Monastic Life and the Interreligious Dialogue

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Monastic Life and Interreligious Dialogue: What does our life as monks mean to the non-Christian world?

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#set-monastic-life-and-interreligious-dialogue, #retreat-conference

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So I'd just like to pick up where we were. The other time we were looking at this text from the Rig Veda, a very ancient text, the Rig Veda, 10, 136. A kind of a mysterious poem or hymn about an ascetic who is part of this world and yet whose real life is beyond the material, beyond the earth. He flies through the air, spiritually speaking, whereas we ordinary mortals see his body here, sitting cross-legged and inert, seemingly inert. Earth is free. He is a friend of God. He shares in the saving activity of Rudra, which is

[01:07]

the name, the Vedic, name of the Vedic deity which was applied to this prehistoric concept of God and later became called Shiva, which means banai, or Bhairava, which means tremendous, terrible. I think we can already see here in some of the key aspects of this kind of ascetical life which is revealed to us in this hymn, a very unusual hymn. It's kind of out of context from the rest of the Veda. It doesn't correspond because someone suggested, well, really, I mean, they're just using this as a description and this is a hymn to the sun worshipped as a deity. I think that's utter nonsense. It doesn't make sense. The sun is mentioned, but it says, rather, the ascetic is like the sun who views the whole world. In other words, he sees the whole world in one glance, from his vantage point, which is above his own body in mid-air. It's a very mysterious poem. It also represents a kind

[02:17]

of experience which you find in what is called shamanism. Shaman is a man who engages in meditation and goes into ecstasy and leaves the body and gains knowledge of souls whether living or departed and is also a guide for souls. You find shamanism as a religious phenomenon in Central Asia, you find it in India, you find it in the Americas among the American Indians. This is the typical mystical experience of the American Indian called shamanistic experience. It's ecstatic and it is also closely connected with friendship with the creatures of nature. There's something of a hunter in the shaman. And hunting, of course, is a kind of a sacred act anyway, so that when it says here, he follows the track of all the spirits, of nymphs and the deer of the forest. The terms are kind of, they use kind of mythological terms, so it's hard really to translate them. I don't know

[03:19]

whether nymphs and deer of the forest really translates Gandharvas and Apsaras, but of course I think Father Raymundo Panica knows a little bit more Sanskrit than I do, so I can only say, I don't quite understand, I don't think that this is exactly the only way of translating it. I think it just refers, the terms are used in a very general way to kind of liken him to a kind of a hunter, but he's hunting for spirits. In other words, he's not just out in the forest to shoot the deer and take it home to cook it and eat it, but he's hunting for something, something mysterious. He's hunting for reality, he's hunting for a clear vision of things as they are. He's a silent ascetic. The term he uses, muni, which maybe comes from the same root as maniac, but that's not necessarily, mania is not necessarily that negative thing, it's this kind of wild freewheeling mind that is just carried

[04:28]

off and outside of himself in a positive sense. I think we can relate this to a certain extent to our own monastic experience. We're always talking about analogies, we're always talking about comparisons that have on the other side of the balance real differences, real essential differences. So we accept the differences and this is necessary to engage in dialogue. We cannot dialogue with a person if we refuse to accept the fact that they're different. We cannot, on a religious level, dialogue with persons unless we realize these persons have different beliefs. They do not believe what we believe. Now they may indeed be in God's grace, enfolded in His love, and be guided by His Spirit in a mysterious way so that they will come eventually to the confession of the name of the true God, but this is something that we leave in the hands of God. But as it stands, from what they express, from their explicit affirmations, we see differences. We do not, they do not horrify us, they do

[05:30]

not frighten us, they do not put us off, we should not feel distaste for the fact that people do not believe as we do. We must accept this. But in the context of what the church regards as dialogue, in that particular moment, in that particular context, we're not proclaiming charisma, we're not saying that the word that comes, that we know, that we have received from Jesus is now, here and now, the word of God to you, and you are called upon by God to accept this word. We are saying, we believe this, we want to understand what you believe, we see the differences, we see similarities, because as long as we are men, we're dealing with men, and we are involved in just the similarity of our own earthiness, of our own reality, but also the similarity that God is willed in creation, and He is willed in redemption. There are links between us which God has forged, and it is on the basis of these links, of nature and also of grace, that similarities will be found. One

[06:33]

thing, spiritual freedom, the notion of spiritual freedom, or just the fact of meditating, of just sitting and stopping the world, and stopping ourselves, and setting aside the cares of this life, the nakedness, the stripping. Now this is something fundamental, although we are clothed in a religious habit, but the first act in becoming a monk is stripping, because even in the Holy Rule, after the novice makes his perfection, he is stripped of his own clothes, and then clothed with the garments of the monastery. So you have to be stripped in order to be clothed. You have to be stripped in order to become a monk. And this ought to say something to us. Here in it's all mythology, together with Rudra, or Shiva, he has drunk from the cup of poison, the long-haired ascetic, and remember I told you the story,

[07:37]

this legend about Shiva who saves all the gods in the universe and everyone by drinking the poison that the gods in their folly had tried to churn out of the ocean of milk. Yes? Talking about the idea of stripping in some ways, the religious concierge in some ways strips itself of the world. Are you saying, or are you suggesting that in some way to enable us to venture into the inter-religious dialogue in some way we need to strip ourselves of our faith? No, absolutely not. That would be a betrayal of the dialogue itself, and of the other person. I have never, in my contacts with Buddhists or Hindus or whatever, seen any one of them who would accept me without the faith that I bring with me. He wants me to believe in what I believe, and he wants to see in me some kind of cooperation, fulfillment of my belief. Otherwise he says, what's the use of dialoguing with that person? He's

[08:42]

searching, maybe he'll come to me as a disciple, that's fine, I'm perfectly happy, I'll teach him Buddhist meditation. But when it's a matter of dialogue, they want us to be consistent with our beliefs, not only preach but to practice, above all practice, because remember, in general in Indian culture, and most specifically in Buddhism, practice comes before theory. Theory is there, but it's really kind of non-essential. What is essential is practice. Every affirmation, even though it has a certain ontological meaning to it, is first and foremost an ethical affirmation. It is not a statement about how things are, but a statement of what you must do. So anything a Buddhist says about the first cause or whatever, that has to be kind of

[09:52]

rethought and translated into ethical, practical, ascetical terms, because that is what he's aiming. But this is something very true, and this is something, for instance, Merton realized from the very start, and what the Buddhists delighted to find in Merton was a 100% Catholic and 100% Christian. A Trappist monk, perhaps not so good a Trappist as a monk, he didn't quite fit, really, with the Trappist order, and he realized it, and everyone else did, but it was God's will that he remain a Trappist. But by all means, a Christian, a Catholic, a monk, a priest, no questions, no parentheses, no quotation marks here. And they saw, and they loved him for it. He has reached, in his Christianity, in his Catholicism, in

[10:55]

his monkhood, in his priesthood, something of what we aim at, or we can see in him. I mean, the Dalai Lama said this, I mean, the other Tibetans that he met, Suzuki said this, you know. They saw in Merton the fulfillment of something that they themselves obscurely desire and yearn for and try to attain and practice. And this, there you find, you know, at its very best, dialogue and charisma become one. Because Merton didn't have to go and preach to them and say, Jesus is the word of God. Jesus has saved you. He is speaking to you. He is giving you, offering you salvation here and now, today. You know? Tacente lingua, predicante vita, which is a phrase, you know, that the Latin preface uses for Saint Romuald. With a silent tongue and a preaching life. Tacente lingua, predicante

[11:56]

vita. And that, I think, really is, you know, that's the kind of missionary work that Saint Romuald himself, we're getting off the subject, we're really still on the subject, see that somehow this is not just something, some new idea that's tacked on to the outside of our life as Himalayans, but it's something there in the very beginnings of it. How did the five brothers go up, with what kind of attitude, with what kind of spirit did they go up there to first live a monastic presence among the pagan tribes of Poland, and second to preach the Gospel? They were, of course, planning to obtain faculties from Rome to preach, to go out and actually give the explicit character. But also, first and foremost, to live as monks in an area ruled by a Christian, but on the borderline, you might say, so that they could be constantly there and present to the eyes of the non-Christian people there.

[13:03]

And some of the things, you know, the insides of what they had to do, you know, their clothing. We must dress the way the people up there dress. We must cut our hair the way the people up there cut their hair. Instead of shaving, you know, we're going to go grow beards. They didn't have beards then, of course. The Roman custom, you know, is to cut all the hair off. But up there, you know, the Nordic tribes, the men wore beards, so we got to let our language, this was old, they had a lot of trouble with this, but they were going to learn the Slavic language there, so they could speak with the people in their language. Probably, they would have even translated the liturgies into, it was not yet too late. The positions had not rigidified, you know, between the Byzantine missionaries and the Latin missionaries, so that the Latin might have been set aside in favor of the Slavic language of the people. But anyway, they went up as a matter of principle, you know, adapting

[14:05]

their own lifestyle, as it were, within the monastic's perspective and spirit and practice, adapting themselves to the people, you know, reaching out to their culture, accepting all that's good. And this is, of course, a dialogue attitude, a dialogue attitude. What Father Griffiths has done, of course, with the benefit of a lot of history and a lot of reflection that's gone on, you know, going down there and being thoroughly Christian, but in a thoroughly Indian, going about it in a thoroughly Indian way. So, you see, that kind of plugs into the commodities of spirituality as well. So, that's one thing. I would like, let me see now, I think what I'll do is take a Buddhist

[15:08]

text here, and this is one of these texts from the so-called Pali Canon that Usalananda mentioned. And Gautama Buddha is speaking to Sariputta, one of his favorite disciples. And he's talking about his first experience when he left his father's princely palace and the happiness, you know, of his kind of enclosed and cloistered existence. And he went out into the real world, the world of suffering and death and sickness and old age, and set out on his monastic journey to seek the answer to life. I think that in itself, you know, and this is part of Christian legend, because I think the Holy Spirit was with John Damascene when he picked up this, the story of Buddha and translated it in the novel, his little novel of Barlam in Yuasa, translated it into a Christian type of legend. The monk

[16:18]

is not one who goes into his ivory tower and lives in this kind of cushioned, closed garden, you know, this kind of protected, you know, from all of the snares and the torments of the world. The type, the primordial type of the monk is, on the contrary, one who leaves the security, you know, of the city, security of the home, the comforts of life, and he goes out into that desert and faces, you know, faces the hard, crude reality of existence and all of its suffering and all of its evil and all of its temptations and the devil himself, you know, seen as. So here's what Buddha did. I, Sariputta, I have lived the fourfold higher life. I have been an ascetic of ascetics. Loathly have I been. Foremost in loathliness. Scrupulous have I been. Foremost in scrupulosity. Solitary have I been. Foremost in solitude. Well, these are kind of expressions. It's a kind of a language that is used in this literature, so I'm not going to go into explaining it a

[17:19]

great deal, but I think this kind of speaks for itself. It's a little long, but I'll kind of, you know, skip and go on here. To such a pitch of asceticism have I gone that naked was I. Stripping, you know. Flouting life's decencies. I mean, not being indecent, but flouting, you know, the conventional way of existence. Going against the grain. Licking my hands after meals, you know, not observing the ritual purity and all that. Never heeding when folk called to me to come or to stop. Never accepting food brought to me before my rounds. Alms rounds, you know, the begging. Or cooked expressly for me. In other words, it has to be leftovers. It cannot be cooked expressly for the monk. Never accepting an invitation. Never receiving food direct from pot or pan or within the threshold or among the faggots or pestles. Never from one only of two people messing together. In other words, if there is more than one person eating, you know, they all have to be in agreement about

[18:20]

giving some to the monk. Otherwise he won't take it just because one wants to give it. They all have to agree. Never from a pregnant woman or a nursing mother or a woman in coitus. Never from gleanings in time of famine. Nor from where a dog, this is, you know, out of concern for the poor. The poor should have the first, and then the monk, you know. The first claim in time of famine. Nor from where a dog is ready to hand or where hungry flies congregate and so forth. Oh, this is kind of ritual purity. But anyway. My sole diet has been herbs gathered green or the grain of wild millets and paddy. That's right. Wild rice. I mean the unpolished rice. Or snippets of pie or water plants. Or the red powder snippets of pie. I mean, a Buddhist, of course, can eat meat, you know, if it's given. As long as it's not killed in his presence or prepared for him. If leftovers from other people he can take what's offered. Or water plants. Or the red powder from rice grains within the husk. Or the discarded scum of rice on the boil. Or the fruit, flower of oilseeds, etc.

[19:23]

I know this is all of the style here. All right, this is asceticism. Now, loathliness. To such a length have I gone in loathliness, that on my body I have accumulated the dirt and filth of years till it dropped off of itself, even as the rank growths of years fall away from the stump of a tiny little tree. That's, I don't recommend it. Certainly not in the community lives. Let's not do that. To such a length in scrupulosity have I gone that my footsteps out and in were always attended by a mindfulness so vigilant as to awake compassion within me over even a drop of water, lest I might harm tiny creatures in crevices. To such a length have I gone in scrupulosity. In other words, scrupulosity is not to step on a man or anything like that, sweeping the ground with a feather duster in front of him and sweeping, you know. They all have to carry this little, the fly dust, you know, like old feather dusters to make sure the little animals are not around and they won't sit on him or step on him. And then this is, then the fourth asceticism. To such a length

[20:29]

have I gone as a solitary that when my abode was in the depths of the forest, the mere glimpse of a cow herd or meat herd or grass cutter or of a man, there must be a misspelling, goat herd, or grass cutter, or a man gathering firewood or edible roots in the forest was enough to make me dart from wood to wood, from thicket to thicket, from dale to dale, from hill to hill, in order that they might not see me or I then. As a deer at the sight of man darts away over hill and dale, so did I dart away at the mere glimpse of cow herd, goat herd, or whatnot, in order that they might not see me or I then. To such a length have I gone as a solitary. I took up my abode in the awesome depths of the forest, depths so awesome that it was reputed that none but the passionless could venture in without his hair standing on end. In the charnel ground, the graveyard, I lay me down with charred bones for pillow. Some recluses and brahmins there are who say and hold that purity cometh

[21:37]

by way of food, accordingly proclaim that they live exclusively on jujubic roots, which in one form or another constitute their soul, meat, and drink. Now I can claim to have lived on a single jujubic fruit a day. If this leads you to think that this fruit was larger in those days, you would err, for it was precisely the same size then as it is today. When I was living on a single fruit a day, my body grew emaciated in the extreme, etc., etc." And then the next chapter is, Gautama Buddha practiced the most severe asceticism and became a master in yoga. Then I thought to myself, come, let me pursue still further the ecstasy that comes from not breathing. Samadhi, yoga meditation. So I kept on stopping all breathing, in and out, through mouth and nose and ears. I don't know if you breathe through your ears. And then violent pains attacked my head, as though a strong man had twisted a leather thong round my head. Resolute grew my perseverance. It did not take possession of my mind, and so

[22:42]

on and so forth. And then at the end, thought I to myself, am I afraid of a bliss, a blessedness, which eschews pleasures of sense and wrong states of mind? And my heart told me I was not afraid. Thought I to myself, it is no easier matter to attain that bliss with a body so emaciated. Come, let me take some solid food, rice and junket. That's cottage cheese. And this I ate accordingly. With me at the time were the five almsmen, five beggars, looking for me to announce to them what truth I attained. But when I took the rice and the cottage cheese, they left me in disgust, saying that luxuriousness had claimed me, and that abandoning the struggle, I had reverted to luxuriousness. Having thus eaten solid food

[23:43]

and regained strength, I entered on and abode in first ecstasy. Yet, such pleasant feelings as then arose in me, did not take possession of my mind, nor did they as I successively entered on and abode in the second, third, and fourth ecstasies. And here we have it. This is an interesting thing about his experience. When he went through all of this kind of initiatory experience, and this kind of shamanistic kind of experience, and then came to the conclusion, well, you know, really, it is the middle road that is the road of virtue. And he moderated this asceticism, and he moderated this, and he moderated that. And he found that this was truly the way to ecstasy and bliss. I think this is real wisdom. I think this is real insight. Partial wisdom, partial insight, a shadow in the light of reality. Of course, we know from the Word of God that we're not permitted to kill our bodies, we're not permitted to damage them, we're not permitted to abuse them. It might really be Brother

[24:46]

Donkey, as St. Francis says, but it is really, you know, that beast who is going to bear the burden of our soul up to God, you know? And Jesus did not disdain to be born in the midst of the donkeys, in the manger, so God wants us to, God wants us to take care of our bodies and use this moderation and discretion. Oh, we already know this. This is so obvious to us, and yet for Buddha it had to be a great discovery. He had to go through all of this previous experience in order to come out into the light and not be ashamed, not be afraid even, you know, not be afraid of taking food, of moderating asceticism. Because he felt the confidence within himself that he was not going to be a slave to the fashions. So that is perhaps one of the great discoveries that he would have made.

[25:46]

Now, here the pattern of life. Note this. This is an REM pattern of existence that goes through the experiences of this world and then goes into an ascetical phase and then finally comes out to a kind of a balance, kind of a middle path. This has kind of been the model, you know, where monasticism comes in, especially in Hinduism. Now we go back to Hinduism, we touched on Buddha, but Buddha of course comes from Hinduism and it comes from an attempt to make use of some of the experiences of the peoples that were there in India before the Aryans invaded. Buddha was an Aryan, but some of his experiences really relate more to this previous culture, this previous civilization and its religious experience. Now, in the laws of the Aryans, called the laws of Manu, Manu, the word Manu is related both to our English word man and to the Latin word manus, which means hand. And he is kind

[26:51]

of the Hindu Adam. He is the first man, you know, the first logger, the laws of Manu, the laws of humanity as such. And so we find everything, we find the Ten Commandments, we find the Golden Rule, we find a lot of other good things, you know. Now they have a kind of a structure of life which the ideal Aryan should go through. The first part of his life is a life of discipline, which involves also celibacy, self-restraint, self-control, what they call brahmacharya. Brahmacharya means following the path or hunting after Brahman. He is going after the knowledge of the Vedas, he is going after this supreme wisdom, therefore he is, as a young student, he abstains from sex and he abstains from the pleasures of this life in order to dedicate his mind, purify his intentions and dedicate his mind to study. And then afterwards he goes and gets married, raises a family and

[27:52]

goes through all the pleasures of life and gets it out of his system, as it were. And then finally he goes into the third stage and this is where he goes out into the forest and lives as an ascetic. And so we are going to read a little bit from the Laws of Manu. But having thus passed the third part of a man's natural term of life in the forest, that is, you know, the third part of life which is lived in the forest, he may live as an ascetic during the fourth part of his existence. Ascetic sannyasi, one who has renounced. Fourth part of his existence, the fourth phase of his existence, after abandoning all attachments to worldly objects, even attachments to some of the practices of the ascetical life as such. Even that could be object of attachment, pride, self-will and so forth. He who after passing from order to order, that's from, you know, stage to stage of life, after offering

[28:54]

sacrifices and subduing his senses, becomes tired with giving alms and offerings of food and ascetic gains bliss after death. When he has paid the three debts, that is, the three previous phases of life, he has studied, he has gotten married, then he has gone through an ascetical experience, he has paid his debts. Let him apply his mind to the attainment of final liberation. He who seeks it without having paid his debts sinks downwards. In other words, what the old Hindu law is saying that really it is not permitted to start out your life as a monk. You have to get married, you have to pay that debt as a word to society, pay that debt to your own body and pay that debt to, you know, to your family and everything. Then you can go off and be a monk, but not before. And really in Hinduism, where Buddhism picked up the non-Aryan idea of the ascetic who starts out that way and lives that life, all of his life. He just goes straight from the home and married or not, of course Buddha had been married and had a son, but Buddhism also presupposes a lifelong abandonment of

[30:00]

society and family for the ascetical life. Whereas Hinduism has always kept this kind of foot on each side of the thing, of the position, of the situation. Question from the audience. Well, it is not a matter of decision if he is following the ideal here. Even the ascetical life. In other words, he ought, as a good Aryan, to leave his family when his eldest son is married. When he is first born, he gets married. He is free, you know, he is free. Because the eldest son then can take over as the patriarch and the younger children can have a foster father in the eldest son. And so he takes over. And then the father of the family, he can go off and do his ascetical thing, become an ascetic and then pay the third debt that he has to pay. And then, well, his wife, I mean the women are not considered

[31:04]

in this, they are not taken into consideration. They belong to, the wife goes from belonging to her father, to her husband, to her eldest son. She is always under the man whatever she does. Whereas the man, you know, goes through this. But it is not a matter of deciding, it is a matter that is kind of, you know, automatic. It is expected of one. Now, this is ideal, of course, I am sure that in the concrete practice. But it is still the fact in India, the majority of Hindu monks have been married. And they become monks about the age of 50, you know, 45, 50, according to the old laws. But there are still always those who go off into the Himalayas, they go off in the forest as young men, and they just go all the way. And the women also do this. Women also do this. And this is highly esteemed, highly admired, this lifelong renunciation. Even though somehow they break out of the criteria of the law, they contravene the basic law of the society, the Aryan society. Because

[32:05]

Hinduism is formed of these two civilizations which really never quite intermesh. They remain one on top of the other, woven in together but distinct, you know, like two different colored yarns in a weave. You look at it one way and you see the red, you look at it the other way and you see the blue. And so there is this kind of iridescence about Hinduism. Also about Buddhism, although Buddhism came down on the other side, definitely affirming the possibility of someone renouncing the world from the very start and just going off and being a monk for all his life as an ideal option. Of course, there you have developed the idea of the temporary monasticism, where it is

[33:16]

a period of formation which is good for all young men, pre-schooling, you know, moral discipline. And that's why it is true, you know, in Thailand, you know, no girl really wants to marry a boy unless he has spent some time in the monastery. Because it's thought, well, if he's been to the monastery, he'll know how to read and write and also, you know, have lived a good, clean life in his youth, so that the average Thai girl, you know, feels more comfortable marrying a boy who has come out of the monastery. And I think probably to a certain extent this must be true in Burma, because since Hindus observe the same kind of practice of the temporary monasticism. Although this is something that is limited more to these countries, because for instance in Sri Lanka, up until recent times, this

[34:16]

was not the case. It was when one entered the monastery, the novices could leave, but after the second consecration, the second ordination as monks, then they were supposed to spend their life as monks. They were not allowed to leave. And now they've kind of adapted both to, you know, the other Theravada countries and to modern needs and situations, and so they now accept that. And it's kind of making inroads also into the Tibetan monks. But kind of, you know, kind of a dispensation and condescension to the modern conditions rather than something that they decided would be a good thing to do. They're simply, you know, justifying by saying, well, this has always been the custom in Thailand and Burma, so I guess we can do it too. Whereas in Japan, now this is interesting, in Japan, it is very rare to find a celibate monk, you know, a monk. The Buddhist masters usually are married

[35:21]

and they have their family, they have their wife and everything. Yeah. Or near the monastery. But they're usually, you see, they're temple monks. And it's a whole different structure. Buddhism is structured in a very different way in Japan. Therefore, in Japan, you're starting to find this movement towards a celibate monasticism, which they started with, because they got it from China and Korea, and then they abandoned them. And now, this was several centuries ago, and now they're going back to it. There's a movement to re-institute lifelong celibate monasticism in Japan, going in the other direction from, you might say, the Singhalese and the Tibetans. Like, for instance, you know, Trungpa, Chögyam Trungpa, got married after he had his auto accident. He was the one who wrote Born in Tibet, and Merton admired him a great deal, and Merton met him in India. That's before he went to the States. He came to Konrad.

[36:23]

So, let me read another text, which is very interesting, because it talks about the three-fold renunciation here. This is from an Upanishad. Now, the Upanishads are part of the texts which were added to the Vedas, and part of the Vedic corpus, the Vedic scriptures, you know, the Upanishads. And there are basically three kinds of scriptures added to the Vedas. They are the Brahmanas, or the priestly texts, the Aranyukas, or the forest treatises. That is, they were the schools that were kind of outside the city, in the forest, where the young students would be formed in the knowledge of rituals. And then the Upanishads, which are the ascetical, mystical, philosophical parts of the Vedic scriptures. And the passage that I'm going to read from is from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Brihadaranyaka, which is one of

[37:27]

these nice, rotund-sounding Hindu names, Hindu words. The great forest treatise, Upanishad. Upanishad literally means someone... Shadda is from the verb to sit, seat. And Upa-ni, Upa, near, ni, before. So it is sitting at the feet of the Master. It is an initiatory session, you might say. That's when the little group of disciples sat at the foot of the Master, and the Master kind of explained these things. Or, it's often given a kind of a, somewhat a narrative framework, especially the older Upanishads, like the Brihadaranyaka. The narrative framework where it's a prince or king who comes out to see the Brahman in the forest and asks him a series of questions. So, In truth, this is the great unborn Atman, the spirit of all things and the secret of

[38:30]

life, who is the spiritual element among the life powers. He dwells in that space within the heart. The ordainer of all, the lord of all, the ruler of all. This ordainer, lord, ruler of all is within. He does not become greater by good works or less great by bad works. In other words, there's something permanent, there's something stable in man, although without abolishing the distinction between good and bad in themselves, as works. It is not something that depends upon the works of man, something that is there in his heart, whatever. He is the lord of all, the ruler of all beings, the protector of all beings. We would say the image of God in man. Now, whether they understood this or not, perhaps they were saying more, a lot more on something very different from what they understood. And that's often the case in these non-Christian religions, you know, things that just cry out and say, God, God, God, Trinity, Trinity, Trinity, Christ, Christ, Christ. Some things are just, I mean, at least this is the impression I get. And yet they didn't know this. But

[39:36]

sometimes I think, you know, God was making them say these things, you know, that when we see them with our faith and our knowledge of the Lord, we, it has to be that, you know. If there is any such thing, this ordainer, ruler, lord of all who is within, in this hidden space within the heart, it's got to be the image of God in man. He is the lord of all, the ruler of all beings, the protector of all beings. He is the bridge that holds these worlds apart, holds them apart. You might say it connects them together, bridges do connect together. But the problem there, they were more concerned about things just kind of boiling down into one indifferent, undifferentiated chaos. There is in Hinduism this abhorrence of chaos, this fear of the mixing of all things into one big stupa. And yet out of Hinduism comes, and Buddhism also, comes this monistic philosophy, which says all is one, multiplicity is an illusion. But still, the Atman is seen as a bridge which

[40:40]

keeps all of the poles of existence where they belong, you know, so that it doesn't return into the disorder of chaos. In place, that maintains the order, the rita, rita, the same root in the word right, r-i-t-e, and in ritual, and perhaps in the word art, a-r-t, art. But it means right order, the order, the righteousness, the justice that is at the basis of all things, has both this ethical and this ontological dimension to it. So he maintains this Atman. It is he whom Brahmins desire, the Brahmins, the priests, you know, desire to know through study of the Veda, through sacrifice and almsgiving, through ascetic fervor and fasting. Notice here, we have the typical works of the law.

[41:44]

This is so very Jewish in some ways, you know, this Brihadaranyaka, I'm just running, you know, I keep running into the Jewish laws and the Jewish ideas of what are the good works. Alms, fasting, and prayer, you know. Vedas, almsgiving, fasting, you know, the three works of the law, plus ritual sacrifice. And this is, you know, this is so, so this is something that comes out of the structure of our human nature, out of our primordial awareness of God. The tradition, you might say, of Adam and Eve, of Enoch, and others who began to call him the name of Allah. But anyway, how this got there, we don't know. Anyway, here's the, you know, here's the old law. And then, the man who has found him, has found the Atman, becomes a silent monk. The word that is used, the word applied to this, in the text from the Rig Veda, Muni. Desiring him alone as their world, ascetics

[42:49]

leave their homes and wander about. The wanderer, this is, this is the, the way the Hindus become monks, they wander, they just go. There's no stability in Hindu monasticism. Knowing this, the men of old, the men of old, not even the Aryans before that, did not desire progeny. What shall we do with progeny? They thought. We, whose whole world is the Atman, the spirit. Having transcended the desire for sons, the desire for wealth, the desire for world's power, maybe, let's put it that way. They go about as mendicants, beggars, for the desire for sons is the desire for wealth, and the desire for wealth is the desire for world's power. All these are nothing but desires. He, the Atman, is not this. Not

[43:53]

this. Not so, not so. This expression, this apotheosis, you know, what is the Atman? There's no way of defining it. It is not this, it is not that. Not anything you can desire, it's there. It is not this, not this. He is ungraspable, for he is not grasped. He is indestructible, for he is not destroyed. He is free from attachment, for he does not attach himself to anything. He is unfettered. He does not wear. He is not injured. The one who knows this is not assailed by these two thoughts, in this I did wrong, and in this I did right. He is free from the law. He has passed beyond such thoughts. What he has done and what he has not done do not affect him. And then it says he burns out sin by the power of the Atman. So anyway, what do we have here? Anyone recognize this from the prior conferences on the vows, huh? The threefold renunciation, the threefold desires, what

[44:57]

they call the evangelical councils. I'm sorry, it's neither evangelical nor are they councils. I mean, here it is, you know. It's all here. It's all here because it corresponds to structures of our nature. Where nature is truly followed, there arises, in addition to the desire to marry, to have children, to possess things, and to exercise one's free will, it arouses also the desire to renounce this, to give up children, family, to give up wealth, to give up power. You know, where you have the one, you have the other. Not that you should have to divide humanity into, you know, two categories and half and half. It's always going to be a minority option, but it has to be a real option. That's also another thing. People of India and of Asia in general do not recognize as religious, as a religion, anything that is presented to them that does not include this option,

[46:02]

that does not include monasticism. And the monasticism they know about, they recognize, means really going out, going out into the forest. This element of solitude, this element of totality, kind of totalitarian monasticism. It's all very well and good, but the priest preaches his sermons and the sister nurses the sick, and they say, you know, we must imitate these Christians. We have not done this, and this is something that's lacking in our religion. They recognize this. But they say, you know, but where are your monks? They're still waiting for it. Two thousand years have gone by, they're still waiting for it there in India. You know, St. Thomas, you know, was an apostle, was in his way also a monk. But something, you know, something has not yet happened. I won't say something went wrong, something has just not yet happened in India, but the two thousand years is but a battle and eyelash for our Lord God, and He will, you know, bring to fulfillment what

[47:06]

men have failed to do so far and what His Church has failed to do so far. The Church has fallen short of being, of fulfilling its mission, because there, you know, the great question has not been answered yet. Where are your monks? So anyway, the threefold... Yes, I think so, right. Well, because the model of community came in through Buddhism, so, you know, it's not, it's just that the Hindu tradition, and of course now in what they call Neo-Hinduism, the great Hindu revival of the last century, you know, with men, excuse me, like Ramakrishna, and other great examples of Hindu life, now they accept this as, in fact, now the tendency is towards the more cenobitical life, because the stability, you know, they recognize stability as something very, very good, very psychologically and spiritually helpful. And then also it enables the maintenance of the monastic spirit in

[48:12]

this kind of radical totalitarian way, while still having some, you know, overflow into society, some outreach, you know, where people can share, even those that do not become monks can share, and kind of leavens the dough, and that sort of thing, you know, which is, of course, what we bring to it, and what our rule brings to it, it's not solitude-solitude, it is solitude with all of this, you know, with community, and with also this availability, this openness, you know, for the guests to come and share our prayer. And so the Hindus do admire this, but it has to be, you know, has to be this kind of total commitment, although it may be a gradual thing, I mean, they recognize, you know, they're intelligent enough to recognize that there is, that these are human beings who grow into this experience, but it has to culminate in this contemplation, in this rigorous asceticism, and so forth. Now, naturally, you know, we come back and we say, no law saves us, you know, it's not the rule that saves us, but we are redeemed by the Holy Spirit and freedom that is given to us as

[49:17]

children of God, and so forth, but this is in a second moment. No, I do believe that they indeed would recognize the life here at Kamaldoli, the basic, simple monastic life in the Roop Singh Benedict, they do recognize it as monastic. They have a certain amount of difficulty when there is the, for instance, Fr. Griffiths, I mean, he has community prayer, community meals, the guest house, you know, the basic elements, you know, and they recognize him as very much, you know, a witness to their ideal of sannyasa, renunciation, even though it's, he's not alone, of course, he has his community around him, and it is a structured thing. They accept this, they say this is something good, this is something that they are now getting into, and the other, the Hindu ashrams are doing this. In fact, they're not too far from that, there is a Hindu ashram, Fr. Griffiths ashram. So, they would accept

[50:24]

this. What they have a difficulty with are some of the communities there in India and Sri Lanka, where they're still imitating the European style, you know, and this actually brings them up into a lifestyle which does not identify with the poor of the people, you see, so that on a social level, they are higher. Just to have a chair and a table is something a lot more than, you know, any of them have, the poor have. So, you know, the monk has to return to this integrity of identifying with the common law and, you know, learning to do without the desk and the table and the chair and all, and sitting on the board, you know, maybe with a board in your hand, you know, writing, maybe there's paper and pencil, you know, their monks do boss, you know, they're not crazy about it, but it's just, I mean, they don't go to crazy extremes, but it has to be visible, it has to be concrete, it has to be these concrete signs, what lack, and even certain things, you know, like the yellow habit, they're attached to that, they believe, you know, the yellow

[51:27]

color, the color of the earth, of the dust, you know, that the monk takes on himself, you know, the script of what is the conventional guard of the people and does not identify with any caste, but is identifiable right there as a monk, you know. They don't worry, I mean, the monks can either, they either shave everything or they let everything grow, you know. So, there's no, they're not too absolute about that, but they need these signs and also in the life of the liturgy, it has to be adapted and it has to, but the fact, you know, that the monks do gather together for their common prayer is something they can accept that, it's part of the learning process, the learning of spirituality and so forth, but they want to feel, you know, that these monks are committed to the mystical goal and to discovering this spirit that's in the cave and in the space within the cave

[52:28]

and in the lotus flower and in the space within the lotus flower and within the heart where there's, where truth is to be found. And that's about where it is, the way it's going. How these, how the monasticism that is beginning to arise is, and also in Hinduism they are also accepting the idea more and more of lifelong monasticism. There's just one other passage, this is from a renunciation, about renunciation. After completing, this is the Jabala Upanishad. After completing the life of a student, let a man become a householder. After completing the life of a householder, let him become a forest dweller. Let him renounce all things. Or, or, he may renounce all things, this Jabala Upanishad is a later text after Buddha. Or

[53:31]

he may renounce all things directly from the student state or from the householder state as well as from that of the forest dweller. In other words, he can just jump the intermediate stages and go right straight to the monastic life, the solitary life. Whether one has completed his, the vows or not, in other words, paid his debts, in the other texts, the laws of monasticism, paid his debts. Whether he's paid his debts or not, whether he's completed his vows or not, whether one is a student or not, even if one has not completed the rites, the rituals of, you know, bury your father according to the rituals and marry your eldest son according to the rituals, on the very day when one becomes indifferent to the world, on the same day should one leave and become an ascetic. This is important because here they later come to the realization of this, the freedom, you know, of the choice of the monastic state, when there's this movement, you know, that something moves in the heart and there you must obey it, there you must go forth. Wherever you are, you're married, you're not married, okay, it doesn't matter, go, strip yourself, go out into the forest

[54:35]

and go find a master and have yourself initiated into sannyasa, into renunciation. Then you have another phase, I don't know whether we're going to have another meeting, but I mean, maybe next week, I don't know whether I'll be compiling it or what not, or you probably have the other classes too, but I mean, we can, you know, talk some more. One other thing that could be brought in about this Indian monasticism, Indian monastic tradition is what we find in the Bhagavad Gita, probably written around the 3rd century as a Hindu answer to the challenge of Buddhism, which began to become the religion of the land, became the religion of the land in the Gupta Empire that dominated most of the Indian subcontinent. And so there you find, what you find is the, you might call it a democratization of monasticism. The idea that even one who stays at home and does his duties, pays his

[55:40]

debts and fulfills the rites and ceremonies and everything of his own caste, he can have all of the fruits and the blessings of the monastic state by renouncing the fruits of his actions and giving his heart to the personal God. And Buddhism kind of stimulated in Hinduism the full awareness of monotheism and of personalism as regards to the deity. It's not to say that you could write off, simply write off Buddhism as impersonal. It's not impersonal, it, you might say, is on the way to discovering what a divine person really must be as totally other transcendent relationship to our own personality. But anyway, so we could go into this other phase if you're interested. And it is this phase which is kind of, I mean, the Bhagavad Gita is becoming more and more for Hinduism the gospel, because it is in

[56:47]

some very, very strange way very, very close to the gospel, very, very close to the truth. You are not far from the kingdom of heaven. It says you should love the Lord with all your heart. And also love your neighbor, although this is not quite too clearly presented. But why should you love the Lord God? The Bhagavad Gita arrives at this point, and it has to be a divine revelation because it cannot be discovered by any kind of human philosophy. God loves you. Not that you should love God because he created the universe. Fine. He created my soul. Fine. Keeps me in existence. Fine. I love him. But he loves me. This is the great secret of the Bhagavad Gita, which, you know, creates a challenge to our theology. How can we remain faithful to the word of God, to the tradition of the Catholic Church, and yet at the same time recognize what is certainly, I mean, it's very hard to, I'm not saying the Bhagavad Gita is inspired scripture, which it is not, but that there is contained

[57:51]

in this, woven into a non-Christian fabric, this golden thread of a revealed truth that God loves no one. And he intervenes in history to redeem man, or he will intervene. It's almost a kind of a messianic hope there. And in Buddhism also this kind of emerges on a certain point, you know, a kind of almost messianic hope. And if there is this hope, you know, in the people of India, you know, the reason the Gospel has not taken hold there and they have not come to Christ is that this hope has not been taken into consideration in the preaching of the Gospel. And it has to be. Now how can this be done at this late date? Well, God only knows. I hope and pray, you know, he will lead those who are there and will be there, you know, to proclaim the Gospel and to ask the answer to their hopes,

[58:54]

as the desire of the nations is the expression. Any questions? Yeah. And then I think the task, the Catholic proclaiming the Gospel, it can be a monk, it can be a missionary, it can be a priest, whatever, has to be the proclamation of an

[59:55]

Indian Christ, that he is for you. In other words, this is the character, this same Lord, he is for you here and now. That means he is not an alienation from anything that's good and anything that's right and true in your culture. So that whatever you might have thought beforehand. And it's also, you know, that the idea that Jesus precedes his apostles, his messengers. He is there before his messengers. And as the vision of St. Paul, the dream that St. Paul had, where he heard the voice of the Lord who said, I have a great people, go to Corinth, I have a great people there, you know, they're already God's people, they belong to him already and he is working in them, he is working with them and he is going through their culture and making them see, you know, the gaps and the contradictions and the lacerations that need his healing. And we have to come along as humble servants of this Lord. Not preaching ourselves, but him. The glory will be his, not with the wisdom

[61:00]

of this world, but with that wisdom which alone can enlighten him. And as St. Gregory of Nazianzus said of his own father, before he became a Christian, he was already one of us. He was a priest of Mazda, of Ahura Mazda, a disciple of Zarathustra, a Zoroastrian, a Parsi, you know, the father of Gregory of Nazianzus. He was a priest of the Holy Fire, you know, and even before he converted to Christ, he was already one of us because of the life he lived. This is what I look, you know, this is what I look and I see, you know, I see this passionless rectitude of existence, this, and I'm just floored by it. In the best examples, you know, I've seen some Buddhists and I say, oh, word to God that I had his purity of existence. It's partial, it's not yet there, you know, and the least

[62:04]

in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he, and yet he is certainly so good to see, you know. And unless we are ready to humbly recognize that, you know, the work that Jesus Christ has done and he is in the Spirit, proceeds from the Father, is coming down, you know, and has already done in them, you know, unless we are ready to recognize this, you know, we have no business preaching the gospel. We can't take them away from that. And that's really been, sometimes that's been the case, you know, bringing in all of our institutions and bringing in all of our Western things, that has destroyed and not up-built it. It has brought in secularism, it has brought in materialism. I mean, why is it that in so many places where Catholicism came first, Marxism came after? Kerala, you know, the most Christian state in India, is also the most common state in India. I don't know, it could also be,

[63:04]

you know, there is also another side to this, which is not only, you know, to be blamed, but on the other hand that the Christian message does awaken the conscience to certain social realities, you know, social contradictions, injustice, you know, and this is a real dimension of the Christian ideal, and of course it has been stolen from us by Marxism, you know, we have to get it back, we have to bring it back to where it is, from each according to his capacities, to each according to his needs. Well, this is the act of the apostles, isn't it? You know, and we should be the ones who say this. But anyway, so it's rather complex, I don't want to oversimplify it, but it is a fact, you know, it is a fact that the gospel poorly preached is perhaps worse than no gospel, and the gospel preached but not lived is certainly worse than no gospel, because at least they have their old law, at least they have a kind of spirituality, but the preachers come in and they do not

[64:07]

practice, and they destroy rather than build, and then, you know, what comes out is imperialism and secularism and the abandonment of their own culture, they lose their own riches. So they say, we must go back to this. And then the mission of the church then is to help them go back to their roots and to their culture and to discover therein what God perhaps has already been doing in them and what work he has already done in them. That's like Captain Bracken in this country. People like my age and older interact with the youth, you know, they identify with Christianity, the system, the social system. Really? Yeah. They don't see Christianity as a Christian, they see it as part of, like, non-religious communities. They think it's imperialistic. Yeah. But it's also true, you know, it's interesting that, you know, Christianity must penetrate

[65:13]

into the culture and all things are ours and we belong to Christ and Christ is a God. But, you see, the gospel has not penetrated wholly into Indian culture and vice versa because there was this ethnocentrism, this attachment to other ethnic cultures. The problem, why do you find second generation Americans abandoning the old country faith? I mean, it's true of my own family, you know. My grandparents came from Poland, you know, staunch Catholics, but I was not raised a Catholic. You know, the sinfulness of man and that sort of thing. And it also had to do with the fact, you know, that it was just too, Catholicism was just too much identified with the Polish language and Polish customs and everything of that sort so that, you know, my fathers and some of my sisters and brothers, you know, kind of broke away from the whole thing, you know, to be American, you know, to be Americans.

[66:13]

So, you know, there's two sides of this, you know, Christianity must penetrate into the culture, but it must not be so identified with culture, with a given culture, that Christianity becomes simply, well, that's the Pole's religion. Well, I'm not a Pole anymore, I'm an American, so why should I follow, you know. That's good for Poland, but I'm an American, so I'll join the Protestant Christian Society or whatever, you know. And that happens too, it's the other side of the coin. Just picking up on that, I can see your mission activity in the church in the third world is really, you know, a great witness to the older Christian cultures that have fallen away from Christianity. These people are coming from a poor, standard world, really living the gospel in a pure way. It's beautiful to see things that are happening, you know, in places like Africa, you know. I mean, there's a great wave of conversions and baptisms sweeping Africa. Not always

[67:18]

do the institutional churches, interestingly enough, you know. They arise, you know, from the very midst, and they're heretical in many ways, these new African churches, they're kind of off the track and have kind of confused theologies, and sometimes they don't even have the sacraments or baptism. But on the other hand, they're not always against, you know, the Europeans or the missionaries as such. But they want to discover Christ, you know, in the very humus, the very soil of their own people, their own continent, their own tribes and everything. It's an interesting phenomenon. It's something that has to be really looked at with a very attentive and with the wisdom of the gospel of the cross. Even for instance, you know, like, it's interesting, you know, the Orthodox never sent any missionaries down there, but then, now they have 60,000 Orthodox in Kenya and Uganda. How did that happen? Two African men who, I don't know where they started out, whether they got their

[68:23]

Christianity from Anglicans or from Roman Catholics or Protestants or whatever. Well, they founded their own church. And which direction were they going to go? They didn't know where to go. So, somehow they connected with one of these old, not even old Catholics, one of these wandering bishops that go around consecrating people, bishops, for money, you know? These crazy things like Velazquez, you know, this guy who went all over this country, created such confusion. But they got themselves consecrated and they said, well, we want to be the African Orthodox Church. So, then they looked up in books and thought about, well, what do we need to do to be Orthodox? And, well, the ceremonies were almost like this. So, they kind of, you know, pasted together the liturgy and kind of got themselves organized this way and started doing the thing. And then they thought about it, well, now, let's see now, where are we, you know, in relationship to history, Christian history, you know? They had to think about it. And so, finally they got in touch with the Byzantine exarch in

[69:26]

Alexandria. And he came and said, oh, you're doing everything wrong. They said, well, teach us to do it right, you know? Oh, they did, you know, they went ahead and now they have this African church going, which is, interestingly enough, you know, has gotten into communion with Constantinople and that's another witness, you know, of how the gospel is kind of, you know, coming up from the bottom, not only getting imposed from the top. I heard, I was reading something that one of the new movements for missionary activity is not to remain there as an external presence. I mean, I guess that's been done in the past where missionaries will come and stay with the people and be their leaders, rather than allowing the spirit to take the people in and build groups among the people. I guess right now, well, Africa, whatever, you're starting to see more of the common people being the leaders of the Roman church, rather than the European or the American. Yes, it's got to be that. It's got to be that. Although, then again, you know, sometimes

[70:35]

it depends on their formation because, you know, they bring them over to Rome and they make them more Roman than the Romans. And then they go back, you know, and they're kind of awash in the sea and they cannot quite figure out whether they're still supposed to be African or whether they're supposed to be European. And sometimes you find this kind of attachment to old forms, you know, that we're ready to give up, you know, because, well, they're contingent, they're historical, they're not essential, but they're very attached to some of these external forms. And this is, it's kind of harder for them almost than the Europeans. I mean, the fact that it had to be, first of all, Father Moshine, and then Father Lissot, and then Father Griffiths to go into India and start, you know, something really on Indian monasticism, Indian Christian monasticism, has to be Europeans. Because there, you know, where you find the Indians, they're superior of the monastery, but they're not that free, they're a little free, you know, to change the color of the habit and do things like

[71:38]

this, which are just so very obvious and even harmless, you know. I mean, why wear a black habit or, as it is white, they wear white on there because of the tropical climate. I mean, just, you know, dye them yellow and let people, you know, that you look more monastic at least. No, we've been doing this all along and this is what the European fathers did and we don't think, you know, we don't want to change. So, you know, they're kind of afraid. And the Holy See comes out with these beautiful theoretical documents, you know. But, I mean, the common people are good Catholics here. When they understand, they might think we're being unfaithful to the Holy Father and, oh, this is something, you ever, anyone raises his hand, ah, but wouldn't this be unfaithfulness to the Holy Father? Well, we can't do it, you know. Oh, this is something that just, you know, just chills their hearts and they're, they will not take any step unless, you know, if they have the least hint of a doubt, the very scrupulousness, the least doubt that it might be unfaithful to the Holy Father,

[72:38]

you know, to the will of the Holy Father. It's just beautiful in a certain sense, you know, this total spirit of obedience and submission. On the other hand, sometimes, you know, because it is a scruple rather than a real, a conscience that is fully formed, you know, that it impedes them from really fulfilling what is the will of the Holy Father, that the Church grow and develop and open to these cultures. And, by the way, the present Pope is very strong on interreligious dialogue. And maybe it's not been realized, but he's said some very good things on it. He wants the Church to open up to these, to the interreligious dialogue in a very positive way, very wise and prudent with the wisdom of the gospel, the wisdom of the cross, but still, you know, open up to these cultures. And then, of course, his call to them, you see, all you nations of Europe, do not be afraid of Christ. He will not alienate you. Open up yourselves to him, you know, is the opening speech of his papacy, you know. Open up to Christ. Open the doors. Let him in. He will not, he will not take away anything

[73:45]

good that you have. He will give. Isn't it that they're afraid of historical facts, that there has been this rotting of their own culture, so is that kind of an argument to be made there? Yeah, yeah, that may be, yeah. It's, of course, it's very complex, and since I do not have this missionary experience, you know, I do not know directly, it's about the time, I do not know directly whether, you know, the details of the situation, but I have spoken with the people who are directly involved, and it seems that this is the way, you know. So there, even the other monks, you know, the older monastic foundations there in India and Sri Lanka, taking steps, you know, very gradual, very prudent, very hesitant, but they are taking steps in the same direction. Of course, Father Griffiths is way, way ahead

[74:47]

of them. They're kind of afraid of Father Griffiths. But now, of course, you know, he's getting, he wanted to, you know, to, why he wanted to affiliate with the Kamadhalis, to get into the Kamadhalis was because he, you know, he knew that this would give him a good basis, you know, for the future development of his community, which is very important. Now that it won't die with him, with his charism, there will be something that will carry on after him. I guess, next month, I guess, certainly Father Bernardino will go. I don't know where Father Benedetto will go because of this matter of his health, and he's not been to tropical climates, so it might not, it might not be wise that he go just for physical reasons, but if he does, you know, praise God, you know, that he can do it. Didn't they talk about it? No, he's not been there yet. I believe the date is October. Because he's at the, I think the Abbott's Congress is going

[75:56]

now, or it should be starting, I don't know. I asked Father Pryor, he didn't seem to know. Because he, you know, he didn't, having just been to Italy, he couldn't go again to attend the Abbott's Congress. What did we say in the Angelus, is that right? Okay. Amen. Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be endowed to me according to thy word. Hail Mary, full of grace.

[76:50]