Talk to Community

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Perhaps I might just recall some of the basic facts about it. It was started in 1950 by two French fathers, Fr. Mauchanard and Fr. Lassaud. Fr. Mauchanard's life has been written in Weber, published by Cistercian Publications, and it gives a very good account of the whole genesis of the ashram, from his time in France until he comes to India and finally establishes the ashram. It's a beautiful story and he was a very holy man. And then Swami Abhishek Dhananda, Fr. Lassaud, took the name Abhishek Dhananda, the bliss of Christ, and his books are very well known. I expect you know his little book on prayer. So they together started this ashram in 1950, and the plan was to unite the Christian tradition of monasticism with the Hindu tradition of sannyasa. Sannyasa is renunciation, to seek for God, and this


Kali is the sacred colour in India, and for everybody there it stands for this renunciation, search for God. So they tried to bring these two traditions together in their lives and they published a small booklet called A Benedictine Ashram. And this is interesting because it shows from the beginning, as they show actually in the book, their plan was to base themselves on the rule of St. Benedict. They felt that the Western rule and that sort of flexibility, openness would make it acceptable in the East and could be adapted to the needs of India. So they, we keep the Benedictine rule, and it was a real blessing, providence from God when we were accepted by Kamalgali because it gave us a Benedictine status and also we've always had this dual aspect, a very strong community life, many people. An ashram is


always an open community, people coming from all sides, and it's very welcoming, very like St. Romuald's Hospice, it's an open place. But at the same time, the monks always lived in small huts, and there is the possibility always of more silence, more solitude for those who need it. So we felt very happy that we just fitted in really to the plan of Kamalgali. So that is the external background of it, and of course we adapt ourselves to Indian ways of life, great simplicity of style, much more simple than what you have in America. And also in the liturgy, we're developing an Indian liturgy, and above all though, we're seeking to bring the Indian tradition of spirituality, or specifically the Hindu tradition of spirituality, into our lives as Christians. And Father Moshena once said that the aim of our life is Advaita


and the Trinity, and to me that is a very remarkable summary really of the ultimate goal, Advaita and the Trinity. And Advaita, as you probably know, is non-duality, and it's a name given to the highest experience of God in India, and it's non-duality. I am Brahman is the way it's expressed, I am that one ultimate reality. And how to reconcile that with the Trinity, with the distinctions in God. And for Abhishek Tananda, that was a problem all his life. He had this overwhelming experience of non-duality. He went to Tiruvannamalai where Ramana Maharshi, the great Advaita lived. He died in 1950 actually, and he had this overwhelming experience of non-duality, and how to relate it to the Trinity, to the Church, to the Incarnation, was a struggle all his life. And it comes out very much in his diaries


which are going to be published at the end of the year. Always how to relate non-duality with differences, with distinctions, with the reality of this world. Father Moshena was very difficult, different, and rather the opposite. He had an immense devotion to the Trinity. It filled his life, right, up to the last moments of his life he was thinking and speaking of it. And he, on the other hand, tried to relate to the non-dual experience of Hinduism. And I still feel that that is one of our great problems. You see, non-duality really is what we would call contemplation. It's a state beyond dualities where you open yourself to the presence of God, you become aware of the presence of God, and gradually you feel your oneness with God. And for the Hindu, you see, for the majority at least, only the majority, particularly the educated, this means that all differences disappear. The difference


between you and your neighbour disappears. There is only one self. The difference between you and God disappears. There is only one reality, which is being, knowledge, and bliss, Satchitananda. And incidentally they call the ashram, Satchitananda ashram, as an expression of openness to the Hindu experience, but also as an indication of the Trinity, the Father as such, as being the source of all, the Son as the Truth, the Wisdom, the Knowledge of the Father, the Holy Spirit as the Ananda, the Bliss of Love. So the Hindu tends to say, when you are in the ultimate state, when you reach that ultimate state, then all differences disappear. The difference between you and the world, between you and others, between you and God, there is only one absolute, infinite, eternal being, knowledge, and bliss, and you are that. Tattvavasi, thou art that. It's a beautiful idea, of course, and very profound truth, without doubt in it,


and it's something as Christians we have to try to grasp. But we can't admit, you see, that all differences disappear in the ultimate, because in our understanding the ultimate himself or itself is differentiated, you see, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And to me this has become more and more important, that in the Godhead itself there are distinctions. We mustn't imagine, of course, that in the Godhead there are differences and we experience them here. And this is the truth of Advaita, we have to get beyond the dualistic mode of experience which we share, that I'm here, the table is there, you are there, we're all separated. That is a dualistic state of mind. When we go beyond that, we realize beyond these differences, beyond all the outer forms, there is an inner unity. We're all united in Christ in a marvellous way, beyond these dualities. So we have to go beyond the dualities,


we have to discover our unity in Christ. But when we discover our unity in Christ, we don't lose the distinctions, the differences, if you like, or the separation is removed, but the distinctions remain within the unity. And this is really the revelation of the Trinity that Jesus never says, I am the Father. That would be non-duality in its extreme, I am the Father, I am Brahman, you see. But he says, I and the Father are one. I always quote a correspondence I had with Swami Ranganathananda, one of the leading Ramakrishna Swamis, a very fine man, but a typical Advaitin. And for him, Jesus is a pure Advaitin, he's reached non-duality, I am God, you see, he is God. And he teaches his disciples to reach the same state of non-duality, and he quotes, I am the Father of one. But I wrote back and said


that Jesus says, I am the Father of one, not I am the Father. There is distinction in unity, you see. And this is very important because it gives reality to this life. You see, the great danger of the Hindu doctrine is that ultimately this world is unreal, it is maya, it is avidya, an ignorance, it's a mistake for the reality. They give the illustration always of the rope and the snake. You see a rope in the dark and you think it's a snake. Then you look more carefully, you bring the light and you see it's only a rope. So we impose all these differences on the one reality, but when we are awake, when we're illumined in light and then we see there's only one reality and all else disappears. But Jesus did not experience, you see, reality in that way. He experienced himself as one with God, the Father, and yet distinct. And so we can affirm a distinction, a differentiation in the Godhead. And that means, of course, that there is love in the Godhead. Without differentiation


you cannot have love. Love is a communion, you see. So for us the ultimate reality is differentiated. The Son knows himself in the Father, the Father knows himself in the Son, and they're united in love in the Holy Spirit. And that is ultimate reality for us. And that means all the differences in this world are real and meaningful. Differences in a leaf and a flower, you see, and all the differences in individual human beings, they're willed by God. They aren't just illusions, you see, which we create. They're willed by God and God wills the differences, but of course he wills our unity. We are intended to become one in Christ with our differences, with our distinctions, realizing an ultimate unity in God, in the Father, with the Son and the Spirit. And where the Holy Trinity is the final form, as it were, of our lives, you see, of our existence, to enter into that


unity and distinction in the one God. So that, as I see it, is the difference between the Hindu conception of Advaita and the Christian. We could say this is a Christian Advaita, because the Trinity is not dual. There's no duality there. It's a total oneness, and yet distinctions within the oneness. And so in the body of Christ we are all one in Christ, and yet the distinctions remain, and the whole creation is taken up into Christ, into the Godhead, and yet the distinctions remain. So that was the first thing I want to indicate. That is, I feel, where the Hindu-Christian dialogue takes place, you see, at this point really. The second thing is in relation to the individual and community life. And the same kind of problem can arise there. I would say there are really three stages in our understanding of community life. And the first stage is when we simply accept ourselves as we are, as different. Here


am I, you are there, we form a community. All these separate people choose to unite one another and form a community, and then you have to organize the community, you have a superior, you have various functions and so on. And there we're on the level of dualities, you see. And that implies also this distinction between the active and the contemplative life which we've had for so long. You're in active order, you're all different, you have your own works to do, and you work in the world, and yet of course you're seeking at the same time to be united in Christ. But the emphasis is on the differences, on your external work, and on this organization of a group. But now the next stage is we begin to realize that if we want to go beyond this external activity we discover a deeper interior life. And then we feel the need not to be too much with other people, we want to feel a need of solitude,


of silence, you see. And this is the second stage, and what we often call the contemplative stage, when you withdraw from the community, withdraw into solitude, withdraw from the world and kind of experience God more deeply from within. And this of course is a perfectly valid vocation, but you see the tendency is to make that the final stage, that is contemplative life. And the Greek Fathers, especially the Eastern Church, but also in the West, tended to think that the solitary was the ideal. Even St. Benedict in the Rule, you see, says you live in the community of what some are called, after experiencing the community for the solitary combat of the desert, and clearly he feels that is a higher vocation in a sense but he's legislating for the community. So we get that idea of a community life as well as a preliminary stage and then a solitary life as the higher stage. But I think there is a third, you see, and that's what we're really looking for today. And that is, as you


enter into the silence, into the solitude, as you enter into this oneness with God, you begin to discover the differences in the unity. And then you return to the community, you return to the world, but no longer living in the differences separate, but seeing everything in God, you see. Now the world is rediscovered, but it's not something outside you, it's something in which you are involved and which is in God, you see. And your brothers and the rest of humanity is not something outside you, separated from you, we're all living in a communion together in God, you see. And so also, the more deeply we enter into this union with God, the more we discover one another in God, in Christ, you see. And I think this is very important for us, religious and for the church as a whole, because the other model is so normal and natural, we're all separated, we come together, we form a community with


more and more extensions and so on, and we try to resolve and we keep it all on that level. But we've got to go beyond that level and discover this unity in Christ, beyond all differences, and then to rediscover. You know the Zen masters say, first of all when you look at a tree, there is a tree and you're here, you see, it's just a tree. And then as you enter into Zen meditation and get rid of all appearances and so on, the tree is no longer there, it's disappeared into the one. But then the third stage, you come back and there is the tree again, but it's no longer an isolated, separated tree, it is the tree in the one, you see, the one in the tree. The individual is discovered in the universal, in the one. So I feel that this is really the, as I say, the work of the church, and particularly of a religious monastic community into the church, to realize this deep unity of one another in Christ, in God, you see. And that is the deepest contemplation. We're


going beyond this mere solitude. You know the famous ox, certain ox herd, and pictures in Zen about the man who's seeking the ox, and he goes in search of it and he sees the footsteps, and then he comes up with it and he catches it by the tail, and then he finally jumps onto it and rides off. And the last picture is simply an open space, he's gone into the void, into the ultimate. And then they added a last one after that, he returns to the marketplace, but no longer the same person anymore. And that, you see, I feel is our calling, we've got to go beyond everybody, everything, to discover God alone, and then to return and rediscover everybody, everything in God. And that is the highest contemplation, and that is wisdom, really. So that was what I wanted to put before you. Now, perhaps we could have some questions, see how this relates to your life and our


life at the church, and I can try to bring out any further that we like. Well, have you seen the emergence of a new monk or a new monastic form of life coming at this time? Yes, I do very much, you know. You see, our experience in the ashram has been extremely interesting. We just started with a little group, three of us there, and a little tiny guest house for two or three people and so on, and we only intended to live contemplative life, prayer life. But people began to come more and more, and it's grown and grown until now, saying we have 50 to 60 people staying very often. And it shows the extraordinary attraction of this kind of life, you see. And most people who come to us find it difficult


to fit into the ordinary forms of religious life. I think the majority, they're seeking God, they're looking for a community, but they find it difficult to fit into the present structures of community life in the church. And perhaps there were three things perhaps they look for. One is greater freedom. They don't want too much structured communities, too institutionalized. And secondly, I think rather important, it's nearly always mixed communities now. The idea that the man needs the woman and the masculine needs the feminine is very much developing today. And there are many, I've stayed in two just recently. I don't know if you know Shanty while I'm in Kansas. Father Ed Hayes has filmed it, and there's a group of men and women. They've been living together for 12 years now, I think. And it goes extremely well. They live in small huts, cabins in the forest there and meet


together for prayer and meals and so on. And so this greater freedom and more open community, in most Hindu ashrams, you have a mother as well as the guru, the Mataji she's called, Sri Aurobindo, the mother was very famous. And Swami Ram Das, he died, and his Mataji, Krishna Bai, the very holy woman, and many, many people go there. So a need for the masculine and the feminine to meet, it means perhaps simply that the community is much more open to women, you see, I think. And the third perhaps is the simpler structure of life, that as you get too big, you've got to organize and you've got to bring in various rules and things, and it becomes much less easy to have this openness, you see, to others and to God. So I think that kind of community is springing up in many places, and ever so many are looking


for it. And maybe, you know, it would come through, they often need a bigger community to support them in some way, spiritually as well as materially. So I'd rather envisage small groups, marginal groups coming up in the violence of a bigger monastery, you see, and living out. This may oblate communities, maybe, you see. But I think we have to be thinking in terms of these freer communities and things like that. The things that happen in monasticism and spirituality and Christianity, very often seem to have some kind of boundary line, that is, some kind of place where there's an interchange with another religious culture, something like that. Your own monastery, your own ashram is an example of that. There's also Shanti Brahman in Kansas, for instance, because they have attempted to incorporate it as an Eastern spirituality. To what extent that is really essential for the vigor of a monastic community?


Yes. That's a very important question. Personally, you know, I feel that the Western church and Western culture has reached a point where it can't go much further, you know, without discovering this other dimension of the East. In the East, there's no doubt, I mean, we cannot simply continue to bring our Western structures to Asia. I don't know whether you realize that in 500 years of missionary activity, not one percent of Asia is Christian, you know, in spite of the most religious people in the world and people who love Christ or are willing to. But they cannot take in their Western structures. So for the East, I don't think there's any doubt the church has to discover Oriental ways of prayer, of worship, of life, of organization and so on. But for the West also, I feel very much, you know, that we've developed our Western structures now to their limit and we need this renewal


from the East. And that is why these Hindu and Buddhist gurus have such extraordinary success, you know. It's amazing how they come and they get hundreds of disciples where we're struggling to get five or ten very often. And they may not be very permanent, many of them, it's true, and there are many defects and so. But I do think also there is something, you see, in the East which answers to a need. We've rather suppressed certain aspects of the personality of the psyche of the West and the East answers to those needs. So I do feel that we can gradually bring Eastern elements into our liturgy, into our life and so on. Now at Osage Monastery, Sister Pasqueline, where we've been staying in Oklahoma, they have very interesting liturgy there where they've taken some mantras and things from to English and to music and they interweave those with the psalms and with the rest of


the liturgy. It's only an experiment in a way and I think we have to experiment, but I think something on those lines could be, can be very helpful. And also the position in prayer, you know, is another, you see. We tend either to stand or to kneel or to sit on a chair. But in the East you sit on the floor or on a cushion, you know, it's quite comfortable and you should be comfortable, but it does give a different atmosphere to the prayer, you know. It creates a different space, as it were, and a different relationship. And that I thought, I mean, these are things we just have to keep in mind and, you know, the way of adaptation will vary immensely. Some people will want perhaps nothing on it, and others may want a lot. And there are a good many Denedictine monasteries now, aren't there, which have developed, say, meditation and vipassana and other things. So I think


we have to be open to that and simply, you know, all the time, you see, it's response to the Holy Spirit, isn't it? Because somebody else is doing it, it doesn't say we've got to do it, but what the Holy Spirit is asking us to do, we have to be open to that. That's the key, you know. And this, not as an expression, I forget which of your books I've read it in, but to the effect of a reciprocal need, you know, where the time has passed, as you say, and it's very true, of imposing, you know, the Western way here, imposing the Western ways, or the East even, you know, the Eastern gurus coming to this country or coming to here, it's an interesting fact, and there's a lot of good that's done about it, but even that perhaps is only a partial step or a transient phenomenon. But I forget how you express it, but maybe you could remind us and remember, or help me remember, but something to the


effect that the East, Hinduism and Buddhism, needs something of the West in order to relate to the world. It needs a sense of the world, a sense of the value of material realities, which perhaps the East doesn't have. And the West, of course, needs, you know, very much to expand its limits, you know, overcome its materialism, which of course is an extreme here, but maybe you could elucidate that. Yes, I think I fully agree. And, I mean, the East, I think we have something to give to the East very much. And I'll tell you one of the main things, and that is, in a Hindu ashram, everything focuses on the guru, and each one surrenders to the guru, and there can be great dangers in that, you know, it can lead to great immaturity. People don't grow any longer, they surrender everything to the guru. It can be good, it can be done


in the right way, but it can also be dangerous. But the other thing is this, you know, in the typical ashram, each one is related to the guru, but not to one another. There's hardly any sense of community, very often. And I think that is one of the things that we can bring, I think, this relation to the guru. For us, ultimately, the guru is Christ, of course, but you can have a human guru at the same time. But it would always be interrelationship between the brothers, you see. And this again brings out that point, you see, that the reality of this world and of human persons, you see. And to me, and both in Hinduism and in Buddhism, the sense of personal relationship is very weak, you know. It's always pure consciousness, you see. Guru is saying that, pure oneness. But the idea that in the oneness there is personal relationship, and therefore love, is much more lacking. There is compassion, but it's not the same as love, you see. And so I feel we can bring that sense of community


and a community in Christ, you see. And that would be a real unity of East and West. So I think we must always think in terms of mutual interchange, not one in favor of the other, you see. We have rarely reached the point where the East and West have to meet, and they must find how they can meet at the deepest level, and enrich one another, and find fulfillment with one another. Father, to take up Father Bruno's question, can you say anything about the possibility of an enrichment through contact with the North American Indian culture here? Yes, I'm very interested in that. I know very little about it, you know. But the obvious thing which comes through and which links up with the East generally is this immense sense of presence of God in creation, in the earth, in the water, in the air, in the fire. God is present in everything. The great spirit, they always say, is present. And they speak


of our mother, the earth. And very interesting, of our grandmother. The mother is the earth as she is here, but the grandmother is the spirit behind the mother, you see. And our father above in the sky, but the grandfather is the beyonder, even of him. So there is an immense sense of oneness with the whole creation. And we've rather lost that, you know, we've focused on human relationships and rather lost the sense of cosmic unity, you see. And that is, I think, the American Indian has said very deeply. Father, you were speaking before of the usefulness of the giving in to the guru and the danger that that leads to a child-oriented reaction. Would you share my view that Vatican II was


really intended to pull that same child orientation out of the Catholic laity and get us to accept personal responsibility? And then taking the personal responsibility theme and the submission theme, how do you put them together? Yes. I think that is answered at the deeper level I was mentioning, you see. As long as you keep on this very human, rational level, then you can try to give the laity more place in the church and so on, and you can try to balance the hierarchy with the laity and so on. But I think really you've got to go beyond that, you see, to the fundamental unity of the body of Christ. And that in baptism, you see, every Christian really puts on Christ. And remember the Vatican Council said, it was very interesting, that the three-fold office of Christ as prophet, priest, and king is shared by all the people through baptism. And hierarchies are simply functions within the body, you see. Everybody, the baptized


person, shares in the mystery of Christ. And then for the good order of the community, the church institutes functions, ministries, dio canio, you see, ministries within the church which are necessary, but they're secondary. And that the priesthood of the people is more fundamental than the ministerial priesthood. And the only priesthood mentioned in the New Testament, you know, is the priesthood of the people. You are a priestly people who have the wrath of spiritual sacrifices, pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. But the minister is not a priest in the New Testament. He's a presbyter, he's an elder, and he manages. So I think we have to go beyond the, as I say, the economic level, you can call it, you see, the level of order and structure, to the deeper level where we rediscover this total unity beyond it all, you see. That's why I say we have to become contemplative, you see. And again and again, people today are saying, as long as you remain in the dualistic


mentality, you see, of your self-separate and hierarchy and so on, you're still on an inferior and imperfect level. You've got to go beyond the dualities, discover the deeper unity, and then all these other things can take their place, you see. But without contemplation, without this experience of oneness with God, there is no final answer, you see, to any problem, I would say, to war and peace or anything else you like. You spoke of the missionary activity of Christianity in the East. The Christian church, of course, has a apostolizing responsibility from the Gospel. The Hindu tradition, on the other hand, is one that one is born into. And in traditional Hinduism, it would be rather difficult for one to be converted to Hinduism, because we're in the structure of the caste system


with one in its place, so to speak. How does the East and the West come together in that difference of this formulation of the revealed religions as such and their practices? Yes, that is very interesting. From the Christian point of view, I think it's clear, you know, that today we understand mission in terms of dialogue. We have something to give in this mystery of Christ, to share Christ with others. But we can only share Christ with others when we recognize the presence of Christ, the presence of God, in the people. And that's why we made the mistake, you see. We thought we simply had to give the Gospel to others and to ignore the presence of God and of revelation in the people to whom we're speaking. And then you meet a blank wall, you see. They cannot take it. But once you recognize the person, where he is in relation to God, then you can begin to speak of Christ in a meaningful way. I


always remember when I first went to India, we started a little ashram outside Bangalore with a little bungalow. And we had a lot of books, the Upanishads, the Gita, all these things. And some students began to come up from the village, you know, just to look around. And many of them became great friends. And they all said that when they discovered that we had the Upanishads and the Gita, and actually knew a lot more about them than they did, it made all the difference. They said, we've never been in a Catholic church or a Catholic institution before. But because we had this openness, they could come. And interestingly, I vividly remember not long afterwards, one of them asking whether he could have a new life of Christ. You see, if you're open to them, they can be open to you. But if you're only giving, then they're on that defensive, you see. So from the Christian point of view, I don't think there's much problem. I think we all recognize today that mission is through dialogue, it's written exchange. From the Hindu point of view, it is interesting, as


you say, that in the past, at least, you had to be born like a Jew, you see. It's by nature, by birth. But, of course, today all these gurus come to the West, and normally they will say, the Ramakrishna order certainly, they don't want to convert anybody. If you're a Christian, you remain a Christian, they teach you a way of spirituality. But in practice, you know, many do convert to Hinduism. There are a great many Christians and Catholics who become Hindu monks or Buddhist monks. And many seem to be satisfied with it, it's difficult to say. But so the rules are reversed in a sense. We've discovered that you need dialogue and share with others, and they're discovering that you can make converts to some extent, you see. But I think we rarely meet in this point of dialogue, you see. The typical Hindu or Buddhist, he's not really out for conversion, but he is out to open


people to the deeper experience of God, the ultimate reality. And that's where we meet. You know, Abhishek Tananda wrote his book, Hindu-Christian Meeting Point, in the cave of the heart. And we always say, on the ritual level, you can't meet, it's totally different. You go to a Hindu temple, it's another world altogether. On the psychological level of general beliefs and so on, the differences are immense. But when you enter the cave of the heart into contemplation, you begin to discover this deep underlying unity. Especially Christians and Buddhists in Japan. You see, the Buddhists have no God, no soul, you think you know where to begin with even. But they all said, when you began to meditate together and to exchange on the level of meditation, they found a marvellous unity. So that is really, I think, we're all meeting or trying to meet at that level, you see. You mentioned just now the thing I've been looking for in listening to people. We always


talk about establishing a dialogue, and we have certain things that we've been conditioned to and learned from our reading, and we, of course, want to share those things. The meeting point, as Abhishek Duryodhana said, is in the heart, and the heart to me is a symbol of love. And to share that love requires the opening of the heart, to receive God's love and to offer it to others. I find myself, though, vacillating between points of practice – how does one practice to open, how does one practice that love? When one gets on the dialogue level, it's again up here. And you mentioned the meditation, that that is a meeting point. Do you find that solitary meditation and community meditation, could you elaborate on that as perhaps a practice or as something that would be something to


take away to do rather than to read about, study about, learn more about? There has to be a step that one takes beyond the learning, the schooling and the dialogue that actually works, that brings people together. Yes, well, I think that's what the function of an ashram is really, you see. An ashram is always a place where God is experienced, you see. The normal way an ashram begins is a sanyasi who has some experience of God comes, sits down and meditates, and a group of disciples gather around him to share his experience. So it always focuses on the experience. And people come to an ashram because they sense there is some presence of God there, and it draws them together. Both the solitary meditation or the group meditation and the community prayer, you see, or the bhajans singing, maybe singing a song. So always in an authentic ashram there is an atmosphere of prayer and


awareness of God, you see. And that brings people together in the most marvelous way. It's a little paradoxical. I often say the difference between our Christian foundation and the Hindu, or the better type of Hindu, is that we always start from the outside. We collect money, we buy some land, we put up a building, we organize a community, we set things up like that. And the Hindu is the total reverse, I say. A sanyasi with nothing, just two pieces of cloth barefoot, walking through the villages, sits down and meditates. A group gathers around him. They offer to build a little hut for him. And the devotees build the ashram, you know. The guru never builds the ashram. He simply sits there. They put up the buildings. And very often a lay group manages all the ashram, you know. He could have his difficulties, I think, but it seems to work very often. So that is the


pattern, you see. And so it's always centered on this one who experiences God. Though personally, you know, again, the difference with the Christian, I'm not keen on this devotion to the guru, really, you know. It can be effective, but he tends to monopolize too much. I much would prefer a group of contemplatives, you see, three or four, say, who share contemplative life together, and they form the nucleus, rather than one who's dominating everything else. Doesn't what you just described describe the early church of the Christian, of the Christian monasticism? Yes. Yes, it is very much so. The early church fathers? Yes. Father, you just talked about it. I was going to ask you what kind of veneration or worship you receive from your disciples over there, because you consider a guru in the ashram. I visited one time an Indian guru here in this country, and what was your experience


from you? I was uneasy about the veneration or I would say the worshipping that he gives to this man who was, you know, coming from, in our context, would never do this to another human being. So how do you... Yes, I... How do they treat you over there? Yes, I'm very much against having too much focusing on the guru, you know. And in the community, we very much share together. We try to make it a sharing community. But for Hindu devotees, you can't stop them, you know. They'll come and prostrate, full length, in front of you and so on. But I... With those who I'm more close with, I always say the guru without is to teach you to find the guru within. You must never focus on the outer guru. You must always find the Holy Spirit within. He is your guru, you see. And I find that's very, very important, really. I dislike any attempt to sort of devalue the guru like that. I think


you must make... They must realize themselves, you see. It may take time and they may need help for a considerable time, but in the end it must always be the inner guru who must be your guide. I think that's the rule. I'd just like to say that one time in the year for the birthday of the guru, which is the most important day in the ashram, then he's treated as an icon, you know. And a special flower arrangement is made with two places for the feet and then he's expected to stand in this and we pour water, we pour milk on his feet and pour flowers on his head and so he's treated in proper Indian fashion once a year. But it's understood as an adaptation to that culture. And, of course, it's taken in a different way. I remember the prostration that are done in front of the Buddhist, the images of the Buddha in Japan and in Taiwan. And many of the Catholic priests being very troubled that I should be willing to prostrate in front of the Buddha. But there, as a greeting,


as we shake hands, two people will prostrate to each other. So in the different cultures these gestures, which for us are unacceptable, have a different flavor and a different meaning in the other culture. I think that's important to understand. Well, maybe it has a meaning in India, but when Americans try to translate this in our culture, you know, I saw, for example, a woman told me, well, you were so lucky you were right in front of me. I am in the back, you know, and if he dares just to look at me, you know, oh, it's such a bliss, you know. Well, it's transported in other countries, for sure, but it's not. Maybe, well, in the end, I hope they have been used to this, that the way of life up here is somewhat of a problem, a problem is a problem. The trouble is, you know, that, you see, for the Hindu, he sees God in the guru, but he doesn't make the distinctions. That, to me, is always the problem, you see. It's all right to see God in the guru, we try to see Christ and the priest and so on, but for them the distinction disappears. It's simply God, you see, and then I think that is very unsatisfactory,


to put it mildly. But that is the whole tendency, as I said, to eliminate the differences, only to see the one, you see. But I think when they come to America or elsewhere, then they should adapt to the culture of the country in many ways. This question is somewhat less spiritual, but I don't know, it's something that there's a concern and interest. Today, especially in the Islamic world, you find a rebirth of fervor and sense of religious identity, and of course within the Christian world as well, fundamentalist, you know, movements and so forth. And I understand also in India there are certain factions of Hindus who are becoming very, very defensive or even aggressive, perhaps in the better yet, I mean, better put. And there, I understand, I don't know much about the news of it, but attempts at laws restricting the freedom of Catholics or Christians, you


know, to continue to witness to their faith and so forth, and to teach Catholicism and so forth. Do you find this is a problem, this kind of growing rigidity? And alongside the dialogue there seems to be almost an opposite tendency sometimes in the world today of exaggerating the difference, you know, we're Christians, we can't have anything to do with that, and we're Hindus, and we're remaining faithful to Hinduism. Do you find some of that also? Yes, there is a great denial. It's grown in the last few years, you know, even the last five years it's become more significant. You see, you must always remember there's a sort of Hindu renaissance. It began in the last century, really, with Ramakrishna, then Vivekananda came to Chicago, you know, to the Parliament of Religions, and they got the sense that their religion had something unique in it, you see, which they could give to others. And that has grown continuously, and everywhere there is a Hindu renaissance, a renaissance of the whole culture, the dance, the music, every aspect of it, you see. And


recently only, I would say in the last five, certainly not in ten years, it has become aggressive. Well, there is this RSS, you know, Rashtriya Sangha, which is a semi-political party, and the Hindu Mahasabha, and they were the people who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi because he was fraternizing with Muslims, you see, they thought he was betraying the Hindus. And they're becoming more and more militant. And even in our part, Tamil Nadu, where we've had very peaceful relations, in the last two or three years we've had some terrible demonstrations. The RSS come and they organize gangs of young men with manufacturing bombs and things. And in all the papers, it was the Christians who had attacked the Hindus, and the daily press took the side of the Hindus, but actually it was they who organized it, and they retaliated, I think, very unfortunately. It was settled


and it's fairly harmonious now, but there is an undercurrent of violence gathering, and particularly Arunachal Pradesh, one of the far northern states, you see that this is another aspect that the only really successful missionary effort in the sense of bringing people into the church is among the tribal peoples. And hundreds and thousands of them have become Christians, and on the whole I think it's very good. Now they're trying to respect their tribal customs, and they're very, very good Catholics. But the Hindus are aware of this now, and so they're preventing Catholics coming into Arunachal Pradesh. The bishop came in and they had to leave, and no priest is allowed in, no church is allowed to function, so they're trying to stop that movement, you see. And that is the government is behind that. So there are tensions growing now. But on the whole it's very, very peaceful, and our relations are excellent with all our Hindu neighbors, and with the


government officials too. Extremely friendly they are, and they are lovely. On a practical level, Father, who can go? Is the Ashram reserved for Indians? I know it's very limited now with the rules of immigration and all that, you cannot go and stay in India for years, especially if you're a religious person. But as I said, the restriction from the government, is the intent of the Ashram to be reserved for mostly Indian people? Oh, no, I don't think so, no. In most big Ashrams you have as many foreigners as Indians. Shivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. No, I'm speaking of your Ashram. Oh, ours? No, we have the same, you see. We have just about half and half. Half Indian, and half from abroad, in the course of the year. And that's very healthy, I think. That's the guests coming through. What about the...


Oh, the members. The members, yeah, the members. Well, yes, you see, from the practical point of view, you can't get a visa for more than two or three years at most, you know. So any kind of permanent member would be difficult. From the British Commonwealth, it would be possible. But personally, I'm more concerned to build up an Indian community, whether they choose to have some foreigners there eventually, I don't mind. But I mean, the important thing is to get the Christian monastic Ashram tradition established in the Indian church, you see. That is our primary objective. Father, let me sort of stumble into this question. Your life is devoted to the East-West dialogue, and certainly to the extent that the West is secular and ruled by, you know, worldviewed


by science and empirical science and rationalism, and the East is more identified with the Hindu Buddhist understanding, there can be little doubt that an exchange of understandings would be very beneficial, particularly to the West at this point. But if we're talking on specifically the religious level and the coming together of, or at least the increased understanding between Christianity as the Western religion and the East, it's a totally different dynamic. And I think a metaphor that you probably use, but if you haven't, it certainly would be familiar or congruent with your understanding, would be that of like the wheel with the spokes of the different religions all coming from the same core. Now, what I'm trying to ask from you is, on the one hand, the West can get from the East.


It seems like the East has this particularly emphatic understanding, better than the West or better than Christianity, of, say, the divine play, Maya, the sense of the transcendent divinity expressing itself in that particular fashion, and therefore there's a unity that is more immediately seen in the East than in the West. Now, the West, though, in Christianity seems to have a particular essential aspect of cosmic truth that isn't readily found in the East, and it would seem to me, perhaps, to set it aside from being, say, just another spoke from the wheel. But with its understanding of history as being the drama of the divine unfoldment, and that


in fact it has the drama in it, it's not so much Maya as a play, but it also has this actual kind of urgency to it, and there's a sense of real imminence in this world and the kind of process of incarnation. Now, isn't it possible, then, that in the effort to bring dialogue between East and West on the religious plane, that perhaps that essential truth in Christianity, which is so vital, might get shortchanged or blurred in some way? As I'm talking to you, I'm thinking, in a way it's almost as if the Hindu-Buddhist understanding is almost at the center of the wheel, and the Christian understanding almost comes out of it and sort of moves into a new dimension altogether.


And with our world situation being as urgent or vital or historically real as it is, isn't it possible that that Christian essence should be a particular effort to maintain it at the same time as expanding its understanding through the Eastern sense? Yes, I think so. In fact, I'd rather emphasize, particularly in the book that's just come out, The Cosmic Revelation, I emphasize that the cosmic revelation, which is Hindu-Buddhist universal, is cyclic, you see, cyclic time, and sees the world as this dance of Shiva and so on, you see, and that the Christian Hebrew Bible brought in this idea of linear time moving towards an end, you see, where history has an essential place to play, whereas in the other it really has no essential place. So I very much feel that we have to keep that dimension, you see, and then reconcile it.


They say the spiral would be a sort of reconciliation of the two, you see, and the thing is to be open to both, but it would be very serious if we lose that, and most Hindus and Buddhists do. They only see Christianity as part of this whole cyclic movement, you see. So I do feel the historic dimension, and the fact that Jesus is a historic person dying under Pontius Pilate is deeply significant, you see. It's embedded in history, and I think that is one of the things we have, that is part of our witness, you see. When you discuss, for example, with Hindus and Buddhists the understanding of Christ, it seemed like the whole issue that we're discussing would be particularly highlighted there, because I think, having been myself very, I don't know, at ease with or intimate


with a Hindu-Buddhist sensibility for quite a while, I would tend to view Christ as being another in a series of great avatars who essentially manifested the Divine One through human form, but the Christian understanding somehow leaps someplace past that, and I wonder how you address that. And that is the great problem. I've never been able to get it across to a Hindu. They're convinced, you see, that Christ is one of the avatars, and he's God, and God made man, God manifests, but only one, like Krishna and Rama, or Ramakrishna, you see. And they don't want to recognise any difference. They simply take it for granted. I mean, we had a very nice young Hindu Swami who came to our ashram meeting, we had a Christian ashram, and we invited him. Very charming young man, and he kept on saying, God made man like Buddha or Jesus or Ramakrishna or Ramana Maharshi, those four, you see.


And he's one of those, and to get, you see, what it means is really he belongs to a different worldview, a different complex altogether, and it's very difficult to get that across, because their worldview is different, you see. It almost has something to do with that, the West, how much it takes seriously the individual human person. Yeah, it's connected with that, you see. And the whole problem of rebirth, you see, which is one of the most difficult, because they all accept that you're born again and again, you see, so the person, the individual person, loses its uniqueness. But these are problems, I mean, this is part of the whole process, isn't it, of dialogue and of mission, if you like, it's what we're trying to do. I have one other question which might perhaps, which we can talk about at another meeting, but in this encounter between contemporary science and the great physics and transpersonal


psychology in the East, and the Tao of physics, marriage that's happening there, do you see a connection with Christianity? Because it seems in a way to bypass Christianity. It seems not to require a Christian contribution. Yes. And so that question naturally comes up. Yes, I think the same thing arises, eh? You were thinking of people like Ken Wilber, weren't you? People who? Like Ken Wilber. Yes, yes. Yeah, you see, it arises. I don't know whether you know his books, The Spectrum of Consciousness, The Altman Project, and he's writing one after the other now, he's a brilliant person. And it's very valuable because he's linked up the Western psychology, Freud, and very particularly Jung, of course, is the link, with Eastern mysticism and Eastern psychology. But his defect, you see, is that in The Altman Project, he sees that all this, the lower levels of consciousness, are all projections and are ultimately unreal. And only when you get to The Altman, the unified consciousness, do you encounter reality.


All else is really illusion. So this world, as we understand it, of the human individual, is all left in the world of maya, of illusion. So he's gone right, he's a Zen Buddhist, actually, he's gone right over, do you see, to the Oriental view, and has simply bypassed the Christian. In fact, his only form of Christianity he recognizes is the Gnostic, which is closest to the Hindu and the Buddhist. So this is a very important point, I think, where we have to insert the Christian value into this context of the new science, psychology, and the Eastern mysticism, and find the central position there. One wonders if the historical momentum of the present moment, which has produced these scientific breakthroughs, and this, seeing this connection itself, isn't in some way a consequence of Christianity, but connected with the incarnation of the world. Yes, it's strange that in some way, but I think it's also our defect, you know, the way we present the gospel somehow does not, it doesn't make any impact, you know, on the typical


scientists who are looking for, you see, in our ashram it's amazing how many people are Catholics or Christians with a strong background, and they will say, I used to go to Mass every day, or regularly, and serve Mass, and so on. When I was 15 or 16, I gave it all up. Because it doesn't, they've received it from outside, it's not been deeply assimilated, and then its symbols no longer seem to relate to their lives. And they come to India, and they find symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism which awaken them and transform them, you see, transforming symbols. And somehow we've not presented it in a way that opens to them. This is a very, very common thing, and really a great responsibility, you see. Father, you were talking about Gandhi a while ago there.


What kind of a spiritual person was he, or background, that he seemed to have so much power over controlling people and the peace of his area there? Who did you mention? Gandhi. Gandhi, yes. He's rather different from others, you know. I wouldn't say Gandhi wasn't a mystic, he wasn't a jnani, in the Hindu sense of one realized. You see, he was very Western in many ways. He tried to become an English gentleman, you know, that was his primary goal when he went to England. And he absorbed the Western tradition, and he learned a lot from the Gospel and Christianity. But he had this extraordinary sense of oneness with the Indian peasant, the ordinary Indian villager. That was his unique gift, you know. And when he spoke, he spoke to the heart of the masses in India, in the villages, you


see. And that was a very deep sense of the oneness of Hinduism, you know. That's why he never became a Christian, you see. He was deeply Christian in his outlook and so on, but he belonged to that Hindu world. Not so much the world of Advaita, you see, this spiritual world, but the world of the Indian masses, the people. That was his unique gift. And that's why today he's not so much influenced, you know. You see, today industrialism, Western technology, science are taking over, and the Indian villager is trying to absorb that now. It's not what Gandhi wanted, you see. He wanted to build up from the villages and to gradually bring them up. But the politicians wanted to bring in Western technology, and so they've created a rather small society at the top, you see, about 15% who are wealthy and living in modern style


and left the great masses in the villages struggling still, you see. Whereas Gandhi wanted to start the other way around. That's why he's still a father figure, but he's not very influential, actually, in the actual life today. I think it's kind of hard to figure out. He didn't seem to favour the whole denomination, but yet he seemed to be able to know how to control it. Yes. Have a lot of growing power or something. Yes. Of course, you know, it came out in the film that he, to some extent, lost control, you see, because he believed that non-violence was the only way, but he only gradually realised how difficult non-violence is for the ordinary person. He realised you have to be transformed in order to be non-violent. And so the actual effect of much of his work was to release these terrible forces of violence. You see, when independence came, they were simply massacring, you know, hundreds of thousands


of people were massacred. On both sides, Hindus and Muslims, there was some orgy of massacre. And he was, to some extent, responsible, and he felt it, you know. He felt the tragedy of it. Father, what reaction do you have to the place of Maharishi Yogi and his transcendental reputation? Is that a positive for us? I have rather positive views of him, you know. I heard him speak once, and I know many of his disciples, and he seems to me to have found a very simple, practical method of meditation which is very easily adapted to people in all situations. I don't think it goes very far, and I think the recent development of levitation and so on is rather bewildering and not very meaningful. But I think the simple transcendental meditation is really a very practical method. But as I say, I don't think it goes very far. And many people, I recommend when they practice that, to use the Jesus prayer as their mantra.


For him, the mantra is merely a sound, you see. But to use it with a meaning, I find... And then you can use the same method very effectively, I think. Hello. At the beginning of your presentation, you had mentioned that Jesus never identified himself as being the Father. And in our whole Christian revelation, it's the same. But there's one passage from Scripture that always leaves me perplexed, and that's in John's Gospel where Philip says, Show us the Father, and there will be enough. And Jesus makes the response, Have I been with you so long that you do not know me? I haven't found a good commentary on that. I was wondering if you had any insight into that.


Yes. I wouldn't think it meant more, you know, than that, like Thomas, you see, that people saw Jesus in the outward form, and they didn't discover the inner life, the life of God within him, you see. And the disciples were very, very slow, you see, to see him as more than a prophet, a reformer, and so on. And only really in the resurrection, I think, did they really come to realize who he was, you see. And I think St. John's Gospel particularly brings that out, you see, that they didn't understand. Now on that point, isn't it true that in ancient cultures, and I think India as well as Israel, the eldest son was often the second father of the other children of the family? So that when Christ said, When you see me, you see the Father, he was speaking really in a very, then to come back to that culture, he was speaking in a sense that they couldn't understand the relationship. He's the only godson of the father, so he is the father of him, in effect.


That is interesting. I've not seen it in that light, but I think it's probably true, yes. I think the eldest son had a very, very significant place, hadn't he, in such a culture, yes. Yes. But really the key to the self-understanding of Jesus is this sense of sonship, isn't it, of Abba, Father, you see. And the most significant text for me is, which occurs both in Matthew and Luke, is, No one knows the Son but the Father. No one knows the Father but the Son. That is the intimate relationship. Relationship, not identity, but relationship, you see. And that is the model, you see. It's so difficult when he says that no one knows the Son except the Father. It would seem to exclude us from that knowledge. Ah, but then he says, And he to whom the Son will reveal him. And when Peter says the Christ says, My Father in heaven has revealed him. Yes, that's right, about knowing the Father.


So that's the same compliment, when he says, My Father in heaven. In other words, he doesn't have to even know me. Does that all come together, though, when he, in the resurrection, of course, in Antichrist, especially when he refers that he has to leave for the Spirit to come? Yes. And that's the eternity that comes about. And isn't this what Abba should deny? This is what we started with this morning. His expedient follow-up. He should deny that aspect of the Trinity in the Satchitananda. Because at any point along the way, when you stop, you have stifled yourself. And it is always the next step that brings you closer to the Trinity. And with the Trinity, taking that step, then it is that aspect of going into the cave, the real cave, arriving at that point within.


And then you still can't stay in the cave. You have to take the next step, which perhaps brings you back into contact with others, to experience your experience. And this is the meeting point. This is the sharing. But without the completeness of the self, then you have nothing to share with anybody. You have a limited share. That's why I say, you see, that as you go deeper into this experience of oneness, you have to integrate all your physical, psychological personality into the other. You see, you come back and fulfill yourself, you see. That's why we go beyond ourselves and everything to the One. And then, in the light of the One, all this has to be reintegrated. That's what I say is the function of the Church, really, you see, is to lead people to the experience of the One, and then to be able to integrate the physical, psychological being in this life of the Spirit. And that happens in Jesus, you see. It's very important, the resurrection, the body doesn't disappear.


The psychological personality, at least, doesn't disappear. They're integrated in the Godhead, you see. So that human nature is really present in the Godhead. It isn't absorbed into it, you see. And the same applies to the Eucharist, of course, you see, and the bread and the wine. It's the body and blood, the human nature, they are transfigured by the Divine, but not obliterated. It's insipid in the Divine. This, to me, is the real Christian message, you see, that the whole physical world and the whole psychological world has to be not destroyed and not lost, but transfigured in the ultimate reality, you see. And that's our main task. I want to talk about one of the possibilities to revitalize monasticism, you know, small communities, three or four going up. I wonder if what we also need right now is something a little more radical in Christian monasticism to wake it up,


where maybe we have to forget about doing something, which still would be a little organized, and just individuals going up or some kind of living or radical form of renunciation and really enkindling the flame of the early monastic spirit. And maybe in time something will develop from their own. Yes, I think that is so. That's the real sannyāsa, you know, you see. The sannyāsa is really simply going beyond everything, beyond all structure, beyond the church, in a sense, you see. Total surrender to God alone. And we do have a sannyāsa dikṣa in the ashram, you know, and several people have taken that. And it really is a commitment to go beyond everything, all human created values, you see, to the uncreated. Well, I always quote the words that the guru makes to the disciple at the end of the sannyāsa dikṣa. Go, my son, across the...


The vast spaces. The vast infinite spaces of the mind. Go to the source, go to the one from whom you have come and to whom you now return, you see. He's sent out to go beyond. And I know several people, you know, who have... There's one, for instance, Mokshananda. He's of Argentina. He came to the ashram years ago, took sannyāsa. And actually, the Bishop of Benares accepted him for his diocese as a sannyāsī. But when it came to the point, he realised that the bishop was going to keep him under control and so he wouldn't accept. And now he's gone back to Spain and he's living as a hermit. And the bishop there has given him a hermitage in Spain and he has a sort of charism like that. And many people are attracted to him. But it's total renunciation and radical simplicity, really.


So people are moving in that direction, I think. That's like the fathers of the desert, isn't it? It's going right back to the beginning, you see. I think that it would be very difficult to be a sannyāsī in this country. Because it's not a very organic experience for a person at this time. It would be very difficult to remain centred or focused in the spiritual life and spiritual practice without being a very well-seasoned monk to start with, or a very well-seasoned person to develop, a human being. Because of the incredible barrage of some liminal things that people encounter in the world, how would one person as an individual manifest anything very powerful


as an individual right now would be very hard. It's extremely difficult, I think. These communities of Father McNamara are very interesting, aren't they? Yes. One in Arizona, isn't it, and the other in Nova Scotia. A real desert life, isn't it? I think that is a very radical experiment, you know. But it is very difficult in this country to live the total sannyāsa, I think. It's impossible for a man, you know. Impossible for a man, yes. To have that call to complete solitude, you've been talking to complete renunciation, it's good to have a good background in your social family. I think you have to be psychologically very stable, you know, and mature.


It's most important. There are a lot of terrible problems. You see, there are many breakdowns in India, you know, especially among Americans. They say the American consul is always having to repatriate people who become psychotic through meditation and that sort of thing, and they lose control altogether. Because, you see, you try to do these meditations and so on without having undergone the purification of all the unconscious, which is absolutely essential. We've had cases in Russia. There's a very devout young man, and he was practicing the Jesus prayer regularly and insisted upon living on his own outside the ashram somewhere in a little hut there. And it was a very peculiar business.


One or two others got together with him in the full moon, and they all became absolutely out of this world, and he became violent after a time. Not seriously, but jumping a barge and doing karate and this sort of thing. And we had to take him to a psychiatric hospital. So there are real problems, you see. And particularly the unconscious here has been so messed about, you know, that unless you've really undergone a deep purification, reached maturity, you should not attempt the more radical ways. That's why St. Benedict said after a long experience in the monastery they should be allowed to go on to the Sanctuary of the Night. But your hermits, the people that have this, that go into this deep assault, are normally really people that really have a tremendous love and concern. In fact, it's so great, that God pulls them into this assault, and they have to fight it.


He draws them into this, and their love is tremendous. And that's really our thing, too. It's a very social band, really. It's a call to a real passionate way to help the world. That is the authentic hermit, as he has. Something that you mentioned is now... I was curious in connection... Is there anything in Hinduism that corresponds to what we call psychology in the West, or is it purely religious discipline, I suppose? They don't make the distinctions clear, you know. That's the problem. There is tremendous psychological wisdom, of course, in it. And the Hindu guru has tremendous psychological insight. But they haven't worked it out as a distinct science, I don't think. Or this particular sector seems to have ballooned in the West, in a sense. Yes. We have a lot of realism in that area, perhaps. Yeah. Because we're West-living, right? Yes. It's like the ego is more defined here,


and therefore there's more of a dialectic with the unconscious that has to be resolved, perhaps, in the West. We can afford the spectators. But I do find that more and more one needs both the spiritual and the psychological. I mean, there are problems which God can overcome, no doubt, but for 99 cases, he doesn't. And you need psychological help. You need to be able to reach maturity. I always quote the example of Father Tony de Mello. He's the best-known spiritual director in India, a Jesuit. And he wrote a book called The Song of the Bird, which many people find very attractive. And he started an institute called Sadhana for spiritual guidance. And he found that practically everybody who came, especially sisters and priests, needed psychological guidance. First of all, it became really a psychological course at the end,


because he couldn't get beyond all these blocks in the unconscious. So I think it's very important, that aspect of it. In other words, we have to recognize where physical, psychological, and spiritual beings are interdependent and interrelated, and you can't escape any of those levels. You can't become purely spiritual. You've got to recognize your integrations, both physical and psychological. And that is the meaning of resurrection, isn't it? Body and soul are reorganized, reconstructed in the spirit. Well, how did, in the past, these saints that became saints, they didn't have all these facilities, and they became saints? Yes. That's very interesting, yes. I think, you know, they were much tougher psychologically than we are. You know, to survive at all, you had to be fairly tough in the ancient world. Most people died off when they were young.


And it's extraordinary how tough most of the saints were. And they were able to do things which would send most people psychotic today, you know. That's why they're terribly bad examples. It's a job of the cross. It's a job of the cross. We really are, psychologically, we're very different from what people were in the past, you know. And we need these helps, which they could do without us. Are we scared of penance today? Are we scared of penance, to do penance, or things prior to penance? Yeah, well, I think it's... I mean, I think that's where sort of spiritual counseling and guidance is needed, you see. I mean, I think our danger is to try to apply methods which were valid in the past to a psyche which cannot stand that kind of method. You see, so many people come who've psychologically been wrecked by their Catholic upbringing.


How many people come to the ashram, and from childhood they had this idea of sin and of hell and all these things, sort of fastened on them, and they have to break with the whole thing before they can get open to God at all, you know. There's a terrible negative image in the unconscious that's being created. It's really serious. And then, too, like years ago, there was, I don't know, maybe there was more unity in your family. In our society now, there's a lot of division, a lot of hurt. And then, I read, like, Padre Pio, in his family, there was so much love. And that was his growth. And then, like, Teresa was here. He loved unity. And in our society, there's been a lot of, from our side, there's been a lot of material things, having division. This is really hurt, and so on. That's very true. And in India, you know, I've lived at home for 30 years or so, and I'm working with unity.


That's my policy. In our society, you know, our families, God wants us to stay split, you know. In India, you still get these very united families, you know, where they really grow up in an atmosphere of love and have really beautiful harmony in the unconscious, you know. Whereas, for most Western people, the tensions from childhood are tremendous, really, in the unconscious. It was almost as if, for an ancient man, even when he was a monk, he was never a monk, but when he grew up, he was really a monk. As I said, that kind of solidarity between the conscious and the unconscious is beautiful. I think that would apply to the saints very often, you know. They came from a harmonious background in which they were nourished in childhood and so on, and so there was a deep harmony in them. And then you could face very violent experiences and so on, but if you have got this division from childhood, then it becomes very vulnerable, you see. Does that also, perhaps, explain the radicalism of sannyasa,


the total pronunciation in India, in a way, puts one not outside of society, but at the very heart of Hinduism? Isn't that true? In other words, the sannyasi is a man of communion with the cosmos, but also with the people, in a way, that, you know, perhaps we miss that because we're so fragmented. You see, a sannyasi can go through the villages and he's one with the people, you see, and they recognize him and he's totally at home, whereas in India, in America, he's a freak, you see. There's a maternal quality even to society there, you see, that nourishes and embraces the sannyasi, even when he exposes himself completely. In every village, every few kilometers, there's a place where one can sleep. And normally, when the sannyasi arrives, he'll blow his conch. And then the people in the village know that one has arrived and, of course, it's an honor,


and they come rushing with food and things to serve one and to talk. And it's so beautiful because it's what they bring, their offerings, and they take from him as a traveling priest, as a psychologist. They're asking their questions about their prayer and they're received tremendously from him. There's this trans-immediacy and intimacy between the man who's a total renunciate and the whole society as such. There was an interesting experiment in the ashram. There was a Jesuit father, I think from San Francisco, certainly from California, came and he wanted to experience sannyasa in the villages. So we gave him a suit of kavi and he went through the villages and he had a wonderful experience. Father Hannibal. And wherever he went, he just seemed to get in the right place. People took him, gave him a meal, gave him his rest at night. He came in for a marriage, a temple festival. In 10 days he had a total experience of India.


And he went with 10 rupees. He thought he might get stranded somewhere and want something and he came back with 20 rupees. But that was extraordinary. But he must have had a real sense of the people of this thing, otherwise he wouldn't have. And when I lived in Alaska with the Eskimos, I knew them. They had a lot of unity in their family. And when I worked with them in Narset there, you know, like 40 below, 40 up, in real dangerous conditions, they would give their life. There was no fear. All they knew was love, it seemed like. And I think it had to do with the unity in the family. And they didn't really seem to have the fear. They'd give their life to save my life, just like that. But the love is so great. So I guess it came back to the importance of the family. And then in our society, we kind of had a lot of division.


And I mean, nowadays we realize that your emotional life starts at the moment of conception. And it goes all through the experience in the womb and the first two or three years, and you're more or less molded. And for many, it's a tension, you see, from the moment of conception. And in the traditional family, there was this love which was vanishing you all through. Father, can't we see some positive contribution in this new situation as well? Because just to see the oldest building in our present situation as negative isn't much use. Isn't there also an opportunity in this division and in this disharmony? Yes, but not much in the family. I don't think there's much to be said for this breaking up of families. I think people need the support of loving parents. And without it, I don't see that there's... I mean, God can always intervene.


I've known people who've had the most terrible experience in childhood receive a grace of transformation. It is quite true. One person not so long ago came to me and they had a terrible experience in childhood, being raped at an early age. And that awoke them to the spiritual life and they'd be completely transformed as a result. So you can always have a transformation, but we don't want to expose people to that all the same. In a way, isn't that part of the whole Christian challenge? Well, the East sort of maintains that union from the beginning, somewhat of Christianity, with the greater emphasis on the individual person, to go, as we have in the West, to the furthest extremes of individuality and the development of the ego. And then at this outermost point, staying away from the universal center to rediscover the Godhead


is sort of the ultimate reunion, both for God and for man. So there's a kind of special victory there that wouldn't be necessarily... Yeah, that is true, yes. On the other hand, there are many disasters, you say. I know, I know. It's very terrible. Father, you brought up sin and hell as almost having psychological significance more than spiritual significance for many Catholics. It's something that works on them in early childhood and they've got to get rid of it or work it through before they can enter into an authentic spiritual life. Reading the New Testament still leaves one with the impression that sin and hell were relatively vital parts of that revelation. What do you do with that as you speak? Well, you see, I think we always have to interpret the New Testament, haven't we, in every generation?


And you have to... How does the New Testament speak to me and to the society in which I'm living now? And that is spiritual discernment. And you can take out authentic elements of the New Testament and emphasize them with disastrous effects. But you've got to... Every generation has to interpret the New Testament. That is the thing. And every person for himself, perhaps. So, you see, there are many elements in the New Testament and still more than the old. And some of them are very dangerous for a person today. And that's where you need spiritual guides. You need a spiritual community, you see, which helps you to... I mean, take this question, you see, in the past, emphasis on the suffering Christ. You see, our crucifix is always the suffering Christ. And that was obviously a symbol which helped people immensely to renew themselves, to die, to rise again, and so on. But for many people today, it's the opposite, you see. It's terrifying, this object. And the early crucifix was Christ reigning from the cross, you know,


alive and triumphing over death. And for many people, that would be the symbol they need, you see. Many people today, I think, it's true. So these symbols, we have to, as I say, to interpret. That is hermeneutics, they call it. That is an art of recreating the experience. You see, what Jesus said was in a particular historic situation, a particular culture, time, and place. And you can't just take that out or apply it. That's what fundamentalists do, you see, and that's hopeless. But to reinterpret, that's what the church today is trying to do, I think, you see, to recreate the message of the New Testament in the language and in the situation in which we are today. Does the East have as potent a kind of symbolic framework for understanding suffering as being meaningful as, say, Christianity with the way of the cross and redemption, resurrection?


Yes, my impression, you know, is that it doesn't. Both Hinduism and Buddhism, suffering is something you have to get beyond. Yes, I think that is quite an important difference. You see, the Buddha is in perfect tranquility. He's gone beyond suffering. But Jesus on the cross is going through suffering. And it's a very great difference. The church today, too, they're working, I guess, now more, they're really working to bring more beauty like you're doing in the cathedrals, in the families and everything, too. Yeah. And they've grown a lot. It seems like a lot of psychological growth. Yes, yes, it's beautiful. But I still think that the church will not be fully renewed until it's incorporated, assimilated, the Oriental tradition as a whole, you see. It's really the work of the future.


It'll make it more helpful. Yeah, yeah. And then we'll be fully human and fully universal, you see. At present we're still a Western church. You can't avoid it. Thank you very much for having me. It was wonderful. Thank you.