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Service as way of Life

The ideology of Ramakrishna Math and Mission outlined in the page of ideology finds expression through their multifarious activities.  These activities cover different areas of human need and social welfare such as education, health, rural development, self-employment, women's welfare, inter-faith understanding, moral life, spiritual guidance, and relief to victims of calamities.  All these activities are conducted as service, service to God in man.

In the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, service is not restricted to a particular type of activity conducted at a particular time, but is a way of life.  Even when the monks are not doing any service in the outside society, they do service within the monastic community.  And there is no time limit or age limit for this.  The monks continue to engage themselves in various service activities until they are incapacitated by illness or extreme old age.  Even at his advanced age the present President General of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission is rendering service in different fields.

Service as a way of life followed in Ramakrishna Math and Mission has certain distinctive features.  Some of these features are mentioned below.

1.   Selflessness, Sacrifice, Love:  The principle of selflessness or unselfishness is an important teaching of the Holy Trio, and constitutes the very first step in the three main spiritual paths of Karma, Bhakti and Jnana.  Ramakrishna monks look upon their Sangha as the mystical body of Sri Ramakrishna, and they learn to merge their individual egos in the collective will of the Sangha.  Furthermore, all their work and its fruit are offered as worship to the Lord.  Individual members of Ramakrishna Math and Mission do not claim credit for their actions; all credit goes to the Sangha.  They engage themselves in service activities not for self-glorification but for the 'greater glory' of the Lord.  Ramakrishna monks also follow the path of Jnana and, by the practice of self-analysis, learn to identify themselves with the Pratyagatman or Inner Self which is the unchanging inner witness of all thoughts and actions.  Through all these means the monks learn to be unselfish and unegoistic.

As already mentioned, the ideal of service followed in Ramakrishna Movement is based on the principle Siva-jnane jiva-seva, to serve man as potentially Divine.  It is not, however, easy to serve all, especially the poor and the sick, in a spirit of worship.  This ideal of service calls for a lot of sacrifice, sacrifice of one's time, energy, comforts, etc.  It is these sacrifices which the members of Ramakrishna Movement undergo, without any expectation of reward, recognition or fame, that make their ideal of service authentic.

The motivation for service and sacrifice is love. The love that flows through Ramakrishna Math and Mission is Divine Love – the pure, imperishable love of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda for humanity.  This Divine Love is the force holding together the Sangha, unifying monastic brothers and lay devotees.

2    Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: These three great ideals of democracy, about which humanity has been dreaming and talking for centuries, are becoming a social reality, in a silent and unobtrusive way, in the Ramakrishna Math and Mission circles.  Swami Vivekananda has repeatedly stated, 'Liberty is the first condition of growth.'  Freedom from religious bigotry, intolerance, hatred and superstitions, freedom from religious, social and racial prejudices, in a word, freedom of thought and belief – this is a central fact in the Ramakrishna Movement.  Ramakrishna Math and Mission's activities aim at the welfare of all people without any distinctions of caste, creed or race. The rich and the poor, the Brahmin and the Harijan, Hindus, Muslims, Christians – all are treated as children of the same Divine parents.  These institutions follow Vivekananda's view that social equality is to be brought about, not by a process of 'levelling down', but by 'levelling up', that is, not by pulling down those who are already up but by raising up those who are down.

3. Excellence, Efficiency, Teamwork:  These three qualities are generally associated with business enterprises, but they are the governing principles in all activities undertaken by Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Since all work is done as worship, and only the best things are offered to the Lord, the members of Ramakrishna Math and Mission try to do their allotted work in the best way possible.  Care is taken to avoid waste or loss of any kind.  Other than the minimum necessary for the maintenance of the institutions and their inmates, all the resources are used for the welfare of society.  Again, as the monks are united by the strong bond of monastic brotherhood, they find it easy and natural to work as a team, and this has contributed much to the success of Ramakrishna Mission.

4.   Truthfulness, Honesty, Transparency Ramakrishna Mission scrupulously follows all statutory and contingent rules and conditions with regard to receiving and spending funds, which come mostly through public donations and government grants.  Its accounts are regularly audited and made available to the public. Transparency in financial matters is a hallmark of Ramakrishna Mission.

5.   Social commitment without politics:  In a democratic country which follows the principle of 'Welfare State', any kind of social service necessarily involves interaction with the Government.  However, being a spiritual organization which aims at the spiritual regeneration of humanity, Ramakrishna Mission maintains its position above active politics and political affiliations.

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