Main Modern Hindu Movements and Spiritual Leaders
The Ananda Marga Yoga Society was founded in 1955 by Prabhat Rarjar Sarkar (1921-1990) in the state of Bihar, India. Ananda Marga, as it is commonly called, conceives of itself as “an international socio spiritual movement involved in the twin pursuit of self-realization and service to all creation”. Sarkar better known as Sri Sri Anandamurti is often referred to by his followers as “Baba” (father). Ananda Marga practices Tantra Yoga, meditation and active engagement in social service toward the goal of realizing a more humane and just world.
Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayananda Sarasvati in 1875 as a radical reform movement. Dayananda wanted to halt the Christian missionary onslaught and return to the Vedic tradition. He therefore sought to purge Hinduism of what he considered later additions, such as image worship, pilgrimage and ritual bathing. Although emphasizing the Vedic tradition, Dayananda also wanted to modernize Hinduism and re-absorb Hindus who had converted to Islam and Christianity. The followers of Arya Samaj agree to follow its “Ten Principles”, worship largely through havan or the sacred fire ceremony and recitation of the Gayatri mantra.
The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Unviversity (BKWSU) was founded in the late 1930’s by Lekhraj Khubchand Kirpalani (1877-1969) in Karachi (now Pakistan). He was a wealthy diamond merchant and devout Hindu who later took the spiritual name Pajapita Brahma. The Raja Yoga embraced by the Brahma Kumaris does not involve any mantras, special postures or breathing techniques. It is usually practiced in a sitting position with the eyes open facing a picture of red and orange rays emanating from a center of light. Meditators are encouraged to focus on a “third eye” behind the forehead, the objective being to practice “soul consciousness” recognizing the self not as body but as a soul.
The Brahmo Sabha was founded in 1828 by Rama Mohan Roy and in 1843 was restructured and renamed Brahmo Samaj by Devendranatha Tagore, father of the well known poet Rabindranatha Tagore. Rama Mohan was extremely learned and strongly influenced by Christianity. He disagreed with the doctrine of reincarnation and fought to abolish certain traditional practices, some of which had been grossly misused like: caste, polygamy, image worship, sati and child marriage. Devendranatha Tagore was greatly influenced by the western philosophy of Locke and Hume.
The Chinmayananda Mission was founded by followers of Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993) in 1953 in India. Their teachings are based on Advaitic Vedanta.
The Divine Life Society was founded by Shivananda Sarasvati Maharaja (1887-1963) and its philosophy and ritual practice are rooted in Hinduism’s Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga paths.