Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar founded the Ánanda Márga Pracáraka Saḿgha (more commonly known as "Ananda Marga" or, less frequently, "Ananda Marg" or "Anand Marg") on 5 January 1955. The literal translation into English is "the Organization to Propagate the Path of Bliss." The stated aims of the organization are "liberation of self and service to humanity". In March of the same year, the first group of acharyas was created in Jamalpur.
During the 1960s, the organisation expanded rapidly in India, sending Acharyas as missionaries to other continents. Ananda Marga's popularity in India put it in direct confrontation with the Communist Party in West Bengal. In 1967, Ananda Marga headquarters came under attack by locals who were allegedly incited by Communist leaders. Criticism of corruption in Indian government by acaryas of Ananda Marga also put it in confrontation with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
P.R. Sarkar died on 21 October 1990. Acarya Shraddhananda Avadhuta was elected from the body of purodhas as President of Ananda Marga Pracharaka Samgha global organization and Purodha Pramukha.
Tantra yoga, as interpreted by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, is the practical philosophy which serves as foundation of Ananda Marga. According to P.R. Sarkar's teachings Tantra means liberation from darkness, the root tan meaning darkness, and tra liberation.
Meditation is the main spiritual practice of this tantric tradition, and through it the practitioner struggles to overcome weaknesses and imperfections. The basis of Ananda Marga practice is covered by a set of rules called the 'Sixteen Points' that guide the practitioner on both spiritual and social aspects.
Anandamurti expounded these principles in Ānanda Sūtram a text composed in Sanskrit in 1961.
In the tantric tradition of Ananda Marga the spiritual aspirant (sadhaka) practices sadhana. Sadhana (a Sanskrit word) signifies the effort through which a person becomes completely realized. In Tantra the spiritual master, the guru, plays a special role. The guru guides and leads students on the spiritual path. The aspirant learns meditation by a qualified acarya. An acarya is most commonly a monk or nun, but in the Ananda Marga tradition there are also "family acaryas". In the initiation the aspirant makes a commitment to practice meditation and to live in harmony with the universal balance, and is then taught the technique itself. The aspirant is then required to keep the individual lessons personal. In addition, he also taught Kapalika meditation to many sanyásins. His system of yoga can be termed as Rájadhirája Yoga, Tantra Yoga, or simply Ánanda Márga Yoga. The basic Ánanda Márga meditation system is called Sahaja Yoga ('simple yoga'). The sahaja system consists of 6 meditation techniques or lessons taught one by one, on a personal basis. There is also a set of higher meditation lessons taught to advanced practitioners committed to dedicate more time for spiritual practices and universal service.
According to the Ananda Marga system the Lalita Marmika dance is performed, particularly during the collective meditation. This yogic dance with swaying movements, combined with a kirtan (the chanting of the universal mantra), is regarded as useful in freeing the mind and preparing it for meditation. Ananda Marga system recommends to its members the practice of collective meditation at least once a week. These meetings called Dharma Chakras (weekly held in a place called Dhyan Mandir) are preceded by the singing of few Prabhat Samgiita ("Songs of the New Dawn" composed by the Ananda Marga founder) followed by the spiritual dance of Lalita Marmika along with the singing of [[:Media:|kiirtan]] and by the practice of meditation. Before meditation the Samgacchadvam mantra is chanted. At the end of meditation the Nityam Shuddham and the Guru Puja mantras are recited.
The basic practices of Ananda Marga consist of yoga asanas, mudras, bandhas, pranayama, self-massage and two specific dances, kaos'ikii and tandava. Lacto-vegetarian diet and fasting are also included, as a fundamental part of yogic practice.Diet and fasting: Lacto-vegetarian diet of Ananda Marga avoids meat, fish, eggs and some substances which are claimed to have a negative effect on the mind, particularly if "mucus-producing." Moreover, on specific monthly dates called Ekadashi (Sanskrit: একাদশী, ekādaśī: is the eleventh day after the full moon or after the new moon), the regular practice of Upavasa (yoga fasting) is recommended to improve health and strengthen the mind.
Yoga asanas, mudras and bandhas: comprises 42 asanas which were chosen by Sarkar. There are mainly two types of asana: svasthyasanas and dhyanasanas. They should be performed at least once a day. 15 Yoga mudras and bandhas are also part of the basic Ananda Marga yoga.
Yogic treatments: in 1957 Sarkar published in Bengali Yaogika Cikitsa o Dravyaguna, which was translated into English and published in 1983, with revisions under the title Yogic Treatments and Natural Remedies. In this handbook, he gave indications on yogic treatments using ásanas and mudrás combined with claims about natural and traditional remedies for about forty diseases. The book also contains many tips for maintaining good health through the use of water, clay, etc.
Kaoshikii: the 'dance for mental expansion', was defined by Sarkar a 'physico-psycho-spiritual dannce,' performed by all, and consists of 18 mudras aligning with 6 physical postures, each associated with a specific idea while strengthening body and mind and making them flexible.
Tandava or Tāṇḍava: is a vigorous dance. The name tandava is derived from the Sanskrit word tandu, which means 'to jump'. This dance is only performed by male followers in Ananda Marga. The dance is performed to imbue the practitioner's mind with courage and honour, dispelling all sorts of complexes and fear, even fear of death itself.
The philosophy of Ananda Marga is a synthetic outlook, recognizing a 'Supreme Consciousness', which is claimed to be both transcendental and manifested in all. It covers both the spiritual and the social combining the two in a unique synthesis of universal vision. To this end Ananda Marga suggests a practical, rational, and systematic way of life for the balanced development of all human potentialities: physical, psychic and spiritual. This system incorporate practices that range from hygiene and diet, yoga postures, to a scientific technique of meditation based on moral rules and directed to the inner fulfillment. It recognizes that a balance is needed between the spiritual and mundane aspects of existence, and that neither one should be neglected at the expense of the other. Hence, the goal of Ananda Marga is "self-realization and the welfare of all".
The spiritual philosophy of Ananda Marga covers a vast range of topics and can be learned from P.R. Sarkar's publications. Ananda Marga philosophy recognizes that the universe is the creation of the mental thought waves of the 'Supreme consciousness'. The following is a brief list of the essential elements of Ananda Marga Spiritual Philosophy:Atma or Soul and Paramatma or the Cosmic Consciousness: the Consciousness (Purusa) is reflected in the unit objects forming the "unit consciousness" (atma) or soul. Particularly the reflection of the soul on the mind is called jiivatma and in that case the "reflector-soul" is called Paramatma (Supreme Soul).
Realms of the Mind: according to Ananda Marga philosophy the human mind is composed of five layers called Kosas: 1)Kamamaya Kosa ("desire layer") or "Crude Mind": is the crudest layer, purified through adherence to the yogic code of morality, Yama-Niyama. 2)Manomaya Kosa ("layer of thinking") or "Subtle Mind": is the layer of thought and memory. 3)Atimanasa Kosa or "Supramental Mind": is the intuitive layer. 4)Vijinanamaya Kosa ("layer of the special knowledge") or "Subliminal Mind": is the layer of conscience or discrimination (viveka) and vaeragya (non-attachment). 5)Hiranyamaya Kosa ("golden level") or "Subtle Causal Mind": is the subtlest layer. Here the awareness of mind is very close to the direct experience of "Supreme Consciousness".
Microvita theory: Microvita is plural for Micro-vitum and literally means "micro-life". The concept was first introduced in 1986 through a series of lectures by P.R. Sarkar. According to this notion, microvita are entities which come within the realms both of physicality of psychic expression. They are smaller and subtler than physical atoms and subatomic particles. So far as physicality is concerned, the position of these microvita is just between ectoplasm and electron, but they are neither ectoplasm nor electron. The author predicted that they would be recognized by conventional science when it is developed much further.
The social outlook of Ananda Marga recognizes that the welfare of the individual is linked with the welfare of the collective, each relying on the other for its existence and dynamism. According to this philosophy everyone has the right to equal opportunities of life and development and as such there should be no discrimination on the basis of superficial barriers such as race, nationality and religion. Ananda Marga advocates a world of justice, security and peace for all. The Social Philosophy of Ananda Marga can be categorized under the topics:Neohumanism: in 1982, Sarkar extended his writings on the subject of human society with the introduction of his new theory of "Neohumanism". While humanism extends the recognition of equal rights to all humans, yet tends to anthropocentric worldview, neohumanism, according to Sarkar's theory, is instead the elevation of humanism to universalism, thus expanding an inclusive spirit of welfare to all living beings and the created world.
Education: according to the Ananda Marga system "Education is for Liberation." Education means the simultaneous development in the physical, mental and spiritual realms of human existence. By this, dormant human potentialities will be awakened and put to proper use. Sarkar said that real education leads to a pervasive sense of love and compassion for all creation; in the Ananda Marga's education system, special emphasis is given to moral education and the inculcation of idealism together with a "psycho-pedagogical approach" and a blending of occidental extroversial science and oriental introversial philosophy.
Culture: In his discourse "Talks on Prout", given in Ranchi in July 1961, Sarkar makes a distinction between the terms "culture" and "customs". According to Sarkar "culture... is the collective name for different expressions of life..." but "...all of society has the same culture. There are local variations in the mode or state of cultural expression, but the expression is universal... These local variations are called customs... Thus local modes of expression bearing local or group specialities are customs, but the expression itself is culture. Therefore it is a mistake to readjust boundaries on the basis of language and culture. Indian culture and the culture of the world are one and the same." The philosophy of Sarkar reinterprets the general concept of culture by inserting it into a new universalistic outlook. As described by Antonello Maggipinto:
...If the term “culture” is usually referred to the original meaning of this word (i.e. from the Greek "paidéia" to the Latin "humanitas", that is to human beings capable of distinguishably mastering the arts, rhetoric, and philosophy), then Sarkar offers a new point of view, with a large universalistic explanation: “the culture of the whole human race is one, but marked by different local manifestations... it is the same, but varying in expression." (Sarkar, P.R., 1987)...PROUT ("Progressive Utilization Theory"): is a socio-economic theory first mentioned in 1959 by P. R. Sarkar in his speech "The Cosmic Brotherood". In 1968, Sarkar founded the organization "Proutist Block of India" (PBI), to further the ideals of his theory through political and social action.
Sarkar weaves continuity with the ancient philosophy of Tantra, infusing new insights in human psychology, social theory and in each individuals' roles as spiritual and "socio-economic-cultural-political" beings. Ánanda Márga Tantra has a broad metaphysical base which allows for ways of knowing, feeling and processing which go far beyond intellectuality or limited rationality. Priorities are given to the spiritual development, as Shrii Shrii Ánandamúrti notes, "spiritual life controls all other arenas of human life." Ananda Marga Tantra is a principle, a science which if practiced will lead to the desired objective. The essence of Tantra is to awaken the latent spiritual force in the human personality and unify oneself with the Cosmic Consciousness.
According to tantric tradition a proper preceptor and a proper disciple are both essential for success on the path of Tantra. P.R. Sarkar clearly explains that, disciples are of three categories: 1) disciples that acquire spiritual knowledge when they are in close contact with the preceptor, but as soon as they are apart from him they forget all his/her teachings, 2) disciples that learn many things from the preceptor with great hardship, but do not take proper care to preserve those instructions. They lose their hard-earned knowledge out of negligence, 3) disciples that carefully preserve deep in their minds and hearts whatever they have learned from their preceptor by wisely putting those teachings into practice. This is the best category of disciples.