An organization which is very unique in its goal and methods of implementation, Akhil Bharat Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal, shortly Mahamandal an apolitical and non-profitable organization. It has been working for the upliftment of the characters of the youths of our country irrespective of their religions, caste and creed silently and consistently without any publicity since its inception in 1967.
Its Background :-
Once Swami Vivekananda was asked why he didn’t join the movement for the independence of our motherland. Swamiji replied that he could bring independence at any moment but “is there any man of good character to carry it sincerely?” It is being sensed to the backbone even after 72 years of independence. After the independence the youth of our country seemed rudderless and confused which way they should go, whom they should believe. This confusion gave birth of hopelessness, hatred, political bloodshed. They have no ideal in front of them. The zeal of nationalism at the pre-independence era reached to the zero level at the decade of 60’s. People were losing faith on post independence social system. But its only solution “building of good character” remained ignored. A few realized the crisis of character. But they needed to come under an organization by which they could hold an ideal in front of the youths so that they (young generation) regain their confidence again. In this situation Mahamandal was born. Late Nabaniharan Mukhopadhyaya played the leading role in establishing this organization. This mighty hearted bachelor, worked in Indian statistics under central government, was a follower and a true lover of Swami Vivekananda. He often visited Ramakrishna Math and Mission in his off time and spent his valuable time by discussing with the sannyasians (monks) like revered Swami Smaranananda maharaj (the present president of Belur Math), Swami Ananyanandaji there. Swami Smarananandaji inspired him to do something for the young generation of our country to spread the message of Vivekananda everywhere so that they would get back their self confidence, become honest and sincere and overall they should learn to love their own country. Nabani Da with some benevolent persons arranged a meeting. Through a daily newspaper they invited the young men to the meeting holding at Adwaita Ashram at Entally. It was the month of October, 1967. There they told about the ideal and objects of Mahamandal. Many came ahead. Thus it paved its way. A room in the Adwaita Ashram became the temporary office of Mahamandal. At present more than 300 units of Mahamandal are working across India. A new Office Building named ‘Mahamandal Bhaban’ at 6/1A, Justice Manmatha Mukherjee Row, Kolkata-700009 was set up on 30th September, 2018. Now it serves the purpose of Head Office. Another ‘Mahamandal Bhaban’ is situated at Konnagar, Hoogly. The present secretary and the present president are Birendra Kumar Chakraborty and Basudeb Chattopadhyay respectively.
It is only for men. A parallel organization namely Sarada Nari Sangathan for women is also running under the ideology of ABVYM. Swamiji didn’t want that men and women work together- “Women must be in a position to solve their own problems in their own way. No one can or ought to do this for them. And our women are as capable of doing it as any in the world”(Swami Vivekananda). Keeping this in mind Mahamandal arranged such division.
Secondly, Mahamandal is autonomous. It has own rules and regulations and pros and cons. Readers should not mistake by thinking it as a branch of Ramakrishna Mission. Though there is a good relationship between ABVYM and Ramakrishna Mission, the former is not patronized or guided by the latter.
What Type of Organization is Mahamandal:-
What type of organization or institution is ABVYM? Is it a kind of religious organization, a cultural institution, a social service organization or an educational organization?
Mahamandal does not patronize any particular religion like Hinduism, Christianity or Islam. But it tells the exact of religion. By the name of Vivekananda one may guess that Mahamandal has something religious about it for Swami Vivekananda was a hindu monk. But it is the fact that Sri Ramakrishna or Swami Vivekananda doesn’t belong to any particular religion. They are the founder of the harmony of all religions. According to Swamiji, “Religion is the idea which is raising the brute unto man, and man unto God.” Mahamandal is doing just this work. It is carrying the actual message of religion – “To be good and do good; that is the whole of religion”. In this true sense of religion one must call Mahamandal a religious organization. It believes that a man will be religious when he will try to curb and lessen his animality and develop his human qualities.
Nowadays culture is nothing but dances, music, dramas, stories or some unintelligible paintings and poems. Mahamandal does not bother about such interpretation of culture. In that sense Mahamandal is certainly not a cultural institution. When a man is really cultured, his way of living, his outlook and sensibility are changed. He does not look at the world the way animals do. With the unfoldment of humanity there blooms in him a tender faculty for appreciation of beauty. He becomes able to feel the beauty and goodness in everything. This is no doubt a spiritual quality. If understood in this way the Mahamandal is obviously a cultural organization.
Mahamandal is a social-service organization but not in general sense. Giving food to the hungry, clothes to the unclad, supplying medicines to the diseased people – these types of assistance to the destitute are conducted by Mahamandal when it is necessary but Mahamandal has not sprung up to undertake such kind of welfare activities only. There are a lot of such organisations at local, national and international level. What special justification can there be to have one more organization of this type? Mahamandal is an organization of special kind of social service. Helping the needy is indeed a good job but it is not the permanent solution for them. So Mahamandal lays special emphasis on providing good ideas to the people: ideas that help man grow to become better individuals. Poor are not only those who have no money and cannot make both ends meet. One who suffers from want of good ideas is also a poor. According to Swamiji, serving such poor people i.e. giving them good ideas with the help of which they can be self-sufficient, broad minded, brave and can earn their own bread honestly, is the highest of all kinds of social service.
You may better say it an educational organization (not from the conventional point of view) which tells the masses to manifest their perfection already in them. It tries to impart such education that cannot be found in schools and colleges, that will make them true man.
Its Aims and Objects:
The Mahamandal has not originated or sprung up out of the ideas of one or more intelligent persons. It is a working policy to implement the ideas of Swami Vivekananda to restore our degrading nation as much as can. The aims and objects of Mahamandal are bathed with the dream of Swamiji. Mahamandal believes that those who will develop their characters, will be able to solve their own problems, will be capable to overcome all misery. A man will be a good man. His every attitude will be appropriate. All his works will be good. A doctor will treat his patients with humanity; a grocer will never cheat his customers. Mahamandal just wants to instil a new spirit into everybody. It does not hanker after name or fame. It wants neither to acquire property, nor to be admired by anybody. It doesn’t want to raise large funds. It has one merit – a fund of unselfishness, innocence, determination in a few young men.
i) Units of Mahamandal: The total number of units of the Mahamandal is 303. Approximately 265 units are in West Bengal and rest of the units are spread over Odissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, AP, Karnataka, MP, Maharashtra and Gujrat. (According to Annual Report of ABVYM for the year 2019).
ii) Study circle :- Each unit has at least one weekly study circle. The study circle can be conducted at anywhere in a quiet and calm atmosphere. In absence of a room, the veranda, any corner of a school building or a temple even the place under a tree can serve the purpose. The main motto is to be acquainted with the ideas and practice.
It is generally started with the prayer song of the organization (sangha-geeti) derived from Rik Veda:
Then the swadesh mantra (a selected speech of Swami Vivekananda) is recited followed by two or three minutes mental concentration. Then the books about life and message of Swamiji and some prescribed books of Mahamandal publication on character building, mental concentration, objects and methods of Mahamandal etc. are read out by one of the members and then are discussed by all to perceive its ideas. Study circle is a meeting point where the interested local youths gathered to learn this special education in a friendly atmosphere. Study circle is the primary condition to stick to Mahamandal. It is like a charger machine which recharges those who come here once in a week. About 5000 youths are associated with these study circles in different units across the country. In addition, there are separate study circles, for adolescents and children, which are designed to suit the needs of their age groups. All units have to send monthly reports on activities they have conducted throughout the month to the head Office of Mahamandal. How many study circles they have conducted, how many persons participate there, the list of books they are studying and discussing, how many are practising seriously, whether they are running any free coaching centre or charitable dispensary or Vivek Vahini etc are written in details in the report.
iii) Monthly Organ:
Mahamandal’s bilingual (Bengali and English) monthly pamphlet, Vivek-Jiban, has completed 50 years of uninterrupted publication. It has maintained a good standard in unfurling the ideas of Swamiji in general and of the Mahamandal in particular.
iv) Vivek Vahini : Vivek Vahini is a children’s wing of Mahamandal. Good ideas are very much acceptable to the tender brains. A child can easily adopt a good habit. As they are the future of our nation, they are trained and encouraged here to be physically, mentally and spiritually strong by a series of PT parade, prayer, different interesting games, performing of rhymes in different gestures, songs etc. These all are done in trauma-free, joyful and child centric way. At present 47 units of the Mahamandal are running Vivek Vahini and almost 1,500 children are enrolled.
v) Kishor Vikash Vahini: Mahamandal has recently started a separate wing for adolescent boys. This wing has been named as Kishor Vikash Vahini. It is a special type of study circle.
vi) Mahamandal Publication: Mahamandal has published many books in short volume to disseminate its objects and methods, to give a clear conception on character building, concentration of mind etc in Bengali, English, Hindi version against a low cost price. Recently some books have been translated into Telugu version. Example of a few books is given below
- Mental Concentration- why and How.
- How to build Character.
- Leadership: Its Concept and Qualities.
- A New Youth Movement.
- All these are written by Nabaniharan Mukhopadhyaya.
- What Every Student Ought to Know – Swami Harshananda.
vii) Youth Training Camp:
To spread the man-making ideas of Swamiji, Mahamandal organizes different kinds of youth training camps at different places throughout the year.
a) Annual All India Youth Training Camp: The most important of such youth training camps is the Annual All India Youth Training camp, which is usually held from 25 to 30 December every year.
The daily programme of the camps includes hoisting the Mahamandal flag with Vedic Anthem and Swadesh Mantra, followed by classes on mental concentration, physical training, games, parade, classes on practical method of character building, discussing on man making and nation building ideas and on life and teaching of Swami Vivekananda. Group discussions and question answer session are also arranged to understand the method in a friendly atmosphere. The campers include students and teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, service holders, businessmen, farmers, workers and so on. The 53rd Annual All India Youth Training Camp was held from 25 to 30 December, 2019 at Fulia Balika Vidyalaya and Fulia Siksha Niketan, P.O.- Fulia, Dist- Nadia, WB. 1153 campers attended the camp coming from West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odissa, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, MP, Gujarat, AP and Tripura. (Source: Vivek Jiban, January2020)
b) Zonal Youth Training Camp: As the most of the units are in West Bengal, the entire West Bengal has been divided in 6 zones. The units under each zone arrange 3days zonal training camp every year. For example, the 15th Annual Purba and paschim Barddhaman, Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum Zonal Youth Training Camp was held at Sonamukhi, Dist. Bankura from 1st June to 3rd June, 2018. 428 young trainees attended the camp. The 36th Annual North Bengal Zonal Youth Training Camp was held at Dhupguri, Dist Jalpaiguri from 21 to 24 June,2018. From the district of North Bengal 337 campers joined the camp.(Annual Report 2018-19)
c) Daylong Youth Training Camp:
Many units organize Daylong camps in their local school from 8AM to 4PM. Classes on character building, mental concentration, ideal and methods of Mahamandal are conducted by senior workers to infuse man making education to the local youths. Tiffins and lunches are catered in time.
d) Vivek Vahini Instructors’ Training Camp: This training camp are for those who operate or want to operate Vivek Vahini. Handling of the children is very difficult job. How to operate the flower like children is taught here.
e) Periodical Special Training Camp:
This kind of training camp is only for the organizers. Those who are dedicated workers, those who are in the process of building their lives seriously under the ideology of Mahamandal are asked to attend the camp. During the year, five such Special Training Camps are held at the ‘Mahamandal Bhaban’, Konnagar, West Bengal. It is purely an organizational training camp.
The Uniqueness of all these camps lies in the fact that all types of work from the highest to lowest are done by the workers of Mahamandal alone irrespective of their designations. All the works conducted are taken as the works of Swami Vivekananda. So during camp one may find an engineer or a professor in cleaning temporary lavatory or chopping the vegetables.
We generally know that after any mass-rally or any public assembly in school, college or maidaan (field), the place becomes dirty and unhealthy. Orts, plastics, biscuit packets, cigarette butts, used shal leaves or platain leaves are strewn here and there. Sometimes it compels the media to show this picture in their channel. But with emphasis and conviction it can be told that Mahamandal is very strict in this disposition. I would like to share an event relating to this fact. Once a senior dada of Mahamandal went to the principal of Panskura Banamali College, Panskura, Purba Medinipur to take the permission to use the college for conduting All India Youth Training Camp for six days . But the principal turned down his request saying, “Your boys will destroy the possessions of my college. I presume a severe damage of this college after the camp. Besides there is a beautiful flower garden on the premises of the college. They all will make a mess of it. So I disagree”. But when he was persuaded patiently he gave permission but with utter bewilderment. And after the termination of the camp, when the respected principal stepped his foot on the college ground, he couldn’t believe to his eyes and became very much pleased by finding his college more beautiful than it it before. Not a single flower was torn, not a single fragment was lying on its ground, all the stains on the college wall were removed, the evil drawings and words on the walls of bathrooms were invisible. Thus Mahamandal has proved again and again that it is true to its word.
viii) Other Activities:
a) Free coaching centres are run by 38 units like Balibhara, Sthirpara, Nabadwip, Fulia, Chakdaha, Gangadharpur in WB, Chapra in Bihar, Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, Vishakhapattanam in AP, Baharogora in Jharkhand etc. and some of them also run night schools.
b) Eight units of the Mahamandal run Students’ Home for school and college students. About 94 boarders of the homes lead a disciplined life. They are getting both career oriented and life building education.
c) 26 units runs charitable dispensary with qualified doctors.
d) Nine units provide computer training for the students from economically weaker sections freely.
e) Eye camp and health check up camp have been arranged by eight and nine units respectively in the year 2018. (All these informations are are given according to the Annual Report 2018-19).
Sarada Nari Sangathan: Mahamandal arranged a parallel organization namely Sarada Nari Sangathan which has been working among women only to convey the man-making ideas among them.
At present there are 75 units of Sarada Nari Sangathan in different districts of West Bengal. Such units are Bhogpur Sarada Nari Sangathan in Purba Medinipur, Lowa sarada Nari Sangathan in Purba Barddhaman, Dunkuni, Nalikul, Konnagar, Jangalpara in the district of Hoogly etc.
They hold weekly study circles like the Mahamandal. They also organise All India, Zonal, and Day Long training camp every year. The 30th Annual All India Women’s Training Camp was held 16 to 19 October, 2019 at Jangalpara KD High school, Hoogly, WB where 460 campers attended from different districts of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odissa. (Annual Report2019-’20)
To be associated with the Mahamandal none has to leave his home or become a monk. Mahamandal never forbid to marry. But it tells to give your extra time, your leisure time to the thinking for others because “this life is short, the venities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.” By obeying its advices seriously one can control his senses, one can concentrate his mind, one can acquire a good character. Mahamandal has been trying to bring the sublime thoughts and the supreme ideas of ‘Upanishads’ to the ploughmen, to the householders, to the workers, to everybody in society what Swamiji wanted.
By Koushik Roy Choudhury, Purba Barddhaman,West Bengal