OverviewThe Math and the Mission are the two key organisations that direct the work of the socio-religious Ramakrishna movement influenced by 19th-century (1800-1900) saint Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and founded by his chief disciple Vivekananda. Also referred to as the Ramakrishna Order, the Math is the movement's monastic organisation. Founded by Ramakrishna in 1886, the Math primarily focuses on spiritual training and the propagation of the movement's teachings. The Mission, founded by in 1897, is a humanitarian organisation which carries out medical, relief and educational programs. Both the organisations have headquarters at the . The Mission acquired a legal status when it was registered in 1909 under Act XXI of 1860. Its management is vested in a Governing Body. Though the Mission with its branches is a distinct Legal person, legal entity, it is closely related to the Math. The elected trustees of the Math also serve as Mission's Governing Body. Vedanta Society, Vedanta Societies comprise the American arm of the Movement and work more in purely spiritual field rather than social welfare.
History(1836–1886), regarded as a 19th-(1879)century saint, was the inspirator of the Ramakrishna Order of monks and is regarded as the spiritual founder of the Ramakrishna Movement. Ramakrishna was a priest in the Dakshineswar Kali Temple and attracted several monastic and householder disciples. Swami Vivekananda, Narendranath Dutta, who later became Vivekananda was one of the chief monastic disciples. According to Vrajaprana, shortly before his death in 1886 Ramakrishna gave the ochre cloths to his young disciples, who were planning to become renunciates. Ramakrishna entrusted the care of these young boys to . After Ramakrishna's death, the young disciples of Ramakrishna gathered and practised spiritual disciplines. They took informal monastic vows on a night of 24 December 1886. After the death of Ramakrishna in 1886, the monastic disciples formed the first ''Math'' (monastery) at Baranagar, Baranagore. Later Vivekananda became a wandering monk and in 1893 he was a delegate at the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions. His speech there, beginning with "Sisters and brothers of America" became famous and brought him widespread recognition. Vivekananda went on lecture tours and held private discourses on Hinduism and spirituality. He also founded the first Vedanta Society in United States at New York. He returned to in 1897 and founded the Ramakrishna Mission on 1 May 1897. Though he was a Hindu sadhu and was hailed as the first Hindu missionary in modern times, he exhorted his followers to be true to their faith but respect all religions of the world as his guru Ramakrishna had taught that all religions are pathways to God. One such example is his exhortion that ''one can be born in a church but he or she should not die in a church'' meaning that one should realise the spiritual truths for themselves and not stop at blindly believing in doctrines taught to them. The same year, famine relief was started at Sargachi by Swami Akhandananda, a direct disciple of Ramakrishna. Swami Brahmananda, a direct disciple of Ramakrishna was appointed as the first president of the Order. After the death of Vivekananda in 1902, Sarada Devi, the spiritual counterpart of Ramakrishna, played an important role as the advisory head of a nascent monastic organisation. Gayatri Spivak writes that Sarada Devi "performed her role with tact and wisdom, always remaining in the background."
AdministrationThe Ramakrishna Math is administered by a democratically elected Board of Trustees. From amongst themselves, the Trustees elect President, Vice-Presidents, general secretary, Assistant Secretaries and Treasurer. For the confirmation of the election of the president, Vice-Presidents and the general secretary, the opinion of monks of twenty years standing is sought and taken. The Ramakrishna Mission is administered by a Governing Body, which is composed of the democratically elected Trustees of Ramakrishna Math. The headquarters of Ramakrishna Math at Belur (popularly known as ) serves also as the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission. A branch centre of Ramakrishna Math is managed by a team of monks posted by the Trustees led by a head monk with the title Adhyaksha. A branch centre of Ramakrishna Mission is governed by a Managing Committee consisting of monks and laypersons appointed by the Governing Body of Ramakrishna Mission whose Secretary, almost always a monk, functions as the executive head.Belur Math
The motto and the principlesThe aims and ideals of the Mission are purely spirituality, spiritual and humanitarian and has no connection with politics. Vivekananda proclaimed "Renunciation and service" as the twofold national ideals of modern and the work of the mission strives to practice and preach these.... .''The social role of the Gita: how and why'', p.83 The service activities are based on the message of "Jiva is Shiva" from Ramakrishna and Vivekananda's message of "Daridra Narayana" to indicate that service to poor is service to God. The Principles of Upanishads and Yoga in Bhagavad Gita reinterpreted in the light of Ramakrishna's Life and Teachings is the main source of inspiration for the Mission.''The social role of the Gita: how and why'', pp.8–9 The service activities are rendered looking upon all as veritable manifestation of the Divine. The Motto of the organisation is ''Atmano Mokshartham Jagad-hitaya Cha''. Translated from Sanskrit आत्मनॊ मोक्षार्थम् जगद्धिताय च: it means ''For one's own salvation, and for the good of the world.''
Monastic OrderAfter the death of Ramakrishna in 1886, his young disciples organised themselves into a new order. The original monastery at Baranagar known as Baranagar Math was subsequently moved to the nearby Alambazar area in 1892, then to Nilambar Mukherjee's Garden House, south of the present in 1898 before finally being shifted in January 1899 to a newly acquired plot of land at Belur, West Bengal, Belur in Howrah district by . This monastery, known as the , serves as the Mother House for all the monks of the Order who live in the various branch centres of the Math and/or the Mission in different parts of and the world. All members of the Order undergo training and ordination (''Sannyasa'') at . A candidate for monastic life is treated as a pre-probationer during the first year of his stay at any centre, and as a probationer during the next four years. At the end of this period he is ordained into celibacy (''Brahmacharya'') and is given certain vows (''Pratijna''), the most important of which are chastity, renunciation and service. After a further period of four years, if found fit, he is ordained into (''Sannyasa'') and given the ochre (''gerua'') clothes to wear.
Attitude towards PoliticsSwami Vivekananda forbade his organisation from taking part in any political movement or activity, on the basis of the idea that holy men are apolitical. However, presently, almost 95% of the monks possess Voter ID (India), voter ID cards. For the sake of identification and particularly for travelling, almost 95 per cent of the monks are forced to seek a voter ID card. But they generally use it only for identification purpose and not for voting though they are not forbidden to vote and a few do vote. As individuals, the monks may have political opinions, but these are not meant to be discussed in public. The Mission, had, however, supported the movement of Indian independence movement, Indian independence, with a section of the monks keeping close apolitical relations with freedom fighters of various camps. A number of political revolutionaries later joined the Ramakrishna Order.
EmblemDesigned and explained by in his own words: :''The wavy waters in the picture are symbolic of Karma; the lotus, of Bhakti; and the rising-sun, of Jnana. The encircling serpent is indicative of [Raja] Yoga and the awakened Kundalini Shakti, while the swan in the picture stands for Paramatman (Supreme Self). Therefore, the idea of the picture is that by the union of Karma, Jnana, Bhakti and Yoga, the vision of Paramatman is obtained.''
ActivitiesFile:Home of service - Ramakrishna Mission, Varanasi, India.webm, thumbtime=93, File:Film-Camera.png, 17px Social service and health promotion Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service, at the Home of Service – Ramakrishna Mission, Varanasi, India The principal workers of the mission are the monks. The mission's activities cover the following areas, * Education * Health care * Cultural activities * Rural uplift * Tribal welfare * Youth movement etc. The mission has its own hospitals, charitable dispensaries, maternity clinics, tuberculosis clinics, and mobile dispensaries. It also maintains training centres for nurses. Orphanages and homes for the elderly are included in the mission's field of activities, along with rural and tribal welfare work. The mission has established many renowned educational institutions in , having its own university, colleges, vocational training centres, high schools and primary schools, teacher-training institutes, as well as schools for the visually handicapped. It has also been involved in disaster relief operations during famine, epidemic, fire, flood, earthquake, cyclone and communal disturbances. The mission played an important role in the installation of photovoltaic (PV) lighting systems in the Sundarbans region of West Bengal. Due to the geographical features of the Sundarbans, Sunderbans, it is very difficult to extend the grid network to supply power to its population. The PV lighting was used to provide electricity to the people who were traditionally depending on kerosene and diesel.
Religious activitiesThe mission is a non-sectarian organisation and ignores caste distinctions. Ramakrishna ''ashrama's'' religious activities include ''satsang'' and ''arati''. ''Satsang'' includes communal prayers, songs, rituals, discourses, reading and meditation. Aarti, Arati involves the ceremonial waving of lights before the images of a deity of holy person and is performed twice in a day. Ramakrishna ''ashramas'' observes major List of Hindu festivals, Hindu festivals, including Maha Shivaratri, Maha Shivarathri, Rama Navami, Krishna Janmashtami, Krishna Ashtami and Durga Puja. They also give special place to the birthdays of Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi, and other monastic disciples of Ramakrishna. 1 January is celebrated as Kalpataru Day. The math and the mission are known for their religious tolerance and respect for other religions. Among the earliest rules laid down by for them was, "''Due respect and reverence should be paid to all religions, all preachers, and to the deities worshiped in all religions''." Acceptance and toleration of all religions is the one of ideals of Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Along with the major List of Hindu festivals, Hindu festivals, Christmas Eve and Buddha's Birthday are also devoutly observed. Cyril Veliath of Sophia University writes that the Ramakrishna Mission monks are a relatively orthodox set of monks who are "extremely well respected both in India and abroad", and that they "cannot be classified as just another sect or cult, such as the groups led by the gurus". Veliath writes that "of the Hindus, Hindu groups I have worked with I have found the Ramakrishna Mission to be the most tolerant and amenable to dialogue, and I believe that we Christians couldn't do better, than to cooperate wholeheartedly in their efforts towards inter-religious harmony.
Awards and honourable mentionsThe Ramakrishna Mission has received numerous accolades throughout its lifetime: * Bhagwan Mahavir Foundation Award (1996). * Dr. Ambedkar National Award (1996). * Dr. Bhawar Singh Porte Tribal Service Award (1997–98). * In 1998 the Mission was awarded the Indian government's prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize. * Shahid Vir Narayan Singh Award (2001). * Pt. Ravishankar Shukla Award (2002). * National Communal Harmony Award (2005). * The Ramakrishna Mission was selected for an honorary mention of the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Prize for Promotion of Tolerance and Non violence 2002. * The Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama of Chhattisgarh's Narainpur was jointly selected for the 25th Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration for the year 2009 with musician A.R.Rehman for their services in promoting and preserving national integration. In a speech made in 1993, Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, stated:
Branch CentresAs of 2019, the Math and Mission have 214 centres all over the world: 163 in , 15 in Bangladesh, 14 in United States, 2 each in Russia and South Africa and one each in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nepal, Netherlands, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, United Kingdom, UK, and Zambia. Besides, there are 45 sub-centres (22 within India, 23 outside India) under different centres. The Math and Mission run 748 educational institutions (including 12 colleges, 22 higher secondary schools, 41 secondary schools, 135 schools of other grades, 4 polytechnics, 48 vocational training centres, 118 hostels, 7 orphanages, etc) with a total student population of more than 2,00,000. Besides these branch centres, there are about one thousand unaffiliated centres (popularly called 'private centres') all over the world started by the devotees and followers of Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrishna and . The centres of the Ramakrishna Order outside fall into two broad categories. In countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Fiji and Mauritius, the nature of service activities is very much similar to . In other parts of the world, especially in Europe, Canada, United States, Japan, and Australia, the work is mostly confined to the preaching of Vedanta, the publication of books and journals and personal guidance in spiritual matters. Many of the centres outside are called as the 'Vedanta Society' or 'Vedanta Centre'.
Former presidentsThe following is the list of presidents (spiritual heads) of the Ramakrishna Order, Monastic Order: * (1897 –1901) (Founder & General President) From 1901 the term 'General President' was dropped and the term 'President' was adopted. *Swami Brahmananda (1901–1922) *Swami Shivananda (1922–1934) *Swami Akhandananda (1934–1937) *Swami Vijnanananda (1937–1938) *Swami Shuddhananda (1938–1938) *Swami Virajananda (1938–1951) *Swami Shankarananda (Ramakrishna Mission), Swami Shankarananda (1951–1962) *Swami Vishuddhananda (1962–1962) *Swami Madhavananda (Ramakrishna Mission), Swami Madhavananda (1962–1965) *Swami Vireshwarananda (1966–1985) *Swami Gambhirananda (1985–1988) *Swami Bhuteshananda (1989–1998) *Swami Ranganathananda (1998–2005) *Swami Gahanananda (2005–2007) *Swami Atmasthananda (2007–2017) *Swami Smaranananda (2017–present)
LitigationIn 1980, in an act that caused "considerable debate" within the order, the mission petitioned the courts to have their organisation and movement declared a non-Hindu minority religion for the purpose of Article 30 of the Indian constitution.The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution Oxford Handbooks, Sujit Choudhry, Madhav Khosla, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Oxford University Press, 2016 Many generations of monks and others have been of the view that the religion propounded and practised by Ramakrishna and his disciples is very much different from that practised by Hindu masses then. They held that the Ramakrishna's "Neo-Vedanta" is a truer version of the ideals of Vedanta. So it was honestly felt that this makes the followers of Ramakrishna eligible for the legal status of "minority". It is possible that the immediate cause for the appeal for minority status was because there was a danger that the local Marxist government would take control of its educational institutions unless it could invoke the extra protection the Indian constitution accords to minority religions. They argued that the Ramakrishna's "Neo-Vedanta" is a truer version of the ideals of Vedanta, and that this makes the followers of Ramakrishna eligible for the legal status of "minority". While the Calcutta High Court accepted Ramakrishna Mission's pleas, the Supreme Court of India ruled against the Mission in 1995, citing evidence that it had all the characteristics of a Hindu organization. The Mission found it advisable to let the matter rest. The wisdom of the attempt by the Mission's leadership to characterize the Mission as non-Hindu was widely questioned within the membership of the organization itself, and the leadership today embraces the Mission's status as both a Hindu organization and as an organization that emphasizes the harmony of all faiths. Most members – and even monks – of the Ramakrishna Mission consider themselves Hindus, and the Mission's founding figures, such as Swami Vivekananda never disavowed Hinduism.
See also* List of publications by Ramakrishna Mission * List of Ramakrishna Mission institutions * Ramakrishna Sarada Math * Vedanta Society * Baranagar Math * Baranagore Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama High School, Baranagar Ramakrishna Mission
Further reading* Prabhananda, Swami. The Early History of the Ramakrishna Movement (2005) *Elst, Koenraad. Who is a Hindu - Hindu Revivalist Views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Other Offshoots of Hinduism (2001
External links* *