ASHRAMS IN INDIA: CATHOLIC or NEW AGE?




ASHRAMS IN INDIA: CATHOLIC or NEW AGE?

 

NEW WEBSITE: www.ephesians-511.net OCTOBER 2005

NOTE:
Information within brackets [ ] is either page number of the book that is being quoted from, or comments of the writer; [See pages 1, 2, 3, 4] in blue indicates references of the pages in this report; the more important of the page references — that will throw further light on the subject — in that group, are underlined [See pages 1, 2, 3, 4];

information within brackets ( ) comes along with the material being quoted from by me; bold/other font size or underlining are introduced by the writer as special emphases to engage the attention of the reader.

 

A Letter to the Vatican.
Subject: ‘ New Age ‘ in the Catholic Church in India
:

In my May 2004
letter
with the
above title, written in connection with the 3rd February 2003 Vatican Provisional Report “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of
Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age'”, I had also noted: ASHRAMS, & THE NATIONAL BIBLICAL CATECHETICAL AND LITURGICAL CENTRE [NBCLC]

The Ashram culture was originally meant to be or projected as an Indian Christian way of life and worship that would find mass appeal, and remove the impression that has been created that Christianity is a ‘foreign’ religion, in a country where just over 2% of the population has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord. But the actual history [as seen from the true believer’s point of view] is sadly different, and warrants close scrutiny from Rome. What it is now can be easily seen from the writings of any of the Benedictine or Jesuit priests or RSCJ
[Sisters of the Sacred Heart] nuns connected with the ‘Ashram Movement’. It is difficult to see the unique monotheistic dualism of the Bible in the different shades of advaitic monism that colour all their ‘Christian’ writings.

From there it was just a short step to the New Age. One of the pioneers Fr. Bede Griffiths not only ended up as a yogi but also opened his center to New Agers from the West [one of whom wrote his famous New Age thesis in the Ashram]. Bede also traveled to Europe to participate in an international New Age conference. His teachings greatly influenced many people who, along with some of his former disciples, are today influential in the major religious congregations and Church hierarchy and who continue to promote the Hindu-isation of the Catholic Church in India. It is no coincidence that the founder of DHARMA BHARATHI is one of these disciples.

He [Swami Sachidananda Bharathi] met his first New Agers from the West at Bede’s Ashram. They have influenced his beliefs and his vision and he in turn now passes it on to our children [in Catholic educational institutions] through his organization which has the recognition and support of the CBCI. These Ashrams have not brought anyone to a saving knowledge of the Jesus Christ of the Bible. Rather, the use of gross iconology, cross-breeding of sacred religious symbols, yogic exercises, temple-dances and dubious rituals and liturgies of an inculturation gone awry that emerged from the Ashram culture and were disseminated in the Church through the NBCLC [which is located at Bangalore] continues to be one of the major reasons for Catholics leaving the Church.

The Ashram movement is nothing but a Hindu way of life thinly disguised as Christianity. It has opened the door to a multitude of evils which, as in the case of the other issues here already reported on by me, will be the subject of a detailed report from this writer in the near future.”

 

What follows here, from page number 2 onwards, is that detailed report, made after a December 2004 7-day visit to Saccidananda Ashram, Shantivanam. Certain sections of this write-up had been included in my earlier reports such as the one on Dharma Bharathi. The reader will therefore have to bear with a few repetitions, and also with seemingly irrelevant details which I believe must necessarily be included here so that the wider implications of the issue are not obscured. Copies of the above-referred “A Letter to the Vatican” were posted and/or sent by email to every Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal listed in the 2004 Directory of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, over 160 in number. While a majority of the Bishops did not respond even to repeated despatches of the Letter, I am pleased to report that I did receive a few dozen encouraging replies from them, several of whom have continued their correspondence with me, and also from one Cardinal. In response to the ‘Letter’, this ministry also received scores of letters expressing support and solidarity from seminarians, priests and simple lay Catholics, from independent Catholic ministries, and from regional, national and international leaders in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Four months after the letter was received by over a dozen dicasteries of the Vatican, I received a rather discouraging response dated 7th September 2004 from Rome. It was from the Undersecretary, Pontifical Council of Culture. My reply dated 1st January 2005 has been circulated to selected readers, and can be made available to anyone who wants it. Meanwhile, this report on the Catholic Ashrams bears witness that the contents of my ‘Letter to the Vatican’ were accurate.

SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM, SHANTIVANAM

I wake up at 5:00 am to the soft chanting of the OM mantra and Hindu bhajans, and I am momentarily disoriented.

Where AM I? Realization dawns. The OM chant is carrying to me from the room of my German neighbour, up early for his meditation session, and the devotional music is from the loudspeaker of the distant village temple. But it may as well have been from the temple of the premises where I am staying. I leap out of bed remembering that I have much to do and learn that day, and in the days ahead. I have just spent my first night, [fighting off a host of spiders and creepy-crawlies that tried to invade my protective mosquito net], in a Catholic ashram.

SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM, which is said to mean ‘Ashram of the Holy Trinity‘ in Sanskrit and is popularly known in Tamil as SHANTIVANAM, the ‘Forest of Peace’, is located at Thannirpalli, on the banks of the river Cauvery [Kaveri], a couple of kilometers from Kulithalai village in the Karur district of Tamil Nadu. The sacred delta [of the adjacent Kaveri river] is positioned within a holy triangle whose apexes are marked off by three famous temples held in high regard by local Hindus, says an American guide book whose authors arrange pilgrimages to the ashram.

The writer will use both names, Saccidananda Ashram as well as Shantivanam, alternatively.

The ashram is situated in the diocese of Tiruchirappalli [Trichy], and is about 30 kilometers from Trichy. It was founded in 1950 [12 years BEFORE Vatican Council II] by two French priests, JULES MONCHANIN, a diocesan priest from Lyon
who took the name of Swami PARAMA ARUBI ANANDA[M] [‘the Bliss of the Supreme Spirit’ or ‘he who rejoices
in the Formless’] and
HENRI LE SAUX, O.S.B.,
a Benedictine who became
SWAMI ABHISHIKTANANDA [a little known fact is that the full form was Abhishikteshvarananda, ‘the Bliss of …’, or ‘he who rejoices in the Anointed One’, later shortened]. The local villagers called Monchanin ‘Thangkar Swami ‘ or ‘Bhakta’ [the Adorer]. Monchanin is referred to in ashram literature always as Monchanin, whereas Le Saux is almost always referred to as Abhishiktananda. Monchanin came to India in 1939 at the invitation of the indigenous Bishop James Mendonca of Trichy
and served as parish priest of Kulithalai for ten years till he was joined in 1948 by Le Saux.

They christened the ashram SACCIDANANDA which literally is ‘Pure Being – Consciousness [Awareness/ Knowledge] Bliss’ or SAT-CIT-ANANDA. Or, the Absolute Joy that proceeds from the Absolute Self-Realization of Absolute Being. This concept is equated with the Christian understanding of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, [see pages 32, 54, 61, 70, 72] with SAT being the Father, CIT the Logos or Word, and ANANDA the Holy Spirit that proceeds from them.

In naming the ashram as such: a Hindu term for the godhead used as a symbol of the three persons of the Christian Trinity, ashram literature explains that they intended anticipating [!!!] the Second Vatican Council and the All-India Seminar [see below], to show that they sought to identify themselves with the Hindu ‘search for God’… and to relate this quest to their own experience of God in Christ in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Monchanin died aged sixty-two in Paris on October 10, 1957, and Le Saux who left in 1968 to lead the solitary life of a hermit in the Himalayas, lived the days of his last illness and died December 7, 1973 at Yoga Niketan Ashram, Swami Yogeshwaranand’s centre in Uttarkashi, aged sixty-three.

BEDE GRIFFITHS, O.S.B., a Benedictine who had come to India in 1955 in search of the other half of my soul [see pages 17-18, 24, 48-49, 59] and co-founded Kurisumala Ashram at Vagamon in Kerala in 1958 [see pages
57,
65] with Francis Mahieu, [‘Francis Acharya‘] a Belgian [born 1912] of the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance (Trappist), took over Shantivanam in 1968 [see pages 29, 32, 45-46]. Mahieu had come to India in September 1955.

Even in the ’30s he had felt a vocation to go to India, and had been fascinated by Monchanin who had visited his monastery in 1939. Mahieu himself had, in November 1956, left Shantivanam where he had served with Monchanin and Le Saux, for a year, accused by Monchanin of being rather a cause of division between the two. He had received an invitation from a bishop of the Syro-Malankara Church in Kerala to start an ashram in his diocese.

Bede assumed the name of
Swami DAYANANDA
, [see page 57] the bliss of compassion. But, most interestingly, he is almost always referred to as Fr. Bede. Bede passed away at Shantivanam on 13th May 1993 after a series of strokes. After Bede’s death, “there is no guru in the ashram,” wrote Fr. Dominic, OSB in the golden jubilee [2000] souvenir Saccidanandaya Namah [SN] published only in 2002 [see pages 4, 17, 18, 27, 28, 29, 40, 46, 54].

The tombs of Abhishiktananda, Bede, and his disciple Swami Amaldas, a yoga exponent, are adjacent to the temple.

In April 1955, Stephen, a native of Kulithalai, and in September 1956, a Fr. Dharmanadar sent by Bishop Mendonca joined the ashram. After Monchanin died, he wanted to move the ashram to Trichy. Le Saux objected, and he left. Likewise, Stephen, being attached to Monchanin, left and Le Saux was alone till he too moved out in 1968.

The Ashram was inaugurated on 21st March 1950, the feast of St. Benedict with the blessing and approval of Bishop Mendonca who said it was the beginning of a new era in the history of religious life in India.[SN]

The ashram brochure states that The ashram is a community of spiritual seekers and a monastic community is in charge of the ashram. [It] is dedicated for contemplative life in the Benedictine tradition.

According to the ashram literature, The Second Vatican Council, in its declaration on non-Christian religions, [Nostra Aetate] declared that ‘the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions’ and encouraged Catholics to ‘recognize, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral values as well as the social and cultural values to be found among them.’ Following this, the direction of the All-India Seminar on the Church in India Today in 1969, [see pages 27, 29, 65, 91]
which was attended by the whole of the hierarchy and representatives of the whole Catholic Church in India…. showed the need of a liturgy ‘closely related to the Indian cultural tradition’ and a theology ‘lived and pondered in the context of the Indian spiritual tradition.’

In particular, the need was expressed ‘to establish authentic forms of monastic life in keeping with the best traditions of the Church and the spiritual health of India‘.

 

NOTE:

This report will establish that Saccidananda Ashram has failed to be faithful to the mandate given to it by the Catholic Church in India. [The same can be said of the entire “ashram movement” in general.] Shantivanam describes itself not as a Catholic ashram but as a Christian ashram. However, if not for the celebration of the daily Mass, a visitor might find it hard put to distinguish it even as a Christian, leave alone a Catholic institution. The spiritual pot-pourri dished out would make one wonder if one was in some centre of religious experimentation, except that no Hindu ashram or other institution would dare to offer such a fare. One has come to expect to encounter such a situation only in a Catholic institution. What you get is syncretism, a whole lot of advaita garnished with New Age ideologies, a railing against all forms of dogmatism and organized religion [read as ‘the Catholic Church’], and a rejection of accepted teaching on Biblical revelation which is itself skillfully re-interpreted, and presented as a New Vision of Christianity in the Third Millennium.

This “Christianity” has simply no resemblance to the Christianity of the apostolic or any other tradition. What emerges from the teachings at the ashram is something I would label as ‘Ashram Theology’, since my research has shown that this approach and worldview is not confined to Shantivanam alone, but is adopted and propagated to a greater or lesser extent at the various Catholic ashrams in the country, including the NBCLC
[see pages 10, 13, 31, 43, 68-69, 74].

 

THE AIMS OF THE ASHRAM

Ashram literature continues, Among the gifts given by God to India, the greatest was seen to be that of interiority, the awareness of the presence of God dwelling in the heart of every human person and of every creature, which is fostered by prayer and meditation, by contemplative silence and the practice of yoga
and sannyasa. These values belong to Christ and are a positive help to the Christian life. Consequently, it was said ‘Ashrams where authentic incarnational Christian spirituality is lived should be established, which should be open to non-Christians so that they may experience genuine Christian fellowship.’ The aim of our ashram therefore, following these directions of this [All India, 1969] Seminar, is to bring into our Christian life the riches of Indian spirituality, to share in that profound experience of God which originated in the Vedas, was developed in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita and has come down to us today through a continual succession of sages and holy men and women.

“From this experience of God lived in the context of an authentic Christian life, it is hoped that we may be able to assist in the growth of a genuine Indian Christian liturgy and theology… The aim of the ashram is to establish a way of contemplative life based alike on the traditions of Christian monasticism and of Hindu sannyasa, a renunciation of the world in order to seek God or, in Hindu terms, ‘liberation’… Our aim
at Shantivanam is to unite ourselves with this tradition as Christian sannyasis. Our life is based on the rule of St. Benedict, the patriarch of Western monasticism …but we also study Hindu doctrine (Vedanta) and make use of Hindu methods of prayer and meditations (Yoga). In this way we hope to assist in the meeting of these two great traditions of spiritual life…

The printed daily time-table does not list yoga as part of the curriculum though an old, permanent board near the dining-hall does. No one can really explain why. It seems that there is no yoga-knowledgeable person available to instruct the enthusiasts. Bro. John Martin Sahajananda, who is the community member that is most interactive with overseas visitors, and conducts the daily satsangh in the yoga hall, is afflicted with a severe back problem that prevents him from even squatting on the floor, leave alone adopting the postures of the yoga that he so much swears by.

We will observe how the freedom to experiment “in keeping with the best traditions of the Church and the spiritual
health of India
“, and private interpretations of “the mind of the Church today“, have led to numerous aberrations.

 

LIFE IN THE ASHRAM

The permanent members follow the customs of a Hindu ashram, wearing the [kavi] saffron-coloured robe of a sannyasi… [a dhoti, a seamless cloth wrapped around the waist and a matching shirt or a kurta. The older members wear no shirt but simply drape a cloth over their shoulders]. Each monk lives in a small thatched hut which gives opportunity for prayer and meditation and creates an atmosphere of solitude and silence. There are two hours specially set apart for meditation, the hours of sunrise and sunset which are traditional times… in India.

“The community meets for common prayer thrice a day, in the morning after meditation when the prayer is followed by celebration of the Holy Eucharist, at midday and in the evening. At our prayer we have readings from the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita as well as from Tamil classics and other Scriptures together with psalms and readings from the Bible, and we make use of Sanskrit and Tamil songs (bhajans) accompanied by drums and cymbals. We also make use of ‘arati’ waving of lights and other Indian customs which are now generally accepted in the Church in India. In this way we hope to assist in the growth of an Indian liturgy according to the mind of the church today. The ashram seeks to be a place of meeting for Hindus and Christians and people of all religions or none, who are genuinely seeking God.

 

Many of the buildings are ochre-coloured mud huts, indicating the renunciate life, symbolically ‘clothed with the sun’.

But the single-bed guest rooms like the one allotted to me during my stay from 15th to 21st December 2004 are not huts but regular constructions. My room has a dim low-wattage bulb and no fan. A pillow, a mattress placed on a wooden cot draped with a mosquito net, a table and a chair are the sparse furnishings. Toilets [Indian style] and bathing rooms are at the end of the corridor. However, the new guest-houses with double-bed rooms completed in mid-2004 are modern constructions with western bathroom facilities too, I am told. I observe that they are allotted to foreigners who are either regular visitors or are benefactors of Shantivanam and sponsors of its projects.

“No charge is made, but guests can make an offering to cover their expenses says one brochure. Another booklet suggests that the offering for Indian guests is ‘around’ Rs 100 per day, with ‘around’ Rs. 200 for overseas guests. The ashram boasts a computer [they have email] and fax, none of which are available, to the best of my knowledge, for use by the guests. If one needs to avail of electronic services, one is expected to find their way to the village, or even to Trichy. The lighting in the compound is almost non-existent and one has to use a flashlight, or the light of the moon, to find one’s way around after sundown.

GENERAL ACTIVITIES: Guests may join in cutting of vegetables after breakfast or in cleaning the temple, or working in the garden. Smoking and drinking are taboo. One is free to follow the timetable [most do], or not.

The ashram cultivates its eight acres of land and has a small herd of cows which provide milk and are used for ploughing. Bro. George is in charge of the labourers and the farming activity. Ashram literature informs us that Shantivanam runs a tailoring centre for training women in the nearby village and another unit for providing employment to people, a home for the aged and destitute where they are provided free board, lodging and medical care; it distributes free notebooks and uniforms to deserving children, and eggs twice a week to over 450 children.

It reportedly also supports a nursery, builds homes for the poor and provides them free medicare. “But”, the leaflet affirms, the ashram “must above all be a place… where people can find God… and know that they were created not merely for this world but for eternal life.” Visitors are taken to the village to meet the people at the centres run and served by the Ashram. Some people believe that these are showpieces to obtain funds from foreign visitors.

Thomas Matus OSB [writing before Bede’s death] reported that the Ashram “owns a large building” in the village at the base of the Rock of Ayermalai
[see page 36], about ten kilometres from the Ashram, and that along the nearby river they have a four-acre field which the Ashram bought the previous year and on which they have a plan to build a hut for Father Bede. They have planted millet, peanuts and coconut palms. [SN, 2002, pp. 170, 161]

Another source informs me that huge sums of foreign money are received for their projects, among which is a novitiate that was constructed at a considerable cost but is not put to the use for which it was intended. What is certain is that the local people do NOT go to Shantivanam for their spiritual needs but look at it, and the Church, as a social service organization run by some strange Christians whose religion is not very different from Hinduism.

SANDHYA VANDANA The time table shows the ‘Angelus’ at 5:00 am, 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm, but it is not any Angelus that Catholics are familiar with. For use during the liturgies, copies of a booklet titled ‘Sandhya Vandana’ are available. Sandhya means ‘meeting point’, vandana means ‘chants of praise and worship’. So three common acts of worship are held at dawn, noon and sunset, the junctures of the three divisions of the day.

The manual states that they correspond to the monastic offices of Lauds, Sext and Vespers. Hence they are based primarily on songs and readings from the Bible, according to the Syrian Christian and Latin Benedictine traditions. But the Christian prayer is always preceded by chanting in Sanskrit, the ancient sacred language of India, and by readings from the Scriptures of Hinduism

Sandhya also refers to the religious acts (yajnas) performed by Brahmins and the ‘twice-born’ at these three divisions of the day…. The ritual consists in sipping water and repeated invocations and mantras, especially the Gayatri Mantra [see pages 6, 7, 13, 67]. A connection is often made between sandhya and samadhi (unitive meditation), and in practice the ritual acts are intended to lead the soul into the silent worship of the Spirit within. [Samadhi is the last of the eightfold stages in the practice of yoga when the self merges with the Self, Brahman].

“… And so our sandhya also means the meeting point of the Church’s liturgy and India’s heritage, of Christ and the rishis (the seers of ancient India), of East and West, in the secret place of the heart at prayer.”

All three times, prayer commences with the gayatri mantra which is always preceded by the OM mantra.

The Sign of the Cross is conspicuous by its complete elimination during any prayer. It is replaced by the OM.

Selected Psalms in English and Tamil are also used and they are printed in the booklet along with bhajans in seven Indian languages. A litany to Our Lady is used in the Wednesday and Saturday midday archanas, with as many OMs as there are invocations to her. There are several bhajans [hymns] too, dedicated to her.

At 5:30 am and again at 9:00 pm one practices ‘namajapa ‘, short ejaculations, probably the only prayers that exclusively use the name of Jesus Christ in praise of Him and are not prefixed with the ubiquitous OM.

For those who seek to become permanent members of the community there are three stages of commitment,

the first being that of sadhaka, seeker or aspirant; the next is the brahmachari who is committed to the search for God but need not be permanently attached to the ashram; and finally the sannyasi who has made a final and total dedication to God by a renunciation of family ties and the world and is given the kavi habit.

This too “need not involve a permanent stay in the ashram, but in accordance with Indian tradition he is free to wander as the spirit may lead him.” The ashram’s “primary call is to discover the kingdom of God within.”

Despite what are claimed to be the ‘aims of ashram life’ [see page 3], the last statement seems to be the closest to the truth, which leading ashram figure Vandana Mataji confirms: “To ‘become what you are’, to realise your true Self, Self-Realization is the unique goal… Finding the ‘Self in all things and all things in the Self’ is the unique goal of the ashram… To enable people to become God by entering into silence, is this not the raison d’etre of an ashram? [Find Your Roots and Take Wing, 1991, pages 57, 68, 70].

MEALS One squats on a mat on the floor in the dining hall under a large framed picture of Ramana Maharshi, [see pages 9, 27, 32, 33, 37, 43, 60, 66, 70, 79] and eats from a stainless steel tali. Food is simple and tasty, pure vegetarian and piping hot, served by the swamis and volunteers from among the visitors. The Grace before meals is a long drawn out chant of the OM mantra. All during the serving of the food, everyone intones OM SHAKTI [3] OM, PITRU SHAKTI, PUTRA SHAKTI, PARA SHAKTI OM. It is explained that chanting this OM SHAKTI [see pages
48, 58] is praising the energy in our food, the energy of the Father, the Son and “the Great Feminine Force”. There is an alternative Grace extracted from the Rig Veda, and yet another, also in Sanskrit, that proclaims ‘Jesus is the Lord, Christ is the Lord’, both of which I did not find in use during my week-long stay. The mantra after lunch and supper [Grace after meals] is AHAM VAISHVANARO BHUTVA / PRANINAM DEHAMASHRITAH / PRANAPANASAMAYUKTAH / PACCHAMYANNAM CHATURVIDHAM
[Becoming the fire of life in the bodies of living creatures, and mingling with the upward and downward flow of breath, I digest the four kinds of food] – Bhagwad Gita 15, 14.

 

THE ASHRAM LITURGY AND ITS SYMBOLS

The New Leader in a full page article on Bede Griffiths in its ‘Saints for Today’ column, issue December 1-31, 2000, notes, Bede experimented with yoga, meditation and other Indian spiritual disciplines.

“In our prayer we make use of various symbols drawn from Hindu tradition in order to adapt our Christian prayer and worship to Indian traditions and customs according to the mind of the church today, ashram literature states.

“In the morning prayer we use sandal paste. Sandalwood is considered the most precious of all woods and is therefore seen as a symbol of divinity. As it also has a sweet fragrance, it is seen as a symbol of divine grace. We place it on the head and hands as a way of consecrating the body and its members to God. It is also a symbol of the unconditional love of God as it gives its fragrance even to the axe that cuts it. We are called to radiate the unconditional love of God in our daily living.

“At the midday prayer, we use the purple powder known as kumkumum. This is placed on the spot between the eyebrows and is a symbol of the ‘third eye’
[see page 49]. The third eye is the eye of wisdom. Whereas the two eyes are the eyes of duality which see the outer world and the outer self, the third eye is the inner eye which sees the inner light according to the Gospelif thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light*… In India, the red colour is said to be feminine, the mark of the mother goddess. We consider that it symbolizes the feminine wisdom… and apply it to Our Lady of Wisdom…. Midday prayer is a wisdom prayer consisting of wisdom Psalm (118) and a reading from one of the books of Wisdom.

*The above verse from Matthew 6:22 is one of the most abused by New Agers. All accepted Bible translations say, If your eye is sound/whole/good…, but I have not seen a version that uses the word “single”, which is the favourite for those who need it to justify from the Bible the existence of the psychic ‘third eye’. I requested Fr. Paul OSB to show me where according to the Gospel they find the quoted verse. He said that he did not know. After a futile look into the Bible, he admitted to me that had believed that the verse was correctly quoted and interpreted.

“At the evening prayer, we use ashes [vibhuti]. The symbol here is not merely that of Ash Wednesday, ‘dust thou art and into dust thou shall return’ but has a deeper meaning. Ash is matter from which impurities have been burnt away. Placing the ashes on the forehead signifies that our sins and impurities have been burnt away and the ashes represent the purified self.

“At each of the prayers we offer ‘arati’ before the Blessed Sacrament. Arati consists in the waving of lights and incense as a sign of honour and worship. It may be done before any sacred thing or person. The root meaning of arati before the central shrine in a temple seems to be this. The inner sanctuary of a temple is always kept dark to signify that God dwells in the cave of the heart. When lights are waved before the shrine, it, as it were, reveals the hidden God. We wave lights before the Blessed Sacrament to manifest, as it were, the hidden Christ, and then we take the light of Christ to our eyes by placing the hand over the flame which is passed round to all…

“At the offertory of the Mass, we make an offering of the four elements – water, earth, air and fire. Every Hindu puja consists in the offering of the elements to God as a sign of the offering of the creation to God. In the offertory therefore, we offer the four elements as a sign that the whole creation is being offered to God through Christ as a cosmic sacrifice. We first sprinkle water round the altar. Then we sprinkle water on the people to purify the people. “The priest then takes a sip of water to purify himself within. We then offer the fruits of the earth as the prayer of the offertory says, the bread and wine, and then eight flowers which are placed around the ‘tali ‘ on which the gifts are offered.’ The eight flowers which are offered with Sanskrit chants represent the eight directions of space and signify that the Mass is offered in the ‘centre’ of the universe… We then do arati with incense representing the air, and with camphor representing fire. Thus the Mass is seen to be a cosmic sacrifice in which the whole creation together with all humanity is offered through Christ to the Father.

OM, OR AUM [see pp 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 13-14, 18, 21, 28, 32, 37, 42, 44, 45, 47, 51, 61, 66, 68, 69, 73, 75, 79, 80]***

“In our daily prayer we make constant use of the sacred syllable OM. This word has no specific meaning. It seems to have been originally a form of affirmation rather like the Hebrew ‘Amen’ used as a solemn assertion as when in the Gospels Jesus says ‘Amen I say to you’. Thus it came to be conceived as the primordial sound, the original word from which the whole creation came. In this it is akin to the Word of St John’s Gospel of which it is said that it was in the beginning with God and without it nothing was made. In the Upanishads it came to be identified with the highest Brahman, that is with the Supreme Reality. Thus it is said, ‘I will tell you the Word which all the Vedas glorify, all self-sacrifice expresses, all sacred studies and holy life seek. That Word is OM, that Word is the everlasting Brahman, that Word is the highest end. When that sacred Word is known all longings are fulfilled. It is the supreme means of salvation. When that great Word is known, one is great in the heaven of Brahman.’ For a Christian of course, that Word is Christ.So explains the ashram’s literature. But others’ opinions differ.

According to Le Saux‘ chapter OM in his book Prayer, OM
is the highest mantra among the Hindus dating back to ancient Vedic times. It is the mantra par excellence for sannyasis and those called to deep contemplative prayer.

Monchanin wrote of OM: The ultimate object of meditation of that which sinks into the ‘Beyond’ and symbol of the ineffable God and the Eternal Word which bursts forth from His silence. [Ermites du Saccidananda, 179]

The
OM mantra is the alpha and the omega, the heart and the soul of ashram life, Hindu or Catholic
.

Bro. Martin, the major ideological influence at Shantivanam goes to great pains to explain this mantra [see page 21].

Vandana Mataji, a nun who founded two ashrams, writes on page 50 of Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, In and around the Hindu ashrams in Rishikesh, often the only greeting one hears exchanged between the sannyasis is AUM. Every prayer begins with ‘AUM’ ands with ‘AUM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI’. AUM or OM stands for the Logos.

[There is NO such concept of the Logos, the Word Incarnate, in Hindu thought as there is in Christian theology.]

Quoting Fr.
Raimundo Panikkar in Living with Hindus, pages 67, she says, When Christians borrow OM or the gayatri mantra to chant, they are using a living symbol. They are further saying that the power of that symbol is not foreign to them… Through the gate of OM the Christian enters, as it were, into communion with the Hindu tradition,” she adds, page 68. That is precisely what the Christian believers fear.

In Vandana’s [ed.] Shabda Shakti Sangam, an entire chapter, pages 114-117, is devoted to ‘The Sacred Word OM: The Gateway to the Christian Discovery of India and Indian Discovery of Christ’ by J P Nyayapal, a Dominican priest who teaches Indian Christian Spirituality. After explaining the intricacies of OM in great detail, he quotes Fr. Gispert-Sauch SJ*, as saying that the meaning must be patiently explained to the people, because There is a lot of controversy in India at present about the fitness of using the syllable OM in a Christian context; And Bede Griffiths who said, “The word is of such importance as being the most sacred word in Hindu religion and a symbol of the supreme Godhead… which is entirely acceptable from a Christian point of view… to express the Word of God…”

Catholic evangelist Eddie Russell, FMI, [see pages 39, 40, 72] in What’s In A Word? 23 September 1998 writes:

“At a parish prayer retreat held for acolytes and other lay ministers… articles from Newsweek on TM, Yoga, Mantra and other Hindu and Buddhist disciplines were distributed. Clearly presented as an authentic practice for Catholics at the retreat, the whole religious practice is referred to in Newsweek as ‘The science of Yoga’. Of course, if we accept that lie it will be easy to adopt another religion as merely a neutral science, and therefore harmless. The idea of science to our Western Pythagorean objective mind is more acceptable than an intuitive Eastern mind-set. You can call it a science if you will, but it is still the same religious spiritual practice of Hinduism, New Age and Buddhism. Included in this material was the use of the great mantra – Om. I wonder what they meant this to mean if it didn’t mean what it really meant in the Sanskrit and religious worship of their Pantheon. *see page 54

“Abbe Dubois* stated that the Brahmins of his time [approximately 190 years ago] tried to keep the real meaning of this sacred word a profound secret. In fact, many of them did not even understand it themselves. He said that Om is ‘the symbolic name of the Supreme Being, one and indivisible’ [1, 143]. It is also said that ‘As long as there has been a Hindu Faith, the power of sound has been recognised in the sacred Word. In that lies all potencies, for the sacred word expresses the one and latent Being, every power of generation, of preservation and of destruction’.
Om is the most solemn of the most powerful class of mantras [magic words] and magical utterances called bijakshara. Every true bijakshara mantra ends with a nasal sound, actually going over in a kind of ‘vibration’. The bijakshara are used to worship the deities, like Shiva, Ganesh, Lakshmi, etc. The brief Mandukya Upanishad is entirely devoted to the mystic syllable Om. “It is compounded of three sounds, a, u, m, representing the three Vedas [Rig [Veda], Yagur [Veda], Sama [Veda], they are the three words, heaven, atmosphere and earth, which are the three deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Om embraces all the secrets of the universe, which are, as it were, gathered to a point within it, it is used for invocations, affirmations and blessing and at the commencement and termination of prayer, meditation or work. It is said to be the mystical quintessence of the entire cosmos… the monarch of all sounded things, the mother of vibrations, and the key to eternal wisdom and power. [Vol. II, 103-104]. “It is clear that if any Christian is using this particular Om mantra [amongst other Sanskrit words], then they are calling on this deity and not the True God that they intend. It is also clear that those Christians that dabble with eastern mystical prayer come to embracing the Cosmology of Christ in their attempt at Syncretism as we find underpinning Bede Griffiths, Anthony de Mello and Matthew Fox‘s
[see pages 39-40] ‘Creation Spirituality’.

*OM has been explained at great length in my February 15, 2001 article Inculturation or Hindu-isation? In it, Abbe Dubois’ [see page 65] detailed analysis of OM in his 1906 book Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies is included.

Dubois, a French Catholic missionary, should know. He spent 31 years in India closely associated with its people.

 

THE ASHRAM TEMPLE AND ITS SYMBOLS

The church building is called the temple or mandir. Ashram literature continues: The church is built in the style of a South Indian [Shaivaite] temple. At the entrance is a ‘gopuram ‘ or gateway on which is shown an image of the Holy Trinity [see pages 2, 19, 32, 54, 61, 70-71, 72] in the form of a ‘trimurti ‘, a three-headed figure, which according to Hindu tradition represents the three aspects of the Godhead as Creator, Destroyer and Preserver of the universe. This is taken as the symbol of the three Persons in one God of the Christian Trinity. The figure is shown as emerging from a cross, to show that the mystery of the Trinity is revealed to us through the cross of Christ.

“Between the gopuram and the ‘mandapam’ or outer court of the Temple is a cross enclosed in a circle. The circle represents the cosmic mystery, the wheel of the law (dharma) of Hindu and Buddhist tradition. The cross at the centre of the circle signifies that the cross of Christ is the centre of the universe and of human existence. At the centre of the cross is the word OM ***[see
pages 27, 35, 65, 70, 79, 80
] which in Hindu tradition is the word from which the whole creation comes and through which we came to the knowledge of God, and is thus a fitting symbol of Christ and the Word of God… Over the doors which give access to the inner sanctuary or ‘mulasthanam ‘, there is an inscription in Sanskrit taken from the Upanishads…. which means ‘You alone are the Supreme Being; there is no other Lord of the world’. Under this are the words ‘Kurios Christos’, ‘The Lord Christ’ in Greek letters.

“In the inner sanctuary or ‘garbagriha’ which is always kept dark to signify that the Lord dwells in the darkness, the ‘cave of the heart’, there is a stone altar with a tabernacle in which the Blessed Sacrament, the sign of the Real Presence of Christ, is preserved. The Sacrament signifies the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ through which the worshipper is able to pass through death to resurrection and experience the new birth to eternal life. This is represented by the ‘vimana ‘ above the sanctuary. At the base of the vimana are the figures of the four beasts of the Apocalypse, the lion, the ox, the man and the eagle (Revelation 4:7) which represent the whole creation redeemed by Christ. Above them are four figures of saints representing redeemed humanity, and above them four figures of Christ in different postures seated on a royal throne (simhasana) and surrounded by angels. Towards the east is the figure of Christ as King in the royal posture and beneath him the figure of the Virgin Mary as Queen of heaven clothed with the sun, and with the moon and the stars at her feet (Revelation 12:1) treading on the serpent. “The serpent has different meanings. If it raises its hood it is the symbol of human consciousness in harmony with God. If it is crawling on the ground it is the symbol of human consciousness which has fallen from eternity into time. It is the symbol of the ego. A virgin is one who stops this movement of the ego and opens it to the divine consciousness.

[See review of Bro. Martin‘s books. The virgin, pages 20, 23. This ‘serpent’ is not the devil, satan
pp 20, 25, 48].

“Towards the north is Christ as Priest in the ‘abhaya’ mudra, taking away fear and conferring grace. And beneath him St. Peter with the keys of the kingdom of heaven. To the south is Christ as Prophet or Teacher in the posture of Guru, and beneath him St. Paul as teacher of the nations. Finally, to the west is Christ as Contemplative in the posture of ‘dhyana‘ or meditation, and beneath him St. Benedict, the father of monks and founder of contemplative life in the West. Above these figures of Christ and the saints is the throne of God represented by the dome covered with peacock feathers and above this again the lotus, symbols of purity supporting the ‘kalsa’, an ancient symbol of the four elements… pointing upwards to the ‘akasa ‘, the infinite space in which God dwells.

“Thus at the entrance of the temple the mind is directed to the mystery of the Godhead as three Persons adored by angels. Then through the mystery of the Cross and the resurrection it is drawn to contemplate ‘the new heaven and the new earth’ which is the destiny of man, and beyond this the mind is finally turned to the ineffable mystery of the Godhead beyond name and form, to which all earthly images are intended to lead us.

A circular, pillared, thatched hall, open all around serves as a meditation centre, with a black Christ seated on a lotus at the centre, facing in four directions. This is used for Bro. John Martin Sahajananda‘s satsanghs as well as for meditation and yoga sessions, both official as well as private. A smaller closed meditation hall is also available.

Anglo-Indian artist JYOTI SAHI [See pages 8, 10, 15, 28, 33-34, 39, 41, 47, 48, 53, 54, 55, 57, 68], an early member of the Shantivanam community created the architecture of the ashram’s temple.

In my opinion much of the iconography is crude and uninspiring to say the least, or, as my devoutly Catholic friend felt, grotesque and revolting. Maybe we are too much conditioned by Western cultural expressions, but this is too much for us. The explanation given to the symbolism of the serpent and the virgin seems to have no precedent, and is used in Bro. Martin’s teachings to reinterpret the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.

THE WEEK, in its cover story ‘Mixing Religions- Christian Priests Worship the Hindu Way’, October 20, 1996, says, “Bede introduced more Hindu rituals in the prayer service… Besides these Hindu rituals, the Gayatri Mantra and hymns hailing Shakti are chanted during the prayer service. Gayatri Mantra is the salutation to the God and the word OM is the word of the God says [Fr.] Christudas… In the niche is the statue of Jesus with a six-pointed star in the background. ‘It represents both, the six-sided tantrik star and the Star of David… The tantrik symbol represents the union of the male and female forces‘ [see pages 17-18, 41, 48-49, 52, 59, 72] explains Christudas.

HOLY MASS AT SHANTIVANAM

[Also see page 5] A few observations made by me during the Eucharistic service on December 18, 2004:

The concelebrating priests drape saffron-coloured shawls around their shoulders in lieu of a stole and chasuble. [Fr. Thomas Matus OSB on his visit here had described the priests as sitting “yoga-style on the floor”].

During the entrance hymn, sung in Tamil, sandalwood paste in a steel katori is brought around by one of the swamis. Devotees use their right index finger to smear it on their foreheads between the eyebrows. Throughout the Mass all celebrants and participants squat on the floor. A few of the westerners adopt a rigid padma asana [yoga –style?] posture, hands extended along their thighs, for the entire one hour or so.

For the Liturgy of the Word, a platform 4′ x 2′, of 4″ height is used. For the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the celebrant uses a slightly higher [about 9″] platform behind the first platform.

The preparation of bread and wine at the offertory, is embellished by the ‘sacrifice of the elements’ as in a Hindu puja. To the intonation first of OM SHRI BHAGAVATE SACCIDANANDAYA NAMAH [Salutations to the One who is Being, Consciousness, Bliss], and seven other incantations all prefixed by OM, a total of eight flowers [the earth element] are consecutively placed on the altar table.

The Doxology, Through Him, with Him, in Him…. is joined in by all. I believe that this is a liturgical abuse.

There is, in my opinion, and that of my Catholic friend, a rather irreverent breaking and ‘dumping’ of the consecrated Host into the ciborium.
The priests do not intone the words “The Body of Christ” when distributing Holy Communion, which is received in the hand and by all present, no one abstaining
[see pages 9, 20, 24, 35].

Just yesterday a man, apparently a Brahmin temple priest in his full regalia, was denied Holy Communion. We believe that it was only because news had by then got around that I was conducting some sort of investigation.

 

THE CAMALDOLESE BENEDICTINES
[see pages 12, 21, 46, 62-63]

In 1979, Bede and some brothers went to Rome to propose affiliating Shantivanam with the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli which is in Italy. Since 1980, the ashram has been part of the Benedictine Order as a Community of the Camaldolese Benedictine Congregation who are a reformed movement in the Benedictine tradition.

Their motto is ‘Ora et Labora’ [prayer and work]. There is however little of ‘labora’, or of ‘ora’ [people here do not ‘pray’, they only ‘meditate‘: ‘Michael, why are you there all by yourself? Are you meditating?’].

They are committed to the daily use of the Lectio Divina [Divine Reading] for which Bede instituted the reading of various sacred texts [of other religions] in a meditative manner according to Jyoti Sahi of the Art Ashram.

The first Indian brothers to be sent to Camaldoli from Shantivanam were Christudas [see below] and Antonisamy.

When I discussed this report recently with an Italian friend, explaining that I had sent a brief letter by post as well as by e-mail in January this year to the Superior General of the Camaldolese concerning the experiences I had during my visit to the Ashram, and that I had followed it up several times without any response, he told me that he was not surprised and that I could not expect a response because Camaldoli too is afflicted with New Age! As we have yet to examine the New Age in Shantivanam, I will defer the New Age in Camaldoli to later.

 

THE SHANTIVANAM COMMUNITY, PERMANENT MEMBERS

Fr. Augustine, who is in his mid 70s

Fr. Dominic Ayyanikatt, said to be in charge of candidates, novices, postulants [see pages 2, 17]

Fr. George, who recently completed his M. Th. in Kerala, the Superior

Fr. Paul, who is in charge of administrative day-to-day matters

Fr. Amaldas, the youngest of the priests, was ordained by the Bishop of Trichy on 3rd July 2004 [see page 10]

Bro. Michael, the librarian, a very kindly but mentally disturbed old man in his mid 70s [see page 10]

Bro. George [conspicuous like Fr. Augustine by an apparent non-involvement in the proceedings at Mass]

Bro. Suresh, the odd-job man

Bro. John Martin Sahajananda [was co-in-charge of the Ashram while Fr. George was pursuing his studies]. He is quite withdrawn and reticent except with the foreigners. We will later see why [pages 9, 18-26].

None of the community seem to have inherited the role of guru or of acharya, and even the appellation swami does not seem to stick as they are privately known as ‘Father’ this or ‘Brother’ that.

Ashram literature says that the community has “three students, two novices and three postulants”. The Ashram Aikya Dec. 2004 News Letter reports that two brothers were professed on 30th May 2004. They joined two others already in Bangalore studying philosophy. Brother John Robert is doing his second year of theology, also in Bangalore, with the Salesians. At Shantivanam they have two postulants and two candidates and were expecting two more. I believe that I met John Robert who has a good collection of Yoga Life International Monthly cuttings and an all-consuming passion for Bharatanatyam dance which he exuberantly discussed with me. The work hands in the ashram house and farm, the cooks and the gateman claim that they are underpaid. They are always begging for money from the ashramites. During my stay, some people privately collected money and gave these workers.

Bro. Suresh was mostly soliciting money, complaining about the permanent members or attempting to exploit, even cheat, the more sympathetic westerners, like our Italian, for whatever he could extract from them.

 

After Bede’s demise, Shantivanam was in much turmoil. There was a Fr. Christudas [see page 28] who left after a struggle for succession. Christudas wanted to take full control. At that time, Frs. Augustine, Dominic and George were there, along with Bros. George, Michael and John Martin. Frs. Paul and Amaldas were yet undergoing their studies. Eventually, the story goes, the Camaldolese authorities stepped in, appointed Fr. George as the Superior, and Christudas left, reportedly to serve as a Parish Priest. He is said to be now in New Zealand.

There was another Swami Amaldas, a yoga exponent and ashram founder who suddenly expired [see pages 16, 29, 47]. He spells his name with a single ‘s’ on his books, but Sr. Vandana and others use a double ‘s’ in his name.

LETTERS FROM GERMANY Letters that I received from a German friend will throw some light on the community:

“Let me recall that in the time I was staying with you in Chennai, I’ve told you that I was three months in this place. When I came to India I was an atheist and the Lord used my time as a ‘seeker’ to lead me to this place.
I was lucky not to remain in any Hindu religion, which was at first very attractive for me, but I could not undergo a conversion, since this religion was like muddy water, and since I could not see clearly, I did not jump in it. In Bede’s ashram (he was still alive at that time), I met a person there whose name was George Ammattil. He was a lay brother who lived for about 30 years in Canada. He was therefore called ‘Canadian George’. During the time of my stay in Bede’s ashram, Bede fell sick and died. Canadian George had some arguments with F. Christudas, Bede’s successor, and Christudas threw him out of the ashram, despite the fact that Canadian George had built the hut by himself with his hands. We were all disgusted. Canadian George was one of those persons who told Christudas his opinion about many things in the ashram. But Christudas could need everything but not someone who started opposing him. And since the umbrella, who kept everything together (=F. Bede) was no more, Christudas could do what he wanted. Same thing he tried with bro. Michael the librarian. Shortly after Canadian George left he also was by intrigue and manipulated, to leave. If Michael has come back I do not know. One more brother was there from Andhra Pradesh… [Here he is referring to Bro. Martin.] He was after Bede’s death together with Christudas running the Ashram, and played an important role. That time he was preparing a thesis to submit. It was let’s say
somewhat ‘heretic’, but he hoped to find someone to accept it. The Ashram needed that time no money, since they founded -against Bede’s will- an Ashram trust. The trustees are mostly abroad in Canada, USA, Australia, Europe and places were Bede went for speaking engagements. If the situation is still the same today as it was – I can’t say.

I have often heard that somehow their habit was to get out from tourists whatever they could get.

“The Benedictines from Italy had been there in the Ashram. As long as the visitation was going on they were doing as if everything is alright and when they left they (in the Ashram) went back to the old way and their style. You need a person in Rome who is vigilant on the Hinduisation in the Catholic Church. It is really important, because many in the West are interested in this place and read Bede’s books. (He wanted to re-write the Bible because its language is outdated! His books are translated in many languages also in German.) I will search now in my old note books for notes on ashrams and send you what I can get. It just came to my mind a sister, her name is Stephanie*, she was living in the Ashram during F. Bede’s time and even when he was alive Christudas managed to throw her out of this Ashram. She is involved in social activities and is living nearby in Thaneerpalli or Kulitalai … Bede and Stephanie were friends, but he could do nothing to help her to come back.

“When Bede was on his sickbed he often called Christudas to come to him. Bede first tried to make Amaldass his successor, but he ‘died’ (or was killed) so Bede knew Christudas would be the only one to be a successor, even if he did not like him in many things… So often Bede called Christudas to come to the sickbed, so often they had an argument and Bede shouted with really loud voice at him to leave his hut, to go out. But his brain was damaged and he forgot everything (due to the brain stroke) and sometime later he called him to come back. This happened several times a day. Amaldass went to Narsinghpur and started an Ashram there and during my stay in Narsinghpur (C.M.I Fathers are there) they said to me there was an affair (amour) with a nun, and out of jealousy she helped him up to the next level of reincarnation (means he was poisoned).Another reliable source, a priest wrote to me, Some mystery seems to surround his death. It is reported that his body was coal black after his death.
*It is reported that this Sr. Stephanie also now subscribes to New Age beliefs, and she has put up a large complex near Shantivanam.

 

THE ASHRAM’S GUEST RESIDENTS

A profile of the visitors drawn to the Ashram during my week-long stay:

From Holland, Ben Baruch, a follower of J. Krishnamurti. Francisco Carocci from Italy: Ramana Maharshi
* of Tiruvannamalai is my guru. A female European disciple of Ramesh something [her guru in Breach Candy, Mumbai]: My second trip in four weeks. I had visited earlier with my husband for 3 weeks and had been to Tiruvannamalai.

Susan from Calgary, Canada: Whatever it is, I’m not here for the Christian element. Julian Lumb from Perth, Australia. Yanni, Australia and Tomas, Spain are ‘partners’, left for Jesuit Fr. Amasamy’s
Bodhi Zendo Ashram [see pages 27, 36, which is a Life Member ashram of Ashram Aikiya. Its charism is Zen meditation] on the 17th. Thomas and Heidi too are ‘partners’, travelling together for spiritual experiences. They explain that they ‘do not believe in sin’. All these people participate at Mass every single day, and faithfully receive Holy Communion.

 

 

Jim, a ‘Catholic’ from Ireland who has worked in Bombay and Calcutta in the ’50s is reading New Ager Fritjof
Capra‘s
The Tao of Physics [see page 55] and believes that permitting all at the Ashram to receive Holy Communion is the true humanism. According to Jim, He met with New Ager Rupert Sheldrake [see page 55] here in February 2004. Ashram records reveal to me that Sheldrake stayed here from 26 February to 1st March 2004.

Daryl is reading the classic New Age book A Course In Miracles [see pages 11, 12, 19]. Kate, a Ph. D in Sanskrit, recently became a Christian [Anglican]. She crosses herself because she “likes certain things.” She is reading a book written by Bede. Heiko Pufal, a professor from Germany, a Theosophist, arrives after a stint at the Theosophical Society, Chennai. He too’s been here before. Derina Johnson from the UK, like many others, spends much of her time meditating while adopting yogic postures despite her chronic back problem.

*Almost everyone seems to have either visited this Hindu ashram or it was their next stop [see pages 5, 27, 32, 37].

And the only practising Catholics: Pietro Braccu from Italy, a young Third Order Discalced Carmelite and a sister S… from Fatima Convent, Hoskote, Bangalore, the only other Indian ashramite apart from this writer.

Pietro visits India frequently and stays at Catholic centres of spirituality. He and Sr. S. do not approve of what they are experiencing here, and avoid participating in the OM chanting. They also reject Bro. Martin’s teachings. However they follow the other external rituals like applying of the different pastes on the forehead to integrate with the community [which I don’t]. We three Catholics observe that we are the butt of subtle ridicule by some of the westerners when we speak to them about our faith, or submit challenging questions to Bro. Martin during the daily satsangh. Towards the end of my stay, I am sad to note that Sr. S. capitulates and joins the others in chanting OM. She tells us that she could not continue to exclude herself from the rituals. Some ashramites wear t-shirts and shawls decorated with the OM logo, and OM earrings and pendants. A few carry with them everywhere their yoga mats.

THEIR REASONS FOR VISITING: It’s very cold in Europe right now whereas it’s just right here; I was bereaved recently; my superior sent me here; it’s a cheap holiday; I’m into Indian spirituality; it’s inexpensive here; it’s quiet and tranquil in the ashram; I’m a seeker [of truth]; it’s a good place to spend Christmas; I heard about Bede; I’ve been here before and was drawn here again; I attended Bro. John Martin Sahajananda‘s talks [in Europe] and I have benefited [from his writings and teachings]; this place has a good spiritual library….

Over the years, no foreigner seems to have opted for sannyas and stayed on. While there is an atmosphere of quiet, we note that there is no true sense of joy or brotherhood. The older members of the permanent community do not seem to have anything to say to anyone else in the community, and do not provide an opportunity for guests to open a conversation with them. [We tried]. There is a sense of division and an undercurrent of strife within the community. [Sr. Sarananda of Ananda Ashram, below, scornfully tells us that “there is no community life here.”]

Sandro Magister [June 18, 2003], in John Paul II and the Other Religions: From Assisi to “Dominus Iesus” writes, Some of the most famous Catholic theologians working in the field of interreligious dialogue made extended visits [to Shantivanam]: from the Indian-Spanish priest Raimon Panikkar
[49-50] to the Belgian Jesuit Jacques Dupuis [see pages 73-74, 83]; from the Sinhalese Aloysius Pieris, another Jesuit, to the American Camaldolese
Thomas Matus. [see pages 4, 8, 29, 32, 33, 36-37, 38, 63, 73, 75] [Pieris is a liberation theologian].

INDIAN VISITORS TO THE ASHRAM: The Indian Visitors’ Book for the previous two years records groups of novices and seminarians [as few as 5 to as many as 36 in a group], nuns [31 Cluny nuns from Chennai in one group visit], and a few individual priests. And people sent across by the NBCLC. Their duration of stay varies from three to ten days. Among the prominent lay individuals who visited are JYOTI SAHI of Art Ashram, Bangalore [with his wife Jane from 24 to 26 July, 2004] [see pages 33-34, 48] and New Age guru SWAMI SACHIDANANDA BHARATHI
of
DHARMA BHARATHI
, Secunderabad [22 to 26 January, 2003] [see pages 12, 15, 44, 50-52].

SOME NOTABLE EVENTS DURING MY STAY

15th DECEMBER Bro. Michael disturbs the morning Mass and is removed. Then he damages the four-sided figure of Jesus the yogi in the meditation centre. [I failed to check it out but it was informed to me that he had broken the fingers of the icon, as also the heads of two other statues kept near the steps]. Later he corners two of the ashramites outside the dining hall and embarrasses the swamis with his loud monologue on the sex-life of Sodom and Gomorrah and the wrath of God visited on those cities. It makes everyone uncomfortable.

16th DECEMBER Brother Michael is committed to a mental institution in Trichy.

17th DECEMBER The 98th birth anniversary of Fr. Bede Griffiths. To celebrate the memory of Fr. Bede, we attended the inauguration of a building for a Shantivanam social project in nearby Rajendram. Excepting Fr. Amaldas, members of the permanent community were not present, but all the visitors were. The old Fr. Augustine later laments to Sr. Selvi that he was not aware of the function: “My dear sister, many things that happen here I do not know.”

Next, we visited a relatively wealthy Hindu home that was decorated with idols of various deities, the main ones being ‘Chakra-Alwar‘, explained to us as the god of the aura or chakras, and Vinayakar [Ganesha].

Inspired by this, Fr. Amaldas sang an ode to the god Ganesha in Tamil and was warmly applauded by all.

Many of the locals turned up at the Ashram and we were all served a sumptuous lunch [vegetarian, naturally]. That night, the ashramites led by Fr. Amaldas, and a large crowd of villagers attended a programme in Kulithalai village from 9:00 pm till around midnight. The venue was beside the local Hindu temple. Our seating area was overlooked by numerous Hindu deities. The performances in song and dance were all in honour of the various gods of the Hindu pantheon.

A raucous tribute to Vinayakar [Ganesha] for starters, followed by the kavadi dance of the Hindu god Muruga, not forgetting Iyyappa of Sabarimala, etc. Fr. Amaladas in the guest-of-honour seat applauded heartily after every rendition, and so did the westerners who made good use of their cameras, memories of Fr. Bede’s legacy to carry home from a celebration of his birth anniversary. [The Centenary celebrations will be held in December 2006.]

 

ANANDA ASHRAM

Located across the road from Shantivanam, it is the monastery for the female members of the Camaldolese Benedictine Congregation. Only women guests were supposed
to
stay here, but one finds men staying too.

Sr. Marie-Louise Coutinha OSB, the Mangalorean Founder-Superior has been living at Shantivanam since 1975. She was over-possessive of Bro. Gaston and it was only with great difficulty that I could get an interview with him. He is a very sick man, I am told, and if he died with the exertion of talking to me, she would be responsible.

Sr. Sarananda OSB, a French national, stays at Ananda Ashram but takes all her meals at Shantivanam. Her interest is in translating the works of Fr. Monchanin. She does not communicate much with the Shantivanam people. There are a couple of other nuns and novices here too.

Ananda Ashram has well-maintained paths and greenery, with cottages that are reportedly more comfortable [and more expensive] than those at Shantivanam. I experience that they have no time for Indians, excepting those who might be of benefit to their ashram. We hear that even westerners are selectively given admission to stay here. They all however walk across to attend the daily Eucharistic service at Shantivanam.

My German friend writes, With Marie Louise one must be careful, she is a snake. That was Bede’s misfortune to have some of them in his Ashram. She managed at Bede’s lifetime already to snatch a part from Bede’s Ashram and to run (the other side of the road) it by her own. People, like westerners, who cannot stay in a simple place, they are received in her place. That means, the richer visitors are put up there. Sarananda goes for all kind of Hindu feasts, like Shivaratri in Tiruvannamalai (I was also in Tiruvannamalai) [the Ramana Maharshi Ashram]. She might be interested to live different, she misses sometimes the breviary and Gregorian chant, but what can she do.
Bro. Gaston Dayanand was born in France and is now an Indian citizen living in Kolkata. He was close to Mother Teresa. Every year he spends at least a month in Shantivanam for his spiritual renewal, says the ashram literature. But he never goes there except for Mass, and stays at Ananda Ashram. Every evening for about an hour from 6:00 PM, he would explain the Mass readings of the following day. None of the religious community from Shantivanam attend even once. These sessions are never announced officially but passed on to newcomers by word of mouth among the ashramites. On the 18th December, I did the reading, Romans 1: 1-7. Bro. Gaston explained that Jesus is the Son of God and died for all men, but his further elaborations left one with the understanding that all will be saved irrespective of the manner in which they conduct their lives while on earth. He skillfully avoided, [though several opportunities presented themselves in the readings], in the manner of everyone at Shantivanam, any mention of sin and its consequences which would not go down well with the motley group of ashramites. His true disposition toward the Catholic Church is revealed later in this report [see page 28, 32-33].

 

THE ASHRAM LIBRARY

The octagonal library is said to have been designed by Fr. Bede. Ashram literature states that “the library not only contains books on the Bible and Christian philosophy and theology but also a representative selection of books on Hinduism and Buddhism and other religions” for the use of visitors “from many parts of India and from all over the world who are seeking God by way of different religious traditions…”

I could not locate a Bible, the Lives of the Saints, Vatican documents, encyclicals, or the Catechism but noted a fair number of titles from the Theosophical Publishing House, a number of books on Hinduism and Hindu scriptures, and on and by babas, gurus, and godmen and women. And on Jungian psychology, esotericism, the occult and New Age.

A selection of reading from the “Occult” section:

A COURSE IN MIRACLES* 1975, A New Age classic, in 3 volumes, Foundation for Inner Peace

THE SECRET SCIENCE BEHIND MIRACLES, Max Long

TRANCE, A NATURAL HISTORY OF ALTERED STATES OF MIND, Brian Inglis

QUANTUM HEALING, EXPLORING THE FRONTIERS OF MIND-BODY MEDICINE, [New Ager] Deepak Chopra

THE SPLENDOUR OF TRIPHERET, THE TEACHING OF THE UNIVERSAL GREAT WHITE BROTHERHOOD, Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov

THE ESOTERIC TEACHINGS, Dr. Stylianos Atteshlis

THE I THAT IS WE, AWAKENING TO HIGHER ENERGIES, Richard Moss

TRIADIC MYSTICISM, P. Murphy

NEW AGE: A selection of reading from the “Psychology” section:

PSYCHOLOGY AND THE EAST, C. G. Jung, 1978. Jung is New Age too [see pages 17, 18, 28, 38, 39-41, 48, 53].

A VISION OF THE AQUARIAN AGE, George Trevelyan, 1977. One of the most important pioneering New Age works.

To support his vision of the Aquarian New Age, he quotes from David Spangler whose five major works are listed in the Vatican Document on the New Age under ‘Some New Age books’, n 9.1. See also n 2.4, 3.2 and 7.1].

A close friend of Sir George Trevelyan wrote the following book which I also found in the library:

A CHRISTIAN IN THE NEW AGE, Peter Spink, 1991. Canon of Coventry Cathedral, Rev. Spink founded the [New Age] Omega Order [see pages 60, 63] which takes inspiration from the writings of two leading New Agers, F.C. Happold and Teilhard de Chardin [see page 53]. The Introduction to the book is by Sr. Mary House OP, a Dominican Prioress General. Spink is the editor of The Universal Christ: Daily Readings with Bede Griffiths, 1990. This Anglican New Age clergyman is also the editor of Bede Griffiths, 1994 which is sold through the
Camaldoli
[see pages 62-63] website.

A NEW SCIENCE OF LIFE, Rupert Sheldrake, 1981. This book is personally autographed by Sheldrake “To Fr. Bede, with many thanks, Rupert”. It is dedicated “To Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB”. The jacket states, “He lived for a year and a half at a Christian ashram in South India where the present book was completed.”

THE PRESENCE OF THE PAST, Rupert Sheldrake, [see pages 10, 33, 34, 36, 51, 52, 53, 55, 58] 1988, personally autographed “For Fr. Bede, a teacher to whom this book is dedicated. With gratitude and appreciation, Rupert.”

SEVEN EXPERIMENTS THAT COULD CHANGE THE WORLD, Rupert Sheldrake, 1994.

Once again, personally autographed “For the Shantivanam community, with unending gratitude for the happiness and inspiration I experienced in that blessed place,” signed Rupert Sheldrake.

A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED, [New Ager] E F Schumacher, 1977 [see pages 51, 52, 56].

THE TAO OF PHYSICS by Fritjof Capra is another popular title [see pages 10, 27, 33, 34, 49, 51, 52, 53, 55, 58, 63].

The library is well used. Library records reveal that New Agers Deepak Chopra and Rupert Sheldrake’s books are borrowed and avidly read by visiting nuns. From library entries, a popular book with visiting nuns is seen to be Mata Amritanandamayi’s
Awaken Children who
passed it around among themselves!

Another is Deepak Chopra‘s How to Know God. [See Deepak Chopra in Vatican Document on the New Age, n.4]

CHRISTIANITY FOR THE THIRD MILLENNIUM by Acharya Sachidanand [later known as Swami Sachidananda Bharathi] of Dharma Bharathi [see pages 10, 15, 44, 50-52]. The book, dedicated to Swami Bede Dayananda with deep reverence and love is loaded with references to New Age and New Agers, reviewed by me, see pages 51-52.]

*A COURSE IN MIRACLES

This thoroughly New Age classic is one of the most frequently drawn books from the library. I give selected extracts from its ‘Idea for today’ [with the lesson no. in brackets]. They are to be continuously repeated as affirmations or mantras so as to spiritually benefit the user. [They are not much different from the New Age teachings of Bro. John Martin Sahajananda of Shantivanam as we shall see shortly when examining his satsanghs and his books.]

[10] My thoughts do not mean anything….This idea will help to release me from all that I now believe.

[25] I do not know what anything [this chair, this hand] is for.

[29] God is in everything I see. God is in this waste basket.

[35] My mind is part of God’s. I am very holy.

[36] My holiness envelops everything I see… You are holy because your mind is part of God’s… If your mind is part of God’s you must be sinless, or part of His Mind would be sinful.

[38] There is nothing my holiness cannot do… Your holiness is totally unlimited in its power because it establishes you as a Son of God.

[39] My holiness is my salvation.. Your holiness means the end of guilt and therefore the end of hell.

[61] I am the light of the world… How holy am I who have been given the function of lighting up the world ! Let me be still before my holiness.

[70] My salvation comes from me… All temptation is nothing more than some form of the basic temptation not to believe the idea for today…. When you realize that all guilt is solely an invention of your mind, you also realize that guilt and salvation must be in the same place. In understanding this you are saved. Today I will recognize where my salvation is. It is in me…. It is not found outside.

[77] I am entitled to miracles. You will offer miracles because you are one with God… You state a fact that cannot be denied. The Holy Spirit cannot but assure you that your request is granted.

[93] Your sinlessness is guaranteed by God. Over and over this must be repeated until it is accepted… The self you made, evil and full of sin, is meaningless.

[95] I am one Self, united with my Creator.

[96] Salvation comes from my one Self.

[101] If sin is real, salvation has become your bitter enemy, the curse of God upon you who has crucified His Son. You need the practice periods today. The exercises teach that sin is not real, and all that you believe must come from sin will not happen… You have made a devil of God’s son. There is no sin.

[124] Let me remember I am one with God.

[163] There is no death. The Son of God is free… The idea of the death of God is so preposterous that even the insane have difficulty in believing in it. For it implies that God was once alive and somehow perished… And with the Father died the Son as well… There is no death and we renounce it now in every form… God made not death. Whatever form it takes must therefore be an illusion.

[183] I call upon God’s name and on my own. God’s name is holy but no holier than yours. To call upon His name is but to call upon your own.

[191] I AM THE HOLY SON OF GOD HIMSELF

 

[253] My Self is ruler of the universe… It is I who rule my destiny.

[259] LET ME REMEMBER THAT THERE IS NO SIN.

[300] Christ’s Second Coming… is merely the correction of mistakes and the return of sanity.

 

THE BEDE GRIFFITHS SANGHA AND CHARITABLE TRUST

This is located in Kent, England. The Bede Griffiths Sangha [=a Buddhist community of believers] describes itself as a loose community of men and women whose lives have been inspired by the life and work of Father Bede. During the summer of 1994, Ria Weyens, then at the Christian Meditation Centre in London, gathered together about 15 people for a weekend retreat at the Rowan Tree Centre, to see whether there was enough interest to establish a Sangha dedicated to the vision of Father Bede. The weekend was spent mostly in silence with meditation, chanting bhajans and structuring the day around the rhythm of life at Shantivanam, greeting the sun in the morning with the Gayatri Mantra and closing the day with namajapa… The mornings were dedicated to a period of work (karma yoga), food preparation, and to an activity such as yoga. Out of this sharing came the vision of the Shantivanam Sangham as a broad contemplative community, seeking to live the experience of Shantivanam and Father Bede’s wisdom and compassion, and to support the renewal of contemplative inter-faith life in the United Kingdom. In 1996 the Sangham renamed itself The Bede Griffiths Sangha. A summer retreat is held at Park Place Pastoral Centre in Hampshire, where the Indian order of sisters is delighted at the celebration of their Indian spirituality to enrich their vocation as Christian nuns. A winter retreat… has been held at St. Peter’s Grange, Prinknash Abbey, where Bede started his monastic career. The support of the Abbot and community of Prinknash in their endeavors is much valued. At many of these retreats they celebrate mass in the Indian style, and in their worship include Indian music and readings from all the religious traditions. The Sangha, of which many members are Christians, publishes a quarterly newsletter of the same name. Adrian Rance [see pages 14, 20, 26] is the editor.

The saffron-coloured brochure of the Sangha contains tributes to Bede from Cardinal Basil Hume, the late Archbishop of Westminster and Fr. Raimundo Panikkar [see pages 6, 10, 15, 29, 37, 49-50, 57, 58, 73]. The leaflet states that “Brother Martin Sahajananda [see pages 18-26], who was with Fr. Bede for 9 years, regularly offers teachings to visitors at Shantivanam and is the Sangha’s anam cara (spiritual friend).

The Trust supports projects to alleviate poverty in the villages near Shantivanam through social work, training and employment initiatives. This Trust and the allied Swami Bede Dayananda Trust [based near the ashram] support the social projects of the ashram [mentioned earlier in this article]. The Sangha has over twenty-five contacts and groups across the UK, with overseas units in Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and the USA.

A perusal of the 12-page September 2004 issue of the Sangha newsletter is revealing. The Sangha is in close association with the KALAI KAVERI Dance and Music College in Trichy which is a Catholic institution, and they arrange for the dance troupe to visit the UK to “dance in liturgies [at] several cathedrals. Kalai Kaveri was started in Trichy by Fr. S.M. George in 1978. One of the main dance forms used is Bharatanatyam. Kalai Kaveri started a dance school called Kalai Kaveri Natyapalli in October 1983 offering diploma courses in Bharatanatyam and Mohini Attam. [A report on Kalai Kaveri and Bharatanatyam is being prepared by this writer].

The Sangha in Scotland provided a photograph of its members “relaxing in a yoga session.After listening to Bro. Martin’s tapes [no substitute for him in person], the Dorset group delved into the Upanishads, performed in our chapel some of the rituals used at Shantivanamand found that the Bluffers Guide to Hinduism proved useful.

Advertisements offer a South India Easter ’05 Retreat including a two-week course in Indian Spirituality in Bangalore [at the NBCLC?] and an India Body and Soul Tour ’06; a Meditation* in London which would look at Father Bede’s injunction to develop the intuitive mind; and a session titled ‘Tomorrow’s Christian’ by Adrian Smith, “a leading advocate of the need to find radical new expressions of traditional faith.

*The meditations they use are those promoted by the WCCM [see pages 41, 60, 63, 72, 87, 90], separate report to follow. Their website says, Father Bede referred to John Main as ‘the most important spiritual guide in the Church today’. In Griffiths’ book Return to the Centre, the Sangha’s London address is that of the WCCM.

A report on the Sangha’s annual meeting at Park Place Pastoral Centre, Hampshire to celebrate Shantivanam’s founder Abhishiktananda: Shirley du Boulay, biographer of Bede, gave insights on Advaita.

Murray Rogers
[see pages 29, 33] founder of
Jyoti Niketan Ashram

a small religious community in North India spoke of [Bede’s] words making him lose sight of his own personality and merging with that of Swamiji; a photograph of Rogers,
an Anglican priest, celebrating mass…
using the liturgy of Jyotiniketan is included. Among the gems quoted from his homily: If you do something stupid, God will understand. It’s alright to take risks; “Jesus is first in the procession, our older brother: we are born to be That.

A Swami Nityamuktananda bemoans the transition of contemplative God-experience by the founders of religions into religion that bound by words and concepts, it turns to rites, laws and dogmas, and advises: For this we need constant alertness; to cultivate this is spiritual discipline, is the path of Yoga…. Hence Buddha, Swami Vivekananda and Jesus call ‘Awake, awake’.

Ken Knight uses a whole page to explaining the intricacies of the meaning and proper intonation of the word OM: “It may mean ‘Peace, man’… [or] ‘The whole vibrating universe’.”

For those interested in advaita, he suggests a reading of some Upanishads to learn the different qualities of consciousness relating to the sounds from ‘waking sleep’ to ‘samadhi’. The brochure too has a picture of Bede on the front page, and a bold OM on its last page.

There is a contribution by one Jackie, a black belt and expert in judo, aikido and tai chi, on the martial arts.

The Bede Griffiths Charitable Trust brochures contain forms for donations. Along with photographs of the various social projects, there is one of Bro. Martin engaged in ‘social work’ at one of the centres.

The Bede Griffiths Sangha, Beech Tree Cottage, Gushmere, Selling, Kent, ME13 9RH, UK. Phone: +44 (0) 1227 752871 Fax: +44 (0) 1227 750082 Email: bg.sangha@btinternet.com Webhttp://www.bedegriffiths.com/

NOTE:

The purpose of my providing these seemingly irrelevant details is to emphasize that there is NOTHING remotely Catholic or Christian being experienced at Sangha gatherings or promoted by this fans-of-Bede organization. And to demonstrate that ALL the players are interconnected and interdependent, as we will continue to see. [see page 82]

Adrian Rance and Jill Hemmings [see page 20, 26] from Kent, England, who were at Shantivanam at the time of my visit, are leading members of the Sangha, probably its co-founders, and among the staunchest supporters and benefactors of Bro. John Martin Sahajananda, who had reportedly performed the marriage service of these already-married individuals who had both earlier divorced their spouses.

 

ASHRAM AIK[I]YA
[AA]

This is the Federation of Ashrams of Catholic Initiative in India formed in 1978. It was constituted at a gathering of ashramites at the NBCLC, in Bangalore at the invitation of Fr. D.S. Amalorpavadas [Swami Amalorananda, 1932-1990]
who was its Director, and Secretary of Liturgy. [Aikiya= Unity]. Here, Fr. Amalor [as he is known] helped define “the main elements” of an ashram. One repeated emphasis made was that the ashram is meant for anyone who is on a spiritual quest… the main focus must be a search for God… the search for the Absolute, the Supreme and the Ultimate. Therefore there is no end to the search. A relentless search and a non-stop movement.

It was my personal experience with the ashramvasis at Shantivanam that they were, without exception, all still ‘searching‘, and a few of them had been there many times over, and would certainly return here again. In this Catholic centre, one wonders what happened to Jesus and his various I am… declarations including John 14:6, but as we will see later [see page 22], these very words of Jesus have been distorted to preach a new gospel that integrates with the ashram’s New Age teachings and their “New Vision of Christianity“.

Two other of the important elements of an ashram that were agreed on [and well implemented by Fr. Bede]:

1. Study of the Bible in addition to the scriptures of other religions, the Ashram Aikiya decided.

[It would be nice to know if our Holy Bible is used along with their scriptures in any Hindu ashram!] However, “Every evening [Bede]… introduced the visiting Christians to the beauty of the Hindu scriptures and the Vedic experience of God, writes Catholic nun Vandana Mataji Rscj in Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, page 93.

2. The Eucharist: not yet the Ultimate but an important means of God-experience,” says Ashram Aikiya.

Bede… has rightly been insisting… [that] in Christian Ashrams, we should centre our prayer life not on the Eucharist
but on contemplative prayer or ‘Meditation as we call it in the East. This [meditation] should be for us the ‘source and summit of the activity of the Church’, NOT THE EUCHARIST, which only some can fully participate in, says
Vandana
[ibid, page xxiv]. For more of Vandana/Bede on the Eucharist see pages 43, 82. Connect the attitude to the Eucharist with the information on Holy Communion [see pages 8, 9, 20, 24, 35].

The Church teaches the opposite to Vandana:
The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life“: Ecclesia de Eucharistia n 1, Lumen Gentium n. 11. Keeping this in mind, we can understand the minds of the leaders of these ashrams as we read on.

In his 1974 book Guru and Disciple, Le Saux relates that his preparation for the first Eucharist that he celebrated at the sacred place Gangotri was a ritual bath in the Ganges and singing verses from the Upanishads, pages 173, 174.

The AA News Letter is published “twice a year at Pentecost and Christmas.” The first AA Satsangh took place at Shantivanam in 1980. Fr. Amalor was President of AA from 1983 till his sudden death in a road accident in1990. Its current President is Bro. John Martin Sahajananda of Shantivanam and the Secretary is Sr. Amala who runs an ‘ashram’ from a flat in Davis Road, Bangalore [see pages 15, 16, 85].

Under the auspices of AA, says Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ in Saccidanandaya Namah, [the Shantivanam Golden Jubilee souvenir], the ashramites meet together every other year to study the spiritual classics of India.

I have with me the 24-page AA News Letter 45 of Christmas 2004 which we will examine. Just this one single newsletter is sufficient to enlighten the reader as to what the ashrams stand for and promote:

In his presidential greeting, Bro Martin prays that all the beauties and blessings of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany energize each one… for the regeneration of our planet

With the skillful use of metaphors and half-truths, Martin elaborates on one of his favourite topics, the rejection of all organized religion: “God’s call to every religion is to give birth to children who will be greater than the parent religion AND FREE OF IT…. Is it not the particular call of ashramites to find their freedom beyond religions, to proclaim the good news that human persons are greater than religions and thus contribute to the peace of the world? This is a theme that he brings out in all of his satsanghs and writings.

Among the highlights of Sr. Amala‘s report: A former religious sister who has been guided by a Hindu swami and has received sannyas from him, now wishes… to perhaps join one of the ashrams.
We see evidence of the ashram ideals being percolated into the larger community as evidenced at the AA Satsangh of 2001.

One Sri Mariananda [formerly Major Reddy] is felicitated. He was impressed by his 1986 meeting with Fr. Amalor, and thereafter spent half of his annual two months leave with his Guru. In 1990… he started without consulting his wife and five daughters, to transform his home into an ashram…. ‘My wife was very angry’ he added. The group gave him a sitting ovation and had a long laugh. He founded the Nirmala Ashram, Guntur [see page 29].

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra:
The tantra of the mystical knowledge of pure consciousness. There is an advertisement for a book on this subject by Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati of the Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar and a book review of this ancient Hindu tantra by Swami Lakshman Joo of Varanasi.

New Age guru Swami Sachidananda Bharathi of DHARMA BHARATHI [see pages 10, 12, 15, 44, 50, 51] writes in to thank [AA] for promoting his work as members of AA have got in touch with him. “I wish to have the addresses of all AA members.” He says also “The New Leader, May 1-15 [2004] carries a cover story on our work in Kerala.”

Fr. Michael Amaladoss
SJ, [see pages 27, 50] a theologian who has denied the existence of devils and received regular coverage for his erroneous views in The New Leader [see my detailed reports on Dharma Bharathi and on the NL] writes in: I am glad to learn that my talk does touch a few hearts…. Hope it will keep the ashram people open. OTHERWISE THEY MAY GET LOST IN STRUCTURES” [the structures of organized religion?].

Fr. Amaladoss’ contribution to [ed.] Vandana Mataji‘s Shabda Shakti Sangam is ‘My walking together with Hindus’ in which he relates the influences on his life of ashram figures Fr. Ignatius Hirudayam [see pages 27, 39], Fr. Bede, Le Saux, Jyoti Sahi and Raimundo Panikkar. He was a frequent visitor to Shantivanam Ashram.

Fr. Maria Jeyaraj SJ of Maitri Bhavan, Kanyakumari: “I have written to Fr. Sylvester quoting from The New Leader…. Silver Jubilee of Dhyana Ashram, [the Kerala AA annual Satsangh was held here in Dec.2004], Nambiarkunnu… especially the daily routine of the ashram… yoga and meditation…. If it is lovingly practised, many Monchanins may come up. I wish very much that you visit his ashram and encourage him.” “I am happy that you have taken up my suggestion of having Fr. Vineeth’s Yoga and Interiority for the AA Satsangh.”

Fr. Francis Vineeth CMI’s 3-page article on ‘Sadhana for Realizing Jesus in One’s Own Self ‘ recommends a lot of mantra [see pages 16, 17, 18, 19, 35, 74, 79]
chanting, One such mantra from the Hindu tradition is soham: I am He…. Or simply the name of Jesus or YE-SU with breathing in and breathing out…. [or] maranatha

The Notice for the National Satsangh to be held in October 2005 says: We plan to spend half a day on Fr. Vineeth’s article Yoga and Interiority It will be held at Sameeksha, the ashram of
Fr. Sebastian Painadath
SJ at Kalady in Kerala. One of the optional week-long sadhanas would be a “contemplative Retreat based on the Upanishads.”

NOTE:
[Fr. Sebastian Painadath [see pages 27, 28, 29, 30, 37, 38, 40, 46-47] organized a like-minded theologians’ rejection and trashing of the February 2003 Vatican Provisional Report on the New Age. My sources inform me that he is the leading pro-New Age theologian in the Church in India. A separate report is under preparation.]

Catholic Swami Atmananda of Abhishikananda Shanti Kutir, Rishikesh writes: I don’t go these days to the parish… THE MAHATMAS OF RISHIKESH SHOULD NOT MISTAKE OUR INTER-RELIGIOUS PROJECT FOR A MISSIONARY UNDERTAKING. It is a very sensitive issue here as you know. Our ashram is and will be an inter-religious community, completely independent of any religious organization. [This priest is keen to disassociate himself from the local Catholic community for reasons of his own and his ashram’s security. Obviously this ashram too practices religious syncretism and its functioning is devoid of any evangelization work or pro-active proclamation of the Gospel].

Tina Goodchild, a Catholic writing from South Africa was accepted by Fr. Bede as an Oblate of Shantivanam. She reveals her qualifications: I was introduced to Yoga and Vedanta… through the Ananda Kutir Ashram, Cape Town, which follows the teachings of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh. I have been the ashram secretary and been involved in their outreach work… In 1995 I attended the Satsangh at Anjali Ashram.

The New Monk Project: Chuck Baroo writes to AA from New York, We are intrigued with the Integral Philosophy of Ken Wilber [a leading New Ager, see pages 27, 28, 51, 52, 53, 56, 63] and one of our first Study Courses will be centered on a relevant synopsis of his work. Eco-spirituality [see page 45] is arising as a major theme for us…

“Chuck Barroo has been in correspondence with Fr. Bede since 1969 and has been with him at Shantivanam numerous times. Fr. Bede was instrumental in fostering the New Monk project and he witnessed its vows for the New Sannyas being taken by several during his lifetime,” says the AA. One of the four vows [taken] for the New Sannyas is: I vow to go forth beyond all religion, every human institution, every scripture and creed, until I come to that Reality which all these signify.

NOTE: The information given in this section is alone sufficient to warrant serious concern and looking into by the teaching, juridical and disciplinary authority of the Church.

In my August 1, 2003 40-page detailed report on Swami Sachidananda Bharathi
and his New Age DHARMA BHARATHI
organization, I have provided information linking them directly with Fr. Bede Griffiths’ ashram and his New Age visitors from the West. The above information and what follows immediately below only confirms the correctness of my conclusion that the Ashram Movement is a conduit for, among many things, the New Age into the Church in India. I have also reported several times that The New Leader fortnightly gives favourable coverage to Dharma Bharathi.

A BISHOP AT THE ASHRAM AIKYA SATSANGH

The North Indian Ashram Aikya Satsangh at Saccidanand Ashram, [founded by Shantivanam’s Swami Amaldas], Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh, a two-page report written by Fr. Akshay IMS of Matridham [Ashram] Varanasi :

“Of the present two CMI Fathers, Swami Sadananda is more active on the social level and Fr. Anto Mundanmany more for yoga
and meditation…. Fr. Anto told us that… Narsinghpur was the birthplace of Bhagwan Rajneesh (Osho) and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi… Two Brahmakumaris had brought a big supply of prasad and rakhis….

“We had Holy Mass presided over by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Gerald Almeida, Bishop of Jabalpur… The Bishop appreciated the austerity and detachment of ashram life and its witness that can counter today’s trends of materialism and westernization…. On the morning of 1st Sept., we had a Dynamic Meditation lasting one hour conducted by Pragyan Bharati, a disciple of Osho. It began with exhaling forcefully to clear out anger, tension and so forth. Next we had to jump on our toes with arms raised shouting: HU! Thirdly, free dancing. And lastly sitting or standing quietly in dhyana. There were two enlightening and informative talks that morning.

“Fr. Louis Malieckal the CMI Provincial spoke on ‘Inculturation -Dialogue and Liberation: Role of Christian Ashrams in India’, and Fr. Anto on ‘Yogic Meditation and Evolution of the Human Being‘…. Swamiji [Sadanand] conducted a Healing Meditation for the Group… On the morning of 2 Sept. Fr. Anto conducted Ajapajapa Meditation.

FR. KORKO GAVE A VERY INTERESTING EXPOSITION ON NEW AGE MOVEMENTS AND ASHRAMS. IT WAS DECIDED THAT THE SUBJECT SHOULD BE STUDIED FURTHER AS IT HAS MUCH RELEVANCE FOR ASHRAM LIFE. At the noon session, Fr. Korko and Fr. Anto were elected President and Vice-President respectively.

WE SPECIALLY APPRECIATED THE BISHOP WHO HAD SPENT TWO WHOLE DAYS WITH US,” writes Fr. Akshay IMS. The Bishop of Jabalpur was, according to the AA report, a witness and a participant in all of the above.

NOTE:
Regarding the Bishop’s reported presence at ALL the above happenings, I am somewhat skeptical. Surely our good Bishop would never tolerate such aberrations as he is reported to have witnessed and participated in?

On 31st August 2005, I sent an email to the Bishop [dcj@sancharnet.in] asking for his comments on the AA report, and whether he was present for all the time and approved the proceedings, but I have not received a response.

Fr. Korkonius [Korko] Moses
SJ
‘s
[see pages 30, 34, 66, 85] Ananda Dhara Yogashram in Gurupole, W. Bengal was reportedly shut down about a couple of months after the above AA report electing him President of the North Indian AA, and I am informed that he was asked to leave by either his Congregation Superiors or by his Bishop.

I have yet not been able to find out the reason why, though I did receive a letter saying that it had something to do with the Loreto sisters, and a hint of a sex scandal, not a doctrinal one, though this could not be verified by me.

In his contribution ‘The power of the Holy Name’ to Vandana Mataji‘s Shabda Shakti Sangam [SSS], pages 111-113, Fr. Korko reveals that this is the unceasing recitation of the name of the Lord using the maha mantra
Hare Krishna… Hare Rama, Hare Hare… to enable the people of this age (kaliyuga) steadily to attain God-consciousness, which he learnt at the Sri Chaitanya Math in Kolkata during his visit there.

In another article ‘An Appeal to Hindus’ pages 352-356 in SSS, he admits that Currently many Indian Christians are specialists in Indian philosophy, music, art, dance. Many Christians have lived with Hindus in ashrams and have started Indian Christian ashrams. Indian symbols, bhajans etc. are used in Christian worship as well as Indian (yogic) methods of meditation… and a new theology is emerging.

 

REBELLION AGAINST ROME – I [see page 34]

Read in this AA report about the August 2004 Silver Jubilee Satsangh of the Anjali Ashram, [see pages 66-68] Mysore, which confirms that lay persons trained by its founder Fr. Amalor are today “at the helm of the leadership of the Christian Renewal Movement of India, conducting seminars for lay leaders (levels I, II and III) at the NBCLC; running the ashram for lay people at Alundur, Trichy; taking their place at Regional and Diocesan Pastoral Councils… Several priests were there whom Swamiji had supported in radical ministries – social justice, politics and founding ashrams. He had introduced them to inter-national networks of activists AND HAD EVEN PROTECTED ONE, HOLDING BACK THE HAND OF ROME.

The writer of the report is Sr. Amala [see p. 85]. Connect this last remark with the paragraph titled THE QUIZ, below.

Rebellion against the ‘hegemony’ of Rome is the hallmark of ashram activism as is also evidenced on page 9 of the AA report in the write-up by a layman on Atma Purna Anubava [feminist spirituality] which recommends “resisting every form of oppression and the power of patriarchy in all its manifestations.” We will read similar comments by priests connected with the ashram movement [see pages 34-35], and by Shantivanam’s Bro. Martin.

A QUIZ

In this issue of AA,
Sr. Amala
devotes an entire page to a quiz on two unnamed books. Copies of both books were seized and publicly burned by the Catholic Church. A Papal Decree of 1687 concerning one book stated that “anyone found in possession of this book will be excommunicated.” The other book “provoked the religious and political system of the day to launch out against the author.” Readers are invited to guess the titles and the authors of these books. One has to be quite naïve not to understand that through this quiz Sr. Amala is airing her own grievances and subtly drawing the attention of readers to the ‘historical intolerance’ of the Catholic Church towards any form of dissent.

THE OTHER HALF OF BEDE’S SOUL – HIS FEMININE SIDE

For Bro. Martin [see page 24], Bede’s journey from the West to the East “to discover the feminine aspect of his person”, “the other half of his soul” “was the advaitic experience of God which was not a possibility in the Christian tradition.” [Also see pages 2, 7, 24, 41, 48-49, 52, 59, 72]

Fr. Dominic OSB of Shantivanam, in Saccidanandaya Namah, reiterates that Fr. Bede often used to tell us that he came to India to discover the feminine aspect of his person [SN, page 4].

Fritz Kortler [see pages 28, 35, 39] in Saccidanandaya Namah says, Bede helped me to develop the suppressed feminine side (anima) in myself… I also had other dreams, the source of which was also Fr. Bede. In these, he showed me that the Catholic Church clearly suffers from a lack of the feminine (anima).” [see page 66]

Prophesying the future of the Indian Church he says, It is the feminine spirit of India… from which Father Bede developed himself… and from which the masculine Catholic Church will be transformed. [109].

Where did all this realization come from? The teaching of New Age psychologist C G Jung [see pages 39-41] on the animus [masculine energy] and the anima as Kortler patiently explains. Kortler’s conclusion: It was Bede who freed me from the narrow corset of religion and took the fear away that Christ could confine me.

Below, by promoters Asha & Russill Paul of Concord, USA is a pilgrim’s guide [2003] for a JOURNEY TO FIND THE OTHER HALF OF THE SOUL‘. It is a preparation, with material and spiritual recommendations, for a trip to India centred on Shantivanam. Will the reader find any element here remotely connected with the charisms and aims of a Christian ashram? Recommended reading: Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion by Stephen Hurley; The Upanishads and The Bhagavat Gita by Juan Mascaro; The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. One of Tolle’s teachings: “The Unmanifested is not separate from the manifested” [All is one!]; and, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions by Wayne Teasdale [see page 76].

Recommended listening: Shabda Yoga and Bhava Yoga, and Nada Yoga and Shakti Yoga by Russill Paul.

Immediately following those recommendations are quotes from New Ager Deepak Chopra [see pages 11, 12, 58].

The book speaks about the ashram and Bede: During the course of his spiritual development, Fr. Bede came to believe that the historical revelation of God in the West was complemented by the cosmic revelation of God in the East and that the two were not opposed to each other. He felt that our deep yearning for wholeness could be only fulfilled through the union of these opposites, through what he called ‘the marriage of East and West*.’ …Later on in his journey he became renowned for the process of inculturation. A means of seeking to understand and expand the religious experience of one culture through another: in his case it was the experience of God in Christ through the Vedic and Yogic cultures of India…. Modeled along the Benedictine way of life that distributed prayer, work and study in the daily schedule, the ashram also incorporated Eastern spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation into the lifestyle. The various monastic offices of the day included Sanskrit chanting from the Vedas together with readings from the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Sufi scriptures…. Evening tea is followed by talks or yoga sessions… It is precisely to recover the feminine dimension of our senses… that the Yoga of Sound is the contextual framework within which we journey to find the other half of our soul
in India. We have become obsessed with images and our education is predominantly structured with data perceived with the eyes, data that can be measured, analyzed and categorized, all aspects of the linear, male brain. Thus, mantra, with its capacity to be an instrument of the mind, can help us chisel away at outmoded concepts and modes of perception, awakening the feminine brain to the wonder of all creation and to that for which our hearts secretly long- union with the Divine. *see pages 51, 72-73

“The Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas [see page 18] states: ‘When you make the two one…. And when you make the male and female into a single one so that the male will not be male and the female will not be female, then you shall enter the Kingdom‘. This was exactly what Bede Griffiths meant when he claimed that he went to India to seek ‘the other half of his soul.”

“The way of sound as mysticism is a feminine form of spirituality because it is based on receptivity, on listening. The Taoist teachers of ancient China had a profound understanding of this balance of the male and female which they termed as the yin and yang [see pages 48, 52, 68] respectively. In Hindu cosmology, Shakti, that primal energy that is present in the void is seen to be constantly manifesting as the evolved cosmos…,the authors teach.

This guidebook to Shantivanam has an entire chapter devoted to ‘Sound in Yoga and the Spirituality of Music:

Yoga of course is unity, integrity and total fulfilment of being on every level. It is a practical way of experiencing and becoming one with the great cosmic mystery….. Mantras are powerful spiritual sounds that communicate spiritual experiences beyond the rational mind. I find that the mantric effects of Latin act only on the upper chakras, [see page 49] that is from the heart upwards. This is somewhat indicative of the disregard and negation in Christianity of the value and spiritual power of the lower chakras which involve sexuality and the primal energies; they are considered to be ‘of the flesh’…. Fortunately we realize today, through the efficacy of Eastern mystical practices, that there are systematic methods such as yoga that can be used to consecrate, transform and sublimate these energies. The complex consonants of mantric Sanskrit for instance affect these ‘lower’ energy centres quite dramatically. It was wonderful that Fr Bede included these sounds in the prayers and liturgies at the ashram, for they help stimulate the entire chakra system during prayer…. Having substituted the vernacular, to the almost complete expulsion of Latin, the Western Church today lacks the power of transformation and the aura of mystery that is so essential for it to be a genuinely spiritual force at work in the world…. India’s music was born out of her profound spiritual heritage…

 

 

The seven musical notes called swaras… represent the seven energy centres that govern the human being. Thus, using the swaras in various combinations, one can awaken our chakras and stimulate them to their maximum potential. The chakras are vortices of energy located in various parts of the body…. The nadis in the body… channel these energies from the depths of one’s being to the top of the head. Along the way, they meet and dance in the chakras awakening them to their full power. The bliss of this unity is offered to the Divine consciousness at the level of the highest chakra, located at the crown of the head. Finally, the effects of this process are allowed to penetrate every level of one’s being from the top of the head to the base of the spine. FATHER BEDE WAS VERY PARTICULAR ABOUT THIS.

“We are living in powerful times- perhaps on the edge of a cataclysmic paradigm shift. The marriage of opposites is taking place on a global level. Never before has the need for yoga, the way of harmony, been more urgent. The presence of many thousands of yoga centers all over the world bears witness to this.

“Music will play a powerful role in uniting the peoples of the world. “We Are The World”, “Ebony and Ivory” and many other similar songs that have touched such deep chords within us, THE POWERFUL APPPEAL OF NEW AGE MUSIC, [see page
34] and the new world of music that fuses ethnic styles are all indicative of the role of music in a new world order [Above, in bold font is New Age vocabulary].

“Keep all this in mind as you gradually prepare for your journey. Devise simple rituals to empower yourself and to release any unwanted energy. Say your mantra… daily, faithfully and reverently…. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

The guide book does not contain a single photograph concerned with Shantivanam or Christianity, except one of Bede. Instead it depicts Hindu deities, including one of the god Shiva on the front page.

On the last page titled Return to the West, initiates of Shantivanam are advised as follows: “Read more on India and Yoga and Chant. Find a Yoga Center near your home to attend classes. Practice ritual… wave lights, burn incense, use the powders to anoint your body and remind yourself of the memories and awakenings in India. Above all maintain a regular practice of meditation and chanting. Return to the Center. Return to your center. Your center is the center of the Universe. Your center is everyone’s center. Be at peace. Be happy. Don’t sweat small stuff. It’s all small stuff…. Life is beautiful… [For more on Russill and Asha Paul, see pages 59-60]

Dr. Beatrice Bruteau
[see pages 28, 63, 75]
writing in the Shantivanam golden jubilee souvenir Saccidanandaya Namah, page 150, also
quotes the gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas, about being able to enter the kingdom of God only when the male and female are made into a single one. She believes that “most religious traditions make a strong separation between the masculine and the feminine, and that “This was the specific polarity that Father Bede felt was healed and integrated toward the end of his life. [150]

NOTE:

Does this mean that all Christians are “polarised” and need to be “integrated” or “healed” of this condition?

Have we as Catholics been deprived all along of some esoteric knowledge that is critical for our salvation?

All that I could gather from reading extensively about Bede was that during the last twenty years of his life, he slid gradually into an ever deeper assimilation of Jungian and New Age thought into his own thinking and teachings.

It is beyond the scope of this report for the writer to go into an explanation of the New Age ideas that form an understanding of the disparity between the ‘masculine/feminine brain’ or ‘left brain/right brain’ thinking and the androgynous unity that is sought ideally. These pilgrims to Shantivanam credit their guru Bede with having realized this unity by his journey from the west to the east and his discovery of his feminine side, the other half of his soul, in eastern mysticism and occultism. The non-canonical gnostic ‘gospel of St. Thomas’ provides them a reliable guarantee that they have attained ‘the kingdom [of God]’. Never mind that they must believe in nadis and occult energies and awaken their psychic chakras, and chant mantras and use meditations and yogas, including kundalini while soaking in New Age music. This is Guruji Bede’s way to the ‘cosmic revelation of God’.

Refer to the Feb. 3, 2003 Vatican Document on the New Age for its comments on New Age music, n 2.5 and 7.2.

 

BRO. K. JOHN MARTIN SAHAJANANDA

After Bede’s demise, Shantivanam has no official guru or acharya, though ashram expert Vandana Mataji [see pages 42-44] says, If a christian ashram is attempted without a guru or an acharya, I think it would involve great difficulties, even should it be possible… The ashram is born, lives and at times dies with the guru, unless his spirit is made to live on in some successors,Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, pages 57, 58.

Bro. Martin, who has developed on the founders’ teachings, is acknowledged as the de facto guru. Discontinuing his theological studies at St. Peter’s Seminary in Bangalore, during which time he encountered the writings of Bede and was inspired by them, he moved to Shantivanam in 1984 and was Bede’s disciple till Bede’s death in 1993. He wrote a brief comparative study of Sankara and Meister Eckhart
[see page 39-40] which widened his horizons.” “Hindu-Christian dialogue has been his passion, and he teaches Indian-Christian spirituality to the visitors to the ashram. He has visited England and other European countries to give lectures on his ‘New
Vision of Christianity
[see page 22] for the next Millennium’. Bro. Martin is the current President of Ashram Aikiya [see pages 14-16].

 

 

The apparent reason why Bro. Martin ‘discontinued’ his theological studies and ‘left his diocese’ is, as per the back outer cover of all his books, that he left Bangalore to join Bede at the Ashram.

But more truthful reasons for his leaving the seminary are given by him in one of his books [see page 22].

My enquiries reveal the possibility that Bede must have got to understand Martin’s ultra-radical views on theological matters, and in those earlier times, Bede may not have approved, it is said. Opinion is that either the Camaldolese too decided not to send him for theological studies or Martin himself might have decided that he did not want the priesthood. Whatever the reason, he did not figure prominently in the succession struggle after Bede’s death.

 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARTIN – HIS SATSANGHS

Sat-sangh means the ‘meeting of the good’ or ‘fellowship of the saints’. It is usually part of an ashram’s daily programme. One cannot help but get the impression that the satsanghs are the centre-piece of this ashram’s daily time-table. They are held every evening after tea for about an hour in the open yoga hall. The proceedings of these [‘indoctrination’ is the adjective that I would use] sessions are predictable. Martin invites questions from the sadhakas [seekers], and his answers to them supplement the revolutionary ideas that he espouses in the several books that he has authored. His die-hard fans, constituting almost a cultic following, take great delight when he pontificates, especially when he indulges in his favourite sports of Church-bashing and shooting down of traditional Christian teachings and values with his parables and personal interpretations. The satsanghs help boost his book sales and generate invitations to speak in Europe. Some selected notes taken by this writer using an audio tape recorder:

[In connection with particular teachings and writings, relate to what we read in A Course in Miracles, page 12].

On the difference between Hinduism & Buddhism:

“Buddha says the cause of suffering is desire, the cause of desire is ignorance and the way out is the 8-fold path to purify one’s desire. In Hinduism, the way to escape suffering is to know who you really are. There is no moral purification but only an enquiry. Yoga is a means to stop desire and the movement of the mind. This is the conflict between Krishna and Arjun, Wisdom and Action, Nyaya and Karma. The relationship between the two is bhakti. That’s why I say that the Bhagavad Gita is a very, very important book.

[To truly appreciate Bro. Martin, one has to personally witness his zeal and enthusiasm in explaining the Bhagavad Gita and its message, as compared to when he is compelled to comment on traditional Biblical interpretations.]

On yoga: Can Christians do yoga? Yoga is not a theistic system, one does not have to believe in God to practise it.

On the Law of Karma: During the discussion, this writer protested that Jesus said the man born blind was so that ‘the glory of God may be revealed’. Martin asked how a blind man could reveal God’s glory. His interpretation: Jesus said that so that we can understand how we ourselves can be divine in such situations.

On the Trinity: The language used is old and dogmatic, and does not
appeal to us or have any meaning for us today
.

On Jesus: That Jesus is God and worked miracles, okay I believe in it, but it doesn’t mean anything for my spiritual life.The historical Jesus is recognized by Martin, but “the real quest”, he says, “is for the eternal [see page 23]
Jesus
in each one of us. For that matter, it may be the eternal Buddha or the eternal Krishna… which is the Supreme Consciousness. When speaking of Jesus, it is often deprecatingly Jesus is after all….”

Martin uses the simile of a boat to compare with Christ [or of religion]. The meaning is, just as one leaves a boat after one crosses a river or stream, one must leave Jesus when one has crossed one’s present circumstances or search or whatever. Take what you can from him, perhaps learn what you can from him, and leave him and GET ON. After all, after crossing the river you do not carry the boat with you, are the views of Martin [see pages 21, 24].

On Biblical truths: The Psalms were considered to have been inspired by God…

Martin always refers to the existence of a so-called heaven and a so-called hell…

In one session, he rejects all dogma and convinces us that we are all not sinners [Applause and laughter].

“Hindus begin with the affirmation that you are ultimately Brahman, so the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ is not so dark for them as in the Christian tradition [Laughter]. The sense of guilt, sense of sin, fear of God as a policeman, fear of judgement and satan and hell, is very strong in the Christian tradition[Laughter]. He quotes Swami Vivekananda as saying that Christians are obsessed with sin and satan, and if they were only as obsessed with the divine it would be better [Laughter]. Martin is critical of what he calls the fear of hell and greediness for heavenin Christianity.

On God: In response to the question Is God personal or impersonal?

“The Buddha was wise. He didn’t commit himself. My advice is, speak of God, but don’t make a dogma of it.

On the Catholic Church: He strongly criticizes it for saying that there is only a “ray of hope” in other religions.

On the use of mantras: In response to an observation from me that the westerners do not know the meaning of the mantras they were repeating, Martin explained that mantras have the capacity of sending out ‘vibrations’, and when they are repeated, messages are sent to the ‘energy centres’ and the brain. It’s better one does not know the meaning, because the main reason for the repetition is to stop the mind from working.

More erroneous teachings:

Discussion of one Cheri Huber’s book There’s Nothing Wrong With Me.

A participant: That something is wrong with us is a primal lie.” Martin: “I think that’s a good way of putting it.

All discussion is centered on getting rid of one’s ego [and not of repentance for sin]. To describe the attempt to destroy the ego with violence, Martin uses the analogy of St. Michael battling with satan: It simply doesn’t work that way. The serpent is the most cunning of all the animals. Substitute ‘serpent’ with ‘ego’…The purpose of every religion is to free us from the ego to bring us closer to God. But, have they succeeded? [Laughter]. Even if someone says that he is a Christian, it is a manifestation of the subtle ego because it separates him from others. Functional labels [‘I am an Indian’] are okay, not psychological labels that create religious boundaries….

“The ego is not created by God.” “…Every God has his vehicle, Shiva the bull, Vishnu the eagle, Saraswati the swan. For us this vehicle is the human ego. [Briefly, the serpent is one’s ‘ego’]. We must rid ourselves of our serpents,

I questioned Bro. Martin on his subjective approach to sin. The problem comes when human life is lived only according to the Ten Commandments… There is a danger in their absoluteness. God said, I will take away your heart of stone

…He did not give Jesus any commandments. His message only was, You are my son. God now reveals [truth] only through a person’s heart. According to Mosaic law the woman caught in adultery was to be stoned. What did Jesus tell the people who caught her? He who has not committed the sin cast the first stone. It means, You decide what you want to do. There is NO absolute answer. Jesus’ answer used to change in different situations. We moved on to a discussion on homosexuality and on abortion. Martin’s position: There is NO absolute answer.

Adrian Rance remarked, Christian tradition says that God died on the cross…” [A woman participant shook her head in disagreement]. “…I can’t make sense of that, he ends.

Martin: I myself have struggled to accept that. Refusing to say that God did die on the cross, Martin skillfully avoided a commitment by comparing the ‘contradicting’ genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels.

“Death is a symbol Martin explains. We like to talk in terms of symbols. The ‘virgin birth’ is something like that. [Laughter]. The ‘virgin birth’ only symbolises a break with the past and a new birth from above. It means that everyone has similarly to become spiritually a virgin to give birth to the eternal truth.

Adrian first came to the ashram in 1990. On a visit here 2 or 3 years ago, he met Jill Hemmings and Bro. Martin got them married later in England. Both are previously married, their spouses are alive, and they have children and grandchildren from those marriages. This is no secret to all in the community. Jill, who is hearing impaired, once remarked loudly “I can’t bear that symbol“, concerning the crucifix. She and Adrian are daily communicants [see pages 13, 14, 26].
They profess a belief in reincarnation.

Martin says with great pride that Marx, Sartre, Nietzsche* and atheist thinkers were his gurus in his formation. He read Christian theologians and found nothing in them. He reveals that he quoted from Nietzsche in his earliest book, though Nietzsche [see page 60] ‘rebelled against the God of the Christians and spits venom on Him’, but later removed the references. Fr. Bede reportedly told him It is good. You must learn from atheists.

“Never absolutize any image. To absolutize something is to kill it. We may try to define it, but never absolutize it.
Referring to Christianity and Catholic tradition he continues Don’t have one position that explains everything. In Hinduism there are different explanations of God and creation. Christ can say ‘I and God are one’, but the Christian cannot because of the Bible theory of creation, whereas it is possible in Hinduism. He explains the three ways of understanding the relationship between God and man in Hinduism:

Dvaita: Duality. God and creation are separate [This is the Christian position, and that of Madhva]

Vishistadvaita: Qualified non-duality. God is creator, but creation is the extension of God [Ramanuja]

Advaita : Non-duality. God and creation are one [Sankara’s monism]. When Jesus said “I and the Father are one”, he meant the whole of creation is one. ‘You and God are one’ is the Ultimate Wisdom.

According to Martin, Bede said that Christ was the Satguru, but the fact is that Bede is still the guru and the Bishops are happy with that. It’s a political thing… he explains.

NOTE: *In a November 12, 2004 report [ZE04111223], Zenit says, John Paul II has referred to Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche as the ‘masters of suspicion’ because they espoused that the heart is at odds with itself and therefore cannot be trusted.
Nietzsche? Well, he’s the one who announced to the world, “God is dead”. According to the New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, page 382, these gurus of Martin considered faith and trust in God as the enemy of our human wholeness.
Jean-Paul Sartre was an existentialist.

The Vatican Document on the New Age says that in New Age “there is a general accord with Nietzsche‘s ideas that Christianity has prevented the full manifestation of genuine humanity,” n 2.3.4.1.

 

RE-INTERPRETATION: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARTIN – HIS BOOKS

A detailed examination of Bro. Martin’s books is a must because, and it cannot be over-emphasized, Martin’s ideologies are largely the ones that are imbibed by the visitors to the Ashram. His satsanghs and writings are like the theory that goes with the practical course.

I
was shocked to hear Fr. Paul OSB state in his homily on 20th December 2004 thatGod does not appear in organized religion. He appears to us when we go to him in the centre of us.” Which is what Martin too teaches.

It cannot be concluded from this that every priest in the community is in agreement with Bro. Martin on everything he says and writes. But one has to appreciate that Martin has been holding and teaching these revolutionary views at Shantivanam for over 20 years without being restrained or admonished. They did not appear all of a sudden, but were developed and fine-tuned over many years and put into print [and re-prints].

Even if they attempt to disassociate themselves from his teachings, which are downright New Age, heretical and blasphemous, Martin’s superiors- they are after all Catholic priests- have permitted him to indulge in his ‘ministry’. Silence is complicity.

And, after all it is Martin’s connections and goodwill that are bringing in many visitors, and much of the bucks.

The word is around that the ideology is not as important anymore as the popularity of the ashram is. If Martin’s activities are disturbed, international ‘business’ will be badly affected. Moreover there is the association with Camaldoli [see page
8] where Bro. Martin is now apparently their key person at Shantivanam [see page 62].

Martin always gives full credit to Fr. Bede, but, as someone remarked, “It’s Bede’s name, but Martin’s game.”

Martin is the de-facto guru of the ashram, carrying on Bede’s legacy through his writings and teachings. So, let us see what he says in his books. I can honestly say that I heard or read nothing, repeat NOTHING, remotely Catholic or Christian in any of Martin’s satsanghs or books. In another age Martin would have found himself on the Index of Forbidden Books, and till only recently, his writings would have been declared heretical, blasphemous, or at the least, doctrinally erroneous. But in this New Age in the Church, he can get away with all of the above and these:

 

Book No. 1.
A ‘REINTERPRETATION‘ OF THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST!
2001:

Human Being is Greater than Religion – A Reinterpretation of the Good News of Jesus Christ

When Jesus walks on water,
“he leaves the boat of religion [see pages 19, 24] and enters into a direct contact with God, [Foreword]. Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam [a Camaldolese Benedictine and disciple of Bede, see page 40], in a talk on May 21, 2000, at the U.S. ashram of Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB [see page 59], said, of Bede that He stepped off the boat into a world in which men and women were one with the earth and all its living creatures.

On sin: Sin is a falling away of our awareness from the Real to the Unreal… [page 66] See book no.5

On evil: “God is the only Absolute Reality. Evil is not an absolute reality [see page 24]. Evil belongs to the world of duality… there is no fight between God and evil since there are not two independent realities. [72]

Explaining the meaning of Jesus’ call to ‘repent’: The word ‘repent’ is not doing something positively, but rather renouncing all doings, all movements… What we have to do is stop all our movement and realise that we are already in God.”[5]…”To repent one has to believe in the good news that God is everywhere. [131]

What is the good news of Jesus?: The good news of Jesus consists in two statements: ‘I am the light of the world’ and ‘You are the light of the world’. [128]

On ‘OM: Devoting four pages to explaining the OM, Martin concludes that the three words: OM, Brahman and Atman are identical… My real ‘I’ is God, Brahman, Atman or OM. This experience communicates with the famous utterance: aham brahma asmi, I am Brahman, I am God.” [83, 84]

“The Upanishads speak of four levels of experience… [At the fourth level] the human consciousness discovers that its true foundation is Brahman or Atman and declares joyously that ‘I am Brahman, I am Atman, I am OM‘ or My real ‘I’ is Brahman, Atman or OM.… For Jesus, this moment was at his baptism where he affirms that ‘I and the Father are one’. [84, 85] Here we see an explanation of OM quite different from that given in the ashram literature [see page 6]. Martin is also saying that, in effect, all is one. Monism.

On Jesus, the Church and Christianity: Peter representing the disciples said ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God’. The addition ‘the Son of the living God’ is certainly an addition, an afterthought. [108]

“By giving an identity of Jesus… as the Son of God, his followers have received an identity as Christians, …second grade children and thus created a kind of spiritual apartheid between Christ and Christians…. Now the time has come in which Christianity has to… liberate itself from this spiritual slavery.[110, 111]

“Christianity has been living in the memory of Jesus Christ… As long as one is living in the womb of the memory, one is living a second-hand human existence… Christian (Catholic) memory has become a mother who wants only to conceive but does not want to give birth… [Such a mother] kills her children in her womb…

It is terrifying when one realizes what Christianity is doing in the name of Christ. [113]

“The danger of any spiritual memory is that when it closes her womb, then it becomes evil.[114]

King Herod is a type of the Catholic Church: King Herod represents an established power structure… Any new idea, any new proposal, any new movement, any new charismatic person is seen as a threat to its power and position… Any threat to its continuity is crushed mercilessly. [120]

Announcing half the Gospel [see page 23] produces a God, a Christ, a Religion and a Church with boundaries excluding others and they all become like Herod who had boundaries to protect or expand. [page 66 of book no. 4]

“For two thousand years Christianity, in the name of good news, has been unconsciously proclaiming Jesus the oppressor, who says ‘I have discovered that I am the only beloved son of God… All are condemned to be my disciples and worship me… Christianity has killed Jesus spiritually by reducing his teaching [into] a set of dogmas and put him into an intellectual tomb and stood at the entrance as a guardian of that body to protect it so that others cannot take it… There have been billions of Christians from the beginning of Christianity and there are more than a billion Christians today, but a Christian is yet to be born officially. Christianity has yet to give birth to a Christian. She has been conceiving since two thousand years but could not give birth to one Christian… Only after one’s death a person can be free from herOne has to leave Christianity in order to be born into Christianity

 

 

Christianity has transformed herself into a Herod and preoccupied herself with power, position and continuity and been killing every child who appeared to be a threat to her power… [132 – 137]

“When the phenomenal ‘I’ is renounced, one discovers the ‘I’ of the son or daughter of God. If one is bold enough to renounce even that ‘I’…one discovers the ‘I’ of God and says ‘My real ‘I’ is God’ or ‘I am God‘. [132]

On the Eucharist:

For two thousand years Christianity has been teaching that only the Eucharist* is the body and blood of Christ and only the priest has the power to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. But in the third millennium Christianity will proclaim that the whole universe is the body and blood of God and the whole universe is Christ and the Eucharist. [140] {pages 132-142 are captioned A New Vision of Christianity} *[see pages 14, 18]

 

Book No. 2.
A Parable of the Kingdom of God, 2002:

In the section My Encounter With God, Martin tells about his background, life in the Minor [As the days passed, it turned out to be a horrible experience. So far I had seen the priesthood from the outside and now I was seeing it from within], and later, Major Seminary, his disenchantment with philosophy and theology, and his enlightenment [he ‘finds the Kingdom of God’]. First published in 1985 with the title The Manifesto of the Kingdom of God, the book is a collection of excellent parables that he uses to illustrate his new teachings on every issue from truth to tradition, from scripture to the Kingdom of God, from knowledge to intuition.

 

Book No. 3.
ANOTHER REINTERPRETATION, BY MARTIN, OF THE GOOD NEWS

You Are The Light- Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus, 2003:

It is a fresh interpretation of the message of Jesus from within the context of Hindu-Christian dialogue… It embraces the insights of older traditions to deliver… [an] inspiring vision for the renewal of Christianity.

God and human beings are ultimately one, just as water and ice, although they are experienced as separate, are ultimately one. This understanding that God and creation are not two separate realities is revealed in the famous statement of Jesus ‘I and the Father are one’. Unfortunately human beings, out of ignorance, and not realising that they are already in God have created ways and means that we call religions to ‘reach’ God. [12]

“Today sharing the good news of Jesus is to announce the dignity of human beings, all of whom have the potential to transcend religions and ‘ways’ to God and declare boldly ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. [13]

“When Jesus said ‘I am the truth’ and ‘I am the life’, we should not identify the ‘I’ of Jesus with his limited and unreal ‘I’. The ‘I’ of Jesus making this statement is his real ‘I’ who is God… The real ‘I’ of Jesus, as the universal consciousness in which all of humanity is present, is the way, the truth and the life.[211]

“The statement ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ is made only by the real ‘I’ which is God. So, when a person says ‘I am God’, it actually means that he or she has realized that his or her real self is God, Brahman, light, life and so on. Instead of saying ‘I am God’, it might be safer to say ‘My real I is Brahman or God’… Such a person then utters the second great statement ‘Tattvamasi’ which means ‘You are that’ or ‘You are God‘. [199]

In Chapter 20, we have Martin’s interpretation of The Lord’s Prayer and finally his substitute for it “in the language of the Indian sages”, which is:

“The Source of our Being/ Lead us from un-holiness to holiness/ From fragmentation to wholeness/ From conflict to harmony/ From time to eternity/ From sin to grace/ From duality to unity/ From darkness to light.

 

Book No. 4.
Duality and Non-Duality, and Three Wise Men from the West
, 2003:

On Jesus’ words on the wheat and the chaff [Matthew 3: 11-12], Martin: The mission of Jesus is to burn the chaff. The chaff is the symbol of the unreal [impermanent] and the wheat is the symbol of the Real and eternal.[12]

On John 14: 6, I am the way, the truth and the life, [see pages 14, 23 and book 3 above]: Martin concludes, A person who says ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ will not ask others to follow him. He can only invite people to discover this potentiality for themselves and declare ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. [54]

In the chapter titled ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’: Christianity is not the only way, it is not the perfect way, but it is one of the ways. It is a way to God. There is no obligation to believe in Christ. [24, 25]

On pages 27 and 20 of book 7, he opines To say ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ is to be free from all belief structures. To believe in something is to be under that belief. To say ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ is to affirm that the human being is greater than belief.
Believe in the Good News that you are in God… and you have the possibility of realising that you and God are one. You have the possibility of saying ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. There is no ultimate truth in the religions and their doctrines. Truth is the human person. Human being is the way, the truth and the life.

Apart from scholarly reinterpretation of the Word of God [see book 1, above], Martin expunges words that he may find difficult to explain in the Bible as they don’t fit into his scheme of things:

 

On being ‘Born again’: He quotes John 3: 4, 5 to read as Unless you are born again (or born from above or born of spirit) you cannot enter the kingdom of God.[48] The words “of water and” are omitted by him.

On the same subject, on page 38 of book no. 5, when quoting the same verse, Martin includes his comment that the word WATER [was]
PROBABLY ADDED LATER

in the Bible [see page 23].

On the Samaritan woman [John 4]: The message of Jesus helped her to dig the well within herself and to find the living water within so that she did not need to go to the wells of others, either of Jacob or of Jesus.[51]

Explaining the symbols of “three archetypes”, the virgin, the child and the wise men in the Infancy Narrative, Martin teaches, We are aware today how the symbols of Christian tradition have become irrelevant for the spiritual needs of [the] present generation… Spiritually, a virgin [see page 7, 20,] is one who blocks the historical process of the God of memory and opens herself to the living reality of the God of eternity… To become like a child means to free oneself from all the conditionings… A wise person is one who has reached the boundary or limit of his own religion and realizes the relativity of those boundaries. [48-52]

On the founders of Shantivanam: These three wise men from the west, who were guided by the star of wisdom to journey to the east to the village of Thannirpalli, to the stable of Shantivanam, had found the Eternal Word born of a Virgin. This Word transcends the Christian churches and all religions, thus transcends both ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. [68] Martin always differentiates between the ‘historical‘ and the ‘eternal‘ [see
pages 19, 24]. One has to ‘transcend’ the ‘historical’ Jesus or Word and be concerned with their ‘eternal’ aspects.

On Church tradition: Tradition usually reveals or presents the theoretical will of God in unnecessary and awesome fullness making it a heavy burden to bear through life’s journey. [62] [see page 24]

 

Book No. 5.
Truth Will Make You Free
, 2003:

More on tradition and ‘half the gospel’: Unfortunately Christian tradition limited Jesus’ message to only one side of the coin and completely neglected the other side. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life‘ and ‘You are the way, the truth and the life‘ [see pages 14, 22] are the two sides of the coin of the good news of Jesus just as Jesus also said ‘I am the light of the world’ and ‘You are the light of the world’. The reason why Christianity is in deep crisis in the west is that it has been announcing only half the truth of the gospel [see page 21]. [11]

Christians have grown enough to see the limitations of their spiritual tradition and are ready to come out of her womb or [are] rather already out of it unofficially. In order that this birthing happens officially, Christianity needs to become spiritually a virgin like Mary. She must be willing to give birth to children who will be greater than she. Then only she becomes a virgin mother. Until then she be called only a pregnant woman. [12]

On the Eucharist, qualified non-dualism; and ‘the interconnectedness of all things‘, New Age

“If [God’s] creating out of nothing is understood in the sense that there is a gulf between God and human beings, then it is not a very liberating theory as it denies the possibility of [our] entering into the heart of God … Creation is the body and blood of God… which means that it is the manifestation of God, the finite expression of the infinite” [16-18]. On p. 17 of book no.4, explaining the Eucharistic mystery and Jesus’ words ‘This is my body….’: “[Jesus] realised that just as he was the body and blood of God, so also the whole of creation is the body and blood of God.

To suit his arguments, Martin alternates between advaitic i.e. monistic [all-is-one] explanations or, as in this instance, a vishistadvaitic i.e. qualified nondualistic or even pantheistic [everything is God] explanation.

In case after case, he avoids dealing with the issue of sin and man’s fallenness, man’s only problem being his ‘ego’, his ‘ignorance’ of who he is, what his potential is, what his manifesto or true purpose is.

“When a human being says that ‘I and God are one’ it only means that the whole of creation is one with God. Just as from the scientific point of view matter is energy and energy is matter, so also from the spiritual point of view consciousness is matter and matter is consciousness. In order to enter into this level of experience, one has to do the yagna or sacrifice of the ego which ignorantly thinks that it is independent of God and thus creates a wall of duality between God & itself. This wall is not real but imaginary as it is created by ignorance. By removing this imaginary veil of ignorance… one’s consciousness realises that ‘I and Brahman are one’.[20]

Here Martin clearly demonstrates the influence of NEW AGE
‘sciences’ on his thinking [see page 26].

On page 128 of book 1 [above]: Jesus made this research interiorly to find out the foundation of his human consciousness and he discovered that [it] is God, and he is the expression of the Father, they are one and the same. ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30). THEY ARE NOT TWO REALITIES. ‘He and God’ but only one God and he is his manifestation. GOD AND CREATION ARE NOT TWO REALITIES. God is the only reality and creation is his manifestation. Martin uses the same analogy on pages 18, 19 of book 4 [above], to claim that Jesus discovered spiritually that God is the only reality and creation is the manifestation of God in time and space. ‘Sarvametat Brahma‘: ‘All this is the manifestation of God’. That is why Jesus said ‘This is my body and this is my blood’. Just as I and the Father are one so also I and the whole of creation are one… This is Christian non-duality.

And on pages 16 and 25 of book 7 [below], he says in his ‘Teaching of the Story of the Garden of Eden’, Humanity is inter-connected. [New Age] All our choices affect the others, either positively or negatively. [see page 26] In the context of reincarnation: “Each human mind is connected to every other mind so it is possible that some memories can enter into the conscious level like the downloading of material from the Internet.

“God will be Emmanuel, with us and within us (vishistadvaitic experience). Jesus inaugurates this new covenant at the moment of his baptism and takes it little further into advaitic experience. He could say boldly that he and God are one… Jesus does not abolish the dualistic and qualified non-dualistic relationships but opens them to a new possibility of non-duality. ‘I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law’ he said. [53, 54]

Note for the reader: The term for the ontological non-duality of Shankara is advaita or monism.

More on sin: Sin is dualism.
“One has to grow from duality to qualified non-duality and from there to non-dualitySin is a refusal to grow, or block[ing] the growth of others. [55]

“As long as we have a physical body and live in this world of time and space, we need to relate
with God and with one another in a functional duality
though we know that
we are ontologically one with God and one another as there is only one Reality… [see pages 23, 26]. If there is anyone on record who made the statement ‘I am God’, it was Master Echart [sic] of Germany [see pages 39-40] who said that a spiritually poor person is one who says ‘I and God are one’. But he was condemned as a heretic. Perhaps in that particular time and spiritual tradition no one could have imagined the possibility of non-dualistic experience. But today Christians are ready for it. [57, 58]

More on the Eucharist: The ritual of the Eucharist that the priest celebrates in the Church is meant to reveal to the people who they really are and what they have to do… It reveals that human beings are ultimately one with the divine. They are the body and blood of God. In order to realise this truth, they have to sacrifice their ignorant self, in which the lower becomes the higher. SYMBOLICALLY, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ or God. This should not be understood in the sense of cannibalism. We are not eating physical flesh and physical blood, which would be a crude interpretation. The above becomes below and the below becomes above. [28] [see pages 14, 22, 23, 36, 43, 44, 47, 65, 82]

“There is only one way to God: it is to renounce or sacrifice one’s ego, the ignorant self, and find one’s True self… If we sacrifice our ignorant self, then human relationships become sacred… Sexual relationships are the expressions of this sacrifice. Making love becomes the most intimate way of celebrating the Eucharist. [24]

A reminder from this writer: Keep in mind that at Holy Mass in this Ashram, there is no restriction on anyone receiving Holy Communion: ‘post-Christians’, atheists, theosophists, Hindus, couples living together outside of marriage, seekers of every shade, most of whom don’t know whether they are coming or whether they are going. Such teachings on the Eucharist as those of Bro. Martin would be the primary reason for the sacrileges [see pages 8, 9, 20, 35].

More on the Catholic Church: Religion which is based on the Scriptures takes away human will and intellect. The followers are not supposed to think and will independently and the religious authorities demand absolute obedience from their followers. Faith is often defined (in the Catholic Church) as the assent of the will and the intellect to the formulas of the particular belief structure. If anyone dissents, then one might be excommunicated. In this sense, the followers are killed as they have no intellect and will of their own. They are like dead bodies which can be carried where the authorities want. [33]

“Some Christians think that by just believing in Jesus they can be saved… In the Catholic Church there are more than a billion followers but no one can think independently and will independently. One person thinks for everyone and wills for everyone. One billion people without will and intellect being killed, carried by one person. [The Pope?] This is a complete perversion of the life-giving message of Jesus Christ. [45]

More on ‘Born again’: The rebirth which Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus was the transition from the womb of religion into the universal presence of God. It is to come out of
the God of history, scriptures and tradition and to enter into the realm of originality and creativity. Scriptures and tradition limit the nature of God. [39] [see p. 23]

 

Book No. 6.
Bede Griffiths- A Sage and a Prophet
, 2004:

That Martin was influenced by and inherited Bede’s teachings is his self-confession:

“When I was studying my theology… I happened to read an article of Fr. Bede on Christian advaita. Fr. Bede wrote saying that many Christians are dualists. This cannot be so. God is the only absolute reality and we are only relative reality… Fr. Bede was saying that Christianity was a dualistic religion, which limited the possibility of God experience to the dualistic level and maybe to the vishistadvaitic level to the mystics, but closed the door to the advaitic experience to her followers, limiting that experience only to Jesus. Jesus opened the door to the possibility of non-dual experience to humanity, but Christianity closed it. The vision of Fr. Bede was that Christianity should rediscover this non-dual experience and open it to her followers. This brought revolution in my thinking. It was like dynamite coming closer to the fire… [1, 5]

“Fr. Bede said that he came to India to discover the other half of his soul [see pages 17-18, 48-49].The other half of his soul was the advaitic experience of God which was not a possibility in the Christian tradition… It was a journey from the known into the unknown… In this sense Fr. Bede became to me an archetype of spiritual journey to follow. It is this journey which Jesus calls searching for the kingdom of God.” Martin quotes Mt 6:33. [11, 12] More on religion[s]: “Religions are like… vehicles human beings use to reach the goal… Religions cannot enter into God.” Martin advises one to “get out of the” vehicle of religion to reach one’s goal. [14] One of Martin’s most-repeated lines is this: human beings are greater than religions [see ‘the boat’ simile, pages 19, 21].

On repentance: “Through repentance
we have to renounce our ignorance and realize that we are already in God. Subjectively it is the realisation of our ultimate identity with God in which human beings can say ‘I and God are one’. This also implies that human beings are greater than religions.

 

Book No. 7.
From Becoming to Unfolding
, 2004:

In this book, Martin puts forward several new radical views that our theologians need to carefully examine:

“When we say God is Holy, it means that in God there are no partsas there are found in a watch [2].

Arguing that if God is holy, we can intuit what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. It means humanity is also created as ‘holy’, ‘whole’, ‘eternal’… [seeA Course in Miracles‘, page 12] The serpent tells the woman ‘If you eat this fruit you will become like God’. We know that humanity was already created like God and there was no need for it to become like God.” Man, he says, can fall into sleep from its original nature but has the possibility to realise its mistake, to wake up from sleep. [4, 5]

Half-truths, we see, can be far more dangerous than lies. Martin says that man is ‘eternal’. He is not. Man is creation and is endowed with an ‘immortal’ soul. Only God is eternal. Neither is man ‘holy’ or ‘whole’. He has a fallen nature. But, for Martin, sin is simply man’s ignorance that he is “already in God”, repentance is the renunciation of that ignorance, [in book no. 6] and this renunciation makes man ‘holy’ and ‘whole’.

“Humanity is created in the image and likeness of God just as other created beings…” [5]

Concerning the “fruit of good and evil”, God told humanity that… the moment they eat they will die, not physically, but spiritually, as it was clear that they did not die physically. [4] So, on to reincarnation!

On reincarnation: The chapter is titled ‘Christ and Reincarnation’. Martin says Many western Christians believe in it or have no difficulty in accepting it in one form or another. They do not think that it contradicts Christian faith. Many people think that the early Christians believed in it but later the Church suppressed it.

Even the statement of Jesus to Nicodemus ‘Unless you are born again…’ is quoted as proof of that… My reflections on this subject have led me to the conclusion that the solution does not lie either in believing in reincarnation or disbelieving in it, but in seeing it as a fact. This alone can help in our spiritual life. [21-23]

“Jesus did not believe in reincarnation but he saw it as a fact so that he could free himself from it.[28]

On evil, ‘the serpent’ who is not satan, and the Fall:

“The serpent has two symbolic meanings… [see pages 7, 20, 48]. For Martin, the serpent is nothing but a symbol of “human consciousness”. Or a “voice”. God told humanity that it could listen to all the voices of the garden except that voice which tells that it [humanity] is not like God. [6] The original sin is nothing but to forget the real nature of humanity and the desire to become like God. God created humanity in his or her own image and likeness and holy, eternal and unfolding[9, 10 The error in Martin’s writings is often so subtle that it escapes detection. Let me try to explain. I use the word ‘try’ because I am no theologian. The Bible does say that the desire to be like God was an important aspect of the original sin. But to Martin and his followers, original sin is man’s forgetting his real nature which is that he is already divine, already one with God, as we have seen from earlier excerpts from his many writings. It is a monistic situation. But the forgetfulness of man at the fall, plunges humanity into a dualistic situation. That is Martin’s real original sin.

Martin has earlier made it clear that God is absolute Good, which has no opposite, Evil [see page 21]. The Absolute Good which has an opposite, cannot be called the Absolute Good. [4]

Since all of human nature is one, and one with God, all of it created in God’s imagine and likeness, a separate evil entity called Satan [who is not a serpent] does not fit into Martin’s scheme of things.

As he says of Eve, She thought that she was not like God and wanted to become like God. This forgetfulness creates the duality of ‘I am not like God’ and ‘I want to become like God’…” [5]

Man’s original sin was also in wanting to “become” like God instead of “unfolding” himself as God.

Explanations of the various aspects of the fall of man are illustrated by this ‘becoming’/ ‘unfolding’ tension. Martin avers God told them that the moment they eat the fruit of becoming, they will fall. But humanity ate the fruit of becoming and fell from the life of unfolding.” [10]

Though Martin favours inclusive language [referring to God as he/she, see ‘his or her‘ above], the choice of the words ‘his or her’ in this case seems to me [I might be judgemental here] to be in the context of the objects, the man and woman whom he/she created. Otherwise Martin has favoured the use of the pronoun ‘it’ for God.

Remember the parable [Mt.13: 47f] of the kingdom of God which is like a net thrown into the sea which catches good and bad fish, the separation of the righteous from the wicked, and the bad fish thrown into the fiery furnace?

Well, for Martin there were no good fish and bad fish, but just one big fish and many little ones.

He believes that the original parable may have been like this… The kingdom of God is like a big fish so they happily threw away the little ones.” [14] This way Martin does not have to find an explanation for the final judgement which does not fit into his ‘new vision of Christianity‘.

Denial of a transcendent God as well as of personal evil is found in all New Age non-dualism, because in New Age eschatology too, one does not need to provide explanations for judgement, heaven, hell. There is no sin, evil [our sin] is our fallenness due to our ignorance and our ‘becoming’ instead of ‘unfolding’, and salvation comes from our self-realization of our true identity as little gods already in the kingdom of God.

Self-deification. As Martin keeps repeating, “I am God,” “You are God” [see pages 21, 22].

On the kingdom of God: Martin writes volumes on his understandings of this truth. But to quote him,

“I have discovered that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand ‘‘… There is no one in the world who is not in God and no one can go outside God… ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’. [emphases his] [18]

 

Book No. 8.
Marriage- A Divine or a Human Institution?
2004:

“This article on marriage is based on a homily given by Sahajananda at the marriage of Jill [Hemmings] and Adrian [Rance] in June 2003 at U.K. [see
pages 13, 14, 20] I was informed by other ashramites that Bro. Martin conducted their “marriage” service as they could not get married in a regular church because both were already divorced. [I avoid using any undocumented information but I make an exception in this case].

In this booklet, Martin reveals that his serious reflection on the theme of marriage began during my studies in Rome six years ago. [5] That makes it 1997, four years after the death of Fr. Bede.

His discussion centres on Matthew 19:6 ‘What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.’

When in Rome, he found that a priest had great difficulty in giving a homily on this subject because a majority of people in the church were separated from their husbands and wives and were living with partners.

He speaks of others who go to Mass but cannot receive communion for the same reason. So, he asks, Did Jesus really mean the way his statement has been interpreted… and that divorce is not possible?

Deviously, as usual, he first argues that marriage is a divine institution, “a spiritual reality” in which “we are all married with God from all eternity” in “the kingdom of God”, but it is also a human institution “which is celebrated in time and space.” The latter cannot be called a divine institution in view of the fact that it is breaking [sic]. If it is really a divine institution it cannot break.

These human institutions, Martin states belong to the level of the evolutionary process of the human ego and, no system is absolute… Love cannot be institutionalized… Sometimes institutions can become obstacles… Marriages are only betrothals until we discover our eternal marriage with God. If two persons really love each other then marriage is not an absolute necessary [sic]. [Similar to Vandana Mataji‘s position, see page 44].

Pulling a new approach out of his hat, Martin differentiates marriage as taking place at three levels, physical, psychological and spiritual. The call of Jesus… is to search for the kingdom of God… This search for the kingdom is through relationships… Marriages could be understood
as genuine
attempts
to discover our real and eternal marriage with one another and with the divine. Our friends, Jill and Adrian… have seen the joys and sorrows of physical marriage … and of psychological marriage. They have not found their fulfillment in them. They are divorced. Their new life of love began while they were searching for the ultimate meaning of their life, the kingdom of God.The Catholic Church’s position needs neither explanation here, nor defense.

Martin’s observation on the Roman priest, If he stuck to the official teaching of the Church, he may not see them next week in the [ashram, oops] churchapplies equally to Martin, not only in the case of Jill and Adrian, but also in the case of a large number of the other visitors to the Ashram who attend his satsanghs to hear him speak.

If he ‘stuck to the official teaching’, and sacraments, of the Church, he too would not be having any ‘ministry’.

 

Book No. 9.
Truth has no Boundaries- Proclaiming the Goodnews of Peace

If you have read the other books, then you have read this one too. It’s the old ones in a new bottle. When Martin talks of “truth”, it is his own determination of what truth is, the good news according to John Martin Sahajananda.

NOTE:
It would take a book to record the teachings of the Church against Martin’s numerous errors, only some of which have been noted here. But, it would be helpful to include a couple from the Vatican document on New Age:

“In New Age there is no distinction between good and evil. Human actions are the fruit of either illumination or ignorance. Hence we cannot condemn anybody and nobody needs forgiveness. Believing in the existence of evil can only create negativity and fear… In New Age there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge, n 2.2.2, n 4.

New Age imports Eastern religious practices piecemeal and re-interprets them to suit Westerners; this involves a rejection of the language of sin and salvation, n 2.4. New Age stance towards Christianity is not neutral but neutralising: despite what is often said about openness to all religious standpoints, traditional Christianity is not sincerely regarded as an acceptable alternative. In fact, it is occasionally made abundantly clear that there is no tolerable place for true Christianity… n 6.1. New Age believes in the interconnectedness of all existence,and there is only one single reality, n 7.1 [see pages 23, 24].

 

HINDU AND PROTESTANT ASHRAMS

The theory of the four ashramas or stages of life of brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa developed in Upanishadic literature. The word ashram is derived from the Sanskrit term a-srama which means total pursuit, full dedication, tireless striving, stretching one’s arms toward perfection. Ashrams are places where an intense spiritual sadhana
or exercise takes place.

This is the explanation of Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ in the 2002 souvenir, Saccidanandaya Namah, commemorating the golden jubilee of Shantivanam in 2000. In the same book, one may examine detailed studies of the different meanings of the word by Fr. Ishanand SJ and Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB.

Ashrams fall into three broad categories: jnana, bhakti and karma [seva] ashrams stressing contemplation/ study of scriptures/ chanting, piety, and service respectively. They may have all three, but the emphasis differs.

The ‘Gandhian’ ashrams, mainly in Gujarat, the most well-known being the Sabarmati Ashram, are now mainly national monuments or centres of manual labour and social work rather than of contemplation.

In ancient India most ashrams were gurukulas or educational centres for brahmacharis. Today they are more like monasteries or maths. In India there are numerous Hindu and some Buddhist and Jain ashrams. The prominent ones are Ramakrishna Ashram [Swami Vivekananda, 1897], Shantiniketan [Rabindranath Tagore, 1901], Aurobindo Ashram [Aurobindo Ghosh, 1910] [see pages 33, 42, 51, 52, 54, 58, 60, 63, 66, 68, 70], Sivananda Ashram [Swami Sivananda, 1932 (Divine Life Society and Swami Chidananda)] [see pages 27, 42, 43, 44 (51, 57)], Ramana Ashram [Ramana Maharshi] at Tiruvannamalai [see pages 5, 9, 32, 33, 37, 43, 60, 61, 66, 70, 79] etc.

It is mainly the Christian ashrams today that are “struggling to live the ashram ideals”, writes Fr. Ishanand SJ.

A strange fact is that it was Protestants, who, influenced by the social ideals of Gandhi and Tagore, took the initiative to found the early ashrams like Sat Tal Ashram* [Nainital, Stanley Jones, 1920], Christukula Ashram [Tirupattur, Dr. S. Jesudason and Dr. Forrester Paton, 1921], and Christa Prema Seva Ashram [Pune, Rev. Jack Winslow, 1927, an Anglican who later became Bishop of Bombay, see pages 29, 35, 42]. And it is a fact, too, that unlike the Catholic ashrams, which is the subject of our concern, “through integrated social action,
they attempted Christian evangelization**
as New Age Catholic nun Sr. Pascaline Coff OFB frankly admits in Saccidanandaya Namah, page 46. **Evangelization. Are Catholic ashrams ‘attempting’ it? To the reader who has come this far, it is a rhetorical question.
For references of the ashram movement’s leaders’ attitudes to evangelization, see pages 15, 30-31, 34-35, 65.

Protestants received support for their movement at the World Missions Conference in Chennai in 1939 and started their Ashram Fellowship in 1951. Our focus however will be on Catholic ashrams alone. [*The Dec. 2001 issue of CSI Life has an ad. for this Protestant ashram’s Institute on Indigenization in Mission and Evangelism which includes YOGA along with studies in comparative religion etc. So we Catholics are not the only ones going the yoga way.]

 

AIKIYA ALAYAM, THE INSTITUTE OF DIALOGUE WITH CULTURES AND RELIGIONS

Aikiya Alayam is unofficially regarded as a Catholic ashram [Saccidanandaya Namah, page 110]. The seal or logo of Aikiya Alayam has the cross in the centre of the OM which is within the Buddhist wheel of Dharma.

In the souvenir, Fr.
Maria Jeyaraj SJ gives a biographical sketch of its founder
Fr. Ignatius Hirudayam SJ
[1910 -1995],
an authority in the philosophy of Saiva Siddhanta, “one of the pioneers of the Catholic Ashram Movement in India. In 1965, directed by his Jesuit provincial, he wrote the ‘Constitutions’ for a new Centre for Interreligious Research and Dialogueafter visiting similar centres in Calcutta, Patna, Mumbai and Poona.

From 1967 he was the organizing chairman for the Tamil Nadu Diocesan Seminars in preparation for the All India Seminar on the Church in India Today,
1969 [see page 2]

and a participant in the Interdisciplinary Seminar on the Inculturation of Liturgy that year [after which he produced a Tamil version of the Indian-rite mass with the integration of asanas, mudras and carnatic music], and the Ecumenical Seminar on Interreligious Understanding in Mumbai the same month. Sr. Cecilia, a Cluny nun, became highly proficient in Bharatanatyam with his encouragement.

Aikiya Alayam, an ‘Institute of Dialogue* and Inculturation’ in Chennai, was the fruit of these experiences.

Fr. Jeyaraj notes that during his formation, Hirudayam had quite a difficult time with some of his superiors who thought he was too much… imbued with religious aspirations tinged with Indian culture.After Vatican Council II, he perceived the dawn, as it were, of the mission of his life in the field of dialogue and inculturation.

In the first 32 years of its existence, Aikiya Alayam hosted “370 dialogue sessions”. The first one was “My encounter with God in my Siva Puja on August 17, 1966. Fr. Jeyaraj has also written extensively about Saivite and Vaishnavite forms of worship in another book on Spirituality. In the third volume of his Gnana Vazhvu, he writes in detail about all aspects of the ashram movement: Every year the triple festivals of light, Deepavali, Thiru Karthigai and Christmas are celebrated [here] with singing, scripture readings… and cultural programs.

When Le Saux left Shantivanam to go and live in the Himalayas, he spent a couple of months at this centre.

The chapel at Arul Kadal, the present Jesuit theologate and former Aikiya Alayam bears testimony to Fr. Hirudayam’s spirit of inculturation. Aikiya Alayam has only very recently shifted to a new building constructed for it on the campus of the Loyola College, Chennai, run by the Jesuits who are in the forefront of dissent and a liberal theology.

It is renamed as the IDCR or the Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions. Its present Director is Fr. Michael Amaladoss SJ, [see pages 15, 50] and its Executive Director is Fr. Joe Arun SJ.

In the IDCR library there is a copy of Bede’s River of Compassion personally autographed To Fr. Ignatius Hirudayam and the community at Aikiya Alayam from Bede Griffiths. One finds New Age authors’ works such as Ken Wilber‘s The Spectrum of Consciousness, 1977, published by the Theosophical
Publishing House
, and Fritjof Capra‘s The Tao of Physics, 1976, and several titles on the Buddhist meditation Zen, all written by Catholic priests, in the library.

*see notes on Interreligious Dialogue on page 83. Also see pages 18, 31

 

50 YEARS OF SHANTIVANAM ASHRAM: A STUDY OF THE SOUVENIR BOOK

The contributors to Shantivanam’s golden jubilee commemorative Saccidanandaya Namah are [page nos. in brackets]:

Fr. Dominic OSB of Shantivanam. He quotes noted New Ager
Ken Wilber in the book’s very introduction. [2];

Fr. Sebastian Painadath
SJ
, founder-director of Sameeksha Ashram in Kalady, Kerala and then Vice-President of Ashram Aikya [AA]. He teaches and supervises the Jesuit theologate in Kerala.

Bro. Martin’s anti-Church rhetoric is reiterated by Fr. Painadath, Jesus did not preach the Church. He preached the kingdom of God. Hence we must distinguish between the institutional Church and the eschatological Church.” [16].

People… are not impressed by dogmatic formulations or routinized rituals… Beyond the fences of traditions all religions people are seeking a liberating and integrative spirituality. [p. 6] Too many rules and too much of loyalty to traditions often vex the Christian communities,he says. [13];

Fr. Ishanand Vempeny SJ [Bandu Ishanand] is a Doctorate on the comparative study of the Bhagavad Gita and the New Testament, and founder member of the Neo Gandhian Second Liberation front. In dealing with the ancient history of Hindu ashrams, he goes to a lot of pain to show how from these ashrams
corrupt kings and rulers were faced up to and destroyed [I read here a hidden message from Ishanand for the Church!] and from where the revolutionary writings like Kamasutra, Ayurvedic books and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were written. [20];

Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB
[see pages 21, 27, 30, 41, 52, 57, 59, 62] was inspired by Fr. Bede in founding a Shantivanam in the US. She believes that the Benedictine life of contemplative prayer is essentially met in the practice of yoga, meditative chanting, namajapa, bhajans etc. [42] After Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ visited her Oklahoma ashram, they regularly use for their meditations the occult ‘mandala [see page 41, 48, 59, 63] like an inverted trianglegiven by him, a helpful visual that indicates… the way to surrender the ego… [47];

Fr. Paul Pattathu CMI who, having taken his Doctorate on ‘Christian Ashram Movement and its contributions to Indian Christian Spirituality’ was planning an ashram in Bhopal. He says: There are theologians who agree that the believers in God are moving toward
a new world religious order whose form and structure we may not be able to presume.[57] Here he is using the language of the One World Religion of the New Age Movement;

Jacques Gadille was Vice President of the Association of Jules Monchanin and Henri Le Saux in France, and

Francois Jacquin, President. They have written extensively on these two founders of the ashram; [see page 30];

Sr.
Marie-Louise Coutinha,
head of Ananda Ashram, the feminine wing of Shantivanam. [74] [see page 11];

Bro. Gaston
Dayanand
[see pages
11, 32] of Kolkata, an annual visitor to Shantivanam, or rather Ananda Ashram;

Sr. Claude de Sauviebien FMM, a Bible teacher and a pioneer in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Chennai and one of the very few persons alive today who knew Abhishiktananda personally.[84] [see page 33];

Jyoti Sahi who spent several years with Bede both at Kurisumala and at Shantivanam, well known in India and abroad as an artist, writer and theologian. He founded the Art Ashram in Bangalore. He was a student of art in London when he met Bede there in 1963. He reports that “Bede was always deeply interested in the insights of the psychologist C.G. Jung [see pages 39-41 etc.] and it was probably Bede’s contact with Toni Sussman, [see page 57] a Jungian analyst, which helped to nurture his growing interest in Eastern forms of mysticism… He took an interest in my first series of Christian mandalas…” [89]. Bede once sent him a Christmas card with the three wise men each carrying a copy of the ‘Hindu or Buddhist scriptures’, the Koran and a Jewish Bible [96]; [His article on ‘Biblical Symbols and Liturgy in the Indian Context’ in NBCLC‘s Word and Worship, Vol. 34, 2001 runs to 24 pages.]

Fr. Albert Nambiaparambil
CMI the Director of Upasana in Thodupuzha, Kerala. As Secretary for many years to the CBCI Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, he was closely associated with Bede from 1973 [100, 101]

Fr. Cornelius Tholens OSB a Dutch Benedictine who met Bede in Bangkok in 1968 and subsequently came to live in Shantivanam for four years; co-founder of AIM, the Alliance for International Monasticism [102];

Fritz Kortler, a photographer “interested in mysticism” who stayed in Shantivanam in 1989 [104]; [see page 17]

Fr. Maria Jeyaraj SJ a former secretary of Ashram Aikiya [see pages 8, 14-16, 18, 50, 67]. He lived at Aikiya Alayam [see pages 27, 55] from 1978-81 and from 1986-98;

Fr. A. Louis [Swami Gnanajyoti]
acharya of Anjali Ashram, Mysore. He was a close associate of Fr. Amalor who was the founder [guru-acharya] of the Ashram. He commences his contribution to the souvenir with an ‘Om Shanti !’, and The great jubilee of our Sadguru is filling the entire creation with the divine energy.
The Sadguru here is not Jesus Christ but Bede Griffiths! Next he quotes from the hymns of Adi Sankara. [see pages 66-68];

Fr. Christudas OSB, formerly of Kurisumala Ashram, joined Shantivanam along with Bede in 1968 [see page 9];

Sr.
Mary John FMM, then President of AA. She visited Shantivanam thrice, was there for 10 days in 1988; She is the foundress of Ishalaya Ashram in Palamner, Andhra, in 1986.

Angelika Monteux, a German teacher and social worker who visited Shantivanam in 1988 and in 2000;

Fr. Joseph Mattam SJ, reportedly the first Catholic theologian in India to make a study on the modern Christian approaches to Hinduism. Chapter 5 of his book The Land of the Trinity, 1975, is on Monchanin [see pages 34-35];

Dr. Beatrice Bruteau [see pages 18, 63, 75] of the US who has developed a broad, inclusive vision of spiritual reality and systematic methods of transforming consciousness. She is the founder of a “monastic community” in the USA; she
sees no difficulties with the various branches of Yoga and Zen [becoming] popular in western spiritual traditions [read as Christianity]. [152]; and,

Fr. Thomas Matus OSB
a Camaldolese Benedictine, first met Bede in Rome in 1979, has come to Shantivanam nearly every year after taking sannyasa-diksha from Bede in 1984; became a Benedictine “after
receiving initiation into Kriya Yoga from a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda.” [157] [see pages 4, 8, 10, 32, 33, 36-37, 38, 63, 73, 75]. More information on these contributors is provided elsewhere in this report. The reader is requested to revert to this brief profile of each writer when reading other information about them in order to be able to better appreciate the influence of Shantivanam in particular, and ashrams in general on each of them, and vice-versa.

 

THE CATHOLIC ASHRAM MOVEMENT IN INDIA
AND THE INFLUENCE OF SHANTIVANAM

from a study of the jubilee souvenir Saccidanandaya Namah [page numbers in brackets where necessary]:

Catholic efforts began in 1894 with a Bengali Brahmin convert Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, [see page 72] the founding father of the Indian Christian ashram Movement near Jabalpur, but this was thwarted by a lack of support from Church authorities and his untimely demise in 1907. He clashed with his superiors when he held a devotional ritual to goddess Saraswati and gave praise to Krishna and the Vedas. It was a half-a-century wait to Saccidananda Ashram. After independence, his inculturation experiments were revived by Catholic missionaries like Jules Monchanin (d. 1957), Henri Le Saux (d. 1973) and Bede Griffiths (d. 1999), who initially justified this move as a necessary strategy to speed up the disappointingly slow process of converting India. In their ‘ashrams’, designed with temple-like architecture and ornamentation, they served vegetarian meals, wore homespun saffron robes and incorporated into their liturgy Vedic phrases such as: ‘Lead me from death to immortality’.
[They gave themselves and their ashram Sanskrit names.] Hindu religious vocabulary contained not only explicitly polytheistic and un-Christian god-names but also many abstract spiritual concepts which a Christian may use without overtly lapsing into heresy,writes Koenraad Elst, PhD, in Salvation: Hindu Influence on Christianity.
“Many theologians such as Abhishiktananda, Raimundo Panikkar, Bede Griffiths and Swami Amalorpavadass have developed on Brahmabandhab Upadhyay‘s theology”, writes Vijay Kerketta in Catechetics India, May 2005.

When blessing the founders, Bishop James Mendonca said in 1950 prayed that Shantivanam with its roots firmly and securely planted in Christian principles of true mysticism will try to bring out the best in the Indian ascetic mode of life. And, the 1969 All India Seminar on the Church in India Today [see pages 2, 91] in the wake of Vatican Council II took note of the ashrams in shaping a truly Indian Church.” “Abhishiktananda attended this Seminar and played a decisive role in it. According to Judson Trapnell
at The College Theology Society, Annual Meeting, World Religions Section, May 31, 2002 in Jamaica, New York
[see pages 31, 41], Abhishiktananda contributed a book-length memorandum on how the Indian Church should be renewed through contact with Hindu sources, through liturgical reform (inculturation), and through contemplation. The final declaration of the 1969 Seminar proposed to encourage the setting up of ashrams both in rural and in urban areas… [to] project the true image of the church

Instituting more ashrams was recommended successively by the 1970 Mumbai meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India [CBCI], the 1971 Nagpur Theological Conference, the Patna Consultation, 1973 in its Declaration of the All-India Consultation on
Evangelization and the June 1978 Statement of the All-India Consultation on Ashrams held at the NBCLC, Bangalore
.

Some Catholic ashrams, their acharya or guru and year of founding as obtained from various sources are:

Ishalaya/Sr. Mary John (1986) in Palamner;
Nirmala Ashram/Sri Mariananda [see page 15] (1990) in Guntur; Anandashramam/Swami Chinnappa (1994) in Siddavatam; Amalambika Ashram/Swami Joseph Ephraim (1995) in Darbhagudem, all in Andhra; Anjali Ashram/Swami Gnanajyoti, formerly Fr. A. Louis [see pages 16, 66-68, 85], founded by Fr. Amalorpavadas, in Mysore; Mata Kripa Ashram/Sr. Amala (1999) [see pages 14, 15, 16, 85] in Bangalore;

Dharmodaya Seva Ashram/Swami Dayananda (1995) in Bellary, all in Karnataka; Kurisumala Ashram/Fr. Bede Griffiths and Fr. Francis Mahieu (1955) at Vagamon [see pages 2, 45-46, 65]; Sameeksha Ashram/ Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ in Kalady [see pages 46-47]; Dhyana Ashram/Fr. Sylvester Kozhimannil (1979) in Nambiarkunnu; Santhi Sadan/Swami Yesu Prasadam (1986) in Neriamangalam; Sannidhanam/Mataji Jeevanjali (1989) in Arimanal; Ishwar Bhawan/Sr. Rose Pudukadan (1991) in Thanisery; Shanti Thirtam Ashram/ Mataji Mary Magdalene (1993) in Thozhupadam; Matha Mariam Ashram/Sr. Alice (1995) in Mundappilly, all in Kerala; Aanmodaya Ashram/Swami Joseph Samarkone (1992) in Enathur; Aruloudhayam/Fr. Joseph Jaswant Raj (2000) near Vellore; Bodhi Zendo/Fr. Ama Samy SJ (1996) at Perumalmalai near Kodaikanal [see pages 9, 38], all in Tamil Nadu; Idhaya Ashram/Mataji Prema (1995) in Pondicherry, opened and blessed by Cardinal D.S. Lourdusamy, brother of Fr. Amalorpavadas [see page 66]; Dhyan Ashram/Fr. Thomas Lynch SVD in Kankria, near Indore; Tapovan Ashram/Mataji Sanjeevani in Khandwa; Saccidananda Ashram/Fr. Anto Mundanmany in Narsinghpur [the founder was Swami Amaldass of Shantivanam see pages 8, 9, 16, 47. One of its main activities is listed as YOGA], all in Madhya Pradesh; Tapovan Ashram/Swami Shubhananda (1979) in Bandaria, Gujarat
[see page 64]; Jeevan Dhara Ashram/Vandana Mataji (1976) in Jaiharikal
[see pages 42, 66, 77]; Jyoti Niketan/Swami Deenbandhu OFM in Bareilly, [probably the one founded by Anglican priest Murray Rogers in 1954 see pages 13, 33]; Vardhan Ashram/ Mataji Jaya (1994) in Ramnagar, all in Uttaranchal; Matri Dham/Swami Iswar Prasad IMS and Swami Anil Dev IMS (1954) [see page 16]; Mariam Mai Ashram/Sr. Shyamala (1978), both in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; Shanti Ashram/Sr. Maria SCJM in Brindavan, U.P; Christa Prema Seva Ashram/Vandana Mataji (founded by Anglican Jack Winslow in 1927, reopened 1972) in Pune [see pages 27, 35, 42];

Sanjivan Ashram /Swami Shilananda SJ (1988) in Sinnar [see page 65]; Sneh Sadan/Fr. Matthew Lederle SJ in Pune [more of a Dialogue Centre like Chennai’s Aikiya Alayam]; Samarpan Ashram/ Sr. Nishtatal in Kamshet (1988) near Lonavla [see page 65], all in Maharashtra; Ananda Dhara Yogashram/Fr. Korkonius [Korko] Moses SJ in Gurupole, West Bengal [see page 16, 34, 66, 85] etc.

Sr. Vandana‘s list of ashrams included Fr. Francis Barboza SVD’s Gyan Prakash Ashram in Andheri, Mumbai. Barboza, a Bharatanatyam exponent who was deeply involved in expressions of Hindu worship, left the priesthood.

The Bombay Times of April 7, 1995 carries a photograph of Barboza in a dance pose and quotes him as being resolved within that Krishna and Christ are but two forms of one god. He was well supported in this ‘apostolate’ by his SVD congregation as is evident from an article on him published in their mission magazine Word India issue of January 1999. [Separate report on Bharatanatyam under preparation].

This Gyan Prakash Ashram seems to be the same as the Gyan Ashram in Andheri where Fr. Gilbert Carlo SVD and other SVD [Missionaries of the Divine Word] priests teach eastern meditations and yoga to lay persons, priests, seminarians and nuns through retreats and seminars [Enneagram and Vipassana seminars are also conducted here*].

Fr. Dominic OSB of Shantivanam wrote that there were over fifty ashrams, both in India and abroad, all of them in the Catholic Church which owe something to the pioneering venture of Le Saux and Monchanin. It is difficult to find in India a religious congregation whose members, at least once, have not visited Shantivanamand hundreds of young men and women who were disenchanted with the institutional Church he says.
[1]

In the same book, Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ states that During the last fifty years, over eighty ashrams of Catholic initiative have evolved in the country. Most of them took inspiration from Shantivanam [which] is hailed as the ‘mother house’ of Catholic ashrams here and abroad.The search for an integrative spirituality… takes Christians to the wellsprings of other religions, to their sages and Scriptures, symbols and meditation methods. One authentic way of Christian response to this global
quest for genuine spirituality would be to explore the ashram way of life. [6] Saccidananda Ashram, as we clearly see, is the lynch-pin of the Ashram Movement.

Along with one of his seminarians, Fr. Painadath SJ himself visited Fr. Bede in Shantivanam before starting his own Sameeksha Ashram in Kalady [47], and Vandana Mataji visited the Christukula Ashram in Tirupattur when she was invited by Bede to accompany him there for its golden jubilee in 1971. She went on to establish her own ashrams.

“In fact an ashram cannot be restricted to the framework of a particular religion. There is no Hindu or Christian ashram. In an ashram, “Interreligious encounter develops into an intrareligious
osmosis,” he says. [12]

“Strictly speaking, an ashram does not come under the jurisdiction of the local Bishop or of the superior of a religious congregationAn ashram does not belong properly to the hierarchial Church, that is the sacramental Church” [17] says Fr. Painadath quoting Fr. Bede from Vandana Mataji Rscj in Christian Ashrams. Vandana quotes Le Saux writing of a fruitful osmosis of the Hindu and christian experience, and a real possibility of integration from the inside, by the Christian, of the riches of symbolism contained in the Hindu words and gestures of worship,
Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, page 101. [*So too, the
SVD’s
Atma Darshan

see page 81]

NOTE: Nowhere do the Church documents and encyclicals envisage genuine interreligious dialogue as spiritual osmosis as Painadath and Le Saux suggest. Rather, they insist on it as an opportunity for proclamation of the Gospel and for evangelisation. Osmosis involves giving and taking, a mutually reciprocated absorption of each other’s properties between two entities or ideologies. The information provided in this report challenges the claims of proponents of this false inculturation that their ‘osmosis’ is limited to the integration of the symbolism in words and gestures. It conclusively shows that the ashrams and their prime-movers are virtual Hindus and centres of Hinduism, a syncretism that serves only to ‘evangelize’ Christians to adopt a Hindu or syncretistic spirituality while maintaining some Christian frills and trimmings that barely conceal the truth from the discerning spiritual eye of the true believer.

Vandana says that the knowledge of God (Brahmavidya)… which the [ashramites] seek leads to God–realisation or eternal life, ibid, page 43. This looks like gnosticism to me despite her quoting John 17:3, This is eternal life that I may know thee. Earlier on page 15, she writes of the yoga of synthesis, daily practice of which means divine life.

Sr. Pascaline
Coff

OSB [see pages 28, 59] writes, Bede often said ‘The aim of an ashram is to realize the Self – and then you know God’This is the real call of the ashram. ‘See the self in the Self through the Self’ is the central theme of the Upanishads, the Hindu Scriptures which gives us a theological basis for the Indian ashramYoga
taught in the ashrams is one of the sure ways to awaken to this Spirit. [Bede] believed that one of the greatest gifts Hinduism has given to all of us is the teaching and practice of the presence of the Self or the Spirit within ourselves… it is the one, same Holy Spirit. Hindus call this the Atman. [41]

 

EARLY CONCERN FOR EVANGELIZATION
TURNS INTO AN ABHORRENCE OF IT

Bede visited Sr. Pascaline Coff‘s 40-acre Osage Ashram in Oklahoma, USA, five times. This nun has learnt from Fr. Bede that yoga is the way to experience the Holy Spirit. However, she herself admits that the early ashrams
tried to integrate contemplative pursuits with social action, a concern for evangelization coupled with interreligious dialogue.” [47] We have seen [see page 27] her acknowledgement on the early Protestant ashrams, that “through integrated social action,
they attempted Christian evangelization.”

 

 

Fr. Paul Pattathu CMI
[see page 28, 33] too
admits that in the pioneer of Indian inculturation, Italian Jesuit Robert de Nobili’s ‘ashram’, “true ecumenism and evangelization flowered.” [53]

What happened later to this early concern for evangelization in the ashram movement? is the million dollar question. Why have the ashrams metamorphosed into centres where not only is there no evangelization but an abhorrence of it, which produce literature that violently attacks their very Catholic and Christian foundations?

“Worse, I know personally… two so-called ‘Ashrams’ where the ‘Gurus’ definitely profess that their main aim is to draw people of other faiths to Christ. This form of ‘Evangelisation’ they know, too, I cannot uphold”:

writes Catholic nun Vandana Mataji, in Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, page xxiii.

About conversions, she says, “My advice is that the less we think of them, the less we aim at them, the better,
Find Your Roots and Take Wing, page 75.

 

INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE AND / OR THE GOOD NEWS?

Bro. Martin of Shantivanam believes that Christians “should not think of converting Hindus.” [see below]

Fr. Albert Nambiaparambil CMI former secretary, CBCI Commission for Interreligious Dialogue* notes that Bede was a participant in the Parliament of World Religions that was organized by the Ayyappa Seva Sangam, a Hindu organization, back in 1971. He tells us about the second inter-faith live-together in Shantivanam in 1974 [which was attended by Bishop Mudartha, Chairman of the Commission and Mgr. Rossano, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Interreligious Dialogue]. There was a Hindu participant who was so inimical to Christians that Fr. Albert [see page 28] did not want him invited. But Bede prevailed. The Hindu was so touched by the sessions that he blessed what he called ‘the Lord’s work’ with a financial contribution. *see page 83

Moral: A militant Hindu finds the ashram’s syncretistic Christianity no threat to his religion.

25 years down the line, Fr. Albert recalls, In that period of my association with Bede, there was much turmoil in the Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council… There was the opinion that dialogue was coming in the way of proclamation of the Good News… That was a time when the steps taken in the line of inculturation, liturgical experimentation etc were being questioned by a few from within the Church community.” [101]

Fr. Albert says, I had the task of striking a balance, of taking the whole community with us. [101]

Check out what Fr. J. Mattam SJ says about Ecclesia in Asia’s directives, and HIS opinion of them [see page 34].

Canadian Fr. Gaston Roberge
SJ Director of the Chitrabani Society, Kolkata in Vandana’s Shabda Shakti Sangam, page 271, writes that when over 100 missionaries including himself were given a send off from Montreal in 1961, the idea of their being sent to give ‘them‘ the message of the Gospel… was repugnant” to his senses.

In Living with Hindus, Vandana devotes an entire chapter ‘And what about Evangelization, Mission, Conversion?’ to the issue, but as you can guess, it is a lot of semantics and her own interpretations of what the terms imply.

NOTE: Looking back, with the evidence at hand, I would say that the type of dialogue promoted by the ashram movement, with Shantivanam and Bede in the lead, has certainly “come in the way of proclamation of the Good News” [to quote Fr. Albert above] and I am confident that every reader is in full agreement with me. Today, more than ever, Catholics are questioning the New Age, syncretism, relativism and religious pluralism in the Catholic ashrams.

Is the role of the CBCI to “strike a balance” between right and wrong, good and evil, Christianity and syncretism, Catholic and New Age, or, for the sake of “the whole community” to explicitly differentiate one from the other and eliminate those errors which in an earlier era would have been instantly pronounced as heresies and abuses?

The CBCI‘s initial encouragement of the setting up of ashrams had in mind a more effective programme for the inculturation of the indigenous Church with the goal of evangelization. But by the mid 1970s, the role of the NBCLC
[page 43] was in the ascendant and the entire programme had been hijacked by its Fr. Amalor who himself founded the Anjali Ashram. Sr. Vandana and Fr. Amalor‘s
roles [pages 41-44, 33]
and those of Bede and Shantivanam in this scenario continue. But, the trail goes back to the two founding fathers, Monchanin and Le Saux.

 

AT LOGGERHEADS, YET UNITED. THE ROLES OF MONCHANIN AND LE SAUX

“Brother John Martin Sahajananda, the Indian Catholic who now leads the ashram founded by Monchanin and Le Saux, portrays Abhishiktananda’s legacy in this way: ‘In Abhishiktananda, Christianity grew from being a dualistic religion into a religion of non-duality, Advaita. In that sense the vocation of Swamiji is a call for every Christian in the future. He is very far, maybe 100 years ahead….Swami Abhishiktananda can be a good model for the Christians in India that
they should not think of converting Hindus
but learning from the Hindu experience of God and enriching the message of Christ and his experience’. (e-mail correspondence to the author, March 26, 2002)… “Abhishiktananda experienced a nondual relation between the self and God via Hindus… and he thereby embodied a style of encounter with another religion that offers a different model of missions, one that seeks to learn from and with non-Christians, rather than convert them. So writes Judson Trapnell [see page 29, 41, 79].

According to Jacques Gadille [see page 28] while in France itself “Monchanin prepared a group of youth for a ministry in the foreign missionsin an inculturated Church [that]
precluded any sort of proselytism” [60].

 

From Shantivanam, Monchanin and Le Saux made a pilgrimage to Mount Arunachala [see pages 37, 61] and had a darshan of Ramana Maharshi [see pages 5, 37 etc] which opened for them the Hindu-Christian dialogue.

Thomas Matus OSB confirms [see page 37] that, in 1949, the two priests “spent a few days in Ramana’s ashram, as it were in preparation for the official founding of Shantivanam which took place in March of the following year.
[178] Of the former’s admiration for the Hindu guru, in his 1959 book Le Saux wrote, Sri Ramana Maharshi seemed to him the most striking representative in our time of the Hindu spiritual achievements.[44]

Francoise Jacquin [see page 28] writes that, while still in France, the only thing Monchanin wanted was to contemplate the mystery of Sat-Cit-Ananda
“in a Hindu ashram.” [64] But Le Saux was not to be left out. Monchanin said of him, Fr. Le Saux has returned from a stay of two months at Arunachala, the sacred place of Hinduism, a triangular mountain which according to myth is the tejolinga (fire lingam of Siva) where Ramana Maharshi lives, and from where he has brought back an essay which moved me… I believe that no one has yet gone as far in the spiritual understanding of Hinduism, an understanding which requires a rethinking of the Holy Trinity and of Creation. [Letter to Edouard Duperray, 30/12/1953]

In a July 1954 letter to Duperray, Monchanin writes, “I have just come back from Tiruvannamalai where I spent six weeks in spiritual discovery of the finest form of Hinduism with Fr. Le Saux, the pure advaita in contact with the teaching of the great and holy Ramana Maharshi.

Says Jacquin, Monchanin believed that to understand Hinduism, it was necessary to go to its source which, for him, was Sankara’s advaita. He led Le Saux into a deep consideration of the subject…” [71].

According to S N Shandilya who wrote the Introduction for Vandana Mataji‘s Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, for Le Saux, the Upanishads had become his very life breath [and he] used to say, Why do people run here and there… trying this master, this other master? Why not keep to the teachings of the Upanishads and the Rishis?

All this might make it seem that they both shared the same aspirations and the same version. In fact theirs could not have been two more contradictory personalities as their biographers and letters concerning one another reveal. The details would fill a chapter and so I limit myself to a few points related to the subject.

Jacquin says, The[ir] mutual criticism multiplied. Living together was extremely difficult. [68]

Monchanin wrote, “Father [Le Saux] suffers increasingly- keep this to yourself- from the dizziness of Vedanta, and I don’t know where it will lead him. I react in a contrary direction… I experience a growing horror at the forms of muddled thinking in this beyond thought which most often only proves to be only a falling short of thought in which everything gets drowned. [To Duperray, 17/12/1955]

While Le Saux wrote, “Fr. Monchanin lives in a world of his own, he accuses me of losing hope, of instability, of being carried away. He forgets that if he himself had been willing to work for the realization of Shantivanam… things might have taken a different course. Discouraged by his inertia, I have been saved by Arunachala, and now, I can never escape from it. [To J. Lemarie 24/12/1955]

Jacquin says that
after the disappointing departure of Fr. Mahieu [Francis Acharya, from Shantivanam
for Kurisumala in 1955], the grievances accumulated.” [69] Monchanin accused Le Saux of no longer believing in Shantivanam [Lettres au Pere Le Saux, Jan. 1955, page 169]. We expected much from Father Mahieu [see pages 45-46], now he is rather a cause of division. As for Fr. Le Saux, he is so entrenched in his personal opinion- opinions which are often tendentious -that collaboration is difficult… We feel that we are at a critical point. [To Duperray, 5/5/1956]. Le Saux echoed the same feeling: “No collaboration with Monchanin is possible. [To Lemarie, 13/10/1956] Meanwhile an Indian priest Fr. Dharmanadar had joined the community. Monchanin writes [Le Saux] … is on the verge of a breakdown. He felt himself restrained by Fr. Dharma and me [To Duperray, 10/4/1957].

Shortly after, Monchanin fell ill and was rushed to Paris where he died of cancer. Le Saux pulled on at Shantivanam until 1968 when he left for the Himalayas where he died in 1973. The Shantivanam experiment under them was a dismal failure. However the wheels that they set in motion ground relentlessly on. [For more on their differences, see page 61.]

They were in agreement on one thing however, the future direction of Shantivanam:

Le Saux: Above all- and here I am sure we are in total agreement- there must be total Indianization… we must live as Sannyasis, and the life of Sannyasa is a Hindu institution that has its own traditional rules to which we must submit.[To Monchanin, 18/8/1947]

Monchanin observed that These Indian Christian monks’ ideal demands more. It is nothing less than the integration of the Hindu spiritual tradition with Christianity. [Ermites du Saccidananda, page 56]

It was his [Monchanin’s] decision to “dedicate the ashram to Saccidananda, …to include in the liturgy hymns taken from the Upanishads… punctuated with repeated chants of the supreme mantra
OM… [and] for [whom]

yoga was the world in itselfwrote Francoise Jacquin. [71]

Thomas Matus OSB confirms this, From the beginning, Fr. Monchanin had insisted (against Abhishiktananda’s taste for Gregorian chant) on the priority of meditative practice with respect to liturgical solemnity.[160]

The letters exchanged between the two priests from 1948-1952 are missing and would have been revelatory. The first letter in 1947 written by Monchanin to Le Saux in France listed the problems posed by meeting Christian thought- the Trinity, the Mystical Body, the salvation of non-Christians, Creation, etc. with that of Hinduism.

Bro. Gaston [see pages 11, 28] believes that
Shantivanam
manifests the Good News of God’s grace… where everyone, whatever his/her creed, ideology or absence of them is welcomed, where an ‘exotic’ liturgy takes place [80].

Gaston says that Cardinal Henri de Lubac wrote that the Second Vatican Council, hence the Universal Church owes a lot to Monchanin [Images de l’abbe Monchanin, 1967]; and Fr. Amalorpavadass [Bulletin de St. Jean-Baptist, January 1965] has also proclaimed the debt of the Indian Church to Monchanin. He continues, It is the place… where the very Indian incarnation of the Holy Trinity [takes] place, (a blasphemy of a sort, but reality)… I boldly and unambiguously state that the only real and unique vocation of Shantivanam is to ‘perceive the Unknown, Inaccessible and ever-clouded Presence‘ and to let the deep self receive its revelation to become part of the Self… one day, dance of joy and gratitude to be Christians, will be integrated into the dance of the Nataraj and so become the eternal Trinitarian dance…: the face of Christ. [81] Gaston insists that Shantivanam must retain its independence, not be an extension of a Roman monastery or it will never again be prophetic“, because an ashram is a place where anyone (sannyasi of course) can come and become a member, etc.

Gaston’s true disposition towards the Magisterium is further revealed when he says:

“I know that my proposal is bordering on heresy, for to touch Canon Law is to touch the Gospel! Or so it seems. But if the aim of the vision [of the founder of the ashram] is twisted due to incompatibility with the Law,
then break the Law! I am sure Jesus would have answered like that!

“But unhappily, our Roman Catholic Church, whose Canon Law has no provision for ‘ashrams’ is obliged to consider them either as canonically non-existent (hence the suspicions!) or as part of a particular congregation, consequently compelling the ashram to become part of the universal routine, killer of the creative spirit, and a simple extension of a western way of contemplation. But I know… that one day, our beloved over-institutionalized Church will understand her duty as ‘Body of Christ’, not limited to a ‘chapel’ or ‘sect’. Ashrams will then stop to appear or disappear at the whims (however well-intentioned) of Superiors or Bishops… [82, 83]

Sr. Claude FMM [see pages 28, 38] reports that she first met Monchanin in 1950 when he gave a seminar on Inculturation in Chennai. Her first meeting with Le Saux, whom she affectionately calls ‘Abhishik’, was when she went to meet him in Shantivanam shortly after hearing of him when she was in Rome in 1964. Of Le Saux, she says: “Abhishik… had to go and visit all Hindu ashrams, undergo different kinds of experiences… visiting Ramana Maharshi and others, always dreaming of settling in the North in some Hindu ashram.

This nun who is active in the Charismatic Renewal in Chennai met Le Saux “several times” at the Jyoti Niketan ashram of Murray Rogers [see page 13] in Bareilly. Sr. Claude says that Rogers was an Anglican priest, “so there was no problem” that Le Saux celebrated Mass with Rogers. She writes that one Sr. Therese, a Carmelite nun from Lisieux was so close to Le Saux that he enabled her to “leave the Carmel” and settle in a room in Ahmedabad… After his death, she settled in a Hindu ashram near Rishikesh.The nun was later found murdered.

Sr. Claude relates the events of the opening of Vandana Mataji‘s Ashram in Pune where “everyday [Bede] was teaching the Upanishads. After a few minutes he was lost in ecstasy, repeating endlessly one word [84-87]

Fr. Paul Pattathu CMI [see page 28, 31] admits that earlier, The use of Indian Scriptures, prayer forms, symbols, articles of worship and many other signs and expressions of divine worship were forbidden to the Christians here. Through the ashrams,
many of these spiritual assetswere introduced into the Church and into its theological expressions
of faith and worship
.” [56]

 

NEW AGE CONNECTIONS

Bede himself believed that the piety of “popular devotions like the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross … and the Imitation of Christ… is far from the spirituality of the Gospels. Instead he was interested in Aurobindo‘s concept of… an integral yoga… in the yogic philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. [97] Jyoti Sahi also says that the ideals of Sri Aurobindo was among those that provided a key to [Bede’s] initial attraction to India. [91] [see page 54 for Sri Aurobindo’s connection with New Age].

Jyoti Sahi on Bede: Towards the end of his life… he became very much involved with a group of thinkers who were trying to find a new connection between science… and a spiritual intuition of life. This is the basis for his last major work which he called A New Vision of Reality
[92,93] This ‘group of thinkers’ were all New Agers. We have encountered several of them already, and we will meet them individually shortly.

Fr. Bede wrote to Sahi in November 1982 soon after returning from a long trip to Europe [by then Bede was very closely associated with the New Agers]: I think that we are in an age of transition. The old model of the Church, and also of society is breaking down, and a new model is emerging- a contemplative, intuistic, holistic model as opposed to our scientific, rational, mechanistic, analytical model*. But I am afraid that our present system will have
to break down more or less violently before a new world can emerge. So we have to do what we can in the limited circumstances … I have been very much influenced by the work of
Fritjof Capra (The Tao of Physics) especially The Turning Point. We are having a

conference here on December 28 to January 3 at which Capra and also my friend Rupert Sheldrake
will be present, onReligion in the Light of the New Vision of Reality.‘ Could you come? We shall be discussing it from the point of view of physics (Capra), biology (Sheldrake), psychology, and philosophy- you could add art. [95] According to Thomas Matus OSB, Sheldrake attended another conference at Shantivanam in 1984.
[see page 36]
*The New Age can hardly be defined better than through just this one sentence.

Sheldrake was a regular visitor to Shantivanam. Bede and Sheldrake greatly influenced each other’s thought.

Bede was a regular at international New Age seminars and conferences, and the title of his 1989 book A New Vision of Reality was inspired by Sheldrake’s writings and the theme of the 1982 New Age conference at Shantivanam.

Sahi who promotes Hindu symbols of worship in the ashram circuit through his art [see pages 41, 47, 48], admits that In contrast to the kind of parochialism which leads a Hindu nationalist to resent anyone making use of symbols which are supposed to derive from an Indian tradition, we now find a kind of ecumenism, perhaps typified by aNew Age Spirituality, which appropriates in its own way all symbols, by attempting to cross over all religious boundaries. [98] New Age is typified by just such a sort of syncretism; Sahi actually used the wordsNew Age’!

A friend from London sent me this letter: I have been living in Shantivanam for quite some time, even under Bede I found the approach questionable to say the least. On one occasion, when “The Aquarian Conspiracy *, the book of Marilyn Ferguson, was read during mealtime, I expected a discussion after, and a Catholic guideline for all the 20 or so foreign youth present. But nothing happened. I then took this up with Bede, but he was too far gone, mainly pride seemed to be his problem! …The enemy is in the centre of the institutional Church and will not want to be displaced.

In the Vatican Document on the New Age, The Aquarian Conspiracy [see
page 54]
is one of 12 titles listed under ‘Some New Age books’, and again in n 2.3.2. Fritjof Capra‘s The Tao of Physics and The Turning Point are both included, n 9.1. We noted that American pilgrims to Shantivanam were pre-conditioned with New Age music [see page 18] which is indicative of its role in the New World Order that they would receive initiation into at the Ashram. Vandana Mataji has herself experienced the world’s premiere New Age centre, Findhorn in Scotland [see pages 45, 63]. We have also noted that Fr. Korkonius SJ
[see
page 16, 30, 66, 85]
of the Ananda Dhara Yogashram gave an “exposition on New Age Movements and Ashrams” as having much relevance for ashram life at an ashrams satsangh, reportedly in the presence of a Bishop, 2004 September. *see pages 53, 54

 

REBELLION AGAINST ROME – II
[see page 16]

Jesuit Fr. J. Mattam writing in the souvenir, analyses the post-synodal document Ecclesia in Asia, but his criticisms show his complete disagreement with it, and his approval of what is going on in Shantivanam and other ashrams.

“A mildly critical look at EA is enough to show that in fact the Church does not intend any inculturation, but the continuation of the past untouched by the present, he says. [135] Despite admitting that EA asks the Church in Asia to inculturate theology, liturgy and the formation of evangelizers,” he uses the next thirteen pages to discuss various aspects of inculturation, very significantly avoiding even the remotest mention of the evangelization aspect that the document insists should go hand in hand with the former.

This attitude is adopted by almost all our priests [and even some Bishops] who are in pursuit of interreligious dialogue and inculturation. They quote selectively from the Vatican documents and encyclicals to support their contentions while completely ignoring Rome’s calls for evangelization which are far more numerous and frequent than any of her instructions on inculturation. I have highlighted this with examples in several earlier reports.

Quoting from EA n. 21, Mattam interjects his remark (whatever that may mean) against the Church’s guideline. Against quotes from EA n. 22, he expresses:

“These beautiful ideas are immediately put in shackles… given the nature of the functioning of the Roman dicasteries, and their closed mentality, their being in charge of this process is the death knell of this venture; whatever Rome is not familiar, the author is punished, without freedom there is no possibility of a creative theology from the East.

Especially the remark: ‘in sincere adherence to the Magisterium’ is the greatest hindrance; the Magisterium does not know the culture, needs, attitudes of every people… The emphasis on doctrines (orthodoxy) is itself particular conditioning. Jesus’ attitude was different. [136]

This is also what Bro. Martin keeps repeating ad nauseam about the Church during his satsanghs.

Fr. Mattam continues: “What is the competence of ‘the Universal Church’ (meaning ‘Rome’) to judge what is proper for Asia or Africa or for any place other than Rome?
In fact we know that the Roman authorities have so far been pouring cold water on any experiment made in Asia*.

[*A separate report on the disputes that the Jesuits [JEPASA, the association of Jesuit Provincials of South Asia, and a few Bishops who support them] have been having with Rome, is under preparation. Sadly, my research finds more Jesuits, and this goes RIGHT TO THE TOP, in dissent with Church teachings, promoting a left-wing theology and an ashramic inculturation in the Church, and involved in New Age, than priests of any other congregation.]

“We know how many of the decisions and recommendations were rejected by the authorities in Rome. For instance the fate of the so-called Indian rite and later proposals. Each Church has to be autonomous with regard to its liturgical needs…. It is beyond my comprehension why Rome insists on the right to approve a Gujarati text over which they have no authority and competence? This dependence on Rome has really dampened the spirit… Rome cannot recognize as valid anything that they are not used to…. There are many similar statements [in EA] which are questionable…. Another escapist attitude is seen in the following statement, ‘The Holy Spirit is the prime agent of the inculturation of the Christian Faith in Asia’. Therefore, for the absence of inculturation all these centuries is He responsible?… The word of God has an inherent power to touch the hearts of people [EA n. 22]… But at a larger level, can we talk of the Word having an automatic power to change lives? writes Fr. Mattam. [137, 138]

Fr. Mattam notes certain Vatican statements in EA n. 9, 10 and 20 on the proclamation of ‘Jesus Christ as the Good News of God for all the nations’, ‘true God and true Man, the one and only Saviour for all peoples’, and remarks “These statements seen from the point of view of a Hindu are very distressing indeed… How are we sure that our prescription is the true one? [138]

He seems to challenge basic Catholic teaching. On EA n. 14, ‘Even for those who do not explicitly profess faith in Him as the Savior, salvation comes as a gift from Jesus Christ through the communication of the Holy Spirit’, he asks, Are we all that sure how others are being saved? Do we claim to know all God’s ways? [139]

On EA n. 19 which states, ‘There can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord’, Mattam comments, This is to give up all the developments in thought in the area of evangelization since some twenty years, where one began to see it in much larger broader perspectives, under the umbrella of the kingdom of God… The Church has made no progress in this area. [139]

“The document [EA] emphasizes fidelity to the Bible literature… The Jews claimed to be a chosen people… Even the New Testament has limitations. The first generation of Christians had no way of understanding Jesus except on the background of the Jewish Bible. They saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies Yahweh had made to the Jews; so they spoke of Him as the Messiah and Christ… primarily it is that designation that gains ascendancy in the early Church. Are we bound by that today?” he asks. [140]

Are these statements and questions of Fr. Mattam heresies, theological questioning or dissent? It is for the teaching magisterium of the Church to provide the answer after reading the entire essay written by the priest [lest I be accused of quoting him out of context], because, while he defends his case with clever historical and theological arguments, and certainly some of them are valid, the conclusions arrived at by me are different from those reached by Fr. Mattam.

 

SYNCRETISM, PSYCHIC EXPERIENCE, AND SACRILEGE

Fr. Cornelius Tholens OSB “reflects on the deep impact Fr. Bede and Shantivanam had on his life.” [102]:

“We shall meet around and in TAT which is highly real and only real: TAT which Christians name the Father of Jesus Christ, whom the Buddhists call Nirvana, Hindus Brahman, the Chinese Tao, the zenith of all religions.

He quotes Bede at a 1985 symposium ‘Emerging Consciousness for a New Humankind” in Chennai:

“We are on the point of rediscovering something of the all-including vision of the ‘Perennial Philosophy of yore, and to interpret this vision in the light of religion as well as science in our days.” [104] New Age!

So there is only one reality. Creation is not real. Advaitic monism for you. And the TAT, the ‘That’ and the impersonal Brahman of Hinduism, the nihilism of nirvana… are one and the same with the personal God of Judeo-Christianity. This is what Fr. Tholens learnt from Bede and his ashram, not forgetting an exposure to New Age ideologies [the meeting of science and religion] at the Chennai symposium.

Fritz
Kortler relates his ‘seeing’ Bede in a series of dreams. [I’m reminded of the testimony of Swami Sachidananda Bharathi who meets in his dreams the four men, one of them being Bede, who were to become his gurus!]

In one of the dreams Bede asks Kortler if he is aware that the new universal age has just begun.
New Age!

A few nights later after a meeting with Bede, In my hotel room his shakti
[= feminine psychic energy] [see pages 5,
7, 17,
36,
42, 47, 48, 49, 58, 59
] flowed through me like electricity during my alternating prayers and meditation. [107]

These are the very psychic phenomena which may accompany certain meditations, that the October 15, 1989 Vatican Document “Letter to the BishopsOn Christian Meditation
* explicitly warns Christians against, n. 28.

Kortler who had “nothing to do with the Catholic Church and Christianity for a long time… went to the mass celebrated by Fr. Bede and even took holy communion… ‘After 25 years I went to communion for the first time,’ I said to Fr. Bede. He answered with a friendly smile. For the most part I was busy with taking pictures during the mass. [105] This is exactly what is happening on a daily basis at Shantivanam Ashram. Not the “taking pictures”. But, the outrage of sacrilegious Holy Communions that are distributed to seekers of all ‘faiths’ and of no faith. [see pages 8, 9, 10, 20, 24] *For Vandana’s & Bede’s critiques of the Document see pages 44, 58.

Vandana Mataji’s colleague Sr. Sara Grant Rscj [see pages 65] in Towards an Alternative Theology says about her Christa Prema Seva Ashram, Everyone knows that they are welcome to join in whatever is going on in the ashram. Quite often people come to the Eucharist including many from a Christian background who have been out of touch with it for years,
page 61. There is a definite
possibility that all are permitted, if not encouraged, to receive communion.

Angelika Monteux’ Indian “adventure” commenced with a stay “with Hindu families”. At Shantivanam, she notices the cross that had the Sanskrit character ‘OM at its centre; everybody chanted OM’. Then followed a mixture of Catholic liturgy, Hindu and Sanskrit mantras, readings from the Bible, Vedas and the Book of Tao. The priest and congregation performed rituals I had seen in temples before… At the end Holy Communion was shared out [among all present], the host being a big chunk of chapatti. Could this be a Catholic Church? I was surprised and critical… [130] [The theology for unrestricted reception of Holy Communion is already in place:]


Brother Martin
showed very convincingly how Vedantic wisdom can be applied to understand and enliven the message of Christianity and how human beings in their search for God can only come to the experience of truth when they find
liberation from all outer forms of religion, ritual or church tradition.
When we realize that our true self is essentially one with God, we no longer need to look for outer ways to find him,
she says.
[131]

This could very well be a summary of the message of Shantivanam. The inculturation and syncretisation has made the liturgy indistinguishable from that which may be practised by any inter-faith group, the spiritual experiences of visitors have little if anything to do with genuine Christian prayer, Holy Communion unreservedly “shared out” is the equivalent of the ‘prasadam‘ distributed in temples, and Bro. Martin does away with the seekers’ need for either the Catholic Church or any form of religious structures with his radical indoctrination of all visitors.

 

VISITS TO HINDU TEMPLES: REPULSION, FEAR, AND AN ALIEN PRESENCE

Thomas Matus
OSB
is concerned about the Church’s dogmatic insistence on the Bible especially since the Second Vatican Council. He relates his meeting with a young Catholic teacher from a village near Tiruvannamalai who thinks that Christianity is incomplete without the Upanishads, and who discovered Hinduism through reading Fr. Bede’s The Cosmic Revelation which inspired her to read the Upanishads. Now, she finds more spiritual meaning in [Wordsworth and Keats] than in the Bible. ‘The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is often confusing and contradictory’, she said. ‘It is also too full of precepts and commandments’. [174]

PROBLEMS WITH THE ‘REAL PRESENCE’ “The real problem for an Indian theology is sacramentality. Hindus and many Indian Christians find that they have no concepts to deal with the affirmation of the real presence of the body of Christ in the Eucharist. He is all-pervading isn’t he? Then how can he be more here than there? he asks [175].

He maintains that Abhishiktananda’s emphasis is in harmony with Advaita-Vedanta, the philosophy of strict non-dualism, [169] and explains the state of true sannyas in terms of tantrism and Kriya Yoga. Every monk must in some sense begin as an advaitin. But the monk matures as a tantrist. [170] [see pages 7, 15, 49, 55, 58, 96]

Quoting St. Benedict, ‘To be a monk is to seek God’, Matus says that there are two ways of being a monk. The first is sannyasa or total renunciation, the second is the way of transcendence through integration, yoga.

While I believe that St. Benedict was talking of the personal, transcendent God of the Bible, Matus reveals that he converted from what he calls ‘Hollywood Hinduism’ to Catholicism, “convinced that only thus could I remain faithful to what I had learned from [Paramahansa] Yogananda’s books and from the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads… I was fourteen when I read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. The book awakened strange longings in me and set the course my life would follow from that time forward.” [157,158]

This then, in a nutshell, is the spirituality of Bede, his books, and his ashram. There is simply a total absence of Christian elements, and Fr. Matus only confirms my opinion that the ashrams are producing Hindu-ised Christians.

Matus’ observations in a 26-page report, Fragments of an Ashram Diary, on his stay at Shantivanam from July 18 to Sep. 20, 1984, give a good description of the ashram, its inhabitants, its worldview and its influences.

This next bit of Matus’ information confirms the extent of Bede’s involvement in the New Age which was a growing influence in his philosophising and in the formulation of his teachings, and reveals Bede’s enthusiasm for it. It was immediately after Bede presided at Mass on his arrival from Bangalore, and met Matus. Bede told Matus that New Ager Rupert Sheldrake was coming to Shantivanam in December of that year for a special gathering… on contemporary science and religion. [161] Sheldrake had earlier attended a conference there in 1982 [see page 33].

Matus relates that he, Bede and Amaldas visited a small Hindu temple dedicated to Sri Murugan the Boy-God, very popular in these parts. Some of the images inside were atrociously similar to the worst Catholic kitsch.” [161] The day before my initiation into sannyasa, I made a pilgrimage to… Ayermalai, a Shiva temple. [see page 4]. He explains the approach to the temple as having seven porches representing the seven cakras
[see pages 17-18, 42, 45, 47, 49, 56, 58, 68] or centers of consciousness in the yogi’s ‘subtle body‘. We stopped to rest under the one that corresponds to the manipura, the navel cakra… When we came to the bas-relief of the teaching Shiva, I was strangely repelled by the smile. I mentally asked the image, ‘Who are you?’ There was no answer…

“When I entered the first hall of the temple, I was overwhelmed by a sense of enormous psychic power and of an alien presence in the place. I tried to concentrate… but fear kept rushing up at me, and with it the sense of having wandered into a different world, where I was definitely out of place and out of my depth… We came at last to the holy of holies. In this windowless chamber was the lingam… A young priest uttered a prayer before the lingam, honoring it with a camphor flame in a dish; then he offered us ashes from the dish to place on our foreheads in three horizontal stripes, signifying the three saktis
or energies of Shiva… At the lingam chamber the odor of incense and of oily smoke nauseated me. I did not put the ash on my forehead.

“I quickly went outside and leaned against a wall… The religion of the temple on Ayermalai is alien not only because it is ‘non-Christian’ but also because it is a religion of hereditary priesthood.

“A sannyasi is not a priest; a brahmin who takes sannyasa renounces his priesthood… The meaning of my priesthood bears only a tenuous analogy to that of the brahmins of Ayermalai. So I had no business in that temple, and in a way I have no business in any temple.” [170-172]

One of the Europeans with them explained Matus’ negative reactions to him: “Whatever your intellectual knowledge of Hinduism, you have obviously not come to terms with it emotionally.” [172] Later, one Brother Mani of the Little Brothers of Jesus understood my feeling of being repulsed by the temple of Ayermalai. [180].

Everything spiritual [Christian] in Fr. Matus was ‘repelled’ or ‘repulsed’ by his close encounter in the ‘alien’ temple. He sensed ‘fear’ and nauseation, ‘a sense of enormous psychic power and of an alien presence in the place’.

He experienced it even more pronouncedly as an anointed Catholic priest who engaged himself in making the seven stations of the Way of the Chakras. Christians in the Ministry of Deliverance would give us a more authoritative explanation for Matus’ inner spirit’s involuntary rejection of what he had exposed himself to, than the psychological one offered by his European friend. But Matus believes that it was because of the “Americanized… Hinduism that I absorbed from Yogananda’s writings, [which] colored not only my ‘intellectual knowledge’ of India’s wisdom but also my personal religious sentiments. It continues to color my understanding of the Catholic faith. [172]

 

AND PILGRIMAGES TO HINDU ASHRAMS: THE RAMANA ASHRAM

Despite this repelling encounter with ‘alien’ deities in a Siva temple, Fr. Thomas Matus journeys next to Mount Arunachala, to the Ramana Ashram of Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai, also dedicated to the worship of Siva, which is governed by the spirit of Maharshi, as no guru has replaced him since his death 34 years earlier.

Matus writes, In the main ashram temple, regular worship is conducted daily, mostly the chanting of Vedas and the clockwise circumambulation of Sri Ramana’s tomb. [His] life as an ascetic began in his seventeenth year with a near-death experience… Having seen through the illusions of the skin-encapsulated ego, he left home and proceeded to the distant sanctuary of a temple in the shadow of Mount Arunachala. Upon reaching the shrine, he entered the holy of holies, embraced the lingam [see pages 32, 36, 46, 65, 74] and cried ‘My Father, my Father’… Seeing the mountain, I kept seeing Ramana Maharshi’s face, or rather, I kept feeling that somehow I was merging with him, as if I were seeing his face from within.” [178]

” ‘The living mystery of Arunachala ‘ [Abhishiktananda’s words]… was for Sri Ramana and his fellow Hindus personified as Shiva, India’s primordial divinity…[178, 179] [Arunachala= “Immobile Dawn”]

Apart
from
their initiation joint pilgrimage in 1949, [see pages
32,
61
]
“Monchanin made several visits here.” Le Saux too.

Le Saux was very much influenced by Maharshi’s teachings as is clear in his great work [Saccidananda] of finding a christian approach to the Advaita experience,
Vandana Mataji in Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, page 91.

In his 1974 book Guru and Disciple, Le Saux describes the “linga which dominates the samadhi” of Ramana Maharshi, to which ablutions and flower offerings are made by devotees like him, pages 17, 18.

He cancelled his planned “retreat” there on hearing of Maharshi’s death in 1950. [Ramana was born in 1879].

“The Maharshi was no longer there, and any desire to return to Tiruvannamalai at once left me, said Le Saux. But return he did, exclaiming, If Ramana was indeed great, how much more so must be this Arunachala which drew Ramana to himself” [178]. Note that Le Saux speaks of Arunachala as a living entity [:’himself‘].

He was so enamoured of the place that he wrote a book The Secret of Arunachala: A Christian Hermit on Shiva’s Holy Mountain, ISPCK, 1979. In it, this co-founder of Shantivanam says that once an English devotee of the Maharshi reminded him of the ‘intellectual baggage’ with which he was encumbered and which hindered his vision of Sri Ramana and invited him to return another time [without the baggage]!

Vandana‘s Shabda Shakti Sangam dedicates one chapter [pages 211-217] to Ramana Maharshi. In the same book, former president of the Abhishiktananda Society in Delhi, Bettina Baumer, a Catholic, gives a testimony of the influence on her of her 1963 visit to Arunachala and to Le Saux in Shantivanam. And of the support to her of Raimundo Panikkar.

As I mentioned earlier [see
pages 5, 9, 27, 32, 33], most visitors to Shantivanam make a pilgrimage to this Ashram. The Arunachaleshwara temple in the North Arcot district of Tamil Nadu, 185 kms. from Chennai is one of Hinduism holiest sites as it has one of the Panchalingas of the deity Shiva. It was at the foot of Arunachala that Somerset Maugham was inspired to write the book The Razor’s Edge, a novel attempting to recount a psychic experience through which he had passed while at the Ramanashram, says AVS Rao, Temples of Tamil Nadu, 2001, page 243.

 

THE CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL, ASHRAMS AND THE NEW AGE

A priest who is now an active leader in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal had followed a similar pilgrim circuit, as was published in the September 1991 THE VOICE OF DELHI*, [the official newsletter of the Archdiocese of Delhi] under the caption Om Saccidananda, Om Shanti, Shanti: “Fr. Loy Mascarenhas, our man in search of truth in various ashrams in India writes from Saccidananda Ashram… that he is ‘enjoying the quiet and silence spending lots of time in prayer and reflection and reading.’ He has just completed two months in Kalady, the birthplace of Aadi Shankaracharya and in Kurishumala
[see page 45-46, 65] ‘going deeper into the deep things’. Fr. Loy is expected to come back with lots of insight and inner light as that of Ramana Maharishi. *see page 85
Obviously the priest had also visited Fr. Painadath‘s Sameeksha Ashram in Kalady and the Ramana Ashram.

The priest’s itinerary must have been approved by his superiors and his Bishop. Concerned about the influence that these ashrams must have had [after all, he did go there “in search of truth“!] on the priest [who was a good friend of mine], I sent this information privately to the concerned leaders in the Charismatic Renewal knowing fully well that it might not be the ‘prudent’ thing to do. My apprehensions have been confirmed by events that have occurred over the last few months, certain setbacks and opposition experienced by this ministry. The letter was not appreciated.

Shortly after that, another private letter from this writer to senior leaders in the Renewal, pointing out a certain very influential charismatic priest’s public pronouncements favourable to occult practices like water divining, [he was earlier propagating New Age meditations like Zen and alternative medicines such as Pranic Healing and Reiki], made matters even worse. This ministry is paying a heavy price for its crusade against the New Age in the Church.

Fr. Thomas Matus‘ reflections on the Renewal need to be included. The Charismatic Renewal is very widespread among active Catholics in India… Attitudes toward authentic Hindu and other Indian religious traditions- sacred texts like the Upanishads and meditative practices like yoga and vipassana (Buddhist insight meditation) – range from indifference to hostility with perhaps some timid interest and lukewarm indifference in between.

The charismatics are almost all convinced that the study of Hindu writings and the practice of yoga are either useless or dangerous,he says, [163] [For more on Charismatic Renewal see pages 89, 92, 93, 94]

I think that here Fr. Matus has touched on a very crucial issue.

I have always written that the major bulwark against New Age [and the ashrams’] expansionism in the Church is a prophetic Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Fr. Joe Pereira of Mumbai promotes yoga and occult meditational techniques to treat people who suffer from alcohol and drug abuse through Kripa. You will read about his hostility to the Renewal [see pages 41, 44, 87-96].

Holistic Health Centres promoting New Age alternative therapies, and run by nuns, operate with impunity in our major dioceses, even under Bishops who are leaders in Charismatic Renewal [report published in 2000].

A greatly esteemed and accomplished Orthodox Bishop, Paulose Mar Gregorios [see page 58] who died several years ago was for years the leading high-profile New Ager in the Indian Church, his New Age books being printed and published by his seminary. No one seems to have objected. I first wrote about him as early as 1999.

The Bishops, many of who are well aware of what has been going on in the ashrams for years now, have not yet [re]acted officially, just as there has been no official directive from them to the Indian Church on the Vatican’s Provisional Report on the New Age released over thirty months ago. Several leaders in the Renewal who support this ministry believe that the reasons are political. Read ‘no one will take the initiative to face up to the truth’.

Certainly a few Bishops, and a tiny minority of leaders in the Renewal do not want to see the truth revealed, what with their colleagues [Church and Renewal leaders, including well known priests] already compromised.

Around this time last year, a priest involved in charismatic ministry introduced himself to me through an email in which he protested at my including DREAM THERAPY in a list of New Age practices. In a series of strong letters he said that he was doing DREAMWORK and insisted that he found nothing wrong with it, advising me not to distribute my literature and “confuse the minds of young people,” ending with a suggestion that I “read NEW AGE: A THEOLOGICAL RESPONSE TO THE VATICAN DOCUMENT edited by Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ. This issue has articles by eminent and serious theologians of India on the matter of New Age.” The priest was telling me that I had wrong notions of what New Age is, and that my reading the above would serve to educate me.

My article on Dream Therapy will be published soon. Meanwhile, readers can have a ‘preview’ of it [see pages 39-41] by reading about who and what Jung is. The influence of Jungian psychology on dream analysis cannot be avoided in the New Age by anyone who studies or practices it. I am confident that this good priest is practicing a New Age form of Dreamwork because, for his defence, he brought in the liberal theological arguments of twelve persons, including one Hindu swami, edited for publication by Fr. Painadath as their combined and outright rejection of the findings and recommendations of the 3rd February 2003 Vatican Document on the New Age. My detailed report on this to follow. Concerning Fr. Painadath himself, you may refer to pages 14, 15, 27, 28, 29, 30, 37, 40, 46-47, 67.


Sr. Claude FMM, a Bible teacher and leading figure in the Renewal in Chennai has written for the Ashram souvenir, was close to Bede, and was a regular visitor to Shantivanam and other ashrams. Her familiarity with the ashram circuit is evident from the information provided. [see pages 28, 33].

Jesuit Father A.J. Thamburaj, twice National Chairman of the Charismatic Renewal, practised reiki and pranic healing, and by his own public admission, has even been trained in Zen meditation, a couple of years ago, at the Bodhi Zendo Ashram [see pages 9, 29] of his good friend, Fr. Ama Samy SJ. [See separate report. This ashram is a Life Member of Ashram Aikiya]. At a January 2005 national charisms seminar at Dhyana Ashram in Chennai, in the presence of many senior leaders and priests, he spoke about his proficiency in dowsing [using a pendulum for divination].

Is it to be believed that they and others like them came away uninfluenced by the erroneous teachings and exposure to occult practices that they encountered at these centres? If one, who has been to any of these centres and realized what is occurring there, is truly Catholic and Christian, he would, from his own unfortunate experience, alert fellow believers about these centres and their activities. After all, anyone can make a mistake. Silence is in itself compromise, but the priest last referred to has actually encouraged ignorant Catholics in the prayer groups to take up Zen meditation as a beneficial spiritual exercise. As early as 1999, I had discovered a core-group leader doing Zen at the Jesuit-run Dhyana Ashram in Chennai before an icon of the Buddha. This leading charismatic priest lives on the same premises which is officially known as the ‘Zen’ building. Sr. Claude herself is well aware of this. Is it to be believed that these Renewal leaders, who are thorough with the Word of God and preach a charismatic spirituality, did not and do not find anything wrong with the teachings of the ashram leaders and the goings-on in their ashrams?

The price that I paid for these [and a few more equally unsavoury] disclosures was my having to quit the group at the next prayer meeting, and facing the wrath of the influential leader of the group and other regional leaders too, which continues till this very day, while the compromised leaders carry on with their ‘ministries’. What never ceases to amaze me is that many good leaders in the Church, and in the Renewal itself, make no apparent effort to admonish the erring leaders, or to ensure that, if they do not abjure these practices, they do not continue to occupy positions of leadership and ministry that give them official access to charismatics in the Church. And that a ministry that seeks to warn innocent Catholics about them is steadfastly ignored, marginalized and stifled.

 

The continued references by this ministry to these old issues is precisely because they have not been officially addressed and because this ministry has received no assurance that they will. On the other hand the writer has been either ‘advised’ to pray for the erring leaders or to modify his style of writing if he wants his work to be ‘accepted’.

For the truth to be revealed, even if it were written or spoken objectively, would be to expose certain unpleasant facts.

It is no wonder that certain sections of the Renewal distance themselves from the work of this ministry which avoids any sort of compromise while exposing these evils. The purpose of including this section is to demonstrate that the ashram movement has compromised several leading personalities in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal too.

All the same, from earlier experience, I expect that the inclusion of this section will create more enemies for me.

There is also the more sensitive issue of our being a minority in a Hindu nation, the possibility of repercussions against the Catholic community if Catholics were, let us say, officially instructed to avoid practising yoga.
Today, September 2, 2005, the New Indian Express reports that an Indian Muslim woman and her entire family were excommunicated for her doing yoga despite warnings from the mullah that it was against the tenets of Islam., American televangelist and presidential candidate Pat Robertson in 1989 had said, “Satan, beasts, demons. Destruction of soul in hell. That is what Hinduism is all about.” Catholics in India cannot, of course, go about saying such things [even if they are true].

So it is better to be politically correct, while increasing numbers of ignorant Catholics are baptised into the New Age.

However, as more Catholics decide that enough is enough, things are improving. Courageous and righteous Bishops have expressed their serious concern to me about the dangers posed to the Church by the New Age, and now the ashrams. And charismatic publications have begun to feature articles on New Age themes, though not all of them are prepared to come out openly in solidarity with ministries like this one. It is alright to write against the New Age from a safe and distant standpoint, but it requires a truly ‘charismatic’ spirit to expose as well as TACKLE the errors, and those behind them, especially when they hit uncomfortably close to home.

I have with me a letter dated 31st October 1983, written by a lay Catholic to Fr. I. Hirudayam [see pages 15, 27] at Aikiya Alayam. The person laments that something negative was written about Fr. Hirudayam in the 1983 AILC Souvenir, and, after affirming his support for Fr. Hirudayam, Acharya Francis Mahieu and Fr. Bede Griffiths, he refers to a letter of his severely criticizing the charismatic renewal, that was published the previous week in the New Leader. It does not need wisdom to see that the two spiritualities, ashram [as in this report] and charismatic, oppose each other. The Charismatic Renewal has a major role to play in this spiritual warfare. Intercessory prayer should serve to complement words and pro-action, for the spirit of the Renewal is a prophetic Spirit.

 

MEISTER ECKHART, MATTHEW FOX, AND C.G. JUNG

Bro. John Martin
Sahajananda wrote a brief comparative study of Sankara and Meister Eckhart
[see page 18] which widened his horizons, says the back cover of every book published by him. Who is this Meister Eckhart who is so important to Martin that he quotes his words? [see page 24] And is so important to Sr. Vandana Mataji that when she recalls a sublime spiritual experience while “sitting at Swamiji’s feet” of her Hindu guru Swami Chidananda, she immediately quotes this Eckhart as saying ‘somewhere’ of the Truth who cannot be reached by those who seek him in externals,
Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, page 6.

Who is this Jung whose insights Bede was always deeply interested in and who influenced Bede’s close associates like Fritz Kortler and Jyoti Sahi? [see pages 17, 28 respectively].

Catholic evangelist Eddie Russell, in
Meister Eckhart
of Hochheim [1260-1329] -The Snake in the Grass
, writes:

“The following is drawn from the book, Breakthrough – Meister Eckhart’s Creation Spirituality in New Translation – Introduction and Commentaries by the excommunicated Dominican priest
Matthew Fox,
[see pages 6, 55, 59, 60, 63, 76] author of Original Blessing, the foundation of his teachings on Creation Spirituality. [Readers will note that
Fox wrote the Foreword for Bede’s 1976 work Return to the Centre].

“Read it carefully and see if you can pick up the thread of this theology in regard to the authentic mystical theology of Avila and Saint John of the Cross that connects itself, and manifests itself in the New Age philosophies we are dealing with through the Christian Meditation teachings. Eckhart seems to be the link that allows them to claim an early Christian tradition of meditation. The Eastern connection allows the introduction of Yoga etc. in our current situation. Matthew Fox says ‘Eckhart was condemned posthumously by a Papal Decree issued on March 27th 1329. His profoundly, this-worldly spirituality, went underground where it fed many of the most significant movements of Western cultural and intellectual history. In Germany, his disciples and brother Dominicans Henry Suso and John Tauler drew extensively from his thinking even after his condemnation. Nicholas of Cusa* in the 15th century commented on Meister Eckhart’s works, and Martin Luther in the 16th century, drew heavily on Eckhart by way of John Tauler, whom, as Hoffman points out, Luther admired unwaveringly from his youth to his final days. Lutheran mystic Jakob Boehme [1575-1629] owed much to Eckhart, as did the radical mystic-politician Thomas Munzer, who was born in the same German province as both Eckhart and Luther. In England, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing as well as Walter Hilton and especially Julian of Norwich, demonstrate a significant debt to Eckhart. The work of the 17th century Polish mystic-poet Angelus Silesius has been called a seventeenth-century edition of Eckhart and, the 14th century Flemish mystic Jan van Ruysbroeck was influenced by him’.

“Fox continues: ‘We can be sure, says scholar Jeanne Ancelet-Hustache, that through the intermediary of Flemish mystics, Eckhart’s thought had anonymously found its way even into Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross. Likewise, Marxist scholars like Erich
Fromm* and Bloch invoke Eckhart as a forerunner of the spirit of Karl Marx’.

Asian scholars like Dr. D. T. Suzuki* speak of the ‘closeness of Meister Eckhart’s way of thinking to that of Mahayana Buddhism, especially of Zen Buddhism’, and Professor S. Ueda in Kyoto, Japan, says that Eckhart breaks ‘the sound barrier of the normal intellectual world of Christianity and thereby enters into the world of Zen.’

“Catholic monk, Thomas Merton* [see pages 54, 55, 82] agrees, saying that, ‘whatever Zen may be, however you define it, it is somehow there in Eckhart’. Fox continues, Merton confesses to having been “entranced” by Meister Eckhart, and it can be documented that his conversion from being a romantic, dualistic, and Augustinian-minded monk in the 1950’s to being a prophetic Christian in the 1960’s occurred while he was studying Zen and Meister Eckhart. “Hindu scholar, Ananda Coomaraswamy compares Eckhart to Vedantist traditions.

Quaker mystic, Rufus Jones acknowledges a debt to Eckhart as well he should, Matthew Fox says. For Quaker founder George Fox is in many ways Eckhartian-influenced. For example, his notion of the ‘spark of the soul’ seems more than coincidentally like [Matthew] Fox’s ‘inner light’.

“To sum up Fox‘s attitude in defence of Eckhart and his own doctrines in rebellion to Church teaching, the following is again quoted from Fox: ‘Creation-centered spirituality, the spiritual tradition that is the most Jewish, the most biblical, the most prophetic, and the most like the kind Jesus of Nazareth preached and lived, has been almost lost in the West since Eckhart’s condemnation. In place of this spirituality of blessing and of passing on a blessing to others by way of justice and compassion, we have often been fed introverted, anti-artistic, anti-intellectual, apolitical, sentimental, dualistic, ascetic, and in many ways masochistic spirituality parading as Christian spirituality’.”

“Psychologist C.G. Jung confessed that Eckhart offered him the ‘key’ to opening the way to grasp what liberation means in a psychological context. Jung wrote: ‘The art of letting things happen, action through non-action, letting go of oneself, as taught by Meister Eckhart, became for me the key to opening the door to the way. We must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us, this actually is an art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering’.

In Living with Hindus, Vandana quotes Eckhart [pages xv and 62]. Why she asks, has he always been ‘suspect’?

On page 42 of that book, she also quotes the words of Nicholas of Cusa.

Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ [see pages 30,
46-47
] in [ed.] Vandana‘s Shabda Shakti Sangam devotes an essay [pages 277-281] to the defence and explanation of German [born 1260] Dominican priest Eckhart‘s teachings, calling him a “Christian Vedantin’. In the West today, there is a growing interest in the writings of Meister Eckhart. In the East, Zen masters and Vedanta scholars too feel attracted to Eckhart, he says.

*Fromm, Suzuki and Merton are listed among the leading influencers of New Age in the Vatican Document, notes 15. So are Nicholas of Cusa and Eckhart in the note on the influencers of Theosophy, A Select Glossary, n 7.2.

The New Age connection goes all the way down the line to the ashrams and to every one of their protagonists from Bede to Martin, from Vandana to the contributors to Saccidanadaya Namah and Shabda Shakti Sangam.

Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam, [see pages 21, 52] a disciple of Bede, in Wisdom Christianity says: Today Christianity finds itself confronted not only by the wisdom of the East—Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism—but by other wisdoms as well. Jungian and transpersonal psychology, tribal shamanism, hermeneutics, ecology and feminism…

The Vatican Document says that Jung is
New Age influencer no. 2. [For transpersonal psychology see page 56].

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, 1875-1961

Jung was a spiritualist, sun worshipper and founder of the 20th century psychoanalysis movement. Reared a Lutheran, he abandoned the Christianity of his parents to dabble in the occult. His entire life and work were motivated by his detestation of the Catholic Church, whose religious doctrines and moral teachings he considered to be the source of all the neuroses which afflicted modern Western man. Psychologist Richard Noll, PhD. in his book, The Jung Cult, comments, for literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individuals in our culture, Jung and his ideas are the basis of a personal religion that either supplants their participation in traditional organized Judeo-Christian religion or accompanies it. Dr. Grant Herring, a classics instructor at the University of Cincinnati commented that Jungian parasites have infiltrated the Church and they expect Catholics to believe they are teaching what the Church teaches. And many Catholics do that, and end up falling away from their true Catholic roots, being recruited into the Cult of the Self, devoid of all intellectual or spiritual content. A real dead-end.

“Jung’s psychology was not scientifically neutral,” says Catholic evangelist Eddie Russell [see pages 6, 39, 72].

“He included all sorts of pagan religions in his writings relating to what he called the Collective Unconscious [see page 48]. But we’ll let Jung speak for himself:
‘What is so special about Christ, that he should be the motivational force? Why not another model – Paul or Buddha or Confucius or Zoroaster?’ ‘I am for those who are out of the Church,’ Jung wrote in a letter to Joland Jacobi when he heard she had become a Catholic. In a letter to Freud: ‘I think we must give [psychoanalysis] time to infiltrate into people from many centers, to revivify among intellectuals a feeling for symbol and myth, ever so gently to transform Christ back into the soothsaying god of the vine, and in this way absorb those ecstatic instinctual forces of Christianity for the one purpose of making the cult and the sacred myth what they once were—a drunken feast of joy where man regained the ethos and holiness of an animal’.

“In his 1912 book, New Paths in Psychology, Jung wrote that the only way to overthrow the neuroses inducing Judeo-Christian religion and its ‘sex-fixated ethics’ was to establish a new religion-the religion of psychoanalysis.

Jung’s drive to formulate a ‘better’ religion, was the result of his trying to justify his own sins. What Jung was increasingly concerned with was justifying sexual libertinism, and his efforts extended not merely to reviving the lost gods of paganism, but in transforming Christ and Christianity to serve his own purposes. His search was for a ‘scientific’ justification for incest, patricide, sodomy, sun-worship and phallus worship; and what support he could not find in the works of his contemporary neopagan archaeologists, he sought to find by plumbing the unconscious through Eastern meditation techniques and ancient pagan rituals. Jung appreciated faith and ritual, but only of the occult variety: hypnotism, spiritism, séances, cults of Mithras and Dionysus, ‘liturgies’ that unlocked the powers of darkness.

“In 1912 he announced that he could no longer be a Christian, and that only the ‘new’ science of psychoanalysis- as he defined it through ‘Jungiansism’ -could offer personal and cultural renewal and rebirth. For Jung, honoring God meant honoring the libido. It is truly amazing that Carl Gustav Jung, dedicated to the destruction of the Catholic Church and the establishment of an anti-Church based on psychoanalysis, has become the premier spiritual guide of Catholics. One cannot, however, be both ‘Catholic’ and ‘Jungian’. They are mutually exclusive adjectives.

In THE DECLARATION ON THE ‘NEW AGE‘, His Eminence Cardinal Georges Cottier OP, at the International Theological Video Conference, 27 February 2004, General Topic: The Church, New Age and Sects, said, Two psychologists have exercised their fundamental influence [on the New Age]; the first is William James who reduces religion to religious experience, the second is Carl Gustav Jung, who introduced the idea of the collective unconscious – but above all sacralized psychology adding contents involving esoteric thoughts.

F
ather Paolo Scarafoni of the Academy of Theology and Rector of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, one of the speakers at the same worldwide videoconference organized by the Congregation for Clergy, commented,

New Age is nourished by Jung’s psychology, whose approach is clearly anti-Christian: ZENIT 04030220

The February 3, 2003 Vatican Provisional Report on the New Age has much to say about the propositions of Jung which we have encountered here and on pages 16, 33 etc.: in the section on Notes, nos. 24 and 34, on “left brain”
rational thinking vs. “right brain” intuitive thinking
, n 2.1 and n 2.5; on “the god within“… we are gods, n 3.5, n 2.3.2; A Select Glossary: Androgyny, n 7.2; Depth Psychology, n 7.2; notes 24 and 34. For Christian Reading, the Document also recommends ex-New Ager Jesuit Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s Catholics and the New Age : How Good People are being drawn into Jungian Psychology, the Enneagram and the New Age of Aquarius, 1992, n 8.

“Jung helped me find Sophia, God’s feminine nature [see pp 17-18]. As a man, I was able to feel truly loved by God for real and for the first time, says Catholic priest Fr. Thomas Ryan, Csp of
Unitas, an ecumenical centre for spirituality and Christian meditation, formerly the Benedictine Priory of Montreal
founded by
Fr. John Main OSB.

NOTE:
A separate article is under preparation on MEDITATION with special reference to Unitas and the World Community for Christian Meditation [WCCM] in relation to Fr. John Main, OSB [1926-1982] [see page 13] and his successor Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB. Their meditations, which are not Christian as I will explain, are being propagated by influential Catholic priests in a major Archdiocese of this country, with the support of some authorities in the Church. Yoga and meditation guru Fr. Joe Pereira [see page 38, 44, 87-96] of Kripa Foundation lamented that “During my seminary training, the Catholic church was too left-brain oriented” [see pages 87, 89, 92].

THE MANDALA:
A VISUAL MANTRA
[see pages 28, 48, 59, 63]

This is a graphic cosmic symbol usually shown as a square within a circle bearing representations of deities arranged symmetrically, and is used as a meditation aid by Buddhists and Hindus. Mandala-making is one of many meditative techniques used by the Eastern religions to map the psyche, the ‘indwelling spirit.’ The word mandala is Sanskrit for ‘circle,’ and the mandala is representative of the cosmic whole. In the form of religious icons they are used for a multitude of purposes. Mandalas are designed in a pattern that creates the illusion of being drawn into a center of concentration. Hindus and Buddhists have traditionally used it as a hypnotic tool, a way of achieving an altered state of consciousness in order to tap into hidden knowledge.

Jung saw the significance of the mandala as a symbol of the ‘god-within.’ It is the embodiment par excellence of the Cult of Self. The experience of the ‘god-within’ was always a key promise of Jung. It was the central part of Jung’s repudiation of Christianity. Having the ‘god-within’ could lead to the experience of becoming one with God, or merging somehow with a God-force. In the terminology of Jung, the mandala (which was introduced to westerners by him), is a symbol depicting the endeavor to reunite the self. There are numerous programs on ‘spirituality’ offered in Christian circles based on Jung’s teachings which use art as a therapy: by designing your personal mandala for getting in touch with the ‘self’. However, considering what the word ‘mandala’ means and what Jung’s psychoanalysis is based on, it cannot be divorced from the ethos behind it.

And, we have seen [on page 28], Bede’s influence on Jyoti Sahi and Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB to use such mandalas.

Sr. Coff’s statements [see page 28] fully confirm the Jungian principles underlying the application of the mandala.

VANDANA MATAJI, RSCJ:
The influences on her of Shantivanam and of Hindu ashrams

According to Judson Trapnell [see pages 29, 31, 79], Sr. Vandana is formerly Sr. Gool Mary Dhalla,
an Indian [Parsi] convert and Sister of the Sacred Heart who has been a leader in the Christian ashram movement since the 1960s.

As early as 1968 she stayed at the Brahma Vidya Mandir, in Paunar, Maharashtra, to learn about Hindu spirituality …in preparation for beginning our own venture in Pune. She has also visited the Kanya Kumari Ashram “founded by Upasani Baba, a disciple of Sri Sai Baba” in Sakori, where she met Godavari Mataji, the spiritual head who did the “surya puja to the sun” every morning, the Krishna Dham Ashram at Satara, Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa’s* ashram in Ganeshpuri, Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai, Ramakrishna Mission’s Shri Sarada Math founded by Swami Vivekananda, disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sri Aurobindo Ashram* in Pondicherry, Anand Ashram of Swami Ramdas and Krishnabai Mataji in Kanhangad, Swami Yogeshwaranand and Rampyari Mataji’s Yoga Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh where Hatha Yoga is used, Vashista Guha Ashram where Shiva is worshipped, the Phul Chatti Seva Ashram, Ma Anandamayi’s Ashram in Khankal, the ashrams of Rajneesh in Pune and Satya Sai Baba in Mumbai, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s centre for Transcendental Meditation and literally dozens of others. Among the many darshans she sought and had were that of the blind Swami Sharananada at Mathura. At the Badrinath temple instituted by Shankaracharya, she prayed for a long time and received a special insight [pages 106, 107]. *Both Muktananda and Aurobindo are named as leading New Age influences in the Vatican Document on New Age, note no. 15.

In his book Godmen of India, Peter Brent says of tantric yogi Muktananda‘s ashram: The weird behaviour of many at the chanting and the arati made me feel that here it was psychic rather than spiritual powers that were at work. Many would claim however that it was the Kundalini working; for it is believed that merely by the grace of the guru (guru kripa) and without any sadhana or spiritual discipline, it is possible to awaken the kundalini shakti or serpent power.

[Vandana’s
Shabda Shakti Sangam, 1995 is loaded from cover to cover with material on kundalini, chakras, nadis, the sushumna, energy fields, the astral/vital body, yoga, the OM mantra etc., often accompanied by diagrams, in her own articles as well as those by other Catholic and Hindu contributors.]

On her retirement as Provincial of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, she turned down a scholarship going with a sabbatical in the US, and sought permission from a realised soul, a Hindu sannyasin, to sit at his feet.
1

All quotes in this section are from her book Gurus, Ashrams and Christians which also contains detailed explanations of the nuances of Patanjali’s yoga which she learnt under Swami Shankarananda at Sivananda Ashram and the meanings of OM [pages 3, 7-9, 50, 99, 102, etc]. The reason for my providing all this information is to illustrate that the beliefs, spiritual pursuits and teachings of Vandana are incompatible with her being Catholic.

“Abhishiktananda spent several weeks with a French disciple initiating him into the profundities of the Upanishads and the Hindu tradition of sannyas at the Phul Chatti Seva Ashram. 2

Along with seven nuns of her Society and some Anglican sisters of St. Mary the Virgin, she re-opened the old Christa Prema Seva Ashram
in Pune [see page 27, 29, 35] in 1972, and was the first acharya. She received a lot of support from the German Jesuit, Fr. Matthew Lederle
of the
Sneh Sadan Ashram. In Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, pages 114 and 121, she has recorded Sr. Sara Grant Rscj [see pages 35, 65-66, 68] as the acharya of the Christa Prema Seva Ashram. “During our very first month at [our ashram in] Pune, Swami Abhishiktananda had initiated us into using Hindu scriptures and integrating them into our liturgical life, she says. 3

Bede’s influence on her has been mentioned earlier. She adds, He asserted that a christian community in India that does not try to integrate the Upanishadic experience, the highest known to Hinduism, into its prayer life, is failing the contemporary Indian church.
4

In 1976, she left Pune and went to the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, later founding the Jeevan Dhara Ashram at Jaiharikhal in the Garhwal hills, along with her colleague Sr. Ishapriya, formerly Sister Patricia Kinsey who was born in Britain, spent her novitiacy in London and then a year in Rome. She was sent on mission to India where she was deeply impressed by the spiritual values of the country. She stayed on, first at [Swami Sivananda’s] Divine Life Society [DLS] in Rishikesh, studying and eventually, she says, taking sannyas diksha from Swami Chidananda.

Vandana was born in Bombay, ran away from home at 16 or 17, converted to Christianity at 18 and then entered the order, eventually becoming provencale (head) in India. She and Ishapriya took sannyas together and founded the ashram. Like Shantivanam, the majority of the people at the ashram are western Christians, usually Sacred Heart nuns. They are also involved in missionary efforts to convert Hindus in the local area. The ashram moved twenty miles north of Rishikesh due to objections by local Hindus, the report says

“A correspondent for Hinduism Today met briefly with Ishapriya in Carmel, California. She was conducting a six week retreat program in Ashtanga Yoga at the Angelica Convent reports the Saiva Siddhantha Church monthly Hinduism Today, in its issue of December 1986 [see pages 50, 76-80].

People come here, she says, for sadhana, silence, Indian Christian Spirituality Retreats based on different yogas, or simply to have an ashram experience.The two gurus in her life were Abhishiktananda, and Swami Chidananda, the disciple of Swami Sivananda Saraswati, founder of Sivananda Ashram [1932] and the Divine Life Society [1937] of which Swami Chidananda later became President. Abhishiktananda called Chidananda “the pearl of India.” For her, Chidananda’s “presence would make a difference immediately, like the passing of an electric current.
5

She had earlier invited him to a three-day interreligious dialogue at her Pune ashram, Ma Anandamayi too, whom she calls a “famous saintly woman”. Chapter 3, pages 199-206 in Vandana’s Shabda Shakti Sangam is devoted to her.

DLS: The crest of the Divine Life Society has an OM at the centre of the sun representing the realisation of the self, attained through knowledge. Vishal Mangalwadi, in The World of Gurus, pages 41-51, writes on the DLS that it follows the advaitic… philosophy of… Shankaracharya. According to them, God is not a person or spirit. He, or rather ‘it’, is pure consciousness… [They] teach a synthesis of yoga… According to Swamiji, OM is the best mantra.

 

Swami Sivananda himself said: Wholesale preaching of Vedanta to the masses is not advisable. It will cause chaos, bewilderment and stagnation,
Bliss Divine, page 377. His followers will do well to heed him.

Ma Anandamayi: Born Nirmalasundari Bhattacharya in Bengal, she was given to ecstatic states as a child… which gradually mellowed into trance-like absorption. (Later), playing the holy fool, she mimicked the lila of the gods… She would occasionally curl up into a fetal position inside the egg-shaped altar in the ashram and was given the name (which means Bliss-filled Mother), 101 Responses to Questions on Hinduism, John Renard, 1999, page 147.

“Until a few years ago, I tended to agree with the idea that in a Christian ashram the only guru should, indeed, could be, the Risen Christ. Of late… I have come to see that there is a value of Indian spirituality that Christians can explore very profitably. If Indian Christians are given the opportunity to overcome their initial fear of this ‘Hindu’ practice, they will begin to learn from it which is to discover the Spirit as the Inner Guru, to whom, Ramana Maharshi [see page 37] used to say, every true guru should lead us.6

I bring to the notice of readers that this Catholic nun usually uses the small letter ‘c’ for Christian, but just as often uses the capital letter ‘A’ for advaita. A capital ‘G’ is always used for describing the Ganges river as Gangamata, Mother Ganges. Printer’s devils, or a case of the mouth speaking what the heart is full of?

She laments that Christians have begun to go from Ashram to Ashram, often more for a variety of ‘experiences’ of God than for God himself, little knowing the Indian and Eastern tradition which teaches us to stick to one sadhana or Yoga-Marga, to one Master and to one tradition to plumb and practise if we seriously want to find God.
7

How then does she explain the syncretism that typifies ashram spirituality and her own ashram-hopping?

Her idea of sin, repentance and divine forgiveness: going on pilgrimage to many shrines, oblivious of God’s omni-presence, and asking for forgiveness when I know that our sins are forgiven before we commit them.
8

On the NBCLC [see pages 3, 10, 13, 31, 65, 68-69, 74]
and ‘CREATIVITY’ IN INCULTURATION:

Vandana Mataji was on the CBCI‘s National Liturgical Commission for several years.

She is seriously concerned about the resistance the ashram movement and the accompanying inculturation face:

“Though the follow-up of Vatican II has produced a genuine liturgical revival in India, there have remained many conflicts with the ‘no innovations’ school; and these… put a stop to creativity. However the opposition will pass with time and education, since it usually comes from the traditional Catholic families in the South…9

The NBCLC, she says, was set up at Bangalore under the… directorship of Fr. Amalorpavadass
[see pages 29, 31, 68 -69, 74, 91, 94]. He is a theologian of international repute who may be called one of the rare christian ‘gurus’ today. The NBCLC has done a great deal to educate our people in the spirit of Vatican II inspite of opposition from some Christians. It is perhaps the one institution… that encourages on a national scale creativity with regard to indigenisation of the Church, her theology, liturgy, spirituality. It encourages too, the Ashram movement and seeks to ensure the flexibility and autonomy ashrams must have, if they are to remain true to their nature, …spontaneous …rather than something ‘institutionalised’ and rigid as are most other institutions in the Catholic Church.

With the growing number of christian ashrams, the CBCI
[see pages 31, 50, 68-69] has asked the National Liturgical Commission to study the ashram movement and its juridical status in the Church. It is hoped that this will lead to ensuring freedom and spontaneity- not to curbing or controlling them.10

It may be 25 years ago that the NBCLC prepared a “beautiful anaphora composed from Hindu and christian sources as an experimental study” for use in the ashrams. 11

The NBCLC is a Life Member of the federation of ashrams, Ashram Aikiya [see pages 8, 14-16, 18, 28, 50, 67].

NOTES: Gurus, Ashrams and Christians, ISPCK 1978 [2004 reprint]: Page nos. xii, 105, 84, 46, 14, 35, xxiii, xxv, 50, 132, 96

I now quote this Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus nun from a couple of other books that she has written:

“We are at the close of the era of ‘religions’… Now we stand at the threshold of an era of ‘spirituality’.
1

“The kind of experiment Vandana Mataji has been undertaking needs to be recognized as opening a new chapter in religious pluralism, according to Fr. T. K. John SJ. 2
[see page 45, 51, 66]

Is not our God Mother Earth [see GAIA, page 45] in whom alone we can find or deepen our own spirit roots?” 3

“To enable people to become God by entering into silence, is this not the raison d’etre of an ashram?
4

“Swami Vivekananda says ‘We are the greatest god. Christ and Buddha are but waves of the boundless ocean that I am.’… Most Christians cannot easily think of man becoming god… In Buddhism too, the human person is the centre; ‘Look within, thou art the Buddha’.
5

“Christians believe silence will be the ultimate mode of language in heaven… and (so silence) must predominate in an ashram’s atmosphere.
6
[This is contrary to revelation in Scripture, see Rev 4:8, 5:11, 7:9-11, 15:3 etc.]

“There is an interesting discussion going on among the Catholic ashrams as to whether in a Christian ashram, Meditation or the Eucharist should be at the centre of our lives. Personally I tend to agree with Fr. Bede Griffiths that the distinctive call of a Christian ashram is to witness to the transcendent mystery believed in by people of all faiths… in the cave of the heart as the Upanishads call it, and this is reached by meditation

The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is secondary… However precious this may be, it is still a secondary mode of the presence.
7 For more of Vandana on the Eucharist from another of her books, see page 14.

 

 

 

“Many aspire when they go to ashrams to sit for long hours in meditation and to be taught by the guru how to raise the kundalini [see pages 42, 47, 48, 49, 58, 59, 96] (the serpent power) or the energy within.” 8

“The eight-fold systematization of yoga by Patanjali is based on a sound physio-psychological and moral foundation. Yoga, which he defines as ‘Citta-vritti-nirodha’, the control of thought-fluctuations aims at union with God.
9

In a critique of the October 1989 Vatican Document on “Some Aspects of Christian Meditation which warns all Catholic Bishops that Eastern forms of prayer and meditation such as Yoga, Zen and T. M. are ‘not free from dangers and errors’, she accuses the Church of the fear of syncretism. We need to recognize… that no one religion, no, not even Christianity, can claim to have the whole truth… “Personally, I do not think that syncretism is a real danger, nor what Cardinal Ratzinger truly fears.” 10 [For Bede’s critique, see page 58]

“Westerners coming to India avidly explore, often even adopt, Hindu or Buddhist thought, Scriptures, spiritualities, and especially Yoga and Zen meditation practices. These bring them the contemplative dimension which many thirst for and do not seem to receive from the pastors of their respective churches which many then abandon…

“(In the West) Yoga and Zen schools as well as Eastern Spirituality Centres are found almost everywhere. I believe that such open communities… are the great need of the hour… Soon they will be needed also in India.
11

Vandana believes that seekers needed to be guided to eastern meditations, not to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Suggesting that we make a serious resolve to meditate together in inter-religious groups”, she concludes that there
is “no greater force than the peace vibration of ‘Om Shanti‘ ending such meditation.”12

“Are we too sedate, too verbal? The dance of Siva-Nataraja, the flute of Sri Krishna calling the gopis to dance with him– all this one misses, as is well brought out in a good publication ‘Krishna and Christ‘ by Ishanand Vempeney
13

“Some of us have experienced… at the feet of a Hindu guru in an ashram or a Buddhist Master… He often gives the most intense spiritual direction, sometimes even without a look or touch. We Christians have a lot to learn.
14

“So I sang out as loud as my lungs could sing ‘Om! Bhoo, bhuva, swaha calling on the three regions- earth, sky, mid-region to join me… By the eleventh mantra, the Lord Sun had risen… beckoning me to do the Surya Namaskar [see page 68] …what a wonderful Yogic gift to humankind that was!
The Examiner, June 20, 1998.

Capt. Mervin Lobo of Mumbai’s strong condemnation of Vandana’s article was published in The Examiner of July 25.

“Living together outside of marriage is not always promiscuity. It is often a sincere love-bond requiring unselfish adjustment to the other. When it is such, who can dare cast the first stone against them and call it a sin?
15

As the first edition (of ‘Waters of Fire’, 1989) was offered to Swami Chidanandji, whose kindness has made it possible for me to live by the Gangaji and to hear her incessant ‘Aum’, so I lay this third edition also at
his feet.” Her book ‘Living with Hindus’ is dedicated to him again, and also to Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life
Society [see page 42] and his “broad-minded spirituality. On page 24, one sees a photograph of Vandana at the feet of (a life-sized portrait of) Swami Sivananda… in Sivananda Ashram, and on page 28, with her forehead bowed in contact with the seat where Sivananda used to meditate. On page 61, one may see her getting Prasad from B.K.S. Iyengar
[see page 96], the world famous yogi from Pune, guru of Fr. Joe Pereira of Kripa.

Another photograph on page 37 is of Vandana at Sathya Sai
Baba’s ashram
[see pages 45, 46, 51].

About conversions, she says, My advice is that the less we think of them, the less we aim at them, the better.
16

Vandana has even experimented with New Age spirituality and has participated at the Findhorn Centre in Scotland which is the world’s main centre of New Age activity: “Fascinating as I found this institution… I did not feel that its spirituality is sufficiently clear- such as is sought by meditators of Yoga, Zen etc.
17

My judgement is that Vandana did not find Findhorn ‘advaitic’- or Hindu- or ‘eastern’- enough to suit her liking.

NOTES: Find Your Roots and Take Wing, Asian Trading, 1991: 1. Page 108 3. Page vii 4. Page 70 5. Pages 18, 72 6. Page 86 7. Pages 81, 82 8. Page 75 9. Page 106 13. Page 89 14. Page 21 15. Page 104 17. Pages 101,102

Living with Hindus, ISPCK, 1999: 2. Page xiii 10. Pages 62, 63 11. Pages 86, 88 12. Page 99 16. Page 75

NOTE: This selected study of the writings of Vandana Mataji, who is an ‘Advisor’ to the DHARMA BHARATHI‘s ‘Disciples of Christ for Peace’, reveals her position on the deification of nature and of the self, and of sexual promiscuity. She rejects the teachings of the Church, advocating its opposite, and downgrades the importance of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. She believes in a theology of religious pluralism. Yet, Fr. M. A. Joe Antony, editor of The New Leader, gives a positive review of Living with Hindus, June 1-15, 2000. The NL has been an ardent supporter of Mataji over the years. In ‘Living Together Joyfully’ [NL, March 1-15, 1999], she writes, Intelligent non-Christians are immediately put off by this sort of superiority and exclusivity of proclaiming that our religion is the only true one, or Jesus is the only way to God. Ms. S. Barrocas of Mumbai wrote to the editor, “What must we say and do? Accept Christ… as one of the many who lead to God? Should we for the sake of ‘intelligent non- Christians’ adorn our sanctuaries and homes with the images [of other Gods] and worship them all? [NL March 1-15, 1999]. On page xiii of her book ‘Find Your Roots and Take Wing’, an Iranian Episcopal Bishop has explained that the book’s illustration on the front cover of an upside- down tree is based on certain texts of the Upanishads & Bhagavad Gita. I see it as depicting Vandana’s position, upside-down and in opposition to Biblical revelation and Christian teaching. When a Catholic nun teaches that there is no need for conversion to Jesus Christ, that the Eucharist is secondary to meditation, and that couples can cohabit without marriage,
the sacramental foundation of the Catholic Church is attacked and undermined
.

Some more notes on issues commented on by Sr. Vandana:

 

Religious Pluralism*:
The pressure of a
multi-faith
society, and the need to recognize pluralism in religious education in schools means that some Christians seem to have accepted meekly that any and all religious approaches are equally valid: Jesus and the World Religions, Is Christianity Just Another Religion ? Ajith Fernando, 1987, page 9

In his address of 6 November 1999, while presenting his apostolic exhortation ‘Ecclesia in Asia’ in New Delhi, Pope John Paul II exhorted our Bishops to make ever greater efforts to spread the Gospel of salvation throughout the length and breadth of Asia.The New Leader, November 16-30, 1999 *see pages 43, 51, 66

The Vatican Document ‘Dominus Iesus’ released on 5 September 2000 emphasized the exclusive, universal and absolute value” of Jesus Christ, taking aim at the notion that one religion is as good as another. The text criticized the tendency to… elevate other religions as pathways to salvation and to downplay Scripture. The Old and New Testaments are the only such writings inspired by the Holy Spirit, it said. The Church’s missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism. Equality in interreligious dialogue refers to equal personal dignity of the participants, not to doctrinal content… This may seem a slight to other religions but in fact such language is simply being faithful to revelation.
The New Leader, October 1-15, 2000

Religious Pluralism
is an essential feature of Hinduism.
Christian Openness to the World
Religion
s, Fr. Paranilam, page 131.

Sathya Sai Baba: “His fame started after an incident in his childhood when he suddenly leaped into the air with a shriek, holding his right toe. The following evening, he lost consciousness. When he recovered, his behaviour changed. Soon he was manifesting supernatural powers (siddhis). Right away he claimed to have inherited the spirit of Sai Baba of Shirdi who had died in 1918. Later he claimed to be an avatar or God-incarnate in the form of
Siva-Shakti, the male-female principle responsible for the destruction of the world…
At his ashram, “figures of Ganesh and other deities adorned the walls.
I was drawn to a 5-sided pillar which stood in the central courtyard. Each side bore a symbol of a major world religion… The pillar itself pointed to the unity of all religions. The bhajans took place in the mandir overseen by a huge statue of Krishna on horseback.
Escape From the Guru, Barbara Szandorowska, 1991, page 86.

“(Saivites and Vaishnavites) agreed that he was Narayana, God come to earth with human and divine attributes.

Dawn of the New Age, Five New Agers Relate their Search for the Truth, Tal Brooke, page 16

“Sai Baba uses secret sessions with his intimate followers in which he helps purify their lower chakras [see pages 17-18, 49] by handling their sexual organs… People, according to Baba, are atman (self or God), but, under the influence of maya (illusion), we forget that we are God.
World of Gurus, Vishal Mangalwadi, 1987, pages 115, 110


The following excerpts are from the February 3, 2003 Vatican Document on the New Age:

Gaia:
One of the “principal characteristics of the New Age vision is… ecological: earth-Gaia is our mother, n 7.1.

The
clearest articulation of the concept of holism… a key concept in the ‘new paradigm’… is theGaia‘ hypothesis, n 7.2.

“A great deal of what is proposed by the more radical elements of the ecological movement is difficult to reconcile with Catholic faith… ‘Deep ecology’ is often based on pantheistic and occasionally gnostic principles, n 6.2.

For more on Gaia, refer to n 2.3.1, n 2.3.4.2, n 2.3.4.3. [Also
see page 15, and ‘the primordial mother’, page 46].

Findhorn: “The two centres which were the initial powerhouses of the New Age… were Findhorn in North-East Scotland and the centre for the development of human potential at Esalen in Big Sur, California, n 2.3.2.

Findhorn is discussed in detail in n 2.2.2 and again at greater length in n 7.3. [For Big Sur, see pages 60, 62, 63].

 

SOME OTHER NOTABLES CONNECTED WITH SHANTIVANAM

1. FR. FRANCIS MAHIEU [FRANCIS ACHARYA]:
HIS LEGACY

The Ascension Mission & Community in Tacoma, Washington use what they call a Malabar Rite Eucharistic Pooja. This liturgy is derived from the
Bharatiya Pooja, which is a Eucharistic liturgy of the monks of Kurisumala Ashram… [see pages 2, 29, 65]
It was developed by and under the direction of Fr. Francis Mahieu, [see pages 2, 29, 32, 37, 48, 57, 64] who died in January 2002. The Community’s website says, He and Dom Bede Griffiths, of blessed memory, co-founded the ashram. While the monks are Trappists (Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance), their praxis, their dharma if you will, attempts to integrate Catholic worship with the Hindu-Indian culture in which it is practiced. The Bharatiya Pooja is the liturgy they use on days other than Sundays or major feasts, when the Syro-Malankara rite is used. It is the liturgy of their daily lives, and is most dear to their hearts. They are luminary figures, so the liturgy was probably quite safe so long as Father Francis lived. There was concern, however, that with Francis’ passing the Bharatiya Pooja might fall into disuse, or even be formally suppressed, because it lacked the support of the Church’s hierarchy. We edited [it] for North American use, renaming it A Malabar Rite Eucharistic Pooja.

The priest’s introductory prayer is, Aum! Shanti, Shanti, Shantih. O Lord of all, True Embodiment of Being, Knowledge, and Bliss. Both congregation and priest intonate the Aum regularly during the service.

Use of the word “SIN” is avoided, except in one unavoidable place, in the Institution Narrative for the remission of sins. SIN is replaced by other euphemistic phrases such as forgive our errors,
the Lord absolve you and free you from the burdens of your wrong doings,let us
contemplate errors made, ignorance surrounded us with spiritual darkness etc. We lost eternal life, the priest prays, and the dharma declined.

Inclusive language is also unavoidable: Father-Mother God, you are our father and mother. Those who have died or gone before us are those who have attained pure bliss.

When the priest raises the bread and wine, a hymn is sung with the words Here on this altar, the hill of Golgotha and the wooden Cross, The land of Tyaga and the place of Yoga, The cup of the blood …

In Indian fashion they use a low altar (about 18 inches high), oil lamps, incense, flowers, a talam (large brass tray on which are set the paten and the cup). The sacred lamp, the nilavilakku, a tall oil lamp, sits on the floor. It is venerated with flowers, the decorations often taking the form of a cross. At the oblation and elevation Triple arati, or Trivitharati with light, incense and flowers is performed. [Fr. Bede had also developed an Indian rite Eucharistic Liturgy which is available on the Camaldoli website.] Are these liturgical rites approved by the Church?

 

2. FR. SEBASTIAN PAINADATH SJ., SAMEEKSHA ASHRAM, KALADY

His importance in the ashram movement is seen by Saccidanandaya Namah inserting his contribution The Spiritual and Theological Perspectives of Ashrams,
A Tribute to Shantivanam, 50 Years as the leading one in the Souvenir.

In it, he says, In an ashram of Catholic initiative, one explores the mystery of Christ through a disciplined practice of meditation…In ashram spirituality [a] mystical consciousness of Christ as the subject is awakened. [SN, page 9]

We have seen that there is no truth in this claim. Can we expect different from this priest who elaborates thus on this meditation, Satsangs and spiritual discourses often take place under an auspicious Tree thus recognising that the Tree is the primal teacher of humanity. For meditation one sits on the floor: earth is experienced as the body of the Lord and as the primordial mother [Gaia?] of all living beings. Bhagavad Gita, 11, 10ff, Atharva Veda, X11, 1? [14]

The left-wing liberal National Catholic Reporter [Vol. 1 No 23, September 3, 2003] admits,
Jesuit priests Ama Samy and Sebastian Painadath* run Zen courses and Bhagavad Gita retreats, respectively, with rousing response.

WHAT YOU SEEK IS WHAT YOU GET AT SAMEEKSHA An Inter-Religious Dialogue Workshop held at Kalady was attended by 27 Maryknoll lay missioners, brothers, sisters, and priests, coming in from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and the US, 16-25 November 2000. *[see pages 14, 15, 27, 28, 29, 30, 37, 38, 40, 67].

Extracts from their report: The days at the center begin with a two-session meditation at 6:30 AM. We gather in the meditation center, sitting on the floor, and Fr. Sebastian gives some guiding principles for contemplative style meditation. The group sits in silence for 30 minutes, and then there is a ten-minute break followed by another 30-minute session. In the first input session, The content today centered on a foundation for understanding Hinduism.

Fr. Sebastian spoke of a spirituality, an awareness of the One, that emerges through symbols into the various religions.

We begin with an experience of the Unity of God but end up with a plurality of religious expressions as the spirituality we experience unfolds according to two streams, the Prophetic/Interpersonal stream (in which God is experienced as outside of and distinct from me) and the Mystical/Trans-Personal stream (in which God is experienced as in me and I in God).The next day, The morning meditation was at sunrise on the river bank with readings from the Vedic scriptures about the dawn.
The following day, a Sunday, At the parish church, the liturgy was described as rather unexciting but afterwards the visitors were invited to a nearby Hindu temple
We were not allowed into the holy of holies but could only walk in a clock-wise direction around the inner building of the temple where the Shiva deity resides… At 10:30 Hindu Swami??? came to speak to us, mainly answering questions we put to him. Both presentations were interesting and quite informative. After lunch we continued discussion with the swami, and then at 4:00 PM we left Sameeksha to visit the swami’s meditation hall and shrine to one of the modern Hindu saints, Sri Sarkana. From there we went to the birthplace shrine and temple of one of the most famous Hindu mystics who is actually from Kalady, the small town where Sameeksha is located. Then we went to a seven-story circular shrine for Sri Sarkana. At 6:00 PM, we drove to another Hindu temple where it had been arranged that we could actually participate in a Hindu ritual, guided by one of the devotees of Shiva who led us around the temple around the linga
[see pages 32, 36, 37, 65, 74] and the sacred tree and taught us the Sanskrit chants that the pilgrims use there. The day was not over yet, though. Next we arrived at 7:30 PM at the house of Govind Bharathan, an enthusiastic
devotee of Sai Baba whom some Hindus consider an incarnation of Krishna. For the past 30 years, Govind has hosted a “pageant” or ceremony in honor of Sai Baba. It was basically a charistmatic-style gathering, especially joyful because they were celebrating Sai Baba’s birthday on 23 November.

The next day’s main presenter was Govind. He talked to us about the symbols and rites of the Hindu religion. These sessions continued on into the afternoon. Finally Govind led the group in a period of meditation in the meditation hall. The following day, Today Fr. Paul Valiakandathil, SJ, spoke to us about socio-cultural trends in India’s Hindu society.The day after, We met with Fr. Sebastian Painadath again, and he began his presentation of the Bhagavad Gita, his favorite of the Hindu scriptures. It offers a world-affirming theology and cosmic view as opposed to the Upanishads… Each of us had a copy of the Gita and were able to follow along as Sebastian pointed out the different realities it presents. On the second last day of their visit,
At 5:15 a group of Hindu people from the neighborhood, mostly children and teenagers because the adults were at work, came to the ashram for a prayer session with us. It opened with a lighting of the oil lamp in the center of the room, and then there were four Hindu hymns sung in Malayalam… These hymns are very repetitious both in their words and their melodies. Then there were three readings, from the Koran, the Upanishads, and the New Testament, and a final ritual of fire.

There are a couple of brief references to the Mass which is celebrated each evening. There is this mention of the “liturgy of the Word, processing outside with lighted individual oil lamps, and then each person reading a short favorite verse from the Bible, Koran, Vedas, or the Bhagavad Gita.

 

On the final day, Everyone agreed that the workshop had been excellent, exceeding most expectations, although a few noted that we really had not had time to look at the church documents like Ecclesia in Asia and Dominus Jesu as we had planned.

So, there it is. A Catholic workshop on Interreligious Dialogue that gives you exposure to Hindu meditations, philosophies, scriptures, temples, siva-lingas, Sai Baba, and
has ‘NO TIME’ for the
Church documents
!

 

3. SWAMI AMALDAS, FOUNDER, SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM, NARSINGHPUR

He is author of Yeshu Abba Consciousness: Method of a Christian Yogic Meditation, Asian Trading Corporation, 1982, second reprint 1986. On page xiv in the Introduction, he credits the ideas of Jyoti Sahi‘s The Child and the Serpent which “influenced me a lot” and had studied under him while I was doing theology in Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Papal Atheneum, Pune. He also recorded the “blessings of Guruji Fr. Bede Griffiths” on page xv.

I refer to Amaldas from my 36-page article THE TRUTH ABOUT YOGA [YOGA-II] dated February 15, 2001.

The cover of the book has Jesus seated in a yogic posture on the coils of a serpent whose seven heads rising above him, according to Amaldas represent the seven chakras or seven levels of consciousness which were awakened in Jesus Christ, the cosmic man. Every man is invited to enter into this… Yeshu Abba Consciousness.

In the Introduction, he explains his method of meditation which has three stages: first, to grow through Christ Consciousness to Cosmic Christ Body Consciousness by singing the mantra ‘Om Nama Christaya’, then to breathe in and out as a means to enter Yeshu Abba Consciousness with the mantras YE and A, and finally the experience of the trinitarian life of God, the movement between the Father and the Son in the Spirit through the symbolism of the serpent power kundalini shakti. [xiii, xiv]

Amaldas tells us twice that he experienced that
my body is Jesus Christ’s
body and my blood is Jesus Christ’s
blood. [3, 4]

He devotes an entire chapter to Kundalini Shakti Yoga – The Serpent Power which says, One day I saw a cobra dancing… and I experienced Jesus is dancing as a serpent. After this experience I got more interested in the serpent. I started meditating to discover [its] hidden mystery… [the] yogic experience of the mysterious supernatural power and the natural power identified together is expressed as Kundalini Shakti. It is experienced that this serpent is lying coiled at the base of the spine of man… [and] coiled around the navel of the cosmos… [It] is identified with the emotive forces of the libido. The purpose of yoga is to lift this serpent power, drawing it up the spinal column through the six chakras… the journey of the serpent upward is marked by fire… This rising of kundalini [see pages 42, 44, 48, 49, 58, 59, 96] means enlightenment.” [pages 83, 84]

Fr. Amaldas next explains the Evolution of man’s experience of the supernatural power from cosmic serpent to cosmic man Siva. Siva is the father of all the enlightened ones, the yogis, and he… is the eternal life giving force.

The mysterious destructive and recreative power lying hidden in man’s consciousness is called Lord Siva. Siva initiates us into the process of death and life as a means to grow in Cosmic Consciousness… Siva stands as the Lord of integrity or wholeness. He is the Lord of the Cosmos. [84-88]

Amaldas explains at length each of the seven psychic chakras [see pages 17-18]. In the Mooladhara chakra at the base of the spine, God is experienced as the source of everything… This power is experienced by Christian yogis as the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, the cosmic man. My Christian yogic practice is to allow this power to pass through various centres of my body to the top of the head and take possession of me and unite me with the heavenly Father… and thus enter into eternal life… When man was in paradise the serpent was on the top of his head. In the fallen man the serpent is coiled at the base of his spine. [pages 81-118] One chapter of the book is devoted to the Yogic celebration of the Eucharist. This book was published in the US in 1983 as Christian Yogic Meditation. I purchased both, the Indian and the US versions from St. Pauls bookstores!

Fr. Amaldas is the author of an earlier work, Yoga and Contemplation on Ashtanga Yoga, the eightfold path of yoga.

NOTE: This priest [see pages 8, 9, 16, 29] studied at a prestigious Catholic seminary. Is this finally all that he has to offer the Church which he was called to serve? He was engaged in writing these books while at Shantivanam with the blessings of Fr. Bede. What does one say of a Catholic ashram that permits the practice of occult energies and forces by its priests, and the teaching of it to the ashram’s visitors?

One of my European friends wrote this to me: It was in the 80’s that I regularly visited Shantivanam to discuss with Bede about his form of inculturation. I cannot remember Bro. Martin, only Amaldas, who was then not ordained, but had great influence.
Bede wrote an introduction or recommendation to the book [Yeshu Abba Consciousness].
It is interesting for me to hear that this is not anymore printed in the book. When was your copy brought out? Maybe it did help, my talks with Bede, maybe he did take his recommendations back? I gave the book to the late Fr. Stephen Fuchs SVD (who lived and worked in India for 60 years), he is dead now, then to Fr. Jim Borst MHM and yet another theologian whom I can’t recall at this moment. All agreed to my understanding that it appeared in this book that Amaldas (he is no priest)
seemed to equate the Holy Spirit with the Kundalini!! Bede Griffith had given his ok to this book in his foreword to the first edition. With this I met Bede to discuss and point out that this is a grave theological error. He told me that he would ask Amaldas to rewrite certain passages, and he would also re-write his foreword. As far as I know he died before he did this.

 

4. JYOTI SAHI
OF ART ASHRAM, BANGALORE

We come across him several times in this report [see pages 7, 8, 10, 15, 28, 33-34, 39, 41, 47, 54, 57, 68]. In Shabda Shakti Sangam, 1995, ed. Vandana Mataji, he is introduced as a leading Indian Christian artist and theologian, promotes Indian Christian spirituality and art through INSCAPE [Indian School of Art for Peace], Art Ashram in Bangalore. The back outer cover of his popular book The Child and the Serpent, 1980, says, He was born and brought up in India, and after studying and teaching art in London returned to India to join Dom Bede Griffiths’ experimental Christian Ashram in Kerala. He spent three years there studying Indian philosophy, and later began work as a free-lance artist. The Foreword to this book is written by Bede, who explains that the symbol of the ‘child‘ is that which is known under so many names in Hindu mythology as Balakrsna, Skanda, Murugan, Ayyappan and Ganesaand represents birth into consciousness while the ‘serpent‘ represents the life of the unconscious.

An article in The Hindu of July 3, 1988 adds that he was born in 1944 of an English mother and a Punjabi father who belonged to the Radha Swami sect. It also says, It was at the Kurisumala Ashram in Kerala that Sahi first began to represent Christ on the Cross as a Lord of the Dance… Over the years, the meditative context for his artistic works… led him to be deeply involved in the development of the Christian Ashram movement in India.

Expectedly, for explanation of his symbolism of the ‘child’ in his art in The Child and the Serpent, pages 5, 93, 103, 186, 206, 207 he draws on the insights now available to us through psychoanalysis, of course as proposed by Carl Jung on ‘synchronicity’ and ‘the collective unconscious’ [see page 40]. For an explanation of his symbolism of the ‘serpent‘, he goes to kundalini yoga: “According to kundalini yoga, the serpent power at the base of the spinal column could be compared with what Freud called the ‘libido’. It is the vital energy in man. The process of man’s growth is a process of moving the energy up from the base of the column to higher modes of consciousness…” [ibid, page 161]. Jung’s books ‘Synchronicity’ 1972 and ‘Symbols of Transformation’ 1956, and ‘Man and His Symbols‘ 1964, edited by Jung, appear to have influenced Sahi’s thinking greatly.

To explain ‘The feminine figure in Indian thought’, Sahi quotes from pages 264-268 of The Phenomenon of Man, a book written by the ‘Father of the New Age’, Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin [ibid, page 120] [see page 53].

Sahi sees no problem with the occult yin-yang symbol [see pages 17, 52, 68] and its philosophy of life and devotes three pages [57 to 59] to it in his Symbols of Peace, 1999, also using it in The Child and the Serpent, page 37, 196.

The reader is reminded that is this same Jyoti Sahi who has done the ‘art work’ for several ashram ‘temples’.

The
New Leader, January 1-15, 2004 carried a two-page article on Sahi written by Fr. Melwyn Pinto SJ with three reproductions of his art. This related to an exhibition of his paintings at the St. Aloysius High School in Mangalore, November 21-23, 2003. The write recognizes that Sahi’s iconography includes the mandala [see page 41]. He notes, It has not been all smooth-sailing for Sahi. There has been certain resistance from various quarters, especially Christian religious circles in India, to accept his vision. ‘Indian Christians have not fully accepted Indianisation of Jesus. For most of them, Jesus has to be a foreigner, and hence, white. They cannot imagine a blue or a brown Jesus’, Sahi laments. Fr. Pinto conveys to us Sahi’s observation that Indians do not want to see a smiling, or a dancing, or a happy Jesus in painting or art work, which opposes their images of ‘a serious and suffering son of God’.

NOTE: I disagree with Sahi’s statements. I personally am aware of many Catholic homes which do have pictures of a happy and laughing Jesus, even an Indianised Jesus. What they [and I] do not want to see is a HINDU-ised Jesus, Jesus as a yogi or as a buddha. Which he is NOT. Jesus is the Satguru, the original and unique Enlightened One, not someone in the search of enlightenment [moksha, salvation] through works and meditation which a yogi or a buddha is. In Sahi’s renditions of Christ as the Lord of the Dance, as well as in other paintings, the Holy Spirit in the symbol of the dove has an uncanny resemblance to the Sanskrit version of OM. THIS is Hindu-isation, not Indianisation or inculturation. The 800-page double-sided tome Shabda Shakti Sangam
[SSS], edited by Vandana 1995,
is evidence of this, with one cover having the OM, the Shabda or ‘word’, and the other having a dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, Shakti [?], the divine energy, which looked at from a different angle resembles closely the OM. In her article on ‘God as Mother…’, she devotes pages 50-59 to compare Mary with Saraswati and to state that the Holy Spirit is the ‘motherhood of God’ which is the prana or the shakti of Hinduism. Also her Introduction, page xx.

Francoise M., a French sannyasini says that a yogi told her that what the Christians called the Holy Spirit was the same reality that the Hindus called shakti, the spiritual energy page 276. Also in
The New Leader of Nov. 1-15, 2002.

The art work is of course by Jyoti Sahi. Wisdom may be a Feminine Being who dances before God at the beginning of Creation but she cannot be stretched to relate to the Indian ideas of Shakti [kundalini power].
The Holy Spirit is
a
Person, not an impersonal energy
. There is otherwise a lot of Sahi’s Indian art which is very commendable.

Yin-Yang:
A New Age symbol to do with the complementarity of contraries, especially masculine and feminine, says the Vatican Document on the New Age, n 7.1. “The response from New Age is unity through fusion. It claims to reconcile soul and body, female and male, spirit and matter, human and divine, earth and cosmos, transcendent and immanent, religion and science,
difference between religions, Yin and Yang. There is, thus, no more alterity. What is left in human terms is transpersonality,” n 2.4. So, there we have it! ALL IS ONE!

New Age scientists approach this theme in different ways in their own unique fields. It served Fr. Bede as well as these scientists who courted him, to share their own knowledge with each other and to integrate their individual expertise for mutual benefit.

By these developments, the New Age philosophy of a Catholic priest would be basically compatible with that of a New Ager of any disposition and not pose a threat to, but rather complement, the other.

The Yin-Yang philosophy also has parallels in Jungian psychology, and we find them expressed in the writings and teachings of Bede, Bro. Martin, Vandana Mataji, Jyoti Sahi and others in the ashram circuit. Now the search for the ‘feminine side‘ and the ‘other half of my soul’ of Bede [see pages 2, 7, 17-18, 24, 41, 52, 59, 72] is more comprehensible, and a crystal clear picture will emerge after reading the section on New Age and its personalities.

The Holistic Health Centres run by nuns in Chennai has the yin-yang as its logo. It decorates the building’s exterior. In its 1996 tenth anniversary souvenir, two pages are dedicated to explaining its nuances. The centre run by MMS nuns at Bibwewadi in Pune has an adaptation of the yin-yang as its symbol. Studying the yin-yang and absorbing its philosophy is part of all the New Age and occult courses offered in this institute on a round the year basis. The Chennai centre was receiving a monthly grant from the Archbishop at the time of my report on these centres, June 2000. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, we read on page 43, Today the new religion is science [New Age, see page 48].

Kundalini: Fr. Cherian Puthenpura, himself a yogi, says this in Yoga Spirituality- A Christian Pastoral Understanding, 1997, which is his doctoral thesis [!!!]: Kundalini is Divine Cosmic Energy page 306. Kundalini yoga literally means ‘yoga of coiled up energy’. Kundalini is the psychic force that lies concentrated like a coiled serpent at the base of the spinal column. It can be activated by meditation, special exercises, the intervention of an accomplished teacher, or sometimes for reasons that are unknown… The purpose is to awaken that sleeping serpent… page 23.

In Alchemy: Sex and Symbolism [The Unexplained, volume 5 issue 50], Brian Innes writes, By means of various yoga exercises, kundalini is awakened, straightens herself and enters the bottom of the sushumna. Up the sushumna are strung a series of wheels or chakras. The ultimate intention is that kundalini shall ascend permanently to the top of the skull where a transcendental sexual union takes place. The postures that awaken kundalini are frequently sexual, and even the tantric ascetic will imagine an ideal girl as kundalini ascends, page 988.

Pioneering crusader against New Age and New Religious Movements, Ms. Erika Gibello in the May/June 1999 issue of Charisindia confirms that kundalini yoga is a tantric method to self-realization.
Like his mentor
Fritjof Capra, Bede held the
tantric view [see pages 7, 15, 36, 55, 58, 96] of the ultimate oneness of mind and matter.

Rabindranath Maharaj, pujari-turned-evangelist said this in his Death of a Guru, page 218: It is the kundalini power that meditation and yoga are designed to arouse and control… It is said that without proper control, the kundalini will produce supernatural psychic powers having their source in demonic beings, and will eventually lead to moral, physical and spiritual destruction.

There is NO practitioner of kundalini yoga, Hindu or Catholic, evangelical Protestant or theosophist, who does not strongly warn would-be enthusiasts of its fearful dangers. I have quoted from a large number of sources in my July 2000 and February 2001 write-ups on yoga. Here are just a few
of them concerned with the ashram issue:

Vandana Mataji, Find Your Roots and Take Wing, Asian Trading, 1991, pages 84, 85:

“But there is one form of Hathayoga called laya or Kundalini Yoga dealing with the psychic energy of the serpentine power in us… Unless it is studied under a genuine master it can be psychically dangerous. She confirms this in Shabda Shakti Sangam, Introduction to Yoga, page 94: It could be dangerous for the psyche

Our own Abhishiktananda [Fr. Le Saux] in his book Saccidananda says, The dangers of yoga should not be underestimated, page 33.

DESPITE THIS AWARENESS, THE PIONEERS AND THE LEADERS OF THE ASHRAM MOVEMENT ARE, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, ACTIVE IN THE PRACTICE AND PROPAGATION OF HINDU YOGA, INCLUDING THE KUNDALINI SCHOOL.

Yoga and kundalini have appeared on the following pages of this report: 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 38, 39, 42, 43, 44, 46, 47, 49, 51, 54, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 76, 77, 78, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 96 and 42, 44, 47, 48, 49, 58, 59, 96 respectively, often repeated on the same page.

Chakras: Belief in these spinning energy centres,
the psychic chakras [see pages 17-18, 96], is an intrinsic part of yoga and the other occult sciences, as well as most alternative medicine and most meditations based on eastern systems. They surface as often as yoga is discussed and I am highly doubtful that any one serious yoga proponent can be found who will accept that he does not subscribe to a belief in the existence of chakras in his ‘energy’ body.

In Health: Golden Living, the Vatican Document on the New Age discusses the “Indian chakra system,” n 2.2.3.

The “third eye” is the forehead or ajna chakra [see page 5], associated with ‘wisdom’, or rather ‘enlightenment’ that precedes the final stage of ‘self-realization’- the realization that the self is the Self, or the kundalini experience- the cosmic orgasm that occurs when the female energy [Shakti] [see pages 5, 7, 17, 35, 36, 42, 47, 48, 58, 59] finally reaches the crown chakra located on the top of one’s head and unites with the male power [Siva].

 

5. RAIMUNDO PANIKKAR
[see pages 6, 10, 13, 15, 29, 37, 57, 58, 73].

Born in Spain in 1918, an Indian citizen, he is the author of The Silence of God – The Answer of the Buddha 1970, The Trinity and the Religious Experience of Man 1973, The Vedic Experience 1977, and his best known work, The Unknown Christ of Hinduism: Towards an Ecumenical Christophany 1981. He taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. In December 1956 Panikkar took part with Monchanin in the meeting on ‘Indian Culture and Fullness of Christ’ in Chennai. He was Vice President of the ‘Teilhard Centre for the Future of Man’. [see page 53]

He has visited Shantivanam a few times and is associated with the Bede Griffiths Sangha. [see pages 13, 14]

Hinduism Today, a Hindu monthly that has challenged the Catholic ashram movement, calls Raimundo Panikkar, “the guru of the current mission strategy in India”. But of course, as we will analyse [see pages 76-80], they have got their facts straight but reached the wrong conclusions. They have absolutely no reason to feel threatened from the emergence of a Christian-flavoured syncretised neo-Hinduism, as India is open to the acceptance of any and all gods.

Panikkar is the favourite of all shades of liberation theologians. He calls for a ‘universal Christology’ in inter-religious dialogue which makes room not only for different theologies but different religions as well. He makes clear that his ‘Christ’ is not to be identified exclusively with Jesus of Nazareth [The Trinity, page 53]. Jesus is simply one of the names for the cosmotheandric principle. The universal Christ is the fulfillment of the aspiration of India as much as of Israel. Therefore, no one should be asked to renounce his or her own religion for the sake of accepting Christ [The Unknown Christ of Hinduism, page 54]. Bede Griffiths “studied Hinduism” with him. [see page 57]

After Bede’s death, Panikkar paid tribute to him in Ashram Aikiya [see pages 14-16], No. 28, 1993, pages 20-22.

 

6. SWAMI SACHIDANANDA BHARATHI AND DHARMA BHARATHI

Squadron Leader N. V. John [born 1947] had a near-death experience and a spiritual transformation that was influenced by four gurus including Swami Ranganathananda, President of the Ramakrishna Mission, who gave him ‘kavi diksha’, and Bede Griffiths who conferred on him ‘acharya diksha’ in January 1990 according to the Upanishadic tradition“. Earlier, in 1984 November, he had received ‘sadhak diksha’ from Bede with the name ‘Sachidanand’. In July 2001 he took ‘sannyasa diksha’ with the appellation ‘Swami’ to his third new name ‘Sachidananda’. The ‘Bharathi’ was added on sometime later.

My first report on this Swami and his New Age organizations and activities was on August 1, 2002. It was followed by a more detailed one on August 1, 2003. Copies of these were sent to the concerned individual Bishops and commissions of the CBCI, with no response. While the above reports will give a fuller picture, I will reproduce here some relevant information from them. We have already briefly referred to the Swami [see pages 10, 12, 15, 44].

He established Dharma Bharathi (DB), the National Regeneration Movement (NRM), and the Disciples of Christ for Peace (DCP). The DCP “was initiated as a communion of believers” on 13th May 1994 at Shantivanam, on the first death anniversary of Bede. Today there are three competing DBs as detailed in my earlier reports in which at least two of them are shown to be propagating New Age philosophies and practices in Catholic educational institutions.

We have seen that Vandana Mataji is an ‘advisor’ to the Swami’s movement. The liberal theologian Fr. Michael Amaladoss SJ its ‘theological consultant’. DCP was founded along with the late Archbishop S. Arulappa of Hyderabad on November 9, 1998. The initial commitment for the proposed DCP was made, significantly, on May 13, 1994, the first death anniversary of Fr. Bede Griffiths, at Saccidananda Ashram, Shantivanam. At the time of preparing the report, three
Patrons of DCP were Archbishops. 3 of the 4 Advisors were Bishops. Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil CSsR who ‘invoked God’s blessings’ on a major DB Seminar, and Hyderabad Archbishop Joji who sent ‘best wishes for its success’ and Archbishop Thomas Menamparambil SDB of Guwahati were its Patrons. Its other Advisors were Bishop Anathil of Indore, Bishop Prakash Mallavarappu of Cudappah and Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palakkad.

I wrote on June 28, 2002 to Archbishop Arulappa, Bishop Anathil and the Bishop of Hazaribag, Charles Soreng SJ who was the Chairman, Education and Culture Commission of the CBCI, asking for clarifications about the DBs while expressing my apprehension that the DBs are ‘introducing, along with genuine values, a subtle mix of syncretism and New Age in our Catholic institutions.’ I received a letter dated August 16, 2002 from Bishop Soreng saying, Recently I met Swamiji at Patna while giving a Seminar which I attended… I find Swamiji’s position very sound and I am quite pleased with him. He has been giving talks to priests and religious as well.

The Education and Culture Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India [CBCI] was the chief organizer of the DB National Seminar at the Renewal Centre, Kaloor in December 2002.

Bishop George Anathil SVD of Indore was lending support to the breakaway [Fr.] Alengaden faction at Indore. Bishop Albert D’Souza of Lucknow was at that time supporting the formation of another Dharma Bharathi by Fr. Thomas Kunnunkal SJ.

The Swami’s unit is patronized and supported by individual priests and nuns and several congregations like the Orders of Friars Minor (OFM), Society of Jesus (SJ), Society of the Divine Word (SVD), the Ursuline Franciscans etc. The Indore faction too is supported by a large number of orders: St. Joseph of Tarbes (SJT), the Carmelite and Loreto nuns, Sisters of Charity, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM), JMC, FCC, JMJ, MSMI, IBMV, MSJ, UMI, CSST, OSB Congregations, etc. This information is old and the DBs would certainly have cast the net wider by this time.

 

SWAMI SACHIDANANDA BHARATHI AND NEW AGE

What is this organization about, that has the confidence and support of Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops? Let us read what he says about it, of the influence on him of Bede and Shantivanam, in his book Christianity for the Third Millennium, second edition 2000, which is dedicated to Swami Bede Dayananda with deep reverence and love.

[On page 2 he calls Bede his sadguru according to the Upanishadic tradition. On page 22, Jesus is the sadguru].

“Bede helped me to understand the contemplative and mystical traditions of Christianity and other world religions and develop a contemplative consciousness. He also enabled me to develop an integral vision of life and reality and to see the interdependent organic nature of creation,” page 2. [The last phrase is New Age-ese].

“This book is an invitation to disciples of Christ in the modern world to liberate themselves from the paralysing bondages and structures of institutions, hierarchies, dogmas and rituals that have emasculated the Christian faith today,page 4. Only a synthesis of the religious insights and experiences of the East and the West can provide the foundation for a universal faith… Christianity has the potential to serve as the facilitator for the birth of a universal faith, but it has first to be de-westernised and reconceived. Christian churches as they are today will not be able to do justice to this historic task. A reconception of Christianity from a ‘marriage of West and East ‘ as suggested by Bede Griffiths is needed to be able to fulfill this divine responsibility… Unfortunately the denominational Churches have failed to grasp fully the trans-historic nature of the Cosmic Christ… A new vision of Christianity for the third millennium will have to emphasise mysticism, transcendence and intuition as its essential characteristics…

More people are alienated from Christianity and Christ by immature and ignorant Christians preaching the ‘Good News’ and trying to convert models to their model of Christianity than by the oppressive and exploitative structures and institutions of the various Christian churches put together… [Pursuing this ‘new vision’] may mean sacrificing our friendships, our security and even taking a stand against established ideologies and institutions… Many of these Churches… among which the Roman Catholic Church is the largest and the strongest… are far from the original Christian experience… As a result, many believers, recognizing the sterility of the religious teachings, are turning away from these churches in search of something more relevant for their spiritual life. In order to realise the [new] vision of Christianity for the third millennium, we need a new form of ‘Church’ which need not even have the name ‘church’. As Bede Griffiths remarks,
[a quotation from pages 292, 293 of Bede’s A New Vision of Reality]… [This ‘Universal Church’] may not have any resemblance to the existing churches at all and may not even have the name ‘church’,pages 11, 12, 24, 38, 42, 43, 44. [The above requires no comments from this writer].

The swami uses a lot of New Age-ese: Planet Earth, paradigm shift, unity of all life, integral organic and holistic vision of reality’, body-mind-spirit entities, intuition, holistic health, etc. [see Vatican Document on the New Age].

“The Newtonian-Cartesian worldview resulted in a separation of mind and matter, man and nature, spirit and body, the sacred and the secular, the intuitive and the rational… page 10. He talks of the proponents of new science like Werner Heisenberg, David Bohm, Fritjof Capra, Paul Davies, Ken Wilber, Rupert Sheldrake and E.F. Scumacher. In his prophetic book ‘A New Vision of Reality’, Bede captures and presents the spirit of this emerging integral vision in a very beautiful way… Mystics of the present century like Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin… and Bede Griffiths have served as prophets of this new vision of reality. We see in the present era a confluence of science and religion taking place… The unitive experience of mystics of world religions and the inter-dependent organic nature of creation as discovered by modern scientists only serve to confirm the authentic disciple of Christ in his desire to reach out to all who belong to the Earth Family,” pages 13, 14, 32. On page 31, he quotes the words of “the great German mystic Meister Eckhart.[These New Agers will be dealt with later in this report].

The Sunday Shalom editorial of March 30, 2003 said that the NRM teachings are “completely un-Christian” and are based on “New Age philosophies
which the Vatican describes as the greatest danger to the Christian church, that they discard Jesus and Christian prayer from Christian institutions, eradicate the spirit of evangelization and the spirituality of the Church from the minds of priests and nuns working in the field of education etc.

DB’s programme includes yoga
and eastern meditations. Satsanghs

commence with a meditation where the participants are required to breathe in ‘Om’.” Their ‘Heal India’ programme aims to promote a holistic approach to healthcare through psycho-spiritual healing, natural healthcare systems and alternative
therapies.

In my reports I have demonstrated that DHARMA BHARATHI promotes indifferentism, relativism, syncretism, religious pluralism*, and New Age. They are closely associated with the Catholic Health Association of India

[CHAI] which propagates Holistic Health, Alternative Medicine [Pranic Healing, Reiki, Acupressure etc.] and psycho-spiritual counselling, and sells occult books written by Choa Kok Sui, the founder of the Pranic Healing Foundation, and Theosophical Society books written by 33rd degree Freemasons and occultists. *see pages 43, 45, 66

In his Manuals, Swami Sachidananda lists a number of “progressive movements” they are associated with such as the Theosophical Society, Divine Life Society, Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, Aurobindo Society and the Sri Ramakrishna Order which he believes have Indian insights into the truths of spirit.

“Noteworthy developmentsinclude collaboration with organizations like Brahmakumari Iswariya
Vishva

Vidyalayam, Sri Ramachandra Mission, Swami Vivekananda Institute, and Sri Sathya Sai (Baba) Institute. The Swami also carries quotes from Annie Besant [see page 54] in his Manual and published Seminar papers.

“The initial momentum for NRM was further reinforced on 18th August 1998 at Hyderabad by His Holiness Swami Jayendra Saraswathi of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.” At the inauguration on 5th August 2000 of the NRP 3-year Pilot Project, “Swami Paramarthananda, President, Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad gave the benediction.

He wrote, Mystics of 20th century like Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin… and Bede Griffiths have served as prophets of this emerging new integral vision of reality… The term ‘New Science’ implies the scientific developments beginning with the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics that point towards the interdependent organic nature of creation, the inter-convertibility of matter, energy and mind
and towards the complementarity of religious insights and scientific discoveries.

Heisenberg
and
Bohm
were nuclear physicists. Davies
and
Wilber
are psychologists. Sheldrake
teaches
biology at Oxford University. All of them through their various works, point towards the
interdependence of energy, matter
and mind, of the physical, psychological and the spiritual. Sheldrake wrote his famous book ‘New Science of Life’ living in Shantivanam Ashram of Fr. Bede Griffiths. They were friends. Fr. Bede was my guru.”

[The ENTIRE passage is loaded with New Age, in its vocabulary, its message and its personalities as we will see.]

From a letter dated July 2, 2002 written to me by Swami Sachidananda Bharathi: Discoveries of New Science starting with the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics are today proving beyond doubt the interdependent organic nature of creation… A holistic vision of reality
is slowly replacing the old mechanical and materialistic model. This emerging integral vision of reality
demands profound and far-reaching changes in our attitudes and outlooks as can be seen from the works of the proponents of New Science like Werner Heisenberg, David Bohm, Fritjof Capra, Paul Davies, Ken Wilber, Rupert Sheldrake and
E. F. Schumacher

to name a few.

“Swami Sachidananda was introduced to the scientific dimension of spirituality by… Swami Dayananda, previously called Father Bede Griffiths. He got to meet men of New Science like Fritjof Capra who wrote ‘The Tao of Physics‘ & Rupert Sheldrake who wrote ‘The Seven Experiments that could Change the World’, reported the Bangalore Times, February 9, 2002.

New Science” is a euphemism for “New Age” where religion and science fuse together [see
yin-yang, page 48].

 

FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS, SHANTIVANAM, AND NEW AGE

Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam a Camaldolese Benedictine and a disciple of Bede, in a talk on May 21, 2000, at the ashram of Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB said, A fourth discovery, after twenty five years in India, began to turn him around once again. This was western science, but of a new kind: what is often called the ‘new paradigm’ science. Rupert Sheldrake, the revolutionary biologist, spent a year at Shantivanam writing his book, and discussing each chapter with Bede. Then Bede started reading Fritjof Capra‘s
The Tao of Physics, and then David Bohm, and finally Ken Wilber. He was fascinated by Wilber’s vision of the evolution of consciousness through different stages all the way to nondual consciousness. For the first time since moving to India, Bede was turning back towards the West – and to western science, which he had rejected categorically. But this was no longer the science of Descartes and Newton, nor the technology of the twentieth century West. Bede was discovering here a new consciousness which saw an organic unity in all being and which, in Capra, intuited a deep resonance between contemporary physics and the mystical philosophy of the Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist traditions.

Anglican priest Dr. Marcus Braybrooke confirms this in Vandana‘s Shabda Shakti Sangam page 361: ‘The great religious traditions will all be seen as interrelated and interdependent, each giving a particular and unique insight into ultimate truth and reality’: This is one characteristic of the New Age as Fr. Bede Griffiths envisaged it in one of his last books, A New Vision of Reality. Evidence that he is right can be seen in the beginnings of global theology, global ethics and global spirituality.

In his above statement in Vandana’s book, Braybrooke actually ADMITS that Bede Griffiths, and hence all his associates, envisage establishing the New Age and its goals through the Ashram Movement.

Dr. Fr. Lourdu Anandam, in The Western Lover of the East, 1998, pages 234, 244-248, writes:

“Bede derives inspiration from… East and West, and supports his arguments with the findings of the New Science, and the statements of modern theologians like
Teilhard de Chardin
and sages like
Sri Aurobindo.

In his late years, he was also influenced by the New Age MovementAll his writings from 1982 are much loaded with the concepts and terms and thinking patterns of the New Age Movement (NAM).
Therefore it becomes important from the Catholic theological point of view to make an inquiry into the theology of Griffiths…The New Age has fore-runners… in the form of the Theosophical Society since 1875.

“It may be irritating to come across NAM terms often (sometimes too often) in the later writings of Griffiths. First and foremost it must be said that he is not the first one among Catholic theologians to be sympathetic towards the NAM. ‘When the New Age is branded as something evil by German and Anglo-Protestantism, it is much praised by the Catholics,’ writes Hans Joachim Turk, New Age und christlicher Glaube, 1988, page 667. Turk makes… theologians such as Teilhard de Chardin… responsible for the fact that the Spirit of God is identified with the Spirit of the New Age in the Catholic Church.

Griffiths’ later writings are pregnant with the terms and concepts of the New Age. The primacy of intuition as means of the right knowledge as opposed to reason, the complementarity of the masculine and the feminine, the insistence of the new consciousness that… reality is a whole in which every part is united with the whole… became the important concepts and thoughts of Griffiths.

“The impact of New Age thinking begins to be shown for the first time in his book The Marriage of East and West in 1982. In this book, the (above) and his skepticism of the intellectual concepts and dogmatic formulations of the Church are given expression. But the usage of New Age terminologies as such are to be recognized without ambiguity in A New Vision of Reality, published in 1989. Then, all the later writings, to which a bulk of the unpublished materials belong, use New Age terminologies as well as New Age thinking and there is a clarion call of the New Age.

“The final aim of the New Age is a sort of monism and pantheism identifying everything of the created reality with the divine and seeing the oneness of everything. If Griffiths had also the same understanding and vision, then he fails to be recognized anymore as a Catholic theologian… As we have seen, he has deliberately used New Age terminologies and he was sympathetic to certain ways of thinking and the proponents of the New Age. Besides, he
was also united in friendship with some of the proponents like Fritjof Capra
and Rupert Sheldrake. “They were regular visitors to his Saccidananda Ashram. I think that we can come to the conclusion that these scientists of the so-called ‘new science’ who substantiate their discoveries with those of the philosophies of Eastern religions saw in Griffiths a good example of a Christian monk and theologian through whom their proposals and ‘visions’ could be confirmed. And thus they could win the sympathy and the support of Christians especially in the West… They gave him material to read, reflect and share his opinions on the subjects for which they were supposedly seeking clarifications. Like that, he was slowly influenced by the intellectual New Age Movement.

“In the foreword for his book of A New Vision of Reality, page 7, Bede acknowledges this in the following words:

There is no need for me to say how much this book owes to Fritjof Capra, whose The Tao of Physics gave me an insight into the new movement in science today, and from whose book The Turning Point the title of this book is taken. So also my debt to Ken Wilber, who has opened up Western psychology to the insights of Eastern wisdom, is no less evident. But I owe special thanks to Rupert Sheldrake…”

[The Western Lover of the East, A Theological Enquiry into Bede Griffiths’ Contribution to Christology].

To the question, put to Bede in an interview on 12th and 13th October, 1991 at Shantivanam by Fr. Lourdu Anandam, “Do you share the views of the New Age Movement?”, Bede Griffiths replies:

“Yes, I do. Incidentally, I am invited next year to a conference in Winchester, England where the leaders of this movement are meeting for several years…. When eternal physics is giving way to Quantum theory and relativity, we see the universe as a field of energies. The whole idea of solid bodies moving in space and time gives way to a field of energies with different frequencies. And that brings us much nearer to the Indian and Eastern traditions. Fritjof Capra
shows in his book The Tao of Physics that the new physics is very near to the ancient Indian and Chinese Oriental vision of the universe. The universe is the field of energies permeated by consciousness… The ‘new science’ says that there is no world outside this consciousness… Thus we come close to the Vedic tradition… of the universe.

To the question “Do you think that modern science will soon accept the findings of the ‘new science’ and thus a convergence is taking place between science and spirituality?”, Griffiths says:

“Yes…. Many leading scientists today like Fritjof Capra, Rupert Sheldrake and David Bohm, all belonging to that school, are discovering the spiritual dimension of the universe… There is a real convergence taking place between the more historic revelation of Christianity and the more spiritual revelations of India and the East… I think we are
on the verge of a new theology, a new understanding of the Church.

“In the interview with me”, says Fr. Lourdu Anandam,he approved his alliance with the New Age Movement, that he shared its views and that he was associated
with the leaders of the movement. Griffiths found support in the findings or proposals of the ‘scientists of the New Science‘ for the unified vision of the universe of the Eastern mystic religions.

Fr. Lourdu Anandam criticizes the support that Fr. Bede lends to the New Age Movement, and his later writings as approaching a pluralistic theology of religion,” wrote Dr. Fr. Clive Hurley SDB, The New Leader, February 16-29, 2000.

Jyoti Sahi had written [see p. 33] that Bede had become very much involved with a group of thinkers who were trying to find a new connection between science… and a spiritual intuition of life. Who are these people of the ‘New Science’, and what are their beliefs? They are all among the world’s leading New Agers, and Fr. Bede was personally familiar with most of them. Progressively towards the end he was very greatly influenced by their ideas and writings, and so too all those who came in contact with him like Jyoti Sahi, Bro. Martin, Swami Sachidananda Bharathi etc.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: In the Vatican Document, he is ranked as New Ager No. 1
[see pages 12, 48, 49, 51, 52]. “No one has contributed more to the merger of science and religion than the French priest/ paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin. Treated as an apostate by the Vatican, banned from teaching, and forbidden to publish his writings, the controversial Jesuit, who was known as the father of the New Age… expounded ‘a new theology’ leading to the ‘awakening to a collective superconsciousness… [and] a new age of the earth’, say Dave Hunt & T. A. McMahon in The Seduction of Christianity, 1985, page 77

“In his writings- considered unorthodox and suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church- Teilhard talked about multiplicity and unity; the one, the many. Matter and energy, said the priest, are a single principle, two aspects of one energy. And he considered spirit to be a function of matter… In fact, he was not even afraid to speak of matter becoming spirit: ‘There is in the world neither spirit not matter: the ‘stuff of the universe‘ is rather spirit-matter’,” says Russell Chandler in Understanding the New Age, 1988, pages 186, 187.

(New Age guru) Marilyn Ferguson found de Chardin to be the single most influential individual in the thinking of 185 New Agers
who
she surveyed when writing ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy‘, [see pages 34, 54] a manifesto on the NAM. Most named in order of frequency was de Chardin at number 1, with C. G. Jung at number 2.

Theosophist J. Krishnamurti at number 7, Sri Aurobindo, Thomas Merton (Trappist monk) were others according to the 3rd February 2003 Vatican Document on the ‘New Age’ (notes 15).

 

Carl Jung:
New Ager No. 2. For the influence of Jungian thought on Bede and his friends, see pages 39-41.

J. Krishnamurti, Annie Besant, and the Theosophical Society: [see pages 10, 27, 51, 52, 58, 59, 76, 96]

“In any investigation of the New Age the name of Madame Blavatsky surfaces. In 1875 she founded the Theosophical Society with the twin aims of putting Christianity and science in their places… Annie Besant took over the Society in 1891,writes Kevin Logan in Close Encounters with the New Age, 1991, page 15.

Lutheran nun Mother Basilea Schlink says, in New Age From a Biblical Viewpoint, 1988, page 7,
“The New Age Movement traces its modern roots to the Theosophical Society… founded by Blavatsky.”

“(New Agers) have labeled Christianity an ‘enemy’ of mankind and in the tradition of those like the founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena P. Blavatsky, have attacked and ridiculed it.:
The Facts on the New Age Movement, John Ankerberg and John Weldon, 1988, page 24.

In Understanding the New Age, Roy Livesey, 1986, page 68 says, Mme. Blavatsky worked in telepathic communication with ‘the Masters’ who guided her. She didn’t recognize the significance of the demonic power.

Annie Besant
[see page 51, DHARMA BHARATHI] claimed in 1925 that her adopted son J. Krishnamurti was the reincarnated Messiah,
Cults, World Religions and the Occult, Kenneth Boa, 1990, page 133.

In The New Age Cult, Walter Martin, 1989, page 111 says, [Annie Besant] wrote two books ‘Ancient Wisdom ‘ and ‘Esoteric Christianity ‘ which are both still used among New Agers.

The Vatican Document on the ‘New Age’, 3rd February 2003, n 2.1, 3.1, 7.2 states, “The (New) Age of Aquarius* has such a high profile in the New Age movement largely because of the influence of theosophy… and their esoteric antecedents… The metaphysical component of New Age spirituality comes from its esoteric and theosophical roots, and is basically a new form of gnosis… Theosophy is an ancient term… The name was given new emphasis by the Theosophical Society… Theosophical mysticism tends to be monistic, stressing the essential unity of the spiritual and material components of the universe. It also looks for the hidden forces that cause matter and spirit to react, in such a way that human and divine minds eventually meet. Here is where theosophy offers mystical redemption or enlightenment.” *see pages 34, 53, 91

Sri Aurobindo: [see pages 27, 33, 42, 51, 52, 58, 60, 63, 66, 68, 70]

Like other contributors to Shabda Shakti Sangam, Fr. George Gispert-Sauch SJ [a mentor whom Vandana herself refers to regularly see p. 6] writes on the mysticism of de Chardin and Aurobindo, pages 124 ff. in the Shakti section.

Again, the entire chapter 7, pages 225-229 of the Shabda section is dedicated to a brief study of Sri Aurobindo.

Jyoti Sahi says that the ideals of
Sri Aurobindo were among those that provided a key to [Bede’s] initial attraction to India. Bede was interested in “Aurobindo’s concept of… an integral yoga… in the yogic philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.”
Saccidanandaya Namah, pages 91, 97.

“World-renowned gurus of the New Age Movement include Sri Aurobindo,” write John
Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the New Age Movement, 1988, page 10.

“He taught that divine energy is at work everywhere… The transformation from matter to life, to consciousness, to
supra-consciousness, ends in complete identity with the Absolute, and is advanced through a process of yoga.

He looked for the emergence of an elite of supermen who would initiate salvation for all.

:
The World’s Religions, Bruce Nichols, 1950, pages 164, 165.

Rev. Rama Coomaraswamy, in Sri Aurobindo and Bede Griffiths- THE DESACRALIZATION OF HINDUISM FOR WESTERN CONSUMPTION (part II), http://www.wandea.org.pl/bede-giffiths.html
says: Mr. Aurobindo [1872-1950] received enlightenment in November of 1926, or as it is claimed in their literature, he at that point realized the ‘Supermind’. Aurobindo envisaged the Supreme Reality as Sat Chit Anand [The Trinity, see pages 32, 61, 70-71, 72]

Aurobindo was clearly out to establish a new evolutionary religion. In his own words Aurobindo told us that ‘All religions have saved a number of souls, but none yet has been able to spiritualize mankind. For that there is needed not cult and creed, but a sustained and all comprehensive effort at self-evolution.‘ His admirer and follower, Dr. Shiv Das, tells us that ‘the object of his mission was to usher in a new spiritual age as the next higher curve of human evolution. This is also the inviolable destiny and future of mankind. Sri Aurobindo sounded the trumpet call of the New Age.‘ He envisaged a religion that differed from ‘the prevailing religions of intellectual belief, dogma and extraneous rites and rituals which have to be discarded in the new World Order’, (The Vedic Path, June 1990). At Aurobindo Ashram, religion is a ‘private matter’ and therefore no set forms should be forced on anyone… One last spin-off of interest is Father Bede Griffiths, the Benedictine Monk who… lived like a Hindu sadhu, supposedly achieving a blend of Eastern and Catholic mysticism. His guru and source of inspiration was also Aurobindo. In his book, A New Vision of Reality, he informs us that the world ‘is on the verge of a new age and a new culture’. The advertisement tells us he is a ‘spokesman of the New Age, speaking for it from his Christian-Hindu Ashram … He concludes his radical vision of a new society and a universal religion in which the essential values of Christianity will be preserved in living relationship with the other religious traditions of the world’. Here once again, we have the export of evolutionary and Marxist thought to India, its adoption by a supposed Swami, and its reintroduction to the West, by … the Esalen [see pages 45, 60, 63] Institute, and also by Father Griffiths within the Catholic Church.

We have established another clear relationship between Bede and Sri Aurobindo and the New Age goals.

 

Thomas Merton: [see pages 40, 54, 57, 63, 69, 82]

He was a close friend of D. T. Suzuki [see page 40] who is mentioned along with him in the Vatican Document‘s list of influential New Agers. A Cistercian monk, he was born in Paris in 1915 and died in Bangkok in 1968 while attending a Buddhist conference. He was a Master of Zen
meditation and wrote several books on the subject.

Fritjof Capra: [see pages 10, 12, 27, 33, 34, 49, 51, 52, 53, 58, 63]

After a long trip to Europe during which he met leading New Agers, Fr. Bede candidly admits in a November 1982 letter to Jyoti Sahi
I have been very much influenced by the work of Fritjof Capra (The Tao of Physics), especially The Turning Point.

[Both titles are listed along with 10 others in ‘Some New Age books’, Vatican Document on the New Age, n 9.1].

“Capra, is a leading New Age exponent. He has become a major mouthpiece for the New Age contention that modern science irrefutably supports mysticism and the ‘universal one’… In his influential and much quoted book ‘The Tao of Physics‘… Capra’s views stem at least in part from a ‘visionary experience’ he had while he sat on a beach meditating, and which he acknowledged was primed by psychedelic herbs: ‘I saw the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in a gigantic cosmic dance of energy. I felt its rhythm and heard its sound, and at that moment I knew that this was the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers worshipped by the Hindus… In his later book The Turning Point , Capra elaborated on Werner
Heisenberg‘s
theory that observation affects the object observed. ‘The electron’, Capra said, ‘does not have objective properties independent of my mind’.: Understanding the New Age, Russell Chandler, 1988, pp. 187, 188.

“According to Capra, ‘the earth is a living system; it functions, not just like an organism, but actually seems to be an organism, Gaia [see pages 15, 43, 45, 46, 59, 60, 63], living planetary being.’ … His book The Turning Point,
which has also been made into a film,
Mindwalk,
has become… a manifesto for the New Age Movement and a source of inspiration for the feminist spirituality
of theologians
such as
Matthew Fox… [
see pages 6, 39-40, 59, 60, 63, 76].


“Physicists such as Capra have seriously argued that the conclusions of the New Physics are best understood in the philosophical framework of Eastern mysticism such as Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism… Physicists such as Capra
find [the] tantric view [see pages 36, 49, 58] of the ultimate oneness of mind and matter to be a mind-blowing insight for scientists.“:
When the New Age Gets Old, Vishal Mangalwadi, 1992, pages 127, 137,243, 111.

Werner Heisenberg: [see pages 51, 52, 56]

“The New Age
science-mysticism link [of New Age physicist Heisenberg and others]
needs careful examining.

From the Heisenberg ‘uncertainty principle’, New Age physicist Fritjof Capra concludes that quantum theory “thus reveals the basic oneness of the universe.” The Heisenberg principle is accordingly cited as evidence for the monistic unity of experimenter and experiment and, by extension, all of reality.

:
Understanding the New Age, Russell Chandler, 1988, pages 246, 247.


David Bohm: [see pages 51, 52, 53, 58]

“The interconnectedness of electrons (matter), was proposed in a new form of the ‘EPR’ paradox, (first put forward by Einstein), to show the interconnectedness of electrons, by Bohm who ‘has become popular in New Age circles.’

The teaching of the Isa Upanishad on ‘This’ (the cosmos within the grasp of the senses) and ‘That’ (which is the source of ‘This’ world, beyond the senses and known only in mystical experience), has a striking parallel in the work of the physicist Bohm… ‘New Age thinkers say that the parallel between New Science and Vedanta is supported by physicists such as Bohm’… When the Upanishads say Tat Tvam Asi (That thou art) or Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahma), they are talking about the oneness of the human self and the divine self.”

:When the New Age Gets Old, Vishal Mangalwadi, 1992, pages cf. 248, 249, 254, 255, 260.

“David Bohm, a theoretical physicist, says ‘The primary emphasis is now on undivided wholeness, in which
the individual is not separated from what is observed’.”: Understanding the New Age, Russell Chandler, 1988, page 186.

“In ‘Science, Order and Creativity‘ David Bohm argues that for science to answer life’s most important questions, it must embrace a combination of Zen Buddhism and Hinduism.”

:The New Spirituality, Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon, 1988, page 59

Rupert Sheldrake: [see pages 10, 12, 33, 34, 36, 51, 52, 53, 58, 85]

“Sheldrake, a British plant physiologist, postulated in his books ‘A New Science of Life’ and ‘The Presence of the Past’ that all patterns in the universe, from electrons to human minds to galaxies are linked by ‘morphogenetic fields’. These M-fields operate… outside… space and time… and explain why phenomena such as extra-sensory
perception and psychokinesis are possible, and how the law of karma might operate.

:
When the New Age Gets Old, Vishal Mangalwadi, 1992, pages 250, 251

He visited Shantivanam as recently as from 26 February to 1st March 2004. Fr. Bede invited Jyoti Sahi to a New Age conference at Shantivanam from December 28, 1982 to January 3, 1983 at which [Fritjof] Capra and my friend Rupert Sheldrake will be present. The title of Bede’s 1989 book A New Vision of Reality was inspired by Sheldrake and the theme of this New Age conference.

Recall that Bede told Fr. Thomas Matus OSB that New Ager Rupert Sheldrake was coming to Shantivanam in December of 1984 for a special gathering… on contemporary science and religion.”

Sheldrake’s [personally autographed] books [see page 11] and those of Capra and Heisenberg are popular reading at the Shantivanam library. Ken Wilber’s and Capra’s works are available in the Aikiya Alayam library [see page 27].

Ken Wilber: [see pages 15, 27, 28, 51, 52, 53, 63]

“New Age notables would include New Age theorist and transpersonal psychologist
Ken Wilber, the ‘Einstein of consciousness research.’ Transpersonal psychology seeks to blend Eastern religion with modern psychology.

:
The Facts on the New Age Movement, Ankerberg and Weldon, 1988, page 10

Russell Chandler in Understanding the New Age, 1988, pages 175, 191, 274, 275, writes:

“Ken Wilber, a leading New Age exponent traces the stages of psychological growth through fourteen levels which mirror the seven yogic chakras of Eastern mysticism. At the ‘most realized state’ he maintains, a person experiences higher consciousness, the goal of mystics through the ages… and the apex of transpersonal
psychology
[see page 40]. At this stage, says Wilber, ‘we are in touch with the divine; we become enlightened’.

“I find it interesting that Wilber has edited a book whose major thrust is that modern physics ‘offers no positive support (let alone proof) for a mystical worldview.’ Yet he takes pains to point out that every one of the eight physicists whose writings comprise the book, including Werner Heisenberg, was a mystic.

“Wilber, a major architect of New Age thought, turns the biblical message of the Fall in the Garden of Eden upside down in his book ‘Up from Eden‘. Actually, he says, ‘the Fall’ was an ‘evolutionary advance and perfect growth, but it was experienced as a fall because it necessarily carried an increase in guilt…’

“By eating from the Tree of Knowledge “men… realized that they had to leave Eden’s subconsciousness and begin the actual life of true self-conscious responsibility on the way to superconsciousness, or Actual Return to godhead. They did not get thrown out of the Garden of Eden; they grew up and walked out. (Incidentally, for this courageous act we have Eve to thank, not to blame.)

“The theological Fall, or original sin, Wilber contends, marked the ‘illusory separation of all things from Spirit.’ …Evolution, then, is a labored return toward Spirit, toward Source. Hence the title of his book ‘Up from Eden‘: men and women are ‘up from the beasts and on their way to the gods.’

“New Age karma theory appears to mesh here, for working off bad karma in successive lives supposedly would aid in the evolutionary return to godhead and negate the illusion of separate egos and paradise lost. The only sin would be ignorance of wholeness and unity, the only evil belief in separation and distinction.”

We
can see from the above paragraphs alone that the teachings of
Bro. Martin re
late
closely to
those of Wilber.

Fr. Bede’s New York New Monk Project leaders are so intrigued with [Wilber’s] Integral Philosophy as to take it up for study, and
Fr. Dominic OSB of Shantivanam is so familiar with Wilber’s New Age writings that out of just two references in his introduction to their golden jubilee souvenir, one is from a book by Wilber [see pages 17, 28].

Paul Davies: [see pages 51, 52]

Davies went so far as to write ‘It may seem odd, but I feel that science paves the way to God with greater certainty than religion.’
Reasons to Believe Today in Christ, Fr. John Martinetti, 1996, page 21

Davies, like Wilber, is a
transpersonal psychologist.
Swami
Sachidananda
calls them ‘psychologists’ which they are not.

Transpersonal psychology pertains to experiences reaching beyond the limits of the personality and personal consciousness. During such experiences, the person sacrifices his independent personality, and allows himself to be ruled and manipulated by the psychotechnician in order to ‘regress into prior lives’ or ‘submerge into other worlds’.“: New Age From a Biblical Viewpoint, Basilea Schlink, 1988, page 31

The Vatican Document on the New Age says that practitioners of Transpersonal Technologies
“can find themselves being submitted to an alien spirituality
in a situation which raises questions about personal freedom. There are clear links between Eastern spirituality and psychotherapy, while Jungian psychology and the Human Potential Movement have been very influential on Shamanism and ‘reconstructed’ forms of Paganism like Druidry and Wicca… The classic approach in New Age is transpersonal psychology whose main concepts are the Universal Mind, the Higher Self, the collective and personal unconscious and the individual ego… The Higher Self contains the memories of earlier (re-)incarnations, n 7.2 and n 2.3.4.1. The Document also discusses transpersonal psychology in the context of Altered States of Consciousness in n 2.2.3.

E.F. Schumacher: [see pages 12, 51, 52] In ex-president of World Vision Stanley Mooneyham’s ‘What do you say to a Hungry World? ‘ which advocates the political program of New Agers, and in the book ‘Earthkeeping ‘, the New Age political program is laid out in its entirety… New Ager E.F. Schumacher, de Chardin and others are quoted with approval”: The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, Constance Cumbey, 1983, pages 154, 164.The New
Leader Sep 16-30, 2002 devotes a full pageSaints
for Today‘ to this economist who was a prophet 1911-1977 !

 

MORE ON FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS, OSB. EARLY INFLUENCES

Alan Richard Griffiths was born at home at Walton-on-Thames in 1906 in an Anglican British middle class family, the youngest of three. Receiving a scholarship to Oxford, Alan went on to study English literature and philosophy from 1925-1929. It was during his third year at Oxford that
C.S. Lewis became his tutor and the two became great friends. Alan graduated in journalism which prepared him well for the 12 books he would later author and the multitudinous articles and conferences. Soon after graduation, Alan began what he and his two companions called an “experiment in Common Life.” With Hugh Waterman and Martin Skinner, he purchased a country cottage in Cotswalds, and took on a lifestyle immersed in nature, as a protest against contemporary life.

Alan Griffiths then applied for ministry in the Church of England. However, he was advised to first go work in the slums of London. He began to read Cardinal Newman’s Development of Christian Doctrine. Deeply touched by the reading both intellectually and spiritually, in spite of the fact that his mother had said that her greatest grief would be if any in her family would embrace Roman Catholicism, Alan visited Prinknash Abbey and remained six weeks, much impressed. On Christmas eve, 1931, he was received into the Church and at midnight Mass
received his first Communion. Alan then entered Prinknash Abbey just a few weeks later. On December 20, 1932, Alan was clothed as a Benedictine Novice and received the name of Bede, which means ‘prayer’.

Fr. Bede offered his Perpetual Vows in 1937. He was ordained in 1940 at the age of 34. His Abbot chose Fr. Bede to be Prior of Farnborough, 1947 to 1951. During his years at Farnborough, Bede had met Fr. Benedict Alapatt, an Indian priest born in Europe, greatly desirous of starting a foundation in India.
Fr. Bede had been introduced to Eastern thought, Yoga and Indian Scripture by a Jungian analyst, Toni Sussman.
[see page 28]

In 1955, Fr. Bede and Fr. Benedict took a ship to Bombay, and after pilgrimages to Elephanta and Mysore, they settled in Kengeri, Bangalore. But this was only to last until 1958 when Fr. Bede joined Fr. Francis Acharya in Kurisumala
for ten years. Bede took the name Dhayananda which means bliss of prayer, during his time there, and still later Dayananda, which means bliss of compassion. In 1968, Father Bede Griffiths arrived at Shantivanam from Kurisumala with two other monks and again immersed himself in the study of Indian thought, attempting to relate it to Christian theology. He went on pilgrimage and studied Hinduism with
Raimundo Panikkar
. [see page 50]

Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam, in a talk on May 21, 2000 at the US ashram of Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB said, “The third great pillar in Bede’s religious structure would be Hindu Vedanta. For years before he moved to India in 1955, he had been reading scriptures of the Asian traditions. But seeds had been sown in this fertile soil much earlier. While still a boy, he had read the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada and the Tao Te Ching. When, at last, Bede went to India, it was once again as if he had suddenly discovered himself… Bede’s second contribution to a new Christian wisdom is that principle of non-duality, or advaita, and of a unitive absolute, the One… “Generally, however, when Bede speaks of the perennial wisdom in his later years, he means the principle of advaita, or a single nondual reality, Brahman-atman. That absolute Reality, or unitive principle – which lies at the core not only of Hinduism but of Buddhism and Taoism – becomes the heart of Bede’s visionThe third contribution of Bede is the unitive self, or atman. As soon as Bede has written about the nondual Absolute, he usually moves to the atman, because it is through the Self that the unitive ground of all reality is experienced. The search for the Self, Bede writes repeatedly, is the heart of the Vedantin way. In this focus upon the Self, Bede joins [Fr.] Thomas Merton [see pages 40, 54, 55, 63, 69, 82] and Abhishiktananda.

Fr. Jesu Rajan in Bede’s Journey to the Beyond, 1997, pages 13, 30 to 33, 35, writes, About his ‘peak experience of the Transcendent Mystery in nature’ which became ‘the basis of his search for self-realization’
Bede says “I felt the presence of a spirit in nature, with which I longed to be united [Bede Griffiths, A Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, 1938, page 7], to the extent that after that experience he gave up his adherence to any form of Christianity. …The first effect of such an experience is often to lead to the abandonment of all religion or it challenges one to work out one’s own religion for oneself… The love of nature was the only thing that moved him deeply. Christianity seemed to be an abstract religion with its laws and morality and it ceased to have any significance for him… In a way his reading of philosophy led him later on to understand that the Presence which he experienced in nature as a school boy was the one true God. He has led thousands and thousands of people to this experience which alone gives true joy and peace to humanity.

I quote Fr. Jesu Rajan from page 34: “After visiting the cave of Elephanta outside Bombay and after seeing the stone carving of Siva Maheshwara, the Great God, Bede says, Here carved in stone is the very genius of India and the East. This is what I had come to find…’.

On page 61, Fr. Jesu Rajan confirms what Jyoti Sahi said [see page 28], and what we read about Toni Sussman’s influence on Bede above, In 1940, Bede met a remarkable German woman, Toni Sussman in London and his interest in India revived. TONI HAD BEEN ONE OF JUNG’S FIRST DISCIPLES AND SHE WAS A PSYCHOLOGIST WHO HAD ALSO STUDIED YOGA UNDER A HINDU YOGI IN BERLIN. She had several books on Oriental religions and philosophies and Bede’s acquaintance with her opened up a new world for him.

This demonstrates that Bede had been heading the New Age way 15 years before he came to India.

In My Encounters with Bede Griffiths, Michael Von Brück [The Bede Griffiths Trust, Golden String bulletin] relates how he came to meet Bede: It was in summer 1976 that I arrived in India. I was on a scholarship of the World Council of Churches to engage in research on Indian theology and the Dialogue of Religions at the United Theological College in Bangalore. Soon after my arrival I discovered that the theology taught at the college was not much shaped by Indian cultural patterns but was basically a second hand theology of Western origin. Therefore, I looked for other options and met the Indian artist Jyoti Sahi, a disciple of Bede Griffiths. The name of Fr Bede sounded familiar, for Father Enomiya-Lassalle, the German Jesuit who had become a
Zen
master in Japan, had introduced me not only to Zen
earlier in Germany but had mentioned his visit to Shantivanam as an extraordinary experience in his life — during the Zen session he had quoted from Abhishiktananda’s book on Prayer, and he told us that he had met Bede Griffiths in India… Rev. Michael Von Brück ended up staying at Shantivanam for 6 months, and later returned with his family, year after year. He and Bede would organize conferences together, especially with… Western scientists on the exploration of consciousness…

 

We invited a
Tibetan shaman

whom I had met during
one of my visits to Gaden monastery and he spent a whole week at Shantivanam… At another occasion there were Samdhong Rinpoche, the head of the Tibetan Buddhist University and Rupert Sheldrake
talking about science and consciousness in the mystical traditions… I was fortunate enough to organize a conference at the Lutheran Gurukul in Madras which was attended by Bede Griffiths
and the
Dalai Lama. Raimon Panikkar [see pages 49-50], Mar Gregorios [see page 38]
and Swami Chidananda
were present as well.

The result of Von Brück’s encounter with Bede: Neumühle, an ecumenical centre in Germany “where
Bede also visited us several times, accompanied by [Fr.] Christudas, his loving and faithful disciple. Bede gave talks and impressed many of my students deeply. He looked around at the centre, where Zen is being taught next to the Prayer of the Heart, Christian contemplation, Yoga and Tibetan forms
of meditationWell, Neumühle had received a lot of inspiration from Shantivanam in India, indeed.”

The late
Paulose Mar Gregorios
was a New Ager, a pranic healer among other things, and a Bishop of the Orthodox Church in Kottayam. At an Inter-faith Dialogue, ‘The World Congress of Spiritual Accord’ in Rishikesh in December 1993, he was the Chairman and Vandana Mataji was a speaker. His 1995 book Healing- A Holistic Approach reveals his erroneous teachings. He favoured Transcendental Meditation, Yoga and several alternative therapies which are listed in the Vatican Document on the New Age. He quotes New Agers Sri Aurobindo, Deepak Chopra, Werner Heisenberg, Rupert Sheldrake, David Bohm, Fritjof Capra in his book, dealing with the thinking of some of them in much detail. Surely one can see the New Age network quite a part of the ashram circuit!

In chapter 16, pages 415-419 of the Shakti section of Shabda Shakti Sangam, Mar Gregorios’s article is reproduced. It is all about the chakras, shakti, kundalini power and the energy or subtle body, with an attempted connection to parallels in the Scriptures and Christian theology.

Fr. Lourdu Anandam writes, Quoting the Letter to the Hebrews 1:1, Griffiths calls the Vedic religion as ‘Vedic Revelation‘ [The Cosmic Revelation: The Hindu Way to God, page 7] thus insisting that we have to accept the occurrence of divine revelation in religions like Hinduism.

[The Vatican castigated Fr. Felix Wilfred, head of the Department of Christian Studies of Madras University, for holding the same position: Cardinal Castrillòn, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, also took aim at Indian Fr. Felix Wilfred, considered a leading Catholic expert in India on dialogue with other religions. He criticized Fr. Wilfred for saying that other religious traditions contain divine revelation. He also criticized the theologian’s idea that Christian revelation represents only one part of divine revelation. (CNS news)
Petrus, November 2002].

Again discussing Bede’s ‘vision’ in A New Vision of Reality, pages 194, 195, “Among the Hindu systems, Griffiths is for Vedanta (Aryan) and tantras (Dravidian)…The early Griffiths was taken up by Vedanta in the beginning.

But in his later days, he also recognized the importance of tantra… [see pages 49, 55]. He pointed out that advaita has a tendency to neglect matter (the body). The aim of advaita is to unite oneself with the supreme Brahman, leaving behind the body, the soul, the mind… Griffiths acknowledges that in opposition to advaita, tantra asserts the values of nature, body, senses and sex… Tantra consists in bringing the consciousness into all levels of being. It is the process in which the divine energy, the shakti which is in all nature, rises through the seven chakras, the seven levels of consciousness, to reach the supreme consciousness, the Shiva… As this process takes place, Shiva and Shakti, male and female are married, united, and the whole person is transformed. That is the path of tantra… part of the practice was to develop sexual energy as one means of uniting with the Godhead. The final goal in tantra is to raise the shakti… and unite with the supreme consciousness, God. The study of the relevance of tantra came to the forefront in later Griffiths.

“On the part of his mystical theology, there grew a deeper conviction of the worldview of mystics of all religions which caused more and more a critical attitude towards and judgment of the Judeo-Christian traditions.

Those members of the official Church who knew him well, were skeptical of his thought and teaching to a great extent. That is why his tenets were not adopted by the official Church in India.

The above is from Dr. Fr. Lourdu Anandam, The Western Lover of the East, 1998, pages 152, 157, 158, 243, 244

In 1983 and in 1986, Bede’s articles were published in The American Theosophist, a Theosophical Society journal.

The Society’s website
http://www.theosophical.org

carries an Interview with Fr. Bede Griffiths by Dora Kunz: This Benedictine monk shows deep understanding of Indian wisdom, while remaining a Christian.

Unhappy about the October 1989 Vatican guidelines in its Document On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation”, [like Vandana
see page 44] Bede wrote a letter [among his unpublished works] in 1990 to Fr. Charles Brandt, OSCO.

 

MORE ON BEDE’S INFLUENCE ON OTHERS

During the reading of this report, we have noted that Bede has never, ever, influenced anybody to a Catholic-Christian experience of Jesus Christ. He has instead always exerted an influence in the opposite direction. We will see the same trend in the rest of this study which also demonstrates the type of people drawn to him and to Shantivanam.

1. The October/November 2000 issue of Yoga International carries a review of a book titled Pilgrimage to the Mother- A Woman’s Journey to the Source of the Ganges, 1999, by Alakananda Devi. The review goes:

 

“During the period 1980-1985, she wanders from one end of India to the other… she has what some call a psychotic episode and what others call a kundalini experience. She writes candidly about this difficult time, and tells how Fr. Bede Griffiths, one of her spiritual guides helps her to… view the experience in a positive way. In doing so, she is able to balance the opposites of Christianity and Hinduism… With that experience she was able to return to the West transformed: ‘I left my home as a physician, a nun, a Catholic; I returned as a healer, a woman, a mystic’.

Devi was a Catholic nun when she met Bede. Now, she runs Alandi Ashram in Boulder, Colorado along with her ‘partner’ Sadananda.” This book of Devi’s is part one of The Patchwork Mandala Trilogy.

http://www.alandiashram.org adds, Alakananda Ma was born in 1951 in U.K., graduated as a physician, making her novitiate in Holy Cross Cistercian Abbey, England, before travelling to India to study with Father Bede Griffiths. She stayed at many temples, ashrams and shrines, studying yoga, Hinduism, Sufism. She practiced homatherapy and learned astrology. She made wildflower essences, becoming the first physician since Dr. Edward Bach, discoverer of [the New Age] Bach flower remedies, to research and make her own flower essences.

Sadananda was born in 1949 in the U.S. He began his formal spiritual studies at the opening semesters of Naropa University*, and then studied Buddhist meditation for five years with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Advised by him to study vipassana, Sadananda attended the first 3- month retreat ever held at Insight Meditation Centre. Becoming qualified as a beginning meditation instructor, he also gained an in-depth knowledge of Islam, Sufism and a variety of other cultures and religious philosophies, studying yoga, meditation, and Indian mysticism, staying at ashrams and temples, also studying with Bede Griffiths, J. Krishnamurti and Anandamayi Ma. Sadananda developed an innovative new form of Vibrational Healing “Geographical Essences” (related to flower essences). In conjunction, he has developed Earth Healing [seeGAIApage 45] ceremonies. and taught Earth Healing to others, created the Healing Garden at Alandi Ashram, according to ancient Vedic and Ayurvedic principles of gardening. Sadananda teaches yoga, meditation, etc. at their Gurukula.*Matthew Fox‘s Institute see page 60

2. One of Bede’s disciples, Sr. Pascaline Coff
OSB

[see pages 21, 27, 28, 30, 41, 52, 57, 62] is the foundress of Osage Monastery, a monastic ashram in Sand Springs, Oklahoma USA and has been involved with the institute of East-West Interreligious Dialogue for more than 20 years. She spent one year 1976-77 with Fr. Bede at Shantivanam and was past Co-Chair of the Bede Griffiths International Literary Trust. In Living with Hindus, page 89, Vandana says that Coff used to bring out the Bulletin of the North American Board for East West Dialogue and involved in bringing Catholic Sisters and others to Tibet and India. In Shabda Shakti Sangam there are two write-ups by Coff, of the 1993 Chicago World Parliament of Religions [see page 60] where a memorial service was held for the late Bede. Participants ranged from Aurobindo-ites to yogis, from Brahmakumaris to Native American shamans.

Coff quotes from a talk that Bede gave at Vandana’s ashram in Jaiharikal in May, 1991: I would like to share with you something of my advaitic experience…I was overwhelmed and deluged with love. The feminine in me
opened up
and a whole new vision opened. I saw love as the basic principle of the whole universe. I saw God in the earth, in trees, in mountains. It led me to the conviction that there is no absolute good or evil in this world. We have to let go of all concepts which divide the world into good and evil, right and wrong…

Coff writes, This was to come to Fr. Bede in his later years through the instrumentality of his first stroke. He looked back upon his stroke as having three levels of influence on him: body, soul and spirit. Spiritually, he described it as his “advaitic experience.” In the Hindu tradition, that is often referred to as a unity that is no longer two: “Not two, not two” they say. Fr. Bede spoke of it as being the awakening of
his repressed feminine side
which demanded attention and integration. A cure 30 days after the stroke he called an
intense experience of the divine feminine,
loved like never before. He wept and could not speak for days…

“When he first spoke about the Black Madonna, he said his experience of her was deeply connected to the Earth-Mother [Gaia] to the forms of the ancient feminine found in rocks and caves and in the different forms in nature. He likened it to the experience of the feminine expressed in the Hindu concept of Shakti – the power of the Divine Feminine. Later Father wrote these reflections on the Black Madonna: ‘The Black Madonna symbolizes for me the Black Power in Nature and Life, the hidden power in the womb…I feel it was this Power which struck me. She is cruel and destructive, but also deeply loving and nourishing’.

In Bulletin 72 of May 2003,
she writes, Our intermonastic dialogue board had invited Fr. Bede and several times brought him over from India to our U.S. monasteries to give input on the riches of Eastern spirituality, especially Hinduism, which he knew best of all. Wayne Teasdale, [see page 76] Russill and Asha Paul, Fr. Bede, and I…”

3. Russill and Asha Paul. [see pages 17-18] http://www.russillpaul.com

Their report on the Pilgrimage and Retreat in South India January 8 – 24, 2001- Journey to find the other half of your soul: 18 ‘pilgrims’ attended the retreat based on chanting and meditation and visits to ancient temples.

Russill Paul, an Anglo-Indian native of Chennai, a well known composer and record producer who is associated with a number of U.S. based music companies, was a member of Bede’s Ashram community from 1984-1989, devoting himself to the study of philosophy and meditation under the direct guidance of Bede Griffiths himself. He studied traditional Sanskrit chanting and South Indian Classical Music as well as yoga, meditation, philosophy and cosmology. 

He was also initiated into sacred learning in several ancient temple cities of South India that propagate the arts and religious studies. It was during this period that he developed the tools related to his lifework: The Yoga of Sound. He came to the west to find the other half of his soul in much the same way that Bede Griffiths did when he went east.

 

 

He met his wife Asha at the Ashram and Bede Griffiths married them. Asha Paul Ph. D, studied spirituality and comparative religion under the direct guidance of Bede Griffiths. She is also a Hatha Yoga practitioner trained in the gentle and subtle style of the Vivekananda Kendra. She holds a doctorate in Natural Health from the Clayton College of Natural Health, one of the largest and most influential [New Age] natural health schools in America.

They came to America with a vision of sharing the spirit of cross-cultural exchange that they had absorbed from Bede Griffiths. Both of them have been associated with the work of renowned theologian Matthew Fox, who is yet another visionary dedicated to bringing together art, culture, and mysticism through his cutting edge educational programs. Russill has been a faculty member of Fox’s institution since January 1992, and presently teaches in Fox’s graduate and post graduate programs of the Naropa Institute and the University of Creation Spirituality.
He also tours nationally and internationally presenting workshops, concerts, and retreats. His specialty, the relationship between sound and consciousness, is prevalent in his numerous recordings and forms the basis of all the courses and workshops that he teaches. He has been presenting workshops, retreats and conferences throughout North America at leading-edge institutions such as The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, the Omega Institute of Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, NY, Kripalu Center in Lennox, MA, and Hollyhock in Cortes Island, British Columbia, Canada. Esalen in Big Sur, and Omega are New Age centres [see pages 54, 63].

He has been a presenter at prestigious conferences such as The Parliament of the World’s Religions [see page 59] that convened in Chicago in 1993 and in Barcelona in 2004, New Age Journal’s Body and Soul Conference in San Francisco, Omega Institute’s Awakening the Soul in New York [see page 63], The Christian Meditation Center’s John Main [see pages 13, 41, 63, 72] Seminars in Toronto, Canada and San Francisco, and the Synthesis Dialogs at the Norbulinka Institute in Dharmasala, India, residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is associated with The Relaxation Company in New York and Gaiam Inc., both leading publishers of yoga and health products. 

Russill and Asha Paul are now registering for the next visit to Shantivanam,
JAN 07 – 24, 2006

NOTE: These people, discipled by Bede, all [former] Catholics, and many more like them whom I can quite easily include in this report, have left Shantivanam, with Bede’s blessings, as apostles of New Age and occult philosophies and techniques to the world. On the internet one can find an entire network of individuals and organizations, including priests of the Camaldoli Benedictines like Fr. Bruno Barnhart OSB Cam., all interlinked in more ways than one, still retaining a vibrant relationship with Shantivanam and with leaders of the Ashram Movement like Vandana Mataji, and working with a common purpose. Not only do they play the role of preventing seekers from being led to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but also they serve to offer New Age alternatives to other unwary Catholic religious and priests.

These three ‘testimonies’ of people who did the 2004 pilgrimage to Shantivanam will underline my statements:

This pilgrimage provided the right contemplative atmosphere to look for inner awareness. It was a way to learn to see with the inner eye. A Catholic nun from California

The days of my pilgrimage in January, 2004, were, very simply put, the best days of my life. They were a life-changing experience, and I relished every second. The Divine Presence was so powerful in every moment, in every place, in every event. I am eternally grateful.
A Dominican Nun from Wisconsin

I am especially grateful for the intuitive sense of God as espoused by the East and the sacredness of all in the cosmos.
A
Spiritual Seeker from St. Paul, Minnesota 

 

A LAST WORD ON JULES MONCHANIN

There is no dearth of information on this co-founder, with Abhishiktananda [Fr. Henri Le Saux] of Saccidananda Ashram. However, to understand Shantivanam and the ashram movement, I have selected a biography by a Swede named Sten Rodhe, Jules Monchanin: Pioneer in Christian-Hindu Dialogue, ISPCK, 1993, which reveals lesser known facts about Monchanin and Le Saux in addition to corroborating what we have read from other sources earlier.

Bede Griffiths wrote the Foreword to this book. In it, Bede says that Monchanin was one of the first to appreciate the work of [leading New Ager] Teilhard de Chardin. It is these great leaders of thought… that he belongs.

The following are excerpts and information from the book by Rodhe, page numbers in brackets.

Before founding Shantivanam, Monchanin had started the “Bhakti Ashram” in Kulithalai, around 1941. He and Le Saux started their life together in the Ashram on August 17, 1948. In January 1949, they went to Ramana Maharshi’s ashram at Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, Monchanin for the third and Le Saux for the first time. [26, 32, 34]

“He talked about his fascination with Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1890) [see page 20], the German philosopher well known for his attacks on traditional Christianity… Among the mystics, especially the Dominican Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) interested him… In June 1925, he took part in a communist demonstration.[3, 8]

In April 1956 Monchanin lectured in Pondicherry on Teilhard de Chardin. He found many points of contact between his own thinking and that of de Chardin and regretted very much that the ideas of Teilhard were banned by the official Church. In his notes written after the lecture, he compares Teilhard with Aurobindo– among the listeners were members of the Aurobindo Ashram. [48]

 

 

 

“Sometimes he seems to have thought that Hinduism should be accepted within his Christian India. ‘Are not all religions roads to God? We worship the same Lord. The gods and goddesses, are they anything else than manifestations of this unique Divinity?’ in a letter of 1940. [71] [But,] the longer Monchanin stayed in India, the deeper he found the abyss between Hindu advaitic [non-dual] philosophy and Christian belief in a Trinitarian God [x]

However, he became more and more critical of the dominant patriotic outlook of the official Church… He was torn between the traditional orthodox theology of the Church and the criticism that had been branded as modernism… Before being ordained, he had to swear the anti-modernist oath… In the oath, much of the thinking and literature that interested him was condemned. [4, 5, 6] Though supported by Bishop Mendonca of Trichy till the end, the Archbishop of Pondicherry, Mgr. Colas, himself a Frenchman, did not appreciate Monchanin’s vision of a Christian ashram, and did not share his interest in the Indian philosophical tradition… Monchanin was held in contempt in that city. [30, 32]

On YOGA:

Studying yoga, he deplored that because of his poor health he could not practise it, but had to restrict himself to theoretical studies… In October 1955 Monchanin spent two weeks in Pondicherry, and in the Institute of Indology he lectured on ‘Yoga and Hesychasm’… Studies of yoga engaged him much. In Mystique de l’Inde, Mystere Chretien, some short notes on yoga… are printed… He found that yoga in various forms was such an essential part of Indian tradition that it was necessary in some way to integrate it into Christianity, if India was to be brought to Christ… [Yet], In an earlier letter to Margaret Adiceam, he wrote… that yoga in its traditional combination with Samkhya philosophy was the very opposite of Christianity. It is atheistic, has no place for love, is pelagian with no room for grace, it represents a dangerous spiritual narcissism, etc. Nevertheless, it is necessary to seek ways of Christian-izing it. [In a letter to Duperray he wrote:] The Christian metamorphosis of yoga would be more total, more uprooting (crucifying) than that of Kashmiri Sivaism or Sankara… Even a few months before his death, When alone Monchanin’s thoughts revolved mainly around yoga, the possibility of a Christian yoga, a problem on which he wanted to go deeper than had so far been done and if possible publish something… Advaita, like yoga and more so than it, is an abyss. Whoever immerses himself in it with the feeling that he has lost his balance, cannot know what he will find in its depths. I fear it may be himself, rather than the living, trinitarian God. [34, 45, 46, 60] One of Monchanin’s biographers, Madeleine Biardeau, who did a thesis on Indian philosophy in Kerala and visited Shantivanam many times, confirms that towards the end of his life, in matters like yoga he found an abyss of difference even when on the surface contacts seemed to be close, and that there were no transitions from Hinduism to Christianity.

On OM:

In An Indian Benedictine Ashram, chapter 6, A Life of Prayer, The holy syllable AUM should be the object of constant meditation, which should not be considered as the exclusive ownership of the Hindus. Making an analogy with the
Hindu trinity of Sat-Cit-Ananda, Le Saux
says, And just as
AUM is one sound out of three elements

(A, U, M), so also the mystery of the one identical essence in three ‘hypostases’ may be expressed by that pregnant sacred utterance.
In the French version Ermites du Saccidananda, he gives several quotations from the Upanishads on the manifold meaning of OM. [54, 57]

On the
Trinity and Sat-Cit-Ananda:

Sten Rodhe on pages 67-68 quotes Bede ‘on the problem of the relation between Christian Trinitarian faith and Hindu advaita, which was at the centre of Monchanin’s thinking’ and comments, Griffiths does not mention here that towards the end of his life Monchanin more and more found Hindu advaita and Christian Trinitarian faith, which according to Griffiths are complementary, separated by an abyss. [For Trinity, see pages 2, 7, 19, 32, 54, 70-71]

NOTE: From the above we see that after his life-long search at the well-springs of advaitic Hinduism, Monchanin found it, along with its two flagships yoga and the Sat-Cit-Ananda principle, irreconcilable with Biblical Christianity, in fact separated from it by an ‘abyss’ in the words of two different biographers. Yet Bede, and Shantivanam and the Ashram Movement’s protagonists have doggedly continued to tread the advaitic path towards that abyss.

 

More differences between Monchanin and Le Saux [see pages 31, 32]

“Economic problems [of running Shantivanam] became a continuing problem for Le Saux who often complained that Monchanin did not show any interest in them… He felt the burden of finding the money that was needed for the upkeep of the ashram: ‘I am so weary of having to struggle constantly for the last three years with Fr. M. or more precisely to drag him along. He will never come out of his dream.’… [35, 40] The mud huts were improved in 1951, “though Monchanin found it unnecessary. He was not happy when Le Saux got the floors cemented. [36]

“Le Saux continued to spend long periods… at his beloved Arunachala mountain [see Ramana Maharshi]. These periods increased the differences between him and Monchanin, and made their cooperation more and more difficult. Monchanin was increasingly feeling the difficulties of a Christian Vedanta, the impossibility of merging Christian trinitarian faith and monistic advaita philosophy. Le Saux on the other hand had an experience of God on Arunachala [in 1952 he spent several months there] in a Hindu context and felt that such experiences were more important than the intellectual, philosophical difficulties which pained Monchanin… The tensions continued in 1943 when Le Saux spent several months on Arunachala. In his diary he wrote (30.3.53): ‘Shantivanam… interests me so little now.

Arunachala has conquered me…’ In May 1954, Le Saux brought Monchanin to his beloved Arunachala in order to persuade him to be more positive to that side of his life. But Monchanin was more critical than enchanted by the people they met during their six weeks there… Le Saux on his side was unhappy with Monchanin’s lack of understanding. The tension in the mind of Le Saux between his Hindu experience at Arunachala and his Christian faith continued to make it difficult for Monchanin to collaborate with him. Monchanin writes about this in letters to Duperray: ‘Fr. Le Saux is incapable of questioning his experience. The institutional Church is a burden to him, (to him who was earlier devoted to Canon Law and Liturgy!) He suffers from its narrowness, realized through his contact with Hinduism… In February/March 1956, in Trivandrum, he visited a Catholic bishop of the Syrian rite and talked about the possible transfer of Shantivanam to his Church… Life in the ashram continued to be difficult. Le Saux more or less gave up and longed to be elsewhere, but complained that he had to carry the economic and practical burdens of the ashram, in which Monchanin was not interested. On his side, Le Saux was not interested in the philosophical problems raised by the encounter of Christianity and Hinduism which occupied Monchanin. [40, 41, 43, 47]

In March 1957, Le Saux went to the Himalayas to explore the possibility of moving permanently to an ashram there.

“In January he had written, ‘I do not know if my nerves will hold out much longer in this set-up.’ Monchanin was not happy with the plan. Le Saux wrote in a letter (30.3.57), ‘Fr. Monchanin is knocked off his balance by my leaving, and reproaches me bitterly, forgetting that he is chiefly responsible, through his wait and see policy, for my nerves being at breaking point.’ And a fortnight later: ‘Got a very unkind letter from him on Sunday. He is reproaching me harshly for running away. What is the use of arguing with him ?’ Just three months prior to hs death, Monchanin had written to a friend, complaining about Le Saux ‘who follows his own line and wants to live as a Christian hermit among spiritual Hindus. Serious divergences between us have overshadowed these last years; I think he goes too far in his concessions to Hinduism and it seems more and more doubtful that the essence of Christianity can be recovered beyond Advaita (the non-duality of Shankara)’. [60]

NOTE: We have observed that the relationship between Monchanin and Le Saux, who got on each other’s nerves for the nine years of their association with each other and with Saccidananda Ashram, was one of mutual recrimination. Despite their common background and ‘common’ goal of a Christianized Hindu India through a Hinduised Christian living, they could achieve nothing substantial, not even attract a single disciple to carry on their legacy. Both were disenchanted with the institutional Church but they could recognize it more in each other than in themselves.

They could not decide their limits on their ‘concessions to Hinduism’ or on a common approach to it, Le Saux obsessed with Arunachala [which Monchanin had introduced him to !] and Monchanin progressively increasing in the realization that the chasm between the philosophical underpinnings of the two religions could never really be bridged. In 1951 Monchanin wrote a letter to his lifelong friend, Fr. Edouard Duperray saying that Indian Catholics have been told for too long that Hinduism is a diabolic invention and that his spiritual positions were not welcome or even understood.

He was also no more welcome among his old Jesuit friends at Shembaganur, near Kodaikanal. [36] Before An Indian Benedictine Ashram, jointly written by Le Saux and Monchanin was published in 1951, the writings had to be accepted by the Church authorities and corrections were made on the suggestion of the Jesuit censor. [38] In 1954, one of Le Saux’ works Guhantara
was most severely condemned by the censor [in France] and was never published. [42] What has happened to this Church of yesteryear where priests had to be vigilant about what they wrote, and where the JESUITS censored their writings?

 

THE CAMALDOLESE BENEDICTINES AND NEW AGE

Around the year 1000, St. Romuald founded the Order of the Camaldolese Monks. He founded the Hermitage in 1023-1024 with the consent of Teodaldo, the Bishop of Arezzo.

[Refer pages 8, 21] On the Camaldoli website (www.camaldoli.it), the “Bede Griffiths Centres” are listed as follows:
1.
Saccidananda Ashram, Shantivanam, Tannirpalli, 639 107, Kulittalai, Trichy Dist. Tamil Nadu / S. INDIA
[Bro. John Martin Sahajananda] Tel: 04323-222260 Fax: 04323-222280
E-mail Shantivanam (brothermartin111@hotmail.com) (brothermartin111@rediffmail.com)
2.
Osage Monastery, Pascaline Coff, OSB [see pages 21, 27, 28, 30, 41, 52, 57, 59]
18701 W. Monastery Road, Sand Springs, Oklahoma  74063 / U.S.A. Tel: 918.245.2734 Fax:  918.245.9360
3.
New Camaldoli Hermitage Website: http://www.contemplation.com/

[Guestmaster] 62475 Coast HWY 1, Big Sur, California  93920 / U.S.A. Tel: 831.667.2456 Fax: 831.667.0209

The Golden String
is the bulletin of the Bede Griffiths Trust.
Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam
[see pages 21, 40, 52, 57, 63] edits the newsletter from here. It is published twice yearly, in Winter and Summer.

4.
Monastero Di Camaldoli,
Bernadino Cozzarini, OSB Cam

1- Arezzo / ITALY Fax:  0575-556143 (monastero@camaldoli.it)

There is also the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli in Arezzo (eremo@camaldoli.it), which Pope John Paul II visited on September 13, 1993, and the St. Gregorio al Celio Monastery in Rome (sangregorio@camaldoli.it) to which I had sent my pilot letter on this Ashram report several times [see page 8] and to which no response was received.
Note that the Camaldolese Mother House, in Camaldoli, is presented as a Bede Griffiths Center. The Camaldolese priests promote the philosophies and teachings of Fr. Bede Griffiths and other New Agers. Check their website!

 

 

During his visit to Camaldoli, Pope John Paul II said, To choose God means also – humbly and patiently according to God’s timing – ecumenical dialogue and interreligious dialogue. The communities of your order, especially those which have arisen in California and in India, have been engaged for years now in this spiritual quest, woven of prayer and respectful dialogue with Buddhist and Hindu monastics. It is evident that the Pope was ignorant of the true nature of the ecumenical dialogue and interreligious dialoguethat they were involved in.

To say that I found a bit of Christianity, Catholicism, Jesus Christ and the Gospels on the Camaldoli website would be a gross exaggeration. I found NOTHING.
Nothing but New Age, Hinduism, Zen Buddhism.

In California, USA, The Camaldolese Institute for East-West Dialogue has two centers- New Camaldoli Hermitage at Big Sur [above] and Incarnation Monastery, 1369 La Loma Avenue, Berkeley, California 94708

Tel: (510) 845-0601 Fax: (510) 548-6439.

A coincidence? After Findhorn [see pages 34, 45] and Omega [see pages 12, 60], Big Sur, California is host to the largest New Age centre in the world outside of Europe. The community is named Esalen, founded 1962, and its activities are explained under ‘Key New Age places’ [with Findhorn and Omega] in the Vatican Document on the New Age, n 7.4, and in n 2.3.2. Could there be a link, or interaction, or even cooperation, between Esalen and the Camaldolis also at Big Sur? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were. Was the Hermitage founded after Esalen-1962?

Could there be a sinister reason for the choice of Big Sur as the location of the Camaldoli Hermitage?

On the Camaldoli website and its links:

“Monastery and Convent accommodation all around Italy.” / “Help yourself and others be healthy in body, mind & spirit.” / “Free e-course explaining Buddhist ways and beliefs.” / “Four steps to meditation and The Three Deep Breath Method.” / “Online Meditation Classes Meditation, Yoga, Pranayama, Forum. etc.

Fr. Bill Whittier of the WCCM [see pages 13, 41, 60] writes, Forty five years ago Bede Griffiths touched my life when I was a young seminarian at the St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. I read and reread his autobiography The Golden String. Little did I know or he know that my life journey would take me from his inspiration to being open to… Thich Nhat Hanh*, Teilhard de Chardin, John Main, Thomas Merton and many others of this caliber.

His broadness of vision opened me to the essential core of all world religions and to see the unity at that core.

Against an advertisement for the book Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters Series) By Bede Griffiths, Thomas Matus, “INSIDE THIS BOOK: Fritjof Capra, de Chardin, Sr Aurobindo…”

The ad. informs us that “Customers who bought Bede’s “The Golden String” also bought de Chardin‘s books.

Some of prolific writer John R. Mabry’s articles and essays include: A Comparison of Vaisnavism and Saivism / Considering the Gnostic Sacraments / God the Heretic / Hegel, Whitehead, and de
Chardin: Trailblazers of a New Cosmology / Tantra and Gnosticism / Uncovering the Creation Spirituality Tradition: Chenu and Matthew Fox /
Bede Griffiths: Holy Man for Our Time… etc.

In the Ultimate Wayne Teasdale [see page 17, 59, 75, 76] Reference
Guide by J. Whitford, Bede Griffiths: An Introduction to his Interspiritual Thought
by Bede Griffiths (Foreword), “Wayne Teasdale explains the key terms that form the basis for Bede Griffiths essential theology.”

Advertised: A Monk in the World: Cultivating a Spiritual Life by Ken Wilber (Foreword), Wayne Teasdale

The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions by Wayne Teasdale, Beatrice Bruteau (Editor) [who wrote in Saccidanandaya Namah, see pages 18, 28, 75]

Zazen: A Path from Judgement to Love, by William Skudlarek, OSB
[“This paper was inspired by an observation that Thomas Merton made in his book Zen and the Birds of Appetite “];

The Anthropological Spirit in the Writings of Dom Bede Griffiths by Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam

Heart Yoga: A Comparison of Two Texts, Pratyabhijna-hridayam (Kashmir, eleventh century) and Kaivalya-darsanam (West Bengal, nineteenth century)
by Thomas Matus, OSB Cam

Some papers presented at International Symposium 2000:

1.
Christian Self-Understanding in the Light of the East: New Birth and Unitive Consciousness by Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam. An excerpt: The Asian traditions today bring forward a further contribution: the mandala
[see pages 28, 41, 48, 59] –a quasi-universal symbol of wholeness, of the unity of all reality. The ‘mystery of the cross’– Trinity and creation become one– naturally expresses itself in a mandalic figure.
2.
Through Detachment to Vision: Chuang Tzu and
Meister Eckhart
by Joseph Wong, OSB Cam

3.
Dialogue toward Purity of Heart by Mary Margaret Funk, OSB. The talk concerns Fr. Thomas Merton and a book, Merton and Sufism, The Untold Story just published in 1999.

4.
Mystical Experience as Text: The Literary Expression of Transcending in the Cloud of Unknowing and the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch by Nicholas Koss, OSB [The’ Platform Sutra’ is a fundamental text for Chan Buddhism].

At the May 21, 2000 commemoration of the seventh anniversary of Bede Griffiths’ “mahasamadhi”, at the Osage Monastery of Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, USA: Bede Griffiths and the Rebirth of Christian Wisdom by Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam. This talk has already been quoted from [see page 52].

While giving it, he speaks of the new paradigm science of a Fritjof Capra” and “the ‘gaia hypothesis’.

*Vandana‘s article on the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master’s visit to India got a full page in the NL, March 1-15, 1997.

BOOKS BY FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS

The Golden String: An Autobiography, 1954

Christian Ashrams: Essays Towards a Hindu-Christian Dialogue, 1966

Return to the Centre, 1976

Vedanta and Christian Faith, 1978

The Marriage of East and West: A Sequel to The Golden String, 1982

The Cosmic Revelation: The Hindu Way to God, 1985

River of Compassion: A Christian Reading of the Bhagavad Gita, 1987

Christianity in the Light of the East, 1989

A New Vision of Reality: Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith, 1989

The New Creation in Christ, 1992

Universal Wisdom; A Journey through the Sacred Wisdom of the World, 1994

SOME BOOKS ABOUT FR. BEDE GRIFFITHS

Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings, with an introduction by Thomas Matus, OSB, Orbis

The Other Half of My Soul: Bede Griffiths and the Hindu-Christian Dialogue, compiled by Beatrice Bruteau, Quest

Bede Griffiths- A Sage and a Prophet, K. John Martin Sahajananda, 2004

Beyond the Darkness: A Biography of Bede Griffiths, Shirley du Boulay, 1998

The Western Lover of the East: A Theological Enquiry into Bede Griffiths’ Contribution to Christology, Fr. Lourdu Anandam, 1998

Bede Griffiths and Sannyasa, Dr. Fr. Jesu Rajan, 1989

Bede’s Journey to the Beyond, Dr. Fr. Jesu Rajan, 1997

BOOKS BY SWAMI ABHISHIKTANANDA [FR. HENRI LE SAUX]

The Further Shore, ISPCK, 1975 [on Sannyasa, the Upanishads and the Advaitic Experience]

The Mountain of the Lord – A Pilgrimage to Gangotri

Prayer, ISPCK, 1972

Hindu-Christian Meeting Point in the Cave of the Heart, 1966

Guru and Disciple, An Encounter with Swami Gnananda, a Contemporary Spiritual Master, ISPCK, 1974

Saccidananda, A Christian Approach to the Advaitic Experience, ISPCK, 1965

The Secret of Arunachala- A Christian Hermit on Shiva’s Holy Mountain, 1979

The Church in India: An Essay in Self-Criticism, CLS, 1971

Towards the Renewal of the Indian Church, 1970

Swami Parama Arubi Anandam: Memoirs of Jules Monchanin, 1959

An Indian Benedictine Ashram, 1951, and the French version Ermites du Saccidananda [with Jules Monchanin] 1956

 

SOME OTHER ASHRAMS AND THEIR FOUNDERS AND ACHARYAS

TAPOVAN ASHRAM OF SWAMI SHUBHANANDA
in Bandaria, Gujarat [Founded
1979]
see page 29

A Spanish Jesuit, Angelo Benedetti came to India as a 20-year old missionary in 1948, received diksha from a Hindu guru and became Shubhananda [both names mean ‘blessed’]. He was ordained in 1959. I realised the cosmic nature of God from my contact with Hinduism. I find all religions manifestations of God.After doing research on the Bhagwad Gita at Poona University, he started the Tapovan Ashram. Among his achievements: he has given discourses on the Gita in several European countries. His gurukul has only a couple of Christian students. We don’t discuss religion, but we do talk about the great leaders in every religion including Jesus Christ. Source: The Week, October 20, 1996.

My German friend wrote to me, I regret that I promised you too much regarding Swami Shubhananda in Gujarat. I was there three months. There was first an old nun with that Swami, but during a raid on this place, the money was robbed and the nun was left behind with a shock. She went to an Gurukul run by the same Swami to stay there. Another nun came, of the sort who can never be in peace in one place and who changes often places. She was really highly depressed and some other things were wrong with her, some mental sickness. One day she called me, and I did not react. Then she screamed with an unnatural high, sharp, piercing shrieking voice, so I suspect her to have a demonic obsession. She liked her cow very much, too much, and was always more happy with the cow than with humans, she liked the cow licking her, anyway this was really somehow unnatural. The villagers behaved ‘libidinal’ and I was nearly raped* by one of them, and others were not better. They had in this Ashram mother Mary cast in the image of Saraswati. Now, when I was in retreat with [a well-known charismatic lay preacher], he gave me a message ‘not to go back to this Tapovan Ashram’.

*
my friend was a young man at that time.

The Bombay Jesuit Samachar August 2002 informs us of his inaugurating a “Centre of Spirituality and Meditation at the side of our Temple-Church” at Sachidananda Gurukul to give “courses… to Catholics and non-Catholics.” Among their recent seekers were “a group of visitors from Germany.” That the spirituality of this ashram must be compromised is evident from a donation of Rs. 2.5 lakhs received by them from “a Hindu benefactor from Bombay.”

 

 

THE KURISUMALA ASHRAM
in Vagamon, Kerala [Founded 1958] see pages 2, 29, 32, 37, 45-46, 48, 57

The UCAN report in The New Leader of August 1-15, 2002 is captioned: Truly Indian Christian Ashram Draws God-Seekers. One seeker drawn to the ashram was Swami Dharmananda Giri of the Ramakrishna Mission. That is about the most important memory that the ashram could recall about its 44 years of existence. And that it now follows Indian philosophy and spirituality. In the Cover Story on Spiritual Gurus, of The Week of May 11, 2003, K.A. Jacob reporting on this ashram writes, Visitors take part in the daily routine of yoga, prayer, meditation and physical work.

The other gurus dealt with are those of pranic healing, reiki, vipassana, T.M, Art of Living & Mata Amritanandamayi.

THE SANJIVAN ASHRAM
OF SWAMI SHILANANDA

in Sinnar, Maharashtra [Founded 1988]

The
cover
of The Week October 20, 1996, carried a full page colour picture of Swami Shilananda [see page 30] in his temple at Nasik in Maharashtra with the caption “Mixing Religions- Cross on Shivling, Christian Priests Worship the Hindu Way. Shilananda too is a Spanish Jesuit, ordained in 1960. Formerly Peter Julia, [both Peter and Shila mean ‘rock’] he had come to India in 1948, aged 23, with Shubhananda. He “donned saffron” in 1962. In 1968 he started the ashram in Nashik city, and later moved it to its present location near Nashik. He is the author of A Rainbow of Feasts: An Inter-religious Appreciation, 1994, a book on Indian festivals.

On the ‘OM’ and Shivling:

The photograph shows Shilananda in sannyasi attire worshiping before a lingam– [see pages 32, 36, 37, 46, 74] shaped tabernacle that is adorned with a cross and an OM. The Sanjivan or ‘True Life’ temple with a small cross on top is styled as a Shiv shrine. Even the tabernacle with the Holy Eucharist … is in the form of a Shivling. ‘The power of life comes from God’, says Shilananda, ‘Shiva is the most ancient God of India, and the Shivling is a symbol of life-giving power’, reports The Week. What about conversions? ‘I have not baptised a single person’, he says. The fusion of religions is as simple as the Word, says Shilananda. ‘OM expresses divinity through sound. It contains all sounds. In St. John’s gospel it is written I am alpha and Omega. So you can say Christ is OM. No problem.

Abhishiktananda [Fr. Le Saux] of Shantivanam, writing under the pseudonym Vanya in Guru and Disciple, tells of his experience in the chapter ‘Alone in the Temple’ of being alone all night enveloped in the mystery of the Presence of the supreme symbol of the Shivalinga. He continues, Shiva is everywhere present in his Linga, wholly present in each point of the Linga… Nothing can divide Shiva from the Linga in which he manifests himself …Shiva is wholly present in the Shivalinga, in the Linga that stands in the temple… which is entirely Shiva and in which Shiva is all… No one has understood the secret of the Shivalinga so long as he has not entered into Shiva himself, who is the heart, the beyond, and also the whole of the Shivalinga… Shiva is completely present in himself and completely present in his Linga, his sign, his manifestation… Le Saux continues in this vein for SIX pages [41-46].

NOTE:
THE LINGAM: It struck me that if one substitutes the words ‘Shiva’ with ‘Jesus’ and ‘the Linga’ with ‘the Eucharist’, the above passage would be Catholic!! But
through the Ashram Movement, Jesus HAS been replaced by Shiva and other deities, the Eucharist has been dislodged by/made “secondary” to the lingam and occult meditations [see page 14], and the Cross [Crucifix] has been integrated with the OM [see pages 7, 27, 35, 70, 79, 80]. The cover picture of The Week was appended to my February 15, 2001 36-page article ‘Inculturation or Hinduisation? – The OM and the Siva-Lingam’, in which the two symbols are explained at length with references from various sources, including the opinions of the French priest Abbe Dubois [see pages 6, 7] who lived in India for 3 decades. In Vandana Mataji‘s Shabda Shakti Sangam, Asharose has explained the meaning of the Shiva Linga in her article on Shiva, pages 37 to 40.

THE SAMARPAN ASHRAM OF NISHTATAI, near Lonavla, Maharashtra [Founded 1988]

The Week describes her as a French nun who worships the Hindu way. Formerly Sr. Pierre-Marie, a cloistered Benedictine, she came to India in 1970, aged forty-seven. Having studied Indian mythology for years in Paris, she learnt more Hindu prayers from a guru who also taught her how to regulate her breathing to reach a state of complete peace. After retiring from Poona University where she taught French, she set up her small ashram in Kamshet. In her puja room, sacred texts of Islam, Sufism and Zoroastrianism are found alongside the Bible and the Gita.

SR. SARA GRANT, RSCJ OF CHRISTA PREMA SEVA ASHRAM
in Pune
[Reopened 1972]

The front cover of her book Descent to the Source, ATC, 1987 shows the symbol of the Om flowing into the shape of the heart surmounted by a cross. The Foreword is written by Fr. Paul Puthanangady SDB, [see page 69] former Director of the NBCLC. The cover of herTowards an Alternative Theology- Confessions of a Non-Dualist Christian, ATC, 1991 is a picture of Jesus the yogi.

Sr. Grant, a Scotswoman educated at Oxford, came to India in October 1956 to the Sophia College for Women in Bombay and eventually became Head of its Department of Philosophy. She took part in the 1969 All India Seminar
[see pages 2, 3, 27, 29] and several regional, national and international commissions for the renewal of seminary formation and evangelization in the ’70s. She was on the staff of De Nobili College, Pune, initiating scholastics, seminarians and many others into Indian Spirituality says The New Leader June 16-30, 2000. Fr. Noel Sheth SJ at a memorial on Grant’s 3rd death anniversary in 2003 said, The CBCI has several commissions to guide various facets of Catholic life in India. One of them is for the formation of seminarians who are training to become priests. Sr. Grant [see pages 35, 42, 68] was at one time the sole female member of this commission for seminary formation,The Examiner, May 10, 2003. One can imagine what her influence on these future priests has been.

 

 

The latter book consists of lectures that she gave at the Teape Foundation in Bristol, England, in 1989, and excerpts from them will give us an idea of the theological positions of Sr. Grant and of her influence as an ashram leader.

The greatest influence on Grant’s life was the teachings of Shankaracharya, the great 9th century Hindu theologian.

[ix] She has lectured on the vedic philosopher’s teachings at the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. [xii]

She admits to her familiarity with [and leaning on] Jungian teaching when she describes the beautiful image of the Ardhanari, Lord Siva represented as one human figure, half-man half-woman, an image reflected in Jung’s conception of the animus and anima [see pages 17-18] [x]. However, she was put off by the promotion of a Catholic piety by her Mother-General who had been the Superior of a Spanish co-adjutrix who had been subject to what she believed were visions of Jesus giving a ‘message’ of love and mercy in terms which aroused in me the strongest negative reactions… The focus was very much on the love, mercy and suffering of Jesus and his desire for love and consolation in return, and this latter point I am afraid revolted me. [16, 17]

She was pretty dualistic at least
as far as Christianity and other religions were concerned before her horizons were soon widened, and used to tear up, month after month, with barely a glance, the first issues of Mountain Path, the journal of the
Sri Ramanashram in Tiruvannamalai where the greatest advaitin of modern times had [lived]. [19]

Her first encounter with Abhishiktananda [who had visited Ramanashram when the guru was still alive] in 1957 was “epoch-making”. Of him she says, He had staked his whole life on his faith in Christ, and in his sober moments he could not doubt that faith, but neither could he see how to reconcile it with the truth of this other experience which was to him self-authenticating… In the depths he knew that truth cannot contradict truth, and was convinced of the validity of both advaita and Christian revelation. Now, This encounter with non-dualism through the person of Swamiji
hit me like a bomb. What had struck me as alien and somehow repulsive when Ramana Maharshi first appeared upon my desk I now recognized as insidiously and dangerously connatural. [26, 27] She became a regular at the Ashram.

Their appreciation of her is revealed in their review of her book “Lord of the Dance” in their journal: ‘Sara Grant’s is a refreshing perception that is willing to consider any claim that
Christ is the unique saviour as an intolerable narrowness.’ [78] Our presentation of the theology of salvation would seem to be one of the areas where [such] reformulation is most urgently called for… It is surprising how many Christians alienated from the Church have been encouraged to look again, and more closely, at the faith of their origins by discovering a community that is open to the truth of other Churches and other religions. [79, 91]

Born in 1922, she died in 2000 shortly after completing her life’s work, a doctoral thesis on ‘Shankaracharya’s concept of Relation’. Joining the CPS Ashram in 1972 when it was taken over, she became its acharya in 1977. She merited a full page in The New Leader of June 16-30, 2000 which said, Only a month before her death, she wrote in a letter, ‘I’m wrestling with advaita and religious pluralism*. It could be the summary of all her life.*see pages 43, 45, 51

THE IDHAYA ASHRAM OF MATAJI PREMA in Pondicherry [Founded 1995]

A Catholic friend of mine from Italy, Pietro Braccu, who visited there recently sent me this brief report:

This Ashram was opened and blessed by Cardinal D. S. Lourdusamy [brother of Fr. Amalorpavadas].
Sr. Regina Mary the superior general of the congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary executed the decision of the general chapter and also directing the ashram by her wise guidance. Her vision, clear perception of realities and perseverance played a great part to accomplish this spiritual movement… OM Shanti, OM Shanti, OM Shanti.
Its brochure also says this about their “apostolate”:

*To live a deep inner spiritual life through Bhakti yoga, Gnana yoga and Karma yoga.
*Idhaya teaches methods of meditation and yogic practices which lead one to deeper God-experience.

The Sister that welcomed me (not the superior, she was not there…) told me that both Br. Martin of Shantivanam and Fr. Korko [see pages 16, 30, 34, 85] used to spend time in their ashram. Surprise: Fr. Korko is a Pondicherrian (his brother is a famous yoga teacher here in Pondy!). About the liturgy: luckily it is ok, because, as sister said, they don’t have their own priest, so, they go for mass at the nearest convent, where they get Latin liturgy (sister was so sorry about that!). They are habit to welcome novices of they order, postulants, people in formation and sometime also visitors from abroad. The ashram is frequented by the people from Aurobindo Ashram [see page 54], Hindus and Muslims… I can say that the sister was really welcoming and nice, as the big statue of Jesus the Sannyasi, seating in yoga position under a big tree that welcomes the guests at the entrance of the ashram.

THE JEEVAN DHARA ASHRAM OF VANDANA MATAJI in Jaiharikal [Founded 1976]

First started in a small location as Sadhana Kuttir, our Bishop Gratian Mundadan CMI of Bijnor Diocese offered us, for the second time, two vacant buildings on a magnificent site in Jaiharikal, Pauri Garhwal… and we gratefully accepted this gift of land in 1984.

In addition to Christian murtis, there is a beautiful statue of Krishna playing the flute, the Buddha standing with his right arm raised in abhaya mudra, …a fine mosque carving for Islam, plaques of other founders and saints of various religions,
Living with Hindus, Vandana Mataji, pages 43-48. [see pages 29, 42, 77]

THE ANJALI ASHRAM OF [FR. A. LOUIS] SWAMI GNANAJYOTHI
in Mysore [Founded 1979]

The goal of the Anjali ashram [see page 85, my visit] centres on a ‘New Society‘. How do they intend achieving it?

The following information is obtained from the ashram’s August 15, 2004 silver jubilee souvenir:

 

“In the first general body meeting of the CBCI, Fr. D.S. Amalorpavadass was appointed as the secretary for Liturgy and Catechetics Commission and served the NBCLC from 1967 as founder-director till 1982, renewing the Church in India according to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council… He won international recognition and was member of several Vatican and International Commissions and Theological Organizations… After his term of service in the NBCLC, the diocese of Mysore invited him to be the Visiting Professor of the Chair in Christianity in the University of Mysore… In 1981, he established the Department of Christianity and became its head… The ashram was started [by him] in a rented house on August 15, 1979 and moved to its present location near Sri Chamundi Hills in 1983. Fr. Amalor ‘attained mahasamadhi’ in a road accident on May 25, 1990.

The ashram offers week-long programmes of Indian Christian Spirituality (ICS) experience, or Atma Purna Anubhava [APA]. Here, the seekers ‘gradually get awakened to the One Reality without a second‘. They devote time to ‘dhyana and yoga, to various Indian forms of prayer/ bhajan, kirtan, nama japa, to the practice of various sadhanas according to one’s aptitude, and to ashram seva’. The routine also includes ‘reading from Indian Scriptures, melodious recitation of the Gayatri Mantra… particularly to dhyana with select asanas and pranayamas‘ etc… Thus Anjali serves as a spiritual power-house for all the seekers especially through this experience on Self-Realization… Those who have been initiated into APA are offered a deeper experience of God called Brahma Sakshatkara Anubhava (BSA). It is a direct, immediate and deep experience of the very core and the ultimate mystery of God, Brahman… It is experiencing the oneness of oneself and one’s oneness with Brahman who is one. With this divinization of the self (Tat Tvam Asi) the seeker finds that he is taken up into an experience which transcends all the passing realities (samsara) of the human person and the world. At that stage, one would have transcended all difference of world, the human person and God. [The words are taken from their souvenir!]

And one would have experienced the total reality as one and whole or as non-dual (advaita) at its very core and being (sakshatkara)… Our quest for the ultimate goal of Release and Liberation (Moksha) is integrated with the practice of justice (Dharma).In 25 years, nearly 10, 000 and 275 people have done the APA and BSA programmes respectively. The ashram also conducts Dialogue Meetings for non-Christians; a One Month Experience for mainly for seminarians in formation ‘sent by their respective superiors’; Gita Sadhanas on the Bhagavad Gita, for which ‘Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ of Sameeksha, Kalady, has been the resource person’; and lastly, ‘Other Experiences’.

[Traditional Catholic devotions were eliminated:] One of the happy developments in the course of 1985 and hence a very significant contribution of our ashram has been the identifying, evolving and sharing of [a new spirituality] …Some of the [traditional] spiritualities [the rosary etc.?] appear to be pietistic and hence found irrelevant to the concern of a new society. This led to a very systematic process when some 15 Bishops and 10 Caritas directors went through a 10- day national programme.

Fr. Amalor himself gave renewal seminars for 14 women’s and 3 men’s religious congregations in 45 sessions of 5 to 7 days at the ashram, and 10,000 religious went through this experience in their own places … towards radical change in lifestyle and structures. From 1987 to 1989 alone 469 priests in Trivandrum, Ranchi, Tanjore, Salem and Madras-Mylapore dioceses attended these courses. The Anubhava programmes since 1983 also list FABC / BISA VII bishops (30), Jesuit novice masters (9)… Major Superiors (40) among the seekers. [FABC = Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference. BISA = Bishops’ Institute for Social Action]. As NBCLC Director guiding the Ashram Movement he was responsible to form the Ashram Aikiya [AA] fellowship. The ashram was the venue for the Ashram Aikiya satsanghs of 1985, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997. 341 people have stayed for periods upto 3 months, 25 from 6 to 12 months, and 45 people from 1 to 4 years. [At the time of my visit, an elderly Hindu occupying a hut next to mine told me he had visited many times before.] Swami Gnanajyothi was the President of AA from 1995-1999, then became Vice-President. He has taken the ashram message to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, South Korea, Germany etc. Over 1000 nuns including 30 superiors, and nearly 700 priests of Trivandrum, Khandwa, Hyderabad, Bellary, Kottar, Tuticorin and Trichy dioceses and the 2003 diocesan synod- Chennai, and from the Goa Pilar Fathers, Karnataka province OFM Cap., OSM religious etc have attended the programmes conducted by Gnanajyothi from 1995 onwards. Lay persons associated with the ashram carry on the founder’s legacy through the Swami Amalorananda Trust and the Christian Renewal Movement of India in Alundur, Trichy, founded 2001, which trains people ‘at different levels all over Tamil Nadu’. The Trust was set up with the help of the Archbishop of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, the director of Caritas India and of Missio-Germany to get three acres of land. On January 30, 2001 ‘His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy [brother of Swami Amalorananda] came along with the newly consecrated local Bishop to inaugurate’ the centre. They were later helped by ‘the local Bishop of Mysore to get some more funds from abroad’. Addresses for correspondence to ‘Swami Amalorananda’s Haven of Renewal’ include the NBCLC, Federation of Catholic Associations, FABC, the Nagpur diocese Commission for Laity, and the Pontifical Council for Laity, Vatican. Anjali Ashram is also involved in social and upliftment schemes. The ashram team ‘and Swamiji visited ALL the dioceses of Tamil Nadu and gave three days Integrated Spiritual Leadership to the laity’.

The ashram presents itself as multi-religious and leads all who belong to religions or no religion to the presence of the indwelling and all-pervading Spirit. Religion is divisive by nature and therefore the spirituality of the ashram is beyond religion to unite all in God or in Truth and lead all to the new society or the Reign of God… to keep up the dynamism of the New Society in the modern world’. Seekers are urged to maintain silence, because otherwise, the intense vibration that is kept up here may be weakened in course of time.

In this 48-page souvenir, there is a single Bible verse [Mt 13: 31-32], against 3 from the Upanishads and 4 from other sages. The name of JESUS figured once on page 4. Swami Amalor is stated to have ‘Emerged in the tradition of Jesus Christ, St. Peter, Swami Parama Arubi Ananda [Monchanin]… and the sages of our land Sri Aurobindo… to facilitate the Reign of God – a New Society in India…’ [front inner cover]

The ashram souvenir places on record the deep concern, interest and frequent visits of the late Bishop Joseph Roy from 1988 when he was Vicar-General and became a member of the ashram society, till he passed away [not ‘mahasamadhi’ which term is reserved for yogis and ashramvasis] in 2004. Information from other ashram literature:

The daily time table commences at 4:30 am with ‘bath, yoga and personal prayer etc’. At 6:30 am, Celebration of the Eucharist. The satsangh is from 8:15 pm. Ashrams have always been associated with ‘…political struggle and liberation. It is hoped that this ashram too will play a similar role today’. The literature expresses concern that if the quest ceases, ‘the movement comes to a halt and gets institutionalized and so gets bogged down’. It meets the needs of the present times when ‘there has been a great attraction for eastern spirituality, oriental cults and new religions, for yogic and other meditations‘. Of the architecture and layout: the entrance path ‘symbolises the arrow of our life moving non-stop towards the target, Brahman’. ‘Wholeness is facilitated by the practice of an integrated spirituality of India, yoga‘. In the sanctuary, ‘two pictures on grill are kept, one is that of Shiva in his cosmic dance as Nataraj, and the other that of the Risen Christ’. ‘On the top of the gopuram there is a dharma chakra on all four sides… According to Hind tradition Lord Vishnu takes descent to… make the wheel move again’.

The 10 pyramid-shaped cottages correspond to the 10 avatars of Vishnu. There is an OM building, shaped like the Devanagiri script OM. And there is the Yin Yang building. The occult philosophy of the yin-yang is explained along with a reproduction of the symbol. The building’s 18 cells ‘evoke the 18 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita’. The Alundur centre has a Yin Yang building too: One pyramid-shaped diagram of the Millennium Memorial equates the ten commandments with 10 facets of yoga, the 9 planets with the occult personality tool, the enneagram [enne = 9], the 7 sacraments with the 7 chakras, and so on. It is not surprising that the brochure says that the ashram is located at the base of the ‘sacred’ Chamundi mountain on land close to the ‘sacred’ river Kaveri. And that the founder was ordained in the ‘auspicious’ [because Vatican Council II was announced] year of 1959.

Some of the programmes of Anjali Ashram for the silver jubilee year 2004 included:

February 16-25 [and other dates]: SELF-REALIZATION; May 4-9: UPANISHADIC SADHANA; July 27-August 1: YOGIC ANUBHAVA; September 21-26: DHARMIC ANUBHAVA; October 5-10: [BHAGAVAD] GITA SADHANA; November 9-14: SUFI MYSTICISM; December 7-12: VIPASANA ANUBHAVA. [Anubhava = experience]

‘Seekers are suggested to bring along with them an alarm, torch, YOGA DRESS and a shawl’! The New Age is here!

Shabda Shakti Sangam [ed. Vandana] carries a testimony [pages 259-261] by Caroline McKenzie, an artist friend of Jyoti Sahi in whose ashram she spent 6 years “exploring Hindu iconography through carving sculptures of Vishnu, Shiva” etc. After that she spent 6 years studying Sanskrit at a Hindu centre in Melkote. Finally she came to Anjali Ashram. In her words, “I began to trust this type of Christianity because it had the same type of holistic background as I had experienced in the Hindu culture… I was eventually received into the Catholic Church… The one thing which kept me going was learning to meditate… through the guidance of Vandana Mataji.”

McKenzie becomes a Catholic Christian, but not once did I hear the name of Jesus or His salvific action mentioned. This is the syncretized and ‘cheap’ Christianity that Western seekers, and increasingly Indians, are opting for at the Catholic ashrams. The issue of man’s fallenness and sin never arises. Meditation and yoga is all that is needed.

I visited the ashram, 20/21 May 2005. Fr. Louis says their aim is self-realization -union of jivatma with paramatma.

He admits that visitors are encouraged to ‘follow their own tradition‘ and that yoga is a ‘physical, mental, psychological and spiritual‘ exercise. Large pictures of Aurobindo, Auroville, the ‘Mother’ and a calendar of Sri Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda adorn the main hall. The Surya Namaskar prayer is displayed: …O Sun, your golden orb covers the entrance to Truth. Kindly open thy entrance to lead me to Truth.

A notice says Atma Purna Nivas-Dhyana – Wholeness, Personal Integrity and Oneness with Brahman.The
mandir has the Koran and Bhagavad Gita beside the Bible.

 

THE ROLE OF THE CBCI AND THE NBCLC [pages 3, 10, 13, 14, 16, 28, 29, 31, 43, 65, 67, 74]

In several pages of this report, I have shown that the Ashram Movement has taken support from the NBCLC & CBCI.

In Find Your Roots
and Take Wing, page 53, Vandana says that the “secret of success of a Dialogue meeting held in Bombay in October 1988” where 200 men and women of different faiths had a five-day live-in, “is the fact that we prayed together in three groups each morning for an hour- a group doing yoga asanas, another singing bhajans, and a third doing dhyana (meditation). In the evening again, there was a half-hour Sandhya where all the participants prayed from different scriptures… In ashrams, this interfaith dialogue is a natural, normal part of life.”

On page 92 of Living With Hindus, she adds that the event was co-organized by the Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue of the CBCI and included “representatives from the Vatican and the World Council of Churches.”

Sr. Sara Grant, on page 61 of Towards an Alternative Theology, writes, In 1972, the Catholic Church in India was in the full tide of liturgical renewal to which Vatican II had given a great impetus. Centres for ‘experimentation’ were set up and we were one of the first of these. This meant that we had a certain freedom with regard to the Indian ways of worship and even the use of other scriptures in our liturgy. Some years later this permission was temporarily withdrawn.

“It was later renewed by our Bishop [in Pune] when authority for liturgical experimentation was delegated by the CBCI to the Bishops of each region. But almost simultaneously, the Liturgy Committee of the Church of North India recognized us as an official experimental group with a mandate to evolve a more Indian way of celebration of the Eucharist. [The ashram was reopened “as an ecumenical venture in collaboration with the Anglican Community of St. Mary the Virgin… through the good offices of their Bishop Christopher Robinson.”] The Church of North India gave us even more freedom than the Catholic Church, which we made good use of when Fr. Yesudas celebrated [the Eucharist]. We continued to read a passage ‘resonating’ with the biblical readings from other scriptures every day, but did this in a paraliturgy as the Catholic Bishops no longer allowed other scriptures to be read during the Liturgy of the Word, pages 61, 90, 21.

In Find Your Roots
and Take Wing, page 27, Vandana Mataji says, A very significant document was published in 1974 by the NBCLC after a research seminar of about 50 scholars on non-Biblical scriptures. In all the ashram writings the authors take the support of the NBCLC, for which I can give numerous references.

Brian Michael of Mumbai in his Yoga and Paganization of the Catholic Church in India, 1999, said about the NBCLC:

“The paganization of the Church in India was devised by Fr. Amalorpavadas and his brother Archbishop Lourduswami. The temple of the Centre of the Bishops’ Conference in Bangalore was built by Fr. Amalorpavadas. It’s tower is in Hindu style with an empty pot on top called kalasam. The Hindus believe that, according to agamic rites, it becomes an embodiment or sacramental in-dwelling of the deity of the temple. The late Bishop Visuvasam of Coimbatore in a pastoral letter (April 1994) wrote, ‘Pastors of souls whose prime duty is to guard the purity of faith and worship ought to see that the agamic concept and practice of kalasam is against the First Commandment, and hence no kalasam may be used anywhere’. The Bishops’ Conference meeting in Ranchi in 1979 took note of the bitter feelings of Catholics at the kalasam and absence of a Cross on top and said, ‘As there is no liturgical ruling in the matter of a Cross on the roof of a church, we do not see the imperative need to have a cross on the top of the dome.’ It is humbly suggested that since the POT has replaced the Cross, in future all Indian Bishops hang a POT round their necks instead of the golden Cross that they now wear. A pagan symbol continues to be atop the church of the Bishops in Bangalore. Is this not paganization with the Bishops’ approval? [Inside the temple,] on both sides there are grills. One grill is of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Another is that of the dancing Shiva [Nataraja],” page 25.

Vandana Mataji, Living With Hindus, page 64, says, “Orthodoxy on the whole is, however, changing, becoming more open, flexible, broader-minded. Thus, it is heartening to see a positive note of encouragement, given not without humour, for instance, in the Guidelines for Inter-Religious Dialogue published by the CBCI when it says:

‘Christian consciousness is growing in this area and a certain degree of shock-therapy need not always be ruled out’ (No. 88). I have personally seen this therapy work successfully… Catholics are more likely to get shocked, or at least feel uncomfortable, at hearing Christians singing, for example, Om Namah Bhagavate Vasudevaya.”

NOTE: During 2005, the NBCLC offered 30 seminars, symposiums, leadership courses, catecheses, workshops on liturgy, dance and drama, art, architecture, music and culture, Indian Christian Spirituality and Dialogue, God-experience, contemplative retreats etc. for laity, priests and religious. With the evidence on hand, it requires little imagination to guess their content. I know lay persons who have attended these programmes. Without exception, they have been exposed to the type of ashram spirituality that we have encountered in this report. Some of them confess that they picked up their interest in occult alternative medicines like reiki and pranic healing from their animators at the NBCLC. Fr. Paul Puthenangady SDB, [see page 65] former Director, had himself told me [in 1999] that these therapies were harmless and Catholics could practise them. A diocesan parish priest and a Mother Superior who are related to each other, and are both in their 60s, shocked their conservative families on their visits home in Bangalore after doing courses at the NBCLC, when the priest celebrated an ‘Indian rite’ mass which had a lot of ‘innovations’, and both the nun and the priest used the Om mantra and swore by yoga and eastern meditations.

Fr. Painadath [see page 46] has been a regular contributor to NBCLC’s Word and Worship publications.

The NBCLC is under the direct control of the CBCI. Its present Director is Fr. Thomas D’Sa. What is also surprising is that Vatican representatives including Cardinal Lourdusamy [see pages 31, 66, 67, 68, 74] have been associated with some of the programmes of the ashrams.

 

WHAT DO CATHOLICS THINK OF THE CATHOLIC ASHRAMS?

1.
The Swami From Oxford:
Bede Griffiths Wants To Integrate Catholicism And Hinduism

by Robert Fastiggi, an associate professor of religious studies at St. Edwards University, Austin, Texas, and Jose Pereira, a native of Bombay and professor of theology at Fordham, the translator and editor of ‘Hindu Theology: A Reader‘ (Doubleday). Crisis, March 1991, Issues – heresies, www.catholicculture.
Some excerpts:

The scene is Tamil Nadu in South India. An elderly man with white hair and beard sits in meditative posture in a thatched hut near the banks of the River Cavery. He is dressed in the ocher robe of a Hindu sannyasin–an ascetic who has renounced all possessions. Yet this man is not a Hindu guru but a Benedictine monk named Bede Griffiths, originally associated with Prinknash Abbey in England. A former student of C.S. Lewis at Oxford, Griffiths is well known as an interpreter of Hindu wisdom to Western Christians. A convert to Catholicism, Griffiths is a British version of Thomas Merton, [see page 55] who like the American, has a long and abiding interest in Oriental Religion.

 

 

Griffiths has made the claim that he is
“a Christian in religion but a Hindu in spirit.” Such an assertion can be under-stood as his way of adapting the Christian faith to the local culture. But it raises the question of how far a Christian can go in adopting indigenous and non-Christian practices and concepts without giving up Catholic teaching itself.

…Ordained a priest in 1940, Griffiths always remained an avid reader. In addition to his studies in church history, he began to read the classical texts of Indian and Chinese philosophy, which were available in translation….

Griffiths published his autobiography, The Golden String, in 1954 while still in England. Since moving to India in 1955, he has studied Sanskrit and has continued reading about Hinduism. He has published a number of books, which have tried to relate Hindu concepts to the Christian faith. Among these titles are…

The main message of these writings is not what Christianity can contribute to Indian culture but what Christians must learn from Hinduism. Indeed, Griffiths’ wish is to transform the Gospel into a message, which is Christian and Hindu at the same time. However, while Griffiths is willing to show the deepest respect for the Hindu spiritual tradition, in recent years he has shown far less respect for the Vatican. In journals like The Tablet and the National Catholic Reporter, he has published several sharply worded critiques of Vatican documents like the new Oath of Loyalty and the instruction On Christian Meditation*.

In his May 20, 1989, article in The Tablet, he actually called upon the magisterium to publicly repudiate doctrinal teachings, including a solemn declaration of the Council of Florence. More recently, he has called for a “propositionless Christianity.”

[*The Vatican Document ‘Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation’ of Oct. 15, 1989 signed by Cardinal Ratzinger. It warns Catholics of the dangers involved in the practice of yoga, zen, and other eastern meditations. See pages 35, 44, 58 and note on pages 71, 72]

In light of the popularity of Bede Griffiths as a type of Christian Oriental guru, we need to ask whether he represents either authentic Hinduism or authentic Christianity. This question is illumined by a controversy with a traditionalist Hindu named Swami Devananda (“Lord Blissful-in-God”) in which Griffiths recently became entangled. Griffiths, no less pompously, takes the title of Swami Dayananda (“Lord Blissful-in-Compassion”), and so both Blissfuls exchanged some letters, which have since been published [see pages
78, 79].

The Hindu Swami Devananda displays an unrelenting hostility towards Griffiths and Christianity in his letters and thus does a disservice to what otherwise appears to be a valid case. Vituperation and raillery apart, Devananda, makes two arguments. First, he says that one religion must not be permitted to subvert the symbols of another. In Hinduism, the ocher robe stands for the Hindu ascetic, and the sacred symbol Om for the essence of the Vedic Scriptures. Christianity, too, has its symbols, the monk’s robe for monasticism, and the cross for its basic message. Now Griffiths has
taken over the ocher robe and
fixed the Om to the cross. [see pages 7, 27, 35, 65, 79, 80] For Devananda, this is a subversion of Hinduism, much as a Hindu’s wearing of a Franciscan habit to preach his faith (and adopting the cross as a symbol of that faith) would be a subversion of Christianity.

Devananda also contends that the usage of Hindu symbols is not valid unless sanctioned by representatives of the Hindu tradition. Hinduism is a hierarchical religion, and the continuity of its institutions and the authenticity of its

symbols depends upon the supervision and vigilance of its hierarchy. This is true of Catholicism also. As Devananda says, “The Church does not recognize a priest outside the apostolic succession of Peter, and we do not recognize a sannyasin [ascetic] outside the Hindu paramparas [traditional congregations].”

Griffiths responds to both points by invoking the principle of the unity of religions. “Our search today,” he proclaims, “is to go beyond the institutional structures of religion and discover the hidden mystery which is at the heart of all religion.” This idea, he continues, “is the prevailing view among Hindus today.” Other Hindus who subscribe to this view, he observes, are Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharishi, and Mahatma Gandhi. He then makes this strange pronouncement: “I consider myself a Christian in religion but a Hindu in spirit, just as they were Hindus in religion while being Christian in spirit.”

What does Griffiths mean by all this? Being a “Hindu in spirit” and a “Christian in spirit” either mean the same thing or mean different things. If they mean the same thing, then Griffiths is preaching the theosophical unity of faiths and cannot be considered a Christian, at least in the orthodox sense. If they mean different things, then Griffiths, who says that he is a “Hindu in spirit,” is not a Christian by his own confession. Griffiths seems to place “religion” in opposition to “spirit.” Yet, in all his writings, he constantly uses Christian language to interpret Hindu concepts and Hindu language to interpret Christian concepts. What, then, does Griffiths represent? Is he promoting a Christianized Neo-Hinduism or a Hinduized Neo-Christianity? Apart from the question of labels, though, is the more fundamental issue: does Griffiths succeed in his effort at religious integration or does he create a theological hybrid, which is neither authentically Hindu nor Christian?

It can be argued that Griffiths’ understanding of Hinduism is limited. The Hindu sources he usually speaks of are the very ancient Vedas, Upanishads, and Gita (all translated), or the very modern and westernized Hindu sources such as Ramakrishna,
and
Vivekananda, who usually write in English. He shows little familiarity with the vast majority of Hindu theologians of the intervening two millennia.

 

 

 

The dubious quality of Griffiths’ attempt at a Hindu-Christian integration is also revealed in his attempt to explain the Trinity in Hindu terms. In his book The Marriage of East and West Griffiths equates the Trinity with the Hindu triad of Being-Consciousness-Bliss (sat-chit-ananda). As he writes: “we could then speak of God as Saccidananda, and see in the Father, sat . . . we could speak of the Son as the cit . . . we could speak of the Spirit as the ananda.” While there might be some apparent similarities between the Christian Logos and Hindu Consciousness and between the Christian Spirit (who is Love) and Hindu bliss, the differences between Saccidananda and the Trinity
are so pronounced as to discount any attempt to equate them
.

For Hinduism, the triad of Being-Consciousness-Bliss refers to nothing other than three aspects of the same reality, which are distinguished only in concept but not in reality. There is no question of any of them originating from either or both of the others as in the Christian Trinity. These Hindu qualities are better identified with scholasticism’s three transcendental attributes of being– unity, truth and goodness–to which they largely correspond.

If Griffiths persists in equating the Trinity* with the Hindu Saccidananda, then he is either distorting the meaning of the Hindu triad, or he is promoting a view of the Trinity which is unacceptable in Christian orthodoxy. *
see pages 2, 7, 19, 32, 54, 61 and note on page 72

Griffiths is also guilty of theological distortion in his attempt to identify God the Father with the Hindu concept of nirguna brahman, the Qualitiless Absolute, and God the Son with saguna brahman, the Qualitated Absolute. He describes the Father as the “infinite abyss of being beyond word and thought” and the Son as the “Self-manifestation of the unmanifest God.” However, from the Hindu viewpoint, the Qualitated Absolute is an inferior aspect of the deity, an illusory deformation of it projected by an ontological ignorance. If Griffiths is serious about his equation, he has made the Son less than the Father in a way destructive of Christian orthodoxy.

While we cannot form a judgment about Griffiths’ personal sanctity or the depth of his spiritual experience, we can form one about his theology. He does not seem to represent a pure Christian inculturation of Hinduism since his ideas about the Indian tradition are in many ways shaped by Western scholarship and the Neo-Hinduism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. When Roberto De Nobili entered India, he had to preach the Gospel in terms totally taken over from classical Hindu sources. Bede Griffiths’ Hinduism, though, is a hybrid version shaped by modern Indian thinkers like Vivekananda, who have been influenced by Western philosophical ideas.

The purpose of true Catholic inculturation is to express the richness of the Gospel and the Catholic faith through concepts and symbols, which reflect the native culture. Anything that is “good or honorable and beautiful” within the culture can be adapted or absorbed by the Catholic faith–be it a gesture, mode of dress, or spiritual concept.

Bede
Griffiths, however, appears to offer a form of Neo-Hindu Christianity which obscures rather than enriches the Catholic faith. A close examination of his theology reveals a superficial attempt to give Hindu concepts Christian meaning or Christian concepts Hindu meaning. The result is a system, which is neither truly Hindu nor Christian.

Our underlying intuition is that Griffiths reflects a theosophical rather than a Christian point of view. Theosophy here can be discerned by three common characteristics. First, it posits that there is a transcendental unity behind all religions, and that their doctrinal and institutional features are only accidental. Second, it generally expresses itself in Western European languages, rather than Asian ones, and employs a vague and mystical sounding vocabulary to describe vaguely understood concepts of religions identified as “oriental.” Third, it displays an ambivalence to what it calls “dualism,” which it professes to despise while constantly employing dualistic polarities like East/West, rational/mystical.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Griffiths’ attempt at inculturation is that it can obscure true efforts to create an Indian Christian theology. Within Hinduism, there is a preparation for the Gospel, which is extraordinary in its theological and spiritual depth. Indeed, Vatican II openly acknowledges that, “in Hinduism men contemplate the divine mystery.” Moreover, it was in Hinduism that some mysteries which Christian theology recognizes as wholly supernatural were first enunciated. In the ancient Hindu writings we find the concept of the mysterious plurality of beings in the unique and transcendent being of God; the assumption by this being of creaturely form (the incarnation); the intimate personal union with this being as constituting man’s supreme happiness (the Beatific Vision); and the unattainability of that Being except through his favor (grace). It is arguable that some of the mysteries distinctive of the Christian revelation can be found in the Hindu scriptures.

We can only hope that in the future India will produce her own Catholic theologians who can create a more authentic version of Indian Catholic Theology than the Englishman Griffiths. Drawing upon the theological and spiritual genius of the Indian mind, such a theology will be truly Catholic in its faithfulness to Scripture, tradition, and the magisterium, and truly Indian in its cultural and linguistic expression. Only in this way, can the riches of India give expression to “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3: 8).

NOTE: The above article was written nearly 15 years ago. Bede attained ‘mahasamadhi’ but his legacy is carried on.

1. Vandana Mataji, critical of the Document, and writing in promotion of an Indian Christian spirituality says that the concern of Cardinal Ratzinger in issuing it “is one indication of how much the Western churches have been affected by Indian spirituality”, Shabda Shakti Sangam, page 235. In Living With Hindus, pages 62-64 she writes that “what seems to be feared [by the Church] is the merging of different religious beliefs into a new syncretistic belief.”

Denying that that is not what is happening in India, “Personally, I do not think that syncretism is a real danger, nor what Cardinal Ratzinger truly fears… Perhaps his letter is intended more for the many Westerners who turn to the East for inspiration in prayer and meditation” [because the Church has failed to meet their needs].

She says she agrees with Fr. Wijngaards who wrote in The Tablet two months after the Document was released, that “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith functions as an official watchdog. We should record it the respect and patience reserved for tax inspectors, traffic wardens and other unpopular enforcers of the law. We should not allow it to restrain the freedom of God’s Spirit…” One would be naïve not to understand the meaning of this.

Fr. Wijngaards
thereafter
quit the priestly ministry. I echo the sentiments of A. Anthony Doss of Chennai, in The New Leader December 1-31, 1998, “I sincerely congratulate Fr. J. Wijngaards for his bold decision to quit active priestly ministry because of his insurmountable differences with the recent Papal teachings. How I wish that all those Catholic clergy, nuns, laity, theologians, writers and intellectuals who honestly disagree and are uncomfortable with specific Papal teachings and who find the intellectual atmosphere in the Church suffocating, also emulate Fr. Wijngaards and quit the Church, leaving it to its own devices, for the sake of the conservative, old-fashioned Catholics, who, come what may, cling to the Church led by the Pope and expect it to guide them to heaven.”

2. Brahmin convert to Catholicism Brahmabandhab Upadhyay [see page 29] [1861-1907], regarded as a pioneer of the ashram and inculturation movement, was the first to propose that “the Christian doctrine of God as Trinity is exactly the same as the Vedantic conception of Brahman as Sat-Chit-Ananda” as explained by Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj SJ in ed. Vandana‘s Shabda Shakti Sangam, page 294.

 

2. The Marriage of East and West

by Catholic Evangelist Eddie Russell FMI, September 23, 1998,
Blaze Magazine Online, Flame Ministries International,

[FMI] A Neo-Pentecostal Catholic Organisation of Lay Evangelists/Preachers, Western Australia [see pages 6, 39, 40]:

Many years ago I came across The Marriage of East and West, a book written by Bede Griffiths OSB. When I began to read, it didn’t take long to confirm my suspicion of the title. The late Fr. Bede believed that Christianity [West] was incomplete until it is fully synchronised [married] [see page 48] with Hinduism [East]. He seemed to believe that Christianity needed feminising. The way to accomplish this is to marry Christianity with Eastern spirituality, practice and thought with a balance of left brain and right brain functions; male-female.

Whilst Fr. Bede firmly claimed that he was a Christian, he included the Hindu
scriptures in his Mass. Not only that, his altar displayed a great deal of Hindu paraphernalia… It seems to me that he [like so many] spent more time preaching the virtues of Hinduism rather than of Christianity. I wonder if he, and many like him, consider that this might be a serious offense to Hindus too?
The following testimonies posted on the
WCCM [World Council of Christian Meditators, see pages 13, 41, 60, 63] website are disturbing in their ignorance of the Bible and Christian spirituality.

Read them and judge for yourself if they express a proclamation of Jesus, or another doctrine other than Christian?

1. By 1992 it seemed crisis time was approaching in my spiritual life. Then one Sunday after Mass I saw a small advertisement inviting people to come to a certain church hall in Brisbane to hear Dom Bede Griffiths speak. The photo of a man with long white hair and beard did not fit my image of a monk but I said to myself, “Why not go?” The hall was packed. Down the centre aisle walked a thin, frail-looking, bearded old man in saffron robes. I couldn’t believe he was a Benedictine monk. And then he began to speak with his beautiful Oxford English accent!

He spoke about the Universe, morphogenetic fields, the interconnection of energy fields, then on to the Vedas, the Vedanta and the Upanishads. I was turned upside down and I can remember that evening as if it were yesterday. The first step I took was to buy “The Marriage of East and West.” I began to meditate. I bought “New Vision of Reality” and tapes and videos, anything by Bede Griffiths! I also turned to John Main, Laurence Freeman, Abhishiktananda and there have been many other teachers. However it is with love and gratefulness that I look at Bede Griffiths. I never met him or knew him personally but it doesn’t matter because we will meet again in that other way. [Priest’s name omitted by the author], OSB Obl – Kenilworth, Qld, Australia.

We note that there is NO mention of Jesus Christ or the Gospels in Griffiths’ teachings to this priest. On the contrary, Griffiths espouses, preaches and extols the virtues of
metaphysics and New Age concepts
along with the Hindu scriptures and gives no testimony to the Lordship of Jesus Christ or of the Christian Bible. It is clearly Hinduism and Buddhism along with New Age metaphysics et al that are promulgated by these meditators following Bede Griffiths OSB, John Main OSB and Dom Freeman OSB [see page 41].
2. When asked for direction about a dream in which a Buddhist statue smiles at a participant on a guided retreat, the priest concerned does not explain about Jesus Christ, but directs the person to Bede Griffiths’ book, The Marriage of East and West. Judging by the response of the participant it only approves of, and reinforces his previous involvement with Hinduism:

“I was at the Pecos Monastery, that is part of the family of monasteries that Fr. Laurence belongs to. I had a dream: a Buddhist statue turned and smiled at me. I was on a guided retreat, so the next morning I asked my spiritual adviser, Fr. —-, how would you interpret this dream? He was quiet for a moment then popped up and said: “Read Fr. Bede.” Soon after, in reading Fr. Bede‘s book “The Marriage of East and West,” I was introduced to Fr. John Main. I am looking forward to this year’s John Main Seminar.

I was raised catholic, I spent 4 years in a Hindu Ashram, Christ is again Lord and Sat Guru.
For anyone who has been touched by Hindu spirituality
this seminar will be wonderful. If you cannot make it, get the tapes. [Name omitted] Phoenix, AZ, USA

To the discerning reader these letters should speak for themselves as a witness to the deceiving spirit at work here. However, I do not cast any judgement on the authors of these testimonials and they are published here in good faith that they are public domain. I have removed reference to any names other than those of whose doctrines I am concerned with. However, I do cast the responsibility on those priests who teach this to them; their ordination should compel them to preach Christ and him crucified and not the doctrines of false gods. I do call upon the Church to take these matters to heart for a more serious consideration and I hope that She wakes up quickly to this spiritual syncretism and accommodation.

There is no such thing as “Christian
Zen” nor a “Marriage of East and West” [see pages 17, 51]. The only marriage for the Church is to Christ! That is the only wedding that Jesus of Nazareth will attend when He comes for His Bride. He will expect her to be ready for Him, prepared and waiting, clearly distinguished as His. He is not going to enter a relationship with other gods nor practice their ways. There is only “One Way” for Christians to follow: Jesus Christ, the One and Only True God, the “Word” that has come in the flesh!

 

3.
John Paul II and the Other Religions: From Assisi to “Dominus Iesus”

by Sandro Magister, Tokyo, June 18, 2003 http://www.chiesa.com

This article discusses Redemptoris Missio 1990, Dominus Iesus 2000, the controversial Assisi interfaith meeting of 1986, the Pope’s visit to India that year when “at Bombay had even let a priestess of the god Shiva anoint his forehead with a sacred Hindu symbol”, the “Asian Question”, and the Saccidananda Ashram. Some excerpts:

“Some of the most famous Catholic theologians working in the field of interreligious dialogue made extended visits there [to Saccidananda Ashram]: from the Indian-Spanish priest Raimon Panikkar to the Belgian Jesuit Jacques Dupuis; from the Sinhalese Aloysius Pieris, another Jesuit, to the American Camaldolese Thomas Matus

“[Saccidananda Ashram] itself visibly displays the interweaving of the Christian and Hindu faiths. Even now, whoever visits the ashram will be struck by the resemblance between the church in which the monks pray, which contains some Buddhist elements, and a Hindu temple. The “Holy of Holies” is dark and mysterious, like the cavern of Mother Earth from which the new creation arises. The colorful cupola is populated with saints and with four depictions of Jesus similar to the Buddha, a lotus flower, and the symbols of the five elements, all the way up to the vertex of infinite divinity. The monks begin every prayer with the sacred Sanskrit syllable “Om“, the primordial sound from which the earth was born. Every liturgy is reshaped and reflects interreligious spaces without immediately recognizable boundaries. There is, however, a surprising element that leaps immediately to the eyes of the visitor, even more now than in past years. The few monks of the ashram are Indian, but the men and women who come to the monastery for hospitality are not: almost all of them come from Europe and North America. Conceived by the spiritual adepts of the Old Continent precisely as a bridge between the Christian faith and that of the Indian sub-continent, the Saccidananda ashram would seem to have failed to achieve its stated objective. It seems to reflect an unresolved problem entirely within Western Catholicism.

Cardinal Ratzinger Takes the Field: It is the problem that Cardinal Ratzinger subjected to incisive criticism in a substantial discourse given in Mexico in May of 1996 to the South American bishops, but intended for the entire Catholic world. It was a watershed address. Ratzinger, with the pope’s full consent, pointed to interreligious relativism as ‘the fundamental problem of faith in our time’. A few months later came a document from the International Theological Commission in line with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then came the investigation of the theologian [Jacques] Dupuis [see pages 10, 83] the most visible exponent of a ‘pluralistic theology of religions’. Then came the declaration ‘Dominus Iesus’ . [see page 45] All of this was to reorient the Church with regard to a tendency judged as being extremely dangerous.

“In his discourse in 1996, Ratzinger describes religious relativism as “a typical product of the Western world,” which is all the more insidious in that “it puts itself in contact with the philosophical and religious intuitions of Asia, particularly those of the Indian subcontinent.” And why is this so dangerous? Because throughout its history, Christianity has confronted various religious and anti-religious challenges, from Greek polytheism to Islam to modern secularism, but now that the Eastern religions are presenting the challenge, Western Christianity is more vulnerable. This is because the Eastern religions have a natural affinity for the secular relativism [see page 83] that reigns supreme in the West. Thus they exercise a contagious fascination that smashes the very foundations of the Church.”

The Church’s response to this situation, through the above-mentioned declarations, is then discussed. The Dupuis
case is also analysed, in relation to his 1997 book, ‘Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism’. I quote:

“On October 2, 1999, Dupuis was finally told that he was under investigation. The Jesuit Father General, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, sent him a list of the points of controversy, which had been established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was given three months to present a brief in his defense. Meanwhile, he was obliged to speak to no one about the contested themes. He could not even continue to teach, as his course at the Gregorian was closely connected to those themes. It was the notice of the termination of the course, posted at the Gregorian, that brought the case into the public eye – and the polemics broke out immediately.

The English Catholic publication “The Tablet” came to the defense of the accused with an article by no less than the Austrian cardinal Frank Konig, over ninety years old and one of the pillars of the Second Vatican Council.

“But the most resounding reactions came from India. The archbishop of Calcutta, Henry D’Souza,
accused the Vatican of wanting to gag theologians by attacking one “respected for his orthodoxy” with the intention of silencing them all, with India especially in its sights
. And it’s true, in fact, that India was under fire. Before the outbreak of the Dupuis case, the last two condemnations by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were from that subcontinent. The first was Tissa Balasuriya, a religious of Sri Lanka, who was excommunicated in 1996 for his disturbing book in which he demolished important articles of the Creed, and was then readmitted to the Church on condition of repentance. The second was Anthony De Mello, an Indian Jesuit who wrote wildly successful best-sellers, still sold in dozens of languages, who was condemned “post mortem” on June 24, 1998, under the accusation of having dissolved God, Jesus, and the Church into a cosmic, somewhat New Age spirituality with an oriental flavor…

After Dominus Iesus, which had evoked much controversy and flak from the liberal theologians all over the world and in India: In the fall of 2001, among the most important cardinals and bishops meeting for a synod in Rome, none of them returned to polemicize over ‘Dominus Iesus’. On the contrary, most of them agreed that religious orthodoxy was in danger, and that it was necessary to restate fundamental truths. Dupuis made his amends, and signed a Vatican pronouncement that reaffirmed that ‘it is contrary to the Catholic faith to consider the various religions of the world as ways complementary to the Church in the order of salvation’. The theologian Angelo Amato, a specialist in Christology and oriental religions who had lived for many years in India and was one of the authors of the outline of ‘Dominus Iesus‘, was promoted to the top level of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Ratzinger’s chief collaborator.

“And thus John Paul II, on January 24, 2002, could return to Assisi with greater tranquillity for an interreligious prayer meeting similar to the one in 1986. Similar, but not the same, that is. It took care to avoid any appearance of syncretism and confusion. Ratzinger, who had stayed away the last time, came to this meeting. His conviction, which is also that of the pope, is that “the faith of simple believers must be protected.” And this is the function of the magisterium of the Church: “The baptismal Creed, in its ingenious literalness, is the measure of all theology. And the Church must be able to tell its faithful which opinions correspond to the faith and which do not.”
To make a sum of this account, between the first and the last of his trips to Assisi, John Paul II has accompanied the whole Church on a rediscovery of the fountain of its life, its reason for being: ‘Dominus Iesus’, Jesus is Lord.

 

WHAT DOES A FORMER SEMINARIAN THINK OF THE ASHRAMS?

Lawrence D’Souza was a Catholic seminarian at the Pius X Major seminary in Goregaon in Mumbai, who along with Gregory Noronha, Anthony Alphonso and Anthony Rodrigues joined the Lefebvre movement [Society of St. Pius X] and are currently pursuing studies in the Society’s Australian seminary since 2003. Some excerpts from the Newsletter of the District of Asia, July-Dec 2003, Scandalous Ecumenism with Hinduism, and Hinduism at a Glance, author D’Souza.
Source: http://www.sspxasia.com

D’Souza says that one of the decisions taken at the Catholic Priests Conference of India (CPCI) 1996 was to

“Open Archdiocesan Ashrams
(a Hindu-styled hermitage) to participate in Indian forms of prayer, liturgical worship and community, thereby to have a “God-experience” in Indian setting.”

“This revolution of Inculturation or Hinduisation was begun intensely in the 1970’s by a Fr. Amalorpavadas, the younger brother of Cardinal Lourdusamy of the Vatican Congregation for Promotion of Inter-Religious Dialogue. He built a centre for Inculturation known as NBCLC (National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre) at Bangalore, modeled in the form of a
temple with symbols of all religions engraved on the door of the temple. It is here that lay people even today are taken, even sponsored by dioceses and parishes, to be “brainwashed” into paganisation by drinking the poison of the “Indian Rite Mass” fabricated by Fr. Amalorpavadas, who himself died a most cruel death being crushed under a truck that left him “faceless” in his death… Fr. Amalorpavadas is the first to construct the ‘Indian Rite’ incorporating in it all the Brahminical rituals of Hinduism with the chanting of Vedic and Upanishadic mantras. It includes readings taken from the Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita. The words of consecration keep evolving and changing as per the “creativity” of the celebrant. The mass is said squatting on the ground, on a little table surrounded by small lamps. The priestly vestments were completely cast away, the celebrant being in his civil clothes wears a saffron shawl with the character OM in its centre. All the mantras and prayers in this abominable mass begin with ‘OM‘. ‘Tilak’ is applied on the foreheads of priests and people. Arati (an act of worship performed by moving in a circular fashion a plate with incense-sticks) is done with a bronze pot, leaves and coconut (it symbolises the 3 deities Shiva, Ganesh and Parvati — the fertility cult of the Hindus). The reason given is that it is a sign of welcome. The Mantras invoking Vishnu and Shiva are attributed, of course falsely to Our Lord Jesus Christ. The ‘Indian Rite’ yet stands unapproved by Rome and yet is widely practiced in all seminaries, convents and gradually in many parishes… Seminarians are sent to Hindu Christian Ashrams where they live-in, imbibing in themselves the elements of Indian worship and meditations…” [D’Souza also writes about the Shivalinga [see pages 32, 36, 37, 46, 65]
tabernacle in the ashram of Swami Shilananda in Sinnar].

 

 

 

After explaining the significance of some symbols and deities, he says, “There have been instances which I have witnessed, of exorcisms performed by an old priest of Bombay, Fr. Rufus Pereira, who was till recently on the Pontifical Commission for Exorcism (now Parish Priest of St. Pius X Church, Mulund in Bombay), whereby many people who entered Hindu temples or in any way participated in Hindu prayers (ceremonies) or even consumed food offered to idols (prasad) were possessed by the deities, of whom Kali, Ganesh, Shiva, Krishna were common.

The Hindu syllable ‘OM’
… is the abode of the 33 crores (330 million) of deities that are contained in the infinite cosmic sound ‘OM’. The Hindu Puranas (Epics) demonstrate that ‘OM’ is the sexual sigh of Shiva while engrossed in mystical union of generation with his consort Parvati. One of us, Anthony Rodrigues has witnessed Fr. Rufus Pereira exorcising a woman possessed with the spirit of ‘OM’.”

NOTE:
I possess an old letter from a Mumbaikar that confirms the last statement. She later joined a Pentecostal church. The reasons given by the seminarians for their leaving the seminary [and the Church] include the inculturation programmes that use Hindu worship forms that are propagated by the ashram movement, and which they encounter during formation. I know these seminarians having met them once, which was probably about 6 or 7 years ago when I had gone over to the seminary. I have not been in contact with any of them since then. I have met other seminarians who are struggling to continue, and lay persons who joined the Pentecostal sects, for similar reasons.

Like the above youth who had each completed between 5 and 8 years of seminary study when they quit, another one of my young friends had to leave about a year ago. This was from a Jesuit seminary, after seven years there.

Hailing from a Hindu family in a Hindu village, he had an encounter with the Risen Jesus, and wanting to become a Christian, he approached the nearest parish priest who promptly sent him off to SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM, SHANTIVANAM. The youth was shocked by what he saw, heard and experienced there. Why did he have to forsake Hinduism and all its gods to worship them again in the Catholic Church, he asked himself.

Surviving that ‘anubhav’, and with a deep love and thirst for the Word of God which he had begun to read, and a burning zeal to proclaim Jesus and the Gospel, he was baptized, and then felt the call to become a priest. What he encountered in his Jesuit seminaries was an extension of what he had experienced in Shantivanam. I knew this young man from about four years before he finally felt that he had no other option but to leave. [I will deal with the formation in Catholic Seminaries in a separate report]. It is a year now that he has nowhere to go. He cannot return to his home or his village. And no seminary will have him because the ‘system’ is ‘foolproof’. He has met a few priests but with no success. One Jesuit priest went to the youth’s home and let him down before his Hindu family, thus giving an anti-witness to Jesus and His Church which the young man was trying hard to avoid. He is still faithful to Jesus and the Church, and yearns to be a Catholic priest, but no one will have him. Some young men continue to join the seminary for all the wrong reasons, while a GENUINE vocation is wasted. Are the Bishops listening?

 

WHAT DOES THE CHURCH’S LIBERAL LEFT THINK OF THE ASHRAMS?

I submit to the reader excerpts from
The Christian Yogi:

Bede Griffiths traveled East to speak to the West,
by Arthur Jones, Editor-at-large
of the National Catholic Reporter [NCR], USA
February 18, 2005

This man, Bede Griffiths, is dangerous. That the Benedictine monk died at his Shantivanam (Forest of Peace) ashram in India in 1993 at the fine age of 86 does not alter the fact – except to the extent his death intensifies our understanding of our own situation. Griffiths, this Hindu sannyasi (ascetic), a Catholic priest, elegant in his writing, in person charming, in death could too easily be diminished into icon-only status. His is a pleasing lithograph of shoulder-length flowing hair, neatly trimmed swami beard, handsome face, kindly if penetrating eyes bordered by haloes and swirling smoke of incense. His writings belie the image. They are danger-daring prods, cautions, lures, inducements, challenges, barbs, warnings and reassurances from a man who found nature first, and through nature God, and through God Catholicism, and through Catholicism Benedictinism, and through the monastic life, Eastern mysticism. All blend in his person and words, not into a homogenized spiritual glop, but concentrated as a beam of light capable of penetrating the darkest corners of early 21st-century decadence and blindness to the future….

Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings, published by Orbis [Roger Haight], contains… many… selections from Griffiths’ work. It includes an extensive introduction by the Benedictine Camaldolese monk Thomas Matus [see pages 36-37] The Other Half of My Soul: Bede Griffiths and the Hindu-Christian Dialogue, compiled by Beatrice Bruteau, [see pages 18, 28, 63, 75] provides a précised biography, and much else of considerable worth….
“In his midlife during the 1960s, Griffith was not yet the revered mystic- despite the popularity of his autobiography, published in 1954. For many he was still an exotic novelty. The Beatles hadn’t gone Eastern, yoga was still a fad, and the sound/word/symbol Om was a sure-fire laugh-getter from comedians on black-and-white television whenever the name Alan Watts (1915-73), an early Western proponent of Zen Buddhism, could be worked into their routine. If Griffiths still did not have a lot going for him in the West of the ’60s (or in the Vatican in the 1980s when it investigated him), in India he had found his anchorage. His immersion into the Eastern mysticism that he melded into his Benedictine monasticism bolstered his personal footings as bridge between East and West.

 

 

“In the excellent Other Half of My Soul, Wayne Teasdale, [see pages 17, 59, 63, 76] one of the book’s two-dozen essayists, describes what Bede experienced: Mysticism has but one goal: total transformation into love, or deification of the individual and the ecclesial community. In Christian terms, this means entrance into the fullness of Christ.

In Hinduism and Buddhism the goal is moksha, or liberation from the chains of illusion that bind us to the realm of becoming, of suffering and striving. Liberation happens through the process of enlightenment. Whether understood as liberation or salvation, mysticism at once frees us from the constraints of mere social expectation and imposes on us a profound and personal responsibility for others in love and compassion.

“Griffiths wanted no less from the Catholic church. Griffiths wrote of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) opening up the Catholic church to other religions and bringing it into contact with other traditions in a way that was changing the church. Projecting from Griffiths’ optimism a decade after his death, it is reasonable to counter that

in fact
during this pontificate the Catholic church has rejected the possibility that other religious traditions might legitimately help transform it, just as it has set out to punish those Catholics best equipped to bridge the gap – Griffiths included. In 1990 he was obliged to defend himself before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Its prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, could not have been comfortable with Griffiths’ views [which were]: “If Christianity cannot recover its mystical tradition and teach it, it should simply fold up and go out of business” (Matthew Fox quoting Griffiths in Other Half of My Soul)…. The Vatican
prefers display to deep engagement; it
still silences the messengers. There are few of them left. Von Brück argues for a sober and truthful analysis of the present state of interreligious affairs. Griffiths could have candidly provided it. As it is, we have his writings, thanks to Templegate and, thanks to Quest Books, an imprint of the
Theosophical Publishing House
, the words of the scholars around him who hope
to shore up the eroded dialogical dream. In an age when religious fundamentalism has taken on the role of the Goths, when the new Dark Ages of the Cartesian mechanistic model exalt materialism and acquisition above all else, when religion in the Catholic church means obedience without question,
…we have only Bede Griffiths and his like, those working for a new dawning. That dawn’s sun would be a shining seriousness toward, and respect for, the other.

It would mean a willingness to absorb what is worthy of incorporation from the other, rather than a tendentious insistence on primacy among those who are, in mystic ways and many traditions, equals before God. Bede Griffiths confronts the West. The Western church. The Cartesians. His honesty makes him dangerous. His simplicity means he will last. This compendium of volumes – and, surely, more commentaries to come – ensures he will be understood.

NOTE:
The NCR is the media vanguard of the Catholic left in the States. Roger Haight, a Jesuit professor of systematic theology at the Weston School of Theology, in Massachusetts, and onetime president of the Catholic Theological Society of America was prohibited from teaching Catholic theology for his “grave doctrinal errors” in a Vatican notification signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, December 13, 2004.

Matthew Fox
[see pages 6, 39-40, 55, 60, 63, 85] was a
Catholic priest who taught

New Age spirituality
, says ‘former nun’ Mary
Ann Collins in www.CatholicConcerns.com [March 2002, revised June 2004]. The NCR of February 21, 2003 in an unflattering critique of the Vatican Document on the New Age, said, The best known case involving the Church and New Age spirituality was that of former Dominican theologian Matthew Fox who in 1994 became an Episcopal priest. Fox was silenced by the Vatican in 1988, then expelled from the Dominicans in 1993, largely in reaction to the unconventional programming at his Institute for Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California. Among other things that caused concern among church authorities, Fox hired faculty members who included a masseuse, a Zen Buddhist, a yoga teacher and a self-described witch named Starhawk.

The late
Dr. Robert Wayne Teasdale was Bede’s disciple, and the one who started the Indian Express debate [see page 78]. In a letter which was published in the IE of June 1, 1987, he praised Fr. Bede Griffiths for the latter’s study of “the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Gita as well as other texts sacred to the Hindu tradition.”

We also learn that Bede’s writings are published by his followers through an affiliate of the Theosophical Society, which the 3rd February 2003 Vatican Document explains as one of the prime-movers of the New Age Movement. These, then, are the people who would defend and promote Bede and his teachings. Arthur Jones is correct. Bede Griffiths
is dangerous. To the Catholic Church and to the Christian faith. A second perusal of the paragraph above, highlighted in bold font, will underline for the reader the extent of Jones’ left-wing leanings.

 

WHAT DO HINDUS THINK OF CATHOLIC ASHRAMS?

1. Catholic Ashrams-
Adopting and Adapting Hindu Dharma

Hinduism Today, [see pages 42, 50] a bimonthly published by the Saiva Siddhanta Church with headquarters in Hawaii, U.S.A. had, in their December 1986 issue, an article under the above caption with special reference to Saccidananda Ashram and its founders. Excerpts from the article, with my comments:

“This is a Christian ashram, one of more than 50 in India, which are variously described as ‘experiments in cross-cultural communication,’ ‘contemplative hermitages that revolve around both Christian and Hindu ideas,’ or (less charitably) ‘institutions to brainwash and convert India’s unwary masses’. Are these places to be endorsed by Hindus as worthy attempts to share each other’s spirituality? Or are they a spiritual oxymoron, a contradiction of terms, because the Christians are interested in sharing – dialogue is the term they use – only as a means to conversion?

 

 

“This special Hinduism Today report will focus on the issue of Catholic adoption and adaptation of those things that Hindus regard as their sacred heritage and spirituality, a policy the Catholics have named ‘inculturation’. It is a complex issue involving doctrine, cultural camouflage, allegedly deceptive conversion tactics and more. Many Catholics will be perplexed by the issue raised in this report. They don’t see what could be wrong with their selectively embracing those parts of Hindu spiritual discipline and culture which they find inspiring. And many Hindus, raised on decades of uncritical acceptance of any form of religious expression, may simply not care one way or the other. Hindu leaders are more and more aware that the Indianization of Christianity is a serious matter….

A detailed description and explanation of Saccidananda Ashram, much of it from ashram literature itself, is given. Father Griffiths is an anomaly – a Hindu on the outside, a Catholic on the inside. And he’s not the only one. The article then discusses the Jeevandhara Ashram of Ishapriya and Vandana Mataji [see pages 29, 42, 66].

“A Catholic nun’s receiving sannyas from a Hindu swami seemed questionable, so Hinduism Today contacted Sadhaka Kartikeyan of the Divine Life Society at Rishikesh who was visiting San Francisco. He stated, ‘Our swamis would never initiate a Christian into Sannyas. Perhaps they were just given a mantram’. Other Hindu leaders, including the head of Kasi Mutt in Tirupanandal, confirmed that it would not be possible for a non-Hindu to take sannyas. After all, sannyas is Hindu monkhood. The general attitude of the Order of the Sacred Heart toward Ishapriya is one of deep reverence and respect. But outside the order, a Sister explained the mother Church remains uneasy with her yoga teachings and Eastern look and learnings. [Thank God for that!]

“The general Hindu reaction to these ashrams is one of tolerant, even loving acceptance and respect. Sarvadharma samabava, equal respect for all religions, has long been a fundamental principle of Hindu culture. Allowing another person to hold beliefs different from one’s own without attempting to change them, is dear to the Hindu’s heart, and he does, in actual practice, accept an enormous range of beliefs within his own religion. Yet, among those at the vanguard of Hindu renaissance there is suspicion, resistance and even outright hostility as shown by comments collected for Hinduism Today [HT] in India on the subject of Christian ashrams.

A sampling of adverse comments on Christians and their proselytizing activities, sent to HT by Hindus, is included. There are also excerpts from the Madhya Pradesh Report on Christian Missionary Activities (1956), and from radical Hindu writers like Sita Ram Goel on the political and other ambitions of the west and of Rome to further these interests through the “Indianisation of Christianity”: The only people who associated with the paranghis were prostitutes, pimps and similar characters living on the fringes of Hindu Society… The early missionaries were not at all above acquiring converts by force, money or deception. And it’s reported that unscrupulous tactics still abound. The present Catholic ashrams have inherited a history of intrigue and subterfuge.” The conversion tactics of the early 17th century Jesuit missionary in South India, Robert de Nobili, the “Brahmin Sannyasi of the ‘Roman Gotram'” who indigenised his attire, wore the “sacred thread” claiming he was a “Brahmin from Rome”, and called the Bible “the 5th Veda or Yeshurveda [Jesus Veda]” are explained as what is transpiring today in the Catholic ashrams, but only with a new theological approach, “Christianity having failed to register as a religion with the masses as well as the classes of Hindu society” through use of either the Bible of the missionaries or the bayonets of the Portuguese and British invaders. The declining numbers of Catholics in the West, the Second Vatican Council’s new approach to ‘dialogue’ with other religions, and post Vatican II documents and encyclicals on interreligious dialogue are analysed to show that Hinduism faces a new threat in the form of the mushrooming Catholic ashrams.

“In America alone the Catholic Church is losing members at the rate of one thousand per day. In 1984 in the United States 1,100 new priests were ordained compared with 14,000 in 1964. The conclusions from these figures is drawn by such persons as Bishop Jon Diegel of the American Catholic Church of the Malabar Rite: for its very survival, the Catholic Church must make an impact in Asia and Africa before it dwindles in the West… As the 21st century nears, Catholics are more interested than ever in India and in Hinduism, as indicated by the Pope’s January visit to the sub-continent and by a growing number of faculty and departments in US Catholic universities dedicated to Asian Studies.

“Vatican II’s new Code of Canon Law offers this definition of dialogue: ‘By the witness of their lives and their message, let the missionaries enter into a sincere dialogue with those who do not yet believe in Christ. Accommodating their approach to the mentality and culture of their audience, they will open up the way for them to reach the point where they are ready to accept the Good News.’ Inculturation has become a very central aspect of the relation of the Church to Asia and Africa and is the basis for the present existence of Catholic ashrams.

“A thorough exposition of the idea was made by the Third General Conference of Latin American Bishops
in January of 1978. Here are statements from their report: ‘The Church must make the attempt to translate the Gospel message into the anthropological language and symbols of the culture into which it is inserted. This is what is meant by inculturation of the Gospel. Yet the Church ought also to regard culture with a critical eye, denouncing sin and amending, purifying and exorcizing its countervalues and overthrowing its idolatrous values. The Church leads people on to abandon false ideas of God, unnatural behavior… The Church inspires local cultures to accept through faith the lordship of Christ, without whose grace and truth, they would be unable to reach their full stature.’ Translation: ‘Let them keep those cultural forms we approve, but make them Catholics’.
A comparison is made, to illustrate Hindu concerns. Let us imagine that one day a Muslim missionary arrives in a poor section of America such as a part of the Catholic Hispanic (Mexican origin) section of San Francisco.

 

Well supplied with zeal and petro-dollars from his own country, he learns Spanish, builds a Muslim cathedral along the lines of a Catholic building, outfitting it with pews, organs, choirs and so forth. Preaching from a Christian Bible appropriately edited according to the Koran, he puts on the clerical collar and black robes of a Catholic Priest and holds Sunday services which look just like Mass, except that prayers are to Allah and Mohammed instead of Jesus. In ministering to the local people, he tells them that his Islamic faith is just a slight variation of Christianity, one which puts the crowning touches on it. Their father’s religion, Catholicism was, he says, flawed but it is a good preparation for Islam. He gives loans to those in need, which need not be repaid if one joins his Church. He opens an orphanage and raises the children as Muslims though their parents are Christians. When accused of deceiving the people, he says he is only adapting his religion to the local context and expressing his Muslim charity and divine call to evangelize. In this situation, would not the local Catholic leaders be offended? Would they not point out that this preacher was making an unfair and undue impact because of his foreign funding? They would ask why he did not simply come forward as he was, a Muslim, and not pretend that his religion was only an “improved” version of Christianity. They would challenge his right to wear the vestments their community honored, to sing the hymns their community honored, to sing the hymns their mystics composed, usurp symbols held to be holy, to draw their people away from Christ, thereby dividing the families and pitting wife against husband, father against son, and neighbor against neighbor. This is the situation the Hindu finds himself in, though it has developed over several hundred years. Christian missionaries have adopted Hindu ways of life, Hindu religious symbols, architecture, worship forms and declared themselves as Swamis. A Catholic priest who calls himself “swami” instantly attains the status and authority of a holy man in Hindu society, which he can use to make converts. By using Sanskrit terminology in his sermons he implies a close relationship of Hindu theology to Catholic theology, a relationship which does not really exist. Such missionaries speak authoritatively on Hindu scriptures and argue that their teachings are consonant with everything Hindu, but add a finishing touch, a “fullness,” to the traditional faith. “Hindus are seriously questioning whether yoga, puja, and sannyas, which are so deeply rooted in particular Hindu theological concepts, can ethically be adopted by Christianity. Christians don’t believe in the practice of YOGA as the means to God-Realization – as taught by Hindus. PUJA is based upon an understanding of Gods and Devas which Catholics do not share. And finally SANNYAS is Hindu monasticism, rooted in Hindu beliefs, leading not to heaven and Jesus but to moksha – the Hindu’s realization of Absolute Truth… Obviously, the Catholic Church will legitimately adopt certain outer forms from Indian culture to serve existing members, but these have ethical limits. Among those actions of the Church which Hindus consider exceed these limits are the priests’ and nuns’ adoption of Hindu vestments and religious titles like “swami” and participation in non-Catholic sacraments such as sannyas. The misleading use of Hindu scripture and yoga teachings must also be examined…”
NOTE:
One cannot fault these Hindu zealots for running scared about the intentions of the so-called Catholic missionaries in these ashrams. To underline their fears, they have referred to early quotes of Bede and Monchanin which lend easily to the interpretation by them as western designs to Christianize India through adoption and assimilation of Hindu forms of culture and worship. The HT writer quotes Sr. Ishapriya, ‘Of course, there is Christianity in my teachings, I am a Catholic’. We asked if she also teaches Catholicism in her ashram in India. She said the Hindus who attend are aware that she is Christian. ‘There is no problem with that. They know that it is a Catholic ashram’.

It would be a Herculean task for a Christian to convince these Hindu zealots that, while they are justified in their concerns about the [mis-] appropriation of Hindu worship forms by these ashramites, the syncretistic religion that emerges from all of this is not the Christianity of the Gospels or the Catholic Faith as taught by the Church; and that it is not Hinduism, but the future and existence of genuine Catholicism & Christianity that face a greater danger.

 

2. Catholic Ashrams – Sannyasins Or Swindlers?

[There is an interesting letter to the editor on this from Prof. Augustus D’Souza, Mumbai in The Examiner, Sep 2, 2000]

This is the caption of a sequel in Hinduism Today. It concerns a dialogue among its readers that started in March 1987 in the Indian Express newspaper [which closed the issue after some time] on the above subject, and which developed into a personal debate through letters exchanged between Bede and Swami Devananda Saraswati of Madras [see page 70] who presented the Christian and Hindu points of view respectively. This debate continued until 1991!

According to Hinduism Today, Swami Devananda wrote a letter to the Indian Express. ‘Ten years ago,’ he said, ‘I suggested to a papal nuncio that I might don a friar’s habit and preach Hinduism in the Italian countryside. I was promptly warned that I would be charged with impersonating a cleric and public mischief, as Roman Catholicism was the protected state religion and in full control of Italian education. Hinduism is neither protected nor India’s state religion and we find priests like Bede Griffiths in the garb of Hindu sannyasis preaching Christianity in the Tamil countryside. Bede Griffiths has no grasp at all of the Indian psyche. It must be brought to his attention that he is meddling with the soul of a very old and sophisticated people by continuing his experiments at Shantivanam.’
The Indian Express did not publish this letter.But a copy was sent to Bede, and the debate got underway.

In another letter, Devananda wrote to Bede, ‘The sannyasin is the very embodiment of Sanatana Dharma. The Church does not recognise a priest outside of the apostolic succession of Peter, and we do not recognise a priest outside the Hindu parampara. In that you are a Roman priest and a Benedictine monk, you cannot possibly be a sannyasin; it is verily a contradiction in terms…’

Calling the Swami a ‘fundamentalist’, Bede argued that ‘Our search today is to go beyond the institutional structure of religion and discover the hidden mystery which is at the heart of all religion… I consider myself a Christian in religion but Hindu in spirit.’ Devaprasad retorted, ‘I think your motives are clear; indeed, the idea is worthy of a Jesuit!… You have not transcended religion and you have no intention of doing so, whatever your pious declarations. You have an overriding ambition to subvert and subsume us with our own spiritual concepts, just as Paul subverted and subsumed the Greeks with theirs. As you see parallels in history, so do we, and we are thus forearmed. We will not be meekly sold down the river like Constantine! I am not the protector of Sanatana Dharma; Narayana is the only protector of Dharma. This is an awful truth for you to admit, Bede Griffiths, and one that neither you nor I will escape.’

Fr. Bede Griffiths replied on August 31: ‘Of course, if I held the same view as Father Monchanin, you would be justified in suspecting me of deception. But you must remember that Father Monchanin was writing forty years ago and immense changes have taken place in the Church since then. The Vatican Council introduced a new under-standing of the relation of the Church to other religions and all of us have been affected by this. Swami Abhishiktananda in particular separated himself from Fr. Monchanin, especially after his profound experience with Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai. You must realise also that the view which I hold is not peculiar to me. It is
approved by the authorities of the Church both in India and in Rome. Many Catholics, of course, will not agree with it, but the understanding of the relation of the Church to other religions is only slowly growing and there are many different views in the Church today.’
This was Devananda’s retort of September 7th: ‘Rome, in her eternal conceit, thinks we will accept the facelift at face value and not probe into the heart of the person who wears the mask. This presumption itself is an example of patronising Christian arrogance. If the Church had in fact changed her ways then the dirty work of converting our poor and humble masses to Christianity would have long ago ceased! You do not need Church sanction to experiment with Hindu traditions and symbols or call yourself a sannyasin. You do need – and refuse to seek – the sanction of traditional Hindu authorities. Hindus do not recognise Church decrees vis-à-vis acts that affect them and their religious culture. Your declarations of Church approval is part bluff, part appeal. As we do not permit you to stand on our head, you seem to think we will permit the Church to stand there instead. This is exactly the message your bastard symbol of Omkara and cross conveys to us. We utterly reject both the symbol and the message.’

Hinduism Today continues, A few more letters were exchanged. Finally, Fr. Bede Griffiths insisted on his right to use the Hindu symbol, OM, in his letter dated October 16. He said, ‘Of course, OM is by no means confined to Hinduism. It is found in Buddhism as well. Would you like me to write to the Dalai Lama and tell him to stop the Tibetan people from using their most sacred mantra: Om mani padma hum?’ Swami Devananda replied on October 21: ‘Apparently you know as little about Buddhism as you do about Hinduism, both of which are Sanatana Dharma. They have the same roots and traditions and usages and a mutual spiritual ideal that goes far beyond their differences. This is not true of the Semitic ideologies… Think about this carefully, Father Bede, for you are the ordained representative of one of these creeds. And you seem to know even less about mantra than you do about Sanatana Dharma’. [A note to this paragraph in Hinduism Today says, “Strictly speaking, ‘OM’ is not a symbol but a mantra. It has, however, become one in usage over the last 20-30 years to identify Hinduism.”]

The writer of the HT article says that after studying Catholic ashram literature: The Christian Ashram Movement, I discovered, was a predatory enterprise inaugurated in the early years of the seventeenth century by an abominable scoundrel, Robert Di Nobili of the Society of Jesus, who had masqueraded as a Brahmana from Rome, who had claimed to be in possession of the lost Yajurveda, and who had succeeded in baptising some Hindus before he was found out. The very fact that this scoundrel became and had remained the patron saint of Indigenisation speaks volumes about its true character… The outcome of this research on my part was a book, Catholic Ashrams: Adopting and Adapting Hindu Dharma, published by Voice of India in 1988. It included four articles from Hinduism Today and the dialogue between Swami Devananda Saraswati and Fr. Bede Griffiths. A Preface was provided by me, documenting the Indigenisation strategy in some detail from impeccable Christian sources. Hindu readers found the book revealing. Christian missionary circles, on the other hand, felt upset. Christian Ashrams had been functioning so far without any fear of Hindus knowing their true character. Now on, they had the feeling that they were being watched by a vigilant Hindu society. Fr. Griffiths’ stock fell even in Christian circles. The number of visitors to his ‘Ashram’ declined. He had been found out. The writer of the above sequel in Hinduism Today is Sita Ram Goel.

Goel wrote a book on the Catholic threat in India full of intellectual fire: Papacy, it’s Doctrine and History was published in response to the Pope’s 1986 visit to India.

Vandana Mataji even tried to use this Hindu fundamentalist to her advantage against her Church: “In his book on Catholic Ashrams, Goel could have rendered the Church an enormous service in pointing out the Church’s errors and why precisely today some Hindus are suspicious of the whole inculturation process,” Living With Hindus, page 69.

On page 89 of her book she lambasts the Hinduism Today tirade against Catholic ashrams as fundamentalist [as also the “Christians (who) fulminate against yoga, through ignorance no doubt, calling it diabolic!”]

Writes Judson Trapnell, [see pages 29, 31, 41] Goel, author of numerous books critical of communism and Christianity, after meeting Abhishiktananda in 1959 was impressed enough with his apparent openness to Hinduism to remain his friend and eventually become the Treasurer of the Abhishiktananda Society in Delhi.

In 1988, however, he would write the following deeply disillusioned assessment of Abhishiktananda’s lifelong attempt to understand Hinduism: ‘His obstinate obsession with Jesus and the Church prevented him from breaking the barrier …He remained chained to the Church to the end of his days. He never learnt the elementary truth that Advaita must remain a mere word for those who refuse to rise above their mental fixations,’ (Goel, Catholic Ashrams: Sannyasins or Swindlers?, in Voice of India, 1994, p. 64). Goel remained convinced that Abhishiktananda was involved in a deceptive missionary strategy to convert Hindus by appearing to embrace Indian ideals such as sannyasa.

Writing about the Catholic ashrams, Koenraad Elst, PhD, in Salvation: Hindu Influence on Christianity says,

“Indian Christians and especially recent converts rejected this ‘paganization of Christianity’. So do the guardians of orthodoxy, e.g. in his book On the Threshold of Hope (1994), Pope John-Paul II denounced the trend among Christian monks and laymen to explore Eastern forms of meditation, and in 2000, his statement Dominus Jesus reaffirmed that salvation can only come through Jesus, not through other ‘paths’. Genuine Hindus aren’t too enthusiastic either. Thus, one of the favourite symbols of the Christian ashram movement was the Aum
sign on a cross
. The combination is absurd, at least if the cross is taken in its Christian sense as the symbol of suffering. Though Hinduism has a place for the notions of suffering and sin, the Aum sign by contrast represents the cosmic vibration and eternal bliss.

NOTE: I repeat what I have said earlier: despite all attempts made by the Catholic gurus and acharyas to adopt forms of Indian culture [sannyas, Sanskrit names, kavi, bhajans, etc.], worship and liturgy [arati, temples, Om, lingam, etc.], and philosophical and theological concepts [sat-chit-ananda, etc] even to the extent of their forsaking a dualistic for a non-dual [advaitic] understanding of God and self, most traditional Hindus are unable to accept them as their own. To these Hindus, the Catholic gurus are still Christians preaching a Christianity thinly veiled as Hinduism, with an agenda of conversion in a new approach that has been approved by Rome.

Goel, Ram Swarup in his book Liberal Christianity, and others, accuse Bede and his ilk of semantic posturing and trying to subvert and subsume Hinduism into Christianity. Mr. Ashok Singhal, of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), “urged members of the Omkar family (Hindus and related Indian religions that use the ‘Om’ mantra) to unite against the Christian onslaught,” reported in The New Leader, December 1-31, 2002.

Most traditional Catholics, at least those who have not been ‘programmed’ at these ashrams and by the priests, nuns and lay persons associated with them, do not accept these centres and their protagonists as being truly representative of Christian expressions of faith. They view these places and people as having been subverted by Brahmanaic Hinduism. Since over five decades of ashram ‘experimentation’ has generated no goodwill from either Hindus or Catholics, [leading instead to controversy and ill-will], nor is it true to the teaching of Church documents like Ecclesia in Asia , instead going against their spirit by abjuring evangelization and conversion, what is the reason for the ashrams to be allowed to continue to exist, especially when they are now ‘trojan horses’ in the Church, promoting dissent, heresy, liberation theology, New Age, a ‘New Society‘, a ‘New Vision of Christianity‘ ?

 

EXTRACTS FROM SOME MORE LETTERS TO THIS WRITER

Prior to my writing this report on the ashrams, I had sent out a pilot letter on this subject, against which I received encouraging responses from a few Bishops, quite a few priests, and many lay persons and leaders in ministry.

1. This is from a priest: Regarding the Shantivanam Ashram…. There are many things going on to satisfy the curiosity of visitors, especially foreigners. It would be good if you can make a report of all these Ashrams and send it to the Vatican. I think some action will be taken. Bishops are afraid to interfere where the initiatives have come from Religious Orders and Congregations.. Please prepare something with the list of abuses and the nature of the abuses (liturgical, moral, doctrinal) and send to the concerned Vatican Department… [or] the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, they will look into it. But before sending the report have it checked and touched up by a theologian and a canonist who know the teaching of the Church well. Do not send reports to all Vatican departments because it will be taken as a campaign and they will get annoyed. Prepare the report listing the abuses according to the nature and gravity and send the reports first to the concerned Bishop (Local Ordinary) and get a reply and later send the copy to the concerned Vatican Department with the Bishop’s comments if any. You can quote the second document on the Eucharist where it said that the abuses must be reported to the competent authority. Whatever you circulate must have a professional approach with all relevant quotations (canon law and other sources). There were some Church documents cautioning about the oriental type of meditation. Always the local Ordinary has to be approached first. Real Ashrams are those who have monastic tradition of starting autonomous monasteries where the Abbot is a major Superior. The Jesuits and the CMI’s, as also all religious congregations, do not come under that category. They just call their retreat houses or prayer houses by the name Ashrams. Liturgically, they do not have privileges or permissions to experiment or do what they like.

2. A Catholic friend from Europe who visited here recently wrote, I am just thinking how strange, Michael, Saccidananda Ashram publishes [Bro. Martin’s] works and [promotes] his apostolate and no one noticed the heresy: they announce a new Christianity, a Catholicism without sacraments !!!… Michael, I think you also have seen, like me, what they do with the Eucharist – they give it to everybody, Catholics and non- Catholics, I didn’t have the impression that they encourage the sacrament of penance…. Their view was openly against any traditional Catholic point of view (it’s enough to see which kind of people that join that place, and how we were marginalized by the others…

Br. Martin was constantly talking about an ‘historical* Lord’ and an ‘eternal* God’ and maybe the point that you are looking for it’s there… If I right understood the eternal God is present in all religions, with no distinctions, and the historical Lord is a fruit of the ‘human traditions’ and ‘human understanding’! Martin said and he wrote “the truth has no boundaries!”.
3. Another priest wrote to me, Ashrams do not have ‘canonical’ approval as such… There has been a move from Rome to authorise the bishop to have similar control in religious institutions, but they are opposing it at the highest level… There is a religious institution [in Mumbai] called ‘Atma Darshan‘ [see page 30, separate report to follow]. It seems to fit the description of Ashram … Regarding the New Age in these ashrams it is sad and may still continue to grow on account of the apathy of the bishops. Later the priest informed me that he registered for a contemplative retreat at Atma Darshan, which turned put to be an introduction to yoga. *see pages 19, 23, 24

 

NOTES FROM THIS WRITER, A SUMMARY

1. I
sub-titled two sections as “REBELLION AGAINST ROME. [16, 34] Truthfully, this entire report could accurately be given the same title. The Ashram Movement IS a rebellion against Rome, which is evident from the assessment. “An ashram does not belong properly to the hierarchial Church, that is the sacramental Church,” [17] says Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ quoting Fr. Bede from Vandana Mataji Rscj in Christian Ashrams.

It is a clear and present danger to the Catholic Church and urgent action from the Bishops is the immediate need: The AA report says that “lay persons trained by its founder Fr. Amalor are today ‘at the helm of leadership’ “in the Church. [16] “We see evidence of the ashram ideals being percolated into the larger community as evidenced at the AA Satsangh of 2001, Sr. Amala [15] Concerning this new movement in the Church, Fr. Painadath agrees that Most of them took inspiration from Shantivanam [which] is hailed as the ‘mother house’ of Catholic ashrams here and abroad.[30]

While preparing this report, my wife and I noticed a crow’s nest in a tree just outside of our second floor balcony. A female cuckoo, in appearance very much like a crow, laid two eggs in the crows’ nest, leaving the hapless parents to feed a family of five. The overactive intruders took the lion’s share of the food brought home and finally forced two crow-fledglings overboard to their deaths. Then they flew away to increase and multiply, and to lay their eggs in other crows’ nests. It crossed my mind that the ashrams and the NBCLC could represent the cuckoos within the Church.

2. The direction of the 1969 All-India Seminar on the Church in India Today [see pages 2, 3, 27, 29, 65] expressed the need to establish authentic forms of monastic life in keeping with the best traditions of the Church and the spiritual health of India.” [3] The final declaration of the Seminar proposed to “encourage the setting up of ashrams both in rural and in urban areas… [to] project the true image of the church [29] But the ashramites declared that They intend to ‘make use of Hindu methods of prayer and meditations (Yoga)’. Our aim
at Shantivanam is to unite ourselves with this tradition as Christian sannyasis… In this way we hope to assist in the growth of an Indian liturgy according to the mind of the church today. [3, 5]

Said Monchanin, It is nothing less than the integration of the Hindu spiritual tradition with Christianity. [32]

Fr. Korko SJ who gave an exposition on New Age and the Ashrams, wrote, Indian symbols, bhajans etc. are used in Christian worship as well as Indian (yogic) methods
of meditation… and a new theology is emerging.[16] Fr Paul Pattathu CMI: “Through the ashrams,
many of these spiritual assetswere introduced into the Church and into its theological expressions
of faith and worship.” [33]

Traditional Catholic pieties are jettisoned along the way. See Fr. Louis of Anjali Ashram statements, page 67.

In all this, have the ashrams not flouted the mandate given to them by the Church? Ashram theology and experiments with Indian-rite Mass, urgently need to be investigated.

3. From the report one will see that there are almost as many “aims” of the Ashram Movement as there are ashram leaders. One such ashram literature states that the ashram’s “primary call is to discover the kingdom of God within.[4] Leaving aside the diverse aims, the commonality of the ideology of the leaders is striking.

In this
‘Marriage of East and West’ [17, 72-73], there is a complete rejection of Church tradition [23, 28]; the “Institutional Church’ [28], Fr. Dominic OSB: “disenchanted with the institutional Church” [30],
Bro. Gaston: “our beloved over-institutionalized Church” [33]; its “structures”, “people may get lost in structures,” Fr. Michael Amaladoss SJ [15]; its dogma, Fr. Painadath: “People… are not impressed by dogmatic formulations or routinized rituals” [20]; diatribes against “organized religion” [20, 21], Bro. Martin’s [18-26] and Sr. Vandana’s [42-44] many teachings and writings against the Church etc. quoted in this report.

The above is well summarised by ashram founder Fr. Painadath. Jesus did not preach the Church. He preached the kingdom of God. Hence we must distinguish between the institutional Church and the eschatological Church
People are not impressed by dogmatic formulations or routinized rituals… Beyond the fences of traditions all religions people are seeking a liberating and integrative spirituality… Too many rules and too much of loyalty to traditions often vex the Christian communities,he says. [28]

And these are only a few select references which I have given here. There is a repeated call to get out of the ‘vehicle’, the ‘boat’, of religion. [19, 21, 24] “We are at the close of the era of ‘religions’, says Vandana. [43]

As Fr. Paul Pattathu CMI affirms, “believers in God are moving toward
a new world religious order.”
[28]

4. A great many of the ashram teachings are New Age and are refuted by the two Vatican Documents referred to by the writer. These very Documents, and Ecclesia in Asia, are directly attacked and criticized by ashram founders Bede [58, 70], Vandana [44], Painadath [15] and others [34-35] as has been seen.

A couple of examples to refresh the reader’s mind.

a) Teachings that there is ONLY ONE REALITY [21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 35, 67], which is ‘God’, are declared as anti-Christian and New Age by the Vatican Document: New Age believes there is only one single reality, n 7.1.

b) There is a heavy silence on the issue of ‘sin’, broken only in the denial of it. Martin has made it clear that God is absolute Good, which has no opposite, Evil”; Evil belongs to the world of duality… there is no fight between God and evil since there are not two independent realities. [25, 21] I saw God in the earth, in trees,
in mountains. It led me to the conviction that there is no absolute good or evil in this world,says Sr. Coff. [59]

“Sin is a refusal to grow, or [it is] block[ing] the growth of others,” insists Martin. [24] Sin is a falling away of our awareness from the Real to the Unreal…[21], ignorance, the antidote being self- ‘enlightenment’.

“In New Age there is no distinction between good and evil. Human actions are the fruit of either illumination or ignorance. … In New Age there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge, Vatican Document n 2.2.2, n 4.

This report demonstrates beyond any iota of doubt that the ashrams are inter-linked with each other and with a net -work of New Age individuals and organizations. See the long list of references in the Index below. The consorting of ashramites with New Agers is not simply on an intellectual or academic level but on a personal one as exemplified in Bede and Swami Sachidananda. Thus, there is an “osmosis” a la Le Saux, Painadath, Vandana between Christianity on the one hand and New Age and Eastern spirituality on the other [30], resulting in an unacceptable syncretism.

5. The ashramites’ numerous teachings contradict those of the Church and Biblical revelation. Further influenced by Jungian thought and anchored in advaitic philosophy, they lead to many abuses, errors, aberrations and evils including religious pluralism, the rejection of the unicity of Jesus and a ‘sacramental Church’, the primacy of contemplative meditation over the Real Presence in the Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament, the impersonalization of God, a view of the Holy Spirit as a divine ‘energy’, ‘shakti’, and the deification of nature [43] and the self among others.

a) “Reinterpreting… and giving Fresh Interpretations of the Gospels,[21, 22] as the Church is accused of preaching only “Half the Gospel, [21, 23] Bro. Martin asserts, “There is no obligation to believe in Christ…” [22] He indulges in manipulation not only when interpreting the Bible but also when quoting from it, dropping what does not fit into his scheme of things. [21, 23, 25]

b) Declaration of the self as God appears an astonishing number of times in this report: 5, 21, 22 [thrice], 30,
43, 67 [twice]
to quote a few. See also Course in Miracles, [12]. The New Humanism of the New Age is in evidence everywhere: “There is no ultimate truth in the religions and their doctrines. Truth is the human person. Human being is the way, the truth and the life,says Bro. Martin. [22]

Vandana Mataji quotes Swami Vivekananda who says “We are the greatest godMost Christians cannot easily think of man becoming god [43] “To enable people to become God by entering into silence, is this not the raison d’etre of an ashram? asks Vandana. [5] Confirms Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB, Bede often said ‘The aim of an ashram is to realize the Self – and then you know God’This is the real call of the ashram. [30]

Martin recommends chanting OM as This experience communicates with the famous utterance : aham brahma asmi, I am Brahman, I am God.” [21] One can say, My real ‘I’ is God’ or ‘I am God‘.Or, becoming enough enlightened, declare the second great statement ‘Tattvamasi’ which means ‘You are that’ or ‘You are
God
‘,[and] realize that “God and human beings are ultimately one.” [22] Fr. A Louis of Anjali Ashram emphasizes “the One Reality without a second,”… a “divinization of the self (Tat Tvam Asi),” …at which stage, “one would have transcended all difference of world, the human person and God.[67]

New Ager Jung saw the significance of the mandala as a symbol of the ‘god-within.’ The Vatican Document declares [“the god withinwe are gods” syndrome n 3.5] deification of the self as a primary characteristic of New Age.

c) From Monchanin and Le Saux right down the line to the least of the ashram figures there is the advaitic monistic/ pantheistic conviction that God is everywhere, in everyone, in everything, in every scripture, in every religion, so absolutizing and exclusivizing is not permissible. And this includes Fr. Bede Griffiths in a big way.

The Bede Griffiths Sangha Newsletter http://www.bedegriffiths.com/sangha/san_9.htm carries an article The Ashram and the Eucharist by Bede saccidananda@hotmail.com in which he presents his theological arguments on the ‘real’ meaning of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and for the primacy of yoga and meditation over the Eucharist.

“The Vatican Council said that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the activity of the Church. I have always found difficulty with this, and “Meditation is an art whereby we seek to go beyond the body and the senses. We try to calm the body, by the practice of yoga if necessary, and then to calm the senses… often by using a mantra.” For support he refers to Trappist monk Thomas Merton who was actually a proponent and Master of Zen
meditation. It is suggested that the good Bishops read this and other writings of Bede including the series on The Church [the same Newsletter] in which, among other things, he rejects the Church’s claims to being ‘One’ and ‘Apostolic’. One quote, “There’s no evidence that Peter founded the Roman church. In fact, there’s very positive evidence that he did not.”

 

 

From these positions, adopted, adapted and developed by Bro. Martin and the host of ashram leaders, Shantivanam being the acknowledged ‘Mother-house’ of the Movement, one can understand the various statements that we have been reading, and the institution of such practices as yogic meditation [yoga is the BANE of the Indian Church and the Ashram Movement] and the unrestricted distribution of Holy Communion at Mass.

One has simply to visit the internet to see the volumes of revolutionary anti-Catholic [and New Age] material posted on websites connected with Bede’s legacy, the Bede Griffiths Sangha [see pages 13-14, 50], Russill Paul, Sr. Pascaline Coff OSB, Wayne Teasdale, the New Monk Project [see
page 15], the Camaldoli monastery and many others.

The rot, of course, had set in much earlier than Bede. Fr. Thomas Matus OSB confirms this, From the beginning, Fr. Monchanin had insisted on the priority of meditative
practice with respect to liturgical solemnity.

But modern developments are a Yogic celebration of the Eucharist, courtesy the late Swami Amaldas of Shantivanam, and not a few other priests including Fr. Gilbert Carlo SVD [see page 30] who even celebrated Yoga Healing Masses as reported to me by friends in Melbourne, Australia.

6. One of the greatest casualties of ashram theology is Evangelization. The Ashram movement, while focusing on Dialogue, abhors the very idea of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is the very raison d’etre of the missionary Church. This has been discussed at length already 15, 27, 29, 30-31, 34-35, 65. But to comment on genuine ‘Inter-religious Dialogue’:

Interreligious Dialogue:

“A top Vatican official said “ruinous positions” on interreligious dialogue by some Catholic theologians have weakened the Church’s educational efforts among the faithful. Cardinal Dario Castrillòn Hoyos told a Vatican conference October 9 [2002] that these theologians, in their efforts to promote interreligious dialogue, were continuing to mistakenly present non-Christian religions as “equally valid” to Christianity. In particular, he criticized Belgian Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis [see pages 10, 73] whose book ‘Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism‘ was critically studied by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2001.

The Cardinal criticized Fr. Dupuis’ statement that God’s self-revelation through Jesus was ‘limited, incomplete and imperfect’… On the contrary, he said “the divine mystery is fully revealed in Christ…What the Church needs to underline in its teaching is the “completeness, centrality and saving universality of Christian revelation.”

In 2001, Fr. Dupuis signed a statement of doctrinal principles after the Vatican’s Doctrinal Congregation criticized ambiguities in his book on religious pluralism.

Cardinal Castrillòn, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, also took aim at Indian Fr. Felix Wilfred, considered a leading Catholic expert in India on dialogue with other religions. He criticized Fr. Wilfred for saying that other religious traditions contain divine revelation. He also criticized the theologian’s idea that Christian revelation represents only one part of divine revelation, Vatican City (CNS) Petrus, November 2002

“As regards dialogue with other religions, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, specified that the idea that all religions are complementary to Christian revelation ‘is erroneous.’

‘However, everything that is good and true in religions [Nostra Aetate n. 2] [see page
2] must not be lost, what is more, it must be recognized and appreciated. Wherever good and truth are found, these come from the Father and are the work of the Spirit; the seeds of the Logos are spread everywhere. But we cannot close our eyes in the face of errors and deceptions,
which are also present in religions‘. Errol C Fernandes, Emmanuel, January-February 2003

7. We see the New Vision of Christianity [3, 14, 18, 22,] become, with New Age influences, a
New Vision of Reality [33, 34, 51, 52, 53, 54, 58] which Swami Sachidananda identifies:
A holistic vision of reality
is slowly replacing the old mechanical and materialistic model… [an] emerging integral vision of reality.[52]

I had written that his Dharma Bharathi promotes indifferentism, relativism, religious pluralism, syncretism
and New Age. [51] This applies also to the ashram Movement. A brief understanding of the terms not explained:

a)
Indifferentism:

“The period of the Enlightenment witnessed an enthusiasm for comparative study of religions. This study revealed resemblances between Christianity and non-Christian religions and led to a certain religious ‘indifferentism’. They believed God to be active in the history of each people and hence every religion was true. This caused them to accept the principle of neutrality and non-commitment to Christianity as the one true religion. It was against this Indifferentism that many magisterial pronouncements of the Church were directed,Christian Openness to the World Religions, A Catholic Approach to World Religions according to Nostra Aetate (the Vatican II Document ‘Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions’), 1988, Fr. Zacharias Paranilam, page 27.

“An attitude of religious indifferentism is one wherein all religions are regarded as equally valid. In the First Plenary Council of India (1950) held in Bangalore, convoked by a Papal legate Cardinal Gilroy, and approved by Pope Pius XII in 1951, Indifferentism is once again rejected, but for the first time in an official document of the Catholic Church a clearly positive statement is made regarding the spiritual values of the world religions. ‘We acknowledge indeed that there is truth and goodness outside the Christian religion… But the inadequacy of all non-Christian religions is principally derived from this, that, Christ being constituted the one Mediator between God and humankind, there is no salvation by any other name‘,Catholicism, Fr. Richard McBrien,1994, pp 381,387,388.

 

b) Relativism:

“Relativism understands Christ as representing what is to be found in all religions. Christian revelation is not regarded as unique, but simply a form, perhaps the highest and most developed form of authentic religion… All religions, including Christianity, are relative… there is no absolute truth in religion… all religions are different paths to the same goal… This approach may lead to
syncretism. This relativist approach has the merit of making possible a positive appreciation of the religions of mankind. Yet it has serious drawback too. It is incompatible with faith in Christ as this has been traditionally understood from New Testament times,
Christian Openness to World Religions, Fr. Paranilam, pp 53, 54.

c)
Syncretism:

“The fusion of different forms of belief or practice; the claim that all religions are one and share the same core teachings,The Seduction of Our Children, Neil T. Anderson and Steve Russo, 1991, page 238.

“To strive, by uniting religions, to make mankind better and happier is one thing. To pray with ardent heart for the union of all men in love of the same God is another. And the first is perhaps the most subtle Luciferian
temptation
aimed at bringing the second to nothing, J. A. Cuttatt, The Encounter of Religions, page 81 as quoted by Fr. Paranilam in Christian Openness… page 59.

“Syncretistic Christianity (may contain) indigenous religious components open to the demonic,
Wrestling with Dark Angels, ed. Peter Wagner, Douglas Pennoyer, 1990, page 107.

“Syncretism can be defined as the incorporation of various elements, often mismatched and sometimes contradictory, in order to arrive at a whole that satisfies the largest number. Syncretism in contemporary Catholicism is usually the result of an uncritical acceptance of elements from other religions, and can be motivated by a variety of concerns – insecurity, the need for acceptance, a fear of being perceived as different, or sometimes a desire to present oneself as progressive or even revolutionary,Errol C. Fernandes in
Emmanuel, January-February 2003.

“The average Hindu is an eclectic or syncretist,
believing in the essential unity of all religions holding that truth can be found in some measure in all religions… Reformed Hinduism (Brahmo and Arya Samaj, Theosophy, Ramakrishna Mission) is largely syncretistic – all paths lead to the same goal as all rivers join the ocean,
How to present Christ to a Hindu, R. C. Das, pages 8, 17.

“Many Christians, while studying the goodness in other religions, have strayed from faithfulness to the Gospel. Paul quoted from two non-Christian poets (Acts 17:28)… but nowhere are we told that he accepted the religious system of their philosophies… A few generations after Paul there were Christian apologists who followed Paul’s example but made errors in the process. First, when they tried to accommodate themselves to their audience, they downplayed some of the ‘offensive’ features of Christianity. Second, they accepted some of the features of the non-Christian religions that were incompatible with Christianity. They set out to contextualize the Gospel but ended up diluting it. They became syncretists, something that happens too often today.

We must disagree with the syncretist who says ‘Let us learn from each other and live harmoniously with each other. After all we are headed in the same direction even though some of our practices may differ.’ The Biblical Christian says ‘We are NOT headed in the same direction. Some of our practices may be similar. We may learn from each other, but there is a sense in which we cannot live harmoniously with each other.’ We seek to bring all who are outside of a relationship with Christ
into such a relationship, and that necessitates the forsaking of their former religions.

The syncretist says that we are one in the center though we may differ on peripheral details. The Biblical Christian says that though we may have peripheral similarities we are different in the center.

Christ’s claim to uniqueness does not set well with those who are seeking a new type of ‘harmonious’ relationship with other religions which would necessitate the dropping of a call to conversion to Christ,
Jesus and the World Religions, Is Christianity just Another Religion? Ajith Fernando, 1987, pages 84, 86, 91, 94, 113

“At an interreligious ceremony in Rome in October 1999, Pope [John Paul II] invited all people of goodwill to counter a crisis of civilization… by a new civilization of love founded on the universal values of peace. Jesus is the one who… sacrifices Himself for the salvation of others… Is not Jesus thus a model and a permanent message for humanity?” Cardinal Arinze, President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, The Examiner, 13 May 2000. At no time did the Pope or anyone else make a call for the syncretism or unity among religions that the ashrams aim to bring about.

“Another gospel is also preached when one speaks of spiritual liberation through psychology by the use of oriental meditation techniques [yoga etc.], enneagrams, New Age and other such things… Through them there is a danger that we find ourselves thinking like the Colossians, who sought salvation through their astral speculations, and syncretistically mix Christ with other spirits and powers. As the Apostle Paul writes ‘See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elemental powers of the universe and not according to Christ.'(Col. 2:8,9) These seem like words written for our times. Today there is a new invasion of Christianity from retreats and spiritual exercises and courses all inspired by this man-made gospel… In this man-centered gospel, salvation comes from within man himself, and Jesus becomes reduced to just one more ingredient in this religious cocktail,Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal Household at a retreat for 70 bishops & 1500 priests in Mexico, [forwarded to this writer July 4, 2003].

8. Hindu/Indian worship/cultural forms like the
Gayatri Mantra, Surya Namaskar, the arati, use of vibhuti, sandanam [sandalwood paste] and kumkumum, the relationship between chanting-‘swaras’-chakras-vibration-meditation,

 

Bharatanatyam, etc will be dealt with in a subsequent report. [The Bede Griffiths Sangha website carries a write-up explaining the usefulness of the Gayatri Mantra!]

9. In my pilot letter of 1st January 2005 sent to selected Church and Charismatic Renewal leaders national and international, all of whom responded with encouragement and a call for this report, I had claimed that I had witnessed “New Age, blasphemy, heresy and sacrilege” at Shantivanam. This report confirms that claim.

I had visited Saccidananda Ashram from the 15th to 21st December 2004, and Anjali Ashram, Mysore on the 20th and 21st May 2005. At Anjali Ashram I was not welcomed because there was a group of around 35 lay persons from Tamil Nadu doing an ‘anubhav’ and I was asked to leave by Sr. Mariella who was quite unfriendly. However I was given a cottage for the night because I simply stayed put. My accommodation with bathroom attached was clean, as was the sprawling and picturesque campus, but about half the size of the Shantivanam room, and even more spartan. I lay awake most of the night, what with the summer heat, the mosquitoes and the bugs flying in through the miniscule window, and was grateful to return to Bangalore the next morning, after managing a brief interview with Swami Gnanajyoti, and much appreciating the ashramites who can live here permanently or as visitors.

There was an elderly Hindu gentleman in the cottage next to mine. It was his nth visit, he told me, and he was here now for around two to three weeks already. His passion is yoga, and he was reading very late into the night by the light of a low-watt bulb, books by the ‘Yogoda Satsanga Society of India Self-Realization Fellowship’, Ranchi. I had attended the Swami’s Mass the previous evening, arriving during the homily, and I was impressed by the reverence with which he celebrated the Eucharist, reflecting that certain other priests could well benefit by emulating him.

At Sr. Amala’s Maria Kripa Ashram in a flat in Bangalore, which I visited on the 18th and again on 22nd May, I met Sr. Amala and another young sannyasini-type named Anishananda. Anishananda who says that she has done her Master’s in yoga, and is looking to do her Ph. D. in it, [some priests have offered to provide her the funds], recognized me immediately as a crusader against the New Age. When passing through Kolkata on her way South from Fr. Korko‘s [see pages 16, 30, 34, 66] recently closed-down ashram, a priest had confronted her with an article on yoga written by me and published along with my photograph in a charismatic magazine. She of course rejected my claims about yoga, and so did Sr. Amala after a cursory glance at a copy of the magazine and some other papers that I was carrying. However they were extremely courteous and invited me to join them at tea, followed by meditation using the ‘Jesus prayer’, which I did. Squatting [with index finger touching the thumb to complete a circle] in the yoga position was difficult as I am a bit physically handicapped, but so was stepping around the room during the prayer in a particular fashion as I was directed. I kept hearing instructions about sensing the ‘luminous path’ in the body, and the ‘chakras‘. During the session a young couple walked in to attend a yoga ministry by Sr. Amala. When I questioned Sr. Amala about the evidence to support some of her beliefs, she said she was not sure, but that was what some priests had told her. It is a shame, because these are all good and sincere people with a genuine spirit of sacrifice, and a zeal to share their time and their spirituality with others, qualities lacking in many Church leaders. Maybe we DO have something to learn from them.

10. This report does not seek to condemn anyone, but to reveal the truth. It is easy to accuse the writer of a lack of Christian love in such a ministry. For instance, by what nicer alternative can one draw attention to the Voice of Delhi [see page 37] Feb. 1997 issue that published a favourable review of a New Age book The Physics of Angels by ‘Fr. Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake‘? Or to The New Leader‘s continuing to favourably report on the New Age organization Dharma Bharathi‘s activities [issue Sep 1-15, 2005] despite my sending several letters and a detailed report [mentioned earlier] to its editor Fr. M A Joe Antony SJ.?

 

THE LAST WORD

“When Shri Ganga Kusht Lachar Ashram was christened Assisi Nagar Rehabilitation Centre in 1980, the construction of a temple in one corner of ARC was okayed by Hartmann Ashram, Izatnagar, Bareilly, the brains behind ARC. I went a step further and put up a Common Prayer Hall at ARC in 1984 in which were displayed plastic-glass coloured pictures of Jesus Christ, Shiva, Muslim mosques, Buddha, Guru Nanak, Mahavir and a picture of the symbols of these six religions. Then came a situation where ARC had to take loans with exorbitant interest in order to keep ARC’s welfare programme for its leprosy patient inmates and their children going when funds were lacking. In four years the debt grew to an enormous amount of Rs. 30 lakhs. I toiled to make good ARC’s debt through two ventures but with no success. Then I racked my brains in prayer to find the reason behind the debt and the failure of my two ventures to make good ARC’s debt.

“Realising what was wrong, I got all the pictures in the Common Prayer Hall removed, leaving behind only the picture of Jesus Christ. I also built compound walls so that the temple was outside ARC. Side by side I began to make an appeal to 30,000 friends to spare Rs. 100 each (Rs. 300 in our ad in the NL was a printer’s devil) to make good ARC’s debt of Rs. 30 lakhs. This was launched in the name of Jesus Christ. Christmas and New Year saw Jesus reigning supreme at ARC for the first time in ARC’s life.

The above is the testimony of Fr. Tony OFM Cap., Chaubari P.O. Uttar Pradesh 243 001, taken from the Letters to the Editor, The New Leader January 16-31, 1999. May his tribe increase!!!

 

INDEX [Page numbers within brackets]

Abhishiktananda [Le Saux, Fr. Henri]: 2, 6, 14, 29, 31-33, 49, 59, 60-62, 64, 65, 66, 91

Ashram Aikiya [AA]: 8, 14-16, 18, 28, 43, 50, 67

Bach Flower Remedies: 59

Bede Griffiths, Fr.:
2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17-18, 19, 20, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 50, 52-60, 62-64, 69-74, 75-76, 77-80, 91, 93, 94

Bede Griffiths Sangha, The: 13-14, 50, 82, 84

Bharatanatyam:
8, 13, 27, 30

Chakras:
17-18, 36, 42, 45, 47, 49, 56, 58, 68, 85, 96
[The ‘Third eye’: 5, 49]

Dharma Bharathi and Swami Sachidananda Bharathi: 10, 12, 15, 44, 50-52, 85

Enneagrams: 30, 68, 84

Jung, C. G.: 11, 17, 18, 28, 38, 39-41, 48, 53, 54, 57, 66, 96

Jyoti Sahi: 7, 8, 10, 15, 28, 33-34, 39, 41, 47, 48, 53, 54, 55, 57, 68

Kripa Foundation and Fr. Joe Pereira: 38, 41, 44, 87-96

Kundalini yoga: 42, 44, 47, 48, 49, 58, 59, 96

Lourdusamy, Cardinal D.S.: 31, 66, 67, 68, 69, 74

Mandalas: 28, 41, 48, 59, 63

Mantras: 15, 16, 17-18, 19, 35, 74, 79, 82, 87, 92 [Gayatri mantra: 4, 6, 7, 13, 67] [Surya Namaskar: 44, 68]

Monchanin, Fr. Jules: 2, 6, 15, 29, 31-33, 49, 60-62, 64, 68, 83

New Age,
prominent New Agers and New Age places
: 5, 6, 8, 10,
11, 12,
15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 62, 63, 72, 76, 81, 82, 85, 89, 91

OM: 2, 4, 5, 6-7, 8, 10, 13-14, 18, 21, 27, 28, 32, 35, 37, 42, 44, 45, 47, 48, 51, 61, 65, 66, 68, 69, 70, 73, 75, 79, 80, 94

Painadath SJ, Fr. Sebastian: 14, 15, 27, 28, 29, 30, 37, 38, 40, 46-47, 67

Ramanashram and Sri Ramana Maharshi:
5, 9, 27, 32, 33, 37, 43, 60, 61, 66, 70, 79

Sai Baba: 44, 45, 46, 51

Sat-Chit-Ananda [The Trinity]: 2, 7, 19, 32, 54, 61, 70, 72

Shakti: 5, 7, 17, 35, 36, 42, 47, 48, 49, 58, 59

Shiva-Lingam: 32, 36, 37, 46, 65, 74

Sri Aurobindo: 27, 33, 42, 51, 52, 54, 58, 60, 63, 66, 68 70

Swami Sivananda’s Ashram and Divine Life Society: 27, 42, 43, 44, 51, 77

Tantra and Tantrism: 7, 15, 36, 49, 55, 58, 91, 96

Theosophical Society and Theosophists: 10, 11, 27, 51, 52, 54, 58, 59, 76, 96

Transpersonal Psychology: 40, 56

Vandana Mataji Rscj, Sr.: 5, 6, 14, 15, 18, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42-44, 48, 49, 50, 52, 54, 58, 59, 63, 65, 66, 68, 69, 71, 72, 77, 79

Vipassana: 30, 38, 59, 91, 94

World Community for Christian Meditation, Fr. John Main/Fr. Laurence Freeman: 13,
41, 60, 63, 72, 87, 89, 90

Yin-yang: 17, 48, 52, 68, 87

Yoga: 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 38, 39, 42, 43, 44, 46, 47, 49, 51, 54, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 76, 77, 78, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 96

Zen: 9, 27, 28, 29, 38, 40, 44, 46, 55, 57, 58, 63, 73, 75, 76, 82, 90

The Index gives a fair idea of the contents of the writings of the leaders of the Ashram Movement, their extended connections, their beliefs, preferences and activities. Below are some more helpful references to important issues.

CBCI: 28, 29, 31, 43, 50, 65, 67, 68-69

Eucharist, The:
14, 22, 23, 24, 36, 43, 44, 47, 65, 82, 83

Evangelization and non-evangelization, On: 15, 27, 29, 30-31, 34-35, 65, 83

Holy Communion: 8, 9,
10,
20, 24, 35

Indifferentism:
83

Interreligious Dialogue: 18,
27, 31, 83

NBCLC: 3, 10, 13, 14, 16, 28, 29, 31, 43, 65, 67, 68-69, 74

Relativism: 73, 83

Religious Pluralism: 43, 45, 51, 66

Syncretism: 44,
84

Vatican: 31, 67, 68, 69, 74

Vatican Document “Dominus Iesus”: 45, 73-74, 80

Vatican Document “Ecclesia in Asia”: 34-35, 45

Vatican Document “Nostra Aetate”: 2, 83, 89-90

Vatican Document “…On Christian Meditation”, of October 15, 1989: 35, 44, 58, 70, 71, 72, 90, 94

Vatican Provisional Report on the ‘New Age’, of February 3, 2003: 11, 12, 15, 18, 20, 26, 34, 38, 40, 41, 42, 45, 48, 53, 54, 55, 56, 63, 82, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93


Kripa Foundation, Fr. Joe Pereira

After my completing the report on Catholic Ashrams, my computer experienced a modem failure because of which I could not use the internet to send out the said report. I took the opportunity to write about Kripa [see pages 38, 41, 44], which is a related issue. Kripa is not an “ashram” by any chance, but it is closely connected with the World Community for Christian Meditation [WCCM] of Fr. John Main, OSB [1926-1982] and his successor Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB. [see pages13, 41, 60, 63, 72].

There are also other links, with the founders of Saccidananda Ashram, with Bede Griffiths, etc., as we will see.

Their 8-page pamphlet says on its cover page, Kripa Foundation. AN ARCHDIOCESAN PROJECT. Devoted to battling drugs and HIV / AIDS since 1981.Fromhumble beginnings in a church compound in Bandra… this Public Charitable Trust has grown to 28 facilities in 10 locations in India, namely Bombay, Vasai, Goa, Mangalore, Calcutta, Darjeeling, Imphal, Kohima, Shillong and Delhi. It is funded through Government of India grants as well as national and international donations. It informs us that Mother Teresa… blessed our Calcutta and Vasai centres. The Mumbai centre of Kripa is at Mount Carmel Church on Chapel Road in Bandra.

Kripa’s Rehabilitation and Counseling Centres are involved in weaning people away from chemical dependency on alcohol, tobacco and other narcotics, and with people affected with HIV and AIDS. There is no disputing the good work that Kripa is doing, but in this case of an organization founded by a Catholic diocesan priest, it becomes necessary to look into Fr. Joe’s mind, and into his practices, and to ask finally if the end justifies the means. Or is it vice-versa? The pamphlet says that Kripa’s strength is eastern disciplines and facilitating lifestyle changes which it propagates in all its centres as Basic Therapy to cope with life’s stresses including addiction.

What are these eastern disciplines? The New Leader of February 1-15, 2003, in ‘Priest finds yoga effective therapy for drug addicts‘, says A Catholic priest in Mumbai has found that Yoga can be an effective therapy for a modern curse. Fr. Joe Pereira who heads a chain of drug rehabilitation centres in various parts of India has been successfully using yoga to cure addicts. The 57-year old priest of Bombay archdiocese claims, ‘Patients respond to yoga therapy better’ than to other therapies… The ascetic Hindu discipline aims to achieve liberation of self and union with a higher power through intense concentration and deep meditation. Among its methods are ‘asanas’ (prescribed postures) and controlled breathing. He uses the therapy on drug addicts… The priest began using yoga after other forms of therapy failed to achieve desirable results in his patients. He said their ‘restless desires disappear’ when their minds ‘are in harmony and find rest in the spirit within’. Yoga is now widely used in all the Foundation’s 17 branches in six Indian states. All those centers utilize yoga as ‘a psychosomatic and psycho-spiritual methodology for holistic health‘, Fr. Pereira explained.”

My decision to write on Kripa is not a recent one. When I shared my intention with Mumbaikars by email over a couple of years ago, I received three letters warning me that I might face severe consequences if I did, and asking me to carefully reconsider my decision.

The Examiner, the Bombay Archdiocesan weekly, regularly carries reports on the activities of Kripa.

March 9, 2002: Kripa Foundation has just been designated as a Regional Training Centre for the Northeast Region by the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. Earlier, at their National Consultation at Bangalore, the Christian Medical Association of India [CMAI], New Delhi, the apex body with the largest membership of hospitals/health care centres in India, being convinced of Kripa’s presence and strength in the North-east, its potential and capabilities, have tied up with Kripa for that region.[There’s a separate report on another page]

April 13, 2002: Kripa Foundation, (the largest NGO battling AIDS and chemical addiction” is presenting ‘KRIPA NITE 2002’, a fiesta of live music… at. St. Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra, …Tickets priced at Rs. 99/-…

 

The Yin and the Yang of Father Joe

Now, this is the title of a six page write-up by Anne de Braganca Cunha on Fr. Joe Pereira that was published in the February 2002 issue of HEALTH AND NUTRITION. I am quoting here extensively from it. The box on page 75 says:

NAME: Joseph H. Pereira, fondly called Fr. Joe (a.k.a. the Singing Priest)

OCCUPATION: Roman Catholic Priest, Founder Director Managing Trustee of Kripa Foundation,

Certified Yoga Instructor

INSPIRATIONS: The Yin, Mother Teresa; The Yang, B.K.S Iyengar [see pages 44, 96]

KEY TO STAYING FIT: Yogacharya

TOP STRESS BUSTER: Meditation, twice daily

MANTRA: Ma Pa [sic] Na Tha (the Lord comes) [see page 92]

SECRET OF PERSON POWER: Conditioning of the left brain which is responsible for logical, rational and scientific thought [see pages 41, 89, 92]

“Joe Pereira doesn’t fit into the public’s perception of a Catholic priest. He lives his life on his own terms within his own well defined boundaries, with yoga at one end and singing on the other. At the core is a mission. To team spirituality and physical development. To this end for the last 2 decades he has applied yoga and meditation to the rehabilitation of alcohol and drug addicts.

“The combination of Eastern discipline and Western science to treat addiction has piqued interest from North America, Europe and the UK who send their students for placement to Kripa Centres in India… Besides yoga and meditation, he maintains a busy schedule of teaching, counselling, travel and administration. In addition to his priestly duties he conducts yoga workshops, stress management courses, youth programmes, and presents papers both in India and abroad. This dedication has not gone unnoticed. He is a member of the high level committee constituted by the Ministry of Finance (Dept. of Revenue, Narcotics Control Bureau) and has been honoured by a Priyadarshini national award for work in Anti-Drug Abuse (1990), a national award from the Anti Narcotics Council of India (1993-1994), a Sahayag Foundation award (1995). A refreshingly candid conversation follows.

What went into the making of Fr. Joe, the priest?

I am a Catholic Maharashtrian, called East Indian from Vasai… My mother was a rebel (that’s how I got my independent streak). She defied the Church and sent her two brothers to a Marathi shala, the better to imbibe Indian culture… At 15 ½ when I went to enroll in St. Xavier’s College, I discovered that seminarians (priests in the making) could take a graduation degree directly. I can save years of unnecessary study, I told myself. So I joined a seminary at 16… I took my licentiate in Divinity and my Master’s in Philosophy from the Bombay University.

And then you went into the real world…

After 10 years of the rarified atmosphere of the seminary I was propelled into St. Michael’s Church, Mahim, to interact with people from all walks of life. I found it difficult. I couldn’t see the relevance of the ponderous topics I had studied, to flesh ‘n’ blood contact. Women were an enigma. My physical body had been totally neglected, the most disowned energy of my life was my sexuality, because of the celibacy that was imposed upon me.

What are your views on celibacy?

After completing our studies we are ordained as priests, at which point we have to sign an oath of lifelong celibacy.

I shocked my superiors by going to meet the late Cardinal Valerian Gracias: ‘I don’t see the rationale in forcing me to sign this’ I protested. ‘I am far too young to make such a commitment.’ The Cardinal was aghast. ‘Just sign it’ he said firmly. He was a towering personality and I was used to being obedient. I signed. Through the years I’ve struggled a great deal to adjust to celibacy. Do you know how many priests including myself identify with the novel ‘Thornbirds*? …There was a time when I hoped that the Church would remove celibacy for priests; now I realize that this will not happen in my lifetime. Today I teach young priests not to be inhibited with the opposite sex and to acknowledge their sexuality through yoga*. [[For * signs, see page 96]

What was your severest crisis?

I was emotionally involved with a woman. I wondered: Should I leave the priesthood, marry her, have children, lead a normal life! I was severely stressed and took refuge in brandy and the occasional cigarette (there are no vows against substance abuse). Eight of my 19 classmates had left the priesthood. I could see myself going the same way. I spoke my heart out to two priests who were also undergoing similar crises. One chose to continue with the priesthood; the other left. The woman went away. I was sunk in the pits of bewilderment and despair… It was 1971… I went to Mother Teresa and sobbed, ‘I want to leave the priesthood and the Church. Mother, help me’… ‘You are God’s anointed’ she said gently, ‘Jesus wants you. Please don’t quit’… [She] remained my guiding force.

And the other one?

I am keenly interested in music and that is how I came in touch with B.K.S. Iyengar, my Guruji*… I started attending Guruji’s Saturday afternoon yoga classes at Campion school (I was at Wodehouse Church at the time). I got in touch with hitherto unexplored parts of my being, learned to calm my mind… and found a discipline and spiritual exhilaration that turned my life around. My relationship with my octogenarian Guruji continue endures till today. With his help I’ve stated yoga classes, stress management courses, programmes for addicts and AIDS victims.

What about your own addictions?

I smoked a bit and drank. One day, on the 15th of August 1968, I’d had a few pegs of whiskey and was violently sick… My Guruji helped me to let go of both the habits through meditation and yoga.

What does yoga mean to you?

Yoga is a philosophy of living that is the oldest and most holistic of mind, body and spiritual fitness. In the words of the [Bhagavad] Gita ‘Yoga is harmony…’ … the mind of the yogi is in harmony and finds rest in the inward spirit, to become Yukta or one unto God. Yoga does not mean that I disconnect as a Christian priest. It strengthened me to continue with my priestly duties and tend to my parishioners. I have had amazing results with yoga. My own father at 68 was given 3 months to live, but after a yoga programme lived till 86.

When I was 55, I had an excruciating spinal pain, which persisted from a 17-year old fall from a scooter. My Guruji put me through 26 positions, one more painful than the other. It took 3 years to set my back right. I am rejuvenated, can even sleep in a lotus position, feel fitter than ever. Yoga is the mainstay of my life.

Tell us about your de-addiction centres.

[Fr. Joe relates the initiation of Kripa ‘a Sanskrit word that means grace‘ on 15 August 1981 in a makeshift shed attached to Mount Carmel’s Church, Bandra.] I provided counselling, yoga and meditation. A recovered alcoholic called Ossie Pereira helped with administration and moral support; a doctor attended to physical ailments. We all dished out Tough Love. Kripa Foundation has burgeoned into a network of 31 centres… I am now consultant to the Archdiocese for drug and alcohol abuse.

 

 

Describe Kripa’s recovery programme.

[Fr. Joe explains the steps, and adds that] a minimum of medication- allopathic, ayurvedic and homoeopathic– is used… Quite a few recovered addicts train to work with addicts themselves… Others train to be yoga teachers…

Do you take HIV positive addicts?

Not only addicts but HIV positive victims… We improve the quality of their lives with yoga and meditation

What are the yoga techniques that you use?

I follow the 8-fold path set down in the yoga sutra of Patanjali. [Fr. Joe explains each step, the last being ‘Samadhana’ – oneness with the Absolute‘.]

How does meditation help you?

Meditation works by emptying the conscious mind… and open up pathways to those parts of the brain that deal with spirituality, unconscious thoughts and experiences.

Tell us about your daily routine.

I wake up at 5:30 am, walk for 40 minutes on Bandra’s steep and winding roads. I return, do yoga and offer mass. I meditate at 9 am and am in my office at Mount Mary’s Basilica church from 10 am to 6 pm… I teach yoga three times a week- twice for asanas and once for breathing and meditation, to an average of 50 people, including teenagers and senior citizens of different faiths and professions… I sleep at 11:30 pm……………………………………..

 

What follows is the transcript of an audio-taped recording of a talk, using a slide projector, given by Fr. Joe Pereira to a Catholic gathering at St. Peter’s Church mini-hall in Bandra, Mumbai, in early 2004:

I happen to be working in a ministry of healing of people who are marginalized because they are not understood, and the disease they are suffering from is alcoholism, an addiction… I have set myself for this work with the blessings of my superiors and I look at it as a vocation within a vocation… Fr. Parish Priest, Fr. Benji has shown me some of the concerns that you carry about the topic that I am going to share with you… How many of you were able to attend the week-long programme of Fr. Laurence Freeman… [of the WCCM] the 7th time he has come to Bombay, okay, quite a few, and we have already set meditation groups all over the diocese

“When the new millennium began, along with it came a spate of spiritual and religious teachings all over the world, but the popularity that was given most to was termed as ‘Eastern disciplines‘ and this… raised many questions and concerns about authenticity because naturally all these movements were aimed at some kind of spiritual experience.

…They started acknowledging that there is something else which can become very empowering- the other dimension, experienced in man where else, except the brain, and acknowledged that there was such a thing as an awakening or working on the right hemisphere of man’s brain… Some efforts have been made, which are very sincere, to blend science with faith… I will show you some slides taken from the Harvard Medical School that initiated way back in 1967, almost the same time when the Catholic Church welcomed something which originated in Pentecostal and Protestant atmosphere
what we call today the [Charismatic] Renewal programme. [This is the first of Fr. JP’s several subtle and some not-so-subtle attacks on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal]. Somewhere at the same time… the famous stress management guru Dr. Howard Benson, a cellular biologist Dr. Joan Borysenko and … Dr. Ivan Kurtz… put together something of a breakthrough in medicine called the mind-body clinic. [Error, see page 96]

“Other attempts have been made which were more superficial and confusing to average people. The explosion of the so-called New Age scenario is one of the such manifestations. It is literally like a blind leading the blind. And hence it was necessary that the Church safeguard her flock from the lies and the half-truths propagated as spirituality. [Fr. JP tries to distance himself from certain aspects of New Age but has already positively expressed some of its tenets, see previous paragraph, and will continue to defend New Age paradigms as we will see].

The Catholic Church has always closely been associated with the inclusion of… Eastern disciplines in Catholic spirituality… I know that there are quite a few people [here] who perhaps are carrying other influences [charismatics!] than a very strict Roman Catholic official teaching, er, mindset. In the teaching of the Second Vatican Council… we are taught in two documents… The Church in the Modern World and… on Non-Christian Religions… They offer us a platform to understand what is unfortunately or incorrectly called New Age philosophy… The first Document… is very relevant to this New Age phenomenon which is projected mainly as a culture, a world culture.

[Wrong. The Vatican Provisional Report on the New Age, hereafter referred to as VPRNA, describes it as a SPIRITUAL movement, not a cultural one, an “alternative spirituality“, n 2. But Fr. JP, using the ‘culture‘ excuse, quotes lines from the first Document, Nostra Aetate, n. 2 to the exclusion of others. For instance, he quotes, In Hinduism they seek release from anguish of our condition through ascetical practices… a deep meditation or a loving trusting flight towards God’‘ and adds what he believes the Document says: Now there comes a punch line, ‘The Catholic Church rejects nothing of this.
The Church says nothing like that. The exact words are- and they DON’T connect with the ascetical practices and meditations, because the intervening sentences deal with Hindu goals of liberation [moksha] and illumination/ enlightenment etc. which do not have equivalents in Christianity- The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. And
it is followed by a proclamation of JESUS as the Way, the Truth and the Life, John 14:6, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.]

 

 

 

Next, to support his case, Fr. JP quotes from a commentary on the Document. Echoing the ashramites’ attitudes towards missionaries [= evangelization and conversion], the commentary is said to say that earlier it was accepted that the teachings of other faiths ultimately sprang from the Word of God, but this attitude was reversed by the missionary attitude which down the years started looking at non-Catholic religions as satanic. And so the Council Document came and authoritatively brought about this change and went back to the original teaching.

In 1990 [Wrong. It is actually October 15, 1989], Vatican brought out a… Document, Some Aspects of Christian Meditation precisely to clarify and to support authentic meditation practice. [Fr. JP quotes selectively from this Document, avoiding the many statements- which I have quoted extensively in several of my earlier write-ups- which will affect his case adversely, including the note no. 1 to n. 2 that says that Zen, Transcendental Meditation and Yoga are Eastern methods of meditation that are inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism.]

Now, Fr. JP drops the names of Mother Teresa and Card. Fitzgerald, and also quotes the Vidya Jyothi article by Bp. Thomas Dabre of Vasai which says, ‘Without denying the good elements these practices contain if kept within certain parameters, the nature of spiritual experience and its relationship with such practice and experience needs to be explained to our people’. How many of our priests are doing this? they are doing just the opposite, Fr. JP says., and he sets out to explain his ‘history’ of meditation, starting with the ‘Desert Fathers and Mothers’. This tradition of contemplation was also followed by lay people, undisturbed for 1000 years, he adds, till-

“In 1500, the big split took place. A monk, Martin Luther… when he split, he hit the Church at its contemplative branch and he said, he disapproved meditation and preferred plain reading of Scripture, Sola Scriptura. [Luther’s ‘big split’ was in 1517, not 1500] Now, in response… that we may not lose our people and run only after Scripture, to safeguard that, Rome, the Catholic Church, separated the laypeople from the influence of monks who taught meditation. [Is this TRUE?] Now isn’t it interesting that in 1550, to undo this horrible mistake by the Church, came a woman with great strength and courage, a Carmelite nun, none other than a mystic, St. Teresa of Avila. She countered Luther’s influence, championed meditation and other mystical practices and permanently established the phenomenon in the Catholic Church, making it a distinctive feature from Protestantism. [Going again for the Charismatic Renewal!]. So if there is any reservation coming to meditation, you know where the roots are. [What a contrived conclusion!] Understand that. And… people who are explaining the Documents [charismatics who are crusading against New Age meditations, yoga etc.] are not telling the people this. Because they themselves are soaked in this prejudice.

The Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, note 11. records that “St. Teresa… perceptively observed that the separation of the mystery of Christ from Christian meditation is always a form of ‘betrayal’. Note 12 reads, Pope John Paul II has pointed out to the whole Church the example and the doctrine of St. Teresa of Avila who in her life had to reject the temptation of certain methods which proposed a leaving aside of the humanity of Christ in favour of a vague self-immersion in the abyss of divinity.

Why hasn’t Fr. Joe taken cognizance of several cautions like these? He continues:

“In recent times, a man… was working as a civil engineer in Thailand… there he got in touch with these [Buddhist] practices, he left his profession, became a [Benedictine] priest… he did a lot of work in Eastern disciplines and particularly meditation. But when he joined the monastery, his novice master said, ‘Aha, this is from the East. It is satanic’. So in obedience he said ok but he kept on searching, he went back to the Fathers of the Church… a very special [one] was John Cassian… This study of John Cassian impressed the novice master so much… his abbot allowed him to go to Montreal where he started his first monastery of Christian meditation… and it has spread to 60 nations. You can also access it on the Net. It is very easy to remember: World Community of Christian Meditators.org… You get meditations there. You get books of early Christian mystics and of contemplative prayer. This is something which the Cardinal [His Eminence, Ivan Dias] is very keen on starting all over the diocese, because as he said, there is too much of noise in the Church.

As I said earlier in the ASHRAMS report, a separate report on the WCCM will soon be available. It will explain why Catholics should NOT practise these meditations, visit this website, or read most of their books. Also, Fr. JP does not reveal such important information as this on the Desert Father, that ‘the writings of John Cassian, 365-435 AD… demonstrate the primarily therapeutic concern of this asceticism that sets out TO HEAL THE DISORDER OF SIN and [so] to focus the individual on God’, The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, page 64.]

Referring to Some Aspects, Fr. JP’s next refuge is in the hesychastic [see page 61] desert tradition of spirituality. Greek orthodox was quite Eastern. Do it in an Eastern way. How? Use the breath. When you breathe in, you say Lord Jesus Son of the Living God, and when breathing out, Have mercy on me a sinner.

Coming to the February 2003, Jesus Christ, the Bearer… [VPRNA], …With regard to these teachings, how do they figure in the Document? It’s not a Document actually, as it says, the very first sentence… please, it is not a dogma, but it is a Provisional Report, it’s a study, an ongoing study… this is a combination study of two major desks… and several other dicasteries have pooled in their findings because this phenomenon of New Age is a crazy phenomenon abroad [laughs]. I mean you have no idea what all kinds of crazy things are being done, and all of them are very sincere- they really want- they are searching for God and therefore we must understand this movement so that we can use the real elements- this is what the second part says…[There is no first part or ‘second part’]

 

 

When I was in Rome on the 19th of October, we had an opportunity to meet the one who heads this desk [Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue] and he said, you know we are waiting for more theologians from India to tell us, because these people who made this study have no idea of your culture… and what they are referring to. They are only referring to in a vague way because they have heard that Vipassana, Yoga and all has become very popular. But they don’t know what this whole thing is all about. So we are waiting for you theologians to give us a feedback. And one of the first persons to give the feedback was the Vidya Jyothi whole team of theologians, and Bishop Dabre on his own. And we are putting together also in Bombay some responses [God help us !!!] coming from our long practice. I mean we have been in these disciplines for 35 to 36 years, teaching all over the world, and practicing this, and putting it into convents and monasteries and seminaries and all that. So, to teach our people about the revival of pagan religion with a mixture of both Eastern disciplines and modern psychology, this you must sift for the so-called teachings, and then realize that New Age is a cultural revolution[Again he calls New Age ‘cultural’, not spiritual]

“Pope John Paul II… addressing the Bishops of the United States with regard to this particular Document [said] ‘Pastors must honestly ask whether they have paid sufficient attention to the thirst of the human heart for the true Living Water which only Christ our Redeemer can give’. From there the very title of the Document is taken.

Wrong again, Father. The title derives from the New Age astrological Age of Aquarius*, the ‘Water Bearer’ of an alternative spirituality to that of Christianity, one that rejects the notion of sin and the need for a Redeemer in Christ and offers eastern meditational techniques and ‘cosmic-energy’ based healing therapies for body-mind-soul holism.

It is difficult for me to follow the logic here. Maybe the reader can: Fr. JP says, …Our sharing in the Trinitarian life is not only as adopted but as one with the Son. This is what we using this practice can come to propagate. And so the New Age responds to a deep longing in many of our contemporaries whether Christian or not, for a form of religion
which is more integrated and
less pervaded by dogmatism and authority. [Remember Bro. Martin et al?]

“Let me tell you, all the Westerners who have run away from religion, they got fed up, sick and tired, and today many of us are getting sick and tired, and that too some of our separated brethren are capitalizing on. Making use of it. Both ways they talk, you see, and blame us of dogmatism and authoritative attitudes towards people…

It is surprising that Fr. Joe, who relies so much on tradition, Church Documents and Bishops’ teachings can say these things. It is no surprise that this type of talk immediately precedes what you will now read, when you will understand why a report on Fr. Joe Pereira is appended to one on Catholic Ashrams:

Bede Griffiths – The ashrams: “What happens in India? The practice of meditation in the Indian Church takes me back to something that happened in 1971… There was a Church in India Seminar. It was in Trivandrum then.

I believe that Fr. Joe gets his facts wrong once again. The referred to Seminar was held in Bangalore in 1969 [see pages 2, 27, 29, 65]. In 1971 there was a conference in Nagpur, but Fr. Bede did not attend it.

“And there was a tiny little voice of an old [Bede was just 63 in 1969] man who stood up there and told the whole assembly, ‘If the Church in India did not respond to the call of contemplation, it might as well fold up as it has folded up in the West.’ Whose voice? Eh? BEDE GRIFFITHS. [Fr. Joe mimicked Bede’s voice when quoting him, so he obviously was on familiar terms with him]… And so, in response to the call of the Council, the Church in India, especially the two leading Benedictines, along with Fr. Bede there was Abhishiktananda, I wonder how many of you have cared to read one of his books- some hands are going up I see- and several other… priests like Fr. Amalorpavadass from Bangalore, they set up research and studies of Indian scriptures and practice …through community living in ASHRAMS… a breakthrough book that came about in a Hindu-Christian-Catholic dialogue was The River of Compassion. You know what the River… is? It is a re-reading of the Bhagavad Gita through the Gospel of St. John, by Bede Griffiths. Hence there has been a proper discernment and understanding [!] of certain teachings referred to as Eastern disciplines.*Age of Aquarius, see pages 34, 53, 54

In the light of the ASHRAMS report, any comments on the above by me will be superfluous.

A defense of yoga: “The word yoga is… mostly used indiscriminately. The Western world has misused the word by identifying various wrong practices with it. It is… one of the six systems of Indian philosophy. And it is the only system that comes close to the practice of asceticism. However there are orthodox and unorthodox systems of yoga. By the way, it is not yoga, it is yog. People mispronounce the very word. The orthodox has four kinds of practices- [knowledge/gnana, devotion /bhakti, work/karma and] yoga of the body- hatha yoga. The unorthodox system is called tantra yoga*, and tantra yoga, my dear people is… not a science, it is occultism… Everybody prays, but don’t condemn prayer because some people have an occult way [!] of praying… So don’t throw the baby with the bathwater. Understand what… some Christians mainly the Protestant denominations are opposed to when they are talking about yoga, they are mixing it up with the unorthodox system of… tantra yoga.

Holistic Health: The next portion of the talk on the deficiencies in treatment of the whole person in conventional medicine, of its not really addressing the person- the human being. Dr. Bernie Siegel* has a beautiful book Mind, Medicine and
Miracles [for *
see page 96]

You may be wrong this time again, Father. The title of the book is Love, Medicine and Miracles, copyright 1986.

“Something has to be done about it and therefore there was a whole change, from treatment to healing – Alternative Medicines… There it is more holistic, the whole, tota persona

The Vatican’s Provisional Report [VPRNA] broadly deals with this New Age issue in the section titled ‘Health: Golden Living’ n 2.2.3, also see n 2.2.4, and says, ‘The real danger is the holistic paradigm. New Age is based on totalitarian unity and that is why it is a danger,’ n 4, notes cf. 71.

Left brain-Right brain:Then the other thing in science which really brought about a spirituality of the body is the shift from too much emphasis laid on the left brain… we are so much overused this left brain, we have got a lot of mileage on our lips, we are very verbal, we are analytical, we are very rational… whereas we have another capacity within us… to be silent, non-verbal… we have never used this INTUITIVE capacity, and this capacity does not get awakened by stupid thinking… and we need to shut up and be quiet, be still and know that I am God, allow God to be God instead of playing God.[see pages 87, 89]

The VPRNA on this: In New Age there is a shift ‘from modernity’s exaltation of reason to an appreciation of feeling… often described as a switch from left brain rational thinking to right brain intuitive thinking,

n 2.1. Also see n 2.4. Yet another confirmation that Fr. Joe’s thinking and teachings are New Age influenced.

Fr. JP moves on to the mal-effects of the stress of modern day lifestyle which necessitates a ‘relaxation response’.

“Unless we are rested… completely empty ourselves because He Himself who was equal to God did not think it a matter of pride, but emptied Himself, kenosis, and Protestants very cleverly misuse this [laughs] and say when you empty yourself, the devil will come and take it over… And as long as you don’t have that trust in God, no matter what you say with your left brain is useless… Authenticity is all about being able to measure that you are truly at peace, because the body never tells lies, the mind tells lies.

If the ‘mind tells lies’, as Fr. Joe himself admits, how does one repose trust in the intuition of one’s right brain when one has rejected the rationality and logic of one’s left-brain thinking process?

Yoga, and a Mantra “So to learn to listen to the body, Jesus did this and that is why for me the Lord is my Supreme Yogi, why? Because only He could say ‘The Father and I are one’. What is yoga? Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuja which means ‘to make one’. What are we doing making one? We are becoming one in God, not in a pantheistic way, but in a relational way as the Trinity is one. So we have a golden opportunity here to evangelize through a culture and through a spirituality that was for ages with us and we have just pushed it aside taking a missionary attitude and the Protestant attitude. Actually Martin Luther started this whole thing, and all those who have been influenced are Protestant thinking inclined.

“Pick a focus word or short phrase that’s firmly rooted in your personal belief system. For us it is Ma-ra-na-tha- in Aramaic it means ‘The Lord Comes’. [see page 87] Fr. JP then explains how to use the breathing technique with the phrase to reduce physical and psychological stress parameters. Using slides, he asks, What is better, to pray with Beta-waves or thought process, or to pray with Alpha-waves which is absolutely calm and serene, or to pray with Theta-waves which is THE absolute condition of inner equilibrium?

Fr. Benedict Heron OSB: Fr. JP speaks about Fr. Heron: In his book he had some beautiful texts praising Eastern disciplines and very especially, yoga. He gave me a copy and I went through it. I couldn’t find that passage… I made a long distance call and I said, ‘…where is that passage?’ He says, ‘Fr Joe if I had…printed that book in a Protestant -dominated London, I would have had no sale for that book. I cleverly dropped that passage at the advice of a Protestant Bishop…’ But, he says, ‘Some passages I have refused to remove and those you’ll find at the end, and when you speak to them give them these cautions’. Mind you, a foremost charismatic in London telling charismatics in the Catholic Church to be careful when they pass judgement on other forms of prayer.Fr. JP
then lists ten points, dangers and temptations in the Charismatic Renewal ranging from spiritual pride to false prophecy to an exaggerated emotionalism, which according to him, charismatics are cautioned about by Fr. Heron. The book is titled I Saw Satan Fall- The Way of Spiritual Warfare, 1997. I certainly could not find this section in my copy of the book. Fr. Heron, himself a Benedictine, does not have a single comment about meditation or contemplation. Rather, the book is loaded with compliments for the Renewal. And for Protestantism. ‘The praise of Jesus can sometimes be enough to drive demonic forces from a person or place- this has been the experience of the Charismatic Renewal… As the Irish bishops said in their recent very positive statement about the Charismatic Renewal (1993): In the Charismatic Renewal there is an awareness of the operation of the power of Satan- an awareness which seems to be missing in so much of the life of the rest of the Catholic Church… I pray that Catholics will wake up in the whole area of spiritual warfare, and that we shall work together with Evangelicals and Pentecostals’ pages 61, 103-4, 114.

In his Acknowledgements, Fr. Heron thanks eminent charismatics like Fr. Rufus Pereira, Erika Gibello, Fr. James McManus CSsR, Charles Whitehead, Francis MacNutt etc.

Fr. Heron, in his letter to me of February 23, 2002
from the Monastery of Christ the King, London, says, Many thanks for your letter… and for your own articles and letters… May God bless you especially in your work in this difficult field. I am happy to pray for you. As an official exorcist, I am worried by the number of Catholics, including priests, who do not even believe in the existence of the devil, let alone understand the deliverance ministry. I had so much of difficulty in finding a publisher for I Saw Satan Fall, despite the fact that my first book Praying for Healing: The Challenge had sold very well. I think that the devil was trying his best to stop the spiritual warfare book appearing. I think that if one gets involved in the field, one will be attacked by the devil in a special way. So I very much hope that you are getting plenty of prayer support for yourself and your ministry and your family.

 

In conclusion, Fr JP says, Not anyone can come into my yoga classes. And similarly the Bishops in America in 1978 when I went into the Renewal- I was baptized in the Spirit at the Westbury St. Bridget’s Church…- when the Bishops brought out a special warning that anybody afflicted with psychological disorder, emotional disorder, should be forbidden from being taken into a charismatic group unless they have their respective psychiatrists’ clearance. [Can anyone confirm this?] I wish we had this condition here in India. The resultant effect has been that people are, all levels let me tell you that, have fallen victims without realizing that what is coming is not coming from the Spirit but it is coming from a disturbed emotional being. And so similarly you can’t dabble, not everybody can dabble with meditation… Please ask me any questions you like, I have finished. I have said every word to you my dear people with deep concern in my priestly heart because I am agonizing about people who talk on this topic without the proper blessing and grace of our religious superiors.

[About 40 persons were present, mostly supporters of Fr. Joe, and two priests, Fr. Juan SJ and Fr. Benji Fernandes].

The first ‘question’ ran into- if I typed it out- around fifteen lines. While it mentioned something ‘good’ about Bede Griffiths, and encouraging more inculturation, most of it was incoherent and Fr. JP interrupted the gentleman. Next was a gushing lady who thanked Fr. Joe for his ‘very enlightening talk’, and a ten-line testimony ending with ‘So I always go in meditation, whatever it is, directly to my Father who created me’. Fr. JP requested brevity.

This was followed by a young man who disputed Fr. Joe’s claim that Jesus sought ‘equality with God’, stated that he felt that yoga ‘seeks self-glorification’ and that the Vatican Documents are ‘very ambiguous, for example anyone could be right’. Fr. Joe explained that Hindus and Christians interpret things differently, If you are inclined to be a Hindu, then that’s your problem. If you are a Christian and a baptized person, you will be renewed in your baptism by this methodology, so whoever is telling you that you’ll get pulled into a Hindu way of prayer is misguiding youThe report [VPRNA] has made a study and asking for more feedback and therefore there is nothing definitive about it. We priests have been asked to explain this to the people and clarify them rather than confuse them… Today I have presented you these concepts… Do you feel that these concepts are confusing? They are absolutely consistent with the Church teachings. In fact I have shown you where the actual Church teachings were not practised by the actual missionary conduct… God has [laughs] kept a very distinctive contemplative streak in the Catholic Church, but it is not there in the Protestant church and they hate it. So let’s be careful. I must also tell you one thing, that Charismatic Renewal originated in Protestant atmosphere… The same principle by which Charismatics are today welcome in the Catholic Church should welcome people of other faiths to pray with us…” [Applause]

The next person stated that Phil 2 says that while Fr. Joe talked about emptying oneself ‘when we practice yoga or meditation’, Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a servant. Father explained that it is the same process of Jesus so that when we are empty, we are available wholly to God and to people…

A gentleman takes up the interview in Health and Nutrition [see pages 87-89], Fr. JP’s emotional involvement with a woman, his taking to smoking and drinking, and then gives his own testimony of being delivered from the same addictions through the healing ministry of Fr. A. V. de Sousa. He ends, I was delivered in Jesus’ Name of these habits. I didn’t have to go to yoga or techniques. Now when Father had this problem, he went to his guruji, B.K.S. Iyengar- he’s a yogacharya. Now this person is a Hindu. Father is a priest. I am a lay person. If I could be delivered in Jesus’ Name, how couldn’t you, Father? You had to go to a Hindu yogi to be delivered of this problem.

When you have a heart attack, you’re going to ask for a Catholic doctor?asks Fr. Joe. Hello! I’m asking you a question. You’ve got a heart attack and you’re in a hospital where there are only Hindu doctors. You’re going to refuse? You’ll take a Hindu doctor. Thank you. [Loud applause] Someone asks, “What’s the parallel?”

The parallel is what I went to BKS Iyengar for is misquoted by him. He has read the first part of my article where I have… expressed what my emotional struggles were, and then he’s quoting somewhere else… That guruji led me out of my addiction, that is not in the article. But see, this is what I say…

Interrupted by participant: What is in the article- ‘MY GURUJI HELPED ME TO LET GO OF BOTH THE HABITS THROUGH MEDITATION AND YOGA‘.

Fr. JP: “Please. A methodology used is not the ultimate and even if I have used the methodology, I am using it the way the Church is teaching me to use it. [If any reader is aware of this teaching, I would be very glad to know what it is]… In fact, this method helps one to purify oneself of all kinds of nonsense, of hypocrisy, and face the truth, and it’s a absolutely tested methodology through any medical science, so you cannot sort of condemn, and you know, I said at the beginning [?] that I felt here like a woman led in adultery because these are the people who are coming here to throw stones, and this is the stone, bringing a magazine, revealing my life, my personal life, making a comparison of how I have dealt with my religious issues, okay? and comparing me with a lay person who doesn’t go, you know, it’s not that, I, he is my, he is like my doctor, he is like a psychiatrist. I don’t stop going to doctors and psychiatrists. What is the parallel? It’s absolutely the parallel. Just because I go to any doctor and psychiatrist it doesn’t mean that I, I don’t acknowledge God and Jesus my Saviour. You get it?

Response:
“No. When it comes to a spiritual problem, there has to be a spiritual solution, not yoga.”

Fr. JP: “Listen.”

Response: “You said you had a SPIRITUAL problem.”

Fr. JP: “Okay, and now you are restricting the problem to spirituality and you are connecting it only with yoga. I’m not talking yoga as being only spirituality.”

Response: “You said that was the method you used.” A lady interrupts on behalf of Fr. Joe condemning the discussion as having become not issue-based but personal. [Hearty applause]

Fr. JP: Thank you, Joan. I just want everyone to know this and let’s talk to one another in love, in love.

“Father, [another participant] What I am reading from is …Some Aspects…” The discussion goes on, with Fr. Joe insisting that his practices concur with the Document’s guidelines, that, in an authentic experience, they should help enrich one’s sacramental life etc. and that this is the only system which comes close to our theology of grace…

Yet another gushing lady supporter of Fr. Joe sidetracks the discussion with her story of a demented girl being forcibly removed from church and the penal code sections attracted. “What’s Catholic about the Catholic Church…” she asks.

It begins to seem that Fr. Joe’s wish for psychiatric clearance is desirable for more than the Charismatic Renewal.

Fr. JP: “Shall we conclude?” Not yet, because another member of the audience has something to clarify.

“You came well equipped with all the slides and things, but Father… actually I was quite curious, why were you pointing at all the aberrations of the Charismatic Renewal without saying good things also about what the Charismatic Renewal has done for the Church, and the Bishops and the Popes themselves have also encouraged… You have quoted many of the Documents, very well done, but the same Documents… we’ve been reading a lot about these things… there’s just one thing which I think has not been mentioned, the same Letter to the Bishops, in chapter 5 it says,

‘The seeking of God through prayer has to be preceded and accompanied by an ascetical struggle and a purification from one’s own sins and errors.’ As you read further, it calls for deep repentance, that this change, this union with God can only come through repentance and changing of our own lives. It’s not just a technique and exercises of yoga, whatever it be…

Fr. JP: “But I quoted that very passage. I quoted that very passage… It’s not the technique, yeah.”

The questioner: Ha. But it calls for REPENTANCE. It calls for a change of heart. That has not been mentioned anywhere. That is basic Christian spirituality.

Fr. JP: I quoted the text. It says, ‘God’s grace’. [A lady supporter in the audience keeps interjecting]. “I am a charismatic myself. I told you I received the Baptism of the Spirit in 1978. I have the greatest- I run charismatic groups, I don’t mind, you know, sharing with- but let us not misguide them and particularly those-

The questioner: Why do you presume we are misguiding them, Father? Why are you presuming that? Why did you point out at Charismatic Renewal? Please explain that to me.

Fr. JP: [NOW comes the truth!] This whole issue has been raised up in the context of certain fundamentalism that has risen from the prayer groups. See, we are not attacking prayer groups but prayer groups are attacking us and telling us how to behave which is not correct. And that is why Dom Benedict [Heron] said very clearly- don’t be judgemental about other people and their spirituality. Why are you casting aspersions on us? Why are you trying to say that this form of spirituality in India does not go? Who are you to say that when the Church is not saying it?

The questioner: Father, Church is cautioning us. You accept that. The Church is cautioning us on Eastern methods of meditation. And the Church has in its various Documents specified Transcendental Meditation and Yoga as such methods. Now we are not against meditation, Father. Don’t say that. I’m sure, if you are talking about Charismatic Renewal, we are all longing to go into meditation. It’s not the meditation principle by itself, but it’s what may transpire in and through the meditation… These are things that concern us… We’ve had a very well-loved man, Fr. Tony D’Mello. He became so popular… after years of scrutiny the Church has hauled him up on his issues, on his philosophy, which is similar. We’ve had [Fr.] Amalorpavadass and this whole thing of using OM**, and the Church has not really given permission for that. And there’s a lot of quiet in this whole area. As a result of that, even Fr. Bede Griffiths– I’ll just explain this point of ours, why we’re concerned. It’s not that we’re putting aside meditation. Surely, if you ask anyone here, we all want to… become holy as Christ is. But we’re concerned about the input, we’re concerned about the dynamics often enough, and the content of each thing, and so we’ve also been doing a lot of reading out of our concern. For example there are some priests who are going to this extent and it’s a big school in the Church, very widely known- there are priests who believe there is no such thing as the person of the devil. It’s all part of this kind of thing… Overall there are so many things happening in the Church and I think we are rightfully concerned about it. So we signed that petition to the priest, and I guess you’re here because of that… In this School itself, the question of Vipassana. Children had to begin the Vipassana by invoking Brahma, Vishnu, and if I’m not mistaken, Krishna. The teachers told us about it. We had a big row because I don’t want my children doing that, and then I understand, correct me if I am wrong, Father, but I am told that finally the Archbishop had to tell you all to stop this whole programme. I may be wrong.**There are bhajans using OM in the Renewal’s official Praise The Lord hymn book. A few years ago I received a letter from one of its seniormost leaders, [and an erstwhile supporter of mine till I learned that he had recommended yoga], strongly criticizing my condemnation of OM.

Fr. JP: Wrong… I just want to make some things very clear. Please. Your data is not correct… See, Vipassana is a Buddhist system. There is no Ramkrishna there… Goenka does not talk about Ramkrishna… Goenka is a Buddhist.

The questioner: Father, you have to excuse me here. They have heard them make the children invoke Brahma and Vishnu. If you want we can call the teachers. I take objection to this, Father, by [your] negating my data. I think I have also done my homework, Father, and this is where you are treating lay people- who are also willing to read and study the Church documents- as though we know nothing. I think you have to be very careful here.

Fr. JP: When I say that Vipassana does not include Hindu deities, I am talking about the teachings of Goenka.

If [the questioner] says that Vipassana was taught here with Hindu deities, then one has to investigate that because that itself is not authentic Vipassana… But let’s not get emotional about this for the simple reason that this concern comes from the highest authority and it percolates down to every individual person, and we are sufficiently responsible people to discern what is appropriate for me and what is not appropriate for me. We have got such huge social issues confronting this country… but here we are spending time trying to argue about concepts. Concepts that are not even affecting the major population of our religions… I don’t want to be in judgement of anybody. My teaching is very clear, that we have been cautioned but we have a tradition. And if anyone is sitting in judgement against it, those people come from a different tradition [Charismatics, Protestants!] which I explained to you.

And therefore, if anything comes from a Protestant background, they are going to clash and let’s be aware of it, and this clash will never end unless there is love, unless I say that I accept you the way you are. Thank you. [Applause]

This thing about our being responsible Catholics and able to discern for ourselves what is appropriate or not. There was this huge convention at Vailankanni in February 2002 to celebrate the 1Oth World Day of the Sick. On the same premises, Catholic nuns had stalls that were peddling reiki, pranic healing, universal energy, even advertising the safe use of condoms to prevent AIDS! And the Catholic Health Association of India
[CHAI] was selling over three dozen occult titles including books written by Freemasons and theosophists [see my separate reports]. There were several thousand Church dignitaries present, including Cardinals and Papal representatives. No one seemed to notice, or mind. During one of the sessions, I took the microphone and pointed this out to the assembled gathering. The moderator on the dais was Fr. Lisbert D’Souza SJ, Provincial of the Jesuits in India. His response to me, after a shaky delay, was exactly the same as what Fr. Joe said. This is amazing. We do not get the right directives on all these occult and New Age practices which are proliferating in our dioceses- in parish churches and schools, and we are expected to exercise the correct discernment. On what basis, when priests and nuns themselves run these organizations and conduct these programmes and blatantly propagate them as a new spirituality? To get back,

Question: When you talk about tradition, we have a Church tradition and a cultural tradition, so which do you advise us to take?

Fr. JP: As a Catholic, unlike a Protestant who has only one means of revelation which is Scripture, our Catholic Catechism will tell us that we have tradition and Scripture as a source of revelation, and all these teachings which I gave today has revealed to you the tradition of the Church… We’re not suddenly trying to give a new teaching. We’re saying whatever has been taught today, practised today, has got a history of the Church.

Question: What is the tradition of the country that we are talking about?

Fr. JP: I didn’t refer to any tradition of the country. I’m talking about the culture of the place. And ‘Church in the Modern World‘ spoke about culture, not tradition.

Question: “We have a religious culture and we have a national culture.”

Fr. JP: That was our first point when we said that Christianity cannot be restricted to any one culture. That is the teaching of the Church. Christianity has to be open to all cultures, and through these cultures you can probe deeper and deeper, how Christ can be made- how Christ can be evangelized.[Now what was THAT?]

NOTES

We have noted that Fr. Joe often justifies his yoga-meditation-‘ministry of healing’ by saying that it conforms to Church tradition/teaching/history, and that he has the backing or approval of the local and universal Church.

While he rightly advises his opponents several times that everything should be done ‘in love’, his quite frequent and mostly unnecessary raising the Protestant bogey right from the start to the finish speak differently.

While claiming to be a charismatic and even run prayer groups [people do not ‘run’ prayer groups], Father loses no opportunity to take swipes at and speak hostilely against charismatics [neo-Pentecostals?] and their spirituality.

There are many factual errors in his statements.

Whether knowingly or not, there is sufficient New Age in this one talk to raise serious concern.

In the Health and Nutrition interview, some of Father’s comments about celibacy, the priesthood, the Church and authority are not edifying and do not become his vocation as a Catholic priest, a pastor. One might get the impression that during his seminary formation he was blissfully unaware of his choices and had no freedom to exercise his free will. On the same issue, he gives a public interview, but strangely objects to Catholics referring to it.

As one of the audience asked Father, where is the role of repentance in the use of these Eastern disciplines that seek to enhance communion/union with God? And pray where, oh where are the Lectio Divina, a prayerful reading and meditation on sacred Scripture- the BIBLE, not the Bhagavad Gita, the Blessed Sacrament and the Eucharist?

Isn’t it funny that someone can do and say just about anything, and get away with it just because he is a priest?

By anything I mean, contrary to what Church teaches or is accepted Christian doctrine or praxis? Priests who speak against New Age practices, and defend orthodoxy face censure and I have evidence of that. And well-equipped lay persons who are the ones most prepared to speak out are even more unwelcome, even from their ‘own’ charismatic peers. Prayer groups who want to hear the truth are powerless to invite some speakers because the leaders need to have the blessings of the ecclesial authorities, from the parish priest upwards. Quite a few charismatic ministries, including those led by priests who know better, prefer the easy way out and simply compromise. As one said to me, “Better to have some ministry and save some souls, than no ministry.”

As for those who are subverting the Church from within, they have access to all the Catholics they need; and Catholic news media, as I have repeatedly shown, give them the extra mileage. You don’t agree? Try sending reports of this kind to them and find out for yourself.

I have always maintained that if I wrote a book PROMOTING yoga or any New Age discipline, I could expect to have no problem with Catholic publishers [from the books that you see in their bookshops- St. Pauls, the Camillians, the Carmelites, Asian Trading, and others]. But a book AGAINST these disciplines? Well, not too far in the future I may be able to give you the answer to that one. Meanwhile, a few more excerpts from the Catholic press:

The Examiner January 27, 2001- A write-up by Fr. Joe on the WCCM, meditation, mantras, left/right brain etc.

2002, April 6 and August 17- News reports on one of Kripa’s programmes. Again, meditation, mantras, left/right brain etc. The July 13 issue had a THREE-PAGE article by Luis SR Vas on the WCCM, the contents not very different from what Fr. Joe teaches. Author of A Handbook of Holistic Healing, Discover the Power of Your Hidden Self etc., publisher St Paul’s, some of the MOST OCCULT and NEW AGE books by a Catholic author. The former book is reviewed by a priest in the April 20 issue. [I have reviewed Vas’ other book in an earlier article].

He has also written The Mind of J. Krishnamurti [a Theosophist], which book I have found in a St. Pauls bookstore.

The December 30, 2000 issue carried an apology for an ad. for a book Catholics, You are Destined For Heaven in its Dec. 9th issue, saying it was ‘inadvertently placed’ and ‘does not have the sanction or approval of the ecclesiastical authorities’. It logically follows that Vas’ occult books and the Kripa programmes do have the nod from the authorities.

Against some of the earlier *
signs, see pages 88, 91:

The Thornbirds [see page 88] The almost 700-page fiction book is one of several written by Colleen McCullough in 1977. It is about the love-affair between Fr. [later Cardinal] Ralph de Bricassart and Meggie Cleary. While the story may have real-life parallels, it would not be very helpful for a shaky young seminarian or priest to read.

B.K.S. Iyengar I could write a book on why Christians should have nothing to do with him. But, to be brief:

Light On Yoga, 1966, page nos. 130, 273, 348, 439-440

The Illustrated Light On Yoga, 1966, page no. 66

The Tree Of Yoga, 1988, page nos. 117, 123, 125-126, 131

These pages deal with KUNDALINI which is TANTRA YOGA. It is an acknowledgement of “sexuality through yoga”. Fr. Joe admits that Tantra Yoga is occultism [see pages 88,
91] The books deal with tantra, chakras, nadis and psychic energies. The truth is that no one, including Fr. Joe, can separate one aspect of yoga from another. The back cover of The Tree… says “Iyengar insists that yoga is a spiritual path involving a great deal more than physical exercise.” [Iyengar’s, see
pages 44, 87, books are sold at St. Pauls bookshop in Bangalore]

Dr. Bernie Siegel M.D. [see page 91] He is the author of several best-sellers, each of which cost between Rs 500 and 600. Siegel is New Age, never mind that you can pick up his books from some St. Pauls bookshops. His New Age meditations use occult visualization and affirmation techniques, guided imagery etc. He also produces audiotapes and CDs for these meditations. He frequently refers to C.G. Jung and other modern New Age authors.

Check out his Peace, Love and Healing, 1989. Siegel says that he has an angel named “Oh s***” and that his little son Jeffrey’s “greatest description of life” was well expressed by the epithet “Holy s***“. [Incidentally, I believe that it was Siegel who founded the Mind-Body Wellness Centre, not the team mentioned by Fr. Joe, see page 89]

 

This is an excerpt from an email received by me about two years ago:

[Name withheld] was the chap who took a gang of cronies around Bandra painting anti-Emmanuel Prayer Group calumny on the walls of churches and schools in Bandra. These calumnies were based on the allegations of Fr Joe Pereira (of Yoga and Kripa fame) at the Bandra Deanery meeting of December 1988.

The EPG, now defunct after the passing of its senior leaders, pioneered not only resistance and crusade against New Age in Mumbai, but was also involved in pioneering CATHOLIC action like Pro-Life etc., explaining Church Documents, and promoting orthodoxy. Some of their articles have been carried in CHARISINDIA. Truly Catholic, the group was viciously attacked and publicly slandered and accused of being Pentecostal-Protestant. These charges were examined by the Church and the EPG was given a clean chit. In fact one of the late leaders was felicitated with an Award by the Archdiocese shortly before his death.

Even over two years ago, this writer has been warned by other Catholics, as mentioned earlier, of the consequences of making a report such as this. The letters are not being reproduced here as I do not see any reason for it at this time. After the Vailankanni episode [see page 95] and my very detailed [inclusive of photographs] reports to the Bishops [not one of which was acknowledged], I received a letter from the Catholic priest who heads CHAI threatening me with legal action for libel and defamation. That did not deter me from making follow-up reports.

I thank all those Catholics who love the Church and have supported me morally, financially, logistically, by providing information, and with prayer, to make this report possible. More of all of it is always welcome. God bless you

The next
National Satsangh of the Ashram Aikiya is to be hosted by Fr. Sebastian Painadath at Sameeksha Ashram, Kalady, Kerala from 28th to 31st October 2005.

Russill and Asha Paul [see pages 17-18, 59-60] are now registering for their next visit to Shantivanam,
which will be from 7th to 24th
January 2006
.

THE DETAILED 2009 REPORT ON KRIPA FOUNDATION IS AT:
http://ephesians-511.net/documents/KRIPA_WCCM.doc

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Categories: Hinduisation of the Catholic Church in India

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EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai – 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail: michaelprabhu@vsnl.net, http://www.ephesians-511.net

EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church

Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai - 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail: michaelprabhu@vsnl.net, http://www.ephesians-511.net

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