Swami Bruce and the Future of Vedanta - Yoga Journal, Dec. ’95, p. 80

     The Vedanta that arrived in the West a century ago has little to do with traditional sectarian worship of Shiva or Rama - the faith of the common Indian villager, one that most Westerners find impenetrable and off-putting - and everything to do with the experience of the Bengali mystic Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886).  After serving for years as a temple priest of Kali, the Divine Mother, Ramakrishna had visions of Muhammad, Jesus, and the Buddha.  He subsequently accepted the teaching of  all three, leading him to make the statement that "all religions have a valid claim to the truth."
     Through the influence of Ramakrishna’s favorite disciple, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), Ramakrishna’s brand of Vedanta, influenced by Vivekananda’s  integrated, intellectualized, idealized vision of Hinduism, has become what most Westerners know as Hinduism.  Even today, the aspects of Hindu belief most often embraced by Americans bear only a nominal relation to the culturally oriented worship of the average Indian.  For one thing, Vivekananda was the first sannyasin in a major lineage to live outside the Indian system.  Well traveled in the West and educated in British-run colleges in Calcutta, where he studied Western logic, philosophy, and history, Vivekananda developed a genuine affection for Western ways.  He saw how Vedanta could thrive in an environment  free of the crushing restrictions of caste that Ramakrishna  had repudiated (going so far as to clean the toilets of untouchables with his own hair)……
 …..Vivekananda was also one of the earliest voices raised for religious pluralism.  "If anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others," he told  the Parliament*, "I pity him from the bottom of my heart."

*the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893

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