Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar



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Fast Facts
Prabhat_Ranjan_Sarkar.jpg
Function: 
Guru
Traditions: 
Ananda Marga, Tantra Yoga
Main Countries of Activity: 
India
Date of Birth: 
May 21, 1921
Place of Birth: 
Jamalpur, Bihar, India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
October 21, 1990

Biography

Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (May 21, 1921 – October 21, 1990), also known by his spiritual name, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, was an Indian philosopher, author, social revolutionary, poet, composer and linguist. Sarkar was the founder of Ananda Marga (the Path of Bliss), a spiritual and social organization that offers instruction in meditation, yoga and other self-development practices on a non-commercial basis, as well as a variety of social programs such as preschools in disadvantaged areas, disaster relief teams, and other activities. Sarkar was affectionately referred to as Baba by his disciples. He was a prolific author and produced an extensive body of work that includes theories aimed at increasing human welfare such as the Law of the Social Cycle, the Progressive utilization theory, the Theory of Microvitum as well as the philosophy of Neohumanism. His organization, Ananda Marga, began in India in 1955 and by the mid 1970s had become a worldwide operation that continued after his death in 1990 and is still active today.

Early life

The polymath P. R. Sarkar was born on the full moon day, on 21 May, 1921, in the small town of Jamalpur, Bihar, India. He was known as an exceptionally bright child in his youth, practicing meditation by himself at an early age and displaying great knowledge of various languages and other topics.

In 1939 Sarkar left Jamalpur for Calcutta to attend Vidyasagar College of the University of Calcutta. It was here that in the dark of night Sarkar initiated a notorious criminal by the name of Kalicharan and helped to reform his life. He had to quit studies in order to support his family after the death of his father and took up the work as an accountant at the Railways headquarters in his hometown of Jamalpur for the next sixteen years of his life while continuing to teach many the spiritual practices of Tantra Yoga.

Ananda Marga

In 1955, at the behest of his followers, Sarkar founded Ánanda Márga ("The Path of Bliss" in Sanskrit), a socio-spiritual organization with a two-part mission that Sarkar stated as "self-realization and service to all." Sarkar's ideas are collected in the series of books called “Subháśita Samgraha” which form the scriptures of Ananda Marga ideology. The books expound in simple, lucid and rational ways, many important aspects of Bhágavata Dharma or the Divine Nature of human beings. While interpreting the various spiritual ideas, he has discussed and quoted relevant portions from other scriptures such as the Rámáyańa, the Mahábhárata, the Bhagavad Giita, the Quran, Tantra, Yoga, Vedanta, etc. to illustrate various aspects of Dharma and philosophy. Sarkar's ideas are steeped in the ancient spiritual tradition of India, revitalized by him with new meaning.

Shrii Shrii Ánandamurti (meaning "Bliss personified") as he was called by his early disciples oversaw the formation of the order of monks and nuns who came forward to dedicate their lives to the practice of meditation and service and who were able to teach the same to others across India and abroad. Shrii Shrii Anandamurti continued his job in Jamalpur to support his family as the main breadwinner after his father's demise until 1966, when he finally assumed the role of president of Ananda Marga full time. During the latter part of his life his main residence was in Lake Gardens in Kolkata, West Bengal. He also spent much time, especially early on, in the development community he founded based on his PROUT socio-economic theory at Ananda Nagar, in rural West Bengal.

Ananda Marga opened a regional office in the USA in 1969, and by 1973 had established approximately 100 local centers teaching yogic and social philosophies, with several thousand members, some living communally in the ashrams.

Later part of Sarkar's life

During the imprisonment of Sarkar, shown later to be unjust by the courts overturning his conviction, his organisation spread all over the world carrying Sarkar's message of "self-realization and service."

Subsequent to his release from prison, Sarkar was in poor health after his fast for 5 1/2 years, but remained active in promoting his mission, giving discourses on a wide range of topics including spiritual and social philology, agriculture, Neohumanism, Microvita. He composed 5018 songs he described as a new school of music called Prabhata Samgiita.

In late 1978 and 1979, he travelled on a world tour to meet disciples in various countries around the world, including Switzerland, Germany, France, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Thailand, Taiwan, Jamaica and Venezuela. He was banned from entering the USA by the State Department, resulting from his problems with the government of India, and instead met his American disciples in Jamaica in 1979.

Works

Although Sarkar spent only seventeen years of his life working full-time for his organizations (1966-1971 & 1978-1990), he left behind a vast legacy, including over 250 books written on a wide variety of topics.

He is primarily known as the spiritual teacher behind Ananda Marga, but Sarkar wrote over 1500 pages on his economic PROUT theory, with several thousand more pages dedicated to linguistics and the study of languages, including but not limited to Shabda Cayanika ("A Collection of Words"), an unfinished, twenty-six volume dictated encyclopedia on the SanskrIta language. Beyond this he wrote books on sociology, agriculture, history, literature, education, medicine, cosmology, and philosophy, also notably inventing the philosophy of Neohumanism in 1982 and the Theory of Microvita in 1986.

But perhaps more than all this, his most dramatic achievement was his Prabhat Sangeet (Songs of the New Dawn). Having started composing songs in 1982, Sarkar completed the composition of 5018 songs in multiple languages by the time of his passing only eight years later.

The yogi Kalikananda was Sarkar's first disciple. As a young man he had taken to criminality. After confronting Sarkar in a remote area with the aim to rob him he was instead attracted to the path of bliss by Sarkar.[14] One of Sarkar's best known disciples is Ravi Batra, an internationally recognised economist and best selling author living and teaching in Dallas, Texas. In his works, Batra has relied heavily on Sarkar's Social Cycle Theory and PROUT, a theory of sustainable and equitable economics. Another noted disciple is futurist Sohail Inayatullah, who has become a major interpreter of Sarkar's work. Other disciples include the many nuns and monks of Ananda Marga who propagate his teaching throughout the world.

Teachings

Spiritual Philosophy

Sarkar's teachings on spiritual philosophy have influenced modern ascetic movements in Hindu India. His system of spiritual practice has been described as a synthesis of Vedic and Tantric philosophies. [5] Sarkar's concept of "karma samnyasa" refers to the principle that a yogi become a person with a balanced mind, that he called a "sadvipra"; and that this is accomplished by remaining fixed on the "supreme" through transformative personal practices and engaging in the politics of social liberation as a form of service work.

Cosmology

Sarkar describes the universe as like a dream in the Cosmic Mind; everything is created out of the ectoplasm or mind stuff of the cosmic mind. Microvita is the initial stage in the creation of matter, forming the constituent parts of atomic particles, while "idea" is the constituent substance of microvita.

Microvitum is Sarkar's hypothesis of the nexus of consciousness and life, proposed by Sarkar as a unified field philosophy that attempts to explain the origin and development of life, integral to Sarkar's theory of living beings advancing through stages of reflective consciousness. The concept of microvita attempts to explain phenomena such as how life travels through the universe faster than the speed of light, how a single cell can replicate into a complex organism, how ideation on the supreme being attracts positive microvita for improved health, or how a genius acquires superconscious skills. The word "microvitum" means "small or microscopic life form". Microvita is a spiritual concept not based in the scientific method, and as such are said to be so small that they cannot be observed experimentally.

According to Sarkar, modern, science-based medicine causes negative microvita to be concentrated at the central point of the disease, and the concentration of negative microvita may overcome the effect of the medication. This concentration effect supposedly creates new diseases, on the order of two to three per decade. The spiritual practices are said to increase positive microvita to kill the negative microvita. Sarkar claims that medicine is currently declining in importance, and only the application of microvita theory can improve the development of new medications.

Social and Political Philosophy

Social cycle theory

The concept of Varna, whereby human psychological and physical endowment and motivation is expressed in terms of four main types: the Vipra (intellectual), Kshatriya (warrior), Vaishya (acquisitor) and Shudra (laborer). Varna, in Sarkar's perspective, however is more than just a psychological type but rather approximates Michel Foucault's notion of epistemes. These are broader frameworks of knowledge which define what is true and real.

Sarkar's "Law of the Social Cycle" applies these traits in a theory of historical evolution, where ages rise and fall in terms of ruling elites representing one of the above mentioned traits. This "law" possibly connects to the earlier cyclical historical ideas of Sri Aurobindo as well as Ibn Khaldun, among other macrohistorians. However, along with a cyclical dimension - the rise and fall of ages - Sarkar's theory exhibits a linear dimension, in that economic and technological "progress" are considered critical in terms of meeting the changing material conditions of life. Ultimately though, for Sarkar, progress is spiritual.

Spirituality for Sarkar is defined as the individual realizing the true self. In addition to yogic meditational practices and purity of thought and deed, Sarkar attached great importance to social service as a means of liberation. Sarkar considered it necessary for the social arrangements to support the inner development of human beings and rejected both capitalism and communism as appropriate social structures for humanity to move forward to the golden age of a spiritual way of life. A serious problem with capitalism was according to Sarkar the concentration of wealth in a few hands and stoppages in the rolling of money which he considered root causes of recessions, even depressions.[8]. A spiritual way of life, however, would not be divorced from creating structures that helped meet the basic, though ever changing, needs - housing, food, health and education.

Sarkar claims to have developed Ananda Marga and progressive utilization theory as practical means to encourage harmony and cooperation in order to help society escape this proposed cycle. Sarkar argues that once the social cycle is undertstood than the periods of exploitation can be reduced if not eliminated. With leadership that is representative of all aspects of the varnas - that is, the leader who can serve, who is courageous, who uses the intellect for the benefits of others, and who has innovative/entrepeurial skills - the cycle can become a spiral.

PROUT: Progressive Utilization Theory

In 1959, Sarkar propounded the Progressive Utilization Theory, a socio-economic theory based on the cardinal values of Neohumanism. The theory or PROUT rejects both the systems of capitalism and communisim, with a focus on maximum utilization of all resources and fair distribution of wealth, based on cooperatively managed business enterprises and industry.[10] In 1968, Sarkar founded the organization "Proutist Block of India" (PBI), to further the ideals of his theory through political and social action.[11] Neo-Humanism is an over-reaching philosophy that aims for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of not only humans, but also of plants and animals. Sarkar created PROUT, then, as the practical means to establish Neo-Humanism in communities and nations around the world.

Sarkar's PROUT sought to stimulate the self-sufficiency of the poor, and placed immense importance on the moral responsibility that leaders and the successful have to the whole society. Emphasising the need for economic democracy, PROUT also advocated limits on the accumulation of wealth. These points, along with many others, resulted in ongoing opposition of PROUT from both Capitalists and Communists in India as well as abroad.

Neohumanism

Neohumanism is a theory based on "spirituality, mental expansion, ecology and social change" introduced by Sarkar in his book Liberation of Intellect - Neohumanism. It is a theory about human nature and the way for individuals and society to seek the development of their full potential. It is a holistic philosophy that addresses the goal of life, the function of society, and many other aspects of human life.

The base of Neohumanism, as explained by P. R. Sarkar, is universal love. This view states that the love of the human heart should embrace everything, including all living beings as well as the inanimate world. It promotes a vision of humanity as intimately linked with the fabric of the universe. Sarkar placed great importance on the need for human beings to respect and protect their living and non-living bio-community. The existential rights of animals, the preservation of species and practice of vegetarianism was thus encouraged and considered an important ingredient in a sentient lifestyle.

Neohumanism talks about two principles that guide people predominantly: "Principle of Selfish Pleasure" and the "Principle of Social Equality". Recognizing social equality leads to the practice of goodwill and service towards others as life principles, as well as the acceptance of the inter-relatedness of all life and the responsible role that human beings play in the universal structure. Contrarily, the Principle of Selfish Pleasure is where one pursues one's own pleasure and success in life regardless of how one's actions affect others. The philosophy encourages what it calls "true human culture" that promotes social equality, contrasting it with "pseudo-culture" (specifically associated with consumer culture) that promotes selfish pleasure.

The philosophy calls for liberating the intellect from dogmatic and limiting views through "awakened conscience", defined as a mental process of applying rational thought and study under the principle of social equality. Areas of rational knowledge are delineated into those topics worth pursuing and those that should be avoided. This distinction is made by comparison with one's conscience, determining whether or not an area of study is "for the benevolent welfare of all". Neohumanism is about the continuous expansion of our identity, moving away from narrow categories (nation or ethnicity) toward broader categories (planet). Neo-humanism takes continued inner and external effort. Sarkar developed extensive pedagogical practices and methods to help in the development of a neo-humanistic culture.

Principled Stand

From Ananda Marga’s inception, the movement stood for universalism and opposition to irrational practices sucha as castism. Ananda Marga had to face opposition from conservative Hindu circles and as well the Communist movement in West Bengal.

Sarkar's PROUT theory, although first propounded in 1959, began to popularize in the mid-1960s. When this happened, PROUT was a new spiritual and social theory in the face of the Communist Party (Marxist), a political party that held sway in West Bengal at the time.

In 1971, some of Ananda Marga's members were attacked and killed, possibly by Marxist mobs, but Sarkar was charged with responsibility for their deaths. He was arrested and put in jail on charges of abetment to murder. Kept in jail for several years under poor conditions, Sarkar maintained his innocence all the while. His followers, meanwhile, claimed that he was only imprisoned for his spiritual and social teachings.

From the beginning of his imprisonment, Sarkar complained of the alleged torture of several of his monks, but on February 12, 1973, Sarkar himself became the target of an assassination attempt, surviving a massive poisoning by the prison doctor.

Sarkar demanded a proper judicial inquiry into the incident but was refused. Seeing no alternative, Sarkar started a long protest fast. Subsisting on a glass of buttermilk a day, Sarkar fasted from April 1, 1973 for the next five and a half years until his ultimate release from prison in 1978 after he was granted a re-trial by the new Government. He was found innocent on all counts. It was only until he was released on August 3, 1978, that Sarkar broke his fast.