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Book Review: The Modern Monk by Hindol Sengupta


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Hindol Sengupta’s “The Modern Monk” is a book you should read and re-read if you seek to understand Swami Vivekananda, his philosophies, and his relevance to the modern world. It is a reader friendly book, and you can understand the premise and the background without much of an introduction to the Swami. I confess to not knowing him as well as I would have liked; I had only read one or two books published by Ramakrishna Mission in Malayalam, and a through reading of his Wikipedia page. Reading this book is more than worth your time.

Strictly speaking, the book is not a biography, but it reads like an intellectual biography, if there is such a usage. It is arranged chronologically into 6 chapters that reflect the phases of the Vivekanada’s life in a certain sense. While one can pick up the book and read it on the go and finish the book with a sense of relish, I personally find a need to read and comprehend more before I understand the finer points of the book. This is because the authour is in the habit of quoting poems, letters and essays so as the reader can contextualize and understand what is meant as – is. But for a spoiled reader like me, this means I found myself having a persistent urge to skip those parts, as some of the quotes were rather long and arduous to read.

The author’s writing and narrative style is something I have enjoyed thoroughly not only in this book, but also in his earlier one, Being Hindu. (I have not written a review of this book.) I would have preferred, and this is entirely selfish of me, if the author had explained or narrated his long quotes in his writing; but I do think the quotes that he did place in the book (poems and correspondence of Swami Vivekananda for example) served a purpose, so count this only as the cribbing of a reader who is just trying to find some fault.

The book is very well written, and has no ‘drag’ so to speak, and it flows easily from chapter to chapter. The book is very well-researched – while the book can be read by an entire novice to Swami’s ideas like me, it can also serve as a window to understanding the man better. I have no doubt that I will be googling some of the references so that I can read certain interesting speeches and essays of Swami Vivekananda.

I personally could not connect with the introduction, and I think it started on a somber note and ended on a note of triumph of the soul, if I could say so, and I remain rather oblivious to the connection between the beginning and the end.

Favoutite Chapter: ‘Can you show me God?’

Rating: 4.6/5

Will I recommend it to a friend: Definitely!

Note: I am a furious reader, who has most surely not read the book thoroughly as others would have, and the reading and the publishing this book with rather haste. However, I will be reading the book again, and updating this if I find something mentioning. Apologies. Please also note that this is my first book review, if you can call this as such. So please be considerate. Thanks.


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