This article, by Swami Tyagananda, originally was a talk given at a panel discussion organized at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, in June 2003.
I would like to focus on two issues: first, facing life’s challenges with courage; and second, negotiating the boundaries based on nationality, religion, politics, and race. The two issues are related but need to be examined separately. More specifically, I wish to offer a few insights gathered from Vivekananda’s teachings as possible pointers towards addressing these two issues.
The Utility of Interpretations
That’s the whole point—isn’t it?—of why interpretations are offered and why they are studied. It’s not so much a matter of agreeing or not agreeing with, or accepting or rejecting, any interpretation. That’s secondary. What is primary is the question: does this interpretation help me go closer to the truth, or the inner essence, of the person or the idea that is being interpreted.
Among the earliest in this class of interpretations is Max Muller’s Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings, first published in the year 1899. As a strong believer in the scientific study of religion, Muller believed that a comparative study would uncover hidden religious truths and was adamant that Christianity should be subjected to the same method of study as were employed in the study of other religions.