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Swamiji used to say that the most important teaching he received from his Master, Sri Ramakrishna was that “Jiva is Shiva” (each individual is divinity itself). This became his Mantra, and he coined the concept of daridra narayana seva – the service of God in and through (poor) human beings.

In 1897 Swamiji founded the Ramakrishna Mission - a unique organization in which monks of the Ramakrishna Order would work together with devotees for the uplift of the poor masses through social service programmes. He symbolized the new organisation with a unique seal that depicts wavy waters signifying unselfish work, the lotus that signifies the love of God, the rising sun that signifies knowledge, and the encompass serpent signifying the awakening of spiritual power. Swamiji laid down clear tenets for the administration of the organisation. His prescription was - the youth should be encouraged to come in as part of the organization but he also laid down its structure and hierarchy - one person should lead and others follow him. To quote Swamiji -“Organisation is power and the secret of that is obedience”.

Swamiji was well aware that such work will require funds and continuous support. He was also very clear about the financial proprieties that must be followed to make the organization strong and effective. His instructions were - “Never mix up different heads of accounts and be transparent in your accounting. Once the society is on its feet, start a small magazine as its mouthpiece. Ask your friends to get subscribers”. He even advised that the cover of the first issue must be attractive; it must be interesting enough to make people participate in the works of the organisation. This shows how careful he was even on the minutest detail and nothing escaped his attention.

In his mind, Swam Vivekanada had a clear blueprint of what he wanted. The first quality he looked in his followers, he said – “I want them educated” and to him “the ideal of all education should be man-making.” He also felt that education should give importance to three Hs - Head, Hand and Heart. His famous observation – ‘playing football is more important than reading the Gita’ had shaken many of his contemporaries to pay attention to healthcare and team work as their first step towards social service. His idea of education included religion, nationalism, study of history, art and science. He wanted the educated youth to create awareness among the masses against exploitation and superstitions and to serve the poor and the downtrodden by offering support where they were most vulnerable. He called upon the youth to regularly visit hamlets and villages and tell people about the importance of education. If the poor cannot go to school, he said, the school should come to the poor.

This is, in a nutshell, how Swamiji looked at the youth of India and how he expected the youth to devote themselves to nation building activities. In a short life-span of less than forty years, he had set up the Ramakrishna Order and had given a new face to the ancient religion. This is why even after one and a half century, he is still considered a youth icon and why his life and message inspired all nationalist leaders from Sri Aurobindo to Netaji Subhash Chandra. We at NANRITAM try to follow the ideal that Swamiji had laid down for creating a social service organization – “Service to man is service to God”.

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