Gurudev As An Author Characteristics of His Writings

Silence about Himself

In his writings, Gurudev Ranade makes a practice of silence about himself. This is especially true of earlier writings. In later writings he alludes to many incidents in his life. Thus, in 'A Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy and Mysticism in Maharashtra', the writer is fully in the background. But in 'Pathway to God in Hindi Literature' and more so in the 'Bhagvad-Gita as a Philosophy of God-realisation', and much more so in 'Pathway to God in Kannada Literature', he has allowed himself to be very free with the readers. Incident after incident from the life and teachings of the saints in his spiritual lineage, is recalled and shared with the reader. A sense of participation makes the reading very lively. In fact, a personal touch made itself felt from the days when the 'Dhyana-Gita' was under preparation in the early 40s. Many times he refers to the teachings of Shri Bhausaheb Maharaj (his own spiritual teacher ) and Shri Nimbargi Maharaj (the spiritual teacher of Shri Bhausaheb Maharaj).

Apart from the spiritual and philosophical interest in their teachings, there can also be present in Gurudev's mind a desire to preserve living portraits of the two great giants in the spiritual lineage to which he belonged. Mostly he has not put his own views independently. He speaks through others and remains hidden. It was his humility to think that when great saints have given so much to the world, why should he speak of his own experiences? Another way to remain in the background was to give sources from original texts when expounding a doctrine thus, attributing the views to the original writers. These sources have served the purpose of making his writings highly authentic. The systematization displayed in culling out sources is the genesis of his method of construction through critical exposition.

Constructive Criticism

His approach to philosophical doctrines was that of reconciliation. He picked up merits in others and ignored their angularities. This attitude paves way for reconciliation because the very ground of conflict is removed. His writings, therefore, becomes specimens of 'criticism' in the Kantian sense. Understood in this sense, criticism truly knows that neither of the contending parties has won, but that there may be a grain of truth in both. It aims at bringing the controversy to an end by highlighting their common ground. Such criticism is not destructive but constructive.

Here is an example of how he brings together the supposedly antagonistic ways of Jnana and Karma. "Samkhya as philosophy and Yoga as activism are reconcilable, if we ultimately find a common basis for them. The basis is as follows: The Bhagvad-Gita defines Samkhya as the path of knowledge, which involves renunciation: it defines Yoga as the path of action which involves disinterestedness. Now renunciation and disinterestedness are identical.... We must not divorce Samkhya from Yoga or Yoga from Samkhya".

Comprehensiveness and Internal Systematization

Gurudev Ranade's writings are highly systematic. Systematisation is the very core of his philosophizing; and hence his preference for the synthetic method. Arrangement of topics, arrangement of paragraphs, arrangement of sentences and choice of words were all determined after a good deal of deliberation. From beginning to end, the arguments were dove-tailed with logical rigour and in a developmental order so that the truth of his statement convincingly reached the reader.

A tendency to place a concept or a doctrine on the map of philosophical thinking is predominant in Gurudev Ranade. This is a kind of apperception, i.e., assimilation of the new with the old; it finds expression in his writings when he explains the ideas of saints in terms of technical philosophical concepts which formed a sizable portion of his vast learning. He had before his eyes a vista of philosophical doctrines and philosophical thinkers; and whenever new ideas came to his mind he immediately fitted them into the already existing fund of knowledge, labeled them and named their similarity with and dissimilarity from cognate doctrines.

Spiritual Purpose

God is the central thread running through the pearls of Gurudev's thought and it holds together diverse subjects and diverse interests. Psychologically, the Master-sentiment remains at the apex to which all other sentiments are hierarchically related. Similarly, the idea of God is the pivot round which all his thought moves. With God at the apex, hierarchical classification of subjects and topics follows as a natural corollary. Gurudev's purpose in writing was spiritual. In the preface of "A Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy" he says: "The ultimate purpose of the work is the spiritual purpose. To the end, everything else is subservient.... The trend of the present volume is to show that all the teachings of Upanishadic Philosophy converge towards the realisation of the mystical goal... The veracity and the virility of any metaphysical theory is to be gauged by its power of making life more divine and therefore more worthwhile living".


His style was simple, that is, his meaning could be understood with ease. And once understood, it would take permanent hold of the memory. The beginning and the end of a book or a chapter were considered important. The beginning should be such as would immediately attract the attention of the reader and the end should be such as would leave an abiding influence on reader's mind. Again, his writing was clear because he insisted on precision and exactness. Exactness of his style excludes both verbosity and obscurity. The picturesqueness of his style is evident in his portrayal of the Divine Canvas. His literary art was vigorous and fresh, and his writings show his undeniable excellence as expositor.