THE RAMAKRISHNA ORDER
(A Hindu Order)
"We are the servants of that God who by the ignorant is called Man." -Swami Vivekananda
The emblem of the Ramakrishna Order (Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission) designed by Swami Vivekananda is a unique work of art created by one of the richest minds in contemporary history. It is a profound symbol of harmony and synthesis for reverential meditation in this present age of conflict and disharmony. The meaning behind this emblem, in the language of Vivekananda himself: "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 Yoga and awakened Kunadalini Shakti, while the swan in the picture stands for Paramatman. Therefore, the ideal of the picture is that by the union of Karma, Jnana, Bhakti and Yoga, the vision of the Paramatman is obtained."
Sri Ramakrishna, who was born in 1836 and passed away in 1886, is a figure of recent history. He demonstrated beyond doubt the reality of God and the validity of the time-honoured teachings of all the prophets and saviours of the past and thus restored the falling edifice of religion on a secure foundation. He infused life, as it were, in all moribund spiritual theories of all times and climes. Even the universal truths in Vedanta may not find their universal applicability without Sri Ramakrishna. The greatest contribution of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world is his message of the harmony of religions. To him all religions are the revelation of God in His diverse aspects to satisfy the manifold demands of human minds. There is no concept in his teachings like "Our God is the only true God, all other Gods are false." About this his view is: if one religious approach to God is true then all such approaches are true; if one is false, all are false.
"The story of Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s life is a story of religion in practice. His life enables us to see God face to face. No one can read the story of his life without being convinced that God alone is real and all else is an illusion. Ramakrishna was a living embodiment of godliness. … In this age of scepticism Ramakrishna presents an example of a bright and living faith which gives solace to thousands of men and women who would otherwise have remained without spiritual light." -Mahatma Gandhi
Wedded to Sri Ramakrishna in the strict spiritual sense of the term, Sarada
Devi was the epitome of spirituality in practice. She lived in the house-hold but led a life not of this world. She had been instrumental to the creation of an independent organisation for nuns, free from male-domination, that bears her name: Sri Sarada Math. She was also the first lady who was instrumental in the creation of an Order for monks, the Ramakrishna Order. Her life is an extra-ordinarily ordinary life; it is the saga of how an ordinary life can be evolved into a sublime one. After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna she inspired many a spiritual seeker to find way out of the sufferings of life. She is revered by millions today as the incarnation of Divine Power (Shakti).
"I am the mother of the righteous, I am the mother of the wicked as well. Never fear. Whenever you are in distress, just say to yourself 'I have a mother." -Sarada Devi
Born in Kolkata on January 12, 1863, Swami Vivekananda was the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Eager to know if God is true, he was guided to Sri Ramakrishna. He asked a straight question, "Sir, have you seen God?" The reply was challenging, "Yes, I have seen God as I see you, only more intensely." Not only this, he added, "If you try, you also can see Him." Religion is a science - it is verified and verifiable, if we have the courage to test it. After having probed the truth in this statement Swami Vivekananda later said: "He is an atheist who does not believe in himself." He is well known for his famous speeches at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, and for his teaching given in both the East and the West. He formally established the Ramakrishna Order of monks.
"All power is within you, you can do anything and everything. Believe in that, do not believe that you are weak... Arise, awake, sleep no more. With each of you there is the power to remove all wants and all miseries. Believe in this, that power will be manifested." -Swami Vivekananda
"Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men, but the definite work that he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we do not know how, we know not well where … something leonine, grand, intuitive." -Sri Aurobindo
Recognitions, among many:
1. In 1998 the Mission was awarded the Indian government's prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize.
2. The Ramakrishna Mission was selected for an honorary mention of the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Prize for Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence 2002.
Service and not Charity
Born in Sister Nivedita (Ms. Margaret Noble), an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda, says: "If the many and One be indeed the same Reality, then it is not all modes of worship alone, but equally all modes of work, all modes of struggle, all modes of creation, which are paths of realization. No distinction henceforth, between sacred and secular. To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion..."
The monks of the Ramakrishna Order do perform what is known as social or philanthropic work, but to them it is a Sevaa (in Sanskrit) meaning spiritual practice. Service becomes real worship when we are selfless with the idea that all come from the same Divine source. And only that kind of service will purify our mind and liberate us, and we shall be able to realize that God is the indwelling spirit of us all.
To the right we give four pictures (pictures from top 1, 2, 4, 6) showing how the monks of the Order are engaged in social services in the time of natural calamities like flood caused by a river changing its course and such other human suffering. They live a spiritual life "for their own liberation and for the welfare of humanity".
For the welfare of people of all communities and sexes the Ramakrishna Order conducts massive service projects:
(1) Educational works like, schools, colleges, Universities, students' homes, informal schools, Agricultural training institutes, technical training institutes, etc.
(2) Medical works like hospitals, a Medical Research Institute, Nurses' Training schools, charitable clinics, mobile medical services, free eye-operation camps, rural health programmes, etc.
(3) Relief and rehabilitation projects after natural and man-made calamities, rural development schemes, helping poor and needy students to carry on with their studies, etc.
(4)Spiritual services like maintaining prayers, and celebrations of the celebrities of all religions in temples, publication of books on all religions and cultures etc.
Please visit the website of their Headquarters at www.rkmhq.org and other links there.
The photos to the left are, serially from top: no. 3 a General Hospital with 552 inpatients' beds in Kolkata, and no. 5 the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.