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Two Saints: Speculations Around and About Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharishi,released May2017
Author: Arun Shourie

Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-9352645046
Pages: 496
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The life of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ‘enables us to see God face to face’, Gandhiji wrote. Similarly, when someone in his circle was distraught, the Mahatma sent him to spend time at the Ashram of Ramana Maharshi. Such was their stature and influence.

The Paramahamsa and the Maharshi have been among the greatest spiritual figures of our country. They have transformed the lives of and have been a solace to millions. Moreover, in our tradition, words of such mystics are regarded as conclusive. They have evidentiary status: if they say there is a soul, there is; if they say there is life-after-death or reincarnation, there is. Their peak, mystic experience is what we yearn to have, even just once.

But what if several of the experiences they had - the feeling that someone higher is present next to them, the feeling that they are floating above their body, looking down at it; the ‘near-death experience’; the ecstasy; the visions - occur in other circumstances also? Should we think again about their experiences when these occur as points in the brain are stimulated with an electrode during surgery? What if they can be recreated in a laboratory non-invasively? When they occur to ordinary persons placed in extraordinary circumstances?

Did the experiences occur from some ailment? As was alleged in the case of Sri Ramakrishna? From some ‘madness’, which he feared he had? From the fits that Sri Ramana said he used to have?

What of the experiences of devotees? Seeing the Master where he wasn’t? Seeing the Master, feeling his presence, after he had passed away? Are these hallucinations? Or do they testify to the Master’s divinity? How would conclusions about their experiences affect their teaching? That the world and everything in it is ‘unreal’?

In the light of their pristine example, how should we view and what should we do about the godmen and gurus who control vast financial and real estate empires today, to whom lakhs flock? Are they the saints they set themselves up to be or just marketers?

With the diligence and painstaking research that mark all his work, Arun Shourie probes these questions in the light of the recent breath-taking advances in neuroscience, as well as psychology and sociology. The result is a book of remarkable rigour: an examination - and ultimately reconciliation - of science and faith as also of seemingly antagonistic, irreconcilable worldviews.

He concluded by appealing the Indian members to pay more attention to your longstanding traditions in the spirit of the Buddha s advice to examine, investigate and experiment with what you hear before making it your own. In the earlier 20th century scientists only acknowledged the function of the brain, now they are more interested in knowing about the workings of the mind. --By Amazon Customer on 27th may 2017

Shourie, veteran journalist said the Dalai Lama is the only religious leader who has said Buddhism must face facts so that if there are new discoveries in science and they contradict something that is written in the ancient scriptures, the part of description is to be either reinterpreted or cast away. --By Amazon Customer On 28 May 2017

Sharp as ever, Arun Shourie examines the experiences of the two saints in light of current neurological and psychological knowledge. Fair handling of the subject matter, even though his love and respect for these two saints is evident. --By Mohit on 12 June 2017