Swami Vivekananda once wrote to a disciple regarding how to conduct service activities: 'The easiest way is to take a hut—make it a temple of Guru Maharaj [Sri Ramakrishna]! Let the poor come here to be helped, also to worship. … may be the hut temple will evolve into a great institution in a few years. Let those that go to relief-work first select a central spot in each district and start such a hut-temple, from which all our little work is to proceed.'
Elaborating this idea, Swami Ranganathanandaji, the 13th president of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, told: 'Behind any Sri Ramakrishna temple you will find various types of service—schools, colleges, hostels, tribal work, work during natural calamities, etc. This seva-dharma (service as a way of life) is a part of Ramakrishna-temple worship. Such a temple has a great role to play in the future India.'
This is the line through which Sri Vivekananda Ashrama functions. All activities of the ashrama centre on Sri Ramakrishna, the incarnation of the Age. Through every activity He alone is worshipped and all His glory alone.
1. Sri Ramakrishna Temple
In the temple, the hub of the ashrama, Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda are worshipped daily with simple rituals. A monk or a brahmacharin performs the puja. The temple remains open between 5.00 and 11.00 a.m. as also 4.00 and 8.00 p.m. Some of the main services at the temple are:
5.00 a.m.—Mangala Arati
5.05 a.m.—Chanting and Reading from the Holy Scriptures
10.30 a.m.—Chanting and Reading from the Holy Scriptures
6.30 p.m.—Evening Arati
2. Spiritual Retreats
Spiritual retreats are conducted every last Saturday of English months at the ashrama between 10 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. This retreat comprises of special puja to Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, bhajan, japa, meditation, discourse, and question-answer session. The retreats are conducted by the monks of the ashrama and occasionally by invitee monks.
(i) Annually two celebrations are held at the ashrama on a grand scale. Hundreds of devotees take part in the (9.00 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.) programmes like special puja, archana, homa, and discourse and partake of prasad:
1. Sri Ramakrishna-Sri Sarada Devi-Swami Vivekananda Day: Last Saturday of December.
2. Ambananda-Madhurananda Day: Last Saturday of June. Highlight of this celebration is the Laksharchana, worshipping Sri Ramakrishna with flowers, Kumkum, and Akshata (specially prepared rice and turmeric powder) while chanting his holy name one lakh times.
(ii) The Jayantis (birthday according to Indian Calendar) of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Ambanandaji and Swami Madhuranandaji are observed with special puja and homa.
(iii) Thai Poosam (The foundation day of the ashrama), Guru purnima, Sivaratri, Sri Krishna Jayanti, and Ekadasi days are observed with special puja and bhajans.
4. Sri Sardeswari Library
The ashrama has a library with more than 3000 books on various subjects like religion, philosophy, spirituality, and culture in Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, and English.
5. Books' Showroom
The ashrama has a showroom where the books that are published by Hindu Dharma Vidya Peetam are sold. Books from other major religious publishing houses such as Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Thirupparaithurai, Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari, and also from popular publishers of Chennai like Vanathi, Lifco, Pazhaniappa Brothers, Gita Press and Narmada are available here.
Photos, pictures, pendants, Rudraksha Malas, Sphatika Malas, Tulasi Malas, Chanadan Malas and such religious articles are also available for sales here.
This showroom is of good service to the locality as one could get here some of the best Tamil religious publications in a single place.
6. Religious Preaching
Apart from conducting the Sunday Classes, the monks and brahmacharins of this ashrama give talks all through the state. It can be well said that there would be almost no temple functions or religious functions in Kanyakumari district, where a monk or brahmacharin of this ashrama is not invited to take part.
7. Service through Two Wings
Some of the major activities of the ashrama are carried out through its two wings, viz. Hindu Dharma Vidya Peetam and Sri Ramakrishna Seva Sangam. While Hindu Dharma Vidya Peetam aims at imparting knowledge at various levels to people, Sri Ramakrishna Seva Sangam caters to the physical needs of the poor in a humble way.
8. Sri Saradeswari Ashram
Sri Saradeswari Ashram is a branch of Sri Vivekananda Ashrama run by nuns working mainly for women in the similar lines that of Sri Vivekananda Ashrama