One of the most prominent religious figures of India during the nineteenth century, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa was a mystic and a yogi who translated complex spiritual concepts into lucid and easily intelligible manner. Born in a simple Bengali rural family in 1836, Ramakrishna was as simple yogi. He pursued the Divine throughout his life in various forms and believed in divine embodiment of the Supreme Being in every individual. Ramakrishna was the embodiment of spiritual salvation to troubled souls from all walks of life.
He was a key figure in revival of Hinduism in Bengal at a time when intense spiritual crisis was gripping the province leading to predominance of young Bengalis embracing Brahmoism and Christianity. His legacy did not end with his death in 1886; his most prominent disciple Swami Vivekananda carried on his teachings and philosophy to the world through Ramakrishna Mission. In essence, his teachings were as traditional as ancient sages and seer, yet he remains contemporary throughout the ages.
Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math
Ramakrishna Math is a monastic organization for men brought into existence by Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886), the great 19th century saint of Bengal.
Ramakrishna Mission is a registered society in which monks of Ramakrishna Math and lay devotees cooperate in conducting various types of social service mainly in India.
It was founded by Sri Ramakrishna’s chief apostle, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), one of the foremost thinkers and religious leaders of the present age, who is regarded as ‘one of the main moulders of the modern world’, in the words of an eminent Western scholar A. L. Basham. Although Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission are legally and financially separate, they are closely inter-related in several other ways, and are to be regarded as twin organizations.
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)
Swami Vivekananda, known in his pre-monastic life as Narendra Nath Datta, was born in an affluent family in Kolkata on 12 January 1863.
At the threshold of youth, he had to pass through a period of spiritual crisis when he was assailed by doubts about the existence of God. It was at that time he first heard about Sri Ramakrishna from one of his English professors at college. Apart from removing doubts from the mind of Narendra, Sri Ramakrishna won him over through his pure, unselfish love.
During his travels all over India, Swami Vivekananda was deeply moved to see the appalling poverty and backwardness of the masses. He was the first religious leader in India to understand and openly declare that the real cause of India’s downfall was the neglect of the masses. The immediate need was to provide food and other bare necessities of life to the hungry millions.
It was in this context that Vivekananda grasped the crux of the problem of poverty in India (which had escaped the attention of social reformers of his days): owing to centuries of oppression, the downtrodden masses had lost faith in their capacity to improve their lot.
The Indian Section of the Theosophical Society is a component part of the Theosophical Society which was founded in New York, USA, and was incorporated under the laws of British India on 3 April 1905 with its Headquarters at Adyar, Madras, India.
The Indian Section of the Theosophical Society was chartered on 17 November 1890 effective from 1 January 1891. The Indian Section of the Theosophical Society was registered on 31 August 1903 with its Headquarters at Varanasi. It is the National Society for India to carry out within its jurisdiction the objects of the Theosophical Society.
Its objectives are:
- To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.
- To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science.
- To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.
Young Bengal Movement
The Young Bengal Movement was started by Henry Vivian Derozio (1809-1831) who came to Calcutta in 1826 and was appointed in the Hindu college as a teacher of English literature and History.
Derozio drew round him students from the Hindu College and exercised unprecedented influence over his pupils both in and outside the class. He urged them to live and die for truth – to cultivate and practice all the virtues, shunning vice in every shape. He gave the greatest impetus to free discussion on all subjects-social, moral and religious.
Derozio was one of those rare teachers whose attachment to knowledge, love of truth, and hatred of evil made a profound impression upon those who came in contact with him. Some influential Hindus had him removed from service and shortly thereafter he died. But the Derozian influence continued and it was known as the Young Bengal Movement. All the leading movements of the period were connected with it.