Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee

Ramakrishna Mission is mostly known in India for its extensive educational and philanthropic work including relief work and medical service during disasters. It also expounds a modern version of Advaita Vedanta- a school of Indian philosophy in Western countries.

Ramakrishna Mission was founded by Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) in 1897 to spread the teachings of Shri Ramkrishna and to improve the social conditions of the people in India. Ramakrishna Mission and its sister organization, the Ramakrishna Math (monastery), constitute two different but related branches of the Ramakrishna Order.

Ramkrishna (1836-86) was a Bengal-based saint who endorsed that all religions are paths to the same goal. He said, joto mat tato path, which means ‘there are as many ways, as there are views. ’It resonates with the teachings of Sri Krishna to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!”

In Ramkrishna’s lifetime there grew a small but devoted band of disciples. Among them was the young Narendranath Datta (who later took the name Swami Vivekananda). He was chosen by Ramakrishna as his successor. These disciples were also the nucleus of the Ramakrishna math (monastery) established at Belur, on the banks of the Ganges near Calcutta, and consecrated in 1898.

Ramakrishna math (monastery) established at Belur

Ramkrishna Mission presently has many centres around the country and in several countries including US, UK, France, Germany, South Africa even in far off Brazil. The Vedanta Society of the City of New York incorporated in 1898, is the oldest branch of the Ramakrishna Mission in the US. It grew out of classes held by Vivekananda while on a visit to the United States to speak before the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

All authority in Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math is vested in a Board of Trustees. The present President of the board is Swami 93 years old Smarananandaji. Born at village Andami in the district of Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu, he joined Mumbai Ashrama of Ramkrishna Mission in 1952 at the age of 22 and embraced monastic life. He was elected President of the order in 2017. He is the 16th President of the Order.

(Journalist turned media academician, the author is Prof Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee presently works as Regional Director of the Eastern India campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication located at Dhenkanal, Odisha. Views are personal.)

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