by Jon Monday
For years I’ve used Wikipedia as a quick resource for information about a very wide range of subjects, from looking up what actors are in a favorite movie, to doing serious research for an article or lecture. In its early years, Wikipedia had difficulty with rogue editors planting false information, or publicists promoting a person or company, or just people wanting to promote a point of view. It’s gotten much better, thanks to vigilant editors who keep track of changes and ensure that articles are factual and well documented.
Recently, while gathering materials for a new multimedia presentation, I wanted to know how the West first came to know of Ramakrishna. That fact almost certainly could be found in one of the books on Ramakrishna, published by the Order, but which one? I went to the Ramakrishna Wikipedia page and found this:
Pratap Chandra Mazumdar wrote the first English biography of Ramakrishna, entitled The Hindu Saint in the Theistic Quarterly Review (1879), which played a vital role in introducing Ramakrishna to Westerners like the German indologist Max Müller.
Great stuff! That 1879 article was spreading the word of Ramakrishna to the West, more than a decade before Vivekananda came to the U.S. This is the kind of thing that Wikipedia is really good for. However, I also found some errors. I came across this:
The name Sri Ramakrishna was taken up by himself after he took Sanyaas from his Guru Totapuri.
This was wrong on a two fronts: Totapuri was ONE of Ramakrishna’s gurus, and it was Ramakrishna’s father who gave him the name at birth. I edited the article, so now it reads this way:
The family was devoted to Hindu God Rama, and male children of Khudiram and Chandramani were given names that started with Ram or Rama: Ramkumar, Rameswar, and Ramakrishna. There has been some dispute about the origin of the name Ramakrishna, but there is “…evidence which proves beyond doubt that the name ‘Ramakrishna’ was given to him by his father…” Ramakrishna confirmed this himself, as recorded in M’s diaries, “I was a pet child of my father. He used to call me Ramakrishnababu.”
I cited Swami Prabhananda’ s book, More About Ramakrishna as the source of the information. In another place, there was a discussion about how Ramakrishna used plain language examples to teach spiritual truths. But, it didn’t give an example. I added the following, citing an article that appeared in American Vedantist:
As an example of Ramakrishna’s teachings and fun with his followers, here’s a quote about his visit to an exhibition: “I once visited the MUSEUM. There was a display of fossils: living animals had turned into stone. Just look at the power of association! Imagine what would happen if you constantly kept the company of the holy.”
Mani Mallick replied (laughing): “If you would go there again we could have ten to fifteen more years of spiritual instructions.”
The word MUSEUM was capitalized to indicate the master said it in English, as recorded in M’s own English translation of the Gospel, and reported in the American Vedantist article. This is the kind of richness that can be added, so long as it’s well documented.
I’m hoping readers of American Vedantist will take up reading articles about the Ramakrishna Order and the personalities associated with the Master, and look for factual errors or omissions. Users of Wikipedia are encouraged to edit articles. If you’ve ever done HTML code, the Wiki editing is not that different – maybe easier.
If you don’t wish to make the changes yourself, please ask for assistance by sending your suggestions to WikiWork@AmericanVedantist.org
Here’s a partial list of articles that should be reviewed. You’ll notice as you read through an article, most suggest other articles that might be of interest:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Bibliography_of_Ramakrishna
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Bibliography_of_Swami_Vivekananda
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Universities_and_colleges_affiliated_with_the_ Ramakrishna_Mission
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ List_of_Ramakrishna_Mission_institutions
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Teachings_of_Ramakrishna
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Swami_Vivekananda_and_meditation
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Swami_Vivekananda’s_travels_in_India_(1888-1893)
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Vivekananda_at_the_Parliament_of_the_World’ s_Religions
Dharmadas (Jon Monday) has been a member of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for nearly 50 years. Since the early 1970s he has been recording audio and video of Swamis of the Ramakrishna Order. After retiring from the Music and Video Game businesses, he and his wife Urvasi (Anna Monday) have continued videotaping at Vedanta Centers in Southern California, making many new and archival recordings available at www.VedantaVideo.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.