The advent of His Holiness, Acharya
Srimat Swami Pranavananda ji Maharaj was in
1896, in the village Bajitpur (Bangladesh) of undivided India.
'BINOD', as was called in his childhood days, was often found to be immersed
in serious thoughts that culminated into deep meditation, aimed at 'Self
Emancipation' and 'Upliftment of Human Beings', through spiritual development
and selfless Services. As a brahmachari, he spent countless hours in meditation,
spiritual trances and Seva (service to people).
The Acharya, as believed by millions was an incarnation of Lord Shiva. His parents were undergoing untold miseries in a remote corner of rural Bengal. As an Ardent devotees of Lord Shiva, they undertook hard penance and rigorous austerities to propitiate the Lord who in a dream, conferred upon them a great boon by incarnatiing Himself as their son.
He became the disciple of Baba Gambhiranathji and eventually attained the Divine Power, which illuminated His life. Those who wounded him were also endued with the same. Gradually, many people influenced by the ideologies of the Acharya, continued to extend and hold aloft His banner "BHARAT SEVASHRAM SANGHA", (the Ashram founded in 1917) as His disciples, (irrespective of caste, colour or religion). The Sangha is dedicated for the all round well being of people indulged in raising them to the Level of Divine Standard.
His Supreme Realisation was: -
--This is an era of,
In those days of Indian Independence
Movement, He was the source of inspiration to the Revolutionaries and
personally took up people and goaded them to adopt selfless services in
Natural Calamities. He was the torch-bearer to set up Village Level
Industries, like Handloom and even introduced Dhekis (Indigenous Rice Hauler-
manually operated) at all households. In these ways, He soughed out various
ways of Income Generation Programmes to make the people living below the
poverty line, such as the tribals to stand on their own feet.
This organization is headquartered in Calcutta and has about fifty branches and associates throughout India and around the world. Today the Sangha undertakes relief work during natural calamities, runs school, Orphanage, student homes and hospitals.
Swami Pranavananda ji, proclaimed some universal ideals in aphorisms for the solutions of certain jarring problems of this age. We call them the Ten Divine Messages
WHAT IS BHARAT SEVASHRAM SANGHA
The Bharat Sevashram Sangha is a purely philanthropic and charitable organization with a non-sectarian, non-communal, and non-political character and outlook.
The organization is headquartered in Kolkata, India. There are many chapters in India, which act as centers for services, hospital care, monk training, teaching, food distribution, etc. Many other chapters outside of India provide non-resident communities with a monastic environment, a center for culture and learning, and gain awareness and support of the philanthropic activities of the Sangha throughout the world.
The meaning of "Bharat Sevashram Sangha"
In 1923, Yugacharya Swami Pranavanandaji himself explained the epithet of the great Bharat Sevashram Sangha, the reputation of which has now spread all over the world for its humanitarian and spiritual services.
Bharat indicates that the Sangha's primary object is the emancipation of
the people on the eternal lofty ideals of India or Bharat.
Seva imports the idea of serving people physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. Not helping as a superior, but rather serving as a humble servant.
Ashram suggests that the system is based and disciplined on the ideals and practice of renunciation, self-control, truth, continence, and honest labor.
Sangha means organization; Sangha through its ideals and practice will infuse an organizational spirit through the disintegrated masses.
History of Swami Pranavanandaji Maharaj and the Bharat Sevashram Sangha
Birth and childhood
It was on the most auspicious full moon day in the month of Magha (Feb-March) in the year 1896 that this great Acharya was born in a well-to-do middle class Kayastha family in the village of Bajitpur, in the Faridpur district of Bengal (now Bangladesh). His father, Sri Vishnucharan had performed an austere penance for a long time, and it was believed that as a result, Lord Shiva incarnated himself as his son.
The Acharya, known before renunciation as Binode, was extremely meditative and reflective from birth. Strangely enough, he never kept himself aloof from social welfare activities of any sort. He was intensely particular about the moral conduct of youths for whom he spared no pains to help in developing their characters. His presence emanated an atmosphere of peace and happiness. His headmaster, Birendra Bhattacharya, was so much attracted by Binode's spiritual nature that he would make sure that he was always at home when he was performing his evening devotions.
Conditions and attitude of society
Binode led an uninterrupted continent life from his boyhood dedicating his heart and soul towards the resuscitation of Hinduism and of the moribund culture of the time to revive Indian nationalism to its pristine glory.
The general condition of the society during this time -- the depressed, disorganized, poverty-stricken Hindus being exploited in one way or another -- caused him no little distress. He was so much concerned about the life of the youths in particular that one day he told his headmaster that if the values of India were to be preserved, he would have to renounce the world.
It is a long-established Hindu belief that to eradicate the evils prevalent in society, tapasya (self-sacrifice) is needed. The greater the evils, the greater the tapasya. To renounce the world in order to save it is clear indication of Acharya's conviction that ultimately only through Dharma can human problems be effectively eradicated. Conversely, we may say that human problems are mainly caused by the neglect or absence of religious conduct in the society. Whereas humanists are of the opinion that the cause of such problems are of a materialistic nature, the placement of humanism within a divine context aims at the masses but starts with the individual. In fact, Hindu philosophy decrees that a person must elevate himself spiritually to be of utmost help to others.
A friend of the helpless
Swami Pranavanandaji's love for the poor, depressed, helpless, and downtrodden people was unparalleled. He said "collect and knit up carefully together all the scattered individuals into a great social power and thus relieve the poor and depressed, save the helpless and downtrodden, bestow peace and bliss on the heart of the people in sorrow and agony." His heart always bled for all high and low, but especially for those in the lower stages of society.
Acharyadev was concerned with physical, economic, social, moral, and spiritual upliftment of society and because of his high spiritual attainments, he was able to address these very effectively. An emminent Indian historian, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, said about Acharya "We can safely call him the greatest social reformer of our time. Being a sannyasi of lofty and vast spiritual attainments, he blended high spiritual ideas with a modern outlook, which made his reform movement unique and effective."
The first important relief activity Acharyadev engaged in was in 1919 when a cyclone struck Bengal. Acharya had been preparing for such an event. He used to leave an earthen pot at homes of several families who would put a handful of rice into it from their daily use as a form of sacrifice. He also used to collect donations from the students. With his batch of young followers, he was able to start relief operations immediately after the disaster.
For the first time, people saw sadhus actively identifying themselves with their suffering. Some people were even doubtful whether it was proper for sadhus to engage in worldly activities! Enlightened leaders of Bengal at the time were so impressed that they offered the Acharya their support.
In a devastating famine in 1921, newspapers reported Acharya's relief operations in glowing terms. This attracted the attention of Sir P. C. Roy, a well-known scientist, who immediately organized a Central Relief Committee in Kolkata and Mumbai, which worked in cooperation with the Acharya and his workers in vast rescue operations. A year was spent in relief work. At the end, sixty thousand rupees remained and at the suggestion of Acharyadev, Sir P. C. Roy and his committee agreed to use it for rehabilitation of the victims.
About Acharyadev's leadership, Sir P. C. Roy said, "...hundreds of workers he recruited in no time! Would this relief work have been possible only with money, rice, and clothes that were collected? ... It was the management of a competent leader that made the thing successful. For all these years whatever I thought and did to mitigate the suffering of the poor can be done in an organized way -- this is what I see now. Throughout my whole life I have spent my days in the research laboratory, have written books and lectured. Now I am a convert in this new field. How much can be done by haranguing the town people? Ninety percent of people live in villages but are dying out. You are all showing the true work of village reconstruction."
The Seva Movement
The Acharya's ideals of political and spiritual freedom were deep-rooted in democratic methods. He did not expound any political theory for the country. The rebuilding of the force of character of the nation was his only aim. He wanted everyone to perform his duties with a sense of dedication to the Lord -- let the student mind his studies, le tthe teacher teach his pupils, let the worker labor for maximum production. All labor everywhere should be honest with maximum output, industrialist and landlord should ensure a rational honest and equitable distribution of production and profits, the businessman should ply his trade in just and correct ways, and the politician should be true to his manifesto and proclaimed program. Everyone must be true to his own self. Imagine the six hundred and odd millions toiling, from the babbling babe to the decrepit old man, in service to society in a spirit of dedication, as enunciated by the Acharya. The result is bound to be an era of peace and prosperity to such a nation!
Acharya's religion is not shrouded in mystery or superstition. Those who were hungry, sick, naked, and illiterate find it most satisfying. Apart from what the branches of the organization are doing all over India, a great "miracle" is happening at Jamshedpur in Bihar where the Sangha has adopted 812 villages with an area of 1100 sq. km. and a population of over 12 million. These villagers are amongst the poorest in India and a large percentage of the villagers are infected by leprosy. In 1979 the Sangha started a 24-bed hospital, in a thatched mud hut, and 52 outdoor clinics treating nearly 30,000 patients. Impressed by the service, in 1982 the Union Government of India and the State Government of Bihar entrusted the Sangha with the task of taking effective measures with a view of controlling and eradicating leprosy in those areas.
Within a decade, these slum areas are taking on a new look. There are over four hospitals with modern equipment and drugs. Over 3500 patients have been cured by the end of 1989. A once frustrated and depressed community now has new life; their faces are lit up with cheerfulness and they look forward with hope.
Is it a miracle happening at Jamshedpur or a revelation of the power of dedication working to change human destiny? In whatever way one looks at it, one finds the divine personality of Acharya Swami Pranavanandaji Maharaj central to the transformation that is underway.
Mission of Bharat Sevashram Sangha
- Organization of Sannyasins (Monks)
- Moral & spiritual regeneration
- Service of humanity, irrespective of caste, creed, or national origin
- Spread of moral, spiritual, and physical education
- Reconstruction of the Hindu society
- Teaching of Yoga and related health science subjects
- Education through moral and spiritual publications
- Tribal welfare and uplifting of the weaker sections of society
Activities of the Sangha
The Sangha performs various activities of public welfare including humanitarian work for the benefit of people in distress, irrespective of caste, creed, and complexion, and run institutions for the physical, mental, and spiritual growth of the masses. The Sangha's program of social welfare activities includes relief work during times of need, the reformation of holy places of pilgrimage, amelioration of backward classes, social upliftment of aboriginals, leprosy welfare, the spreading of primary and secondary education, and religious and cultural propagation in India and abroad.
Relief in Myanmar (Burma)
While large scale relief work is having difficulties, Bharat Sevashram Sangha has been on location and working hard to provide hot meals, medical treatment, clothing, and other needs. It is a vast challenge and the Sangha is stretched for resources. Your help will be instrumental to our ability to serve the people in need. To provide financial support targeted toward this cause, please send checks to Bharat Sevashram Sangha to the Chicago Ashram, marked for Burma Relief. We will post further news as it becomes available.
Hospital at Joka, Kolkata
The Sangha is presently constructing a seven story, 500-bed modern hospital at Joka, Kolkata. The construction of the hospital building is being undertaken on seven acres of land on Diamond Harbour Road, at Joka. The hospital will house O.P.D. - 54 Chambers, Specialist Chambers in Medicine, Gynacology, Obstetrics, Surgery, Orthopedic, Neoro Medicine, Chest, Eye, E.N.T., Dental, Neo Natal etc. and diagnostic facilities of Pathology, X-ray, U.S.G., E.C.G., C.T. Scan, AMRI, etc. along with Emergency and Eye Depts. and a Nursing and Technician Training Institute.
Update: The first five stories are now complete, thanks to the financial support of several grateful donors in the U.S. and around the world.
Organization of Sannyasins
The Sangha has organized hundreds of selfless and spiritually advanced monks and has imparted to them proper training to create an atmosphere for moral and spiritual regeneration of the people. Sevashrams have been established in prominent places in India and abroad.
Preaching Parties and Cultural Missions
Trained monks carry on socio-spiritual and humanitarian activities as well as cultural propagation throughout India and abroad. This is done through lectures, summer camps, youth activities, yoga, and preaching.
The Sangha undertakes relief work during floods, famines, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. The Sangha also provides relief to pilgrims during large religious fairs such as the Kumbha Mela.
The Sangha is running 300 charitable dispensaries at the Head Office and in different branches covering more than 1.5 million patients! Medical relief is extended in the flood and cyclone affected areas. Leprosy eradication is a top priority among the welfare projects undertaken by the Sangha. It is running 6 hospitals and 55 clinics for leprosy patients in the Singhbhum district of Bihar.
To build up the moral and spiritual character of school and college students, the Sangha has been maintaining "Ideal Student Homes" at various locations, including:
- Tata (Bihar), with 3000+ students
- Surat, with 12,500 students
- Ahmedabad (Gujarat)
- Delhi, with 100 students
- Mahishadal (W.B.)
- Lumding (Assam)
To foster physical development and well-being of the younger generations, gymnasiums and Yoga training centers have been established in all the big Ashrams and Milan Mandir locations. This includes:
- 76 big centers
- 55 Milan Mandirs
Five monthly magazines and also a good number of religious books are available, to provide people with moral and spiritual teachings in a variety of languages, including English, Hindi, Gujarati, and Bengali.
Welfare of Tribal Classes
The Sangha has been undertaking various welfare schemes for the scheduled castes and tribal people by running schools, hostels, and technical training centers exclusively for these people living in the interior villages. These are located throughout:
- West Bengal
Reformation & Reconstruction of Hindu Society
Over 500 Milan Mandirs have community facilities including dispensaries, gymnasium, student homes, and cultural centers. Milan Mandirs are similar to Ashrams except that they are run by local families rather than Swamijis.
Conservation and Reformation of Holy Places
The Sangha has established pilgrim welfare centers with Yatri Nivas at:
- Joshi-Madh (Himalaya)
- Gauri Kund (Himalaya)