Ramakrishna Temple at Belur
Keeping pace with that tradition of spreading spiritual knowledge and happiness, in the present times various organizations that originated in Bharat have set their feet on the foreign lands years ago and busied them in accomplishing their mission. If we look at the modern history we find that such organizations included from Ramakrishna Mission to Art of Living to Chinmaya Mission to Embracing the World, to ISKCON to Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The latest addition to this list is World Hindu Congress which is holding its second quadrennial conference at Chicago from September 7-9, 2018.
How these organizations contributed to the development of the Indian Diaspora mainly and that of the indigenous people of the various lands across the globe should be an interesting study from cultural and social point of view. But that should warrant a deeper and independent study. The present discussion is limited to introduce some of these Hindu organizations that have moved into the different lands across the globe and made their indelible mark on the socio-cultural life there.
The Ramakrishna Math and Mission is probably the oldest amongst such organizations to have spread its wings in the foreign lands. Set up more than a century ago by Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa’s disciple Swami Vivekananda with a motto of आत्मनो मोक्षार्थम जगतहिताय च (For one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the world) this organization has its presence in 205 centers in 22 countries of the world.
Sri Ramakrishan Paramhamsa is regarded as the Prophet of the Modern Age and his disciple Swami Vivekananda was one of the foremost thinkers and religious leaders of the present times. Eminent western scholar A L Basham describes Vivekananda as ‘one of the main moulders of the modern world’.
The R K Mission is engaged in the pursuit of various forms of humanitarian and social service and spiritual activities. Inspired by the ideals of renunciation and service, the monks and lay devotees of the Math and Mission serve millions without any distinction of caste, religion or race, because they see the living God in them.
The organization believes potential divinity of the individuals, harmony of religions and work as worship. These noteworthy ideals form the basis of this organization. Its activities include large number of hospitals, dispensaries, mobile medical units, schools and colleges, rural development centers and many other social service institutions.
The R K Mission activities are conducted through its 205 centers spread across 22 countries including Bharat. The expanse of the organization is from developed countries like the US and the UK to underdeveloped nations like Zambia, Fiji, Mauritius to Sri Lanka, Switzerland and from Netherlands to Nepal and Singapore.
The World Culture Festival is the flagship program of AOL that involves millions of people from across the world. The latest was held in Delhi in 2016 where 3.5 million people from across the globe attended the event organised on AOL’s 35th anniversary. IN 2011 the same festival was held in Berlin, Germany while the 25th anniversary festival witnessed the release of Universal Declaration of Human Values in Washington DC on Mar 28, 2007 at the John F Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts.
The Universal Declaration of Human Values developed by Sri Sri Ravishankar recognizes the need to address the root cause of violence and conflict and stresses the need to address the spiritual aspect of human existence. This would help to achieve the goals for which the United Nations was formed, including universal human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the objectives of the Millennium Declaration.
Other programs of the AOL include Happiness Program, Youth Program, programs for the teen aged and pre-teens to teach them life skills and stress reduction techniques. The AOL’s motto is to strengthen inter-religious and cultural bonds within communities of the world. People from 151 countries participated in the world culture festival as one family and shred their different cultures, food, music and dance.
The AOL lays special stress on women leadership development and one such program held at Bali, Indonesia in 2015 was attended by women leaders from various spheres of life to explore the ways in which women can impact the world around them.
Spiritual leader, humanitarian and visionary Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is a servant of the world community. Through her inspiring life of love, inner strength and self-sacrifice, she has inspired people all over the planet to strive to make more and more space in the hearts for others and to dedicate free time to social service.
Amma travels throughout the world, guiding people to emotional fulfilment as well as offering insights and solutions to global issues such as environmental pollution, mistreatment of women, and religious disharmony.
At the centre of Amma’s life is her darshan: the tender, caring embrace that has been sought out by millions. It is in this intimate manner—a heartfelt hug—that Mata Amritanandamayi meets one and all, listens to their problems and gives them the inspiration and knowledge to uplift themselves and, ultimately, others.
Embracing the World is a global network of regional humanitarian organizations inspired by the India-based humanitarian initiatives of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. Embracing the World exists to help alleviate the burden of the world’s poor through helping to meet each of their five basic needs — food, shelter, healthcare, education, and livelihood — wherever and whenever possible. They focus on helping to meet these needs in the aftermath of major disasters.
Mata Amritanandamayi ‘Amma’ has embraced 38 million people in her life instilling in them the confidence to lead a peaceful and purposeful life. Each of Embracing the World’s projects has been initiated in response to the needs of the world’s poor who have come to unburden their hearts to Amma and cry on her shoulder.
Through her extraordinary acts of love, inner strength and self-sacrifice, Amma has inspired charity projects in more than 40 countries. This worldwide humanitarian movement is expanding day by day, as more and more people feel inspired by Amma’s example to share their time, energy and resources with those in need – both across the globe and in their own communities.
Swami Chinmayananda founder of Chinmaya Mission
Various activities of Chinmaya Mission include Bala Vihar to help children bloom, grow, and inculcate values through fun-filled activities; Chinmaya Yuva Kendra to empower youth with the vision, values and dynamism for success in all fields; Chinmaya Study group; Jnana Yajnas a five to seven days series of public discourses on Vedanta; Spiritual Camps for retreats, Chinmaya Swaranjali a movement dedicated to exploring the mystical world of Indian classical and devotinal music and discovering its hidden joy of infinitude; Central Chinmaya Vanaprastha Sansthan to give a comprehensive vision to senior citizens and to make their life healthy, serene, and comfortable; and the latest is Shishu Vihar for children below 4 years of age.
ISKCON follows the Gaudiya Vaishnava sect of Hindu Dharma started by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 500 years ago. Philosophically it has Srimad Bhagwatam, Bhagvad Gita and Bhagwat Purana as its basis. ISKCON’s founder, Srila Prabhupada, has drawn appreciation from scholars and religious leaders alike for his remarkable achievement in presenting India’s Vaishnava spiritual culture in a relevant manner to contemporary Western and worldwide audiences.
The seven-fold mission of the ISKCON includes systematic propagation of spiritual knowledge, consciousness of Krishna, to bring the society together to lead more simpler and natural way of life.
Swami Prabhupada held the first Harinama Procession in Washington on August 14, 1966. Therefore, in commemoration of that ISKCON celebrated its 50th anniversary in 600 cities across 75 countries from August 2015 to December 2016.
ISKCON undertakes programs to spread awareness about arts, education, music and kirtan, festivals, flood relief program, eco-villages, cow protection etc. as part of its manifold activities.
Started by the RSS swayamsevaks who migrated to various countries in search of green pastures, the HSS today has become a global organization contributing to enriching the life standards of these countries and their people. Concentrated basically to developing unity and harmony among the Hindus in these countries the HSS has strengthened its base in the US and the UK besides the Caribbean nations, Australia, Myanmar and Southeast Asian countries.
In the US alone there are around two million Hindus and their contribution to the economic, social, political and cultural life there is widely acclaimed. HSS is organising these Hindus to enable them to preserve, practice and promote Hindu ideals and values. The HSS work began in the US in 1989 and today it has 140 centres across the country that supports its weekly activities.
Various activities are so designed that the family members of all age groups and gender such as yoga, games, balgokulam for children, and intellectual discourses. The celebration of ‘Gurupujan’ involving native teachers was a unique program of the HSS that has left its best impression among the teaching community.
The HSS UK was established in 1966 by the swayamsevaks who ,igrated from east Africa during that period. It was registered as a Charity in 1974 with the following preamble “it is a part of the accepted doctrine of the Hindu religion that its practice develops in its adherents both a love for Bharat (India) as the Holy Land of the Hindus and the spirit of eternal Hinduism which means love for the whole of humanity regardless of race, country, nationality, religion, sect, faith, caste or creed and furthermore that this spirit enables such adherents to become better and more useful citizens”.
Today, HSS model of organisation and activities is established in many countries, running independently and regulated by their respective countries.
The HSS UK has over 100 activity centres where people gather on a weekly basis. It has inspired many other organizations like Hindu Sevika Samiti, National Hindu Students Forum, Sewa UK, Sewa Day & VHP UK.
Swaminarayana temple in the US
The members of the Swaminarayana sect began to migrate to East Africa in 1920s and among them was the large number of Patel or Patidar community members. They built temples in East Africa with the first temple coming up in Nairobi in 1945. Other temples were built in Mombasa and other Kenyan towns followed by Tanzania and Uganda. The Swaminarayan temple in Karachi, Pakistan, was built in 1868 when Karachi was part of the Indian Union.
The members began their migration to the UK from East Africa after the World War II and the first Swaminarayan temple in the UK was built in Bolton in 1973. Another temple came up in London suburb of Willesden in 1975 and is the largest temple in the UK. The temple in Leicester was opened in 1993 and was the first in Europe under the International Swaminarayan Satsang Organisation (ISSO) and was followed by one in Sweden.
The ISSO came into being in 1978 in Chicago and the temple in Weehawken, New Jersey was opened in 1987 and that was the first in the US. Later by 2012, the ISSO has built 20 temples in the US in Boston, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tampa, Florida, Detroit, Cleveland, Ohio, etc. The movement also has temples in Australia, Seychelles, Canada, Thailand, Fiji, Mauritius, New Zealand, Oman, UAE and Zambia.
The world torn asunder between materialism, anarchy, violence, terrorism, religious intolerance, unrest and is looking for sustainable peace and material development. But it is unable to find the proper way that would lead the humanity to this goal. The collective impact of multi-faceted missions of all these Hindu organization is visible in certain fields such as acceptance of Yoga as a way of life by the international community. But still there are miles to tread before the goal is reached.
The Hindu world view that is sought to be projected by the World Hindu Congress being held at Chicago in commemoration 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s message of universal brotherhood, is expected to make significant strides in this direction.