- Ananda Marga Yoga Society
- (est. 1955)The Ananda Marga Yoga Society describes itself as “an international socio-spiritual movement involved in the twin pursuit of SELF-REALIZATION and service to all of creation.” Ananda Marga, through its educational and charitable affiliates in over 160 countries, claims more than a million followers worldwide.The movement was founded in 1955 in the state of Bihar, India, by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (1921–90), better known as Marga Guru Sri SRI ANANDAMURTI, which means “He who attracts others as the embodiment of bliss.” He received enlightenment quite early in his life—he is reported to have been an accomplished yogi by the age of four—and he attracted his first devotees when he was only six. After marrying and getting a job with the railway system, he founded Ananda Marga. From then until his death he authored more than 250 books as Sri Sri Anandamurti.After founding Ananda Marga, Sarkar began to train missionaries to carry his teachings beyond India; today the society has a complex interna-tional organization. Three levels of membership are offered: (1) acharyas—teachers and devotees who devote their lives to the movement and may be employed in many locales around the world; (2) local full-time workers; and (3) margis—mem-bers who are initiated but hold jobs outside the movement. The number of active members is not known, but estimates run as high as several hun-dred thousand.The teaching of the movement involves three dimensions: the practice of tantra yoga, MEDITA-TION, and engagement in social service with the goal of bringing about a more just and humane world. Part of the movement’s discipline is Sarkar’s Sixteen Points, a system of spiritual practices that helps initiates balance the physi-cal, mental, and spiritual aspects of life. Rituals include KIRTAN (singing) and recitation of the mantra Baba Nam Kevalam (the universal Father is everywhere).Ananda Marga stresses public service, includ-ing care of the sick and elderly. Service to others is a means of transformation from the needs of oneself to the needs of others, which is also the path to enlightenment. Because of the movement’s dedication to human service, many organizations have been formed within its ambit. The Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT), founded in 1965, and the Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team Ladies (AMURTEL), founded in 1977, address disaster relief around the world. Renais-sance Universal, founded in 1958, encourages intellectuals to design and create programs for improving the human condition. The Education, Relief, and Welfare Section (ERWS) is another organization created to propagate Ananda Marga’s agenda of social service.Sarkar tried to conceptualize and mobilize new ways of education. He advocated a form of education that encourages simultaneous devel-opment of the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of humanity. His philosophy extends his emphasis on human development to include animals and plants. He established a global plant exchange program and animal sanctuaries around the world.Sarkar proposed a political program in 1959, called Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT), which calls for economic democracy and human rights. He also advocated a global bill of rights, constitution, and system of justice.In India, Sarkar’s political activism generated much controversy regarding the movement dur-ing the 1960s and 1970s. He ran unsuccessfully for political office in 1967 and 1968, representing the Proutist Bloc. Many in India saw the Proutists as a terrorist organization, and both PROUT and Ananda Marga were banned in India during the period of national emergency declared by Indira Gandhi. Sarkar was accused, convicted, and sen-tenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to murder former members. In 1978 he won a new trial and was acquitted of the charges.Since the acquittal of its leader, Ananda Marga has recovered slowly in India but has spread widely outside India, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. Led by Acharya Vimala-ananda, the movement entered the United States in 1969 and gained many followers.Ananda Marga has adherents and social bet-terment activities in more than 160 countries and claims more than a million followers worldwide. It supports a variety of schools, clinics, and chil-dren’s homes. It is attempting to put its larger eco-nomic program into effect through the formation of cooperative communities, the largest of them Ananda Nagar (the City of Bliss) in West Bengal, and promoting rural development. International headquarters of the movement is in West Bengal.The society produces several periodicals, including a monthly newsletter and a magazine. Sadvipra, begun in 1973. A branch of Ananda Marga, Renaissance Universal, is dedicated to working toward a renaissance of social institutions based on neohumanistic values. This renaissance will involve a redesign of the major institutions of society and will foster individual growth and self-realization. Twice a year Renaissance Universal organizes a worldwide forum on contemporary issues. Its quarterly journal, New Renaissance, fea-tures articles on neohumanism, art, and science in service of self-realization, and social justice.Further reading: Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, Ananda Marga in a Nutshell, 4 vols. (Calcutta: Ananda Marga, 1988); Acarya Vijayananda Avadhuta, The Life and Teachings of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti (Calcutta: Aananda Marga, 1994); Shrii P. R. Sakar and His Mission (Calcutta: Ananda Marga, 1993); Way of Tantra: Ananda Marga Yoga Philosophy (Calcutta: Ananda Marga, 1989).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.