Third Annual Vivekananda Lecture: “The Subtle Surfaces of Wickedness: From Nigamasarma to the Occupation of Palestine”
Lecture given by David Shulman.
Wickedness, perhaps a more personal quality than the abstract notion of evil, is worthy of study, especially when we move away from brute malevolence, often terrifying but boring, to more complex inner states, in which choice may or may not be accessible. This lecture will explore, first, a South Indian vision of the wicked, taken from Tenali Ramakrishna's Panduranga-mahatmyamu. On the basis of this text, it may be possible to formulate an understanding of wickedness as the integral act of whole persons, without the usual splitting of the self into dark and luminous halves or into the familiar Platonic dichotomies of body and mind. To test a different model, my experiences in the Palestinian territories, specifically the South Hebron Hills, with settlers, soldiers, judges, bureaucrats, and policemen will be examined, at least in part in a comparative light, and with frequent sidelong glances to Mahatma Gandhi and Vivekananda.