The first math of Ramakrishna monastic order and Mission was established at Baranagar in 1887 by Swami Vivekananda, the greatest disciple of Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa. In 1899 another MATH was established at Belur which became the main organizational center of all the Maths of the Ramakrishna Mission.
The Ramakrishna Mission emerged as the most important socio-religious movement of the 20th century under the guidance of Swami Vivekananda. He interpreted many religious aspects of Hinduism with the help of teachings of his Guru Swami Ramakrishna.
Principles and Ideals
The Ramakrishna Mission has drawn all its principles and philosophical views from the teachings of its ideological patron Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Swamiji was deeply inspired by the teachings of Vedanta and Upanishads which can be seen in the ideology of the Ramakrishna Mission. Despite being a devout Hindu, he recognized the truth in all religions.
His firm belief that Krishna, Rama, Christ, and Allah are different names of the same God is also the principle of the mission and it gives a more liberal and broader face to the Mission.
Ramakrishna’s chief disciple took the message of the spiritualism and humanism of his Guru to the common people of India by setting up an organization based on his ideals. Unlike the Arya Samaj, the Ramakrishna Mission recognized the utility and value of image and idol worship in developing spiritual concentration and religious service. Swami Vivekananda-led Mission strongly opposed the evils of untouchability and the caste system in the Indian Society. Untouchability is an attempt to rise against God as every individual is a part of God. Swami Vivekananda also emphasized the service to mankind in his teachings. So the Mission believes in helping the poor, improving the conditions of women by education, doing away with superstitions in the society.
Riding on the principles of Swami Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda that the best services of God is through service of humanity, the Mission has established a score of hospitals, schools, residential hostels for the needy people. It also takes an active part in the rescue operations during the time of epidemics and other natural calamities. The Ramakrishna Mission’s great leader Swami Vivekananda envisaged a new culture for the whole world where the materialism of the West and the spiritualism of the East were blended into a new harmony to produce happiness and satisfaction for the entire mankind.
Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa
- The childhood name of Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa was Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya.
- He was born in a poor Brahmin family in 1836 at Kamarmukur in the Hooghly district of West Bengal.
- He became the priest of a Kali temple in Dakshineshwar, the suburbs of Kolkata at the age of twenty.
- Swami Ramakrishna remained the priest of that temple till his last breath in 1886.
- Swamiji was not directly associated with the foundation of the Ramakrishna Mission, but his ablest disciple Swami Vivekananda founded the organization in 1897.
- Swami Ramakrishna’s views and ideology provided the basic philosophical ground to the organization which was later nurtured by Swami Vivekananda by his views and active participation.
- Swami Vivekananda’s real name was Narendranath Dutta.
- He was born on Jan 12, 1863, in an affluent family in Kolkata.
- Vishwanath Dutta was his father and his mother’s name was Bhuvaneshwari Devi.
- Swamiji participated in the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893 in Chicago. His speech in the Parliament of Religions made him famous as an ‘Orator by divine right’.
- In Nov 1894, he founded the Vedanta Society of New York.
- He established the Ramakrishna Mission on May 1, 1897.
- He passed away on July 4, 1902.
- The birthday of Swami Vivekananda is celebrated as the National Youth Day (January 12) every year.
- Subhash Chandra Bose comments about Swamiji, “So far as Bengal is concerned, Vivekananda may be regarded as the Spiritual Father of the modern nationalist movement.“
The Belur Math near Kolkata is the major organizational center of the Mission. It looks after the organization and working of all Mathas spread all over India and abroad as well.
Disciples of the Ramakrishna Missions are of two types:
- The Ascetics who dedicates their lives God and the service of mankind. The ascetics remain aloof from the general issues of life like marriage, family, etc. Belur is also the educational center of these Sanyasis of the Ramakrishna Mission. The member of this group resides in Belur Math or other Mathas.
- The Normal Devotees who lead a normal life. The normal devotees are free to marry, earn their livelihood and perform other normal functions of life.
All those people who keep faith in the principles of the Mission can become its members, but a few of them can join the Mathas. The organization of its Mission. Apart from several branches in India, the Ramakrishna Mission has set up its branches in Burma, Malaya, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and in numerous European countries. The Mission propagates its ideas and philosophy by publishing books and pamphlets on the lives of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Vivekananda, and other leaders and other related subjects of the Mission.
The Mission also pays attention to numerous social services like opening schools, orphanages and serving mankind as the service of God.
The Ramakrishna Mission was one of the greatest socio-religious reform missions of the 20th century. It attempted to restructure Indian society, revive India’s glorious past and root out social evils like untouchability, women oppression, etc. without losing faith in the traditional Hindu religion. Hence, its area of influence was much larger than any other socio-religious movement especially the Brahmo Samaj. It influenced the middle and average sections of the people of India. Unlike the Brahmo Samaj, its influence never remained limited to the educated and intellectual class. It was more harmonious and liberal in its tone. It neither criticizes idol worship like the Brahmo Samaj nor did it ridicule the other faith and religions to prove the supremacy of their beliefs. It presented the service of mankind and humanity as the true religion. In brief, the Ramakrishna Mission was a great phase of Socio-Religious Movement and social awakening of the Indian society in the 19th and 20th centuries.