Ananda Marga, officially known as Ananda Marga Pracharaka Samgha (AMPS) meaning "the organization for the propagation of the path of bliss" is a spiritual movement, founded in Jamalpur, Bihar, India in 1955 by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (1921-1990), known by his spiritual name of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. Ananda Marga bases its ideology on the theory that total human development can only be achieved through both personal development, and social service to the community ("Neo-humanism").
The meaning of Ananda Marga is "path of bliss", ananda meaning bliss, and marga path. Through a system of meditation techniques, yoga postures (asanas), spiritual gatherings, and social service the Ananda Margiis (followers of AM) strive to develop themselves as human beings, and the betterment of others.
The early spiritual history of P.R. Sarkar is accounted by his own family members and a few documents. A certain account proves to be significant in relation to Sarkar's life as a spiritual teacher, namely his first initiation and that to be of a notorious criminal named Kalicharan.
In 1939, Sarkar left Jamalpur for Calcutta to attend Vidyasagar College of the University of Calcutta. He frequently visited the ghats along the river Ganges at night time to meditate and contemplate. At that time of day ordinary people shun the ghats because they were frequented by thieves and other petty criminals.
One night (probably in 1939 or 1940) young Sarkar was performing his meditation, when suddenly assaulted by a notorious criminal and killer, Kalicharan. Kalicharan demanded him to hand over his wallet or be killed. At that point Sarkar, who didn't know the unknown assailant, is known to have said: "Kalicharan, I promise to give you all my money, but first tell me whether you rob people out of necessity or habit?" Kalicharan realized that he was dealing with an extraordinary person. Further on the young Prabhat Rainjan commanded him to take a dip in the Ganges and after that took oath from him and initiated him into the tantric meditation that he would teach from that time onward. Kalicharan asked what he could call his new spiritual master, who simply replied: "call me Baba", which became the name all his followers in the future would affectionately call him. From that time on Kalicharan changed his ways and got the spiritual name Kalikananda.
Ananda Marga Pracharaka Samgha was officially established in 1955 in Jamalpur, Bihar, India. P.R. Sarkar was at that time working as a railway official in the Indian Railways. He started to teach the technique of meditation to a handful of his colleagues and gradually after Ananda Marga was officially established on November 7, 1955 more and more persons were drawn to the spiritual practices taught by P.R. Sarkar whom they started to call Shrii Shrii Anandamurti.
In 1959 the Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT) was released. Some have claimed that this put Ananda Marga at stakes with the local communist authorities.
In 1962 a monastic order was formed, where the junior monks and nuns where known as brahmacharya, and the seniors known as avadhutas, where the former are dressed in a saffron colored top and white bottom, while the seniors are dressed in full saffron robes.
In 1963 the Education, Relief, and Welfare Section (ERAWS) of Ananda Marga was formed. Schools, orphanages, and emergency relief work was being conducted under its name.
Ananda Marga opened a regional office in the USA in 1969, and by 1973 had established approximately 100 local centers teaching yoga, meditation, spiritual and social philosophies, to thousands.
In 1971, P.R. Sarkar was imprisoned for allegedly conspiring to murder several former members of the organization. He received a life sentence (Barker 1989: 168) which was overturned in 1978.
From 1975-77 Ananda Marga was banned under the state of emergency imposed by the Indian government of Indira Gandhi. Over 400 of its schools in India were closed down, and several members were imprisoned.
P.R. Sarkar's imprisonment led to a global campaign of protests. Margiis claimed not only that he was innocent, but that an attempt had been made to poison him in prison that severely damaging his health and temporarly damaged his sight. There were also protests against the alleged persecution of the movement. As a political protest against the imprisonment of their guru, several members of Ananda Marga committed self-immolation in the late 1970s (Barker 1989: 168, see also 54-5).
In 1978 there was another incident involving a small group of Margiis who departed from the philosophy in an extreme manner: three Margiis were found guilty of conspiring to murder the Indian High Commissioner in London the previous year, and were sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison. As part of their investigations, the anti-terrorist squad discovered bomb-making instructions and a copy of the "Anarchists' Cook-book" at the organization's London headquarters. Three weeks prior to the attack, one of the plotters had thrown a brick through the window of the New Bond Street office of Air India. The attached note called on Mr Moraji Desai, the Indian Prime Minister, to release Sarkar or have "blood on his hands". The initial plan was to shoot the High Commissioner in his car, but this was abandoned for security reasons. Next they decided to stab the Commission's commercial counsellor, but that failed when the would-be assassin couldn't go through with the attack. Finally one of the other plotters stabbed a junior Indian government employee in mistake for the commercial counsellor. The victim suffered a punctured lung and internal bleeding, but recovered with medical help. (See Birmingham Evening Mail, Saturday, November 4, 1978)
Also in 1978 Sarkar's conviction was overturned on appeal. He had been fasting for five years on one glass of yoghurt water, following the poisoning attempt. During his stay in prison his mission spread to all continents of the world.
Before Sarkar's imprisonment, AMPS was basically an Indian organization with few workers abroad, but during the imprisonment his workers traveled the world and established local Ananda Marga centers in more than a hundred countries. What was once a national organization was now global.
P.R. Sarkar traveled to many countries in 1979, to meet disciples in various countries around the world. In 1979 he was banned from entering the USA by the State Department, due to his problems with the government of India. Instead he went to Jamaica in 1979 for a gathering of his North and Central American disciples.
In 1982 he took up composing, and till his death in 1990 he composed 5018 songs, which were called Prabhata Samgiita. His last song composition was on the establishment of Gurukul which he had founded on September 7, 1990 in order to carry on his legacy through education and research.
In 1986 he formed the theory of microvita, small, subtle entities which were said to be the foundation of all existence. Research on the field is being conducted by the Microvita Research Institute, but their progress and findings are still limited.
P.R. Sarkar died on 21 October 1990 at 3.10 pm.
The monks and nuns of Ananda Marga called Wholetime Workers (WTs) receive their training in Prashiksana Matha (Ydrefors, Sweden), Davao (Philippines), Varanasi (India)-for monks only and Bangalore (India)-for nuns only. All activities are handled through the established nine Sectorial Offices.
An Indian court in 1997 determined that a member of Ananda Marga was the intended recipient of a large amount of guns and ammunition in the Purulia arms drop caseBBC News | UK | Alleged gun runner's conspiracy claims and that based on the pilot's testimony, along with other evidence such as a photograph of the Ananda Marga headquarters on the aircraft, the weapons were targeted to be dropped at a building occupied by members of Ananda Marga. However, in the same case, the judge stated that there was "no sufficient evidence...to link up the Anandamarg organisation as a whole with regard to the present matter", and that " it will be too much to hold that all the members of Anandamarg were involved in the commission of the offence [sic]" . Members of Ananda Marga were also suspected in the Sydney Hilton bombing. However, supporters, argue that allegations in both the Sydney Bombing and the Purulia arms drop are based on speculations or unproven or disputed facts.
Ananda Marga is a hierarchal organization led by senior members of AMPS, most of them dedicated monks and nuns. A well developed hierarchy is working in the AMPS organization where the Global Office is the main representative organ of AMPS, led by the General Secretary. Globally the organization is divided into 9 sectors named after a city in each of them, namely:
Each sector is subdivided into regions, which again is further divided as per needs. Each of them is led by a senior official, namely the Sectorial Secretary, Regional Secretary, and so on.
A separate entity of AMPS is the Women's Welfare Department (WWD), destined to help the betterment of women through education, social work, and local initiatives. WWD was started to empower women to contribute and aleviate suffering of women in many parts of the world. WWD is led by women for the service to women, children and the community at large.
AMPS also strives for development of the human sphere in other parts of life as well. Renaissance Artists and Writers Association (RAWA) is an organization for the development of the fine arts. RAWA regularly arrange cultural events in several countries, those being concerts, theatrical acts, etc.
The official social welfare and development organization under AMPS is Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT/AMURTEL). AMURT arranges both emergency relief during natural disasters, and long term projects such as building of schools and orphanages.
Ananda Marga Association of Yoga Educators (AMAYE) was started in 2006 as a loose forum for research,discussion and sharing of knowledge about Ananda Marga Yoga & Spiritual practices.
Ananda Marga Gurukula was founded by Shrii P.R. Sarkar on September 7, 1990 in order to build Ananda Marga University with its headquarters at Anandanagar (India) and to bring together entire neohumanist education movement under its overall academic guidance and direction. The educational network of Gurukula claims to run over 1000 schools in India and other continents.
Ánanda Márga Gurukula (AMGK) is engaged in creating an international network of Neohumanist Schools and Institutes to hasten the advent of a soceity in which there is love, peace, understanding, inspiration, justice and health for all beings. Reflecting the broadness of Sarkar's universal vision, AMGK has become a multi-faceted organization, with different branches dedicated to the upliftment of humanity through education, relief, welfare, the arts, ecology, intellectual renaissance, women's emancipation, and humanistic economy. All these institutions are based on neo-humanist educational philosophy.
In 1990, its "Education Relief and Welfare" section, which grew to an international network of about 1,000 neo-humanist schools and institutes, culminated in the founding of the Ananda Marga Gurukula University, with links to several hundred self-reliant eco-village projects ("Master Units") throughout the world. AMGK is actively engaged in the following projects:
The headquarters of AMGK is in Ánanda Nagar, West Bengal, India. AMGK Inc., is its global liaison office, located in Ithaca, New York. The "Neo-Humanist Schools and Research Institutes", affiliated with AMGK, publishes a bi-annual newsletter, the Gurukula Network, in May and October.
AMGK is headed by a chancellor (kulapati), who is supported by a steering body (cakradhuri), and an academic council (mahasamiti). AMGK is an autonomous "Board of Education" for all AMGK schools and institutes run as per neohumanist philosophy.NHE-Forum of AMGK deals with K-12 education and CNS-Forum of AMGK concentrates on higher education.
Ananda Marga (AM) is the practice of AMPS. Ananda Marga meaning the path of bliss. AM is based on tantra yoga, as interpreted by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti in the books "Discourses on Tantra volume 1 and 2". , . "Tantra" meaning the liberation from darkness, the root "tan" meaning darkness, and "tra" liberation. Tantra in the popular western sense meaning sexual practices is not a part of the Ananda Marga tantra tradition. Sarkar in his book on Shiva, "Namah Shiváya Shántáya", and "Discourses on Tantra volume 1", he explains the difference between the lefthand crude tantric path, and the righthand subtle path by giving an explanation of panchamakara, also known as the 5 Ms. The practitioner of Ananda Marga tantra yoga sees the mind as a "trapped monkey" striving to escape from its cage. The tantra path is the path of the brave, because it requires the practitioner to follow strict rules as to their spiritual practice. Meditation is the main practice of this tantric tradition, and through the meditation the practitioner struggles to overcome weaknesses and imperfections. Through daily meditations the practitioner faces their minds deepest secrets, and to proceed in the practice s/he must manage to overcome whatever s/he faces in the deepness. Because the path is considered so difficult many people stray from the path and reject the teachings afterwards.
The base Ananda Marga practice is covered in a set of rules called the sixteen points. The sixteen points guides the practitioner of the tantric path on both spiritual and social aspects.
In the tantric tradition of Ananda Marga the spiritual aspirant is called a sadhaka, and he practices sádhaná. Sádhaná comes from the Sanskrit root word sadh which means "to complete". Sádhaná signifies the effort through which a person becomes completely realized.
In the tantric tradition the spiritual master, the guru plays a special role. The guru, or dispeler of darkness, guides and leads students on the spiritual path that is likened to be razor sharp. It is also stated in the tantric tradition that the student doesn't find the teacher, but the teacher finds the student.
When the student decides to aspire on the path of bliss s/he will be initiated by a qualified meditation teacher called acarya, Sanskrit for teacher. An acarya is most commonly a monk or nun, but there are also family acaryas in the Ananda Marga tradition.
In the initiation the aspirant makes a commitment to practice meditation, and is then taught the technique itself. The aspirant is then required to keep all his practices secret and not discuss them with others.
Anandamurtiiji taught many systems of meditation such as '''Pra'rambhika Yoga, Sa'dharana Yoga, Sahaja Yoga and Vishesha Yoga. In addition, he also taught Kapalika meditation to many sanyasiins.His system of yoga can be termed as Rajadhira'ja Yoga or Tantra Yoga or just Ananda Marga Yoga'''.The base Ananda Marga meditation system is called Sahaja Yoga, meaning 'easy yoga', in the sense that everyone can do the practice. The sahaja yoga system consists of 6 meditation techniques called lessons. The lessons are taught one by one, on a personal basis. There is no specific system as to when one can learn a new technique, but is rather taught on a personal basis depending on the level of interest and dedication of the student. Thus some students learn all six lessons in a year or two, while some complete all lessons in over 20 years. There is also a higher set of meditation lessons taught by Ananda Marga and advanced practitioners are ever taught them.
The physical practice of Ananda Marga comprises yoga asanas,mudras,bandhas,pranayama,self-massage and two specific dances, kaoshiki and tandava.Sentient diet & Fasting are considered integral part of yogic-practises in Ananda Marga style of yoga.
The Ananda Marga system of yoga comprises 42 yoga asana postures, which were specifically selected by P.R. Sarkar for their benefits. In the Ananda Marga system yoga asanas should be performed at least once a day, preferable twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening. After the practice a full body massage and final relaxation is performed to complete the asana practice.
Kaoshiki is a dance performed by all students, and consists of 18 mudras, each with a specific meaning. The dance is both a spiritual and physical exercise. The spiritual ideation of the dance is done to establish a link to the divine, and the physical strengthens and softens the body. There is also a claim that the exercise strengthens the nervous and endocrine system to give full body balance.
This is a vigorous dance associated with Shiva as the cosmic dancer Nataraj. The name tandava is derived from the Sanskrit word tandu, which means to jump. This dance is only performed by the male followers of Ananda Marga because of its testosterone producing effect. The dance is performed to strengthen the practitioner and dispel all fear, even fear of death itself, and therefore the dance also has an ideating factor. The dancer starts off with the two arms outstretched, the left arm with an open palm, and the right arm with a clenched fist. The dancer ideates holding a human skull in the left hand, symbolizing death, and ideates holding a knife in the right, symbolizing the fight against all fear. The dance starts with a vigorous jump and landing in a position of bent knees. Another jump follows, and the dance continues in a jumping manner lifting one leg then the other continuously. The dance is ended with a final jump.
Tantra is established in the spiritual practices of Ananda Marga, the yogic path propounded by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti aka Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar. He has written extensively on the topic of Tantra.
According to Shrii Shrii Anandamurti tantra was first called like that by Lord Shiva who is also called Sadashiva, who was an enlightened yogi living in the Himalayas about 7500 years ago. Tantra had its origin in India and South Asia. Tantra in its Káshmiirii and Gaod'iiya Schools did exist before Shiva, but in a scattered and crude form. Shiva was born and brought up in an environment of tantra, although it was not classical tantra. He was the original propounder of tantra and collected and systematized all the branches of tantra.
According to Shrii Shrii Anandamurti the practitioners of the more-developed tantra would look upon things from a broad point of view, renouncing all narrow thinking. They would always strive hard to advance the welfare of the masses. Through such selfless service, they would overcome the fetters of the mind, such as hatred and shame. The practitioners of the less-developed Tantra would behave in just the opposite way. They would indulge in casteism; in expressions of untouchability; and in expressions of hatred and envy in relation to other groups.
Today's practical philosophy and yogic practices of Ananda Marga are not only deeply rooted in the ancient original Tantra of Shiva but Tantra forms the main body of personal development attached with two wings of social transformation, Neohumanism and Prout. Thus Tantra is the central plank of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti's message. In projecting the future he weaves continuity, infusing the ancient philosophy of Tantra with new insights in human psychology, social theory and the individuals' roles as spiritual and political beings.
Ananda Marga Tantra has a broad metaphysical base which allows for ways of knowing, feeling and processing that go far beyond limited rationality. Priorities are in the spiritual as Shrii Shrii Anandamurti notes "spiritual life controls all other arenas of human life."
Ananda Marga Tantra is a principle, a science which if practiced will achieve the desired objective. The essence of Tantra is to awaken the latent spiritual force in the human personality and unify it with Cosmic Consciousness. It is not a religion or philosophy which can be confined to the realm of abstract speculation or theoretical debate. Tantra is a process of subjective transformation, which may be practiced by anybody irrespective of their education or intellectual evolution, as the fruits of spiritual endeavor are open to all.
Tantra does not recognize any racial, genealogical, political, national or economic differences in human beings, which might form the basis for one human group to assert their superiority over another. Tantra does, however, give recognition to individual vigor and the development of latent human potentialities, which make some people more outstanding than others. Consequently Tantra puts greater emphasis on human values than social values.
For success on the path of Tantra, the proper preceptor and the proper disciple are both essential. So the first step in Tantra is the selection of a competent preceptor and a worthy disciple. According to Tantra, disciples are of three categories. The first category disciples acquire spiritual knowledge when they are in close contact with the preceptor, but as soon as they are apart from the preceptor they forget all his/her teachings.
The second category of disciples learn many things from the preceptor with great hardship, but do not take proper care to preserve those instructions. They lose their hard-earned knowledge out of negligence. The best category of disciples carefully preserve in the jewel caskets of their hearts whatever they learn from their preceptor.
Ananda Marga runs yoga and meditation centers, schools, orphanages, food distribution centers, disaster relief programs, medical centers, community development projects, and other projects through its service branch, the Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team, AMURT & AMURTEL. The AMURT organization, founded in India in 1965, has projects in over 80 countries. Emphasis is placed on solving the problems of the local people, whatever they may be, and assisting them in managing all their personal and social resources for the prosperity of all.
The philosophy of Ananda Marga is one of universalism. It is a synthetic outlook, recognizing God as the one limitless supreme consciousness. This universe, having been created by God, is existing in God, and as such all created beings are God's children, part of the one universal Cosmic family. Thus we are all brothers and sisters, connected in love by the bonds of Cosmic fraternity. This universe of diversity has evolved out of unity (God), and we must continually strive to see that unity in all diversity. Thus the social outlook of Ananda Marga recognizes that the welfare of the individual is inextricably linked with the welfare of the collective, each relying on the other for its existence and dynamism. Everyone has the right to equal opportunity and as such there should be no discrimination on the basis of superficial barriers such as race, nationality and religion.
The Spiritual Philosophy of Ananda Marga covers a vast range of topics and can be learned from P.R. Sarkar's publications. A small list of the essential elements of Ananda Marga Spiritual Philosopy are: 1) Cosmology 2) Realms of the Mind 3) Biopsychology 4)Life Death and Reincarnation.
Ananda Marga advocates a world of justice, security and peace for all. To this end Ananda Marga gives a practical, rational, and systematic way of life for the balanced development of all human potentialities: physical, psychic and spiritual. It is a system that incorporates practices that are beneficial for personal and social upliftment. These range from proper hygiene and diet, to yoga postures, to a scientific technique of meditation based on morality and leading to complete peace and inner fulfillment. It recognizes that a balance is needed between the spiritual and mundane aspects of existence, and that neither one should be neglected at the expense of the other. Hence, the goal of Ananda Marga is "Self-realization and the welfare of humanity."
Pratik practically means emblem, and summarizes the ideology of Ananda Marga in a visible form. The pratik is composed of two interconnected triangles where one points upwards and the other points downwards. In the center of the triangle a rising sun is placed, and in the core of the rising sun a swastika is seen.
Action should be based on knowledge and knowledge should be followed by action.
A triangular, orange/saffron colored flag with a white counter clockwise swastika in the center is used by the Ananda margiis.
Barker, Eileen (1989) New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction (London: HMSO). Third impression, with amendments, 1992.
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