VIVEKANANDA CENTRE FOR VEDANTA AND YOGA STUDY AND RESEARCH
(Devoted to intense study and research in Philosophy with particular reference to
Vedanta and Yoga in the light of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda teachings)
Under the ‘School of Indian Heritage’, RKMVERI, Belur Main Campus
– – – – –
VISION, CONCEPT, STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONING
The raison d’etre:
Swami Vivekananda wanted an intense study of and research into the ancient spiritual and philosophical literature in the light of Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings. He also wanted that these highest truths should be made practical and the wisdom enshrined in these immortal texts should be applied in daily life so that they become a living force in society in the modern times. In his short span of life, his endeavour was to initiate such a movement that he strongly believed would transform individual lives and the society as a whole and establish what he called ‘Vedantic civilization’. In answer to a question “What is Vedantic idea of civilization?” Swami Vivekananda replied: “True civilization is the manifestation of the divinity in man. That land is the most civilized wherein the highest ideas are made practical.” [Ref. Life of Swami Vivekananda by his Eastern and Western disciples, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, Himalayas (6th edition, Jan 1989, Vol.II, p.77)]. Further, in a rare mood of self-revelation this modern Rishi summed up his mission in life in the following remarkable words:
“To put the Hindu ideas into English and then make out of dry philosophy and intricate mythology and queer startling psychology, a religion which shall be easy, simple, popular, and at the same time meet the requirement of the highest minds—is a task only those can understand who have attempted it. The dry, abstract Advaita must become living—poetic—in everyday life; out of hopelessly intricate mythology must come concrete moral forms; and out of bewildering Yogi-ism must come the most scientific and practical psychology—and all this must be put in a form so that a child may grasp it. That is my life’s work.” (Ref. Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, Himalayas, Vol. 5, p. 104).
Swami Vivekananda commanded his disciples and followers to write a new commentary on Vedanta based on the prasthana-traya after having thoroughly studied and researched into the various Schools of Vedanta in depth—Ramanuja, Madhva and Chaitanya to start with, vis-à-vis Shankara’s tradition that is much more widely studied than the others—and discovering their synthesis in the philosophy of Sri Ramakrishna. He felt that this would pave the way for the samanvaya Vedanta (harmonizing Vedantic doctrine) emerging from Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings to be firmly grounded in and established as: one, a culminating synthesis of the ancient Vedantic tradition of the great Acharyas being combining both extensity and intensity, “broad as the skies and deep as the ocean”, and two, practically applicable to the modern society at large for the spiritual and intellectual awakening of humankind. Sister Nivedita’s masterly introduction to the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda puts this idea in perspective in such a lucid and powerful manner:
“It is this which adds its crowning significance to our Master’s life, for here he becomes the meeting-point, not only of East and West, but also of past and future. If the many and the One be indeed the same Reality, then it is not all modes of worship alone, but equally all modes of work, all modes of struggle, all modes of creation, which are paths of realization. No distinction, henceforth, between sacred and secular. To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life itself is religion. To have and to hold is as firm a trust as to quit and to avoid. “This is the realization which makes Vivekananda the great preacher of Karma, not as divorced from, but as expressing Jnana and Bhakti. To him, the workshop, the study, the farmyard, and the field are as true and fit scenes for the meeting of God with man as the cell of the monk or the door of the temple. To him, there is no difference between service of man and worship of God, between manliness and faith, between true righteousness and spirituality. All his words, from one point of view, read as a commentary upon this central conviction. ‘Art, science, and religion,’ he said once, ‘are but three different ways of expressing a single truth.’ “
The urgent need therefore is to create a band of scholars—monastic and lay—who would devote themselves to such an intense study and research as elaborated above for which a modest beginning is being made by starting the proposed Research Centre called ‘Vivekananda Vedanta-Yoga Adhyayana Samshodhana Alayam’ (acronym: VIVEKA-VYASA), in English it will be called ‘Vivekananda Centre for Vedanta and Yoga Study and Research’ under the University’s ‘School of Indian Heritage’. It will be primarily located at the Belur main campus of the University and at the Vivekananda Research Centre at the approved ‘Off-Campus’ Centre of the University at Ramakrishna Mission Swami Vivekananda’s Ancestral House and Cultural Centre in Kolkata.
The Scheme in concrete terms:
In concrete terms, we propose the following modest beginning:
- One qualified faculty at the Associate Professor level (or senior Assistant Professor level) with knowledge of Eastern and Western Philosophy, including Yoga-Vedanta systems with teaching experience of at least ten years in a higher education institution and deep interest in research blending Eastern and Western thought, capable of independent research as well as guiding/supervising the research work of scholars, will be devoted full time to the academic activities and programmes of this Centre, holding ex-officio, the ‘Swami Abhedananda Chair’ established under at the University through a Corpus Fund created by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
- Research scholars with M.A./M.Phil. degree preferably with UGC (or any other Government Agency) Research Fellowships may pursue research leading to Ph.D. in our University in Philosophy with special reference to its recent trends, Vedanta, Yoga, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought, etc. We would also involve senior professors in these areas to help us as Adjunct Faculty to guide research, initiate new projects, etc.
- Publications on various aspects of Philosophy in general—Eastern, Western and Comparative, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought, etc.—and Yoga-Vedanta in particular, will be published by the Centre VIVEKA-VYASA. Besides, a peer-reviewed research journal of international standard called Viveka-Vyasa-Shodhapatrika, in addition to the existing journal Prajnaaloka of the Department of Sanskrit and Philosophy, will be published and the Swami Abhedananda Chair-holder faculty will be in charge of this Publications Division, including the research journal as its Editor-in-Chief.
- Online programmes—diploma and certificate courses, for example—in various aspects of Philosophy, with emphasis on Vedanta and Yoga, will be started to create awareness in the general public as well as College/University level students and teachers belonging to other disciplines, but interested in Philosophy. Minimal fees will be charged for these courses and certificates will be issued by the University.
- Diploma and Certificate Courses in Yoga with both theoretical and practical components will be held at Vivekananda Research Centre in the approved ‘Off-Campus’ Centre of the University in Ramakrishna Mission Swami Vivekananda Ancestral House and Cultural Centre, Kolkata. Yoga practicals will include pranayama, asana, dhyana, etc. Competent and qualified Yoga teachers will conduct these courses and teach in the direct face-to-face mode as well as online mode (note that the online mode will be only for the theoretical part). Minimal fees will be charged and the University will issue certificates for these courses.
- A well-equipped Online/Distance (virtual) mode infrastructure set up at the Vivekananda Research Centre in Kolkata by the University’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Unit, will conduct online courses from this Research Centre, besides developing modules for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) as directed by University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for pan India as well as global audience. This is the current trend in higher education and post-Covid pandemic, the importance of these MOOCs will be enormous and become the ‘new normal’ as it is being called. There is also a huge scope for developing rich e-content and e-learning materials in Philosophy with special reference to Yoga and Vedanta as well as in Sanskrit studies.
Monitoring, Supervising and Coordinating VIVEKA-VYASA:
The Department of Sanskrit and Philosophy of RKMVERI Deemed University, under the School of Indian Heritage, has grown enormously over more than a decade of its existence: what began as a tiny Department with just 3 students and 2 faculty members in 2006 has now grown into vibrant and vigorous Department bubbling with academic activity, with 117 students and 10 full-time + 10 part-time faculty all of whom are highly qualified with PhD degrees and eligible to teach at the postgraduate level and guide PhD scholars doing research. The breakup figures of the 117 students are: 91 students studying in 5-year Integrated M.A. programme (fully residential), 26 research scholars possessing M.A. degree and pursuing M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes (6 M.Phil. and 20 PhD). The research scholars have UGC Research Fellowships. Thus the Department of Sanskrit and Philosophy is quite competent to handle and closely monitor the proposed VIVEKA-VYASA ‘Vivekananda Centre for Vedanta-Yoga Study and Research’. The Coordinator of this proposed Centre will be the Head of the Department of Sanskrit and Philosophy, presently Swami Japasiddhananda, who will work under the overall supervision of Swami Atmapriyananda, who, on completion of his tenure as Vice Chancellor for fifteen years since inception, has now been appointed as Pro-Chancellor and who has conceived and conceptualized the present Project: VIVEKA-VYASA.