Understanding the contributions of Indian spiritual leader Ramana Maharshi (d. 1950) to the modern search for meaning is the subject of a new book by Georgetown University in Qatar professor Patrick Laude. The book, titled “Surrendering to the Self: Ramana Maharshi’s Message for the Present” (Hurst, 2022) offers readers a fresh perspective on the life and teachings of this world renowned Hindu sage, emerging from Laude’s extensive research on religious traditions and spiritual luminaries.
According to Laude, the reason why Ramana Maharshi became such an attractive figure and his teachings were so widely disseminated and influential, is because he offered a path that lays at the intersection of the contemporary search for self-knowledge and the current interrogations about the foundations and limits of religion. He explains: “While his teachings are characterized, in the tradition of Hindu non-dualism, by a radical transcending of any individualism, Maharshi’s message could provide an answer to the fundamental question “Who am I?” As such, his presence and teachings can be deemed to be a response to the spiritual crisis caused by globalization, materialism, and scientific advances that presented challenges to traditional ways of thinking.”
The book’s richly researched analysis draws on many religious traditions, to ask probing questions about what Maharshi’s message contributes to topics such as the role of religion in self-inquiry; the relationship between devotion and knowledge; the role and limitations of traditional and religious forms; the relationship between prayer and meditation, and the implications in our postmodern era of both the Maharshi’s emphasis on inner surrender, and his practice of self interrogation.
Professor Laude’s scholarly interests include comparative mysticism, poetry and mysticism, and Western representations and interpretations of Asian spiritual and wisdom traditions, and he teaches courses in religious studies at GU-Q. A former fellow in philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, he earned a Master’s degree in comparative philosophy from the University of Paris IV Sorbonne in 1982, and a doctorate in French literature from Indiana University in 1985. GU-Q’s Center for International and Regional Studies provided publication support for the book which contributes to Laude’s extensive body of work on key figures of religious thought, including Simone Weil, Louis Massignon and Frithjof Schuon. His many books, monographs, and articles in academic journals are published in both English and French. “Surrendering to the Self” was also translated into French under the title “S’abandonner au Soi: Le Message de Ramana Maharshi Pour le Présent” (Editions Hozhoni, 2021).