The ideology of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission consists of the eternal principles of Vedanta as lived and experienced by Sri Ramakrishna and expounded by Swami Vivekananda.
This ideology has three characteristics: it is modern in the sense that the ancient principles of Vedanta have been expressed in the modern idiom; it is universal, that is, it is meant for the whole humanity; it is practical in the sense that its principles can be applied in day-to-day life to solve the problems of life.
The basic principles of this ideology are given below:
1. God realization is the ultimate goal of life:
One of the most important discoveries made in ancient India was that, the universe arises from and is sustained by infinite consciousness called Brahman. It has both impersonal and personal aspects. The personal aspect is known by different names, such as God, Ishvar, Allah and so on. Realization of this Ultimate Reality is the true goal of human life, for that alone can give us everlasting fulfilment and peace.
2. Potential divinity of the soul:
Brahman is immanent in all beings as the Atman which is man's true self and source of all happiness. But owing to ignorance, he identifies himself with his body & mind and runs after sense pleasures. This is the cause of all evil and suffering. As ignorance is removed, the Atman manifests itself more and more. This manifestation of the potential divinity of man, is the essence of true religion.
3. Synthesis of the Yogas:
The removal of ignorance and manifestation of the inner divinity, leading to God realization are achieved through Yoga. There are four main Yogas: Jnana Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge), Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion), Raja Yoga (Yoga of Meditation) & Karma Yoga (Yoga of Work). Each Yoga is an independent means of realizing God. But since each Yoga involves the cultivation of one of the faculties such as reason, feeling or will, a combination of all the four Yogas is necessary for the development of a balanced, 'fully functioning' personality. It is this synthesis of Yogas that Swami Vivekananda regarded as the ideal of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. This ideal finds expression in the EMBLEM of the twin organizations, which was designed by Swamiji himself. In the emblem the wavy waters represent Karma Yoga; the lotus flower represents Bhakti Yoga; the rising sun represents Jnana Yoga; the coiled serpent represents Raja Yoga; and the Swan represents the Supreme Self. The meaning of the ensemble is: by the combined practice of all the four Yogas the Supreme Self is realized.
4. Morality based on strength:
According to Swami Vivekananda, weakness is the main cause of immorality, evil and suffering in life, and the cause of weakness is ignorance about one's true nature as the Atman. Knowledge of the Atman gives us tremendous strength to overcome our weakness and lead a virtuous life. Everyone is endowed with so many potentialities, but owing to fear and weakness, most of these potentialities remain unactualized. When, through knowledge of the Atman, fear and weakness are overcome, these potentialities manifest themselves. Swamiji called this process 'man-making education'.
5. Harmony of Religions:
Although the idea that 'one Reality is known by different names' (Vedas) and the idea that 'different spiritual paths lead to the same goal' (Gita) are found in the Hindu scriptures and in the teachings of several Hindu saints, Sri Ramakrishna was the first person in history to show through direct experience the transcendental unity of all religions. His message implies two kinds of religious harmony: harmony within Hinduism and harmony among world religions.
a. Harmony within Hinduism:
Sri Ramakrishna did not identify himself with any particular sect of Hinduism but accepted Hinduism as a whole. He showed that Dualism, Non‑dualism and other schools of Hindu philosophy represent different stages of the integral experience of Reality, and that the various Hindu Deities are different aspects of one supreme Godhead. His message has brought about a great deal of harmony among the Hindu sects, and Sri Ramakrishna himself has become the symbol of the unity of Hindu religion.
b. Harmony among world religions:
It should be noted that Sri Ramakrishna recognized the differences among religions but showed, that in spite of these differences, they lead to the same Ultimate Goal. This is the meaning of his famous maxim - Jato mat, tato path, “As many faiths, so many paths”.
Apart from this, Swami Vivekananda also held that the religions of the world are expressions of one eternal Universal Religion. Since Vedanta contains all the basic principles and laws of the spiritual world, Swamiji regarded Vedanta as that eternal Universal Religion. That is to say, Vedanta can serve as the common ground for all religions.
6. Avatarhood of Sri Ramakrishna:
According to the Hindu religious traditions, God incarnates himself as the Avatar in every Age in order to give a new message to humanity suited to the need of every Age. In the Ramakrishna Movement, Shri Ramakrishna is adored as the Avatar of the Modern Age. What this means is that his life and teachings have opened a new way of salvation for humanity. The uniqueness of Sri Ramakrishna's Avatarhood is that it embodies the spiritual consciousness of earlier Avatars and prophets, including those who are outside the Hindu fold, and is in harmony with all religious traditions. In all the institutions of the Ramakrishna Order, worshipful reverence is shown to all Avatars and the founders of all religions.
7. A New Philosophy of Work:
Swami Vivekananda has given a new philosophy of work for the modern world. All work in the Ramakrishna Math and Mission is done according to this philosophy of work, which is based on the following principles:
a. According to Vedanta, the physical universe is a manifestation of God known as Virat. Hence, as Sister Nivedita has stated, there is 'no distinction between the sacred and the secular'. What this statement means is that all work is sacred. Even menial work such as sweeping the floor or mending shoes is to be done with as much attention and devotion as work in the shrine.
b. The Gita (18.46 & 9.24) states that the all-pervading God is the ultimate source of all work and the enjoyer of the fruits of all sacrifice. Hence all work is to be done as worship and the fruits of actions are to be offered to the Lord.
c. One of the important principles Swami Vivekananda learned from his Master was Shiva Jnane Jiva Seva - 'to serve Jiva as Shiva'. Since man is potentially Divine, service to man is indeed service to God. Instead of looking upon a needy person as an object of pity, he is looked upon as an object of worship. Such an attitude elevates both the giver and the recipient.
d. Swami Vivekananda was the first religious leader in India to speak for the poor and the downtrodden and to state boldly, 'He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak and the diseased, really worships Shiva; and … with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.' It was Swamiji who coined the word daridra-narayana to refer to the poor. Swamiji's love and concern for the poor continues as a directive principle in Ramakrishna Mission's service programmes.
e. When work, any work, is done fulfilling the above conditions, it becomes a spiritual discipline: the mind gets purified and the potential Divinity of the soul manifests itself more and more. Thus work done as worshipful service benefits the doer himself spiritually: it becomes a spiritual discipline or Yoga. It is with this understanding of work as a spiritual discipline (Karma Yoga) that all the service activities of the Ramakrishna Mission, such as giving food and clothing to the poor, nursing the sick etc, are undertaken. Thus service done as worship of God in man helps in two ways: it helps physically or mentally the person who is served, and it helps spiritually the person who serves.
This two-fold aim of service activities, indeed the whole ideology of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, has been put in a nutshell in the MOTTO of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission,
Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha, 'For one's own salvation and for the welfare of the world', formulated by Swami Vivekananda.
The ideology of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission finds expression through their multifarious activities. These activities cover different areas of human need and social welfare such as education, health, rural development, self-employment, women's welfare, inter-faith understanding, moral life, spiritual guidance, and relief to victims of calamities.
All these activities are conducted as service, service to the God in Man. This service is not restricted to a particular type of activity conducted at a particular time, but is a way of life.
Service as a way of life followed in the Ramakrishna Math and Mission has certain distinctive features. Some of these features are mentioned below:
1. Selflessness, Sacrifice, Love: The principle of selflessness or unselfishness is an important teaching of the Holy Trio, and constitutes the very first step in the three main spiritual paths of Karma, Bhakti and Jnana. The Ramakrishna monks look upon their Sangha as the mystical body of Sri Ramakrishna, and they learn to merge their individual egos in the collective will of the Sangha. Furthermore, all their work and its fruit are offered as worship to the Lord. Individual members of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission do not claim credit for their actions; all credit goes to the Sangha. They engage themselves in service activities not for self-glorification but for the 'greater glory' of the Lord. The Ramakrishna monks also follow the path of Jnana and, by the practice of self-analysis, learn to identify themselves with the Pratyagatman or Inner Self which is the unchanging inner witness of all thoughts and actions. Through all these means the monks learn to be unselfish and unegotistic.
The ideal of service followed in the Ramakrishna Movement is based on the principle of Siva-jnane jiva-seva, i.e. to serve man as God. It is not, however, easy to serve all, especially the poor and the sick, in a spirit of worship. This ideal of service calls for a lot of sacrifice, sacrifice of one's time, energy, comforts, etc. It is these sacrifices which the members of Ramakrishna Movement undergo, without any expectation of reward, recognition or fame, that make their ideal of service authentic.
The motivation for service and sacrifice is love. The love that flows through Ramakrishna Math and Mission is Divine Love – the pure, imperishable love of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda for humanity. This Divine Love is the force holding together the Sangha, unifying monastic brothers and lay devotees.
2. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: These three great ideals of democracy, about which humanity has been dreaming and talking for centuries, are becoming a social reality, in a silent and unobtrusive way, in the Ramakrishna Math and Mission circles. Swami Vivekananda has repeatedly stated, 'Liberty is the first condition of growth.' Freedom from religious bigotry, intolerance, hatred and superstitions, freedom from religious, social and racial prejudices, in a word, freedom of thought and belief – this is a central fact in the Ramakrishna Movement. Ramakrishna Math and Mission's activities aim at the welfare of all people without any distinctions of caste, creed or race. The rich and the poor, the Brahmin and the Harijan, Hindus, Muslims, Christians – all are treated as children of the same God. These institutions follow Swami Vivekananda's view that social equality is to be brought about, not by the process of 'levelling down', but by 'levelling up', i.e. not by pulling down those who are already up, but by raising up those who are down.
3. Excellence, Efficiency, Teamwork: These three qualities are generally associated with business enterprises, but they are the governing principles in all activities undertaken by the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Since all work is done as worship, and only the best things are offered to the Lord, the members of Ramakrishna Math and Mission try to do their allotted work in the best way possible. Care is taken to avoid waste or loss of any kind. Apart from the minimum needed for the maintenance of the institutions and their inmates, all the resources are used for the welfare of society. Again, as the monks are united by the strong bond of monastic brotherhood, they find it easy and natural to work as a team, and this has contributed much to the success of the Ramakrishna Mission.
4. Truthfulness, Honesty, Transparency: Ramakrishna Mission scrupulously follows all statutory and contingent rules and conditions with regard to receiving and spending funds, which come mostly through public donations and government grants. Its accounts are regularly audited and made available to the public. Transparency in financial matters is a hallmark of the Ramakrishna Mission.
5. Social commitment without politics: In a democratic country which follows the principle of 'Welfare State', any kind of social service necessarily involves the interaction with the Government. However, being a spiritual organization which aims at the spiritual regeneration of humanity, Ramakrishna Mission maintains its position above active politics and political affiliations.
The emblem of the Ramakrishna Order designed by Swami Vivekananda is a unique and unparalleled work of art created by one of the richest minds in contemporary history in an exalted mood of spiritual inspiration. It is a profound symbol of harmony and synthesis for reverential meditation in this present age of conflict and disharmony.
This symbol is the epitome of Swamiji's message of harmony and synthesis, leading to life's fulfilment. This is indeed the most eloquent expression of what he really preached, what he wanted every man and woman to be, to realize, either in the East or in the West.
The goal is to realize, even in this very life, one's real Self, the self-effulgent Atman represented by the Swan in the emblem and through this realization, to be free of all limitations, all bondages, all littleness. This spiritual freedom is the one thing to be aspired for and achieved in this very life. It releases one from one's prison-house of limited individuality and confers upon him or her, the blessedness of universal existence. He then becomes one with Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.
'Be free. This is the whole of religion' said Swami Vivekananda.
The meaning of this emblem, in the language of Swami 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 Kundalini 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"
You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.- Swami Vivekananda
A few heart-whole, sincere, and energetic men and women can do more in a year than a mob in a century.- Swami Vivekananda
Arise ! Awake ! And Stop Not Till the Goal is Reached.- Swami Vivekananda
All power is within you, you can do anything & everything !- Swami Vivekananda
To be good & to do good, that is the whole of religion.- Swami Vivekananda
Purity, Patience & Perseverance are the three essentials to success, and above all Love !- Swami Vivekananda
Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny !- Swami Vivekananda
We are what our thoughts have made us, so take care about what you think.- Swami Vivekananda