The activities of the Ramakrishna Movement

Relief

The Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission have been from their very inception doing relief services in times of natural calamities like flood, famine, drought, etc. Public support is the principal resource on which relief work depends. The monks, bramhacharis and devotees work hand in hand to carry out relief work in co-ordination with public authorities.

Medical Services

As part of their programme of service to the sick and the ailing, the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission run indoor hospitals, out-patients’ dispensaries, mobile health units, old-age homes, special eye-camps etc.
The Mission also runs a T.B. clinic in Delhi, 5 nurses’ training centres, and a Medical Research Centre attached to the hospital in Calcutta for post-graduate degree and diploma students. In 1999-2000, they conducted altogether:
(1) 14 hospitals with 2047 beds which served 88,185 indoor patients and 23,82,628 out-patients;
(2) 100 out-patients’ dispensaries which treated 28,41,740 cases and
(3) 39 mobile dispensaries providing medical facilities for 9,67,730 patients.
The Mission has also a T.B. Sanatorium at Ranchi in Bihar State.

Educational Activities

A nation is advanced as much as education and intelligence are spread among the masses, said Swami Vivekananda. He urged that ‘Education, education, education alone’ was the panacea of the problems of India. Therefore, the Math and the Mission, with their limited resources, try their best to provide education to people so that they may play their due role in the making of a better India.

Among the educational centres they run at present, Formal Education Centres : 327
Non-formal Education Centres : 222

These include 5 Degree Colleges, 5 Teachers’ Training Colleges, 13 Higher Secondary Schools, 32 Secondary Schools and 134 Schools of different denominations, 7 Junior Technical Industrial Schools, 3 Institutes of Agriculture, 3 Schools of Languages, 1 Sanskrit College, 2 Sanskrit Schools, 4 Polytechnics, 1 Computer Centre, and 211 non-formal education units. Besides, they have 97 Students’ homes and hostels, 5 Orphanages and also a Blind Boys’ Academy. During the year 1999-2000, 1,23,222 boys and girls received education from their institutions.

Work for Women

‘All nations have achieved greatness by paying proper respect to women’ and a country cannot progress by neglecting its womenfolk, just as a bird cannot fly only on one wing, said Swami Vivekananda. Therefore, the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission do not neglect or look down upon women. Relief and medical services are rendered to men and women alike. A woman can visit the shrine of a centre, attend its public celebrations, classes and meetings, enjoy library facilities just as a man does. Besides, some of the centres have units working exclusively for women.
To name only a few of them:
(i) Maternity sections at the hospitals in Calcutta, Trivandrum and Vrindaban,
(ii) the Domiciliary and Maternity Clinics at Jalpaiguri and Khetri,
(iii) the Invalid Women’s Home at Varanasi,
(iv) the Sarada Vidyalaya at Madras,
(v) three Girls’ High Schools at Jamshedpur,
(vi) the Sarada Mandir at Sarisha and
(vii) four Training Schools for nurses at Trivandrum, Vrindaban, Itanagar, and Calcutta.
Through literature and preaching, the monks of the Ramakrishna Order keep the malefolk reminded of their duties toward women, of the respect they ought to show them. But keeping in mind Vivekananda’s views that the women’s problems could be handled best if they were taken care of by women themselves and that male interference in women’s affairs might do more harm than good, they work for women only in a limited way. The major portion of this task they leave to be accomplished by the Ramakrishna Sarada Math and Sarada Mission, which is exclusively a women’s organization, having the same ideals but completely separate from the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission.

Work for the Youth

Vivekananda’s hope and confidence lay in the youth of the country. The Math and the Mission, therefore, pay special attention to the youth, to their moral uplift in particular. Apart from the good number of schools and colleges they run, the monks always try to keep in touch with the youth. Through study circles, seminars, and youth forums, the youth are acquainted with the messages of Swami Vivekananda. Special mention should be made in this connection of the Vivekananda Study Circle of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta. It is a youth forum which meets once every fortnight at the Institute and organizes youth conventions in Calcutta and rural areas at weekends.

Attention to Weaker Sections

While providing education, medical services and distress relief, the Ramakrishna Math and the Mission pay special attention to those who are weak from both material and cultural points of view. The centres at Along, Narottamnagar, Itanagar and Narainpur are fully dedicated to the welfare of the tribal people and a few more centres do the tribal welfare work as part of their activities.
The Pallimangal Section of Ramakrishna Math, the centres at Belur, Narendrapur, Ranchi, Purulia and Raipur are engaged in rural development work on the large scale. The aim is to make the poor and the backward people stand on their own feet, to expose them to the mainstream of Indian culture and to raise them to a status of equality with the rest of the countrymen.
All these services are not done in the spirit of pity but in the spirit of worship, the receiver being considered God while the giver as the blessed worshipper. Another distinctive feature of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission is that they never hurt the religious beliefs of people whom they are serving. To this Order of monks, all religions are equally true and, therefore, religious conversion is unnecessary and undesirable.

Spiritual and Cultural work

Both the Math and the Mission lay emphasis on the dissemination of the spiritual and cultural ideas of India. They do this through regular classes, meetings, public celebrations, publication of books, etc. Attempts are made by these means to make people aware of their moral and spiritual legacy, of the fact that life becomes worthwhile when one lives for others. In the case of religion, they preach only the universal truths of the Vedanta as exemplified in Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings. People are made to understand that they are potentially divine and they have immense possibilities. They are also taught to respect all religions as valid paths to the same God and love all beings as their own selves.
These messages are carried to a larger section of people through the publication of books and journals on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, Vedanta and Indology. More than 10 centres publish books, in English, Bengali, Hindi, and other Indian languages, and at present the Math and the Mission have about 1000 titles and 9 journals.

Foreign Centres

The Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission have a network of branches all over the world. With their faith in the inherent divinity of man and equal validity of all religions taught by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, the Math and the Mission are inspired by the principle of give-and-take in their dealings with the West. As Swami Vivekananda said, India has to learn from the West the conquest of external nature while the West has to learn from India the conquest of internal nature. The two cultures are thus complementary to each other. The Math and the Mission have centres in the U.S.A., England, France, Canada, Russia, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Fiji, Japan, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and Argentina.
The nature of work in the foreign countries is mainly of preaching. The stress is given on leading a sincere spiritual life and along with this is taught how one can respect other religions without losing one’s own religious faith.
The Ramakrishna Movement;
The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture; Calcutta; July 2000