The Ramakrishna Gospel
In search of God
The Order which was formed after Sri Ramakrishna's death in order to keep his ideals alive, today includes 133 offices in India and other countries; the head office is located in Belur Math. From a legal point of view, the organization is divided into two distinct sectors: Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. The distinction is however not rigid, often the activities carried out by its sectors overlap so it is more theoretical than real. The Math and the Mission are closely linked as the governing body of the Mission is made up of the administrators of the Math and the administrative work of the Mission is carried out mainly by the monks of the Math. Although, if the origin of both structures dates back to the time of the Baranagar monastery, the Math was registered as a Foundation only in 1901, and the Mission, a Registered Society, in 1909, twelve years after it was founded by Svámi Vivekánanda May 1, 1897. However, the two structures are usually referred to as the Ramakrishna Mission name.
Both the Math and the Mission carry out charitable and philanthropic activities with the difference that the Math emphasizes the spiritual development of people while the Mission is more engaged in social work. The motto that the two organizations observe is the same, the one that Svámi Vivekánanda gave them: átmano moksártham jagaddhitáya ca: by doing works of good for the world with a spirit of dedication, he prepares the way for his own salvation. The following paragraphs briefly illustrate how Math and Mission put into practice the ideal of Svámi Vivekánanda.
The Math and the Mission, since their inception, have engaged in works of assistance in times of natural disasters such as floods, famines, droughts, etc. The main resource for this assistance work comes from offers from the population. In 1993-94 the Mission spent Rs. 1.48 crores in rescue and repair works and distributed basic necessities for a value of Rs. 21.58 lakhs.
Units of measurement equivalent to 10 million (crore) and one hundred thousand (lakh) respectively. Expressed in lire, these sums today (2000) are equivalent to about one billion and about one hundred and fifty million respectively.
As part of the health care program, the two institutions manage hospitals for the hospitalization of the sick, pharmacies for outpatients, mobile health units, etc. In 1994 they administered:
a) 14 hospitals with 2049 beds for a total of 60,175 hospitalizations and 2,153,744 outpatients;
b) 91 pharmacies, available to external patients, who have treated 2,729,257 cases;
c) 27 mobile pharmacies that have provided medical assistance to 679,165 patients;
The Mission also has a TB sanatorium in Ranchi in the state of Bihar and a TB clinic in Delhi.
Svámi Vivekánanda said that a nation progresses to the extent that education spreads among its people. For him, "education, education and more education" was the panacea for India's problems. Therefore, the Math and the Mission, albeit with limited resources, seek to provide education for the people so that it can contribute to the improvement of India. The school centers they manage include 5 colleges with degree courses, 5 colleges for teacher preparation, 11 high schools, 34 middle schools and 133 schools of various denominations, 7 technical-industrial schools, 2 institutes for agriculture. , two language schools, 1 Sanskrit college, 2 Sanskrit schools, 4 polytechnics, 1 computer center, and 6503 non-formal school units. They also have 96 student houses and hostels, 5 orphanages, and even an academy for blind children. The total number of students who attended these institutions in the year 1993-94 was 207,455 of which 127,041 boys and 80,414 girls.
Activities for women
Svámi Vivekánanda said that "nations have achieved greatness through fair respect for women" and a country that does not take care of its women cannot progress, just like a bird cannot fly if one of its wings is lacking. For this reason, the Math and the Ramakrishna Mission do not neglect or consider women inferior. Protection and medical care are offered to women as well as men. A woman can visit a temple in a center, follow its events, classes and public meetings, and take advantage of library services like a man. In addition, some centers have units dedicated exclusively to women. Some examples: a) Maternity wards in the hospitals of Calcutta, Trivandrum and Vrindaban; b) Home and maternity clinics in Jalpaiguri and Khetri; c) the home for disabled women in Varanasi; d) the Sarada Vidyalaya in Madras; e) 3 high schools for girls in Jamshedpur; f) the Sarada Mandir to Sarisha; g) 4 training schools for nurses in Thiruvanananthapuram, Vrindaban, Itanagar and Calcutta.
Through publications and conferences the monks of the two institutions remind men of their duties towards women and the respect due to them. But keeping in mind Vivekànanda's thought - that women's problems could be solved much better if they were addressed by women, and that any male interference could do more harm than good - they only deal with women in a limited way. Most of this task is entrusted to the "Ramakrishna Sarada Math and Sarada Mission", an exclusively female organization that follows the same ideals as the other two structures but is completely separate from them.
Activities for young people
Vivekánanda's hopes and trust were placed in the young people of his country. The Math and the Mission therefore treat young people in a very particular way, especially as regards their spiritual elevation. In addition to handling a good one
number of schools and colleges monks try in various ways to maintain direct contact with young people. Thanks to study groups, seminars, youth clubs, young people learn about Svámi Vivekánanda's message. In this regard, a special mention deserves the Vivekànanda Study Circle of the Institute of Culture of the Ramakrishna Mission in Calcutta. It is a youth club that meets once every 15 days and that organizes meetings between young people both in Calcutta and in rural areas during the weekends.
Activities for the weakest
In providing health care, assistance to those in difficulty and education, the Math and the Mission pay particular attention to the needs of those who are weaker both economically and culturally. The Order does everything possible, within the sphere of its limited resources, to try to alleviate the uneasy conditions of the poor and the populations of the most backward parts of the country in order to restore human dignity in them and to insert them in the fabric social.
To this end, Math and Mission operate in three ways:
a) bring these populations into direct contact with the great current of Indian culture.
b) send volunteers to rural areas to impart the knowledge that will gradually bring them to a level of equality with the rest of the country.
c) The medical and educational institutions managed by Math and the Mission carry out assistance and help to the poor and backward populations; they become available for emergency operations in emergency situations.
All this is done not in the name of piety but with a spirit of devotion to God.
Internal development activities
Both the Math and the Mission pay particular attention to the diffusion of India's thought and spirituality through regular classroom lessons, meetings, public celebrations, book publications, etc. With these means we try to make the populations aware of the richness of their moral and spiritual heritage, and it is emphasized that life is worthy of being lived only in a spirit of self-denial. As for religion, only the universal truths of Vedanta are disseminated, of which the life and teaching of Ramakrishna are the example. It makes one understand how each individual is a potentially divine being and endowed with immense capacities.
These messages are more widely spread through the publication of books on Ramakrishna-Vivekánanda, Vedanta and indology. Books in English, Bengali, Hindi, and other Indian languages are published in more than ten centers; to date, the Order has around 500 titles and 12 periodicals.
Both the Math and the Mission have a network of centers spread all over the world. Faith in the unity of mankind, as taught by Sri Ramakrishna and Svámi Vivekànanda, informs their relationship with the West; these relationships are therefore based on the principle of reciprocity and partnership. From the West India must learn how to conquer the outside world, said Vivekánanda, and the West must learn from India how to conquer its internal nature. The two cultures are therefore complementary.