Swami Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna Mission

D K Pandita
The world is changing in a fast pace globalization has reduced distance, challenges are increasingly becoming more and more complex particularly after Covid19 pandemic. Amidst all such challenges, as a Nation, we need to ensure that we are respected and valued as a great nation in the eyes of other nations, India being the youngest nation as per the World population composition. The Children are most important and critical to nation building as today’s children will be tomorrow’s citizens. To develop the country and its masse it is essential to know, follow and recall some great Indian people and their missions of life.
According to Swami Vivekananda, “A nation advances when EDUCATION is spread among the masses.”
Swami Vivekananda, original name Narendranath Datta, born January 12, 1863, Calcutta (Kolkata), Hindu spiritual leader and reformer in India who attempted to combine Indian spirituality with Western material progress, maintaining that the two supplemented and complemented one another. Swami Vivekananda was one of the main representatives of Neo-Vedanta, a modern interpretation of selected aspects of Hinduism in line with western esoteric traditions, especially Transcendentalism, New Thought and Theosophy. His reinterpretation was, and is, very successful, creating a new understanding and appreciation of Hinduism within and outside India, and was the principal reason for the enthusiastic reception of yoga, transcendental meditation and other forms of Indian spiritual self-improvement in the West.
Swami Vivekananda always stressed the universal and humanistic side of the Vedas, the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism, as well as belief in service rather than dogma, he attempted to infuse vigour into Hindu thought, placing less emphasis on the prevailing pacifism and presenting Hindu spirituality to the West. He was an activating force in the movement to promote Vedanta philosophy. In 1893 he appeared in Chicago as a spokesman for Hinduism at the World’s Parliament of Religions and so captivated the assembly that a newspaper account described him as “an orator by divine right and undoubtedly the greatest figure at the Parliament.” Thereafter he lectured throughout the United States and England, making converts to the Vedanta movement.
On his return to India with a small group of Western disciples in 1897, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission at the monastery of Belur Math near Calcutta (now Kolkata). Self-perfection and service were his ideals, and the order continued to stress them. He adapted and made relevant to the 20th century the very highest ideals of the Vedantic religion, and, although he lived only two years into that century, on July 4, 1902, he died near Calcutta, but he left the mark of his personality on East and West alike.
Ramakrishna Mission (RKM) is a Hindu religious and spiritual organisation which forms the core of a worldwide spiritual movement known as the Ramakrishna Movement or the Vedanta Movement. Apart from religious and spiritual teaching the organisation carries out extensive educational and philanthropic work in India. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, as a direct result of his own spiritual experiences with various religious disciplines, including Christianity and Islam, fully endorsed the Hindu tenet that all religions are paths to the same goal. In his lifetime there grew about him a small but devoted band of disciples, among whom the young Narendranath Datta (who later took the name Vivekananda) was outstanding and was chosen by Ramakrishna as his successor. On 1 May 1897 in Calcutta, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission for social service. Its ideals are based on Karma Yoga, These disciples were also the nucleus of the Ramakrishna math (“monastery”) established at Belur, on the banks of the Ganges near Calcutta, and consecrated in 1898. The Sri Sarada Math, begun in Calcutta in 1953.
Ramakrishna Mission has been engaged in serving humankind without the distinction of caste, creed, colour, race, nationality, gender or any other distinction, in the fields of education, health, relief & rehabilitation etc. for more than a century, since its inception as early as 1897 by Swami Vivekananda. The twin organizations, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, are international organizations with 142 branch centres in India and 47 branches outside India. In the educational field, the twin organizations run 1 university (with 4 ‘off-campus’ Faculty Centres), 12 colleges (including 1 Sanskrit college), 510 schools of different grades, 2 schools of languages, 4 polytechnics, 6 junior technical and industrial schools, 86 vocational training centres, 98 hostels, 7 orphanages, 2 centres for the disabled, 1 school of Vedic education, and 130 non-formal education centres and more centres in progressive stage. The Vedanta Society of the City of New York, incorporated in 1898, is the oldest branch of the Ramakrishna Mission in the United States. It grew out of classes held by Vivekananda while on a visit to the United.
The Math and Mission has been engaged in serving humankind and has accomplished through a large number of libraries, lectures, discourses and seminars, it publishes 22 journals in 15 languages. Books on Vedanta, the message of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda, spirituality and world religions in almost all the major languages of India and in some of the important languages of other countries are published from the 18 publication centres across India. In English alone more than 1,000 titles are brought out. Hundreds of titles have been brought out in almost all regional languages, including some tribal languages. There were nearly 178 libraries containing more than 22,94,489 books and 4587 newspapers and periodicals. In the early 21st century more than 20 branches were operating in the United States, and there were also centres in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In India mission centres carry on various philanthropic activities, including medical service, educational work, publications, and relief work.
In the 21 century when we dream of ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’, which translates to ‘self-reliant India’ or ‘self-sufficient India’, is a policy formulated by Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi for making India a bigger and more important, the need has arisen to follow the words of Swamiji, “A nation advances when education is spread among the masses.” But, what was the education that he advocated? According to him “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man and that what a man ‘learns’ is really what he ‘discovers’ by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge.” Hence he said that our process of education i.e. teaching in the classrooms should be such that it helps the students to manifest their innate knowledge and power. He promoted a man-making character-building education. He said, “We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet.” Now how much our classrooms, the seat of learning of our education system, is delivering on these goals of education? Is our education system only focused on livelihood education or universal education all-inclusive? Many advocate that everything is in place to get a good education. Parents say I have put my child in the best school of the town. But then, why there is so much unrest with children today at the occurrence of least challenges in their lives? Marks and money are becoming the yardsticks to measure success of a learned person. Where is the gap?.
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