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Great Swan: Meetings With Ramakrishna

by Lex Hixon

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From Kirkus Reviews, 03/31/92:

"A remarkable portrait of a most remarkable spiritual teacher.

"Though little known in the West, Ramakrishna (1836-86) is generally revered in India as a direct incarnation of God, similar in some ways to Christ. Rather than write a standard biography of this Hindu mystic who embraced and, reportedly, embodied the essence of all major world religions - a biography like Richard Schiffman's Sri Ramakrishna (1989) - Hixon here attempts a more daunting task: to re-create the experience of observing, over the course of years, a man who 'has attained the goal of spiritual evolution.' To do this, the author draws on numerous eyewitness accounts of the sage, smoothly blending them into the voice of a disciple who observes his 'Master' lecturing, conversing, playing, singing, dancing, and slipping into profound mystical ecstasies. There is no skepticism in this devotional telling but, rather, a pervasive sense of wonder and even rapture that Hixon makes concrete through tight physical detail, as in this deathbed scene:

"Ramakrishna's charming smile and the fresh white cloth around his waist shine in the flickering lamplight. His honey-colored skin, dulled by illness, seems to regain its extraordinary luster. . . . The room is being filled with light. . . . It is like a lightning flash, prolonged for several minutes. The pressure is unbearable. . . .

"There is also much inspired exposition by Ramakrishna of religious principles and practices, making this account of great interest to those spiritually inclined but occasionally a tough go for those more interested in Ramakrishna's incandescent character than in his teachings. You don't have to share Hixon's conviction in order to appreciate his achievement in evoking - artfully and with considerable emotional power - what it might be like to encounter, as Ramakrishna put it, 'a human emanation of Divine Reality.'"

   Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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