Contemplation and Contemplative Life

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.



AI Suggested Keywords:


Introduction by Robert Hale. Fr Bede chanting.

AI Summary: 




Evening public talk. Master tape


Good evening, especially those who have come from afar, and as the Italians say, more or
less, casa nostra, casa vostra, our house is your house.
And we particularly want to thank Father Bede, whom I suspect you all know, for offering
his reflections, which come out of not just a theorizing, but out of a lived experience
of many decades of encounter of East and West at a deep contemplative level.
Panikkar argues that we're all called to be monks at a deep level, and I think that Father
Bede has witnessed that we're all called to be monks in whose heart is this encounter,
indeed this marriage of East and West. Thank you.
I'd like to begin with a Sanskrit chant. It may not mean very much to you, but in India
we always begin any sacred conference with a chant linking us with the whole sacred tradition
of India and the world. It means very roughly, let us enjoy together, let us share together,
let us shine together, let us strive together, let there be no quarreling among us.
I want to talk to you tonight about contemplation and contemplative life,
because I think it's the renewal of contemplative life is the most important movement in the
Church, not only in the monastic order, but in the Church and in society today. It may seem
an exaggeration, but to me it is very clear. I base this view on the teaching of St. Paul,
particularly in the Letter to Thessalonians, where he asks that may you be sanctified body,
soul and spirit. And in St. Paul the human being is seen as composed of body, soul and spirit.
But unfortunately, after the later Fathers, this psychology was replaced by the Aristotelian
psychology, body-soul. And most Christians and most people today think a human being is a body-soul.
And that makes all the difference. God becomes something above, remote, as a gulf very often,
and many people of course dismiss God altogether, and others feel he's very remote,
and it really upsets the balance of Christian life. But from the beginning, they were always
understood that these three dimensions of human existence, and we're not fully human until we
live on those three levels of reality. And first of all, there is the body. We are a body, a physical
body, part of the physical organism of the universe. And today, of course, we're aware, we're part of
this Mother Earth, this universe, and we live in her and on her. We breathe the air day by day,
we take in food day by day, we're linked with electrical and magnetic forces all around us,
we're part of the physical universe. And secondly, we belong to a psychological universe.
Today again, we recognize human beings are all psychologically interrelated,
we're all members of one another, and not only human beings today, but right back to the beginning
in the collective unconscious, as Jung calls it, we're all linked to one another. The whole human
race is a psychological organism. So Thomas Aquinas had the nice phrase,
omnes homines unus humo, all men are one man, we're all one organic whole. So we're a psychological
organism. But now, beyond the body, beyond the soul, is the pneuma. The soul is the psyche,
see, and the spirit is the pneuma, and Sanskrit, the Atman. And that is the key to human nature
and to human existence. And many people have lost the key, you see, they think we're just a body-soul.
And the spirit is the point of our self-transcendence. Karl Rahner said the human
being is constituted by the capacity for self-transcendence, to go beyond the ego,
beyond our limited self, and open on the divine, what he called the holy mystery,
the transcendent. And that is the center of our human existence, is that point of the spirit.
St. Francis of Sales called it the fine point of the soul. The psyche has senses, feelings,
imagination, reason, will, all those belong to the psyche. But the psyche has this capacity to go
beyond itself, and at its fine point, it opens upon the infinite, the eternal, upon the one.
And that is the point of the spirit. And that is the point of contemplation, see. Contemplation
is experience of God in the spirit. And it has really, I think, largely been lost, you know,
among Christians, as Catholics, as well as others. They still live from the body-soul. That's why I
believe many Catholics today find it difficult to think what a future life will be like. Can this
body, can this soul go on, so on. And the spirit is this hidden mystery. St. Paul says the spirit
of God bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God. At that point of the spirit,
we know ourselves in this communion with the Holy Spirit. It's a communion of love in the
Holy Spirit. And that is what makes us human. We're not fully human beings as long as we live
in the body-soul. And the tragedies of God, well that's original sin, is the fall from the spirit
into the psyche. And the psyche, the soul, is centered on the ego, the I-person. In Sanskrit
it's called the ahamkara, the I-maker. And our whole personality, our whole human personality
focuses on this I-center, this ego. And that imprisons us. And people today are imprisoned
in that ego, you see. And it's a terrible, that is original sin, that fall into the separated
self, the ego. And the whole of redemption consists in opening up the ego, surrendering the ego,
and allowing the spirit to open into us and to carry us into our own life. So that is our human
situation. And why I say it's so important, not only for the Church but for the world, you see,
I think America today, and most of the Western world, is living without this awareness that there
is a dimension beyond the psyche. I read a book of Sam Kean recently, it's Far and the Belly.
It's a very, very good book, and I think he's a leading psychologist. And it's an attempt,
you know, to find a way today for human beings to come together in love, in communion, in community.
And it's beautifully done, but it's all on that psychological dimension. There's nothing beyond
the psyche, you see. And that is where most Americans and most Western people, and a lot of
Eastern people are now following the same, of course, that is where we stand today. We're
imprisoned in this psyche, you see, and we've lost the awareness of the spirit. And that is the
responsibility of the Church today, is to awaken people through the presence of the spirit. And
unfortunately, it's not so common in the Church, you see. So many Christians and Catholics still
live really from the psyche. They're with their mind and their will, they believe in God and they
pray and all this sort of thing, but they're not aware experientially of the Holy Spirit dwelling,
working, acting in them, because that takes place at that point of the spirit. So that's why I say
it's vital for the world today, it's vital for the Church, and I think Carmelodele, especially
Newcombe, I believe, has a very, very special calling today to awaken the Gnostic order,
the Church, and the world to the reality of the spirit, the action of the spirit in the world,
in every human being, in the whole cosmos, actually. So that is our background then,
these bodies, physical, psychological, and spiritual beings, and we're only fully human,
fully, who am I, you know, we ask in India, who am I? Am I this body? No. Am I this psyche?
No, I'm not my psyche. I am that eternal spirit. That eternal spirit is living in this body,
in this soul, and their body, soul, own their very being to that power of the spirit.
Perhaps I might tell you the story of Ramana Maharshi, maybe well known to some of you.
He was a very holy man, lived about 200 miles from us in South India, and he was a Brahmin boy
in Madhura, and went to an American school there, fairly normal boy, devout, but nothing special.
And one day, when he was 16 or 17 years old, he suddenly felt that he was going to die.
And it was so powerful, he simply surrendered to it. He was living in a little room near the temple,
I visited it once, quite small room, and he simply laid down on the floor,
and surrendered himself to death. He said, now this body is dead. Am I dead? And at that moment,
he had an overwhelming conviction, I am not this body, I am an eternal spirit.
It was so overwhelming, he couldn't, he had to change his life completely. And he never lost,
he died at the age of about 70 in 1950, and never for a moment did he lose that sense,
I am not this body, I am an eternal spirit. And so he was studying at school, and he left the
school, and he got some money from his brother, and he made his way to a, he had heard of this
holy hill, Arunachala, in South India, and he made his way there, and he sat in an underground temple
there, and he was totally lost to ordinary human consciousness, he simply absorbed in this
eternal spirit. And then some sariu came and brought him some milk, and gradually they brought
him round, and he lived in a cave for about 20 years, Arunachala. And he kept in complete silence
for years, and then people began to come, he used to write out replies and so on. And then gradually
after years he returned to normal, and finally they built an ashram at the bottom of the hill,
and he came down to the ashram, and remained there for the rest of his life. And incidentally,
one of the two founders, or the two founders of our ashram, Fr. Moshla, Fr. Lasso, Abhishek Tarnanda,
both visited this ashram, and Fr. Lasso, Abhishek Tarnanda, it was a turning point in his life,
when he met Ramana Maharshi, for the first time he met a man who was what in India they call a
realised soul, a man who was living in God. And it's a presence, you know, he didn't speak very often,
people simply came into his presence, and they would have all sorts of questions to ask,
and he would remain silent, and after a time they would feel all their questions being answered.
And in India, you know, you go to a holy man, not so much to listen to what he says, as to be in his
presence, they call it a darshan, to have the experience of a presence, that is what you go.
Ramana had this extraordinary power, extraordinary compassion, open to everybody.
So, now that is living in the spirit, you see, and that is what we mean by contemplation, it is
not simply living in your body or your soul, but experiencing the presence of God in the spirit,
that is how I would define contemplation. Now, the next thing is, what is the way to
contemplation? How can we, particularly those who are monks, but as father said, I think we all
recognise the archetype of the monk, every human being has the archetype of the monk in him. We're
all created to be alone with God, you know, at that point in the spirit, we transcend all our
human differences of body and soul, and we touch the divine at that point, and it's present in
everybody. The archetype is there in each one of us, so it's not monks alone. So, what is the way,
then, to reach that point of the spirit, to be open to God in contemplation? Well, we have the
traditional way in the monastic order, we were talking about it recently, Lectio, Meditatio,
Oratio, Contemplatio. Lectio is reading, and in the Mount Ely we make a great deal of that,
Lectio Divina, meditating the scriptures. And I think it's very fundamental, though I think
we also have to meditate the other scriptures. And incidentally, I might mention, I'm hoping
to publish a book very soon, Readings in the Scriptures of the World. It'll include Hindu,
Buddhist, Taoist, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, and Christians. And I hope people will get in the
habit of meditating these texts in the context of prayer. We do it in our ashram, every day we read,
in the context of prayer, the Bible, the Psalms, and so on, we read from these different scriptures.
And so, the different scriptures are ways which open our hearts to the Indwelling Presence.
And you know, they say of the Vedas, just as we say of the Bible, you cannot understand the Vedas
unless you know the spirit by which the Vedas were written. They're said to be eternal, you know,
the Vedas. And Veda means knowledge, wisdom, and the Vedas are eternal. And what's the other word?
Without human authorship, they were given the Vedas. It's a revelation, you see. So,
there is this belief that there is a point of the spirit where we open on to the eternal and
changing. So, Lectio is a beginning, then we read, meditate the scripture to lead us into,
not the words, but the word which comes through the words, you see. And then Meditatio, in the
more normal sense, simply reflecting on the meaning of the scripture. The Ignatian exercises
are a good example in Christian tradition, and we have various ways of meditation of that kind.
But it's discursive, discursive meditation. Then we have Oratio, prayer. And here I would
mention the divine office, you see. For a month, the divine office is the main work of his prayer,
the Opus Dei, so Benedict calls it. And it's been all these centuries, it's been the center really
of monastic life, and it still remains to a large extent. But I feel we're being called today,
to go beyond the divine office, because divine office is still discursive. It's not contemplation,
it can lead to contemplation. And I may say I was a monk in British Abbey in England for 20 years,
and we had the Latin office with the Gregorian chant, and it's deeply contemplative. I'll never
forget it, day after day, chanting that one bit. See, the Gregorian chant is a purely spiritual
music, and it sort of led you into contemplation. So it has great power. But still, it's still,
it's not still fully contemplation, you see. And I think today we're being led beyond Oratio,
beyond the divine office of prayer, into a pure contemplative prayer, what they call Oratio Pura,
pure prayer. And that is prayer without words and without thoughts. And that is contemplation.
Contemplation is prayer, union with God, without words and without thoughts. But we can use words
and thoughts, and all these are valid ways, you see, of leading into contemplation. But even more
than all these, I think, is the way of the mantra. And I'm really a disciple of Father John Main.
Many of you know him, the English Benedictine monk, founded a monastery in Montreal in Canada,
and taught this way of prayer with a mantra, with a sacred word. And interestingly, he learnt it
from a Hindu swami. Before he became a monk, he was in Malaya, and he met a Hindu swami,
who taught him to meditate with a word. And he came to the monastery, and he was,
oh no, that's all paper, and he must give all that up, having ordinary Christian meditation,
you see. But he founded Cassium, the writer in the 5th century who told all the story of the
monks of the desert and their conferences, and who inspired the rule of Saint Benedict, you see. Saint
Benedict was a disciple, really, of Cassium in that way. And he found this tradition in the paths of
the desert of the sacred word. They would take some verse from the Bible, oh God come to my aid,
Lord make haste to help me. And he would repeat it continually, whatever situation,
God come to my aid, Lord make haste to help me. And then they tried other words, and often they
would go to a father, give me a word father. And so gradually the Jesus prayer came to be
established, particularly in the Orthodox Church. And the traditional form is Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. I'm sure many of you know it, that very, very beautiful
book, The Way of a Pilgrim, about a Russian peasant who read in the New Testament, you must
pray always, pray without ceasing. And he went to different monasteries and asked, how can I pray
without ceasing? And one star, it's an elder, taught him the Jesus prayer. He said, go, repeat
this prayer a thousand times, two thousand, five thousand times. And he went over Russia as a pilgrim,
and the prayer went on night and day, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
And it transformed his life, and it transformed everybody around him. You feel it when you read it,
it's a wonderful story. And I lived a Benedictine life for many, many years, and I knew nothing about
this. I can't remember when I discovered it, but it must have been 40 years ago. And I've used it
ever since. And it's my mainstay in life, I would say, you know. And it goes on continually. Once you
let it go, it simply goes on of itself. The moment you sit down, or the moment you're quiet in a train,
or a bus, or a plane, whatever, the thing simply comes up. And it keeps you in the presence of God,
you see. That's the value of it. It quietly goes on, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
And it puts you in the presence, and keeps you in the presence. Your mind goes off here and there,
and you keep coming back to the mantra, to the words, until you get centered. They call it
Centering Prayer. The other great, with John Mayne, the other great center is Spencer Abbey,
where Father Thomas Keating was abbot, and Basil Pennington were with him, and they instituted
this Centering Prayer. They're much the same. Again, they call it a gift from the desert,
and they took the whole tradition from the father of the desert, through the cloud of unknowing.
Many of you know that medieval treatise, a beautiful book on this contemplative prayer.
And so, it's coming to the church today. So, I strongly recommend, I mean, for lay people,
you know, people living in the world, you can't say the divine office every day, or even once a week.
And you need something to hold on to, you see. And a mantra, or a sacred word, is a sort of lifeline.
And when you go to sleep, the mantra starts you off. When you wake up, it comes. And when you go
through the day, whenever you've nothing else to do, the mantra quietly goes on. So, it's a
wonderful way of centering one's life, you see. You needn't stick to the Jesus Prayer, of course.
There are other mantras. John Mayne used Maranatha, which is Aramaic for Lord, come. Or rather,
there are two translations. By the way, I was in the Syrian church in Kerala for 10 years. I got
Syriac and some wonderful language. You feel very near to the Bible, you know, very near to the
Hebrew. And it can be translated Maranatha, which means Lord, come. Or Maranatha, which the Lord
comes. It doesn't matter either, you see. But it's invoking the presence of the Lord, that's all.
And in our ashram, Swami Amal Das was a wonderful yogi, a master of hatha yoga and of meditation. He
travelled to many parts of the world giving courses in yoga and meditation. Tragically, he died last
year in June, suddenly of a heart attack. He was only 42. And it was a big loss for us. But he'd
done a wonderful work. And his mantra was Yesu Abba. Yesu is you breathe in, Abba Father is you
breathe out. You breathe in the whole world, all the conflicts, troubles, and then you surrender
it all to the Father, you see. And that's a beautiful prayer. So, I always recommend, find
your own mantra. The mantra must correspond to some vibration in your own being, you know. Hindus,
merely the guru gives you the mantra, and you're supposed to discern what will work with you. But
today I think we should have a freedom to find our own mantra. Somebody can suggest it, but
we must find that it resonates in our being. And the mantra is in your body, you see, and in your
breath. Your whole being resonates with the word. And so it has a transforming power. So then, that
is our way to contemplation, quietly repeating the mantra. Now, what is the process now of passing
from the psyche to the spirit of opening ourselves to God in contemplation? And the essence of it is,
I think, that you have to go beyond words and beyond thoughts. And most of us are totally
conditioned by words and thoughts. We talk and talk and talk, as Christians and anybody else,
you know. And it's good, of course. You can't do without it. But it can be a great problem,
you know. It prevents this interior silence, if you're not careful. So, we have to get beyond
words, and we have to get beyond thoughts. And that is much more difficult, because we're all
educated, you see, to think from the age of about four today. Children are taught to think all the
time. It wasn't so in the past. It's not so in India, you know. People think with their bodies
and their breath and their emotions and so on, and not with their heads. But we think with our head.
And so, we have this great problem. When we sit down to meditate, the mind goes round and round
and to stop the mind, you see. The yoga sutras of Patanjali, the classical teaching of yoga,
begins with, yoga is citta vritti nirodha, cessation of the movements of the mind. That is
the beginning of yoga, when you stop the mind. And once you stop the mind, you become aware of
the presence, I call it, the presence of God. You can give it any name you like. A Buddhist
wouldn't give it a name like that. You enter into a silence, a solitude, a depth, something you
cannot describe. It's got no word, you see. There's no thought. It's beyond everything.
And this is a difficulty, of course. People say, well, what is it? If you can't think about it,
but you can experience it. And in India, you see, for hundreds and hundreds of years,
this has been the search, to find that place of the silence, where you encounter the spirit within.
I like to quote Chandogya Upanishad, one of the long, rather difficult ones.
He has a beautiful sentence there where it says, in this castle of nine gates of the body,
the body is called a castle, with nine openings, eyes and nose and the rest. And in that castle,
there is a little shrine. And in that shrine, there is a lotus. And in that lotus, there is a
little space. What is that which dwells in that little space at the heart of the lotus? And of
course, they say that the whole universe is in that little space at the heart of the lotus.
We project our universe around us through our senses and our minds and all the rest of our
scientific instruments. This is a projection. But behind all these projections outside us
is the inner reality. And that is in the heart. And God is dwelling in the heart,
and the whole universe is present in God. And that is what you have to find in that little space,
you see, to find the hidden presence. So that is what contemplation is. Now, in India, you see,
the search for 3,000 years has been to find that little space in the heart of the lotus, to find a
center where you're in direct, immediate contact with ultimate reality, whatever name you give it.
The Buddha wouldn't name it, you know. He used negative terms, called it nirvana. The Buddhists
call it sunyata, the void, emptiness, totally negative. Hindus call it the art. Well, there are
two words. One is Brahman. And they look around on the universe, and behind all the phenomena,
the appearances of the senses of the world around, they discern this hidden power,
the power behind the universe. And they call that power Brahman. And then they look upon their body
and their mind, and behind the body, behind the mind, they find this inner center of the body
and the mind, and they call that your Atman, your spirit, your self. And the great discovery was made,
this Atman is Brahman. This Atman, this self, this spirit within me, is one with Brahman,
with the eternal spirit in the universe. And that is the Hindu mystical experience.
I am Brahman. And it's an experience of total oneness. You lose all sense of difference.
And incidentally, Swami Abhishek Dhananda, you know, father of our two founders,
he went to Tiruvannamalai and saw Ramana Maharshi, and he also sat under another guru there,
Swami Jnanananda, and he had this overwhelming experience of total oneness. All duality
disappears as simply one. And it was a great problem how to relate this experience of total
non-duality, of oneness, with this Christian faith of Trinity, the Incarnation, the Eucharist,
and he clung to both sides of it. And it was a battle. Those who have read his diaries will know
he had no internal agony in a way, trying to keep the two together. He couldn't give up
the experience of total oneness, and he would not give up his Christian faith. I don't think
he ever really resolved it. But I think God meant him to live with it, you know. So often
you have to live with a contradiction like that. So that is this Hindu experience of total oneness.
There's no difference between me and God and the world and other people. It's all totally
un-dwighter, non-dual. There's no difference at all. And that is an overwhelming experience.
You see, for Ramana Maharshi, he simply absorbed into this one reality. There was nothing outside,
and everything was inside it. That's the wonder of it, you see. It's outside of everything,
and everything is in it. You know the whole universe in Brahman, in your inner self, the
spirit. So that is the Hindu experience of Samadhi. And then we have the Zen experience. I was staying
at the Zen center in Berkeley until recently, and there was a very quite earnest little group of
people there practicing Zen meditation every day. And of course it spread all over the world. And
Father Masao, you know, was a Jesuit who spent his life in Japan, and he was a master of Zen.
And he taught this method of Zen meditation, which is emptying yourself. Let all thoughts,
feelings, desires, let everything go. And when everything is gone, when you're totally empty,
you discover the center, the reality, the one, whatever. There's no name for it, you see.
And we must face the fact, you see, that in America today, there are innumerable people
for whom that is the last word. For them, they've found the truth. When you get to the Zen
meditation, the Satori, the enlightenment, you've reached the goal. Or when you reach Samadhi,
or the union with Brahman, you've reached the goal. And it's a challenge to a Christian,
you know. You see, they have hundreds of houses all over America and Europe today. They're spreading
everywhere, because people are looking for this. You see, this is the thing today. People leave
the church, of course, to look for this experience of total oneness, which answers all your problems.
And then I can relate everything in my life to this one reality, this one center, this one truth.
So, that's really, I feel, the challenge, particularly with the church in America,
you see. Because when living in Berkeley, or any of those places in California,
everybody's talking about everybody, but the people you meet, they're all talking about it,
they're all in search of it. And so many simply leave the church. I went to the Zen Center in San
Francisco last time I was here, and I was told that 50% were either ex-Catholics or ex-Jews.
They leave their religion, and this is their answer. They've found the reality they leave,
you see. It has its problems afterwards, as you know. So, I feel that is the challenge to the
church today, and not many of us really are answering it. And I feel come out of it, have a
special call to answer this. What does Christian meditation bring to us, you see? What's that
different from what the Hindu and the Buddhist and the Muslim, the Sufi, what they can offer?
Well, now, it's not an easy question, and I've come rather reluctantly, perhaps, to think
that the answer lies, you know, in sin and redemption. Again and again you find, you see,
they don't believe in sin. They believe that when you reach that stage, you're free from all sin,
all imperfections of any kind. You're one with the Supreme. There are no differences anymore.
There's a book called A Course of Miracles. I think some of you know that. It's very popular,
and that, I think, is really a Christian attempt to have this union with God without sin.
And in the Hindu tradition, it's very strong. Swami Vivekananda, you know, who brought the Red
Hunter to America, incidentally in 1893, and they're going to have a big celebration in 1993,
and it's centenary. And he always said, you are not a sinner, you are God. You must realize you
are God. Talk about sin, you see. Well, that's all right as far as it goes. It does help people,
you know. It opens them up and they think this is wonderful. But sin is a reality, and I think
we all have to face this fact of sin. And many things go wrong, you know, with Zen Buddhists
and Tibetan Buddhists and with yogis and so on, as you all know, when these scandals occur.
And it's not the simple answer. But now sin raises a very difficult problem for us as Catholics,
I think. Because again and again people come to our ashram, and they more or less left the church,
and they all say this terrible doctrine of sin. When I was a child, I was taught all this
everything so sinful, and it prevented my spiritual growth. Until I can throw that away,
I cannot grow spiritually. I can't tell you how many people have told me that.
It simply blocks your way. And the reason for it, I think, is quite simple. As Catholics and
Christians, we're taught to repress our feelings. We repress them, you see. And most people have
very violent feelings of anger, resentment, hatred, fear, anxiety, and, of course, sexual desire.
All those passions are in all of us. And if we simply repress them, they don't go away. They
form a negative force in the unconscious, and they disturb your whole life. It's terrifying
what it can do, these repressed forces in the unconscious. In fact, I think, you know, if you
like to interpret it so, I think that when Jesus was casting out devils, they were these repressed
forces in the unconscious, which are terribly violent and can destroy you, you see, torment you.
And people are suffering from those. And if you keep on suppressing them,
and repression can be either conscious or unconscious. If you're a child, your family,
you know, everybody tells you, you mustn't show any anger, you mustn't have any sexual desires,
you have any thought or feeling or desire, you must immediately put it away. It's very simple.
And you grow up with that, and unconsciously you suppress every instinct of passion and desire in
yourself. And then, if you're more mature, when it comes consciously, you consciously suppress,
but it all goes back into the unconscious. And you're building up a tremendous negative force,
which you then project onto other people, terrible anger and hatred, and all these terrible violence
in the world today, you know, here in America, and in wars, and all over the world. It's all
these repressed forces in the unconscious. People, you cannot control them, once you
suppress them like that, they're beyond your control. And they just take hold of you,
and you kill people, you see. And that is what is happening all around us.
And so, how do we deal with these repressed forces in the unconscious? Well, the first thing,
we must acknowledge them, you see. And nobody wants to acknowledge it. You know,
the number of people who hate their mothers is extraordinary, you know. It comes from childhood,
you know. The child, when they're a year or two old, their mother has to correct it, you know,
and correct and put it down in so many ways. And a deep resentment grows up, you see, anger.
And you don't say so, you don't like to feel it, you cannot hate your mother. So it's pushed down
all the time, you see. And then it creates a negative force, which destroys your life,
you know, these negative forces. Incidentally, perhaps I should say, I attended a session at
Esselin. You know, Stan Crawford, his wife, they conduct, I think they call it rebirthing,
where people, you have a room like this, and they're each on a mattress, and they lie down,
and somebody's there to watch them. And then they play music. And first of all, it's fairly soft,
and then it works up very dramatic, violent music. And they go into the unconscious, you see,
they're told to shut their eyes, to breathe quietly and regularly. And they begin to gesticulate,
and they go through all these passions come up, they go through a birth trauma, they say.
The agony when you're born, you know, can be terrible, apparently. And it can all come up
from the unconscious, and all your hatred and violence, it all keeps coming up. And then after
an hour or so, they calm down, and they go out, and they've got free of a lot of these unconscious
repressions, you see. So that's one method. But I don't recommend that particularly.
But we have to deal with them, you see. And how do we deal with these repressed forces
of the unconscious? Well, as I say, the first thing, we must acknowledge them, you see.
And I think in meditation, here John Main didn't agree, he said, let it all go, don't think about
it, leave all these things. But I think when it's serious, you have to bring them into your
meditation, into the presence of Christ, you see. Your anger, your fear, your anxiety, your hate,
your sexual desires, they've all got to be brought up into consciousness and surrendered. And the
thing is, you should not suppress them. That's only going to create a negative force. And you
should not indulge them, because that's only going to create more problems. But there is a way of
transcending them, of going beyond, and it's a way of surrender, surrender to Christ, surrendering
love, really. And just as Jesus on the cross surrendered himself totally to the Father,
took all the anger and the hatred and the violence around him, he took it all into himself
and surrendered it to the Father, and freed us by that. By his total acceptance of all this violence
in human nature, he took it into himself. He bore our sins on the cross, they say. And by doing so,
he surrendered it all in love, and transformed the whole world by it, you see. And that's how
these things have to be transformed. You can't suppress them, and it's no good indulging them.
You've got to transform them. And only the Holy Spirit, the power of love, can transform these
passions in our nature. And particularly sexual desire, you see, that's a big problem for most
Catholics, especially for priests and people, I think. And we really have to face it, you see,
we've all got sexual desires. It's absolutely normal, you see. And in fact, Freud showed quite
clearly that there's an element of sex in all human affection, even mother and child, you know.
Sex is part of our nature, and it goes through our whole being. And so you have to accept that
it's part of me. And then you can, of course, indulge it if you like, or you can suppress it.
But you can also transform it. Consciously, awarely, you bring your sexual desire, your feelings,
into your meditation, and open it up to Christ, to God, and surrender it in love, you see.
And actually, you see, sex is such a love instinct. And if you can let that love instinct, which is
physical to begin with, and then psychological, if you can let it to grow into spiritual,
then a total transformation can take place. Well, now that's the next thing I want to talk about.
Transformation in love. And that is what we're really called, you see. It's no good putting
these things down by the law, you see. That was, Jesus was faced with, the Pharisees, the Jews
generally, thought that the law could control. And then most people do, you see. Anger, hatred,
you must control them, put them down. And which means your ego gets stronger and stronger,
and you project all these feelings onto other people. And that's what we're doing, you see.
You bring the peace in, and so on. And that simply doesn't answer it. You suppress it for the moment,
and then it comes up again. But to let the inner transformation take place, that is the real
problem. And now I want to share with you, if you don't mind, an experience I had a year or two ago.
It was in January 1989, and I was meditating on the veranda of my little hut in our ashram,
about six o'clock in the morning. And suddenly, a terrific force came up and hit me on the head,
like a sledgehammer. And everything went like this, you know, like in a TV set before it gets
focused, just like this. And a tremendous force seemed to be dragging me out of the chair.
It was terrifying. It was in me, the force, you see, but it was pulling me out like this.
I managed to crawl onto the bed, and about an hour later, one of the friends found me there,
and they all thought I was dying. It was a terrible situation. And for a week, you know,
I didn't speak a word. I don't know what happened. Apparently I was conscious,
but I can't remember a thing for a whole week. I was just there.
I had a wonderful attempt. It was an extraordinary thing. In our ashram,
there were five nurses, one from America, one from Scotland, two from India, I think,
somewhere else, and two doctors. So they all looked after me. People were watching me all the time.
So it was very dramatic. And so I gradually came round after a week. And as I came into
consciousness, I began to become aware of death, you know. And I woke up one night,
about one o'clock, and I thought I was going to die. And I decided, well, let me die.
And so I prepared for death. I said prayers and everything, and waited, and nothing happened.
And then one of the brothers came along sometime afterwards, and I began to have some breakfast,
got back to normal. But I felt very, very restless, with some uncertainty. And suddenly,
a sort of inspiration or an urge came to me. Surrender to the Mother. It came out of the
blue. Surrender to the Mother. And by the Mother, I certainly meant Our Lady, but more than Our Lady,
the Mother Nature, Mother Earth, my own mother, motherhood in general, you know.
And so I must have made some kind of surrender to the Mother. And I had the most extraordinary
experience of love. It was waves and waves of love that seemed to pour over me. It was
extraordinary. It wasn't from me at all. And I called out to her as my friend was watching me,
and I said, I'm being overwhelmed with love. And I didn't know what it was, but it was
transforming. I think psychologically, probably you could correct me, I think really it was
the unconscious opened up the feminine. You know, most of us repress the feminine,
especially in America, we have to be very masculine. And we repress the feminine. Every
human being is masculine and feminine, you see. And the male tends to repress the female,
and the female tends to repress the male. And so we repress the feminine, and then the feminine
hits back. And I think the feminine was, the Mother was hitting me over the head.
And so, by opening up the feminine, it opened up a whole dimension of consciousness for me.
It really transformed me, you know. And I think this is a very important lesson, you see. I think
most of us, priests, celibates, monks, people, we're all in danger of suppressing the other
half of our nature. And we have to allow it to come. It shouldn't come up with violence like
that, but it should come up peacefully and graciously, you see. And that is the work of
graces, to allow the feminine to come. And it taught me two things. One was this tremendous
power of love. I got this conviction behind all the pain and the suffering and the violence and
conflict of the world, there is an overwhelming love, you know. And if you get
nowhere, became unconscious, she had an overwhelmed experience of love in the same way. Total love
embracing you. And so it's there, you know, if we can only breathe it and only open ourselves to it.
Beneath all the pain and conflict of the world is this mysterious ocean of love, really,
awaiting us. And that's the meaning of life, really. So, that taught me that. And the other
thing it taught me, you know, was God as mother. I'm reading a book now, which probably made the
Divine Mother into a very solid theological thing, showing really that we ought to recognize
motherhood in God. Pope John Paul I, you know, I think the one thing he left a record of his papers,
saying that God is mother. And it's logical, I mean, father, of course God is neither male nor
female, but we have to have an image of God. And there's no need to always have a masculine image,
father or son, even the Holy Spirit people think is masculine, you see, he. So that's quite
unnecessary. And there's a strong tradition, you see, in the Hebrew, the Ruach, the spirit is
feminine. And in the Syriac, the same word, Ruach, is feminine. And in the early Syrian church,
they spoke of our mother, the Holy Spirit. I think that's important. And the other is the wisdom of
the Old Testament, the Chokmah, is also feminine. And in the Book of Proverbs, more still in the
wisdom of Solomon, it's she played before him, and she is a mirror of the everlasting light,
and so on. It's a feminine figure of wisdom, you see, Sophia in Greek, and Hagia Sophia in
Constantinople, a church, a cathedral built to the holy wisdom. So there is a feminine figure
in the Christian tradition. Of course, for most Catholics, Our Lady takes the place. And that's
the great saving grace in the church, I think, that we have a feminine figure to whom we can appeal.
But it shouldn't be simply Our Lady, it should be God himself is mother, you see.
There is, and in India, you know, it's very interesting that the mother aspect is stronger
than the father. And many devotees would spontaneously say, my father, my mother.
And I just before I came to India, I met a very interesting young priest from North India,
who's living more or less as a sanyasi now, he's got permission from his bishop.
And when he was praying, he always said, my father, father, mother, God, he didn't say God,
father, he said God, father, mother. And they're beginning to say that now. I think we have to
do something like that. And women feel this very strongly, you know, they strongly object to the
male figure of God all the time without any feminine aspect to it. So we have to think seriously about
it. So there was two things that came to me that God is love in this very positive, powerful sense,
a tremendous power of love is beneath everything we do. And that power of love is a mothering power,
you see, it sustains us. You see, the difference between a father and a mother is this,
the father is outside you, you know, you're in the womb of the mother and she nurses you and
you feed you with her breasts and so on. You belong to the mother, and the father has to
call you out from the mother, he has to challenge you, you've got to become a man, you must go out.
And so masculine love always challenges you, like Yahweh is a very masculine God.
If you keep my law and do what I command you, then I will be your God, you see. He challenges you,
you've got to keep the commandments and then I'll look after you. But the mother is unconditional
love. The child, when the father gets angry, runs to the mother and she nurses him, because it can
be invigorating, it can be harmful actually, but there is a genuine mother love like that, you see.
And that we can find in God, there is a mother love in God. And many people today have that
need, you know, a punishing God with vengeance and judgment and so on, is very, very destructive for
many people and they need a mothering God which will sustain you, will nourish you and help you
in your trials and problems. So I think, again, we have to think seriously about this, the mother.
Well now, those were the main points I wanted to put before you and now we come back to where we
started, contemplation, you see. We have to go through this purification, free ourselves from
this bondage of sin, of egoism and I didn't make that perhaps quite clear enough, that when we're
dealing with all these passions, anger, desire, fear and the rest, the tendency is to control
them by your ego, your conscious self, you see. You can keep yourself under control and there you just
get dominated by your ego. And it's good in some way, you can be very respectable, but it's very,
very limited and can be very harmful. And that was what St. Paul was fighting against, is justification
by the law. Keep the law, don't kill, don't commit adultery, don't steal and so on, then you'll be
all right with God. And St. Paul said, no, it's not by keeping the law that you're right with God,
it's by surrendering love and that makes all the difference. And so contemplation comes when
we go beyond the ego, this limited human separated self and open ourselves in the spirit to the
presence of the Holy Spirit, you see. And at that point of the spirit, the spirit of God bears
witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Or as St. Paul says elsewhere, when we say
of our Father, it is the spirit of, I forget how he puts it, the spirit of our Father
breathing in us, something like that. But it's very, very clear in St. Paul, you see, at that
point of the spirit, we open on this love which comes to us as a gift, you see. Love is not something
we produce, it's something which is given. And only when you recognize your own inadequacy,
your own helplessness, your ego goes, when you die to your ego, then this love comes over you,
a pure gift of grace, something totally beyond you altogether. And that isn't contemplation,
it's knowledge by love is contemplation, you see. And that is the work of the spirit.
And so I feel, you see, today we're on the verge of a new age, I have no hesitation in saying it.
We've grown up in this age of the law, of reason, of science, of the whole mechanistic universe,
of Newton and so on, and we're breaking out of that today. In physics, you know how the whole
scene is changing, and in biology and psychology, and in theology, we're now beginning to see
that we have to get beyond the rational religion, the religion of the law, and discover this
experience of God in the spirit. And the Fathers, you know, right up to St. Thomas,
they all lived by this experience of God in the spirit. They say when St. Thomas had any great
problem, he used to go and kneel in front of the person's sacrament and just surrender, you see,
in love, and then he would get the enlightenment. So I think we're entering on this age of the
spirit and its awakening. You see, I've not been long in America, but I'm overwhelmed each time I
come, I came last year, with the tremendous search for God which is going on in America, you know.
People of every walk of life, men and women, are searching for a deeper meaning in their life,
for something beyond this order of the world in which we live and so on. Not only the bad order,
even the good order. The world order is not enough, there is something beyond it all.
And this awakening is taking place in every religion, and outside religion, and in the
Catholic Church. There is an awakening to this presence of the spirit. And that's where I think
we stand, and that's where I think Malini stands, you know. America, I feel, is one of the centers,
and California is one of the centers in America, where East and West, and all these forces, both
good and evil, are meeting together, and we have to be at the center of that movement. And now this
is an important aspect of it, and that is, just as in meditation, it's no good suppressing your
feelings, your bad thoughts, and all the rest of it. You've got to face them, to open them up,
and surrender them. So it's no good trying to put down all these negative forces in America,
all the violence, and the drug addiction, and the sex freedom, and all the rest of it,
trying to put it all down. We must see this is part of our human dilemma. People are struggling
with all these things, and they're involved in all these passions and desires, and their whole
society is driving them in this direction, you see. So it's no good condemning like that,
but what people need is compassion, you know, and what Jesus brought into the world is compassion.
He didn't try to control people, and put them down, and judge them,
on the way he was hanging on the cross, you see, he let it all happen. He let all that violence take
place, he took the pain, and he faced death itself, absolute darkness. You see, my God, my God,
why have you forsaken me? He felt forsaken by God, he was totally derelict, and at that moment
of total dereliction, he was one with fatherless, he experienced that total love, and he brought
that love into the world. And that's what we have to do, you see, we can't, it's no good being here
to judge people, and condemn them, or even simply to try to correct them, and put them right, and so
we've got to suffer with them. Compassion is suffering with, you know, and whenever you meet
a drug addict, or a sex pervert, or whatever you like, you must learn to have compassion for them.
I know it's not easy, they can deceive you in many ways, but we have to have that compassion,
and a monastery should be a place where these people feel they'll meet compassion,
will meet understanding, you know, and I believe many will do help people like that.
And that is a tremendous grace, you see, if we can be a centre where people can find this compassion.
And one of the aspects, you know, of this is that you have to learn to live with the opposites.
Normally we try to put down the opposite, you see, good must be put down, and ugliness must be put
down, and poverty must be, we divide everything, and put down the bad, and try to elevate the good,
but you have to learn to live with the opposite, the good, and the evil, and the black, and the white,
and the just, and the unjust, and so on. And Nicholas of Cusa, you know, was a Roman cardinal
of the 15th century, and he wrote a wonderful book called The Vision of God, where he speaks
of the coincidencia oppositorum, the coincidence of opposites, and that, I believe, is the lesson
of life. You've got to learn that opposites are not simple, they're always related, good and evil
are related to one another, they're not just opposites. If you put down the evil, you'll be
putting some good with it, and if you try to let the good dominate alone, you'll find there's evil
in that, it's the yin and the yang in the Chinese tradition, it's interrelationship, and you have to
learn how to live with the opposites, and it's very painful, you see, you've got to bear with people's
pain, and suffering, and violence, and all these things, bear with them, as Jesus did, you know,
you see, it's extraordinary the more you think of it, how he did not react in the normal way of judging
and condemning, the woman taking her down, you know, they all said, this woman, she was stoning her,
he said, neither do I condemn you, don't sin, but I don't condemn you, and so,
to learn to live with the opposites, to bear with people in all their negativities, you see,
and your own negativities, live with your negativities, don't simply try to push them away,
learn to live with them and transform them, and if you can live with others, so many people,
they just want somebody to listen to them, to let them put a push out for all their suffering,
and their confusion, and their doubts, and their fears, simply to listen and to bear it in oneself,
that itself is a tremendous grace and help for people, so that's what a monastery should be
doing, you see, really, people can come in their need, and their bewilderment, their confusion,
and find some sympathy, you may not be able to answer anything, you may not be able to say,
but simply be open to it, to allow it to come into your life, and to share it with people,
so to live with these opposites, you see, I think that is a great call we have.
And then, one last point I would make, you know, people speak about the last judgment,
and you get some very terrible examples in the Bible, in the New Testament, especially the
Revelation, people being cast into a fiery lake and so on, and I think all that stems from a very
limited Jewish vision, which is always dualistic, you see, the Bible belongs to a certain phase of
divine revelation, and it is dualistic throughout, the good and the evil, Israel and the nations,
and all are separated, you see, and I think Jesus came to overcome what St. Paul called that
wall of division, you see, which hid the Jew and the Gentile, and he broke down the wall on the
cross, and he's opened us now, you see, to this new horizon, when we don't have to judge and condemn,
and when we face the last judgment, what we face is absolute, unconditional compassion and love,
nothing else, but mind you, it's not easy to face unconditional love and love,
there are many people who would say, you know, I don't want your compassion, I'm all right,
leave me alone, and to be left alone is hell, it's exactly what it is, you see, leave me alone,
and that is hell, to be alone, shut off in your rotten little self, your ego, you see,
which is an illusion, actually, you're lost in illusion altogether, and only when you open,
let your ego go, and open to that love, that compassion, only then can you be saved.
So, I hope I've made it clear that I feel very strongly that there's a movement of the Spirit
throughout the world, and I've traveled quite a bit, and it's everywhere in the world,
and everywhere in the Catholic Church today, there is a movement of the Spirit,
and people have been moved into this movement of contemplation, they use the word very often,
but they're searching for this deeper meaning behind this word of the Spirit beyond the human,
ordinary human, you see, and I think monks have this very special calling to respond to this
movement of the Spirit, and to share it with others, and that's why I like to share with you
here, and why I feel we all have a great responsibility. It's something fundamental
in the Church, in the world, and in our own lives, you see, unless we can get beyond this limited
horizon of the psyche, of the ego, of the limited human person, and open ourselves to the mystery,
the divine mystery, which embraces us, which totally involves us, you see, and is ultimately
simply unconditional love, unless we can open to that, we can't give the message which the Church
has to give to the world today, I feel. So, let us all pray, we're all very imperfect people,
and we've nothing to show very much, but that is how it works, you know, the Spirit is hidden,
mysterious, and it's not in dramatic works or anything like that, but simply living a silent
life, a hidden life, being totally open to God, to love, and to others, that is really how the world
is saved, and Jesus saved the world by his silent, patient endurance, suffering on the cross,
that is how he saved the world, not by any dramatic achievement at all, but by letting
all these powers of evil overwhelm him, and then surrendering it all to that total love which is
God, you see, that is the message. Perhaps I ought to end with a Sanskrit chant,
maybe simply the chant, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti is peace, you know, and Om is the
word, I'll tell you, there is a chant, Om, you know, is like Amen, in a sense, it's no specific
meaning, but it's used as a solemn assertion, when Jesus says, Amen, Amen, I say to you,
in Sanskrit, that would be Om, Om, you see, it's a solemn assertion, invoking God, really,
Om signifies God, and so we begin with Om, and then there's a chant, Purvada Purvamidam,
and Purvam is fullness, the pluroma, God is the pluroma, the fullness of being,
and this world has its own fullness, and then it says, take the fullness of the world from the
same, the world doesn't add anything or subtract anything from God, it's within God,
and it's contained within Him, so it goes like this, Om, Purvamida, Purvamida, Purvamudachyate,
Purnasya, Purnamadaya, Purnamida, Amasisyate, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Do you have any questions or anything that you want, whatever you want?
Anybody wants any questions, they can. Why don't we permit a few questions?
Father has come a long distance and he was a little tired, but maybe three or four questions.
You're not, are you feeling pretty well? Yeah.
Okay, questions. Father, couldn't Jesus be the mother? Couldn't Jesus be worshipped as the
mother? The medieval mystics... I think so, yes, couldn't Jesus be worshipped as the mother,
you see, we have this wonderful example of Julian of Norwich, you see, it's very striking,
and I think Saint Anselm also, you know, so there is a tradition, it's very small if you like,
but today many people, it's very significant, and I think God is father and mother, and Jesus is
also both father and mother. I mean, these are simply images, aren't we, which we use, and we
need to have a feminine... Jesus had a very feminine aspect, you see, as well as the masculine.
It's very mistaken to see him simply as a male figure. He's not, he's a male-female figure,
like he's a fully human being, and every human being is both male and female, you see.
And as for the Holy Spirit, then I feel it's... feminine is dominant in the Holy Spirit,
but of course it's not exclusively feminine. So I think we can pray... I'm beginning now to pray to
the Holy Spirit as mother. This book I'm reading has a very thorny theological base to it, and I
have no hesitation. I was drawn towards it, but now I'm fully convinced. I find it means a lot,
you know, if you really pray to the Holy Spirit as mother,
God as father, Holy Spirit as mother, somehow they compete one another in a way.
So if anybody wants... ah, come along!
I enjoy very much your recommendation of the way of the mantra,
yes, simply repeating Jesus' prayer, but at the same time you also mentioned contemplation
is to go beyond, beyond words, beyond thoughts, and everything else. Now how to recognize,
reconcile the way of the mantra and contemplate, pure contemplation, as going beyond and into
complete silence. Yes, well it's very personal, you know, you see, to me the mantra is a sort of
support, and most people need some support for your prayer, you see, and so you use it,
but it should go beyond the words and the thoughts, you see, and should enter into... it should take
you into the silence. And this is a difference between John Main and Father Thomas Keating.
John Main said, keep your mantra always, right to the end, and I'm afraid I'd rather tend to that,
but Thomas Keating, I think he's much deeper, and others say, when you really enter into the
silence, then the mantra simply goes, sometimes it goes into the heart, but you no longer need it,
you see. So the mantra is a way of taking you into the silence, into the solitude,
into that inner sanctuary, you see. I mean, that's the thing.