Ramakrishna Order and Vedanta Movement
He created a band of monastic disciples with Swami Vivekananda as their leader. As the first step in realising this goal, he enabled and empowered his disciples with spiritual illumination and inspired them, through Swami Vivekananda, to work in an organised manner for the spiritual awakening of mankind.
The spreading of Sri Ramakrishna's ideas based on the realisation of God through various paths in accordance with Vedantic dictum “Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanti – The Truth is One, sages call it by various names” is commonly known as the Ramakrishna Movement or Vedanta Movement or Neo-Vedanta Movement.
Although Vedantic teachings have influenced prominent Western thinkers for centuries, the formal Vedanta movement in the West was initiated in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902). Vivekananda, also simply addressed as 'Swamiji’ burst on the world-stage at the Parliament of Religions held at Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He represented Hinduism and then disseminated the teachings of Vedanta throughout the United States and Europe.
After returning to India, Swamiji, with the support of the sannyasi and householder disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, established the Ramakrishna Mission Association on 1 May 1897. In 1897, the sannyasi disciples of Sri Ramakrishna were able to set up a permanent monastery at Belur in the Howrah district of present West Bengal state. Popularly known as Belur Math, it became the centre of the Ramakrishna Movement with branch centres springing up across India and in foreign countries. Thus, the Movement took a concrete organizational shape as Ramakrishna Math, registered as a Trust in 1901, and Ramakrishna Mission registered as a Society in 1909.
The Ramakrishna Math is the monastery where young men seeking to realize the Truth join from all faiths, castes and countries. In the Ramakrishna Mission, the same sannyasis work with lay devotees to serve men, women, and children without any distinction of caste, religion or race.
The spirit behind such service is “Shiva jnana Jiva Seva, or Serving individuals seeing the living God in them”. The Math and the Mission, the twin organisations, are together referred to as the Ramakrishna Order or Ramakrishna Sangha.
There are now around 1800 monastic members in the Order.
The Motto: The motto of the Ramakrishna Order was formulated by Swami Vivekananda as “Atmano mokshartam, Jagat-hitaya cha” or “For one's own salvation and for the welfare of the world."
The Ideals: Work as worship, potential divinity of the soul, and harmony of religions are three main ideals on which the Order stands. This ideal of 'service to man is service to God' sustains the hospitals, dispensaries, mobile medical units, schools, colleges, rural development centres and many other social service institutions run by the Order.
The Emblem: The emblem of the Ramakrishna Order depicts Sri Ramakrishna's message in a visual form — harmony of all the paths of sadhana in realising God.
The components of the emblem are “A lake ruffled by the wind; the sun rising, as it were, from its waters; a full-blown lotus rearing its head above two floating leaves; a swan sailing gracefully on the troubled waters; and a serpent with outstretched tongue, upraised hood; and a Mantra in the central part of its body “Tanno Hamsa Prachodayat” meaning 'May the Self inspire and guide us:
Here Sun = Jnana or Knowledge, Stormy water = work, Lotus = love, Serpent = Yoga, and Swan = the Self.
Headquarters: Belur Math, on the banks of river Ganga, is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Order. On the other bank of the river is Kolkata, one of the major cities of India.
Services: The Math and the Mission run around 1200 educational institutions (formal & non-formal), 13 hospitals, 124 Dispensaries, 58 Mobile-Medical Units, 7 Nursing Training Institutes, and a number of Tribal and Rural development centres.
Centres: The Ramakrishna Order has 221 branch centres all over the world of which 167 centres are in India, and rest 54 are spread out in 23 other countries.
Since then, the message of Vedanta has continued to spread in the West under the leadership of the swamis of the Ramakrishna Order of India, a monastic institution with headquarters at Belur Math near Calcutta. The Ramakrishna Order is an important religious and philanthropic organization with branches all over India and permanent Vedanta centers in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, Australia, Africa, Japan, and other countries. The Order’s spiritual lineage is the ancient Vedantic order of sannyasins (monks) which from the earliest time has existed in India in an unbroken line of teachers and disciples.
The movement has exercised a significant influence in the last hundred years, through Vedanta centres in the United States and Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world.
In Brasil, Vedanta centres promote the study, practice and teaching of the philosophy and religion of Vedanta, especially as expounded by Sri Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda and demonstrated in their lives.
what is VEDANTA
Vedanta is one of the world’s most ancient spiritual philosophies and one of its broadest, based on the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of India. It is the philosophical foundation of Hinduism; but while Hinduism includes aspects of Indian culture, Vedanta is universal in its application and is equally relevant to all countries, all cultures, and all religious backgrounds.
· The oneness of existence,
· The divinity of the soul, and
· The harmony of all religions.
A closer look at the word “Vedanta” is revealing: “Vedanta” is a combination of two words: “Veda” which means “knowledge” and “anta” which means “the end of” or “the goal of.” In this context the goal of knowledge isn’t intellectual—the limited knowledge we acquire by reading books. “Knowledge” here means the knowledge of God as well as the knowledge of our own divine nature. Vedanta, then, is the search for Self-knowledge as well as the search for God.
What do we mean when we say God? According to Vedanta, God is infinite existence, infinite consciousness, and infinite bliss. The term for this impersonal, transcendent reality is Brahman, the divine ground of being. Yet Vedanta also maintains that God can be personal as well, assuming human form in every age. Most importantly, God dwells within our own hearts as the divine Self or Atman. The Atman is never born nor will it ever die. Neither stained by our failings nor affected by the fluctuations of the body or mind, the Atman is not subject to our grief or despair or disease or ignorance. Pure, perfect, free from limitations, the Atman, Vedanta declares, is one with Brahman. The greatest temple of God lies within the human heart.
Vedanta asserts that the goal of life is to realize and to manifest our own divinity. This divinity is our real nature, and the realization of it is our birthright. We are moving towards this goal as we grow with knowledge and life experiences. It is inevitable that we will eventually, either in this or in future lives, discover that the greatest truth of our existence is our own divine nature.
Vedanta further affirms that all religions teach the same basic truths about God, the world, and our relationship to one another. Thousands of years ago the Rig Veda declared: “Truth is one, sages call it by various names.” The world’s religions offer varying approaches to God, each one true and valid, each religion offering the world a unique and irreplaceable path to God-realization. The conflicting messages we find among religions are due more to doctrine and dogma than to the reality of spiritual experience. While dissimilarities exist in the external observances of the world religions, the internals bear remarkable similarities.
Unity of Existence
The unity of existence is one of Vedanta's great themes and an essential pillar of its philosophy. Unity is the song of life; it is the great theme that underlies the rich variations that exist throughout the cosmos. Whatever we see and what we experience is but a manifestation of this eternal unity. The divinity at the core of our being is the same divinity that lights up the sun, moon and stars. There is no place where we, infinite in our nature, do not exist.
While the concept of oneness may be intellectually appealing, it is undoubtedly very difficult to put it into practice. There is no difficulty in feeling this unity with the great and noble beings or with those we already love. It's also not It is difficult for us to experience a feeling of oneness with the trees, the sea and the sky.
But most of us refuse to experiment with unity with repellent beings such as the cockroach or the mouse – not to mention the obnoxious coworker we can barely tolerate. However, this is precisely where we need to apply the teachings of Vedanta and realize that all these multiple aspects of creation are united in and through divinity. The Being that is inside of me, the Atman, is the same Being that is inside of you, no matter if the “you” in question is a saint, a murderer, a cat, a fly, a tree, or an irritating driver who we come across in traffic.
“The Self is everywhere,” says the Isha Upanishad. “He who sees all beings in Being, and Being in all beings, hates no one. For those who see oneness everywhere, how can there be disappointment or sadness? ” All fear and all unhappiness arise from our sense of separation from the great cosmic unity, the network of being that surrounds us.
“There is fear of the second/the other”, says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Duality, our sense of separateness from the rest of creation, is always a misnomer, as it implies the existence of something other than God. There cannot be any others. “This great preaching, the unity of all things, which makes us one with all that exists, is the great lesson to learn,” said Swami Vivekananda a century ago. ….
The Self is the essence of the universe, the essence of all souls…. You are one with the universe. One who says he is different from others, even if only by a hair, becomes immediately unhappy. Happiness belongs to the one who knows this unity, who knows he is one with the universe.
The Concept of Maya
The answer to this question lies in the concept of maya, or ignorance. Maya is the veil that covers our real nature and the real nature of the world around us. Maya is fundamentally unfathomable: we don't know why she exists and we don't know when she started. What we do know is that, like any form of ignorance, maya ceases to exist at the dawn of knowledge, the knowledge of our divine nature.
Karma & Re-incarnation
Whenever we perform some action and whenever we have some thought, an impression – a kind of subtle imprint – is created in the mind. These impressions or marks are known as samskaras. We are sometimes aware of this printing process; but just as often we cease to be. When actions and thoughts are repeated, the marks become deeper. The combination of these “marks” – samskaras – creates our individual character and also strongly influences our subsequent thoughts and actions. If we feel angry easily, for example, we create an angry mind that is predisposed to reacting with anger rather than acting with patience or understanding. Just as water gains strength when it moves into a narrow channel, so too do mind imprints create channels of behavior patterns that become extraordinarily difficult to resist or reverse. Changing an ingrained mental habit literally becomes an uphill battle.
If our predominant thoughts are of kindness, love and compassion, our character reflects this and those same thoughts will return to us sooner or later. If we send thoughts of hate, anger or pettiness, those thoughts will also come back to us.
Our thoughts and actions act more like boomerangs than arrows – they eventually find their way back. The effects of karma can come immediately, later in life or in another life; what is absolutely certain, however, is that at some point they will appear. Until liberation is achieved, we live and die within the limits of the law of karma, the fetter of cause and effect.
The Harmony of Religions
WHAT IS YOGA
According to the Vedanta teachings there are four paths we can follow to achieve the goal of understanding our divine nature. These paths are known as the Four Yogas. We can choose a path based on our personality or inclination, or follow the practices of the paths in any combination.The Four Yogas are Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
“The grandest idea in the religion of the Vedanta is that we may reach the same goal by different paths; and these paths I have generalised into four, viz those of work, love, psychology, and knowledge. But you must, at the same time, remember that these divisions are not very marked and quite exclusive of each other. Each blends into the other. But according to the type which prevails, we name the divisions. It is not that you can find men who have no other faculty than that of work, nor that you can find men who are no more than devoted worshippers only, nor that there are men who have no more than mere knowledge. These divisions are made in accordance with the type or the tendency that may be seen to prevail in a man. We have found that, in the end, all these four paths converge and become one. All religions and all methods of work and worship lead us to one and the same goal.”
—The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 1, Ch 8, “The Ideal of Karma Yoga”
Bhakti Yoga - The Path of Love
“The path of devotion is natural and pleasant. Philosophy is taking the mountain stream back to its force. It is a quicker method but very hard. Philosophy says, ‘Check everything.’ Devotion says, ‘Give the stream, have eternal self-surrender.’ It is a longer way, but easier and happier.”
—The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 7, Inspired Talks, Thursday, July 11
Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion. The devotee approaches God through a loving relationship. This path emphasizes practices such as prayer, chanting, repeating the name of God, Japa, worship and meditation on God as a loving presence in our lives.
For people who are more emotional than intellectual, bhakti-yoga is recommended. This is the path of devotion, the method of reaching God through love and loving remembrance of God. Most religions emphasize this spiritual path because it is the most natural. Like other yogas, the goal of the bhakta, or devotee of God, is to attain God-realization – unity with the Divine. The bhakta achieves this through the force of love, which among emotions is the most powerful and irresistible. Love is accessible to everyone: We all love someone or something, often with great intensity. Love makes us forget about ourselves, with all our attention devoted to the object of our worship.
The ego loosens its pressure when we think of our loved one's well-being rather than our own well-being. Love gives us concentration: even against our will; we constantly remember the object of our love. Easily and completely painless, love creates the necessary preconditions for a fruitful spiritual life. Vedanta then says: do not waste the power of love.
Use this mighty force for God-realization. We must remember that when we love another person we actually respond – albeit unconsciously – to the divinity within them. When we read in the Upanishads: "It is not because of the husband that he is loved, but by the Self. It is not because of the wife that the wife is loved, but because of the Self." Our love for others becomes selfless and unmotivated when we are able to find divinity in them. Unfortunately, we often have our love badly. We project our vision of what is true, perfect, and beautiful, and superimpose it onto the thing or person we love. However, only God is True, Perfect and Beauty itself.
Vedanta then says: Put emphasis again where it should be placed – on the divine Being within every person we meet. This is the real object of our love. Before becoming obsessed with a limited human being, we must think of God with a longing heart. Many spiritual teachers have recommended adopting a particular attitude of devotion to God: thinking of Him as your teacher, father, mother, friend, child, or beloved.
The determining factor is knowing which attitude is most natural for us, and which attitude brings us closer to God. Jesus saw God as his Father in Heaven. Ramakrishna worshiped Him as a Mother. Many great saints attained perfection by worshiping the Godhead as baby Jesus or boy Krishna, as their beloved. Others have achieved perfection by worshiping God as their teacher or friend.
The main point to remember is that God belongs to us: He is the closest to the next, the dearest of the dear. The more our minds are absorbed in thoughts of Him, the closer we will come to reaching the goal of human life, the realization of God. Many are driven to worship God by love and devotion. Other spiritual aspirants, however, are motivated more by reason than by love; for them, bhakti-yoga “peels the cork” of an erroneous spiritual tree. Those who are endowed with a powerful intellect and have a keen capacity for discernment may be better suited to the path of jnana yoga, striving for perfection through the power of reason.
Karma Yoga - the Path of Action
“Karma-Yoga is the attaining through unselfish work of that freedom which is the goal of all human nature. Every selfish action, therefore, retards our reaching the goal, and every unselfish action takes us towards the goal; that is why the only definition that can be given of morality is this: That which is selfish is immoral, and that which is unselfish is moral.”
—The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 1, Ch 8 The Ideal of Karma Yoga
- Dedicated work
- Selfless service
- Unattachment to the fruits of labor
Food or worship;
whatever the present
That you give it to someone;
whatever you promise
To the work of the spirit...
put this too
Raja Yoga - The Path of Meditation
“The science of Raja-Yoga, in the first place, proposes to give us such a means of observing the internal states. The instrument is the mind itself. The power of attention, when properly guided, and directed towards the internal world, will analyse the mind, and illumine facts for us. The powers of the mind are like rays of light dissipated; when they are concentrated, they illumine. This is our only means of knowledge.”
—The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 1, Chapter 1 Introductory
“…but all such are especially and earnestly reminded that, with few exceptions, Yoga can only be safely learnt by direct contact with a teacher.
“… each man is only a conduit for the infinite ocean of knowledge and power that lies behind mankind. It teaches that desires and wants are in man, that the power of supply is also in man; and that wherever and whenever a desire, a want, a prayer has been fulfilled, it was out of this infinite magazine that the supply came, and not from any supernatural being.”
—The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 1, Preface to Raja-Yoga
- Control of mind through meditation
- Use of mental powers to realize the Atman, true Self
- Instruction, initiation, is transmitted individually to an aspirant by a teacher, or guru
The mind ceases its restless movements
and become calm
The spiritual aspirant will realize the Atman.
Jnana Yoga - The Path of Knowledge
― Swami Vivekananda, Jnana Yoga
- Discrimination between real and unreal
- Non-dualistic, or advaita Vedanta
- Discovery of one’s true nature
Yet what we perceive can be no other than Brahman. Brahman is infinite, all-pervading, and eternal. There cannot be two infinites; what we see at all times can only be Brahman; any limitation is only our own misperception. Jnanis forcefully remove this misperception through the negative process of discrimination between the real and the unreal and through the positive approach of Self-affirmation.
In Self-affirmation we continually affirm what is real about ourselves: we are not limited to a small physical body; we are not limited by our individual minds. We are Spirit. We were never born; we will never die. We are pure, perfect, eternal and free. That is the greatest truth of our being.
The philosophy behind Self-affirmation is simple: as you think, so you become. We have programmed ourselves for thousands of lifetimes to think of ourselves as limited, puny, weak, and helpless. What a horrible, dreadful lie this is and how incredibly self-destructive! It is the worst poison we can ingest. If we think of ourselves as weak, we shall act accordingly. If we think of ourselves as helpless sinners, we will, without a doubt, act accordingly. If we think of ourselves as Spirit—pure, perfect, free—we will also act accordingly.
As we have drummed the wrong thoughts into our minds again and again to create the wrong impressions, so we must reverse the process by drumming into our brains the right thoughts—thoughts of purity, thoughts of strength, thoughts of truth. As the Ashtavakra Samhita, a classic Advaita text, declares: “I am spotless, tranquil, pure consciousness, and beyond nature. All this time I have been duped by illusion.”
Jnana yoga uses our considerable mental powers to end the duping process, to know that we are even now—and have always been—free, perfect, infinite, and immortal. Realizing that, we will also recognize in others the same divinity, the same purity and perfection. No longer confined to the painful limitations of “I” and “mine,” we will see the one Brahman everywhere and in everything.