Guru to the World – Dr Ruth Harris Speaks on Vivekananda

Author, Dr Ruth Harris, discusses her new book which follows the spiritual journey of celebrated Indian Monk

“Vivekananda is a renowned name in India, yet virtually unknown to the rest of the world.”


Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, spiritual leader and reformer who was born in 1863 and died in 1902. He inspired the likes of Freud, Gandhi, and Tagore with his work to unite Indian spirituality with Western material progress.

Vivekananda blended religion, science and politics to foster a new tolerance in the Western world for yoga and Vedanta, one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy. His teachings have forever changed the Western relationship to meditation and spirituality by enabling ways to make these practises more mainstream.

Not many people have ever collected such a comprehensive history of Vivekananda’s life and work until Dr Ruth Harris, Senior Fellow at of All Souls College and Professor of European History at Oxford University. Dr Harris has spent the past eight years of her life researching, reading, and collating interviews about Vivekananda.

She discovered his work through a French pacifist who believed that Gandhi had to come to Europe to stop Fascism.  As she researched more, she found two books he had written – one which was focused on Vivekananda. Dr Harris said: “It was whilst reading this book [on Vivekananda] that I realized how important this whole movement was.”

Ruth began to delve deeper into her research on Vivekananda. She states: “I became enthralled by his provocations. The way he spoke to Indian audiences to urge them to self-assertion, his path of self-realization and a psychological means towards resistance to colonialism and imperialism.” In the West, she found he “…urged people towards mildness, compassion and reflection.”

For all those who meditate or participate in Raja Yoga; it is Vivekananda to thank for bringing these practices to the Western world. He had a unique ability in reaching and relating to people across the globe. Dr Harris states: “He was constantly stretching himself to be many things to different audiences.”

Dr Harris commented further: “Vivekananda asked that each individual focused on being better –  it wasn’t about forcing someone to see Religion through the eyes of somebody else. This is one of the reasons for his popularity around the world.”

Please join the IofC UK Book Club to read more about the life of Vivekananda and speak with Dr Ruth Harris for a special Q & A session. 

We’ll be reading ‘Guru to the World: The Life and Legacy of Vivekananda’ from 21st February 2023  which will include three online sessions. Click here to register and get more details on a special discount price on the book.

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