The Second Dialogue
An article in praise of Fr. Bede Griffiths, published in the. Indian Express of Madras, provoked far more interesting exchanges, notably between Swami Devananda Saraswati and Fr. Bede Griffiths.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 18 MARCH 1987
An Apostle of Peace
“Britain’s appropriate gift to India is Rev. Father Bede Griffiths, the sage of Saccidananda Ashram, Shanti Vanam, Tannirpalli. The Trinity Sat-Chit-Ananda, is a genuine experience of the Godhead. The Christian experience leads to personal core identity at heart of the divine unity, as in later Hinduism, specially the Bhagavad Gita. This is the mystery of the trinity - dynamic identity to personal communion of love. This generated cosmos through the logos. The word ‘trinitarian’ is inadequate to indicate the full significance. The primacy of the mystical - experiential - God as loving presence has to be realised. Here, categories of immanence and transcendence collapse - entering the core of the heart (Guha) - there is an opening beyond all categories. All is in us and we are in God (Pantheism).
“The Shanti Vanam of Bede Griffiths is a place of dialogue, reconciliation and experience in depth, daily reading from the scriptures of Hinduism, Christianity, etc. This is indeed the ‘peace capital’ of the world”- thus observed Dr. Robert Wayne Teasdale in an absorbing talk on the life and thoughts of the Sage of Shanti Vanam on March 12 at ‘Nirvan’.
After referring to the monastic antecedents of Rev. Father Bede Griffiths, Dr. Teasdale recalled that the Shanti Vanam Ashram was founded in 1968. The sage is a critic of rationalism and dualism - lowest level of consciousness. “Scientific reason is inadequate, primordial tradition is philosophies perennis.” New Science is now converging with the mystical, recognising the symbolic nature of myths. Reason and intuition have to be married - east and west - masculine and feminine counterparts. There is Advaitic experience in Christianity too - “I and the Father are, one” (Not I am the Father). The world religions must work together in practical ways on the concrete issues of peace, removal of hunger and poverty, ecology, solidarity, righteousness, sharing of resources, rational development, contemplation and action. The metaphor of the wheel (Dharma Chakra) is significant. The church is a possible matrix of humanity - reconciliation and unification.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 25 MARCH 1987
Sir-This has reference to Dr. Wayne Teasdale’s panegyric of Bede Griffiths entitled ‘An apostle of peace’ (I.E. March 19). Shantivanam Ashram was founded on March 21, 1950 by Father Jules Monchanin, a French priest who was deeply loved and is remembered by Christians and non-Christians in this area who had the privilege to know him. Dr. Teasdale wrongly states that Shantivanam was founded in 1968.
The philosophy underlying the ashram was formulated by Father Monchanin and the Father Le Saux (also from France) who assisted him.
I would recommend a beginner to start with Father Monchanin’s book ‘An Indian Benedictine Ashram’ and to study it carefully in order to get the true message of Shantivanam.
Founder and Director,
Sachidananda Universal Brotherhood Centre,
Kulithalai - 639 104.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 30 MARCH 1987
Sir-R.R. in his interesting column on religious discourses has on March 18 given a synopsis of one Dr. Robert Wayne Teasdale’s appreciation of Father Bede Griffiths, a British priest living on the banks of the Cauvery in Tannirpalli, Tiruchi. Having visited Griffiths and his ashram a couple of times, permit me to offer a few comments.
Dr. Teasdale hails Griffiths as “Britain’s appropriate gift to India”. Britain’s most welcome gift to India is cricket for thousands to enjoy and Shakespeare for the intellectuals. Griffiths is only an experimenter in the realm of spiritual matrix who commits the grave error of mixing Christianity and Hinduism to produce his own mix. This by no stretch of imagination is a gift to India. On the contrary it pollutes the inherent spiritual values treasured by us for centuries.
Rituals, rites, ceremonies in Hinduism have not to be changed to suit the whims of modem innovators. Griffiths, by superimposing the sacred word Om on a Cross imagines that he has created a new spiritual phenomenon. On the contrary he confuses and insults both Hinduism and Christianity. He fails to realise that by such acts he is neither enriching Christianity nor honouring Hinduism. One has to respect the unique rites and rituals of each religion, which placed in another context win be meaningless and confusing.
Some priests of the same mentality like Griffiths tried to graft Buddhist rites, mantras etc. in the Catholic Church in Thailand. The Buddhists vehemently objected to this as they considered it an insult to Buddhism. In India, Hindu tolerance is proverbial and hence men like Griffiths carry on their questionable experiments.
It may interest readers to know that a decade ago the Catholic Bishops of India in their National Centre in Bangalore had figures of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and dancing Nataraj prominently displayed on window grills of their church. Hindu Astheega1 Sangham took them to court and had the figures removed. “If you wish to honour or respect Hindu deities, place them on your altars and not on window grills”, argued Mr. Parasaran (now Attorney-General) on behalf of the plaintiffs.
6 Nimmo Road,
Madras - 600 004
INDIAN EXPRESS, 10 APRIL 1987
Sir-Apropos of the letter of March 30 under the above caption, I wish to point out that Rev. Fr. Bede Griffiths is more than a gift for India. For centuries we have had men and women, who accepted Christianity in Indian patterns of thinking, expressions and actions. Fr. Bede is no pretender or experimenter. He is an international theologian of great reputation and author of several books. He has visited Europe, Palestine, the United States, and his talks are recorded.
The Saccidananda Ashram (Shanti Vanam) is a Christian ashram, where the wealth of goodness, truth and beauty in religious traditions of India is made clear through authentic forms of monastic life. These spiritual values belong to Christ Jesus, and they are a positive help for better Christian living. The wealth of Indian spirituality is also generously shared among all the people who experience Christian fellowship. From 1950 this ashram has catered to the spiritual solace of several persons belonging to different creeds. There they study Vedanta, and make use of Indian methods of prayer and meditation.
They read the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita as well as Tamil classics and other scriptures. They sing Tamil songs (bhajans), accompanied by drums and cymbals. Aarati is taken in solemn grandeur. At the morning worship sandal paste is used, as it is a symbol of divinity. Its aroma stands for Divine Grace. At noon kumkum is placed between the eyebrows as a symbol of the Third Eye, the inner eye of wisdom, which perceives Christ. Psalm 118/68, 95, 105 and 157 point to the discernment of Truth through the wisdom of Christ in us.
The ‘Om’ is universally used. It points to Lord God Almighty. It is the primordial sound from which the whole creation proceeds. To Christians this word is the Cosmic Christ, made flesh on earth. Om has entered many citadels of Christian places of worship all over the world including the Vatican. Popes and Cardinals have not forbidden the use of Om by Indian Christians.
Prof. S. Radhakrishnan has observed: “If Europe has interpreted Christianity in terms of their own culture of Greek thought and Roman organisation, there is no reason why the Indian Christian should not relate the message of the salvation in Christ to the larger spiritual background of India. Cannot we have Vedantic tradition in Christianity?”
1, Venkatasami Pillai St.,
Madras - 4.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 21 APRIL 1987
Not in Vatican
Sir-I am a Catholic priest who has just returned to India after three years of higher studies in Belgium, Germany and Rome. Our Ignatius Absalom in his letter ‘Religious purity’ of April 10 says that Om is universally used, it is Cosmic Christ, it has entered Christian places of worship all over the world, including the Vatican. This is not true. Only those Europeans who have joined the Hare Krishna movement or T.M.3 know about Om. It is certainly not used anywhere in Rome and by no means in the Vatican.
Some priests in India use the word Om but the Pope and bishops have not given their permission for this. On the contrary they have said that Christians must respect all that is holy and sacred in Hinduism. Respect for each other’s religion alone will help keep the purity of religions. Imitation will only lead to confusion. Hindus do not imitate anything Christian. They value their religion unlike some Christians who tamper with the purity of religion.
Fr. Joseph Pullikal,
42, Kavala Junction,
INDIAN EXPRESS, 30 APRIL 1987
Sir,-With reference to the letter ‘Not in Vatican’ of April 21, it may be pointed out that Archbishop Lourdusamy of Bangalore (now a Cardinal) celebrated the Holy Mass in the Indian Order before the De Propaganda Fide - the pet child of the Pope. This was done not many years ago, and the Om (while taking Aarthi) was visibly demonstrated thrice, while adoring Jesus in His Divine Presence.
Your correspondent, Fr. Joseph Pullikal, states (IE April 4): “Only those Europeans who have joined the Hare Krishna Movement or T.M. know about Om.” This is not correct. TM is the Science of Creative Intelligence. It embraces all people, who know or do not know what Om means. All over the world S.C.I. (T.M.) is practised. It is neither contemplation nor meditation or concentration.
The purity of the Catholic faith is not in the least tainted or corrupted by absorbing or adapting all that is the best, holy and sacred from non-Christian scriptures.
1, V. Samy Pillai Street
INDIAN EXPRESS, 1 JUNE 1987
Sir-In early March this year, I gave a talk on Father Bede Griffiths of Shantivanam Ashram, Tannirapalli near Kulitalai to the group at Nirvan. Ale talk was summarised by R.R. in his column on March 18. Subsequent to the appearance of R.R.’s column and in response to it, Swami Kulandaiswami of Madras took strong objection to Bede Griffiths and his approach (IE, March 30). I should like to challenge Swami’s contentions. In my lecture, I spoke of Father Bede as “Britain’s appropriate gift to India” because he is the best England has to offer. The context of the remark was India’s colonial experience, a period in which Britain took from India, giving little in return.
Bede Griffiths came to India in 1955, and from the very beginning he did not hold himself above her people, as the English did in the colonial period, but adopted their way of life, respecting their customs and beliefs. Furthermore, he learned Sanskrit and studied the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Gita as well as other texts sacred to the Hindu tradition.
I think it is profoundly unjust and inaccurate to brand him an ‘experimenter’, as Swami Kulandaiswami does. Rather than being an experimenter, as Swami alleges, Bede Griffiths has an extraordinary grasp of the Hindu and Christian faiths.
Bede Griffiths’ approach cannot be appreciated by two brief visits to Shantivanam, but only by a careful study of his position, his life, practices and actions, including exposure to him over a long period of time. Doing so, one would discover that he is a Christian with a totally open heart to Hindus and Hinduism, and a clear understanding of the value of the Hindu tradition and the necessity to preserve it.
Nor is it accurate to assert, as Swami Kulandaiswami does, that Father Bede pollutes Hinduism. For Father Bede adopts elements of Hindu ritual and prayer not to “produce his own mix”, but rather to express the Christian faith in terms intelligible to Indians. There is never any doubt at Shantivanam, for instance, that when mass is celebrated in the Indian rite, using symbols, gestures and rituals borrowed from Hinduism, that it is anything but the mass. What does pollute Hinduism, however, and really devalues it as a spiritual path, is the failure to actualise its teachings in one’s own life, the compassion and spiritual perfection or true holiness. This goes for Christianity as well. Father Bede has achieved the ideal in both traditions, and so speaks as a realized master.4
Dr. Wayne Robert Teasdale,
1475 Pine Ave., West,
Montreal, Quebec H3G IB3
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO INDIAN EXPRESS5
Early June, 1987
Sir-Wayne Robert Teasdale has registered his holy indignation and thrown down the Benedictine gauntlet on behalf of Bede Griffiths of Shantivanam. As realized masters are also known by their works, Swami Kulandaiswami has legitimately questioned the works of Bede Griffiths and expressed his opinion, which represents the opinion of a large number of Hindus and Christians. The Catholic Laity Congress at Bombay circulates pamphlets denouncing Bede Griffiths for his syncretism and calls for disciplinary action by the Church. Shantivanam was placed under the protection of a foreign Benedictine house to escape just such an action and it remains for Bede Griffiths to explain himself to a concerned public.
Ten years ago in the Vatican, I suggested to a papal nuncio that I might don a friar’s habit and preach Hinduism in the Italian countryside. I was promptly warned that I would be charged with impersonating a cleric and public mischief, as Roman Catholicism was the protected state religion and in full control of Italian education.6 Hinduism is neither protected nor India’s state religion, and we find priests like Bede Griffiths in the garb of Hindu sannyasis preaching Christianity in the Tamil countryside. As these priests know our rites and traditions and are aware of our sensibilities, by what right or authority do they wear the ochre robe?
I do not think any Indian opposes Bede Griffiths for earnestly saying his prayers (except, perhaps, a few deep thinkers like Taranath Kamath and S.M. Hussain who fancy we are only biological machines with interchangeable parts).7 But whatever he has grasped, Bede Griffiths has no grasp at all of the Indian psyche. It must be brought to his attention that he is meddling with the soul of a very old and sophisticated people by continuing his experiments at Shantivanam. This is an exceedingly dangerous activity for even a brahmavid8 to indulge in, and it cannot be considered as anything other than another spurious gift from stepmother England.
RCC (Avadi) P.O.
Madras - 600 109
CC. Bede Griffiths
FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS TO INDIAN EXPRESS9
June 17th 1987
Tannirpalli - 639 107,
Kulittalai, Tiruchi Dt.,
Sir-Swami Devananda has suggested that no one who is not a Hindu has a right to wear the ochre robe of the sannyasi. I would like to question this in the light of the Hindu tradition itself. The ochre robe is the sign of sannyasa and sannyasa according to ancient Hindu tradition signifies renunciation of all worldly ties, the transcendence of all ‘dharmas’, that is, all social bonds, whether social or religious. Does not the sannyasi undergo a funeral rite, thus marking his death to all social ties?
In the light of this I would suggest that it is possible to see in sannyasa the sign of the transcendence of all religious limitations and the opening to the transcendent Reality, from which all religion springs. To-day we feel more than ever the need to go beyond the limitations of the different religions and seek for the source of unity which can unite them in the service of humanity. This is how we understand sannyasa in our ashram and why we feel justified in wearing the ochre robe. I may say that in all my more than thirty years in India I have never before known a Hindu sannyasi object to this.
I may add that our ashram belongs to the Benedictine order, which is the order of monks in the West, which corresponds as closely as possible to the order of sannyasis in India. We see in this one way of bridging the gulf between Hindus and Christians and working towards that unity among religions for which the world is looking to-day.
FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS TO SWAMI DEVANANDA
July 8th 1987
Dear Swami Devananda,
I enclose a copy of a letter to the Indian Express10 which I wrote in reply to the letter which you sent me. I am thankful that your letter was not printed, so that my reply was not needed, as I don’t think that the Indian Express is a good platform for such debates.
I also enclose a leaflet on our ashram which explains the principles which have guided the ashram since its foundation. I may say that these principles have received the approval of the Church both in India and abroad.
I don’t see why a Hindu should object to this any more than a Christian objects to Ramakrishna order and many other Hindu ashrams incorporating devotions to Christ in their worship.11
As regards dress, the Ramakrishna monks have no hesitation in adopting the clerical dress of a Christian clergyman in America and none objects.
Can’t we get beyond mutual hostility and work together for peace?
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS
21 July 1987
Sir- Hindus are very aware of the abuses perpetrated by Roman Church in India since 1947,12 and how priests like yourself misrepresent and exploit the Sanatana Dharma. That the Church sanctions your work is no surprise to us, for it is in her own ideological and political interests to do so. This misappropriation of our cherished symbols (the pranava [OM] in your official device) and sacred traditions (sannyas) is unethical at least, and your attempt to justify the wrong with Hindu philosophy and modes of thought only adds insult to injury. We do not need Christian priests to interpret and teach us our dharma. Teasdale says you don’t hold yourself above the Indian people; I say you do, with presumption. To disprove my charge, you must seek the guidance and sanction of our representatives, acharyas, mandaleshwaras, mahapeethadipathis, and gurus when incorporating Hindu forms and symbols into your experiment. Indian culture cannot be divided from Hindu religion, though the Church, working in concert with our own boneless intellectuals, tries hard to do so. This self-evident fact is especially true of the sannyas tradition, for the sannyasin is the very embodiment of Sanatana Dharma.
The Calcutta High Court has recognised sannyas as a Hindu religious institution; declared the minimum actions, before witnesses, that must be made before a person is renounced; and defined sannyas a ‘civil death’ within the Hindu Code.
In the Dec/Jan edition of Hinduism Today, the spokesman for the Divine Life Society (Rishikesh) stated categorically that sannyas cannot be given to a non-Hindu, and the peethadipathi of Kasi Math (Tirupanandal) has unequivocally said the same. Dasanami mahamandaleshwaras, the recognised authority for sannyas, emphatically confirm this opinion. They assure me that the Naga Akhadas, whose sadhus police the sannyas community, would strip you of your cloth if they had the opportunity. You get away with this impersonation because the Tamil maths are more or less indifferent to the unseemly drama.
Prior to sannyas, a person must have a guru and fulfil very stringent conditions which include that he be a Hindu and recognise the authority of the Veda. Though the viraja havana is a central rite, it is not the key act by which a person renounces (a point you evidently don’t understand). Rituals aside, a sannyasin must be part of a linage originating with Narayana, and be recognised by the sannyas community, whose members witnessed his completed samskara, and, finally, his death. To insure this line of succession of gurus and rishis, sannyas is given by an acharya mahamandaleshwara on behalf of the candidate’s guru. Theoretically one sannyasin can make another, and there are other extenuating circumstances that are recognised but do not apply here. It follows, as stated earlier, that a sannyasin is implicitly a representative of Hinduism.
You cannot ignore the above facts or philosophise them into oblivion. The Church does not recognise a priest outside of the apostolic succession of Peter, and we do not recognise a sannyasin outside of the Hindu paramparas. In that you are a Roman priest and Benediction monk, you cannot possibly be a sannyasin; it is verily a contradiction in terms.
There are many other factors involved here, which I will spare you from out of compassion.
The countryside is crawling with Christian missionaries in Hindu religious garb (there are two in my own village, not counting the Pentecostals and their loudspeakers,) and legitimate sannyasins are treated with suspicion and hostility by the public, who rightly, are afraid of being deceived. We are now obliged to carry identity papers from our acharyas and maths, an absurd situation (in a Hindu country) that is almost a contravention of the ideals of sannyas.
It goes without saying that only Lord Shiva knows who is the real sannyasin. This is a spiritual condition (truth), expounded by Lord Krishna in the Gita, and does not apply to external forms or functions or identity. It is true of all persons who have attained the state many of whom do not wear ochre, call themselves sannyasins, or have the right to do so. This sannyas is a mystery of the heart and great secret, and does not support your own claims.
The sannyasin does not renounce dharma (however you define this word); he enters the fourth ashrama within the Hindu dharma. Only the avadhut stands outside of the four ashrams, and he does so by discarding the ochre cloth or never taking it in the first place.
The example of the Ramakrishna Mission is also inadmissible, as their conduct and practices are not the standard Hindu norms are measured against. They were an anomaly long before they left us.
The Vedanta is not a doctrine (ideology) but a darshana, a point of view, and only one point of view among many accepted by Hinduism. It has become the last refuge of the Christian missionary, who sees the possibility of turning its sublime non-dualism into a monstrous monotheism. We will never admit this perversion, believe me.
You sin against Hinduism by nailing the holy pranava to the Roman cross and incorporating the same in your official device. The pranava is the very essence of Hinduism, and identifies it to the world exactly as the cross identifies Christianity. (This is really an issue to be taken up by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.) We know what the Nazis did to the divine swastika, and we will not permit the same to happen to the pranava. Neither Francis of Assisi nor the Bible support your conjecture about this sacred word and amen. The Malaysian courts ordered the removal of Muslim symbols from Satya Sai Baba’s crest, as he doesn’t represent that religion. And note that the one serious complaint against Gitananda of Pondicherry was that he hurt the Hindus’ religious sentiments with his original iconography.
Christianity, from its inception to today, has subsumed and subverted the deities, symbols, rituals, and philosophies of the peoples it wishes to conquer. This activity, which is imperial and not spiritual, must cease before hostilities and mistrust will die; hostilities, by the way, that we never invited in the first place.
There is no unity of religions on the level of religion, each being a distinct entity. If you wish to take sannyas, first renounce your priesthood and obtain a certificate of apostasy from the concerned Church authority. We can then accommodate you.
By trying to justify your position as it is now, you impugn Hinduism, slur sannyas, rout reason, ruin meaning, mutilate categories, transpose symbols, deny sacred convention and usage, profane principles, philosophise, and generally present an argument that is oxymoronic.
P.S. The Indian Express is not sympathetic to Hindu concerns, we being a minor majority rather than a majority, and it is to your advantage to debate in their columns. They will give you the last word, which is a psychological if not a moral victory.
FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS TO SWAMI DEVANANDA
July 23rd 1987
Dear Swami Devananda,
Thank you for your letter. I am interested in your view of Hinduism and appreciate your point of view, but it is very different from that of the vast majority of Hindus whom I have known. I have known many Hindu sannyasis, visited many ashrams and had many Hindu friends, but no one before has ever objected to anything that I have done. You are anxious to establish Hinduism as a separate religion with its own unique doctrine and symbols which differentiate it from other religions. But most Hindus hold the opposite view and maintain with Ramakrishna and Vivekananda that all religions are essentially the same and differ only in accidental characteristics which can be ignored. I have myself difficulties in accepting this position but I would have said that it is the prevailing view among educated Hindus to-day.
As regards sannyasa, you maintain the strict tradition of sannyasa and I have every respect for this, but you must know as well as I do that there are any number of Hindu sannyasis who wear the Kavi dress but have had no initiation or training and are often little better than beggars. There are also Hindus who simply take the kavi when they feel the call to sannyasa; there is one staying in our ashram at present who has done just that. You may be interested to know that there are two other sannyasis staying with us at present, who have both spontaneously expressed their appreciation of our way of life. I have nearly always found that Hindus give me the same respect as they would give to a Hindu sannyasin and I have often been deeply touched by it. You yourself mention that there is a sannyasa of the heart and this surely is the key to the whole subject. It is not the outer garb or the symbols in which he believes which make the sannyasi but the renunciation of all desires, that is of all egoism. You may be interested to know that one of the two founders of our ashram, Swami Abhishiktananda, wrote a book on sannyasa called The Further Shore, the contents of which were originally published in the Divine Life of Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh. Many Hindus have told me that they consider it the best book on sannyasa that they have read. In it he makes the point that the attempt to make Sannyasa part of the Hindu dharma has been frequently questioned. It is an attempt to institutionalise what is essentially beyond all institution. He uses the term dharmatita and even turiytita. I think that you would find it very revealing.
Perhaps my chief quarrel with you is that you are trying to institutionalise Hinduism, to turn it into a sectarian religion, which seems to me to be the opposite of its true character. I feel that you do the same with Catholicism. That Catholicism has a strong institutional character I do not deny, but I would say that there is something in Catholicism which transcends its institutional structure as there is in Hinduism and that is what really matters. I would probably share many of your objections to Christian missionaries and would certainly not defend much that has been done in India and elsewhere in the name of the Church.13 Our search to-day is to go beyond the institutional structure of religion and discover the hidden mystery which is at the heart of all religion. It is this that sannyasa means to me.
As I say, I respect your position and see the value of the principles which you defend, but I can hardly see them as representative of Hinduism as a whole, any more than our friend Kulandaswamy’s view of Catholicism is representative of Catholicism as a whole.
With my respects,
P.S. I enclose an extract from Abhishiktananda’s diary which expresses his (and my) point of view:
“My message has nothing to do with any dharma (religion) whatever. That is the case with every fundamental message. The message of the Upanishads, as regards its formulation, still depends on its Vedic-Brahmanic roots, but it is self-luminous - svapraksa; it reveals the depth in its proper light. It reflects it.
“Similarly, the Gospel message is no more bound to the Jewish world in which it was revealed. Its universal value consumes and melts the wax vessels of the Judaeo-Greek world in which this honey was deposited. It echoes the very depths of the human heart: the message of love, of mutual giving, of relationship. The message that mankind’s condition is divine. The Upanishadic message has moulded the Indian mind, and the Gospel message that of the West, though passing through channels that are further and further removed from the Source; and with waters more and more adulterated.
“We have to recover the source, and place humanity (distracted by the devas, by religious alienation and superimposed sacredness) face to face with itself, with its own depth. To make man discover ‘that he is’ at a level deeper than any external identity or any analysis of himself, even existential.”
-From Abhishiktananda’s Dairy, 14.12.71
SWANU DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIMTHS
30 July 1987 (C.E)14
They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni,
and he is the heavenly Winged Bird.
The sages speak of the One by many names:
they call it Agni, Yama, Matarisvan.
Sir-I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt (as do many of my brothers). I am not able to do so because the inherent tolerance and secularism of Hinduism has been abused by your kind too long. I appreciate that you do not want a sectarian Hinduism, for that would directly threaten your own vested interests. But there is more to my doubt than this: Like the prostitute who lectured young men on morals, your position is wrong where your words are right. It is the means that are in question, not the spiritual ideals. And because your means are in question, so are your motives.
I have read Christian history and doctrine, lived in Franciscan houses, and faced the Jesuits in their own Roman lair. My view of Christian ideology and practice is far less charitable than Kulandaiswami’s. I am convinced that Christianity’s advent is one of the great disasters in the history of mankind. This view does not include Christians themselves (of whom I have many friends), but it most certainly does include that soul-sucking, carnivorous, leviathan the Church, and, by extension, her ideologues. Church motives are always suspect when they are not openly vicious, and the means she employs to further her own wicked ends has never had any relationship to the ideals she preaches at others. You have been in India long enough to know that we idolators are more interested in what we see than what we hear. We want action, right action, not words.
That a few of the six million sadhus in India wander into your house, flatter you for a meal (Do you offer them the flesh and blood of Jesus too?), use your library, or study you (as I have), is of little consequence. That these sadhus wear ochre is fine, for the simple reason that they are Hindus and not Roman priests. And herein lies the great contradiction of your position: you preach the transcendence of religion but remain yourself an official of a sectarian religion.
And not only are you a Roman priest, but the moment you get into trouble you run to mummy Church for financial, emotional, moral, psychological, and doctrinal aid. How is this foreign aid and first allegiance going to bring about the Indianisation of Christianity, much less the transcendence of religion? Yet you have the insolence to suggest that Hinduism not organise herself in her hour of need. You will teach us religious transcendence from the very pit of religious institutionalism, a pit we have not fallen into in 10,000 years. I think your motives are clear; indeed, the idea is worthy of a Jesuit! We will transcend our dharma and the Roman Church will happily reap the benefits of our foolishness, being already on the scene to fill in the void we leave behind us. If you were remotely serious about the spiritual ideals expressed in your letter, you would renounce the Church forthwith and humbly place yourself in the hands of God.
Hinduism has always been a commonwealth of religious and spiritual institutions, some highly sectarian, though we have avoided the curse of centralisation. There are times when centralisation is justified, when Hindus of conviction must work together for a common goal. This is not sectarianism; it is common sense. I do think Dayananda and Vivekananda would disagree with me here. Shankara himself institutionalised sannyas for the same reasons that the institution must be revitalised to-day: to protect dharma. We have always maintained and practised the spiritual ideal of transcending institutional limitations, and have succeeded where others have failed because our spiritual disciplines demand that the correct means be employed. Ale first injunction observed by all seekers is that they do not interfere with, bastardise, or destroy the culture, traditions, symbols, and religion that support them on their journey, even when they have passed beyond these institutions. And passing beyond these institutions does not mean meddling with them on the way. God has always given us reformers when we need them. Do you qualify, Bede Griffiths?
Westerners have great difficulty with Hinduism because they arrive with all their religious baggage and prejudices. They see in our Gods and religious diversity only anarchy and superstition. They think in linear modes almost exclusively, which results in a passion for centralised order and a desire to impose their will on history (the Church is the best example of this egocentric fear). Being unable to penetrate our psyche, they call us hypocrites when they don’t understand us. As good pagans, we are Janus-faced, but this natural subtlety is hardly hypocrisy. These Westerners, like you, would like to skim the spiritual cream off the Hindu milk, put it in a bottle of their own design, and run off with it. They feel no obligation to the people, country, culture, or religion that produced this precious drink. There is neither responsibility nor commitment on their part, and we forgive them this juvenile delinquency because they know not what they do. But you cannot be forgiven so easily, for you act with mature intent and are already committed to Rome. You stay married to the Scarlet Woman15 when it is the Divine Cow of Hinduism who produces the amrita you hanker after. If your Woman were not barren and dry, you would not have come to Hindustan in the first place. I am surely a Hindu chauvinist, but you are the very worst kind of spiritual colonialist.
As the Americans say, you are caught between a rock and a hard place. You may be able to resist us by crucifying the sacred Omkara, but should we decide to swallow you up, you will never survive our catholic digestive powers. Or so I predict. I am only a gadfly and drama critic, Father Bede, and am rather sorry to see an old hippie get himself into such a karmic fix.
Your own Self,
FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS TO SWAMI DEVANANDA
July 31st 1987
Dear Swami Devananda,
Thank you for your letter. It is clear from all you say that you are a fundamentalist.16 Whether Hindu or Christian or Buddhist or Muslim, a fundamentalist is one who clings to the outward forms of religion and loses sight of the inner spirit. You think that you are defending Hinduism but you are really defending the outer shell, while you destroy the inner spirit. It is the same in your attitude to Christianity. You attack the outer shell of Christianity but of its inner spirit you have no idea at all. I consider fundamentalism in all its forms the greatest danger in the world to-day. It is destructive of all genuine religion altogether. Nothing could be further from the spirit of the great Hindus of the past, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi or Ramalinga Swamigal. They remained firmly Hindu in their religion but were open to the spirit of truth in Christianity and in all other religions. I consider myself a Christian in religion but a Hindu in spirit, just as they were Hindus in religion while being Christian in spirit.
Your attitude to sannyasa shows the absurdity of your view. A Hindu who may have no initiation, no discipline and no understanding of the real meaning of sannyasa can wear the kavi and be accepted, but anyone else who seeks to live according to the authentic values of sannyasa must be rejected. It is the same with the Om. A Hindu who has no understanding of its depth and uses it purely superstitiously is all right but anyone else, who has deep reverence for its authentic meaning must be condemned.
It is obvious that we differ fundamentally in our understanding both of Hinduism and of Christianity and indeed of religion in general, so I will not continue this correspondence.
With best wishes,
SWANU DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIMTHS
7 August, 1987 (CE)
And that work which is done with a confused mind, without considering what may follow, or one’s own powers, or the harm done to others, or one’s own loss, is work of darkness
- Bhagvad Gita, 18.25
Sir-Thank you for a last letter, though, I confess, I am very disappointed with its purple contents. I had hoped that when you took refuge in humbug jargon. I would at least rate above a superstitious fundamentalist. Chinmayananda is often dubbed a communalist, and I was looking forward to some dramatic monotheistic curse like great satan or antichrist.
It remains that you have avoided every specific issue, with generalisations and specious philosophising; it remains that you exploit our tolerance, secularism, and hospitality; it remains that you abuse and pervert our symbols and traditions to your own motivated missionary ends.
One of the uses of symbolism is to convey knowledge directly to the psyche by bypassing the discursive, analytical mind. When your symbolism and curious liturgy requires explanation and apology, it immediately fails in this primary purpose. Your combination of the holy Omkara with the unholy cross is a true bastardisation, the product of artifice; but then Christianity itself is the product of artifice, not revelation.
As you are a Christian in religion, wear the cloth of a Christian in religion (as the Hindu saints you name wore Hindu dress). And if you have a Hindu spirit, then let me recommend a good Hindu exorcist.
You have not transcended religion and you have no intention of doing so, whatever your pious declarations. You have an overriding ambition to subvert and subsume us with our own spiritual concepts, just as Paul subverted and subsumed the Greeks with their’s. As you see parallels in history, so do we, and we are thus forewarned and forearmed. We will not be meekly sold down the river like Constantine!17
The Kanchi Pariaval has devoted his life to salvaging what little is left of Vedic Brahminical orthodoxy, which is, need I tell you, concerned with externals, with rites and rituals, with birth and caste (he will not give me prasada because I am neither a brahmin nor orthodox). Yet he is a brahmarshi, a living national spiritual treasure whose wisdom and compassion are universally recognised. As a free soul above sectarian religion, he continues to live within the strict disciplines of Vedic orthodoxy (without meddling in the affairs of Christians and Muslims). It can only be that this so-called outer shell of brahminical Hinduism has some value today, and I respect but do not recommend his way of life. He would agree that there are other equally good spiritual disciplines within Hinduism and advises them himself. He would also censor me for quarrelling with you, as he would invite you to drop your pretences and return to traditional Christianity. From your point of view, he must be the most superstitious, literal-minded fundamentalist outside of Islam (though a number of your own people are deeply attached to him).
It is a moot question whether wishy-washy, self-seeking liberalism has done more harm in this unhappy world than fundamentalism. It seems to me that both have contributed equally to our sad predicament.
Yes, we have many bad sadhus, as you have spoiled priests (who, the papers report, are busy spreading the new plague among choirboys in America and dying of it themselves).
Malachy18 long ago prophesied Christianity’s demise and the popes take him very seriously (as they should, this rex mundi being the third to last one). Hinduism has no such prophet of doom, knows no birth in history, and will not die even if it loses all its outer accoutrements. But this does not mean that your mischievous work can go unnoticed or that I should cease to protest.
I am not the protector of Sanatana Dharma; Narayana is the only protector of Dharma. This is an awful truth for you to admit, Bede Griffiths, and one that neither you nor I will escape.
Your own Self,
FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS TO SWAMI DEVANANDA
August 11th 1987
Dear Swami Devananda,
I will not answer your letter, as I said, but since you quote the Bhagavad Gita in reference to me, perhaps you would like to look up Bhagvad Gita, 16, 4.19 and see how far it applies to you.
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIMTHS
14 August, 1987 (CE)
My dear sir:
I say, what a very clever way for a self-styled brahmavid to tell me to go to hell!
The quotation applies nisi Dominus, frustra.20
I have just learned that your brilliant countryman Colin Wilson refers to Christianity as Crosstianity. What a marvellous insight!
Your post card has been put in puja - and, please note, not malevolently nailed to an imperial cross - with a garland of sweet smelling flowers around it.
Your own Self,
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS
27 August 87 (CE)
Since the end of our correspondence (which I did not directly invite in the first place), I have been doing some research on your ashram and its founder, Fr. J. Monchanin. I discover that his writings directly confirm my suspicious about your motives and activities in India (see the enclosed clipping). You have shamelessly tried to mislead me, even drawing the red herring of Abhishiktananda’s dairy across my path, but my own conclusions are now fully vindicated.
In my considered opinion, you are nothing more than another deceitful and militant ‘Crosstian’ missionary, who would stand on the hoary head of Hinduism at any cost. This being the case, you have no moral authority to address or advise seekers of Truth.
Narayan ki Jay,
FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS TO SWAMI DEVANANDA
August 31st 1987
Dear Swami Devananda,
Thank you for your letter and the enclosure about Father Monchanin. Of course, if I held the same view as Father Monchanin, you would be justified in suspecting me of deception. But you must remember that Father Monchanin was writing forty years ago and immense changes have taken place in the Church since then. The Vatican Council introduced a new understanding of the relation of the Church to other religions and all of us have been affected by this. Swami Abhishiktananda (Fr. le Saux) in particular early separated himself from Fr. Monchanin, especially after his profound experience with Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvanamalai. This changed his whole outlook and he went on to develop a completely different way of relating Hinduism and Christianity. His diaries show what a struggle it was for him to reconcile Christianity with his advaitic experience but in the end he came to what I consider the most profound understanding which has been reached by any Christian, and it is his view that I follow. This is found in his book, The Further Shore, which was the last he wrote and gives his deepest insight. I will send you a copy of this and I beg you to read it carefully. If you want to attack me, you must know what I really believe; otherwise you are just shooting arrows in the dark and can effect nothing. You must realise also that the view which I hold is not peculiar to me. It is approved by the authorities of the Church both in India and in Rome. Many Catholics, of course, will not agree with it, but the understanding of the relation of the Church to other religions is only slowly growing and there are many different views in the Church to-day.
With best wishes,
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS
7th September 1987 (CE)
Father Bede Griffiths:
As a public figure seeking public acclaim, you are subject to public scrutiny and criticism. This is also true because 1) you are an official representative of a foreign sectarian power that seeks ideological hegemony in India and because 2) you wilfully meddle with our sacred tradition and symbols, causing grave offence.
There is no evidence that the Church has changed her wicked ways in the last forty years. On the contrary, since the checks placed on the Church by the British were removed, she has been busy making hay in our tolerant secular sunshine. The methods of conversion have changed, but the Church’s ancient ambition for world dominion has not changed. The pope himself contributes over fifty million dollars a year towards missionary work worldwide, and this does not include the vaster sums of money available to Christian evangelists of all persuasions for their so-called charities. What has happened in the Church is that the term ‘heathen’ has been changed to ‘non-Christian’ (with the prayer that the ‘non’ will soon disappear). There have also been some unctuous platitudes uttered about our spiritual heritage at official functions. Rome, in her eternal conceit, thinks we will accept the facelift at face value and not probe into the heart of the person who wears the mask. This presumption itself is an example of patronising Christian arrogance. If the Church had in fact changed her ways then the dirty work of converting our poor and humble masses to Christianity would have long ago ceased.
What Christians overlook is that most Hindus don’t recognise Christianity as a religion at all, except as a public courtesy. Hindus do recognise it as a militant ideology with sanctimonious pretensions. It is the mother-sister of Communism, itself an heir to Abraham’s ideological patrimony. Its only true home is hell, and its violent export to Europe, Asia, and the Americas was disastrous to those once-spiritual cultures. This is not my opinion. The facts are recorded in every history book, and if you don’t like history then read Chaucer. In the Canterbury Tales he says in his own special way that Roma is the very antithesis of Amor.21
There is no evidence that the vindictive and malevolent nature of Jehovah, of his prophets, of his people, and of his son’s church is divine; there is no evidence that the worship of a dead and out-dated foreign god purifies the heart or elevates the mind; and there is no evidence that the superstitious belief in vicarious salvation makes a person a better person. But there is overwhelming evidence that the belief-system of Christians thrives on guilt and despair and panders to the id,22 the most base instincts in mankind.
This review aside, I must say that the idea that Abhishiktananda had to reconcile his advaitic experience with Christianity is absurd. If it is true, then I postulate that he did not have the advaitic experience. Advaitic experience is self-contained and its own proof. It does not require reconciliation with any sectarian creed. It transcends them. Both you and your PR man, Teasdale, imply that you are in the transcendent advaitic state. This is of course silly. Your acts disprove your words. No man of advaitic realisation would quarrel with me, would need to prove himself to Rome (whose dogmas already deny the possibility of the advaitic state). I suggest you forget advaita and look up the words ‘reconcile’ and ‘transcend’ in the dictionary.
You do not need Church sanction to experiment with Hindu traditions and symbols or to call yourself a sannyasin. You do need - and refuse to seek - the sanction of traditional Hindu authorities. Hindus do not recognise Church decrees vis-a-vis acts that affect them and their religious culture. Your declarations of Church approval is part bluff, part appeal. As we do not permit you to stand on our head you seem to think we will permit the Church to stand there instead. This is exactly the message your bastard symbol of Omkara and cross conveys to us. We utterly reject both the symbol and the message.
The truth is that you need the spiritual support of the Hindus as a bulwark against your critics in the Church. JP-223 is a very conservative man, for all his public clowning. The Church permits you to continue only because it furthers her indoctrination program in India, euphemistically called ‘inculturalisation’ in Vatican double-speak. Read the following from Pontiff by Gordon Thomas & Max Morgan-Witts, two authorities who have been deep inside the Vatican’s head: “They (the Chinese Catholics) are the product of centuries of relationship between China and the Church. It began when the Jesuits walked into Peking in the sixteenth century. They were warmly received. Then, in a momentous blunder, Rome rejected the Jesuits’ idea of integrating Chinese and Catholic culture. Had this been allowed China might well have become a Catholic country.” The pope has been very busy rectifying this momentous blunder, under the auspices of Vatican-II of course.
Except as a psychological curiosity, I am no more interested in your personal beliefs than I am in those held by the political commissar at the local Russian consulate. Like him, you will argue that my beliefs compel me to respect your beliefs and thus accept your actions, even if they are detrimental to my traditions. I am very interested in your actions and how they affect Hinduism, and I do not accept them. I have said this before and it is what lies at the heart of my letters. In reply, you manifest that syndrome the Germans call vorbeireden, translated as ‘talking past-the-point’. This is a tactic to avoid contact with relevant issues. It often involves deceit and/or self-deceit; but it does not mean that you misunderstand the situation. It is a verbose device to circumvent truth; and this, I concede sadly, is exactly what you have done. I really think it is time for some serious introspection.
P.S. I have read Christ In India:24 your expressed attitudes and ambitions for us are little different from Monchanin’s. I have also read an account of Abhishiktananda’s death, though not his own works. I understand that he separated himself from you as well as Monchanin. I do not pretend to judge his spiritual state, but, from his actions, I gather that he was a seeker of integrity.25 You might follow his example.
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS
28 September 1987 (CE)
Father Bede Griffiths:
I have read Abhishiktananda’s book carefully and am not bewitched. This man was a Christian romantic a la Rousseau camouflaged as a Hindu existentialist. The romantic and the existentialist are forever opposed, both within the man and within society, for, spiritually, the latter cannot countenance the sentimental illogicality of the former.
But, to give Abhishiktananda his due, he did try very hard, and has said in another place: “Why do people run here and there, trying this religion, this other religion, or trying to add to or change already existing ones, trying this master, this other master? Why not keep to the teachings of the Upanishads and the Rishis?”
Yes, why not? I suggest that you read Sri Krishnaprema,26 who, being that rare combination of bhakta and jnani, Ramana27 identified as a very extraordinary sadhu. He truly was one of England’s great gifts to India.
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS
Vijaya Dasami28 1987 (CE)
Dear Father Bede:
You will appreciate that, as mendicants, we do not have private lives, and, as religious, our controversial differences must be exposed to public criticism and review. We are both accountable to the Indian people, who feed us, and for this reason our correspondence will be published soon. If you wish to comment on this project or add to your opinion, please do so now.
FR. BEDE GRIFFTTHS TO SWAMI DEVANANDA
October 7th 1987
Dear Swami Devananda,
Thank you for your letter. As you know, the letters which 1 have written to you were not written for publication, but as you wish to publish them together with your letters to me, I have no objection. I would only emphasise that the view I have put forward is not peculiar to me in any way, but is accepted by the Catholic Church as a whole to-day. The second Vatican Council introduced a profound change in the attitude of the Church to other religions. In it the Church declared that the Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in other religions and encouraged Catholics to ‘recognise, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral values as well as the cultural and social values’ of other religions.
This has resulted in two movements, one towards dialogue and the other towards inculturation, which have received the express approval of the Pope in recent times. By dialogue we understand the meeting with people of other religions in order to learn to understand one another and work together for the good of the country and of humanity as a whole. By inculturation we mean sharing the cultural values of another religion. I think that it would be of great assistance towards communal harmony in India, if we were to distinguish between culture and religion. No one will expect a Christian or anyone of another religion to accept the Hindu religion, that is, to worship the Hindu gods or to take part in Hindu rituals, but Hindu culture is another matter altogether. By culture we understand the ‘customs and traditions of the people, their wisdom and learning, their arts and sciences’. Hindu culture in this sense is not confined to Hindus but is universal. Every Indian, whether Hindu or Christian or Muslim or unbeliever can share in the riches of Hindu culture, its philosophy and spiritual discipline, its music and dance, its way of life.
I regard the syllable Om and the rite of sannyasa, to whose use by me you have objected, as having this universal meaning. The syllable Om signifies not any particular Hindu God or limited form of being but the Infinite and Eternal, the transcendent Mystery towards which every religion aspires. In the same way, sannyasa in my understanding signifies the commitment to the one beyond all name and form, the ultimate Truth, which is our common destiny. In this way I feel that using these symbols we are assisting in that movement towards the transcendent unity of religions, which is the hope of humanity to-day.
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS
13 October 1987 (CE)
Dear Father Bede:
Thank you for your letter of the 7th. My letters were also not written for publication, and therein lies the value of our debate.
I think that your peculiar utterings on transcendental unity are for the most part hyperbole and have nothing to do with the cold realities of integration, communal harmony, or world peace.
As for Vatican II, most unprejudiced scholars acknowledge that the Church is a congenital liar who has seldom suffered the smallest prickings of conscience throughout her blood-soaked career. We in India have directly experienced her repressive policies and evil deeds for centuries. Why should we now believe that Rome has had a sudden change of Heart? Birth defects are never cured, not even at Lourdes.29 W.R. Inge, the late Dean of St. Paul’s, has said that there is no evidence that the Holy Spirit has ever been present at Church councils. This is an astonishing admission for a leading churchman to make, and it raises issues that go back to the original Council of Nicea.30
Many Christians would agree with me when I say that if the Church ever got the upper hand again, the first thing she would do is dust off the rack and reinstate the Inquisition. Certainly your own deeds don’t encourage us, for you have nailed the sacred Omkar to a Roman Cross.
I sometimes wonder if you have even the most superficial knowledge of Hinduism. Om is intimately associated with all knowledge of Hinduism. Om is intimately associated with all our Gods and very specifically with two of them: Devi Saraswati as Vak and Vighneshwar, who is the personification of the divine syllable.31 When Vighneshwar’s body - or ear - is abstracted it becomes the symbol Om; and again, Vighneshwar and Om are interchangeable in rituals. Even if the symbol could be divorced from Hinduism, of which it is the unique identifying mark, is your crucifixion of it an edifying cultural event? When the pope can arrange fake encounters with our sadhus for publicity purposes, why can’t you go one step further and consult our dharmacharyas about your experiments when they directly affect Hinduism?
But my argument is best summed up by Sri Madhava Ashish: “Certain sorts of half-baked Vedantists abuse the true teaching that good and evil are transcended in states of being beyond space and time by applying it to the their daily lives in justification of amoral behaviour. This is to confuse eternity with time. In eternity, where all is one, there is neither right nor wrong, neither order nor chaos. In time, where all is multiple, there are both order and the choas into which order falls. Yet our of chaos we reach up first to reestablish order in multiplicity and then to partake in the unity which supports the whole. But before we can attain to direct perception of the timeless truth we who live in time need a rationally acceptable guide to behaviour which is based on our perception of the truth and its immutable values. Because our understanding is limited, such a code of behaviour will be but an interpretation of the truth. Nevertheless, it must be a genuine interpretation and not a travesty. Only thus may we again find significance in human endeavour and dignity in human life.”
The distinction between culture and religion is a false distinction, and when the division is effected the spirit of a people becomes atrophied as we see in Russia and the West today.
Our correspondence is going to press soon and I will send you copies of the book when it is available.
FR. BEDE GKWFITHS TO SWAMI DEVANANDA
October 16th 1987
Dear Swami Devananda,
Thank you for your letter. Of course, Om can be used in a sectarian setting, but I am thinking of its essential meaning. It seems to me that you are defending sectarian Hinduism (of which I know little) while I am concerned with the universal essence of Hinduism, as found in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita, and in modern masters like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi and Mahatma Gandhi. These have always been my guides.
Of course, Om is by no means confined to Hinduism. It is found in Buddhism as well. Would you like to write to the Dalai Lama and tell him to stop the Tibetan people from using their most sacred mantra: Om mani padma hum?
SWAMI DEVANANDA TO FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS
21 October 1987 (CE)
Dear Father Bede:
You are repeating yourself, and it is very boring indeed. Are you trying to teach me your curious catechism by rote? I have never learned anything by rote, but I do see that you are teaching a cosmic catachresis and not a catholic catechism.
Do the Vedas, Upanishads and Gita, along with the great masters named in your post card, advocate the hanging of the Omkara on a sectarian Christian cross or encourage sectarian Christian priests like yourself to wear ochre cloth and call themselves sannyasins?
Apparently you know as little about Buddhism as you do about Hinduism, both of which are Sanatana Dharma.32 They have the same roots and traditions and usages and a mutual spiritual ideal that goes far beyond their differences. This is not true of the Semitic ideologies, which, by their own definition, claim to be superior, unique and exclusive. Voltaire warned of these closed creeds when he wrote: “The man who says to me, ‘Believe as I do or God will damn you,’ will presently say to me ‘Believe as I do or I will kill you’.”
Think about this carefully, Father Bede, for you are the ordained representative of one of these creeds.
And you seem to know even less about mantra than you do about Sanatana Dharma.
Perhaps you would like to write to the Shankaracharya of Sharada Peetham at Sringeri and ask him if you can nail the Omkara to a Roman cross, don ochre cloth on your own authority and call yourself a sannyasin?
Do let me know what he says.
Âstika in northern way of writing Sanskrit. ↩
Many Hindus took Kulandaiswami to be a Hindu sannyasin. It turned out that he was a Catholic who had written a whole book in protest against what he regarded as pollution of Catholicism by the likes of Bede Griffiths. ↩
Transcendental Meditation of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi ↩
Dr. Teasdale does not take notice of Fr. Joseph Pullikal’s letter of 21 April 1987 ↩
The letter was not published by the Indian Express, but a copy of it which he had sent to Bede Griffiths brought a reply. ↩
Since then a new Concordat has been signed between Italy and the Vatican and Roman Catholicism is no longer the state religion of Italy. ↩
The taunt is aimed at atheists and materialists ↩
One who knows the Brahma, that is, the Supreme Truth. This alludes to Bede Griffiths’ pretensions. ↩
It was a reply to Swami Devananda’s first letter to Indian Express which was not published. Bede Griffith’s reply, too, was not published by the Indian Express. ↩
The forgoing letter dated June 17, 1987 ↩
The Ramakrishna Mission denies that it represents Hinduism. See Ramakrishna Mission in Search of a New Identity by Ram Swarup published by Voice of India, New Delhi, 1986. ↩
He could have said “since 1500” when the first Catholic missionaries arrived in India in the company of Pedro Alvares Cabral, a Portugues pirate who called himself captain of the second Portuguese expedition. ↩
It would have been more correct to say “on orders from the Church”. The orders can be documented. ↩
Common Era. Swami Devananda prefers this abbreviation to A.D. (anno Domini, in the year of the Lord) which was coined with reference to die birds of Jesus whom Christians regard as the Only True God. ↩
The woman referred to in Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. Early Christian theologians took it as a reference to pagan Rome. But Protestants like Martin Luther interpreted it as a reference to Papal Rome. ↩
It is to be noted that the word “fundamentalist” was very much in the air as a pejortative term at the time this dialogue took place. All sorts of self-appointed secularists were bandying it around, without ever explaining what it meant. A member of the Catholic Church calling a Hindu sannyasi “fundamentalist” sounds like a Stalinist naming Mahatma Gandhi as “fascist”. ↩
The Roman emperor who became a Christian in 313 and made Christianity the state religion. The force and fraud which the Christian Church then used for destroying all ancient religions in the Roman Empire, is recorded history. ↩
Malachy O’Morgan (1094-1148) was an Irish priest who foretold the identities of 112 popes from Celestine II in 1143 to the present one and beyond. According to his prophecy, the present pope, john Pause II, is the third before the last pope. Malachy is the first formally cononised saint of the Catholic Church. Many Roman Catholics esteem him because his prophecies have been found accurate. The Church, however, disowns his prophecies. ↩
Ostentation, arrogance and self-conceit, anger and also harshness and ignorance belong to one who is born, O Partha, for a demoniac state. ↩
Latin phrase which means, “Except the Lord [keep the city, the watchman waketh] but in Vain” (Bible, Psalm cxxvii). ↩
“Amor” means “love” in the Latin language but came to signify the opposite of “Roma” (Rome), the headquarters of the Catholic Church and the seat of the Pope. “Roma” is “Amor” spelt backwards, conveying that “Roma” (the Church) is the very antithesis of “Amor” (Divine Love). The tradition of using the two terms in opposition started with the Cathars (Albigenses) of South France who were proclaimed heretics by the Pope and against whom the bloodiest crusade of medieval times was launched and caried out in 1209. Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales has a character named Nun who wears a locket with a Latin inscription which includes the word “Amor”. The great English poet is known for his making fun of the Church. ↩
It is a technical term used in the psychology of Sigmund Freud for the “sum total of primitive instinctive forces” operating in the Unconscious and subverting the rational and moral principles in man. ↩
John Paul II, the present Pope. ↩
A book by Fr. Bede Griffiths, first published in England in 1966 and reprinted as a paperback in India (Bangalore) in 1986. We have quoted from it in Chapter 6, and shown what Bede Griffiths really stands for. ↩
This is a wrong impression. Fr. Abhishiktananda was as much for absorbing Hinduism into the Catholic creed as Fr. Monchanin. ↩
An Englishman who became a Vaishnava sadhu and set up an Ashrama at Mritola near Almora, Uttar Pradesh ↩
Ramana Maharshi ↩
October 2 ↩
A place in France where Virgin Mary is supposed to work miraculous cure of disease. ↩
The First of the Christian councils, held in 325 A.D., which proclaimed the fundamental Christian creed. ↩
In a subsequent letter to the author, Swamiji wants this sentence to read, “who is the traditional personification of the divine symbol for this Day of Brahma.” ↩
Christian missionaries in particular and Western scholarship in general have done great mischief by proclaiming Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism as not only separate religions but also as revolts against Brahmanism which, in its turn, has been termed reactionary and orthodox Hinduism. There is no ground whatsoever for this splitting of Sanatana Dharma into “revolutionary” and “reactionary” creeds. ↩