Yoga and Meditation

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The discussion in this talk delves into the integration of various religious teachings and how they can be understood and assimilated into one's spiritual journey. It emphasizes the importance of being open to learning and adapting teachings from different traditions and cultures to enrich one's experience and understanding. The talk touches upon experiences at a yoga ashram in India, reflecting on how Indian spiritual traditions, like the Vedas and Sanskrit chanting, deeply influence the speaker's perspective on spirituality. This highlights the universal aspects of religious teachings and the potential for spiritual growth through intercultural understanding and respect.

AI Suggested Title: "Integrating Spiritual Traditions: Lessons from a Yoga Ashram"





Unwilling to see that there would be a certain continuity, you know, unwilling to see that
there were certain things, not exactly identical but very similar, and that I should keep the
connection, unbroken, it was hard to accept in some ways, and on the other hand, there
were certain things that were very special that I learned here and I would not have learned
anywhere else, and I could only learn here, but this is what God gave me, this is my actual
grace to come here and to learn, we arrived a month apart, Brother Gabriel and myself,
so we just celebrated 45 years, thanks be to God.
So it's like bringing from your past what fits into the new, without negating anything
that was good or helpful, it's kind of like an integration.
I mean, it sounds a little more difficult, I mean, I also was a convert, a Catholic convert,
and I'm from that literal interpretation, evangelical, far from the Christian world,
which was very difficult to become a Catholic, and so in terms of scripture study at JSTV,
was my greatest nemesis, I had a very difficult time, and I had a general professor of scripture
who said to me, Vivian, don't disparage your background, because it has taught you to look
very closely at the scriptures, so he gave me that, I think that's what you're saying,
wise advice to bring from my past into my present, studying of the Catholic world, without
negating it completely because it's different or because there's conflict, bringing in what's
good and can be integrated, I guess that's kind of what you're saying.
That's what I'm understanding, you have a, yours is a much, I think, broader or wider
chasm between the two, because it's greater culturally and philosophically in a way.
No, these are gifts that life gives us, and we have to give thanks for all things, it
says St. Paul, which means give thanks even for something that was just a provisional
teaching, you know, it was right up to a certain point, it was right for me then, you know,
because that was the only thing, that was what I needed to learn at that point, but
then I need to go beyond that because there's something else that I need to learn, you know,
and when you teach Greek, there is what they call the charitable lie, you always have to
lie to the students on the first time you teach, the first form of the aorist, and you
say the sign of the aorist is the sigma, not true, there are lots of exceptions, but you
say that because it makes it easier for them for the most part to recognize the aorist
the first form of the verb is what refers to something that has been done and finished
in the past, okay, and so this form of the verb is easier to recognize if you look for
the sigma, look for the S sound, you know, and that identifies on the ending, but then
you have to tell them after a few more lessons, you have to tell them, well, it's not exactly
true, and so now you have to learn a few, you know, learn all the exceptions to the
rule, so anyway, that's maybe, you know, kind of what it's like, you know, and we need to
learn what we are able to learn, you know, where we are, and then if we continue, the
most important thing is to be willing to learn, willing to learn, which means also
being willing to change, to be changed by what we learn, and it doesn't mean rejecting
anything, you know, that's something that I've tested myself on, you know, because I
want, my journey of faith is also a journey towards greater openness, and having learned
some things about India in my teens, I obviously wanted to develop a greater understanding
and even some hard scholarly work on texts and studying the languages and so forth, especially
Sanskrit, well, I was able to do that, and there's a saying that one skeptical gentleman
said, well, it's okay to be open-minded, but don't be so open that your brains fall out,
so, yeah, right, well, it's a discernment, you know, use discernment, use your intelligence,
but I think as a matter of principle, this willingness to learn must overcome the fear
of losing a truth already known, you know, because if a truth is true, and if you know
it's true at any point in time, you cannot really lose that, it will be reinforced, but
it will be placed in a broader horizon, it will be illuminated, you know, the sun will
be higher in the sky, and you'll see it in a greater light, this I have found, this I
have found, because I was given also the gift of Catholic faith, and I recognized it, you
know, as a gift that I prepared for, you know, I'd read some books about Catholic spirituality
and other spiritualities as well, you know, and so I was given this, and it was such a
great gift that obviously I sure didn't want to lose it, but on the other hand, I realized
that there are two ways to lose, you know, you can lose it by, you know, burying it in
a handkerchief and burying it in the ground, and tapping down the soil over it with your
shovel, you know, that's one way of losing it, you know, it's like, it's a parable in
Jesus, you know, the talent, which is not what we mean by talent, it's a day's wage,
it's a coin, was used in the Roman Empire, and so they would give, you know, one talent
to a worker at the end of the day, so here he gave one, you know, to one he gave one talent,
another gave five, another gave ten, you know, and the ten went out and, you know, did some
business, and got back ten more, and then another one went out with his five, and he
did some business, got back five more, but the one with only one, he got afraid, and
so he wrapped it, and put it, dug a hole, put it in the ground, covered it up, so when
the boss man came back, he dug it up, and said, here's your talent, well you're ungrateful
man, you didn't, you didn't do anything with it, you know, you didn't make it multiply,
you know, at least you could have, you could have given it to, to put it in a bank, and
there would be a little bit of interest, so that's another way of losing the truth that
you know at a certain stage in your life, and I think my sense of compassion towards
people who hold on to their religious understanding in a fundamentalistic way, only literal way,
you know, my feeling for them is that by doing so, you know, they are maybe burying this truth,
and not allowing it to multiply and grow, so we can't, you know, we can lose something,
we can lose our minds, you know, we can go crazy, we can do stupid things, and of course
that happens also, but of course God forgives that, but I think, I think it's worse to lose
a truth that you've known by burying it, so the alternative is not simply to, you know,
you know, throw the baby, throw out the baby with the bathwater, but it's to allow, you
know, this understanding to grow and to embrace further truth, and you know, that's, it's,
I mean, St. Gregory said the scripture grows with the reader, the more you read, meditate,
reflect, the meaning grows, and then also the Second Vatican Council, you know, this
great meeting back in the 1960s, 62 to 66, and I had just arrived here, Brother Gabel
and I just got here, and then in October following was the first session of the Council, and
so we were, you know, and we weren't allowed to read newspapers, but the prayer would cut
out the clippings from the paper about the Council meetings, you know, and Blessed John
the 23rd, who had opened this great gathering of all the bishops and abbots in the Catholic
Church, including the Abbot of Camoglis, was part of that, and so this was, and one
of the greatest documents is the Decree on Divine Revelation, and it has a wonderful
statement that the Word of God grows in the Church because people read, reflect, and meditate
on the scriptures, and that's how the Word of God grows, and it develops, and the example
is the Mother of Jesus, you know, it says that she didn't understand, but she kept all
these things, meditating on them in her heart, says Saint Luke, you know, so that's the example,
you don't understand it, I don't understand everything, you know, even at my advanced stage
I don't understand anything, everything, you know, I understand some things, or something
about most things, but I don't understand everything, and that means, you know, that I also must
continue to grow, but as I grow, so the scriptures will grow with me, and these things will grow.
I heard something that really helped me, I'm not sure who said it, but the quote is that
if you move toward truth, even if at first you seem to be moving away from Christ, you
will eventually wind up in Christ's arms.
That is very good, because there's also the understanding, you know, when there was a
teacher and disciples, and a lot of teaching was done out in the open, and a certain amount
of teaching was done on the roads, both among the Jews and among the Greeks, but when they
would be walking, the teacher would be in front, and so you're always following, you
know, and we can always recognize that Jesus is way ahead of us, at least a few steps ahead
of us, you know, so wherever we go, we go to India, Jesus has already been there.
Now, was he ever physically there, as some say, you know, I say, I've been trained in
how to study history, and you need the documents, you need the inscriptions, you need the papyrus,
you need the text, and so the text that we have, the only text that says that Jesus came
to, especially to Kashmir, actually, the name given to Jesus, the text itself is of a genre
that we know begins to develop in what are our Middle Ages, you know, say about the 7th
century on, something like that, they're called Puranas.
Purana means ancient in Sanskrit, but there are ancient stories, but the actual text is
something that, and there's still, you know, there's still new Puranas being composed,
but the idea is that these are about, you know, the origins of truth or a story or a
holy person, but anyway, in this text, the name used for Jesus is Isa, which is Arabic.
Not Yeshua, or Yeshu, as in Aramaic.
Yahoshua in Hebrew, Joshua, and then in Aramaic, Yeshua, or Yeshu, is the name that Jesus had.
Neither that, nor is it Isus, which is Greek, it's Isa.
So, the only reasonable conclusion is that this was part of a legend that the Muslims
came with to India to say, because the Muslims teach that Jesus was a true prophet, not the
son of God, but he was the son of Mary and a true prophet who was a bearer of the word
and of the spirit of God.
So, you find this in the Qur'an, this is what the Qur'an says.
So, this is a paraphrase of the Jesus story in the Qur'an, and it's set in India because
the Muslims were trying to convert the Indian people to Islam, or at least present Islam
to them, you know.
Originally, it was not with any violence, because they didn't find any violent reaction
among the Indians.
Same thing with Alexander.
Alexander didn't make any inroads in India because they didn't fight him.
Yeah, he couldn't go anywhere.
There was no one there to fight, you know.
So, his troops came up to the borders of India, in Kandahar, and so forth, they met
the Buddhists there, and the Buddhists were like, what?
But then the Buddhists challenged them, you know, are you really unafraid?
Can you, you know, you're not afraid as long as you have a sword in your hand.
But anyway, so it's similar in these, you know, these movements of how India has always
been receptive to outsiders, you know.
Indian civilization itself is actually the blend of two civilizations.
The more advanced civilization which was there, the Dravidian or the Mohenjo-Daro culture
from one of the archaeological places on the borders between India and Pakistan, actually
within Pakistan and under Pakistan.
So, this early, early civilization, they had a form of writing, and they had artworks,
and they probably had yoga teachers.
There are some figures there seated in yoga postures.
And this is, you know, 2,000 years before the Common Era.
And then the Aryans, the Aryans were various tribes that migrated from the northwest through
what is today Afghanistan.
And so they met there in that, that was kind of a crossroads, you know.
And so others came that way, and, you know, they entered India, and there's room there,
and, you know, India was, what time is it now?
We've got to keep our eyes open.
Yeah, we're doing fine, it's only not yet 10 o'clock.
Oh, it's 10?
It's 9.59.
I was thinking it was 11.
Mass is at 11 today, yeah.
I was thinking it was already nearly there.
We've got a little more time.
We're doing okay, yeah.
So, so anyway, you know, that's the receptiveness of India has been its most effective way of
responding to outside influences.
You know, absorb it, you know, take it in, absorb it.
Can I ask another question around that?
I'm sorry if I'm asking too many things.
But then, do you believe that the faith of the Hindus through the teaching that you've
been describing to us, as well as you could also say Islam, and like for instance Confucianism
when the Jesuits went to China, they found very great similarities between Confucianism
and I think it was with Christianity and found a very open receptive audience for the Christ
Then do you think that in all of these major religions that eventually, or Christ in some
mystical way still is the catalyst of salvation for that particular, does it all eventually
come to the Christ?
There are many ways that, there's no one single theology.
There's no theological answer for that.
There are many hypotheses and I think it's very important, I wouldn't like to see the
Holy See or the Pope or someone come down and say, well this is the only, you know,
good interpretation and this we have to, you know, because we're dealing with continual
discoveries and new understandings through the linguistics and through the, just the
human experience, you know.
And we have this experience, as you mentioned, you know, the Jesuits in China, Matteo Ricci,
and he was affirming that the rituals were, the rituals of the people, even the veneration
of the ancestors could be something that Christians could incorporate.
And this was further developed a little later by Roberto de Nobili in India.
And then in the, around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, there was a Brahmin
in Bengal who took the name Brahmabhandabhupadhyay, and then he became a Christian, but he baptized
And then he realized, well, you know, I need a community, and so he went to the Church
of England and had them baptize him, and then he went to the Catholic Church and had them
baptize him.
And so, but he was, he was on a cutting edge, and in fact he published a magazine called
The Blade, you know, the racist edge, you know, the image of the racist edge, it's also the
title of the novel, and, you know, it's, the spiritual path is like treading a razor's
edge, you know, which is really a name for a certain kind of mountain path, you know,
which would be on the crest of the mountain, you know, it's very narrow, and it drops down
on both sides, and that's called the racist edge.
So you've got to be very careful where you put your foot.
So anyway, so he was, he was willing to walk out on that razor's edge, and he said that
everything that I have learned from the Catholic Church is already there in some way in the
Vedas, because he was a Brahmin, he had learned the Vedas, he could recite the Vedas.
And so he wrote a hymn to the Trinity that we sing every evening at the ashram, same
hymn, all year round, and every phrase is taken from the Vedas, but it's all composed
in such a way as to invoke Father, Son, Spirit, you know, Pitr, Sutar, and Atma.
Atma, you know, Atman, you know, Atma is spirit, and that's the term that is used.
So, so this was, you know, this was his challenge, it was a great challenge, the Church wasn't
ready for him, and so he got into a lot of trouble, but it seems that, you know, that
he was given, you know, a Catholic funeral at the end, you know, there's some question
whether he'd been excommunicated or not, and I don't think he was, you know, it's just that
his publications were regarded with great suspicion.
But this was taken up again, especially by Jules Montchalin, you know, the first founder
of our ashram.
He was the first one to come to India, and then Henri Le Sault took the name Abhishek
Tananda, and then Bede Griffiths, and they went together very briefly in 1957, and then
Father Bede went to start a monastery with another monk from another monastery from Belgium
to start a monastery for the Syrian Christians, whereas Montchalin passed away, and Le Sault
or Abhishek Tananda remained in our ashram in Tamil Nadu, but then also traveled to the
north very often.
So they took up this, you know, this challenge of Prabhupada, and developed this understanding
of the trinity as, you know, the footprints of the trinity are there in the soil of the
Vedas, the soil of India.
You can find this teaching of Christianity is there implicit, you know, what we call
implicit, that it's folded in, it's enfolded, you know, that's what implicit means, implicit
means in Latin, it's folded in, you know, and it's just a question of opening it up.
This, in addition to the teaching of the church, which was clarified in 1948, something like
that, at the specific request of the then Archbishop of Boston, who had a priest in
his diocese going on preaching, saying that no one but a professing Catholic could ever
be saved.
If Catholicism is the one true church and the one true faith, those that do not profess
this one true faith and belong to this one true church, whether it be some other Christian
church or some other Jewish faith or other religion, they're going to hell.
And the Archbishop of Boston, well, I'm not certain you can prove that from Thomas Aquinas,
I'm certain you can't, you know, it's not there, it's not there really in the great
sources of our Christian doctrine, not at all.
But anyway, so he wrote to the Holy See, and said, give me an answer, you know, and the
Holy See said, absolutely, in other words, not what that priest was saying, because if
someone in good faith follows their conscience and the lights that they have, they will
receive the gift of saving faith.
Well, so, people everywhere, you know, have this opportunity, the offer of grace is universal,
the offer of, and faith, of course, is always aimed beyond the, what Thomas Aquinas called
the enziabila, anything that you can think about or pronounce with your mouth.
It is not what you can think or say, but the reality to which your thought and your words
That is what the act of faith terminates there, in the reality, transcendent, in the absolute.
So, if somebody has this gift, they go to that reality, you know?
But that's not what we're being taught in our day in the modern-day Catholic Church.
That's what's so interesting that you bring up that point.
We're being taught exactly the opposite now.
Not quite the opposite, because, you know, if somebody really went back to what this
priest was saying in Boston, you know, it was the sort of thing that you heard every
day, you know, and the thing is, the Archbishop was really testing the waters to see, you know,
because there was no way you could live in Boston and be at peace with your next-door
neighbor, pluralistic city, you know?
I mean, the ghetto Catholics, you know, can survive perhaps, but they're not comfortable,
they can't engage in American society unless they're able to, you know, be friends with
their Protestant neighbors, their Jewish neighbors, their whatever neighbors.
But we're not being taught to read meditatively flat, currently.
We're being taught...
That is a pastoral error, and it is a grave pastoral error, because if you don't teach
people to reflect, and especially meditate, that is, go beyond the words, beyond the concept,
into the divine reality, which is given to us with our baptism, given to us in us.
It's in us.
Baptism or other grace of faith, you know, the Jews have circumcision, and the other
religions have their initiation, and this has been recognized even by Thomas Aquinas,
by Augusta, the sacramenta naturae, the sacraments of nature, you know?
So all of this comes...
Because God is in, you know, indwells the world, indwells every soul, speaks to every soul.
Pope John Paul II said that every human being conceived beneath the heart of a woman, not
in a mother's womb, every single one enters into existence already in a real relationship
with Jesus Christ.
Now, we want to make that explicit, and we want to say in front of Jesus Christ, because
this is what we're called to witness, you know?
And that is the positive side, that we should, you know, we should say this, we shouldn't
try to hide the fact we're Christians, we believe in Jesus, we worship him, we worship
his Father and the Holy Spirit, and we believe this, and we love Mary and the saints, and
we want to be with them.
But on the other hand, this doesn't mean that we deny this real relationship that is
there because the person was created by the same God we believe in, and the person who
enters into life in a family, in a community, in a society that offers some other initiation,
some other instruction, or something that will build their, the quality of their spirit
and of their moral life and of their spiritual life, then that person must give thanks for
the gift that they have.
And we must not say that that is the work of the devil.
Now that is absolutely false, and you'll find some Christians will say this, and they're,
I don't have to say, you know, ecumenism up to a certain point, but when you say that
everything else is the work of the devil, I'm sorry, because as a Catholic, I can't
say that.
I could not say that because it's not said by the Catholic Church, on the Second Vatican
I'm warming up here, you know?
You know?
Well actually, I want to say, that's a part of CIA.
They do accept baptism from other Christian churches, so how can they say that they're
totally wrong?
Because if you've been baptized in any other church, as long as it's in the name of the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you don't have to be re-baptized to come into the Catholic
If they really believed what you just said, which is the opposite of what Father Thomas
said, then they wouldn't accept the baptism from other churches.
Well, they're not accepting the baptisms from some other churches.
There's a few that are being accepted, but not all churches are being accepted.
Only two, I guess.
The Lutheran Church and...
No, no, no, that's not true.
That's what you're talking about.
I know about this, too.
Actually, I came in before the Council, so I know the old way of doing it, which was
But the thing is, I didn't have a letter from the Baptist Church that said, I've been baptized
in my version of water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
I could have gotten the letter, I didn't bother to.
I said, Father, I know I've been baptized.
He said, okay, I'll just say, when I baptize you, I'll say, if you're not already baptized,
I baptize you.
So the proviso there, I was perfectly happy to go through the Catholic ceremony, but I
knew that I didn't need to add another baptism.
What did Jesus mean when he said, go into all the world, baptizing and making disciples,
in all nations?
He said two things.
He said, in the whole world, actually he said, go to every creature.
And here's a mysterious expression, because every creature, every created reality.
So there's something more than just preaching a doctrine at people, you know?
Preaching at them.
Preaching to them, in the sense of throwing the book at them.
This is not the image that you get from this, these words of scripture in the Gospel according
to Matthew.
Go and preach to all creatures, all of creation.
How can this be done?
Let's wait until we see E.T. land on the White House law, you know, and we'll have to open
up a new dialogue there.
But I think it means that we bring this word that we have received into all possible relationships,
you know, and then baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit, which was the formula used in one specific church, apostolic church, in
the Church of Antioch.
Other formulas, we know that they were different, but this, the formula that was eventually used,
were those others that used baptized in the name of Jesus the Messiah.
That's also, you find this in the Acts of the Apostles, baptized in the name of Jesus
the Messiah.
Was, were they not baptized?
Today, the church, to be safe, would always say, no, it has to be Father, Son, and Holy
These, the Trinity has to be brought into it, but in those days, there was no Holy See,
you know?
So there were these different, different forms.
Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.
Those who do not believe will not be saved, or will be judged.
You notice it doesn't say, those who will not be baptized will not be saved, because
there are people who believe who are not baptized, and that's in Matthew.
And, who can judge if the person believes, if the faith is there?
We are not permitted by the same Jesus who gave us these words.
We're not permitted by him to judge anyone.
Judge not.
And, then we have, in the Acts of the Apostles, through the chapter, remind me if you know
it, you probably know better, the chapter where Peter goes to Cornelius.
Can you remember which chapter number that is?
Not 11?
I don't know.
I was going to say it's 11, I think.
I'm not sure.
Yeah, right.
We'll just say, we'll figure it out.
We'll just look it up afterwards.
But, anyway.
So, Peter gets this, he's in Joppa, and he's, after dinner, after lunch, he goes up and
takes a nap on the roof, and he sees the angels letting down a big tablecloth full
of all of the wrong foods, like pork, shellfish, things like this, mushrooms, Jews can't eat
that sort of stuff, you know.
And, it was down there, and the voice comes from heaven, get up, Peter, and enjoy.
Enjoy your great meal.
He goes, oh, no, Lord, I've never touched that kind of food.
Do not call impure what I say is pure.
Get up and eat.
So, he woke up, and they came up to him and said, Peter, you know, there's a family, and
they're Gentiles, they're not Jews.
There's a family that wants you to come and teach them.
And, well, I guess I've got to go.
I guess that's what it means, you know, because the meaning is that, you know, a Jew can't
go under the roof of a Gentile, you know, because otherwise, well, he'd have to go and
take a bath and change his clothes.
But, so, he goes there.
And, Cornelius, the centurion, says, we had a vision that there was somebody named Peter
around here, and that he would bring us a word that would save our souls.
And, so, Peter starts talking, and then, wow, glory, hallelujah, they start singing.
They start, and Peter sees the flames of Pentecost come down upon them.
He hasn't even finished his sermon.
So, he says, what are we doing here?
Who's going to, you know, deny their baptism when they've already received the Holy Spirit,
just as we did on Pentecost?
So, Cornelius and all of his household, you know, were baptized, you know, including all
the children, including slaves.
I mean, I don't know if his pigs and donkeys were baptized, probably not, but, you know,
I mean, all the people, everyone.
So, there, you know, Peter didn't have a chance to get more than a couple words out of his
The Holy Spirit took over to show Peter that the Holy Spirit had already been in that house
and was already in those souls and was already giving them the flame, the fire.
So, welcome.
So, you see, you need to read the Bible as a whole, you know, not just, well, it says
No, it says here, and it says there, and what does it say here?
And then look at what it says there, and let the, the Scripture speaks to Scripture, you
know, the Bible interprets the Bible.
And so, you can't, you can't get hung up on one verse.
You've got to, you know, it's what we call today the Scripture, and I would say this,
I would extend this, any spiritual teaching has to be read as a hypertext, and a hypertext
is where you click on one word, and it'll show you all of the other related words, you
know, you do this every time you do a Google search, you're going to an immense hypertext.
But if you get any, you know, CD with the Bible on it, you know, they're all set up
for hypertexting.
So, you can click on any word and it'll tell you how many times the word is used, which
verses the Bible is used, and then related themes, and you can, you can, you know, you
can go from one point to the other, and it's, it can be infinite, you know, it can be infinite.
That is the way that we understand what is in the Scriptures, not by, you know, it says
this here, that's it, no more, no more to be said.
In the last book of the Gospels of Narnia, by C.S.
Lewis, it's depicted quite beautifully because there was this character, Emmet, who had never
heard of Aslan, but Aslan knew that he loved him, even though he'd never heard of him,
and he comes into the movie Narnia.
That's very important because, you know, C.S.
Lewis was an evangelical Christian.
He was a member of the Church of England, but he was from North Ireland, and there were
A pretty left-sided one.
I'm sorry?
A pretty left-sided evangelical.
Well, yeah, but you know, I mean, he didn't, he wasn't, he was kind of, he was kind of
frustrated because his favorite student was B. Griffiths, Alan Griffiths, and Alan, after
he graduated from Oxford, they were both moving back into Christianity at the same time, into
the Church of England.
They'd been originally baptized, you know, the children, they'd been baptized in the
Anglican Church, so they were moving, but they moved, you know, kind of parallel.
They didn't converge because C.S.
Lewis was from Northern Ireland, from Ulster, and his vision of the Church was, you know,
reformed Christianity, and so the Bible is the one primary authority, although there
is tradition, and there is also the Book of Common Prayer, which has itself, its own teaching,
and so he was a bit frustrated that Griffiths didn't, didn't, didn't go, you know, didn't
stay in the Church of England, but went and joined the Papists, but of course, B. Griffiths
went and joined them because he joined a monastery where they had been Anglicans, and
they had become Catholics to belong to, you know, the wider order of St. Benedict, and
so B. Griffiths was kind of instinctively liberal, you know, liberal mindset, but he
took the gift that he had received very seriously.
Everything, you know, the gift of his mother's example, of her faith, the gift of what he
had learned from the Church of England, from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, the,
the, the, what, what did they call them, the, there's another name for this, this order
in the, in the Church of England.
Yeah, it's a monastery, you know, and, but more missionary than Cloyster.
So, so, so, so, so anyway, so, so, but C.S. Lewis was more in touch with the Reformed
and, but the more strictly biblical doctrine, but this was something where he and Father
B. were close and really, you know, identical on.
You see this in Narnia, I haven't read the Narnia, all the Narnia books, but certainly
the screw tape letters, you know, are wonderful, especially that chapter where, where he's,
he's counseling, you know, his, his, yeah, the young devil, you know, and telling him,
now you've got to work on these religious people and get them to, you know, get the,
the, the high church to be higher and the low church to be lower and get them, you know,
and get them to fight among themselves.
That's the only way you can get rid of Christianity, you know, Christians to, to, to fight among
themselves, but beware if they, they come together and they, they agree even to differ
because then they'll stay together and they'll be part of this Christianity.
We've got to eliminate this, you know, we're devils, but, but, but that's our job, you
So anyway, that's like, I'm not quoting him, but you know what I mean, that's a paraphrase
of it.
So he did have this, this, this insight, you know, coming from a more evangelical side,
the same as Pete Griffiths.
And in fact, when Lewis wrote his, published his autobiography, he dedicated it to Father
Pete Griffiths, so it's me, yeah.
Okay, so it's 10.20 and let's just take a little time to breathe and prepare for mass.
So, yes?
When will you be in your next retreat and where?
Here, it's already set for next June and around those same days, you know, towards the 20-something
June, 23rd, exactly.
But then you can, you know, that's on the calendar, so you can ask in the, in the bookstore
if you want to sign up for it.
The theme will be yoga and sacrifice.
So, continue, you know, but also develop certain themes and give some more instruction on what
Yogananda calls Kriya Yoga.
Do you teach in Berkeley?
Sometimes, we have quiet days and I usually give one a year and it's most often the month
of May, but we haven't set the calendar yet, so we'll see.
And I've been also, I've done, and it's simpler, it's just the, a Saturday morning, 9-12, so
it's not like a whole weekend.
We don't have the facilities there for a group for a weekend, but, you know, we do the Saturday
morning thing occasionally and so, mostly our own monks, occasionally an outside speaker.
So, you can get that, we'll put it online, our next coming year.
Not like once a month.
Not like once a month, yeah.
Maybe someday, I don't know.
I'm open to anything, but I've got to coordinate it, of course, with the needs of the house
and things like that, especially being a small community.
We've got to cover all the bases, just the three of us, you know.
There's a fourth monk who comes from Southern California, from the monastery of St. Andrews
Abbey in Valderrama, but he's only there during the academic year.
Okay, so we can prepare for Mass, and just remember to come at, you know, time for the
prayer, for dinner in the cloister there, just go through the central door, and be
there by 12 o'clock.
Thank you.
Thomas, I'm going to say goodbye.
I'm going to sleep for Mass, but I'm going to continue.
Yeah, okay, good.
Oh, great.
Well, look, you're welcome.
Ha, ha, ha.
Next time.
I used to work overseas when I was a teenager in Bangkok.
I didn't grow up in a spiritual family.
Although I'd gone through baptism and confirmation, I didn't make a blip on the radar because
my family was not spiritual.
But as a sophomore in high school, I heard Mary saying, you'd better get out of here
before you die.
And my family loved going to India every year for Christmas, from the 66th to the 72nd,
because we had a great time.
In India, for any kind of gathering which is about, you know, something that is important
and you could say serious, but where the conversation is light and open and so forth, and maybe
the teacher will mutter something and say a few words or smile or simply keep silence
and the others will talk or ask questions and so forth.
So that's what it is.
This is the, you know, the last, it is not so formal and it is, you know, kind of, you
know, open-ended, so that way we can kind of conclude and enjoy each other's company
for this last gathering for the, this weekend retreat.
And that is, the mass is the gathering and also the meal is the gathering and you must
know that you're all invited to attend the community meal after the mass and there will
be a bell at 1225 and that gives you five minutes to get in place in the refectory.
You go out this exit there, you know, the center there, where it says enclosure, community
members only and so forth.
So you go through those, there's a couple redwood doors, you go that way and then it's
the building on the left, the large building on the left, which is the dining hall.
And so you just go there to be there at 1230, so if you're staying down below, like with
other trailers, it takes a little longer, more than five minutes to walk up.
So come up before the bell rings and then we'd like everyone to take place for the,
Father Prior wants to say a prayer when everyone's there at 1230.
So you're all invited to share in the community meal.
And so the bell rings at 1225, start a little earlier so that you can be there and gather
in the refectory and find a place to sit and the open seating, so take your place there
and meet some of the other members of the community if you haven't already.
So that's what we do in gathering.
Let's begin with a little bit of practice and let me help you with something here because
maybe it's not quite so clear.
These sounds, I'm used to these sounds in various languages and so forth, so this syllable
is not hung, is not hung, is not hung.
So it's not a nasal sound like the French have in their language, and also in many other
languages, like the Portuguese and Indian languages.
So as you breathe, the syllable lengthens, obviously, the slower the breath, the longer
the breath.
So in your mind, this is a mental chant, a mental invocation.
And as I say, this is not part of any kind of ceremony.
May I help you with that?
I'm trying to explain about the syllables.
These are not the sounds, not hung or hum or hung.
It's just hum, hum, hum.
Feel it resonating in your nose.
Let's try that.
Let's just go hum, hum, hum.
Like that, you know?
And then, suh, suh, suh.
And the breath goes out.
That's easier.
But then, as you breathe more slowly, the syllable lengthens.
So even though the grammarians, the misogynists, say this is a short pace, this is a short
pace, it's the neutral vowel.
And all of the sounds of all of the vowels, all of the voiced letters of the phonemes,
as we say, sounds of speech, come from this fundamental sound of ah.
You know?
Also, because there are more than just the five vowels of Spanish, and then the seven
vowels of Italian and multiple vowels of English, there's also l, l, r, and you can even find
n, and so forth.
So these sounds are also vowels.
But the basic sound of language is ah.
So the breathing really is that which is the source of language.
And because of that, the source of language, the first seed, these are also called seeds.
These are seeds.
And the seed of this all is the seed of our prayer, our thanksgiving.
When we breathe, we're giving thanks for the gift of life, for our first breath and for
our last breath.
We give thanks for that too, because our life is between two breaths.
And so we breathe in, as if the first time we breathed, when we came forth from our mother's
womb, and then we breathe out, as we will one day breathe out, all of us.
And I'll give back the air in our lungs to the air that circulates around our planet.
So let's just sit and peacefully, and remember either put your hands like as the guru put
them, or as the disciple put them, whichever feels comfortable for you.
And we breathe slowly, only through the nose.
In this practice, there's also a way of breathing through the mouth.
I'll just mention that, and maybe some other occasion we'll have to develop this other
form of this kriya, this basic kriya, or breath action.
But for that, now breathe through your nose, and mentally recite the syllables.
Ha, the incoming breath, and thinking that energy rises in you, and then sa.
The outgoing breath, energy descends and fills you with life.
One thing I find that I need a minute or so to get into this rhythm, and to calm down
after speaking.
After speaking, moving into a breath practice is a rather abrupt transition, because if
you speak, you're not breathing, if you're breathing, you're not speaking.
It's just one of the functions.
So one gives up something in order to speak, and one gives up the speech in order to enter
into this, to become conscious of your breathing.
Because breathing with speech, of course, is you inhale in order to, and then as you
speak, you exhale, of course, but it's a different process.
We also fill our lungs when we speak, but this is a different consciousness.
And speech makes us human.
It's a great gift, but it's also risky.
As it says in the letter of James, the most dangerous organ of the body is the tongue.
And with the tongue we bless God, and with the tongue we curse our neighbors.
So we say bad things, we say unhappy things.
So let us keep that in mind, and use the tongue sparingly, speak only to say comforting and
instructive words.
And as you mentioned about truth, truth doesn't mean saying what you seem to be the truth
to everyone every time, but rather it means that your words will bring light to your neighbor,
to the hearer.
So then the actual speaking also becomes a spiritual practice, and that is good in addition
to a breath practice.
Of course, there are many other breath practices, and mentioning about breathing through the
nose, you can also breathe both through nose and mouth.
It's not what we call mouth breathing where we close off the nasal passages.
Keeping the nasal passages free and open, especially if you're a little stuffed up,
you can just slightly open the lips.
There's a Buddhist text which says, open the lips just enough to hold a long grain
of rice between them.
And then you'll hear, of course, this vowel sound, this basic vowel sound, it will be audible.
And this moves you into another phase of practice, but you can alternate if you wish.
And also with breath practice, it can develop with you.
In other words, as one of our great Christian teachers of all time, Pope Gregory I, Gregory
the Great said, the scripture grows with the reader.
Have you ever heard that in your first church?
I don't think so.
The Bible, the scripture grows with the reader as you read it.
How different this is from the fundamentalist literal, you know, this is a book, this is
a book.
Go look at it.
So the scripture grows with the reader, and the breathing practice grows with the reader.
And yoga grows with the yogi.
So, all of the teachings and all of the practices, all of the techniques that you can learn,
either from books or from a teacher, or from your fellow practitioners, all of these enter
into you, and it's part of the practice to develop them, even modify them, or mitigate
And this is especially true of the postures.
As the years go by, you do need to mitigate your yoga.
When, up until around 30, I think you can intensify, you know, make it harder, you
know, and even that is not really spiritual, as I realized, to my own dismay.
But then, you know, this mitigating is not giving up on that, because mitigate is from
the Latin adjective mitis, which means meek, and meek will inherit the world, meek will
inherit the earth.
So, our yoga practice is mitigated, but paradoxically, it can also develop and expand in such a way
that it actually fills our whole life.
The ideal of yoga practice is to arrive at the point where any position of the body is
asana, any gesture of the hands is mudra, any word on your lips is mantra, and any breath
you take is pranayama.
You know?
So, it becomes your whole life.
It's not something that you add on.
In the beginning, it is, because it's training.
And, of course, we can, in a sense, you know, we're training for all of our life, and so
we can learn a new practice, even a new posture.
It says that there are as many yoga postures as there are creatures in the universe.
So, try to count those, you know, they say 84,000 in some books, you know, which was the
kind of number, you know.
And imagine a figure which represents a great, great number, of course, there's many millions
of creatures on earth, and even though, unfortunately, alas, many are disappearing, and we're in
a phase of great extinction today, partly because of our human bad behavior towards
our fellow creatures and our mother earth.
But, in any case, there are so many.
And so, yoga also is this kind of identification with creatures.
Any thoughts?
Sharing, if you'd like to.
Well, of course, you talk about how creatures share yoga with us, they actually do.
I have a mare that does a full downward dog posture where she stretches and we just laugh,
and she does yoga postures.
You know, one important European yoga teacher, André von Glissnit, from Belgium, must not
have been very fond of dogs.
He called it the cat posture.
The cat.
But he also says you do that with, first you arch your back, you know, the arch posture,
you know, and then you go down into this, you know, stretched out, chin up, but then
you can bend your head down.
And that's also important because you never want to strain this part of your neck, you
I mean, you can do this with a big back bend and all of that for a while, but pretty soon,
you know, it turns into a strain.
And this is a delicate part of the body because our head is always moving and so forth, and
we're trying to hold it up there, and it's a heavy thing, you know, resting on this thing
and balancing and so forth, and so you have to be careful not to strain yourself back
That's important.
But yes, the animals themselves have their own natural yoga, looking at how a cat, sometimes
a dog also, but the cat is especially flexible.
Cats don't have collar bones, that's why you never pull a cat by the front paw.
I mean, you rip a muscle, tendon, you know, so always put the hand underneath the chest
or belly to lift up your cat.
Or if it's a little cat, you can pull it by the, not the neck, but between the shoulder
You can lift it up that way.
It doesn't hurt.
I love that concept of every movement being asana.
Think about the Chinese energy development form, Qigong.
There's an aspect of that that's called pre-form Qigong, that there's no form at all, it's
just moving as the spirit leads you, or as Chi leads you.
And I love that every movement is asana, because it's sort of the same thing, and I found for
myself, and also folks I've worked with, is just inviting yourself to move as the spirit
leads you, often releases and transforms the body, mind, and spirit all at once.
That is, that is excellent, indeed.
And especially Tantric Yoga, of course, the emphasis in Tantric Yoga is on liberty, freedom.
Not just liberation from something, you know, of course, we need to get out of certain traps
we get ourselves into.
But on the other hand, this freedom, you know, that is the presupposition for love, because
love cannot be constrained.
And so we need to acquire, you know, this freedom to express the love which is true
friendship, true pouring forth for the good of the other, and appreciating and receiving
the gift of the other as well.
So that's too much freedom.
And you said that every word that comes out of your mouth will become like what?
Mantra is, man is the term, manas means mind, and it's specifically the mind that gathers
together all the data of the senses to give us an inner picture of the world, in Yoga
And so, tra means an instrument, so mantra is an instrument of the mind.
Where the term was invented was in the teaching of the Vedas, of the sacred words, sacred
hymns to young Brahmin students.
And they were not capable, little kids, they couldn't understand these hymns, and it's
in Sanskrit first of all, and even an old archaic form of Sanskrit, the Vedic Sanskrit.
And so they couldn't understand it, so they were just made to memorize syllable by syllable,
each separate syllable.
And each syllable was a seed, planted in the memory of the future Brahmin priests.
And so they were just taught to, and I still have schools that do this, this is still a
practice, just pure memorization of sounds that don't give by themselves any meaning,
because the meaning cannot yet be received.
And so each sound is a seed, has its own special vibration, and this has been the way that
they have preserved the texts of the Vedas over thousands of years.
Because you're much safer committing a text to memory than trying to write it down.
Because if it's unfamiliar to you, you're going to make some kind of mistake.
If it's very familiar to you, you're going to make another kind of mistake.
You're always going to make mistakes when you write things down.
It's a problem of scripture as such.
You take any scholar that worked on the New Testament, even the critical text that gives
the full Greek text of the New Testament, and all those footnotes that says that in
Manuscript A there is this version, and then Manuscript B has this other version, and
in Papyrus 246 there's this other version.
So, you know, you can't quite pin it down, because the writers were doing their best,
but they were copying, someone was dictating, they were copying, maybe they heard wrong,
or maybe a slip of the pen, you know.
You type a letter and you've got misprints in it, and you've got to go back over it
and correct them.
Whereas memory, you know, when it's trained, it's always reliable, because you've got
to double check there.
You've got your mind, you know, you think about the word, and then you hear yourself
pronounce it, you know.
So the pronunciation is also very important.
When they train these Brahmins, you know, they have to make the sounds precisely.
No one does that anymore, you know, which is a good thing in a way.
The English language becomes this kind of international, you know, language that everyone
can speak more or less, and pronounce more or less, you know, to be understood, but so
many different pronunciations, so many different ways of putting together a sentence, you know.
And you can say, well, that's bad grammar, that's wrong syntax, but yeah, that's in the
books, but as long as you understand the person speaking, that's okay.
This is a utilitarian way, you know, and there's a good thing there, you know, because we have
practical things.
You ever heard of pidgin?
Pidgin, not P-I-G-E-O-N, the word, but P-I-D-G-I-N.
You know what pidgin is?
It's the word business pronounced by a Chinaman.
So pidgin English is English spoken according to some completely, well, sometimes they say
Chinese syntax with English words, but pronounced according to the way people speak in New
Guinea, you know.
There's one country in the world, it's Papua New Guinea, has its official language, it's
not English, but pidgin English.
How do they say, the only phrase I know is how do they say I'm hungry?
Belly belong me, plenty walk around.
So that's how you say I'm hungry.
So anyway, that's one example.
And then also in Hawaii, there's a pidgin, a Hawaiian pidgin, which I learned to listen
to when I was, you know, I was there after college for a while, and so I got used to
And I, you know, some of these Hawaiian kids, you know, they really roll off their tongues
and, what are they saying?
Well, I guess they probably mean that, you know.
So anyway, English is utilitarian, you know, it's for doing business and running things
and so forth.
But for the sacred language, pronunciation is essential.
We don't even have that in the rabbinic schools, because Hebrew has three or four or five different
pronunciations, and no one is exactly certain.
The Hebrew you might hear around the U.S. is what they call Ashkenazi pronunciation,
because they're mainly from Central Europe, you know.
And their home language might have been, or their grandparents, great-grandparents might
have been speaking Yiddish, which is a dialect of German, written with Hebrew letters right
to left, but it's a German form of language.
Very beautiful language, poetic and musical.
But even Hebrew, you know, sacred language, and boys and girls have to learn it by heart
for the, to become bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah.
But even there, pronunciation is not sure.
And Greek, of course, has this artificial pronunciation, which is what is required in
the school.
And how do the Greeks pronounce their languages?
It's much more, it rolls off the tongue, it's much more musical.
But, anyway, so these languages, whereas Sanskrit, Vedic Sanskrit, you pronounce it
this way and no other way.
There are two sounds which are somewhat uncertain, depending on whether you learn it in the
North or in the South, or in the West or in the East.
And Bengal has its own kind of pronunciation of Sanskrit, but that's not taught in the
schools, it's just the way the Brahmins of Bengal pronounce it.
But elsewhere, and in the South, they say that's the best pronunciation.
From Mumbai on South, they're the best Brahmin schools.
Did you attend Brahmin schools?
No, I never learned a true Vedic chant, except the chants that we use at the ashram.
And these are specially chosen Sanskrit chants, which are given because they have universal
meaning, you know.
Even though they are used in Hindu worship, they are also recognized among Christians
as expressing this universal understanding of God, of the Absolute.
And in most languages, in fact all languages in India, the Christian liturgies, Christian
worship, always uses the traditional words for God, for Lord, in translating the Bible,
in translating prayers and so forth.
So, in a way we're speaking the same language.
Whereas it's been a problem that a translation in Japanese, I don't know Japanese, but I read
about the difficulty of finding a word, an appropriate word for God and Lord.
And the Protestant translators chose one word, or one set of words, and the Catholic translators
chose another set of words.
So it's also an ecumenical problem, and varied visions and so forth.
So, I think they've been working on it in common translations of the Bible that are
in use in Japan, so it's kind of worked itself out.
But at the beginning, you know, like in the 16th century, 17th century.
Whereas in India, the great translators went to the Brahmin schools in South India, 17th
century, early 17th century, a Jesuit by the name of Giuseppe Beschi, Italian, went to
these schools in Tamil Nadu, in the southeastern state of the south of India.
That's where our ashram is, in Tamil Nadu.
And he learned the local language, modern Tamil, he learned the classical Tamil of the
great poets, and of the prayers and songs that are used in popular worship.
He learned Sanskrit of the Brahmins, and learned how to pronounce it properly, and
then wrote a Christian poem, naturally about his patron saint, Saint Joseph.
But, you know, about the birth of Jesus and so forth, tell the Jesus story from the viewpoint
of Joseph.
Giuseppe is Joseph in Italian.
And it was such a beautiful poem, and so perfect in its use of the Tamil language, that today
it is used in the schools, in the Tamil language schools, in Tamil Nadu.
So the Beschi poem is considered to be almost like a classical work in Tamil, even though
it's a Christian story.
So, in India there was this studied effort to learn the sacred texts and the sacred languages.
The early Christians had their own, you know, they were also worshipping in a language that
was special because they used Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
That is the language of the Christians in South India.
But they spoke the older form of Tamil.
But there was always this commercial exchange, and the Aramaic was the business language.
As English is today, Aramaic was in South Asia, in ancient times, because it was the
language of Babylon.
And the Babylonian Empire, you know, had ships to the east and ships to the west.
So, the language did spread abroad, and that's why they say St. Thomas would have had any
problem at all, even if he didn't know the local language, he would find translators there.
But the legends about him suggested that he did try to join with the spiritual life of
the people of India in the best way that he found, just teaching them the story of Jesus,
the name of Jesus, called by the name of Jesus for salvation.
But he put on the orange robes since he was not married.
Three of the disciples were not married.
John, Thomas, and the deacon Philip, you know, from ancient tradition.
And so, when Thomas went to India, he put on orange robes, because that's the way the
monks, the ascetics, dress.
That's a legend.
But, you know, all of this rings true, because it then inspired later the wider people who
went there, Christian teachers.
Another, Roberto de Nobili, went to South India, and he immediately put on orange robes,
you know.
He's a Jesuit, he put on the orange robes and learned the languages, learned to chat
with the Vedas and the Tamil poets.
So, going there and learning, learning, that's also important.
At Shambhala?
Are this, what language is primarily used in the liturgy?
The common language is English, because we have guests from all over India, and, you
know, there are 14 official languages.
And in Sanskrit, every afternoon, there's the news in Sanskrit on the radios.
In English, too.
In English, also.
But English is the common language.
So, English is used, but we always have opening chat at every prayer is Sanskrit.
And then, a reading, either from one of the sacred texts of Hinduism, or from the Tamil
Which would be in Tamil.
And then, with the translation for people who don't know the local language.
And then, English, beginning with the prayers, translated from Aramaic, because the earliest
Christians spoke the language of Jesus, so the opening prayers of the Christian part,
the Hindu part, and then the Christian part, the opening prayer, is always translated
from the Syrian liturgy.
And then we recite two psalms in English, and one psalm, or song, or canticle, in Tamil.
I'm wondering if, or how, your training and experience in the Indian ashram has influenced
your work in the Kamaal Neet here, or locally?
Inwardly, very much.
Personally, on a personal level.
I didn't want to admit this to myself for years, you know.
But, you know, it meant so much to me.
When you're, you know, when you're 14 years old, and Chris knows about this, and you know
about it, you know, but when you start and have this wonderful blessing, this actual
grace of contact with the spiritual riches of India, or China, or other great ancient
civilizations, this, and especially when it's identified with a moment of opening,
spiritual opening in your life, then it really, there's an imprinting there.
It's like a child with a parent, you know?
A baby with the mother, you know?
It's a kind of a total imprinting.
And then when I became a Catholic and joined this community, I realized that things fell
into place insofar as they could fit with this previous sense of meditation, prayer.
Not that I didn't try to pray before I read the autobiography of the yogi.
I did try to pray, and I even went to Baptist Sunday School for a couple years.
I didn't go to the worship service, but I went to the Sunday School to learn the Bible,
and I learned about Abraham, and King David, and Jesus.
So, that was of course important, you know, and I found the stories that meant most to me,
you know, the first pages of Genesis, I read them like poetry, not literally, but you know,
science says it's not six pages, it's a business of years, but,
they were for poetry, and then the story of Abraham, and the story of Jesus.
So, I did, there were some Bible stories that I felt, you know, very much, they spoke to me,
but when I was an adolescent, you know, things break open for you,
and you begin to feel that you can make your own choices, and it's not what your mother says,
although my mother never, never forced anything religious on me, thanks be to God.
She was a preacher's kid, but she said, you know, there's a Baptist church up the road,
if you want to, you can attend Sunday School, learn about the Bible, if you want to.
And so I wanted to, yeah, sure, I'll be happy to.
And, but then, you know, when you discover that you can make your own journey,
or you can fall in love, and that's another, you know, another world that opens up for you around that age.
So there was something like, you know, something like your first love, or something like that,
in when you make this contact with this wonderful, these wonderful treasures of spirituality.
And so I did, things kind of fell into place, but there were things that I was fighting with,
because I couldn't fit together, it wasn't an easy thing, I couldn't fit together what I had learned.
Even though a Benedictine monk in Southern California, who was Chinese,
and was raised, had been raised a Buddhist, and became a Catholic to join the monks,
the Benedictines in China, he told me, you wouldn't be where you are now,
that is, becoming a Catholic, just before I had become Catholic, that I met him,
you wouldn't be where you are now if you had not come down that road that you came from before.
So do not keep everything good that you've learned from India, from the Indian spirituality, from yoga.
Wonderful advice. Liberating.
So, back in 1961, 1960, let me correct myself, 1960, October 15th, 1960.
So, yes, in a way, the sense of my calling, my vocation here,
had been settled in me, to a great extent, by my association with the disciples of Yogananda.
From the time that I first met them in 1956, up until four years, up until 1960.
And, you know, they were kind of like role models for me, you know,
especially two or three of them, wonderful, wonderful people.
And so, when I came here, you know, I'd hear things that reminded me of something that I'd learned,
you know, from the teachings of Yogananda, and that troubled me.
I'm supposed to set that aside, I'm only supposed to study Christianity now, you know.
And yes, that's true, you know, that was good, because the superior here was Siddhartha,
a very mild man, you know, not prejudiced, you know, he didn't know about these things,
but, you know, it wasn't like being prejudiced or condemning it.