Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai

Flood Relief 2015: Day 1 – Cuddalore and Pattinapakkam

Cuddalore district has been the most affected region in the recent torrential rains all over Tamil Nadu.
The most affected areas in that district were Vandipalayam, Bhimanagar, Kuyavanpalayam, Cuddalore old town, Meliruppu of Katanpuliyur taluk, Narikuravar colony (Periyakuruchi) in Neyveli taluk, Kurunjipadi and kannuthoppu, Rasapalayam (Samattuvapuram) of that taluk.

Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai, at once began flood relief work in Cuddalore. 1500 families of those affected areas were provided 10 kgs. of rice, half a kilogram of Dal, two sarees, two lungis, a towel, a bedsheet, a mat. 400 families were further given vessels. Distribution of food to 9000 people in Ennore, one of the most affected locality in Chenai, was organized by Ramakrishna Mission Students’ Home, Mylapore, Chennai.

Distribution of food to around 5000 people of Foreshore Estate was organized on 17.11.2015 by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai. Moreover, 850 people were given free medical care on 16.11.201.

The Math is gearing up for more relief work.

We are request to you contribute for the noble cause. Donations are exempt from income tax, under section 80G of the IT Act, 1961.

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Towards a Castless India – Part 1

Source from An article by Swami Satyaswarupananda which appeared in Prabuddha Bharata – February 2005

Editorial

Individual freedom, social equality and democracy are considered the defining virtues of modern civilization. They are the benchmarks against which social thinkers judge the progress of nations and peoples. These values are often found to be compromised in the developing world and such areas have provided focal points for intervention by the North. Whether these interventions have been intellectual, socio-economic, political or military, they have invariably been controversial and contested. For, although few intellectuals would argue against the universal desirability of these values, few societies can boast of allowing a free play to these. In fact, numerous extant and vigorous social institutions confound and challenge the universality of these values. Caste is one such institution.

To speak of caste without condemning it is a sure way to invite censure, yet caste as an institution has proved remarkably enduring. If the Constitution of free India abolished untouchability and made caste discrimination illegal, the provision of reservations for scheduled castes and tribes has tended to reinforce the caste identity of at least a large section of the Indian population. Elections in India repeatedly confirm the fact that even progressive and liberal-minded individuals can hardly afford to ignore caste equations if they are to be successful in electoral politics. Caste remains a crucial determinant in a majority of Indian marriages, even when the individuals concerned are well educated and are otherwise little concerned about caste. It has been pointed out by social thinkers that caste served as a social bulwark that protected and preserved the Hindu society in the face of invasions, but the same bulwark also cramped the Hindus with restrictions, thus sapping their vitality and choking their growth. This paradoxical nature of caste has intrigued scholars and social observers and excited their imagination down the centuries. This has spawned hundreds of writings and observations on the subject without the last word being said yet.

The Sociology of Caste

Caste is essentially about social divisions and gradations, about the formation of classes and ranks based on differences in lineage, occupation or wealth. In recent times, Louis Dumont’s book Homo Hierarchicus has popularized the concept of human beings as essentially hierarchical in their social formations. It has been argued that social hierarchy is an inevitable outcome of basic biological differences between humans – both as individuals as well as groups – and these differences are often accentuated by environmental modifiers. That such gradations are natural is supported by their existence amongst a wide range of social animals. Ants, termites and bees provide a striking example of organized division of function and labour. The queens, nymphs, workers, soldiers and drones amongst these insects have very specialized roles and these divisions are therefore termed ‘castes’ by entomologists.

Most people identify caste with Hindu society, but discerning observers have pointed out that the Hindu caste system is only a special case of a much more general, if not universal, phenomenon of class distinction and hierarchy. Social stratification appeared early in the course of social evolution. The four varnas of Vedic India had their equivalents in other contemporary civilizations. Endogamy, commensality and occupational specialization are taken by social anthropologists to define caste, and these were virtually the determinants of all social stratification in pre-modern societies.

In modern societies, occupational diversity, increased social mobility, loosening of family ties and economic expansion have led to the replacement of the traditional determinants of caste by economic status as the sole determinative of social difference. We now have economic classes – the upper, the middle and the working – that are in no way less hierarchical than the traditional caste or the ranked feudal order. What differentiates the modern class from its medieval or ancient counterpart is the theoretical lack of exclusiveness and the individual as the unit of stratification. Unfortunately, in practice, not many individuals manage to rise from the lower ranks of society to its higher echelons, and so class divisions are not as labile as one would otherwise expect them to be.

Marxism represents a modern ideological attempt at developing a classless society. However, the inevitability of class struggle and the rule of the proletariat as predicted by Marx never really materialized in the industrial nations of Europe. Capitalist societies circumvented this problem through welfare measures and ‘class cooperation’. Marxism succeeded as a political movement in agrarian societies through dictatorial measures that not only curbed individual enterprise and democracy, but also led to the replacement of the feudal hierarchy with its bureaucratic communist counterpart.

conflict. Even after the abolition of A more sinister form of social division is the one on racial and ethnic lines. At a global level this is currently one of the leading causes of slavery and apartheid racial bias in subtle forms remains apparent in affluent societies, while in almost all recent large-scale armed conflicts ethnic issues have played a significant role.

Caste, then, as it is found in India, is hardly unique. Yet it has distinctive features that deserve attention. When the Portuguese first used the term caste they derived it from casta, meaning ‘pure or unmixed’. They were probably impressed by the rules segregating the castes and the prohibitions against inter-marriage. That a series of Smriti texts down the centuries had been formulating rules to regulate social organization, and in the process routinize and perpetuate the existing segregation, is also unique to India.

Evolution of Castes

Interestingly, the origins of the varna divisions as found in the Rig Veda appear to be racial. Early verses of this Veda speak of two varnas, the arya and the dasa (or dasyu), as two distinct and inimical groups, differing in physical features, skin colour and culture. The dasas were later conquered and assimilated even as the four varnas with their traditional duties as known to us crystallized by the later Vedic period.

Although according to texts like the Bhagavadgita varna divisions are based on individual character traits (guna) and occupation (karma), these divisions had turned hereditary in the late Vedic period itself, even as occupations became hereditary. Here it may be worth noting that even in modern societies the likelihood that children will choose the vocation of their parents, or a related vocation, is quite high. That occupations should be hereditary in ancient times was, therefore, only natural.

Despite the restrictions imposed by the Smritis on inter-varna marriages, caste divisions in ancient India remained fairly fluid. In the Mahabharata we find Yudhishthira commenting: ‘It appears to me that it is very difficult to ascertain the caste of human beings on account of confusion of all varnas … hence the wise consider character the prinicipal desirable. ‘Acharya Shankara echoes a similar view about the then existing caste structure in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya.

The proliferation of vocations and inter-varna marriages led to the formation of numerous occupational groups, each of which became, by the medieval times, a caste or a sub-caste called jati which, as the name itself implies, was hereditary.

Caste and Privilege

If social hierarchy is universal and if caste is simply one form of social hierarchy, what has made the Indian caste system an anachronism and anathema in modern times? For one, as stated earlier, economic factors are the prime determinants of the social order – the social and political relations, and the class divisions that characterize modern societies. The rise of ‘vaishya power’, as Swami Vivekananda put it, was coincident with the Industrial Revolution and has been the chief driving force for capitalist societies both in the colonial and the post-colonial era. The jati hierarchy, however, is not consonant with economic status, and has often been at odds with the rising economic order. Second, the free market capitalist economy always leaves room for upward socio-economic mobility, although in practice such rise may not be common. The predetermined nature of jatis, however, tend to discourage social change. Finally, it was the prescription of hereditary privileges and social discrimination, manifesting in its worst form as ‘untouchability’, that really made the caste system an eyesore.

Interestingly, scholars have argued that the crystallized caste system as it obtained in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was ‘neither an unchanged survival of ancient India nor a single system that reflected core cultural values’. Rather, caste as a modern social construct is ‘the product of a concrete historical encounter between India and British colonial rule’. Not only did the British privilege caste distinctions over all other forms of social identity but they also played upon caste identities to ensure colonial control. The significant changes ushered into Indian society after independence both through constitutional and social measures provide some support for this view.

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September 11 – The Universal Brotherhood Day (Photos)

On September 11, 1893, at World Parliament of Religions held at Chicago, America, Swami Vivekananda gave a revitalizing speech by enlightening the glory of India to the world. This day is marked as The Universal Brotherhood Day. On this auspicious day Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai conducted various programs at Vivekanandar Illam (Ice House).

Students of G K Shetty Vivekananda Vidyalaya started the event with devotional songs, followed by proclamation of Chicago Speech beginning with the lines “Sisters and Brothers of America” by Volunteers and the audience.

Inaugural Function of National Youth Day: Sri Ramakrishna Math has been celebrating National Youth Day every year (12th January) in order to emphasize the point that it is just not enough to read the life and message of Swamiji but to lead a life imbibing them. Under the title “Save & Serve in the name of Swamiji” a scheme wherein students, individuals and organizations save and from that savings will do good for the Society. The best service under this scheme will be honored on 12th January, 2016.

The dignitaries (1) Smt. Sivasankari, a Renowned Tamil Writer, being the student of Sarada Vidyalaya, T Nagar spoke about the values of youngsters life in the present day under the guidance of Swami Vivekananda. She was overwhelmed with joy and mentioned it is worth watching the museum arranged at Vivekanandar Illam. She mentioned that she gets regular inspiration from Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, the monthly tamil magazine published from Sri Ramakrishna Math, in spite of her busy schedule. She told the modern and Hi-fi technology can be made use for building of one’s own character and to help the society.

(2) Sri Devi Bala, Renowned Tamil Writer, spoke about the modern day Writings, he elaborately told about the attitude of modern day social media and other electronic means which in better ways can be made use in making once self a very good and a voracious reader with vast opportunity of learning and deep study about particular subjects.

(3) Sri Pe-Su-MANI, a well known Writer, gave a comparative study about his younger days and the present day situations. He again and again said that ‘Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam’ is the one such gift to the Tamil people which is beyond all comparison and an immeasurable treasure. Swami Vivekananda’s words were absolutely the need of the modern age, he emphasized the family values and the significance of Indian Tradition.

In the short story contest conducted by Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, Tamil monthly of Sri Ramakrishna Math, nearly 650 short stories that laid stress on the principles governing noble life were received. The selected short stories received prizes on this day. Prize Distribution Function for Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam Short Story Contest was held. Around 8 winners were felicitated with a memento, cash prize and a citation.

A special address was delivered by Dr. V. IRAIANBU, I.A.S., Swami Vivekananda’s various quotations and his inspiring words just flowed fluently and the audience was spell bound with his attractive speech. His illustrations and references were very appropriate and impressive to mark the occasion in the name of Swamiji.

The Benedictory address was delivered by Swami Gautamanandaji Maharaj

Around 350 – 500 people attended the function

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Convocation & Inauguration of Vivekananda Sanskrit Course

On 06-07-2015 the Sanskrit course in two levels in collaboration with Samskrita Bharati inaugurated. This “Vivekananda Samskrita Adhyayana Sarani” was started as part of 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Swami Vivekananda.  So far four batches of students have successfully completed the course.

The inaugural function of the 5th batch and the convocation of the 4th batch was done  between 7.15 and 8.45 p.m. at the Chennai Math premises. During this occasion certificates were distributed for those who have completed the course Level I & II successfully.  70 students in Level I and 35 students in Level II have received the certificates for the completion of the course. This enable them the desired goal  “To speak in Sanskrit and also understand simple Sanskrit slokas.”

106 candidates  in Level I and 35 candidates in the Level II aspiring to study Sanskrit have registered their names for the 5th Session. The admission for the candidates into the two levels is over .The classes will commence from 3rd week of July after a 10 days training program- “Vadatu Samskritam” to the freshers. The next session will commence in January 2016.

Sanskrit Course-1

Sanskrit Course-2

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Youth Camp Photos: Day 3(last day) – 2015-07-05

5.7.2015 – Sunday – Morning Programmes
4.30 am   : Wake up
5.00 am   : Mangala Arati @ Universal Temple
5.10 am   : Guided Meditation @ PSHS School ground : Swami Nilamadhavananda
5.35 am   : Yogasana & Suriya Namaskar @ PSHS School ground
6.40 am   : Bathing etc.
7.15 am   : Breakfast
8.00 am   : Assemble @ Hall and taking pledge
8.15 am   : Reading from letters of Swamiji
8.20 am   : Bhajans : Bhaktaswara Yuva Mandali
9.00 am   : Lecture : Justice S Sathiyamurthy Senior Civil Judge, Salem Dist. Topic : Vivekanandar virumbum samudaaiyathai padaippom
10.00 am : Tea
10.25 am:  Group wise short speech on various subjects by youngsters
11.15 am : Lecture : Swami Vimurtananda Topic : Saadhippavargal enna seigiraargal
12.15 pm : Lunch Prasad

Evening Programmes
12.45 pm : Traditional Games
2.15 pm   : Video Show on “Swacch Bharat”
3.00 pm – 5.00 pm : Swacch Bharat around Mylapore Math & Mada Streets
5.30 pm   : Feedback by Members
6.00 pm   : Refreshment & Disperse

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Youth Camp Photos: Day 2 – 2015-07-04

4.7.2015 – Saturday – Morning Programmes
4.30 am : Wake up
5.00 am : Mangala Arati @ Universal Temple
5.10 am : Guided Meditation @ PSHS School ground – Swami Bhaktivridananda
5.35 am : Physical Exercise @ PSHS School ground
6.40 am : Bathing etc.
7.15 am : Breakfast
8.10 am : Assemble @ Hall and taking pledge
8.20 am : Reading from letters of Swamiji
8.25 am : Bhajans : Swami Nilamadhavananda
9.15 am : Lecture : Buddhidananda Topic : Indhiargal Endrum Perumaippadum Ilaijnargal
10.00 am : Tea
10.30 am : Lecture : Dr. R.Senthuran President, United Vision 2020  Topic : Naatirkku vendiya Ilaijnargal
11.30 am : Lecture : Swami Paramasukhananda Topic: Vivekanandar edhirpaarkkum Illaijnan
12.15 pm : Lunch Prasad

Afternoon Programmes
12.45 pm : Traditional Games @ PSHS School ground
2.00 pm : Quiz Programme on Swamiji  Professor Va.Ve.Subramaniam, Former Principal, Vivekananda College, Chennai
3.00 pm : Encouraging Lecture: Sri R Sathiyamurthy  International Wheel Chair Tennis Player
3.45 pm : Lecture : Swami Satyaprabhanananda Topic : Mana orumaippadu enum mandiram
4.30 pm : Tea
5.00-6.00 pm : Group Discussion with Swamis of the Math

Evening Programmes
6.30 pm : Arati and Prayer @ Universal Temple
7.10 pm : Submission of Problems, Challenges, Prayers to Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna
7.35 pm : Swami Vivekananda Potri – Archana
8.00 pm : Lecture :  Srimat Swami Gautamanandaji Maharaj, Adhyaksha, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. Topic : Ilaijnargalukkana Vivekanandar
8.45 pm : Dinner Prasad
9.30 pm : Open Air Meditation in front of Dhuni
10.15 pm : Go to Sleep

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Contact Info

31, Ramakrishna Math Road,
Mylapore, Chennai 600004
Telephone No. 044 2462 1110
Email : mail@chennaimath.org
Website : www.chennaimath.org