Orange-robed monks of the Ramakrishna Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, in Fiji provide healthcare, education and spiritual guidance not just to those of Indian origin but anybody in need in the South Pacific archipelago nation. The Fiji branch of the Ramakrishna Mission, set up in 1937, was conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman at the just-concluded diaspora meet.
Swami Tadananda, secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission at Nadi in Fiji, was in the capital to receive the award from President Pranab Mukherjee last week.
“The award is in recognition for the services we have done,” Swami Tadananda told IANS.
The mission was honoured with the PBD Samman for community service and philanthropic activities and enhancing India’s prestige abroad. It has actively participated in relief and rehabilitation efforts during floods and natural calamities in Fiji.
The Ramakrishna Mission in Nadi, a major tourist town, is the headquarters of the non-profit service organization in Fiji. It also runs a Swami Vivekananda College in Nadi, a Vivekananda Technical Centre in Nadi and a Ramakrishna Mission Primary School in Tailevu, one of the provinces of Fiji.
According to the website – wwwrkmfiji.org – the headquarters administers the activities of the mission that include conducting “regular worship, scriptural classes, meditation, spiritual counselling; promotion of moral, ethical and spiritual culture and harmony of religions where all religions are accepted as various paths to the same god who is called by different names, and distribution of food rations to poor and needy families”.
“God exists in everyone and our duty is to serve humankind, irrespective of the religion they follow,” said Swami Tadananda.
Do many people besides those of Indian origin frequent the mission?
“We don’t measure our work by the number of people who attend our classes. Our service is to reach out to all the regions (of Fiji),” he said.
The mission uses telemedicine to provide healthcare in many of the green cocounut palm-fringed islands that form the archipelago of over 300 islands, of which 110 are inhabited. The mission also has a Facebook page.
“In Fiji, we use telemedicine; otherwise it is difficult as everything is far off,” Swami Tadananda said, adding the mission has good relations with Australia and New Zealand.
Where did his forefathers come from? Does he want to trace his roots in India?
“Our roots are to god,” the swami said simply.
Prodded a little more, he said probably his ancestors came from either Uttar Pradesh or Bihar.
He would be visiting the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission in Belur Math in West Bengal that was set up by Swami Vivekananda, the main disciple of the mystic Ramakrishna Paramhansa, in 1897.
He would also visit the Delhi branch in Paharganj, he said.
“The Ramakrishna Mission fills you with a great sense of peace, and especially with all the running around that people do,” said the swami, conveying the tranquillity that the organisations bring to many people.
Around 38 percent of Fiji’s population comprises people of Indian origin – those who are descendants of indentured labour who came to the country in the 19th century to work in the sugarcane fields or of immigrants who arrived in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Ramakrishna Mission in India is always in the forefront of relief work in times of disaster and need, providing clothing, food, tents, medicine etc, to those affected. During last June’s Uttarakhand flood tragedy, the mission people contributed its mite to the relief effort. In India, it runs several educational institutions and also works among tribal and rural people.