Original Research

On the neo-Vedanta as reconceptualised by Vivekananda in his Complete Works: A cognitive linguistic analysis in light of Conceptual Metaphor Theory

Suren Naicker
Literator | Vol 40, No 1 | a1528 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v40i1.1528 | © 2019 Suren Naicker | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 May 2018 | Published: 28 February 2019

About the author(s)

Suren Naicker, Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, South Africa


This article investigates the use of metaphorical language in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (henceforth CW). Vivekananda is one of the most important modern-day Hindu scholars because his interpretation of ancient Hindu scriptural lore has been very influential. Vivekananda’s influence was part of the motivation for choosing his CW as the empirical domain for the current study. AntConc software was used to mine Vivekananda’s CW for water-related terms, which seemed to have a predilection for metaphoricity. Which terms to search for specifically was determined after a manual reading of a sample from the CW. The data were then tagged using a convention inspired by the well-known Metaphor Identification Procedure – Vrije University (MIPVU). Then, a representative sample of the data was chosen, and the metaphors were mapped and analysed thematically. Five of these are referred to in this article, but special emphasis is placed on the theme of the Vedanta philosophy as the basis for neo-Hinduism, which has become synonymous with contemporary Hinduism, with Yoga as the practical wing, and Vedanta as the ideological basis for the practice; this aspect is expounded upon in more detail. The study’s main aim was therefore to investigate whether Hindu religious discourse uses metaphors to explain abstract religious concepts in a specific way, and indeed one of the main findings was the pervasiveness of water as a source domain. Hence, the key finding in this article is that neo-Hindu thought, as reconceptualised by Vivekananda, relies heavily on the water frame (as is convention in the field of Cognitive Semantics, conceptual domains are written in upper case, including hypothetical frames and conceptual metaphors), which is not as pervasive in other religio-philosophical traditions.


cognitive linguistics; conceptual metaphor theory; vedanta


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