Ramakrishna Mission

▪ Indian religious society
      religious society that carries out extensive educational and philanthropic work in India and is also the foremost exponent in Western countries of a modern version of Advaita Vedānta—a school of orthodox Indian philosophy.

      The society was founded in Calcutta by Vivekananda (q.v.) in 1897 with a twofold purpose: to spread the teachings of Vedānta as embodied in the life of the Hindu saint Ramakrishna (1836–86) and to improve the social conditions of the Indian people. Ramakrishna, as a direct result of his own spiritual experiences with various religious disciplines, including Christianity and Islām, fully realized the Hindu tenet that all religions are paths to the same goal. In his lifetime there grew about him a small but devoted band of disciples, among whom the young Narendranath Datta (who later took the name Vivekananda) was outstanding and was chosen by Ramakrishna as his successor. These disciples were the nucleus of the Ramakrishna maṭh (“monastery”) established at Belūr, on the banks of the Ganges near Calcutta, and consecrated in 1898. The Shri Sarada Math, begun in Calcutta in 1953, was made a completely separate organization in 1959, following the earlier wishes of Vivekananda; it and its sister organization, the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, now operate a number of centres in different parts of India. Several Ramakrishna Mission centres specifically serving women were turned over to the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission.

      The Vedanta Society of the City of New York, incorporated in 1898, is the oldest branch of the mission in the U.S. It grew out of classes held by Vivekananda while on a visit to the U.S. to appear before the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago. The activities of the order spread rapidly during the next half century. In the 1980s the order operated 13 branches in the United States and had centres in Bangladesh, Singapore, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, France, Switzerland, Argentina, and the United Kingdom. The centres in Western countries do not carry on social service work but are devoted exclusively to promulgating Ramakrishna's teachings. In India nearly 90 maṭh and mission centres carry on various philanthropic activities, including medical service, educational work, publications, and relief work.

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Universalium. 2010.

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