What were the contributions of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda?

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Ramakrishna Paramahansa : Ramakrishna Paramahansa was a mystic and saint. He was also a great reformer of the Nineteenth Century. He derived his inspiration from Indian thought and culture and aimed to bring a spiritual awakening in India.

Ramakrishna was born in 1836 in a ‘Brahmin family at Karmarpukur a village in the Hoogly district of Bengal. His father was Khudiram Chattopadhya and mother was Chandra Devi.

They were deeply religious minded. The original name of Ramakrishna was Gadadhar Chattopadhva. During his childhood Ramakrishna had gained sufficient knowledge in Hindu religious doctrines.

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Simultaneoulsy he took great interest in devotional practices. He had no formal education. At the age of twenty he became the Priest of the Dakshineswar Kali temple. He was very much devoted to Goddess Kali.

He considered Goddess Kali the supreme Divine mother as the Absolute force and the source of creation of the universe Ramakrishna led an intense spiritual life and through yogic discipline and meditation he attained the supreme realisation.

Ramakrishna considered religion as an all embracing spirituality. 1 The soul object of life according to him is the realisation of God. So devotion to God should be the supreme goal of mind.

According to him one can conceive God in forms or as form less, but his supreme goal should be the realisation of God. Religion is a path towards the realisation of the supreme goal of life Ramakrishna did not condemn image worship as he considered it as a means to an end and not an end itself.

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The end is the realisaton of God. He said that the Vedas, Uapnishads, the Sutras and Sharstras deal with the eternal quest or the eternal being (God). He assimilated the various Hindu cults and forstered the spirit of unity within Hinduism Ramakrishna thought of God both as formless and informs.

He said “Those who believe -that God is without form attain Him Just as well as those who believe that he has form. The only two essentials are faith and self surrender.”

Ramakrishna sincerely expressed his desire to bring a synthesis of all religions. He considered the religions like Islam and Christianity as different paths or means to achieve the same goal.

He had studied Koran and Bible and had clearly understood the essence and inner values of Islam and Christianity.

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According to him all creeds and faiths are based” on the universal idea of oneness of God and religions are important factors to foster the sense of unity among the people.

Thus the spiritual cosmopolitanism of Ramakrishna Paramahansa brought a feeling of awakening in the Indian people. Swami Vivekananda described him “as a wonderful mixture of God and man.” He died in 1886.

Vivekananda:

Ramakrishna Paramahansa had disciples from all ranks and positions. Among his disciples, the most celebrated was Narendra Nath Dutta, famous in History Swami Vivekananda.

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Vivekananda was born in 1863, in Calcutta. He completed his education from the Calcutta University. As a student of philosophy he studied both Indian and Western Philosophy.

The philosophical ideas of Jolm Smart Mill and of Herbert Spencer considerably impressed his mind. Vivekananda once met Ramakrishna Paramahansa and felt attracted towards him.

He became the disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. In 1886 the saint Ramakrishna Paramahansa died. His-choicest disciple Vivekananda preached his religious message among the people.

Vivekananda was progressive intellectually gifted and was modern in his outlook. He had a charming personality and unbounded physical energy.

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Vivekananda widely travelled the various parts of India and propagated the teachings of his Guru. His eloquence and spiritual fervour attracted a number of followers which included both princes and peasants.

In 1888 Vivekananda travelled all over India to make the people conscious about their cultural heritage. He played the role of a missionary of spiritual awakening among the Indian people.

In 1893 Vivekananda went to America to attend the Parliament of religious at Chicago. In that August assembly he explained the true meaning of Hinduism. He convinced the assembled delegates that Hinduism is based on vital and real truths.

The Western people considered Hinduism as a primitive religion. But Vivekananda explained before the assembled delegates, the value and the greatness of Hinduism, one of the most ancient religions of the world. He also laid emphasis on the vital elements of Indian philosophy and spirituality.

His divine message based on peace, universal brotherhood and religious tolerance considerably impressed the delegates present in the assembly.

Thus Vivekananda explained the real meaning of Hinduism in the parliament of religions. He asserted the fact that Hinduism is based on the laws of love. His bold presentation of Hindu thought and philosophy brought recognition to Hinduism all over the civilized world.

He declared that philosophy of Hinduism was based on pure nationalism. Vivekananda was a remarkable figure in the parliament of religions and the American papers depicted him as an orator by Divine right. His speeches in the parliament of religions at Chicago and at other places in U.S.A and U.K. brought him fame and friends.

Simultaneously Vivekananda appreciated the material advancement of the countries of the West. India the birth place of the religious like Brahamanism, Buddhism and Jainism was famous for her spiritual advancement.

So according to Vivekananda there should be co-operation and harmony between India and the west with their respective achievements in the spiritual and material spheres for the good of mankind.

He brought to the Indian mind from the materially advanced west the merit of worldly optimism.

Teachings:

Vivekananda aimed to make the common people spiritually any conscious. He wanted that even a common man should understand the Hindu spiritual doctrines.

He brought spiritually from his unintelligible scriptural seclusion to the mind and heart of the common people. According to Vivekananda the spiritual and ethical rays of religion, were essential for men in their day today life.

He gave the message of spiritual hope to India which helped immensely for Indian re-awakening. He laid emphasis on the upliftment of the individual, and wanted to remove the complex of inferiority and fear from the individual and national mind Vivekananda created a feeling of self-confidence and pride among the Indians by reminding them of their spiritual values.

By making the people conscious about their glorious spiritual tradition he treated in them a sense of national pride. This indirectly contributed to the growth of democratic consciousness.

Vivekananda denounced poverty, superstition and encouraged mass education. His preachings have “unique combination of modernrationalism, and ancient mysticism, of the doctrines of Vedas and Upanishads and the knowledge of the scientific age, of spiritual values and worldly realities. He represented the ancient wisdom, the medieval devotion and the modern intellect.”

Vivekananda found the most rationalistic and scientific interpretation of God in the Hindu Vedanta. He laid emphasis on cosmopolitanism and catholicism. He believed in the truth of all religions.

According him all different religious views are but different ways leading, to the same goal. Vivekananda called upon the Indian people not to be blind towards the value of the material civilisation of the West because material civilisation was essential for the progress and prosperity of the country.

So he diverted the attention of the Indian people towards the values of the Western ways of life. Above all he advised the people to serve the down-trodden humanity and to be influenced by the spirit of liberty, equality and free thinking.

In 1897 Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna mission an order of monks to carry out his programmes. The Mission had three main objectives.

Firstly it aimed to preach Vedantic doctrines among the people. Secondly the Mission aimed at promoting harmony and friendship among the people of different creeds, sects and faith. Above all the Mission aimed to undertake humanitarian work with the motto that service of mankind as service to God.

Vivekananda established the belur Math near Calcutta which became the main centre of activities of the Ramakrishan-mission. Branches of the Mission were also established in the different parts of India.

The Mission is rendering great service to the people by establishing schools, colleges, libraries and charitable dispensaries.

In 1899 Swami Vivekananda again visited the west to preach his message. He travelled all over the United States and established Vedanta centres. In 1900 he came to Europe and took part in the Congress of the History of Religions in Paris.

There he delivered his message relating to the greatness and majesty of Hinduism. Vivekananda died in 1902 at the age of thirty nine. He symbolised the awakened spirit of a new India.

The above socio-religious reform movements reformed the Hindu society and religion. Dogmas and superstitions gave place to rational thinking.

The reformers aroused a patriotic impulse among the people who became politically conscious. The growth of political consciousness among the Indian people paved the way for the growth of Indian Nationalism.

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