An Encounter between East and West: The Notion of Truth in William James and Swami Vivekananda

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Zajner, Chris
Vedanta , Pragmatism , Truth , Monism , Philosophy
William James considered Swami Vivekananda the exemplary example of a monist, and he comes to reject Vivekananda’s philosophy because it ultimately did not suit his active temperament. However, judging from his assessment of Vivekananda’s philosophy, it appears James had a limited understanding of Vedanta. It can be speculated that James’s understanding of Vedanta was mainly the aspect of Raja Yoga (the science of psychic control) – which is evinced by the fact that he disagrees with what he perceives as a lack of ability to justify meliorism and a zestful life. But this understanding leaves out of account Karma Yoga or the active principle of Vedanta – which advocates work as the means to realize the divine. Contra James’s conception, it is more illustrative to understand Vedanta not as a doctrine of extreme ‘monism’, but rather an attitude which cultivates every particular temperament and disposition.
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