Become a Monk

FAQs on joining the Ramakrishna Order

Many youngsters when they come across the inspiring life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda, feel an urge to embrace monastic life in the Ramakrishna Order. For others, the urge to renounce the world may come as a result of their watching/listening to inspiring talks on Spiritual aspects of Hinduism. Disillusionment with worldly attainments and relationships also drive quite a few to the doors of a monastery. Then there are “Be good and Do Good” youth who are impressed by the work of the Ramakrishna Mission and want to dedicate themselves to its service activities. Whatever may be the immediate inspiration, they need to carefully consider quite a few factors before joining the Ramakrishna Order. To help such would-be monks to arrive at the right decision, here is a set of frequently asked Questions and Answers.

An order means, in this context, a group of monks living together and having a common allegiance. The Ramakrishna Order is a well-defined body of monks which owes its origin to Sri Ramakrishna and his eminent disciples, the foremost of whom was Swami Vivekananda. Mention must be made here of Sri Sarada Devi, whose spiritual stature was equal to that of Sri Ramakrishna and who guided the Order with motherly love and spiritual ministration for more than three decades since its inception. She is called the Holy Mother of the Order. Ramakrishna Order means, for all practical purposes, two registered organizations – ‘Ramakrishna Math’ and ‘Ramakrishna Mission’, with their common Headquarters at Belur Math and more than 200 branches worldwide. To know more about the history, ideal and activities of these twin organizations. please visit our Headquarters website (www.belurmath.org)
It means to leave behind one’s family and friends, profession and attainments, all worldly interests, pleasures and concerns, and embrace the monastic life. The person will henceforth live in a monastery of the Ramakrishna Order, usually known as Math or Ashrama, devoting his life exclusively to spiritual pursuits and selfless service. In course of his monastic life he has to take up vows of Brahmacharya (celibacy) and Sannyasa (monkhood) which will be the cornerstone of his monastic life. The Ramakrishna Order is a well-defined body of monks which owes its origin to Sri Ramakrishna and his eminent disciples headed by Swami Vivekananda.
Interested young men within the age-group 18 to 30 (or 36 in case of Westerners) who are at least graduates, are eligible to join the Ramakrishna Order. The actual age limit, however, depends on the educational qualification of the candidate. For more details one may write to the nearest branch center of Ramakrishna Order.
The Ramakrishna Order is a monastic organization for men only. For women there is a parallel organization known as Sri Sarada Math which follows the same ideals as ours. Interested women may directly contact the Sarada Math at any of its branch centers or its headquarters in Dakshineshwar, Kolkata.
We are sorry! Only unmarried men are allowed to join the Ramakrishna Order. A person who was married but now divorced is not eligible either. But you are welcome to get associated with us as a devotee or volunteer. Please contact the head of our branch centre nearer to the place of your stay.
It is strongly recommended that you continue your studies and finish the course which you have started. You may join the Order soon after that. Let not your studies be the first casualty of your spirit of renunciation! Until the completion of your studies, you may keep in touch with any of our branches and serve as a volunteer in your free time there.
Here are a few reasons: (a) Embracing monastic life is a bold and far-reaching decision which needs maturity on the part of the aspirant. Formal education, apart from everything else, usually helps to develop this maturity. (b) The monks of Ramakrishna Order need to run schools, colleges, hospitals and many other institutions serving people in various ways. Such activities need educational background. (c) Spiritual studies for one’s own spiritual development and preaching for the sake of spiritual development of others is a part and parcel of monastic life. These necessitate a sound educational background.
A good health is important for joining, since a monk is expected to serve others rather than to be served by others. As part of the joining procedure, candidates, therefore, need to compulsorily undergo a thorough medical test to prove their fitness. Persons with chronic and debilitating illness (physical or mental) are not allowed to join the Order, lest they should fail to bear the hardship of monastic life and become liabilities to the Order.
Candidates, in general, are expected to have finished their formal education before entering the monastery.
It is not advisable for you to join immediately. Please make time to read at least a few important books of Ramakrishna–Vivekananda literature. Our list of recommended books is given below. On Sri Ramakrishna : Sri Ramakrishna: A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda Note: The most authentic and comprehensive biography on Sri Ramakrishna is Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga, written in Bengali by one of his monastic disciples, Swami Sardananda, and translated into English (by Swami Chetanananda) under the title Sri Ramakrishna: His Divine Play. As Lilaprasanga (or its translation) is a voluminous book, with more than a thousand pages, we have recommended, Sri Ramakrishna: A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda. This is a good book giving biographical details in about 300 pages. After joining the Order, the candidates should read the Lilaprasanga either in original or its translation. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Mahendra Nath Gupta Note: This is a translation of the Bengali original: Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita. Available in Hindi and other Indian languages. On Sri Sarada Devi : Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi by Swami Gambhirananda, or Sri Sarada Devi – The Holy Mother by Swami Tapasyananda On Swami Vivekananda : The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples (in 2 vols.), or Yuganayak Vivekananda by Swami Gambhirananda (in 3 vols.) (Originally written in Bengali. Available also in Hindi and other Indian languages) Note: These two books mentioned above are the most comprehensive and authentic biographies of Swami Vivekananda published by our Order and hence, they are our first recommendation. Before his passing away, Sri Ramakrishna revealed his ideas about the future Order to Swami Vivekananda. Making him the leader of his other monastic disciples, he entrusted Swami Vivekananda with the responsibility of giving his ideas a concrete shape in the form of this Order so that his great ideals might live through this Order for posterity. Also, time and again it was proved to Sri Ramakrishna’s disciples, during his lifetime as well as in later years, that it was Swami Vivekananda who could rightly understand the significance of Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings more than anybody else. Therefore, to understand the uniqueness of Sri Ramakrishna as well as this Order, one must first study the life and works of Swami Vivekananda thoroughly. But in case one finds the above books too large, one can start with a shorter biography noted below: Swami Vivekananda : A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda On monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna : God Lived With Them (By Swami Chetanananda), or Sri Ramakrishna-Bhaktamalika by Swami Gambhirananda (in 2 vols.) (Originally written in Bengali. Available also in English, Hindi and other major Indian languages) Note: Besides Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna had fifteen monastic disciples. They also contributed greatly to the formation of the Order under the leadership of Swami Vivekananda, and later, after Vivekananda’s passing away, in its growth for more than thirty years. So if you can go through the lives of at least a few of them (viz. Swami Brahmananda, Swami Shivananda, Swami Saradananda, Swami Akhandananda, Swami Premananda and Swami Ramakrishnananda) you will have a better idea about what monastic life really means in our Order. We, therefore, recommend one of the two books mentioned above. Spiritual instructions : A Guide to Spiritual Life by Swami Brahmananda For seekers of God by Swami Shivananda Towards the Goal Supreme by Swami Virajananda (All these titles are available in Bengali, Hindi and other Indian languages) Selected lectures and books of Swami Vivekananda : Lectures from Colombo to Almora Letters of Swami Vivekananda Karma Yoga Bhakti Yoga Jnana Yoga (All these titles are available in Bengali, Hindi and other Indian languages) About monasticism in general and Ramakrishna Order in particular : The Glory of Monastic Life : By Swami Bhajanananda Monasticism ‒ Ideal and Traditions : A Vedanta Kesari Presentation Note: Please know that only a few basic books are listed on this page. Studying these books will give you a good idea of the life you are going to embrace. After joining the Order, you will have full exposure to our literature which is pretty vast and multifarious. Swami Vivekananda said that a monastic order goes downward without the cultivation of learning. Our monks try to follow these words of Swamiji to the best of their ability. Please visit our websites and to buy the books listed above.
That is not an issue. Ramakrishna Order is open for people of all religions, nationalities and ethnic groups. It is but necessary to accept Sri Ramakrishna as a divine incarnation and believe his grace to be of supreme importance in one’s spiritual well-being and spiritual goal.
You are welcome! If you have respectful regard for Sri Ramakrishna and his teachings and are convinced that he is the embodiment of all gods and goddesses, you can join the Order.
Yes, you can join the Order provided you are willing to broaden your idea of service. Our organization is not just another NGO engaged in social service. Spirituality is the basis, guiding force and also the ultimate aim of this organization. Our monks consider service activities as another form of their spiritual discipline. So, this spiritual outlook (and not just a compassionate heart or patriotic spirit) is indispensable to be a part of the Order.
You have to contact our authorities and freely discuss the matter if you feel it is going to affect your future life. The authorities will guide you further.
Only in rare cases do parents encourage their son to become a monk. But most candidates need to face the opposition and even wrath of their parents for cherishing monastic aspiration. A son with monastic inclination need to explain his stand to parents and try to win them over. He should also make, as far as possible, suitable arrangements to at least take care of their basic needs for the rest of their lives.
Monks by definition can’t own personal properties. You need to dispose of your movable and immovable assets, including bank accounts, before joining or immediately after that.
A monk is required to dissociate himself from all of his pre-monastic life. Since this is something that can’t be achieved overnight, the spirit of detachment is to be cultivated by tapering off all worldly relationships. During the initial years, a novice is allowed to talk to his parents occasionally and inquire about their well-being.
No salary is paid to monks. Monastic life is not like working at a job in expectation of salary. Here you give, voluntarily and entirely, your body and mind, your talents and capacities without expecting any material gain.
The Order will take care of you and support you in every way. There is no need to worry on that account.
The members of the Order usually wear a kurta-like shirt (loose & collarless), dhoti (cloth tied around waist extending up to the feet) and uttariya (cloth wrapped around the upper part). The colour of these garments would be either white (in case of novices or Brahmacharins) or ochre/gerua (in case of Sannyasins).
It will take a minimum of nine years. This is the period allowed for a candidate to prepare himself to receive the final monastic vows. Seeing his life and conduct the authorities will take the ultimate decision regarding his sannyasa.
For the rest of your life, you will immerse yourself in japa, meditation, prayer, worship, chanting of hymns, singing of bhajans, study of sacred literature, work and other spiritual practices. Some of these you will do on your own, while others, in the company of monastic brothers in the ashrama. The nature, time and duration of work will be decided by the authorities and will have to be diligently followed with a worshipful outlook. Through all these, you will strive to grow in the qualities of a Sadhu (monk) such as purity, devotion, detachment, unselfishness, truthfulness and Brahmacharya (celibacy), which are essential to realize God.
The fundamental spiritual practices will be told to the aspirant by his Guru during his Initiation. He has to himself practise and struggle for spiritual perfection. In case of need, guidance by senior sadhus will always be available.
The essence of spiritual life in the Ramakrishna Order is love and devotion to the spiritual ideal which is Sri Ramakrishna, and worshipful service to Him. The combination of the four yoga’s- Jnana (Knowledge), Bhakti (Devotion), Karma (Detached work) and Raja (Meditative Practices) yoga- find ample expression in this ideal. Pursuing any one yoga to the exclusion of others is not encouraged in our Order.
Yes, a number of opportunities are available in the Order to study Vedantic scriptures such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita etc. Every novice, after about three years of joining, is made to undergo a two-year rigorous course at our seminary – the Probationers’ Training Center (TC for short) in Belur Math – where a number of subjects are taught.
With the exception of a few, all our branches admit novices.
Belur Math is the heart of the Ramakrishna Order where the central monastery is located. Because of its sacred associations, some wish to begin their monastic life here. For such people, there is the Pre-Probationers’ Training Center (PPTC) in Belur Math. After keeping the new entrants in PPTC for six to twelve months, they are posted to different branch centers.
Not all Ashramas bearing the name of Sri Ramakrishna or Swami Vivekananda are our branches. So please check if the particular Ashrama you are referring to is a recognized branch of ours. The list of our official branches can be had from our website https://belurmath.org/branch-centres.
You may join the Order at that center and continue there for about three years at the most. After that, it is up to the Belur Math Headquarters to decide your place of stay and work.
You may or may not. The authorities at the Headquarters decide on whom to send to foreign countries, and they do so after considering a number of factors. It is best to join the Order in a spirit of self-surrender to the Lord giving up expectations.
Yes, you can quit at any point in your monastic life. People enter this life of their own accord and can also step out of their own accord. No legal obligations on either side!
This is a matter which you alone have to decide. Study your own mind to understand where your real interest lies. You many consult wise people and seek their advice in the matter, but the final decision should come from within YOU.