really was Swami Vivekananda? Appropriated and interpreted in diverse ways, the controversial figure of Vivekananda has fascinated and intrigued successive generations. This short, critical biography explores the thought, ideas and work of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), providing rare insights into the understanding of this complex and multilayered personality. Steering clear of hagiography, the author unravels and celebrates the contradictions and ambiguities of Vivekananda's life and ideas. Accessible and absorbing, this new edition, brought out on the occasion of the Swami's 150th birth anniversary, helps us appreciate why Vivekananda remains relevant today, with a large following in India and abroad.
From the time I started writing this book I have come to see it as a personal tribute to an outstanding fellow Indi- whose vivacity and compassion have often moved me. Insight, not objectivity, is the key to the understanding of a life as multi-layered as that of Swami Vivekananda and in the course of writing this book, I have often felt burdened by the realization that a historian may not-always be a good biographer. I have also been perplexed by the several inconsistencies and paradoxes of Vivekananda's life, and only by bringing these out more sharply, I felt, could one consciously depart from the hagiography that permeates biographical work on him. It is impossible to reach an understanding of a personality as complex as Vivekananda's without studying his ambiguities and shifting positions on various issues. In trying to integrate these in a holistic assessment of Vivekananda, I have largely gone by what the Swami himself suggested-judge a man ultimately by his strengths, not his weaknesses.
Nothing could convey better Swami Vivekananda's thoughts and personality than his own inimitable language, on which I have relied heavily. In the case of his Bengali writings, I have occasionally had to use my own translations in place of the 'official' ones as the latter did not appear to do justice to nuances of meaning in the original.
Some friends and colleagues were kind enough to help me with constructive criticism when writing this biography. I would like to thank in particular Sherin a Joshi and Sujata Nag who have very painstakingly gone through the typescript and offered valuable suggestions related to content or narrative style. I should also like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Narayani Gupta and Oxford University Press, Delhi, for their faith in me as an author. The responsibility for errors of fact or argument is of course entirely mine.
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