Religious Pluralism in Yan Martel’s Life of Pi: A Case of Intertextual Correspondence with Swami Vivekananda’s Religious Philosophy

John Kuriakose


Yan Martel’s Life of Pi – the story as well as its religious ideology—exhibits apparent intertextual correspondence with the concept of “Universalism” the Indian mystic Swami Vivekananda preached to the world more than a century ago. Martel’s central character Pi represents this concept of religion, which finds the same set of universally valid principles in all religions of the world, and thus embraces all religions with the willingness to worship God in all places of worship, irrespective of whether they belong to Islam or Christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism. This perception of religiousness of Life of Pi comes as a solution to the concerns of the present religiously divided, material and greedy world that speaks a lot in vain about ecumenism, interfaith and constructive interaction among religions. The story of the shipwreck with the horrible experiences of Pi in the lifeboat  in the presence of  the Indian tiger Richard Parker and his  eventual survival validates this concept of God and works out a formula for a harmonious coexistence of religions and other conflicting forces in the world. Thus the book becomes a great religious allegory in tune with the fundamentals of all religious traditions: a pilgrimage on the sea of Karma to be united with the Absolute, a metaphor of the Atman seeking to realize Brahman, and an allegory on the concept of retributive justice of God by which sins are punished and virtues rewarded. 


Pluralism, Universalism, Allegory, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Karma, Retributive justice

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