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Ramkrishna Mission, Swami Vivekananda, Christmas and “Joto Mot, Toto Poth”

As it has been reported widely, a decree has been passed for the citizens of Silchar against visiting churches on Christmas Eve. The rationale of dishing out such a fiat is hinged on the proposition that Hindus should boycott Christmas as a token of protest against the alleged locking of Vivekananda Center of computer learning in Shillong by the ‘Christian ‘ KSU (Khasi Students’ Union) activists. While it is outrightly condemnable to exert any form of coercion on Ramkrishna Mission by KSU activists, boycotting Christmas Eve seems to reflect a complete ignorance of Ramkrishna Mission’s ideals, principles, heritage and traditions.

Ramkrishna Mission has a long cherished tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve across India and many other foreign countries too. The tradition, very interestingly, owes its roots to none other than Swami Vivekananda himself.

In the year 1886, about four months after Sri Ramakrishna left the world, Swami Vivekananda along with eight of his disciples gathered at a village called Antpur in the Hooghly district of West Bengal upon the invitation of Matangini Devi, the mother of one of his brother disciples. They didn’t know that it was Christmas Eve. After sunset they lit a fire, which is called ‘Dhuni ‘by traditional Hindu monks and sat around it to meditate. After meditating for a long time, Swami Vivekananda opened his eyes and spoke about the extraordinary life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He exhorted his brother monks to take up the vows of renunciation and service, keeping fire as witness. To their surprise,in the next morning, they realised that the previous evening was the sacred Christmas Eve. Thus began the tradition of celebration of Christmas in Ramkrishna Mission.

According to Swami Sampurnandaji Maharaj, “There is a record of Swami Brahmananda having a vision of Christ during one such celebration in Mylapore Ramakrishna Math in Madras.”

To this day, monks and devotees spread across 205 centres in 22 countries of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission celebrate this occasion with due solemnity -carols, candles, cakes, temple decoration, speeches by the highly qualified and learned monks. In fact, the Delhi Ramkrishna Mission invites the Archbishop for a special address to the devotees and then the Archbishop participates in the special ‘Sandhya Arati ‘. Such is the beauty and grandeur of Ramkrishna Mission’s solemn commitment to Ramkrishna’s “Joto mot, toto poth.”

The very heart of Ramkrishna Mission’s philosophy is Advaita Vedanta. Advaita Vedanta has no space for the ‘other ‘. It accommodates all and shuns none. ‘Jibe prem kore jei jon, sei jon sebiche ishwar ‘ (one who serves humanity, serves God) has circumscribed Ramkrishna Mission’s journey since it’s inception.
To threaten people with dire consequences and outright violence -let alone it’s patent illegality – completely vitiates what Ramkrishna and Vivekananda preached throughout their lives.

Lest we forget an excerpt from the immortal Chicago address of Swami Vivekananda –

“Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”

The views expressed in the story are author’s personal opinion

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