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Religious-Social Movements

The movements included are:
1) Swadhyaya Of Pandurang Athawale Shastri;
2) Siddha Samadhi Yoga' (SSY): Of Rishi Prabhakar;
3) Vipassana: A Buddhist Technique of Meditation;
4) ISKCON: International Society for Krishna Consciousness;
5) Ramakrishna Mission.

Today almost everyone is feeling the problem of stress. Every social class demands sufficient value for its services and labour so that the basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing are fulfilled. Added to this are the basic rights like education for their wards, amenities like water and sanitation, and some 'luxuries' like means of communication and entertainment.

To cope up with such increasing demands, society devices many means like modernization and diversification of industries. Call of 'Free Market Economy and Globalization' fill the air. However, all this only adds to competition and rat race. Moreover, although such innovation in technology may help solve social problems to some extent, they are not of much value at tackling stress at individual level.

Many individuals start thinking about the intricacies and purpose of life, correct way of establishing and maintaining inter-personal relationship, dilemma of duty and right, the question of privilege and so on. All such conflicts are at the root of many psycho-somatic illnesses, depression and anxiety; as well as asthma, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Indian Scenario:
Thus comes the role of religious social organizations where people can seek solace for their anxious, restlessness, and stressful mind through various techniques of Yoga and Meditation. The religious-social movements of Asia in general, and India in particular, provide the forum for such affected individuals to seek peace and self confidence.

In India (as elsewhere in other countries) one can proudly boast of tradition of great saints born from time to time. Sri Krishna, Rama, Lord Buddha, Bhagawan Mahavir, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya are a few names of the past in such tradition. Of recent years one may reverentially include the names of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, J. Krishnamurthy, Swami Chinmayananda and others. As a mark of their continued influence, we notice great changes not only in religious beliefs, but also in social and political culture in various regions of India.

Label of Superstition, Why?
All these luminaries were blessed with divine visions and powers. As seen every where and in all times, the 'rationalists' and the educated middle class labeled them as fake 'Babas' and their powers as superstitions. But equally true is the fact that millions others worship them as God. Their influence gradually increases to bring about social awareness about their spiritual and divine nature.

A few persons realize that devotion or service to a saint does not always constitute 'superstition'. Gradually people start finding some 'substance' in the lives and teachings of these men of God. Their message of selfless love and brotherhood finds fertile ground to flourish after their passing away. Even the skeptics turn believers!

As a mark of respect and reverence, society erects temples and monuments in their name. Hospitals and rest houses are built, and many educational institutes and welfare schemes are started. Society tries to repay its loan to these great souls by remembering them through such religious-social movements.

Useful Functions of Such Movements:
Some such missions or movements flourish, others decay. Some are fake, others genuine. The integrity of managers depends on the life and teachings of the great soul who has had inspired them. Some Trusts are totally pure and awe inspiring because of good governance and clean growth. We see many schemes and program undertaken by such trusts. A simple village, city, or province may become alive and active with the crowd not only of devotees, but also, with well dressed, well behaved, and value orientated citizens, students and youths.

Purpose of Such Movements

Growing interest in Asian culture and spiritual values is not only limited to the West, but many Indians also are keenly related to and involved in the study and practice of Yoga and Meditation. But Yoga and Meditation is not everything. It is more of a western fad! It is not common to all organizations. In many religious movements devotion, worship, rituals, and similar simple and calming tradition still holds the sway.

Other important activity of such missions is selfless work for others. In particular for poor and downtrodden. Thus it is not uncommon to find people forming organizations to serve the patients of leprosy, AIDS, drug addicts and similar socially neglected class. Relief camps in natural calamities, earth-quake, cyclone, floods, etc. are also organized for the affected. One more area of interest is to start schools and training institutes for the children so that values are incorporated in their character in formative years itself.

Moreover, many Indians practice certain Buddhists techniques of meditation such as Vipassana. Although its influence is still small, Buddhism is once again beginning to undergo a process of resurfacing in its new environment. Its attraction, as with Yoga, may be in the hope of attaining a positive mental health, a psychological state of well-being, characterized by continuing personal growth, a sense of purpose in life, self-acceptance, and positive relations with others.

The movements popular and worthy of note are:

1) Swadhyaya Of Pandurang Athawale Shastri;
2)Siddha Samadhi Yoga' (SSY): Of Rishi Prabhakar;
3)Vipassana: A Buddhist Technique of Meditation;
4)ISKCON: International Society for Krishna Consciousness;
5)Ramakrishna Mission.
6) Chinmaya Mission
7) TM of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
8) Many others

Question of Controversies

As is true with almost every religious-social organization, certain organizations also have had their share of controversies: that a few of the followers had moved the court against the organization challenging the Guru Tradition, that there were reports of child abuse in resident ashram schools, occasional one has been accused of being a 'front' of a powerful western intelligence agency, etc. But this is denied by the senior office bearers.

Many of such reports are only rumors, and often a faint trail of jealousy and character assassination is visible. Devotees and inmates come from varied cultural and social background and may not follow and comprehend the teachings of their Ideal in full. Partial understanding may bring to surface controversy based on interpretation, emphasis and priority of the message of the Scriptures and the Guru.

Additionally, the people at large who are prejudiced against all religious movements will always try to find faults with every socio-religious society or organization. The best thing is to take what is good in such movements leaving the top and bottom portion to be judged by the time.
C S Shah
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