Book Review: Vivekananda: The Philosopher of Freedom by Govind Krishnan V

Vivekananda: The Philosopher of Freedom by Govind Krishnan V is a comprehensive exploration of Swami’s religious philosophies, thoughts, and ideologies. The book is divided into three sections, with each section exploring various facets of Swami’s life and spiritual journey. According to the author, “The book attempts to give the reader a set of conceptual tools through which to approach and understand Vivekananda’s life and work.” 

The first part offers a detailed insight into Swami Vivekananda’s life, exploring his perspectives on Christianity, Islam, and Hindutva. In the second part, the narrative addresses Hinduism, Western influence on Vivekananda’s life and thoughts, and the role played by RSS and Swami’s views on Hinduism. The third part is devoted to Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy of freedom and its various aspects.

The book is meticulously researched and the detailed bibliography and references showcase the various resources used by the author.  

Pic Credit: Aleph

Never having read any books on Vivekananda and his life, I jumped at the opportunity to read this one and gain insights from his works. However, I have to say, this book fell short of my expectations.

As a reader, I believe the title plays an important role in setting the right expectations. In this case, the title was misleading as it did not give a clear picture of the content. I approached the book hoping to learn more about Swami’s philosophies, Advaita, and Paramahamsa. I thought it would be akin to reading some of the original works on his life. Sadly, this book focussed on the author’s disapproval of RSS, Sangh Parivar, and Hindutva, deviating from the original topic.

According to the author, Vivekananda is a useful resource for liberals to combat the tide of Hindutva. He also states, “In trying to understand a past thinker’s thought, we always approach him with a set of concerns that are uniquely our own.

A critical tradition keeps a historical figure alive only by continuously recasting his ideas through the intellectual problems, concerns, and challenges that confront and engage that particular time period. This is precisely what today’s discourse on Vivekananda has failed to do.

It has failed to make the case for the relevance of Vivekananda’s ideas in relation to the issues that preoccupy us today, thus consigning him to a pantheon of emblematic national heroes known to us only through empty adulation.”

There is a lot of deviation from the original topic and exploration of irrelevant topics that did not add much value to the narration. Nevertheless, I managed to gain a little insight into Swami’s philosophies.

Sharing a few quotes here-

“He advocated not merely tolerance, but the universal acceptance of all religions as true; each being different paths to the same God.”

“Religion is not in books, nor in theories, nor in dogmas, nor in talking, not even in reasoning. It is being and becoming.”

“Vivekananda did not consider that those who follow Hinduism had to believe in the literal truth of its sacred myths. In fact, he would say again and again, to take mythology literally is to get stuck in a crude stage of spiritual growth.”

Vivekananda: The Philosopher of Freedom makes for an interesting read, providing profound insights into Swami’s life, values, and philosophies. It could have been an even more valuable resource if the title had set clearer expectations regarding the scope of the content.

Rating: 3/5

Review author: Chandra Sundeep is an author, blogger, and book reviewer. Her short stories have been featured in various anthologies, online portals, and literary magazines. In 2023, she received the Bharat Award, recognizing her dedication to impactful storytelling. Additionally, she has been a recipient of esteemed awards such as the Asian Literary Society’s Sagar Memorial Award, Wordsmith Award, and Gitesh-Biva Memorial Award in 2021 and 2022.

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