Sri Sarada Math

Sri Sarada Math &
Ramakrishna Sarada Mission

By Pravrajika Ajayaprana

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA had a glorious dream. It was a living dream – the dream of organizing a Women’s Math centered on Holy Mother. His dream was so graphic, correct and real that he almost forced it to materialize during his lifetime, namely, before 1902. But Swami Yogananda, one of his brother-monks, reminded him that if Holy Mother were projected and presented before the public eye when she was still among us she might not keep her mortal body long. So the plan was held in suspension. He himself had defined life as “the unfoldment and development of a being under circumstances that tend to crush it down.” During half a century his living dream-plan lay quiet, vibrant with power, gaining more and more clarity and effectiveness in the minds of his successors at Belur Math, the Headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Finally it flooded forth as a full-fledged programme in 1954 as the Sri Sarada Math. Some earnest, highly devoted, self-sacrificing girls had already rallied around Belur Math, been admitted as young members, and trained as the torch-bearers equipped with the know-how and power to shoulder the responsibility of the administration and running of an organization parallel to the Belur Math with similar rules and regulations. Pravrajika Bharatiprana Ma had already been designated to take charge of Holy Mother’s organization, by Swami Saradananda years ago. She was brought forward to be the first President of Sri Sarada Math and the wheel began to run slowly.

The place that Belur Math authorities acquired for the Sarada Math on the other side of the Ganga, was simply serene and beautiful. Nestling in the holy precincts of the glorious Dakshineswar Temple it is supersaturated with spiritual vibrations.

What is the need of a separate Sarada Math when the Belur Math Centres are efficiently run by well-trained monks? Isn’t it superfluous? From my experience I have found that it is not. Many people there are – both men and women – who find it easy and natural to go to the Belur Math Centres for spiritual solace and succour whereas there is a good number of people who need another type of spiritual ministration like that provided by the Sarada Math Centres. Same is the case with Sydney and some other places in Australia. People find it more homely and welcoming to come to our Centre, listen to our talks and approach us with their personal problems for counselling than to go to the men’s. Diversity in human nature!

Parallel to the Belur Math and its activities Sri Sarada Math and its members have been steadily and successfully doing spiritual ministry and social service. At times of the direst need for the people in all parts of India the Sannyasinis and devotees under the flag of Sarada Math have done laudable work in the fields of education, relief work, medical help and all other aspects of life. The educated young girls familiar with the needs and demands of society have always been hard-working and self-sacrificing.

Guiding lights – Presidents and First General Secretary of Sri Sarada Math & Ramakrishna Sarada Mission

Courtesy – Sri Sarada Math Website

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Pravrajika Bharatiprana (1894-1973)
PRAVRAJIKA BHARATIPRANA was the first President of Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission. She was a student of Sister Nivedita and a direct disciple and personal attendant of Sri Sarada Devi.

It was as if Sri Sarada Devi gave her spiritual training to prepare for the great responsibility which she had to undertake in the future. She had been given Tantrik Sannyasa and the name Sri Bharati by Swami Saradananda in 1926. In 1959 Vedic Sannyasa with full rites was given to her and seven other senior Brahmacharinis (Novitiates) by Swami Sankarananda, the seventh President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Her simple, quiet and serene personality made her the object of everyone’s reverence. Many men and women were inspired to lead spiritual lives after taking initiation from her.
She was born in July 1894 in an ordinary brahmin family in a village called Guptipara. She was the eldest daughter of Sri Rajendranath Mukherjee and Sushila Devi. Her parents named her Parul.

In her early years Parul was brought to Calcutta where she was drawn to Sri Sarada Devi, Sister Nivedita and Sudhira-di, who became her mentor in her spiritual journey. Sudhira-di, a brave and fearless young woman full of love, enthusiasm and renunciation went to teach at Sister Nivedita’s school when Parul was in her senior class. Like many other students of her class, Parul was irresistibly attracted by Sudhira-di’s powerful personality She tried to arouse the religious feeling in her students. With Sudhira-di’s permission and encouragement, Parul left home to renounce the worldly life. Sudhira-di renamed her Sarala and took her to Sri Sarada Devi for spiritual initiation.

Sarala embraced the life of austerity and hardship and was staying at one place or other as Sudhira-di arranged for her. Sri Sarada Devi kept a loving eye on Sarala. Sarala nursed her during her last illness. She often prayed, ‘Oh, Mother, I will not be able to live without you, so please take me with you.’ Sri Sarada Devi replied, ‘Finally it is to me you will come, my child. But before that, I have some work, which you will have to do. It will not do if you go now.’ In her last days, she had instructed Swami Saradananda to look after Sarala.

Swami Saradananda executed this responsibility with parental care and made some provision for her maintenance. After Swami Saradananda passed away, Sarala spent twenty-seven years from 1927 to 1954 in spiritual practices at Varanasi. There she lived alone and faced many ordeals but she never spoke to anyone about them. She was cheerful in the face of a hundred difficulties and firm on her path with absolute faith in Sarada Devi. Unseen by the world, with the help of God alone, she reached a very high state in her spiritual life.

During Sri Sarada Devi’s birth centenary (1953-54), when arrangements were being made for the opening of a Women’s Math of the Ramakrishna Order, the Belur Math authorities naturally thought of Sarala Devi (later named Pravrajika Bharatiprana) as the first President of Sri Sarada Math. They all felt that through Sarala Devi the Women’s Math had a direct link with Sri Sarada Devi. For eighteen years, from December 1954 to January 1973, she was the President of Sri Sarada Math. Her mind always dwelt on a higher level of consciousness. Despite her efforts to conceal her real self, her Mahasamadhi (absorption in the divine by an illumined soul at the time of death) brought her extraordinary spiritual attainment to the notice of all who witnessed it. During her last moments she withdrew her mind and uttering Satchidananda Brahma, Satchidananda Brahma, Shivoham, Shivoham (God, the Existence- Knowledge-Bliss; I am Shiva) her mind merged into the Infinite Brahman.

Pravrajika Bharatiprana, Sri Sarada Devi’s beloved Sarala was a bright example of a life full of renunciation and total dependence on God.
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Pravrajika Mokshaprana (1915-1999)
PRAVRAJIKA MOKSHAPRANA was the second President of the Sri Sarada Math and the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission. During her long tenure of twenty-six years of spiritual ministration, she initiated thousands of people, guiding them to lead a spiritual life.

Before she became President of the Math, she was headmistress of Sister Nivedita’s Girls’ School from 1946 to 1948. In 1948, when Swami Virajananda informed her that someone with the proper qualifications was going to replace her soon, he wanted to know if she would remain in the school. She replied that she would stay even if she had to accept the role of a janitor, so determined was she to live an ashram life! She had an ardent interest in providing education for women as envisaged by Swami Vivekananda. Bold and fearless, she encouraged other women to be fearless and self-confident. Swami Premeshananda met her at Nivedita School and later wrote to her, 'The very sight of you has raised such high hopes in me that I rejoice at the prospect that through you we may at last give effect to our long, long cherished vow of bringing about women's emancipation.'

After the Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission were established, Pravrajika Mokshaprana became the Vice President of the new organisation and the Secretary and Headmistress of Shiksha Mandir, a branch centre of the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission at Baruipara in Kolkata. She thought of the students as her chosen ideal and was able to identify with them. The children responded to her faith in them.

Under Pravrajika Mokshaprana the expansion of Sri Sarada Math and the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission which had started in the time of Pravrajika Bharatiprana continued to spread. New centres came up in Arunachal Pradesh, Pune, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Indore, Bhuvaneswar, Haridwar, Almora and one in far off Australia. New Mission centres were opened in the rural areas of West Bengal like Burdwan, Midnapore and 24 Parganas and Siriti in Kolkata. As President, she visited all the branch centers in India giving initiation to many and spreading the message of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda. Whenever she visited a centre she created an atmosphere of a joyful festival to which the devotees looked forward each year.

Pravrajika Mokshaprana’s life was distinguished by her learning and discipline. Her articles and lectures were published in the journals of the Order. A voracious reader, she studied the scriptures as well as other books about world History and trends. She was interested in a variety of subjects such as literature, astronomy, geography and philosophy. She enjoyed discussions with the scholars and distinguished litterateurs who visited her regularly. Her compassionate heart attracted many souls from far and near. Whether tribal children of Northeast India, scholars from America or probationers of the Math, everyone received her motherly love and inspiration.
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Pravrajika Muktiprana (1915-1994)
PRAVRAJIKA MUKTIPRANA was the first General Secretary of Sri Sarada Math and the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission. Her parents were disciples of Swami Shivananda (Mahapurush Maharaj), the second president of the Ramakrishna Order. Asha (Muktiprana’s pre-monastic name) studied at a Christian Missionary School where she achieved the highest marks in every subject in each examination. When she was only sixteen years old, inspired by reading ‘Talks with Swami Vivekananda’ she cherished the dream of joining a women’s Math. She asked Swami Nirvanananda if the women’s Math mentioned by Swami Vivekananda existed. Since it had not yet been established, in 1941 she started a women’s ashram of her own. Her charming and spirited personality attracted a group of young students who lived there with her.

In 1946 Asha began to seek the company and advice of Swami Madhavananda who was the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, discussing with him the possibility of starting the women’s Math of the Ramakrishna Order. Swami Virajananda, the sixth President of the Ramakrishna Math also blessed her desire and in 1950 the Sister Nivedita Girls’ School, then affiliated with the Ramakrishna Mission became the venue for the joining of a group of dedicated women workers of the School with Asha’s Sarada Ashrama.

During Holy Mother’s Centenary celebrations in 1953-54, Asha’s abilities for management led to the success of the International Women’s Convention in which the talents of the dedicated young women workers became known to the public. When Sri Sarada Math was established in 1954, Muktiprana was appointed as the General Secretary. She held the post for forty years, setting a unique example of dedication and selfless service. She kept contact with innumerable devotees and friends in India and abroad. She was an extraordinary administrator.

She authored many articles and a few books in Bengali and English, including a chronicle of Sri Sarada Math’s history, published serially in Bengali. She saw to it that the Math would start a journal in English and one in Bengali. Her authoritative and well-researched biography of Sister Nivedita in Bengali was a pioneering work of literary acclaim.

In the daily work of the Math, and on special occasions alike, she would involve herself in every detail. She had genuine affection, sympathy and patience for everyone in the Order: junior or senior. She had the quality of untying the knots in a personality and kept a watchful eye on each member so they felt she knew them better than they knew themselves. Her life was dedicated to being free and making others free.
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Pravrajika Shraddhaprana (1918-2009)
PRAVRAJIKA SHRADDHAPRANA MATAJI was the third President of Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission. She took her office on 17th November 1999, the day of Jagaddhatri Puja.

Born in Patna in 1918 of parents Mathuranath Sinha and Sushila Sinha, she was named Lakshmi. Her father had seen Sri Ramakrishna and had met Swami Vivekananda.

She received initiation into spiritual life in 1941. Shraddhaprana Mataji is a disciple of Swami Virajananda the 6th President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Before joining the Sister Nivedita Girls’ School in 1948, she was a lecturer in the Annie Besant College, Varanasi. In Nivedita School she served as the Asst. Headmistress and Asst. Secretary till 1955 then as Headmistress till 1968 and Secretary till March 1986. In 1953 she took the vow of Bramacharya along with six others and received Sannyasa along with seven others ( the first batch of Sannyasinis of the Ramakrishna Order) from Swami Sankarananda, the then President, at Belur Math.

When Sri Sarada Math was given independent status in 1959, she became one of its trustees and in 1960 she was appointed as Assistant Secretary of Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission. She came to live in Sri Sarada Math in April 1986. After the passing away of Pravrajika Muktiprana in 1994, she was elected as the second General Secretary. She held this office till 17 November 1999.
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Pravrajika Bhaktiprana

Current President of Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission

PRAVRAJIKA BHAKTIPRANA MATAJI assumed the office of the 4th President of Sri Sarada Math & Ramakrishna Sarada Mission on 2nd April 2009.

Born in October 1920, she, (Kalyani Banerjee), had her early schooling in the Saradeswari Ashram under Gouri Ma and had her training in Nursing at the Ramakrishna Mission’s well-known Hospital in Kolkata, the Seva Pratishthan. In 1937 she was initiated by Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the 4th President of Belur Math. Then she joined the Sarada Ashram started by a few young ladies under the leadership of Asha Devi (later Pravrajika Muktiprana, the 1st General Secretary of Sri Sarada Math & Ramakrishna Sarada Mission). In 1950, when all the members of this Ashram joined the Ramakrishna Mission in preparation for the establishment of the Women's Math under the Ramakrishna Order, she was sent as a dedicated worker to the Ramakrishna Mission’s Matribhavan, a newly started Maternity Hospital.

In 1953, along with 6 other dedicated women workers of the Ramakrishna Mission, she was conferred the Brahmacharya vows by Swami Shankaranandaji Maharaj, the then President of Ramakrishna Math & Mission. In 1956 she was made Secretary of Matri Bhavan. She was in the first group of 8 Sannyasinis who were ordained into Sannyasa in December, 1958, at Belur Math by Swami.Shankaranandaji Maharaj. In 1959 she was made a Trustee of Sri Sarada Math and a Governing Body Member of Ramakrishna Sarada Mission in 1960. She was elected Vice-President (in addition to Rev.Dayapranaji) in December, 1998. She assumed the role of President of Sri Sarada Math in April, 2009, after the passing of Pravrajika Shraddhaprana Mataji.

Her motherly nature and self-effacing personality endears her to everyone. Apart from her work in the hospital she has also conducted flood, famine and other relief work in West Bengal and Orissa.