A religion "based upon principles, and not upon persons": the heart of the 'strategic fit' of Swami Vivekananda’s promotion of Vedānta?

Beckerlegge, Gwilym (2022). A religion "based upon principles, and not upon persons": the heart of the 'strategic fit' of Swami Vivekananda’s promotion of Vedānta? International Journal of Hindu Studies (In press).

Abstract

Adapting the SWOT matrix used in the study of the effectiveness of organisations, the article employs the notion of ‘strategic fit’ to examine reasons frequently put forward to explain the positive reception of Vivekananda’s message by sympathisers during his visits to the United States and England. It is suggested that Vivekananda maximised the ‘strategic fit’ of his message by addressing prominent Christian theological concerns of the day, which would have impinged on many in his circle who retained their Christian identity. It is argued that, by recasting these concerns within the framework of his understanding of Vedānta, Vivekananda loosened, if not completely untied, the theological moorings of the religious way of thinking of his audience, as exemplified by his invitation that each person should accept Ramakrishna “in your own light” and his emphasis on the “most intensely impersonal” nature of the religion he offered. The article concludes that Vivekananda’s insistence on the “impersonal nature” of the religion he promoted, and the fluid interface between Hindu arguments and his idea of a universal religion, arguably left contentious questions for later generations of devotees to resolve.

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