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Ramakrishna and Christ, The Supermystics

New Interpretations by Paul Hourihan

Ramakrishna and Christ, The Supermystics, A Comparative Study

by Paul Hourihan, edited by Anna Hourihan
216 pages, 9“x 6” (Quality paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-931816-00-7
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BOOK INFO

This award-winning study by Paul Hourihan is aimed at readers open to a universalist, non-creedal approach to religion, and who are receptive to the truths of mysticism. It compares the lives and mysticism of Ramakrishna, the celebrated God-man of 19th century India, and Jesus Christ, the avatar of the West.

The author covers Ramakrishna’s life from his unique childhood to his remarkable marriage and beyond. He also allows us to see Christ in a new way—by interpreting his life from the standpoint of India’s yoga traditions and Vedanta philosophy.

This in-depth work enables us to grasp the uniqueness and universal character of both of these supreme figures in each of two vast religious traditions. It provides us with a much-needed unifying message of the truth that forms the basis of all enduring faiths.

Written by an American, it is a compelling biography and introduction for Westerners to Ramakrishna’s life and its unheralded influence on our own time.

BEST SPIRITUAL BOOK AWARD WINNER for 2002-2003, Northern California Publishers & Authors Assn (formerly Sacramento Publishers & Authors)

“…For newcomers, the book offers an engrossing introduction to a great Hindu mystic. By entering sympathetically into the well-documented spiritual life of this nineteenth century holy man, we should be able to understand better Jesus of Nazareth, his first-century precursor…. Paul Hourihan’s book is a glowing tribute to his knowledge of Hinduism. He is masterful in his command of the information he incorporates into his text. By his profound understanding of Ramakrishna, he has in the bargain introduced us to a Jesus more plausible than the one usually presented in theology textbooks and Sunday school classes.”
Full Review in PDF

– James M. Somerville, The American Vedantist, Summer 2002

“A finely crafted book that brings sensitivity and psychological finesse to the interpretation of two towering figures in the history of spirituality. In understanding Ramakrishna, we may come to better understand Jesus of Nazareth, and vice versa…. a lovingly conducted contemplation, well befitting the subject. This book exemplifies comparative religion at its best.”

– Dr. Georg Feuerstein, author of The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga

Hourihan’s wonderful book on Ramakrishna and Christ is both an excellent introduction to the 19th century Hindu mystic and an exploration of a key Hindu idea: the distinction between devotional and non-devotional spirituality (known as bhakti and jnani respectively)….

Ramakrishna and Christ, The Supermystics and Mysticism in American Literature provided much thought-provoking detail and discussion on mystics from America and India. They are an important contribution to many of the key issues in mysticism East and West, including the better understanding of the devotional/non-devotional difference in the spiritual life, the role of sexuality and renunciation, and the possibility for spiritual pluralism illustrated by that extraordinary religion: Hinduism.

 – Dr. Mike King, Network Review, Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network, Winter 2004

In reading Ramakrishna and Christ, The Supermystics, I have been impressed by Mr. Hourihan’s in-depth knowledge of things related to Sri Ramakrishna, and the thought he has put into his analysis of the importance of the events of Sri Ramakrishna’s life…. He also draws parallels from the biblical accounts of the life of Jesus to show similarities of outlook between these spiritual giants….

He has done an excellent job of drawing from the biographical writings in the life of Sri Ramakrishna … and is not afraid to explore new interpretations, and the fact that he looks squarely at the shortcomings of both East and West, while at the same time appreciating the good points of each, shows that he is not a mere follower of either, but wants to find out how best ways to apply in his life the teachings of these masters expounded both with their words and by their lives.

For those familiar with the life of Sri Ramakrishna, this book will prove a thought provoking addition to their spiritual libraries.

– Brother Simeon, Light of the Spirit Monastery, New Mexico

MORE READERS’ COMMENTS

The dictum about power tending to corrupt applies to power per se, like what each of us habitually exercises over the soul, evident in the way we live, in our inability to sustain higher values: a power so rooted, so extensive, that it becomes identified as the source of our corruption, making it almost impossible for us to gain any comprehension of a personality as un-corrupted as Ramakrishna or his predecessor in Nazareth. But an attempt should be made before our slide back to something like unregeneration becomes irreversible. We must act quickly by applying to our heated brains the balm of understanding, even to the slightest degree, the life of an avatar.

A PREFATORY NOTE

Few ever recover from the reflex of awe that fixates the mind upon studying Ramakrishna, India’s nonpareil mystic. Skeptics aside, others, whether or not they become partisan, rarely recapture a sense of balance when appraising his life. His unprecedented spiritual career and unique personality leave the minds of the sympathetic in a prolonged state of arrest. Which helps not at all large numbers of souls who might benefit from an introduction to his life but are estranged by hagiographical passion, the euphoria of the converted. Analyze everything was one of Ramakrishna’s characteristic sayings, although in the case of the man who spoke it there have been few studies that provide much interest for the Westerner who comes to the legend without benefit of faith, but who yet might sincerely wish to know where to lodge his spiritual hungers.

The present work attempts to remedy this lack and so differs from many of the biographical studies in existence. It also avowedly makes its appeal to the Western mind, and possibly to Hindus capable, with one of their own mystics, of that searching analysis of all things that not only Ramakrishna but their other illustrious names from Buddha to Gandhi have enjoined upon them. For biographical particulars it depends upon two massive works, the chief pillars of the extensive Ramakrishna literature: Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master by a direct disciple, Swami Saradananda; and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna in the complete and literate translation of Swami Nikhilananda.

But a saint’s mind is so unlike every other that in hazarding a psychological study one is risking a great presumption. Perhaps the author can only reveal himself—his own psychology, not the mystic’s: the saint’s life a mirror in which are reflected the shadows of the author’s psyche. Fortunate, at least, if he is able to correlate them sufficiently with the reader’s to suggest something universally relevant in the picture he draws.

Although this work in its original intent was to be a concentrated analysis of Ramakrishna alone, there were so many cross-references to Christ in the early chapters that subliminal intuitions were plainly overruling the promptings of the conscious will. The result was a book about Ramakrishna and Christ, mystics supreme, who over the last twenty-five centuries—their last peer, Gautama Buddha—stand preeminent for spirituality. Just as a new Ramakrishna is presented here, so there is much that is unexpected in the portrayal of the Galilean; in both cases the orthodox devotee will doubtless suffer unavoidable chagrin not only from the nature of the material but from the realization that minds exist that approach the object of his reverence from standpoints that have never occurred to him. We are less offended by heretical sentiments than by the discovery that heretical minds, after the truth has been thoroughly revealed to us, go on existing.

If more of the book has been devoted to Ramakrishna it is because many pages had to be spent establishing the facts of his life before that life could be properly assessed—a condition obviously not applicable to the founder of Christianity.

Paul Hourihan, an award-winning author and teacher, was a long-time student of Vedanta and the great mystical traditions of the world. His own commitment to the spiritual path began with a life-transforming experience in his early thirties and continued for the remaining 45 years of his life. While living in New York and Boston in his thirties and forties, he made a personal in-depth study of the major spiritual traditions and in particular studied India’s Vedanta teachings with some of the well-known swamis of the Ramakrishna Order.

With an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a PhD in American literature from Boston University, he commenced his teaching career in southern Ontario, Canada. Gradually he was led to teach courses on the great illumined teachers such as Buddha, Christ, and Ramakrishna. He was able to combine his two great passions—literature and mysticism—in many of the courses he taught over a period of 15 years. Some of these courses were the basis for several of his books on such literary mystics as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and William Blake.

It wasn’t until the last part of his life that he started to write his dozen compelling works. With his deep knowledge and his own experiential background, Dr. Hourihan is a fitting interpreter and biographer of Ramakrishna, India’s foremost mystic for many centuries.

Paul Hourihan passed away peacefully in 2001 in northern California where he lived with his wife Anna, who continues to carry on publishing his spiritual works.