Ramakrishna Order of the Vedanta Society

Founders: Swami Vivekananda and other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna

Date of Birth: 1863

Birth Place: Calcutta, India

Year Founded: 1897 (some sources say 1899)

Sacred or Revered Texts: The Vedanta Society has several core texts that encompass their beliefs. Two of these books are the Bhagavad Gita 5 and the Upanishads. These two texts are the center of Hindu beliefs and the foundation for Vedanta Society's system of beliefs. Thus, they may be considered the most sacred. The Vedanta Society follows the beliefs of Hinduism but goes beyond it to encompass all religions. The Vedanta Society strives to incorporate all religions and therefore uses the Bible as well. How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali is another important book. This one describes yoga in depth. Shankara's Crest Jewel of Discrimination is a classic on knowledge as the path to God. Finally, Self-Knowledge is Shankara's explanation of the nature of self.

Size of Group: There are presently thirteen Vedanta Societies in the United States, and 125 centers governed by the Ramakrishna Order. There are more than 1,000 additional centers that claim the name of either Ramakrishna or Vivekananda. 6

History

An understanding of the history of the Vedanta Society can only be gained through first grasping a knowledge of Sri Ramakrishna's life. Sri Ramakrishna did not claim to find a new path to salvation or found a cult but, rather, created a sort of melting pot of all religions. The nineteenth century was a time when religious foundations were continuously being shaken by worldly forces such as materialism and doubt. Ramakrishna did not found a religious movement, but his beliefs and revelations became the foundation for movements that others would create.

Ramakrishna was born in Bengal, India on February 17, 1836. He was born and raised in a poor family with strict Hindu values. Although he was a normal, rambunctious child for the most part, he showed at an early age that he had a great understanding for the spiritual realm of Hinduism. One of his first revelations was that the soul is key for all learning but that it is hindered by ignorance.

At the young age of nine years, Ramakrishna lost his father and this stimulated even more thought processes and drew him very close to his mother. The most life-changing event however was when he was a priest at a temple that worshipped Kali, the Divine Mother or female manifestation of God, as their deity. (In Hinduism followers have a choice between which forms of the deity they wish to worship.) At this point Ramakrishna began to view God as the "Eternal Mother". 1 He saw the Eternal Mother as wanting to give everyone Her divine wisdom in exchange for turning our backs to our materialistic environment.

At this point Ramakrishna longed to see a vision of God. He spent days and nights renouncing this world and urging the Divine Mother to make Herself visible to him. When She finally did, much to Ramakrishna's surprise, the Divine Mother came as the inner presence of us all. This proved to Ramakrishna that a particular religious affiliation was not important, that all religions have similar goals just different methods of getting there. Using the Hindu methods and rituals he was raised with, he made it his goal in life to continually strive to see the vision of God. He gave up nearly everything in the process of achieving this -- food, water, sleep, etc.

The family and friends of Ramakrishna did not understand what he was going through and concluded he was going insane. They wanted to arrange a marriage. Ramakrishna agreed and viewed this woman (as he viewed all women) as the manifestation of the Divine Mother. All she wanted was to be his disciple as he continued to be God's instrument.

The reason Ramakrishna himself is not the founder of the Vedanta Society, but his beliefs are central to the Society, is because of his firm belief in not seeking out followers. He believed "that the bees come of their own accord in search of honey when the flower is in full bloom." 2 One of Ramakrishna's greatest disciples was Swami Vivekananda. He later became the leader of a group that dedicated their lives to realizing Truth and serving humanity. Vivekananda brought the Vedanta religion to the U.S. at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Because of his popularity and because of the attractiveness of the Vedanta Society religion, Vedanta began to grow in America. "In 1899 he founded, with brother disciples, the Ramakrishna Order and Mission of India with centers in the U.S.A. and other countries." 3 Some reasons for wanting to found the Order are the same as those that continued to make Sri Ramakrishna crave more knowledge of God. The mission of the Vedanta Society and particularly of the Ramakrishna Order are best summed up in a quote by Swami Vivekananda in The Ramakrishna Mission 4:

The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his own identity and grow according to his own law of growth. I hope that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance, 'help' and not 'fight,' 'assimilation' and not 'destruction,' 'harmony and peace' and not 'dissension.'

Beliefs

Sri Ramakrishna has been revered as one of the greatest teachers in Indian history. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica and a Vedanta web site, The Ramakrishna Mission 7 Sri Ramakrishna "is perhaps the best-known example in history of a man who demonstrated by personal example the essential harmony of all faiths." This site also says that "his was the eternal gospel of the Unity of Existence and the Divinity of the Soul." The devoted disciples of Sri Ramakrishna made concrete his many beliefs and revelations by incorporating the West. These main beliefs are centered on the importance of symbol, mantra, meditation, and mother. All of these are important because spiritual growth is said to come from within rather than from scriptures or texts. Sri Ramakrishna also believed in the Unity of Existence and had twenty concepts recorded by one of his disciples which are the foundation of Vedanta Society.

The key aspects of Vedanta can be broken down into five main groups: (1) symbol, (2) mantra, (3) yoga, (4) meditation, and (5) mother.

The first of these, symbol 8., is crucial to the understanding of the Vedanta Society. The most important symbol to the Vedanta Society is the sound of " Om." The Upanishads, an ancient Hindu text, states that " Om" is the single most sacred word. Om is a symbol for the Absolute Realty or Brahman which can be, and is, translated as "God."

Why is this symbol so important? There are two reasons. First of all the word as pronounced by Hindus has three syllables or sounds: A, U, M or Aum. In the Sanskrit alphabet these three sounds comprise all the sounds man can make. Therefore Om represents Brahman or God's divine and omnipresent aspect. It is the physical form of Brahman or God. Second, " Om" is a symbol for Brahman because it has to do with its form when vocalized. In an abstract way, it is believed that ALL spoken sounds come to have no sound. In Om this "no sound" is said to represent Brahman. Thus Om is the nearest symbol/representation/explanation of Brahman one can get. Because this is the most sacred word it is often the replacement for a mantra for meditation.

The second major aspect of Vedanta Society is the use of the mantra. This can be defined as repeating a divine name or symbol over and over in the hopes of bringing oneself to increasing levels of consciousness. The point of a mantra is to release the mind of everything except for divine thoughts of God. A criterion for this, however, is that one must lead a life free of attachment to this world. The name given to the mantra of repeating the divine name is Japa. Through this method it is possible to come closer to understanding God by repeating his name and concentrating on it.

Yoga , a third major aspect of Vedanta, has as its goal to become one with Brahman or God. One who can successfully do so is said to have reached enlightenment and may be referred to by such names as Buddha or Brahmajnani. There are four yogic paths that all lead one to this single goal of enlightenment. These are Bhakti yoga 9, Karma yoga 10, Jhana yoga 11, and Raja yoga. 12 The purpose of these four different paths is to take into consideration that different people prefer to take different paths.

The first of these paths, Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge. It is designed for those that have a more philosophical mind-set, and thus the method for reaching enlightenment requires deducing answers logically which eventually answer what enlightenment truly is. Eventually the one meditating is able to see their self as one and the same with God.

The second of these paths, Bhakti yoga, is the "path of love." 13 It is believed among the Society that the emotion of love is the strongest of all. Thus Bhakti draws on this emotion and portrays a God that has characteristics such as a creator. It is said that the devotee can love God in five different ways. 14 Shanta is the first way and means a calm viewpoint. Dasa is the second which translates as the "attitude of service" such as that between a slave and his master. Sakha is the "attitude of friendship." Vatsalya is the attitude of a parent where the devotee views God as his child. Madhur is the fifth attitude and means the attitude of lovers. This is when the devotee views God as his lover. All love must be selfless, fearless, and rivalry-less.

Karma yoga is the third type of yoga. This is literally translated as the "path of action." 15 Motive is thus very important to karma yoga. Motive is inevitable, however; it should never be in the form of anything materialistic.

The fourth path is Raja yoga, or "the royal path." 16 The reason for the name is because of the history of royalty using this form of yoga. This is believed to be a scientific approach to enlightenment that will pose questions to the devotee that will permit him to determine whether his nature is, in fact, divine. With this form of meditation, one focuses energy on one fixed point, or object, in order to break oneself from attachment.

These four types of yoga are meant to target different kinds of people. However, a person does have to do just one of them. It is possible for someone to do all four (at different times of course) in order to encompass the varieties within each individual. All of these paths, if done correctly, lead to enlightenment. This concept is shown in the Seal of the Ramakrishna Order. 17 The seal brings together the four paths combined as the God-head. The rising sun symbolizes Jnana yoga, the lotus represents Bhakti yoga, the way waters stand for Karma yoga, and the encircling serpent stands for Raja yoga.

A third concept crucial to the understanding of Vedanta is the concept of a Universal Mother. This one is unfamiliar to many Westerners. To Hindus, God is considered a single being, which may be either male, female, or neuter. "The Divine Mother." 18 is the embodiment of infinite love and Heavenly Bliss. (The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, Mother, p.1) This mother-type is representative of the closeness, the unconditional, the forgiving, and the omnipotent love between mother and child. Another key difference with western perceptions of God is that Hindus not only view God as the creator of all, but they also view God as the actual material He/She/It created. The triune God, human souls, and nature are all viewed as being intrinsically linked by the Divine Mother. She is viewed as the glue that holds this world together.

The fourth concept, meditation, encompasses many of the other beliefs and practices of Vedanta. To understand meditation one must first have some knowledge about the mind itself. The Upanishads teach that there are three facets of the mind: instinct, reason, and intuition.

It is solely through intuition however that one can even begin to understand the other realm. To understand divine things one must go beyond the realm of intellect. To understand God, one must transcend all books and scriptures and rely only on the personal level.

If humans cannot understand God through everyday intellectual means, what are the means to which man can have knowledge of God? The Vedas teach this path to be yoga. Meditation is a big part of yoga. Yoga may be defined as the means to the "union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul or the Oversoul." 19

In order to properly prepare oneself for yoga, one must practice meditation which purifies the heart and mind. "Meditation is to hold the mind to one thought of one's spiritual ideal without break, like oil which is poured from one vessel to another in a continuous flow." 20 Meditation calms the mind so that we are able to go past the surface and dig deep into our consciousness where our divine is trapped. After the mind is calm one can concentrate on samadhi, or the process of being frozen in time.

Swami Vivekananda, one of Sri Ramakrishna's greatest disciples, outlines ways in which one can attempt to speed up goal attainment through meditation:

The first way is to never break away from a rigid moral discipline, be content to keep a pure heart, and always focus on reverence to God.

The second way is through proper posture or asana. One's posture should be stable but also comfortable. One restriction is that the upper body has to be upright and straight. Posture includes proper breathing, in and out quietly through the nose. One's mind is naturally going to wander at first, so let it. After a few minutes of wandering, one must begin concentrating.

Concentration , or dharana, on a specific point or thing is the third way achieve enlightenment. One can choose to concentrate on a mantra or on the sound, Om, or on a phrase that brings comfort. Concentration leads one into actual meditation, dhyana, and then into samadhi, becoming one with Brahman.

Determination is another important step towards enlightenment. Meditation twice a day, once at dawn and once at dusk, is preferred; however noon and bedtime are okay times as well to meditate.

It is lastly advisable to have a separate area, as much away from everything else as possible, to practice meditation. For instance, a separate room of a house where no sleeping is done, no anger is allowed, and where one must be clean is a suggestion by several Swamis, leaders of Vedanta Orders. 21 In truth these Swamis are saying that meditation is to be practiced in congruence with living in this world, but one must not allow worldly things to become a part of one's self. Realizing God, or Enlightenment, is thus attainable in this life. It is the hope of the Swamis that this love will be contagious throughout all of society.

A fourth and major criteria for Vedanta Society is unity, or the respect for all religions. As stated in the Sanskrit hymn:

As the different streams
Having their sources
In different places
All mingle their waters in the sea,
So O Lord, the different paths which men take
Through various tendencies,
Various though they appear
Crooked or straight
All lead to thee. 22

This respect for all religions is something that Sri Ramakrishna took very seriously. In fact, growing up Ramakrishna practiced all major religions and all splinters of Hinduism. In 1866 he followed the Muslim path and actually had a vision of Muhammad. Later he studied Christianity just as closely and had a vision of Jesus. After going through all of these religions he realized that he always reached the same goal. Whether the religion said this goal was nirvana or enlightenment or the Kingdom of God, the basis of the goal is the same.

Swami Vivekananda expresses this same desire in a quote in The Ramakrishna Mission. He states: "Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long-possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often with human blood, destroyed civilisations and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come. And I hope that the bell that tolled this morning...may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feeling between persons wending their way to the same goal." 23 Thus one can deduce from this quote that intolerance for other religions is not only seen as wrong but is also seen as destructive.

Bibliography

Abhedananda, Swami. 1969. Bhagavad Gita: The Divine Message. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math.

Abhedananda, Swami. 1983. The Vedanta Philosophy. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math.

Adiswarananda, Swami. Sri Ramakrishna: 1836-1886. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. New York.

Advent Media. 1997. Vivekananda Foundation. The Vivekananda Foundation. Last visited 11-30-98.http://www. vivekananda.org/

Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center. Last visited 11-30-98. http://wwwdigiserve.com/mystic/Hindu/Ramakrishna/

Hixon, Lex William. Great Swan: Meetings With Ramakrishna. Larson Publishing. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.all-natural.com/swanbook.html

Isherwood, Christopher. Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Vedanta Press. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.ascension-research.org/ramabook.htm

Jackson, Carl T. 1994. Vedanta for the West: The Ramakrishna Movement in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kaushal, Radhey Shyam. 1994. The Philosophy of the Vedanta, a Modern Perspective. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.

Lord Sai Baba Picture Museum . Dec. 6, 1998. Singapore. http://www.post1.com/home/gurusim/lordsai.htm

Perspectives on Ramakrishna - Vivekananda Vedanta Tradition. 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.

Prasad, Narayana. 1994. Karma and Reincarnation: The Vedanta Perspective. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.

Rolland, Romain. Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master (Ch1). Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. Last visited 9-24-98. http://www.ramakrishna.org/SR_GreatMaster_Ch1.htm

Sivaramakrishna, M.(Editor) 1991. Perspectives on Ramakrishna - Vivekananda Vedanta Tradition. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.

Vedanta Society of Southern California. 1996. Hollywood, California. Vedanta Society of Southern California. Last visited 11-22-98. http://www.sarada.com/eng/others/whatis/whatis.htm

Vedanta Society of Toronto . Toronto, Ohio. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.total.net/~vedanta/toronto.htm

The Eternal Quest. Untitled. Decatur, GA. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.mindspring.com/~yogeshananda/index.html

Vivekananda, Swami. "Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master." 20 January 1997: 47.

References

  • Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Vivekananda, p.3. Essay on home page of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York . (Date: 12/14/98)
  • Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Vivekananda, p.7. Essay on home page of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York . (Date: 12/14/98)
  • Exemplars of Modern Vedanta by The Eternal Quest, p.3. Essay on home page of The Eternal Quest: Vedanta in Atlanta .
  • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ramakrishna Mission . (Date: 7/22/98)
  • Bhagavad Gita by Simon. Essay on home page of Prasanthi Nilayam, Abode of Lord Sai Baba . (Date: 11/6/98)
  • What is Vedanta by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of Vedanta Page .
  • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ramakrishna Mission . (Date: 7/22/98)
  • Symbol by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • Yoga by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • Literature by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of
  • Literature by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of
  • Yoga by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • "Path of love." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • Love God in five different ways. by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • "Path of action." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • " The royal path." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • The Seal of the Ramakrishna Order Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Southern California (Date: 12/3/98)
  • "The Divine Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.2. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.2. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.6. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
  • Vedanta Page p.1 Essay on home page of Vedanta Page (Date: 12/24/97)
  • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto, p. 2. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ra

    Ramakrishna Order of the Vedanta Society

    Founders: Swami Vivekananda and other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna

    Date of Birth: 1863

    Birth Place: Calcutta, India

    Year Founded: 1897 (some sources say 1899)

    Sacred or Revered Texts: The Vedanta Society has several core texts that encompass their beliefs. Two of these books are the Bhagavad Gita 5 and the Upanishads. These two texts are the center of Hindu beliefs and the foundation for Vedanta Society's system of beliefs. Thus, they may be considered the most sacred. The Vedanta Society follows the beliefs of Hinduism but goes beyond it to encompass all religions. The Vedanta Society strives to incorporate all religions and therefore uses the Bible as well. How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali is another important book. This one describes yoga in depth. Shankara's Crest Jewel of Discrimination is a classic on knowledge as the path to God. Finally, Self-Knowledge is Shankara's explanation of the nature of self.

    Size of Group: There are presently thirteen Vedanta Societies in the United States, and 125 centers governed by the Ramakrishna Order. There are more than 1,000 additional centers that claim the name of either Ramakrishna or Vivekananda. 6

    History

    An understanding of the history of the Vedanta Society can only be gained through first grasping a knowledge of Sri Ramakrishna's life. Sri Ramakrishna did not claim to find a new path to salvation or found a cult but, rather, created a sort of melting pot of all religions. The nineteenth century was a time when religious foundations were continuously being shaken by worldly forces such as materialism and doubt. Ramakrishna did not found a religious movement, but his beliefs and revelations became the foundation for movements that others would create.

    Ramakrishna was born in Bengal, India on February 17, 1836. He was born and raised in a poor family with strict Hindu values. Although he was a normal, rambunctious child for the most part, he showed at an early age that he had a great understanding for the spiritual realm of Hinduism. One of his first revelations was that the soul is key for all learning but that it is hindered by ignorance.

    At the young age of nine years, Ramakrishna lost his father and this stimulated even more thought processes and drew him very close to his mother. The most life-changing event however was when he was a priest at a temple that worshipped Kali, the Divine Mother or female manifestation of God, as their deity. (In Hinduism followers have a choice between which forms of the deity they wish to worship.) At this point Ramakrishna began to view God as the "Eternal Mother". 1 He saw the Eternal Mother as wanting to give everyone Her divine wisdom in exchange for turning our backs to our materialistic environment.

    At this point Ramakrishna longed to see a vision of God. He spent days and nights renouncing this world and urging the Divine Mother to make Herself visible to him. When She finally did, much to Ramakrishna's surprise, the Divine Mother came as the inner presence of us all. This proved to Ramakrishna that a particular religious affiliation was not important, that all religions have similar goals just different methods of getting there. Using the Hindu methods and rituals he was raised with, he made it his goal in life to continually strive to see the vision of God. He gave up nearly everything in the process of achieving this -- food, water, sleep, etc.

    The family and friends of Ramakrishna did not understand what he was going through and concluded he was going insane. They wanted to arrange a marriage. Ramakrishna agreed and viewed this woman (as he viewed all women) as the manifestation of the Divine Mother. All she wanted was to be his disciple as he continued to be God's instrument.

    The reason Ramakrishna himself is not the founder of the Vedanta Society, but his beliefs are central to the Society, is because of his firm belief in not seeking out followers. He believed "that the bees come of their own accord in search of honey when the flower is in full bloom." 2 One of Ramakrishna's greatest disciples was Swami Vivekananda. He later became the leader of a group that dedicated their lives to realizing Truth and serving humanity. Vivekananda brought the Vedanta religion to the U.S. at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Because of his popularity and because of the attractiveness of the Vedanta Society religion, Vedanta began to grow in America. "In 1899 he founded, with brother disciples, the Ramakrishna Order and Mission of India with centers in the U.S.A. and other countries." 3 Some reasons for wanting to found the Order are the same as those that continued to make Sri Ramakrishna crave more knowledge of God. The mission of the Vedanta Society and particularly of the Ramakrishna Order are best summed up in a quote by Swami Vivekananda in The Ramakrishna Mission 4:

    The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his own identity and grow according to his own law of growth. I hope that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance, 'help' and not 'fight,' 'assimilation' and not 'destruction,' 'harmony and peace' and not 'dissension.'

    Beliefs

    Sri Ramakrishna has been revered as one of the greatest teachers in Indian history. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica and a Vedanta web site, The Ramakrishna Mission 7 Sri Ramakrishna "is perhaps the best-known example in history of a man who demonstrated by personal example the essential harmony of all faiths." This site also says that "his was the eternal gospel of the Unity of Existence and the Divinity of the Soul." The devoted disciples of Sri Ramakrishna made concrete his many beliefs and revelations by incorporating the West. These main beliefs are centered on the importance of symbol, mantra, meditation, and mother. All of these are important because spiritual growth is said to come from within rather than from scriptures or texts. Sri Ramakrishna also believed in the Unity of Existence and had twenty concepts recorded by one of his disciples which are the foundation of Vedanta Society.

    The key aspects of Vedanta can be broken down into five main groups: (1) symbol, (2) mantra, (3) yoga, (4) meditation, and (5) mother.

    The first of these, symbol 8., is crucial to the understanding of the Vedanta Society. The most important symbol to the Vedanta Society is the sound of " Om." The Upanishads, an ancient Hindu text, states that " Om" is the single most sacred word. Om is a symbol for the Absolute Realty or Brahman which can be, and is, translated as "God."

    Why is this symbol so important? There are two reasons. First of all the word as pronounced by Hindus has three syllables or sounds: A, U, M or Aum. In the Sanskrit alphabet these three sounds comprise all the sounds man can make. Therefore Om represents Brahman or God's divine and omnipresent aspect. It is the physical form of Brahman or God. Second, " Om" is a symbol for Brahman because it has to do with its form when vocalized. In an abstract way, it is believed that ALL spoken sounds come to have no sound. In Om this "no sound" is said to represent Brahman. Thus Om is the nearest symbol/representation/explanation of Brahman one can get. Because this is the most sacred word it is often the replacement for a mantra for meditation.

    The second major aspect of Vedanta Society is the use of the mantra. This can be defined as repeating a divine name or symbol over and over in the hopes of bringing oneself to increasing levels of consciousness. The point of a mantra is to release the mind of everything except for divine thoughts of God. A criterion for this, however, is that one must lead a life free of attachment to this world. The name given to the mantra of repeating the divine name is Japa. Through this method it is possible to come closer to understanding God by repeating his name and concentrating on it.

    Yoga , a third major aspect of Vedanta, has as its goal to become one with Brahman or God. One who can successfully do so is said to have reached enlightenment and may be referred to by such names as Buddha or Brahmajnani. There are four yogic paths that all lead one to this single goal of enlightenment. These are Bhakti yoga 9, Karma yoga 10, Jhana yoga 11, and Raja yoga. 12 The purpose of these four different paths is to take into consideration that different people prefer to take different paths.

    The first of these paths, Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge. It is designed for those that have a more philosophical mind-set, and thus the method for reaching enlightenment requires deducing answers logically which eventually answer what enlightenment truly is. Eventually the one meditating is able to see their self as one and the same with God.

    The second of these paths, Bhakti yoga, is the "path of love." 13 It is believed among the Society that the emotion of love is the strongest of all. Thus Bhakti draws on this emotion and portrays a God that has characteristics such as a creator. It is said that the devotee can love God in five different ways. 14 Shanta is the first way and means a calm viewpoint. Dasa is the second which translates as the "attitude of service" such as that between a slave and his master. Sakha is the "attitude of friendship." Vatsalya is the attitude of a parent where the devotee views God as his child. Madhur is the fifth attitude and means the attitude of lovers. This is when the devotee views God as his lover. All love must be selfless, fearless, and rivalry-less.

    Karma yoga is the third type of yoga. This is literally translated as the "path of action." 15 Motive is thus very important to karma yoga. Motive is inevitable, however; it should never be in the form of anything materialistic.

    The fourth path is Raja yoga, or "the royal path." 16 The reason for the name is because of the history of royalty using this form of yoga. This is believed to be a scientific approach to enlightenment that will pose questions to the devotee that will permit him to determine whether his nature is, in fact, divine. With this form of meditation, one focuses energy on one fixed point, or object, in order to break oneself from attachment.

    These four types of yoga are meant to target different kinds of people. However, a person does have to do just one of them. It is possible for someone to do all four (at different times of course) in order to encompass the varieties within each individual. All of these paths, if done correctly, lead to enlightenment. This concept is shown in the Seal of the Ramakrishna Order. 17 The seal brings together the four paths combined as the God-head. The rising sun symbolizes Jnana yoga, the lotus represents Bhakti yoga, the way waters stand for Karma yoga, and the encircling serpent stands for Raja yoga.

    A third concept crucial to the understanding of Vedanta is the concept of a Universal Mother. This one is unfamiliar to many Westerners. To Hindus, God is considered a single being, which may be either male, female, or neuter. "The Divine Mother." 18 is the embodiment of infinite love and Heavenly Bliss. (The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, Mother, p.1) This mother-type is representative of the closeness, the unconditional, the forgiving, and the omnipotent love between mother and child. Another key difference with western perceptions of God is that Hindus not only view God as the creator of all, but they also view God as the actual material He/She/It created. The triune God, human souls, and nature are all viewed as being intrinsically linked by the Divine Mother. She is viewed as the glue that holds this world together.

    The fourth concept, meditation, encompasses many of the other beliefs and practices of Vedanta. To understand meditation one must first have some knowledge about the mind itself. The Upanishads teach that there are three facets of the mind: instinct, reason, and intuition.

    It is solely through intuition however that one can even begin to understand the other realm. To understand divine things one must go beyond the realm of intellect. To understand God, one must transcend all books and scriptures and rely only on the personal level.

    If humans cannot understand God through everyday intellectual means, what are the means to which man can have knowledge of God? The Vedas teach this path to be yoga. Meditation is a big part of yoga. Yoga may be defined as the means to the "union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul or the Oversoul." 19

    In order to properly prepare oneself for yoga, one must practice meditation which purifies the heart and mind. "Meditation is to hold the mind to one thought of one's spiritual ideal without break, like oil which is poured from one vessel to another in a continuous flow." 20 Meditation calms the mind so that we are able to go past the surface and dig deep into our consciousness where our divine is trapped. After the mind is calm one can concentrate on samadhi, or the process of being frozen in time.

    Swami Vivekananda, one of Sri Ramakrishna's greatest disciples, outlines ways in which one can attempt to speed up goal attainment through meditation:

    The first way is to never break away from a rigid moral discipline, be content to keep a pure heart, and always focus on reverence to God.

    The second way is through proper posture or asana. One's posture should be stable but also comfortable. One restriction is that the upper body has to be upright and straight. Posture includes proper breathing, in and out quietly through the nose. One's mind is naturally going to wander at first, so let it. After a few minutes of wandering, one must begin concentrating.

    Concentration , or dharana, on a specific point or thing is the third way achieve enlightenment. One can choose to concentrate on a mantra or on the sound, Om, or on a phrase that brings comfort. Concentration leads one into actual meditation, dhyana, and then into samadhi, becoming one with Brahman.

    Determination is another important step towards enlightenment. Meditation twice a day, once at dawn and once at dusk, is preferred; however noon and bedtime are okay times as well to meditate.

    It is lastly advisable to have a separate area, as much away from everything else as possible, to practice meditation. For instance, a separate room of a house where no sleeping is done, no anger is allowed, and where one must be clean is a suggestion by several Swamis, leaders of Vedanta Orders. 21 In truth these Swamis are saying that meditation is to be practiced in congruence with living in this world, but one must not allow worldly things to become a part of one's self. Realizing God, or Enlightenment, is thus attainable in this life. It is the hope of the Swamis that this love will be contagious throughout all of society.

    A fourth and major criteria for Vedanta Society is unity, or the respect for all religions. As stated in the Sanskrit hymn:

    As the different streams
    Having their sources
    In different places
    All mingle their waters in the sea,
    So O Lord, the different paths which men take
    Through various tendencies,
    Various though they appear
    Crooked or straight
    All lead to thee. 22

    This respect for all religions is something that Sri Ramakrishna took very seriously. In fact, growing up Ramakrishna practiced all major religions and all splinters of Hinduism. In 1866 he followed the Muslim path and actually had a vision of Muhammad. Later he studied Christianity just as closely and had a vision of Jesus. After going through all of these religions he realized that he always reached the same goal. Whether the religion said this goal was nirvana or enlightenment or the Kingdom of God, the basis of the goal is the same.

    Swami Vivekananda expresses this same desire in a quote in The Ramakrishna Mission. He states: "Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long-possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often with human blood, destroyed civilisations and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come. And I hope that the bell that tolled this morning...may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feeling between persons wending their way to the same goal." 23 Thus one can deduce from this quote that intolerance for other religions is not only seen as wrong but is also seen as destructive.

    Bibliography

    Abhedananda, Swami. 1969. Bhagavad Gita: The Divine Message. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math.

    Abhedananda, Swami. 1983. The Vedanta Philosophy. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math.

    Adiswarananda, Swami. Sri Ramakrishna: 1836-1886. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. New York.

    Advent Media. 1997. Vivekananda Foundation. The Vivekananda Foundation. Last visited 11-30-98.http://www. vivekananda.org/

    Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center. Last visited 11-30-98. http://wwwdigiserve.com/mystic/Hindu/Ramakrishna/

    Hixon, Lex William. Great Swan: Meetings With Ramakrishna. Larson Publishing. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.all-natural.com/swanbook.html

    Isherwood, Christopher. Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Vedanta Press. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.ascension-research.org/ramabook.htm

    Jackson, Carl T. 1994. Vedanta for the West: The Ramakrishna Movement in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Kaushal, Radhey Shyam. 1994. The Philosophy of the Vedanta, a Modern Perspective. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.

    Lord Sai Baba Picture Museum . Dec. 6, 1998. Singapore. http://www.post1.com/home/gurusim/lordsai.htm

    Perspectives on Ramakrishna - Vivekananda Vedanta Tradition. 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.

    Prasad, Narayana. 1994. Karma and Reincarnation: The Vedanta Perspective. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.

    Rolland, Romain. Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master (Ch1). Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. Last visited 9-24-98. http://www.ramakrishna.org/SR_GreatMaster_Ch1.htm

    Sivaramakrishna, M.(Editor) 1991. Perspectives on Ramakrishna - Vivekananda Vedanta Tradition. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.

    Vedanta Society of Southern California. 1996. Hollywood, California. Vedanta Society of Southern California. Last visited 11-22-98. http://www.sarada.com/eng/others/whatis/whatis.htm

    Vedanta Society of Toronto . Toronto, Ohio. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.total.net/~vedanta/toronto.htm

    The Eternal Quest. Untitled. Decatur, GA. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.mindspring.com/~yogeshananda/index.html

    Vivekananda, Swami. "Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master." 20 January 1997: 47.

    References

    • Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Vivekananda, p.3. Essay on home page of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York . (Date: 12/14/98)
    • Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Vivekananda, p.7. Essay on home page of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York . (Date: 12/14/98)
    • Exemplars of Modern Vedanta by The Eternal Quest, p.3. Essay on home page of The Eternal Quest: Vedanta in Atlanta .
    • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ramakrishna Mission . (Date: 7/22/98)
    • Bhagavad Gita by Simon. Essay on home page of Prasanthi Nilayam, Abode of Lord Sai Baba . (Date: 11/6/98)
    • What is Vedanta by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of Vedanta Page .
    • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ramakrishna Mission . (Date: 7/22/98)
    • Symbol by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • Yoga by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • Literature by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of
    • Literature by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of
    • Yoga by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • "Path of love." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • Love God in five different ways. by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • "Path of action." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • " The royal path." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • The Seal of the Ramakrishna Order Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Southern California (Date: 12/3/98)
    • "The Divine Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.2. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.2. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.6. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • Vedanta Page p.1 Essay on home page of Vedanta Page (Date: 12/24/97)
    • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto, p. 2. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ramakrishna Mission . (Date: 7/22/98)

    Ramakrishna Order of the Vedanta Society

    Founders: Swami Vivekananda and other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna

    Date of Birth: 1863

    Birth Place: Calcutta, India

    Year Founded: 1897 (some sources say 1899)

    Sacred or Revered Texts: The Vedanta Society has several core texts that encompass their beliefs. Two of these books are the Bhagavad Gita 5 and the Upanishads. These two texts are the center of Hindu beliefs and the foundation for Vedanta Society's system of beliefs. Thus, they may be considered the most sacred. The Vedanta Society follows the beliefs of Hinduism but goes beyond it to encompass all religions. The Vedanta Society strives to incorporate all religions and therefore uses the Bible as well. How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali is another important book. This one describes yoga in depth. Shankara's Crest Jewel of Discrimination is a classic on knowledge as the path to God. Finally, Self-Knowledge is Shankara's explanation of the nature of self.

    Size of Group: There are presently thirteen Vedanta Societies in the United States, and 125 centers governed by the Ramakrishna Order. There are more than 1,000 additional centers that claim the name of either Ramakrishna or Vivekananda. 6

    History

    An understanding of the history of the Vedanta Society can only be gained through first grasping a knowledge of Sri Ramakrishna's life. Sri Ramakrishna did not claim to find a new path to salvation or found a cult but, rather, created a sort of melting pot of all religions. The nineteenth century was a time when religious foundations were continuously being shaken by worldly forces such as materialism and doubt. Ramakrishna did not found a religious movement, but his beliefs and revelations became the foundation for movements that others would create.

    Ramakrishna was born in Bengal, India on February 17, 1836. He was born and raised in a poor family with strict Hindu values. Although he was a normal, rambunctious child for the most part, he showed at an early age that he had a great understanding for the spiritual realm of Hinduism. One of his first revelations was that the soul is key for all learning but that it is hindered by ignorance.

    At the young age of nine years, Ramakrishna lost his father and this stimulated even more thought processes and drew him very close to his mother. The most life-changing event however was when he was a priest at a temple that worshipped Kali, the Divine Mother or female manifestation of God, as their deity. (In Hinduism followers have a choice between which forms of the deity they wish to worship.) At this point Ramakrishna began to view God as the "Eternal Mother". 1 He saw the Eternal Mother as wanting to give everyone Her divine wisdom in exchange for turning our backs to our materialistic environment.

    At this point Ramakrishna longed to see a vision of God. He spent days and nights renouncing this world and urging the Divine Mother to make Herself visible to him. When She finally did, much to Ramakrishna's surprise, the Divine Mother came as the inner presence of us all. This proved to Ramakrishna that a particular religious affiliation was not important, that all religions have similar goals just different methods of getting there. Using the Hindu methods and rituals he was raised with, he made it his goal in life to continually strive to see the vision of God. He gave up nearly everything in the process of achieving this -- food, water, sleep, etc.

    The family and friends of Ramakrishna did not understand what he was going through and concluded he was going insane. They wanted to arrange a marriage. Ramakrishna agreed and viewed this woman (as he viewed all women) as the manifestation of the Divine Mother. All she wanted was to be his disciple as he continued to be God's instrument.

    The reason Ramakrishna himself is not the founder of the Vedanta Society, but his beliefs are central to the Society, is because of his firm belief in not seeking out followers. He believed "that the bees come of their own accord in search of honey when the flower is in full bloom." 2 One of Ramakrishna's greatest disciples was Swami Vivekananda. He later became the leader of a group that dedicated their lives to realizing Truth and serving humanity. Vivekananda brought the Vedanta religion to the U.S. at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Because of his popularity and because of the attractiveness of the Vedanta Society religion, Vedanta began to grow in America. "In 1899 he founded, with brother disciples, the Ramakrishna Order and Mission of India with centers in the U.S.A. and other countries." 3 Some reasons for wanting to found the Order are the same as those that continued to make Sri Ramakrishna crave more knowledge of God. The mission of the Vedanta Society and particularly of the Ramakrishna Order are best summed up in a quote by Swami Vivekananda in The Ramakrishna Mission 4:

    The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his own identity and grow according to his own law of growth. I hope that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance, 'help' and not 'fight,' 'assimilation' and not 'destruction,' 'harmony and peace' and not 'dissension.'

    Beliefs

    Sri Ramakrishna has been revered as one of the greatest teachers in Indian history. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica and a Vedanta web site, The Ramakrishna Mission 7 Sri Ramakrishna "is perhaps the best-known example in history of a man who demonstrated by personal example the essential harmony of all faiths." This site also says that "his was the eternal gospel of the Unity of Existence and the Divinity of the Soul." The devoted disciples of Sri Ramakrishna made concrete his many beliefs and revelations by incorporating the West. These main beliefs are centered on the importance of symbol, mantra, meditation, and mother. All of these are important because spiritual growth is said to come from within rather than from scriptures or texts. Sri Ramakrishna also believed in the Unity of Existence and had twenty concepts recorded by one of his disciples which are the foundation of Vedanta Society.

    The key aspects of Vedanta can be broken down into five main groups: (1) symbol, (2) mantra, (3) yoga, (4) meditation, and (5) mother.

    The first of these, symbol 8., is crucial to the understanding of the Vedanta Society. The most important symbol to the Vedanta Society is the sound of " Om." The Upanishads, an ancient Hindu text, states that " Om" is the single most sacred word. Om is a symbol for the Absolute Realty or Brahman which can be, and is, translated as "God."

    Why is this symbol so important? There are two reasons. First of all the word as pronounced by Hindus has three syllables or sounds: A, U, M or Aum. In the Sanskrit alphabet these three sounds comprise all the sounds man can make. Therefore Om represents Brahman or God's divine and omnipresent aspect. It is the physical form of Brahman or God. Second, " Om" is a symbol for Brahman because it has to do with its form when vocalized. In an abstract way, it is believed that ALL spoken sounds come to have no sound. In Om this "no sound" is said to represent Brahman. Thus Om is the nearest symbol/representation/explanation of Brahman one can get. Because this is the most sacred word it is often the replacement for a mantra for meditation.

    The second major aspect of Vedanta Society is the use of the mantra. This can be defined as repeating a divine name or symbol over and over in the hopes of bringing oneself to increasing levels of consciousness. The point of a mantra is to release the mind of everything except for divine thoughts of God. A criterion for this, however, is that one must lead a life free of attachment to this world. The name given to the mantra of repeating the divine name is Japa. Through this method it is possible to come closer to understanding God by repeating his name and concentrating on it.

    Yoga , a third major aspect of Vedanta, has as its goal to become one with Brahman or God. One who can successfully do so is said to have reached enlightenment and may be referred to by such names as Buddha or Brahmajnani. There are four yogic paths that all lead one to this single goal of enlightenment. These are Bhakti yoga 9, Karma yoga 10, Jhana yoga 11, and Raja yoga. 12 The purpose of these four different paths is to take into consideration that different people prefer to take different paths.

    The first of these paths, Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge. It is designed for those that have a more philosophical mind-set, and thus the method for reaching enlightenment requires deducing answers logically which eventually answer what enlightenment truly is. Eventually the one meditating is able to see their self as one and the same with God.

    The second of these paths, Bhakti yoga, is the "path of love." 13 It is believed among the Society that the emotion of love is the strongest of all. Thus Bhakti draws on this emotion and portrays a God that has characteristics such as a creator. It is said that the devotee can love God in five different ways. 14 Shanta is the first way and means a calm viewpoint. Dasa is the second which translates as the "attitude of service" such as that between a slave and his master. Sakha is the "attitude of friendship." Vatsalya is the attitude of a parent where the devotee views God as his child. Madhur is the fifth attitude and means the attitude of lovers. This is when the devotee views God as his lover. All love must be selfless, fearless, and rivalry-less.

    Karma yoga is the third type of yoga. This is literally translated as the "path of action." 15 Motive is thus very important to karma yoga. Motive is inevitable, however; it should never be in the form of anything materialistic.

    The fourth path is Raja yoga, or "the royal path." 16 The reason for the name is because of the history of royalty using this form of yoga. This is believed to be a scientific approach to enlightenment that will pose questions to the devotee that will permit him to determine whether his nature is, in fact, divine. With this form of meditation, one focuses energy on one fixed point, or object, in order to break oneself from attachment.

    These four types of yoga are meant to target different kinds of people. However, a person does have to do just one of them. It is possible for someone to do all four (at different times of course) in order to encompass the varieties within each individual. All of these paths, if done correctly, lead to enlightenment. This concept is shown in the Seal of the Ramakrishna Order. 17 The seal brings together the four paths combined as the God-head. The rising sun symbolizes Jnana yoga, the lotus represents Bhakti yoga, the way waters stand for Karma yoga, and the encircling serpent stands for Raja yoga.

    A third concept crucial to the understanding of Vedanta is the concept of a Universal Mother. This one is unfamiliar to many Westerners. To Hindus, God is considered a single being, which may be either male, female, or neuter. "The Divine Mother." 18 is the embodiment of infinite love and Heavenly Bliss. (The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, Mother, p.1) This mother-type is representative of the closeness, the unconditional, the forgiving, and the omnipotent love between mother and child. Another key difference with western perceptions of God is that Hindus not only view God as the creator of all, but they also view God as the actual material He/She/It created. The triune God, human souls, and nature are all viewed as being intrinsically linked by the Divine Mother. She is viewed as the glue that holds this world together.

    The fourth concept, meditation, encompasses many of the other beliefs and practices of Vedanta. To understand meditation one must first have some knowledge about the mind itself. The Upanishads teach that there are three facets of the mind: instinct, reason, and intuition.

    It is solely through intuition however that one can even begin to understand the other realm. To understand divine things one must go beyond the realm of intellect. To understand God, one must transcend all books and scriptures and rely only on the personal level.

    If humans cannot understand God through everyday intellectual means, what are the means to which man can have knowledge of God? The Vedas teach this path to be yoga. Meditation is a big part of yoga. Yoga may be defined as the means to the "union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul or the Oversoul." 19

    In order to properly prepare oneself for yoga, one must practice meditation which purifies the heart and mind. "Meditation is to hold the mind to one thought of one's spiritual ideal without break, like oil which is poured from one vessel to another in a continuous flow." 20 Meditation calms the mind so that we are able to go past the surface and dig deep into our consciousness where our divine is trapped. After the mind is calm one can concentrate on samadhi, or the process of being frozen in time.

    Swami Vivekananda, one of Sri Ramakrishna's greatest disciples, outlines ways in which one can attempt to speed up goal attainment through meditation:

    The first way is to never break away from a rigid moral discipline, be content to keep a pure heart, and always focus on reverence to God.

    The second way is through proper posture or asana. One's posture should be stable but also comfortable. One restriction is that the upper body has to be upright and straight. Posture includes proper breathing, in and out quietly through the nose. One's mind is naturally going to wander at first, so let it. After a few minutes of wandering, one must begin concentrating.

    Concentration , or dharana, on a specific point or thing is the third way achieve enlightenment. One can choose to concentrate on a mantra or on the sound, Om, or on a phrase that brings comfort. Concentration leads one into actual meditation, dhyana, and then into samadhi, becoming one with Brahman.

    Determination is another important step towards enlightenment. Meditation twice a day, once at dawn and once at dusk, is preferred; however noon and bedtime are okay times as well to meditate.

    It is lastly advisable to have a separate area, as much away from everything else as possible, to practice meditation. For instance, a separate room of a house where no sleeping is done, no anger is allowed, and where one must be clean is a suggestion by several Swamis, leaders of Vedanta Orders. 21 In truth these Swamis are saying that meditation is to be practiced in congruence with living in this world, but one must not allow worldly things to become a part of one's self. Realizing God, or Enlightenment, is thus attainable in this life. It is the hope of the Swamis that this love will be contagious throughout all of society.

    A fourth and major criteria for Vedanta Society is unity, or the respect for all religions. As stated in the Sanskrit hymn:

    As the different streams
    Having their sources
    In different places
    All mingle their waters in the sea,
    So O Lord, the different paths which men take
    Through various tendencies,
    Various though they appear
    Crooked or straight
    All lead to thee. 22

    This respect for all religions is something that Sri Ramakrishna took very seriously. In fact, growing up Ramakrishna practiced all major religions and all splinters of Hinduism. In 1866 he followed the Muslim path and actually had a vision of Muhammad. Later he studied Christianity just as closely and had a vision of Jesus. After going through all of these religions he realized that he always reached the same goal. Whether the religion said this goal was nirvana or enlightenment or the Kingdom of God, the basis of the goal is the same.

    Swami Vivekananda expresses this same desire in a quote in The Ramakrishna Mission. He states: "Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long-possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often with human blood, destroyed civilisations and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come. And I hope that the bell that tolled this morning...may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feeling between persons wending their way to the same goal." 23 Thus one can deduce from this quote that intolerance for other religions is not only seen as wrong but is also seen as destructive.

    Bibliography

    Abhedananda, Swami. 1969. Bhagavad Gita: The Divine Message. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math.

    Abhedananda, Swami. 1983. The Vedanta Philosophy. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math.

    Adiswarananda, Swami. Sri Ramakrishna: 1836-1886. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. New York.

    Advent Media. 1997. Vivekananda Foundation. The Vivekananda Foundation. Last visited 11-30-98.http://www. vivekananda.org/

    Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center. Last visited 11-30-98. http://wwwdigiserve.com/mystic/Hindu/Ramakrishna/

    Hixon, Lex William. Great Swan: Meetings With Ramakrishna. Larson Publishing. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.all-natural.com/swanbook.html

    Isherwood, Christopher. Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Vedanta Press. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.ascension-research.org/ramabook.htm

    Jackson, Carl T. 1994. Vedanta for the West: The Ramakrishna Movement in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Kaushal, Radhey Shyam. 1994. The Philosophy of the Vedanta, a Modern Perspective. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.

    Lord Sai Baba Picture Museum . Dec. 6, 1998. Singapore. http://www.post1.com/home/gurusim/lordsai.htm

    Perspectives on Ramakrishna - Vivekananda Vedanta Tradition. 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.

    Prasad, Narayana. 1994. Karma and Reincarnation: The Vedanta Perspective. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.

    Rolland, Romain. Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master (Ch1). Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. Last visited 9-24-98. http://www.ramakrishna.org/SR_GreatMaster_Ch1.htm

    Sivaramakrishna, M.(Editor) 1991. Perspectives on Ramakrishna - Vivekananda Vedanta Tradition. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.

    Vedanta Society of Southern California. 1996. Hollywood, California. Vedanta Society of Southern California. Last visited 11-22-98. http://www.sarada.com/eng/others/whatis/whatis.htm

    Vedanta Society of Toronto . Toronto, Ohio. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.total.net/~vedanta/toronto.htm

    The Eternal Quest. Untitled. Decatur, GA. Last visited 11-30-98. http://www.mindspring.com/~yogeshananda/index.html

    Vivekananda, Swami. "Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master." 20 January 1997: 47.

    References

    • Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Vivekananda, p.3. Essay on home page of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York . (Date: 12/14/98)
    • Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Vivekananda, p.7. Essay on home page of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York . (Date: 12/14/98)
    • Exemplars of Modern Vedanta by The Eternal Quest, p.3. Essay on home page of The Eternal Quest: Vedanta in Atlanta .
    • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ramakrishna Mission . (Date: 7/22/98)
    • Bhagavad Gita by Simon. Essay on home page of Prasanthi Nilayam, Abode of Lord Sai Baba . (Date: 11/6/98)
    • What is Vedanta by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of Vedanta Page .
    • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ramakrishna Mission . (Date: 7/22/98)
    • Symbol by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • Yoga by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • Literature by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of
    • Literature by Vedanta Society of Southern California. Essay on home page of
    • Yoga by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • "Path of love." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • Love God in five different ways. by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • "Path of action." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • " The royal path." by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • The Seal of the Ramakrishna Order Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Southern California (Date: 12/3/98)
    • "The Divine Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.2. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.2. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • The Symbol, Mantra, Yoga, Meditation, and Mother by Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D, p.6. Essay on home page of Umesh C. Gulati, Ph.D.
    • Vedanta Page p.1 Essay on home page of Vedanta Page (Date: 12/24/97)
    • The Ramakrishna Mission by Vedanta Society of Toronto, p. 2. Essay on home page of Vedanta Society of Toronto: Ramakrishna Mission . (Date: 7/22/98)

    Created by Anne Oelrich
    Soc 257: New Religious Movements
    Fall Term, 1998
    University of Virginia
    Last updated: 07/23/01