The Ramakrishna Movement

Symbol of the Order

“Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work or worship or psychic control or philosophy – by one or more of all of these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines or dogmas, or rituals or books, or temples or forms, are but secondary details.”

Swami Vivekananda

Shortly after Ramakrishna’s passing, his sannyasin disciples established a monastic order bearing his name and under the authority of Swami Vivekananda, in accordance with Ramakrishna’s instructions. Little by little the Order established twin organisations, each of whose activities are guided by a fundamental principle:

• The Ramakrishna Math, which teaches Vedanta based on the example of it given by Ramakrishna’s own life

• The Ramakrishna Mission, which serves, along the participation of lay disciples, all human beings, each of whom is deemed to be manifestations of the Divine, regardless of caste, creed, or race.

Today the Order includes about one thousand sannyasin members.

Although both institutions engage in charitable and philanthropic activities, the Math puts greater emphasis on spiritual life and teaching, while the Mission focuses more on charitable works (which are nevertheless always accompanied by a spiritual dimension).

To carry out their activities, both the Math and the Mission receive subsidies from the central government of India, the provincial authorities, as well as various public organisations. Many gifts, donations, and revenues are received from other sources as well, for example from the entry fees of students with the means to pay.

Both the Math and Mission have their headquarters at the Belur monastery, located on the banks of the Ganges upstream from Kolkata.

The Order’s symbol summarises its ideal: the soul, symbolised by a swan, serenely floats on the ocean of unattached work (karma yoga), and is both supported by the pure lotus of devotion (bhakti yoga) and illuminated by the rising sun of knowledge (jnana yoga). This group is encircled by the serpent that sets everything in motion (raja yoga). The Sanskrit “May He illumine us” completes the picture.