Modern Hindu Movements

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Modern Hindu Movements and Spiritual Leaders

Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayananda Sarasvati in 1875 as a radical reform movement. Dayananda wanted to halt the Christian missionary onslaught and return to the Vedic tradition. He, therefore, sought to purge Hinduism of what he considered later additions, such as image worship, pilgrimage and ritual bathing. Although emphasizing the Vedic tradition, Dayananda also wanted to modernize Hinduism and re-absorb Hindus who had converted to Islam and Christianity. The followers of Arya Samaj agree to follow its “Ten Principles”, worship largely through havan or the sacred fire ceremony and recitation of the Gayatri mantra.

The Ananda Marga Yoga Society was founded in 1955 by Prabhat Rarjar Sarkar (1921-1990) in the state of Bihar, India. Ananda Marga, as it is commonly called, conceives of itself as “an international socio spiritual movement involved in the twin pursuit of self-realization and service to all creation”. Sarkar better known as Sri Sri Anandamurti is often referred to by his followers as “Baba” (father). Ananda Marga practices Tantra Yoga, meditation and active engagement in social service toward the goal of realizing a more humane and just world.

The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) was founded in the late 1930’s by Lekhraj Khubchand Kirpalani (1877-1969) in Karachi (now Pakistan). He was a wealthy diamond merchant and devout Hindu who later took the spiritual name Pajapita Brahma. The Raja Yoga embraced by the Brahma Kumaris does not involve any mantras, special postures, or breathing techniques. It is usually practiced in a sitting position with the eyes open facing a picture of red and orange rays emanating from the center of the light. Meditators are encouraged to focus on a “third eye” behind the forehead, the objective being to practice “soul consciousness” recognizing the self not as a body but as a soul.

The Brahmo Sabha was founded in 1828 by Rama Mohan Roy and in 1843 was restructured and renamed Brahmo Samaj by Devendranatha Tagore, father of the well-known poet Rabindranath Tagore. Rama Mohan was extremely learned and strongly influenced by Christianity. He disagreed with the doctrine of reincarnation and fought to abolish certain traditional practices, some of which had been grossly misused like: caste, polygamy, image worship, sati and child marriage. Devendranatha Tagore was greatly influenced by the western philosophy of Locke and Hume.

The Chinmayananda Mission was founded by followers of Swami Chinmayananda (1916 - 1993) in 1953 in India. Their teachings are based on Advaitic Vedanta.
The Divine Life Society was founded by Shivananda Sarasvati Maharaja (1887-1963) and its philosophy and ritual practice are rooted in Hinduism’s Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga paths. 12. The Divine Light Mission/Elan Vital was founded by Sri Hans Maharaj Ji (1900-1966) in the 1930s in India. When Maharaj Ji died Prem Pal Singh Rawat , the youngest of 4 sons and only 8 years old at the time declared himself to be his father’s spiritual successor and a satguru of Perfect Master. The movement based on yoga and meditation practices has restructured considerably and considers itself a secular personal-growth movement and not a religious organization.
The Gaudiya Math was founded by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja (1869-1936) in 1918 creating a modern institution dedicated to promoting Vaishnavism. The original Gaudiya Math was now divided into several Maths with different names and spiritual leaders but with almost identical philosophies and practices.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) or the Hare Krishna Movement as it is commonly called was founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (called Srila Prabhupada by his followers) in 1966. The Hare Krishna movement is a strand of Gaudiya (Bengali) Vaishnavism belonging to the Madhva Sampradaya is one of the main Vaishnava traditions. It is based on the teachings of a great Vaishnava saint Chaitanya (1486-1534), considered an incarnation of Radha and Krishna. He opposed the rigid caste system by widely popularizing the congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra and by creating Brahmanas from those born of lower varnas (castes).
The Mata Amritanandamayi Math is a network of centers around the world devoted to the teachings of Mataji (b. 1951) which emerged in India in the 1960s. In the Temples, devotees practice a form of Bhakti Yoga by singing Mataji’s bhajans/songs. Devotion to a wide variety of deity figures including, Jesus, Buddha, the Virgin Mary, and so on are allowed and even encouraged, as Mataji believes that all religions are spiritual paths that lead to the same One God.
Meher Baba (1894-1969) was an Indian spiritual teacher who synthesized various strains of religions and spiritual wisdom.
The Osho Commune International was founded by Osho formerly known as Bhagavan Shree Rajneesh (1931-1990) who was a controversial spiritual teacher from India. His synthesis of spirituality with personal growth psychology attracted significant numbers of westerners.
The Ramakrishna Mission was founded by the Bengali saint Vivekananda Swami (1863-1902) in the name of his guru, Ramakrishna (1836-1886). Vivekananda Swami was an expert in presenting Advaita Vedanta from Shankara and greatly impressed the Western World in his presentation to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. It is headed by a well-disciplined and organized body of sannyasis (renunciates). It is well known for its social and educational programs.
Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was a widely recognized Hindu mystic who attracted many followers from both East and West. He was an extraordinary personality and his ashram became renowned for giving all its inhabitants a deep sense of peace and tranquility. Ramana Maharshi is credited with establishing the relevance of the Advaita philosophy to the modern world.
Sahaja Yoga was founded by Sri Mataji Nirmala (b. 1923). Its practices combine principles of Tantrism with rituals and symbols from other traditions, especially from South Asia.
Sai Organization was founded by the contemporary Indian guru Bhagavan Shri Sathya Sai Baba born in 1926 in Andhra Pradesh. He claims to be the reincarnation of the miracle-working Maharashtrian saint Sai Baba of Shirdi (1856-1918). The movement follows the style of Hindu Bhakti but emphasizes the individual’s commitment to Sai Baba himself as the personification of divinity. Love of God is emphasized over scriptural learning or renunciation. Selfless love and charitable service are promoted rather than withdrawn from the world. The teachings are ecumenical and stress a single godhead as the essence of all religious traditions.
Siddha Yoga was founded by Swami Muktananda (1908-1982) in 1961. the movement quotes and comments on ritual and philosophical texts of the Veda, Vedanta, Saiva Agama, and Tantra and have given special prominence to texts of Kashmiri Shaivism. Siddha Yoga seems to have an open or an emerging canon of scripture that is determined by the guru’s assessment of what the devotees need.
Sri Aurobindo Ashrama was founded by Aurobindo Ghose (1871-1950) during his self-imposed exile in the French colony of Pondicherry. There he devoted his life to yoga and writing on spiritual matters. His ashram attracted many people from India and abroad. He attempted to formulate an integral yoga that synthesized Hindu Spirituality with modern ideas and an active role within the world. His disciples planned to develop Auroville as a model city for the modern world. Their work continues today.
The Swami Narayan tradition was founded by Sahajananda Swami (1781-1830) considered by his followers as an incarnation of God. The group claims heritage from the Sri Sampradaya of Ramanuja one of the main Vaishnava traditions and its followers are mostly from Gujarat. There are now various Swami Narayana sampradayas reflecting different views on the identity of the guru and the genuine line of succession. The largest is the Swami Narayana Mission, whose current leader is Pramukh Swami.
Transcendental Meditation was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is a form of japa yoga, a form of meditation used in both Hindu and Sikh traditions.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad or “Hindu World Council” was founded in 1964 by Swami Chinmayananda in conjunction with other religious leaders. Its organizational structure was determined in 1982 in Delhi, now home to its headquarters. The VHP aims to reawaken Hindu Consciousness and to promote cooperation between Hindus throughout the world. It propounds a kind of universal Hinduism drawing extensively on the