FEBRUARY 26, 2016
New Age journal Life Positive identifies New Age priests and feminist nuns
The leading New Age journal in India is Life Positive.
This is recognized by New Agers worldwide. For instance:
New Age Spirituality a.k.a. Self-spirituality, New spirituality, Mind-body-spirit
[By Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance – a “multi-faith” group that includes Wiccans]
Links to New Age web sites:
Life Positive offers “a complete encyclopedia on holistic living and new age alternative sciences.” See: http://www.lifepositive.com/
Interesting information turns up on the web pages of Life Positive:
“It does take time to develop a sense of equanimity. It can be achieved to some extent after long discipline and self-catechesis,” Rev. Dr Dominic Emmanuel SVD, director and spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, declares. Finding most comfort from Jesus’ teachings, he adds, “The principle of yin and yang or even the middle path taught by Gautama the Buddha, have also been of help to me in maintaining equanimity.”
1. Suma Varughese, Editor in Chief, Life Positive
takes an inordinate interest in the inculturation programme of the Catholic Church in India. Here is a brief extract from her very lengthy article of December 1999:
Indian Christianity: In Search of the Christ Within
Christianity in India is progressively partaking of
Indian beliefs and customs, even meditation systems.
The trend has been given a name:
Fr. Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest, was among the front-runners of inculturation. Through one of his first published works Sadhana (Contemplation), he helped several Christians realize that Indian forms of contemplation were not only compatible with Christianity, but also complementary. Integration is clearly one of the key benefits of inculturation, for it gives Christians a sanction to discover their Indian roots.
FR ANTHONY DE MELLO-WRITINGS BANNED BY THE CHURCH
“We must substitute the Old Testament of the Bible with Indian history, scriptures and arts. For us, the Holy Land should be India; the sacred river the Ganges; the sacred mountain the Himalayas, the heroes of the past not Moses, or David, but Sri Ram or Krishna.”
3, 4, 5. There’s Fr. Prashant Olalekar and feminist Sr. Margaret Gonsalves (see also pages 9, 10 ff.) who are into New Age:
Write Therapy – Unheard voices, untold stories
By Nandini Murali, August 2009 EXTRACT
A writer’s workshop that knitted together yoga, meditation, and Interplay had a transformative impact on the participants.
“I invite you all to tell your tale that you’ve been longing to tell… a longing deeper than words… to discover your personal story is part of Her story… an integral part of the Cosmic story… We’re part of the new story…” intoned Sr. Margaret Gonsalves, feminist theologian, and founder of ANNNI (Alliance of Nari Nar Nisarg Ishwar) Woman Man-Nature God, a spiritual movement to foster the feminine, and transform systems that have traditionally suppressed it.
Invocation of the Divine before the start of a day
The unusual welcome was followed by an invocation to Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom*. A fitting beginning to the Women Writers’ workshop organised by ANNNI from May 4 7, 2009, at Pasayadaan Holistic Spirituality Centre, Vasai, 70 km from Mumbai. I was among the workshop participants. Interestingly, the workshop was inclusive in its approach to gender and was also open to men who were in touch with the feminine in themselves. Fr Prashant Olalekar, Ph D; Director, Pasayadan Holistic Spirituality Centre, and Sharukh Vazifdar**, mechanical engineer by training and presently a correspondent at Life
Positive participated. The thematic workshop on “Telling and writing our stories” was facilitated by Katherine Keefer, US based artist, sculptor, and writer. The workshop, with a focus on autobiographical writing, provided a safe space for women writers to recall, process, and record their personal life
experiences as a tool for personal and spiritual growth.[…]
We began each day with morning yoga, and movement
led by Maggie Gonsalves and Prashant Olalekar. The yoga, which included ‘yoga facial’, was a great way to start the day. The stimulation of the pressure points on the face and neck rejuvenated us
and set the ideas flowing (as we were to discover later!) The Movement
that consisted of the sublime ‘Touching the Earth’ meditation
and the Labyrinth Walk, a sacred inward journey, enabled me to get inside myself, and access my inner recesses. As I walked step by step across the labyrinth, purposefully and mindfully, the concerns I chose to focus on seemed to evaporate and dissipate during the return journey.
The writing sessions were interspersed with Interplay, a body based improvisational arts practice that weaves together movement, song, and storytelling. These activities infused the process of writing with a spiritual essence. Indeed it was no mere coincidence that all the writers were also deeply engaged as seekers in a spiritual quest. It also enabled me to experience the reality that writing is not just a mental process but rooted in bodily experience and wisdom; an integration of the human trinity of body, mind, and spirit.
Participants also explored “seed” ideas to generate potential themes for stories. These encapsulated core issues. Some of the “seeds” that germinated during the workshop centred on themes as varied as forgiveness, spirituality, nature, food, death, fear, patriarchy, feminism, illness, infertility, and voices. We then chose one ‘seed’ to sow, water, and nurture with our creativity
The photograph of Fr. Prashant Olalekar and his InterPlay group in “meditation” on the previous page looks like, if anything, a New Age or Wiccan séance.
Interplay is New Age:
FR PRASHANT OLALEKAR-INTERPLAY AND LIFE POSITIVE
The meditation referred to in the first line of the article is later in the article clarified to be “movement
meditation“. A Times of India story Let your inner child have a free run November 24, 2008, Joeanna Rebello, http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=67211023382&topic=9195
explains it for us:
In India, Fr. Prashant plugged the compatible programme of his self-devised ‘Movement Meditation’ (alchemy of mindfulness and yoga) into the mainframe of InterPlay.
“Pressure points” are New Age paradigms originating in Taoism and traditional Chinese medicine.
The Labyrinth is New Age:
THE LABYRINTH IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOMBAY
*Sophia is derived from the Greek translation of the word “wisdom” in Scripture – which is Hagia Sophia. Its New Age spiritual connotation is feminist.
“[In New Age] shifts are found in everything from the Human Potential Movement and the worship of goddesses such as Gaia and Sophia… from traditional forms of religion to more personal expressions of what is now being called “spirituality” — to move from a male-dominated culture to one that celebrates the feminine, and to rely less on reason and more on feelings and emotions.“
Catholic writer Susan Brinkmann, http://www.coloradocatholicherald.com/display.php?xrc=525
Sr. Margaret Gonsalves figures in the New Age magazine Life Positive quite a bit.
A fusion of Feminism and New Age here:
EXTRACT After centuries of enduring and surviving a patriarchal society, women are increasingly demanding their own spiritual spaces. To answer this need comes ANNNI. ANNNI (Alliance of Nari Nar Nisarg Ishwar) ASHRAM is a movement to provide a feminine spiritual spa/respite to awaken the feminine… The ashram also provides… yoga facials, spirituality sessions …dance and meditative music.
(ii a) How Dare She Dream
Suma Varughese Editor in Chief, Life Positive
I first ran into Sr Margaret a few months ago when Fr Prashant Olalekar, whose Interplay we wrote about in the April 2007 issue, organised a two-hour Interplay session to which I was invited. The participants were mostly what I would have called nuns, but who call themselves women religious now. And that’s not all that’s changing in their world. I was awestruck and humbled to observe their sincere engagement with spirituality and quest for growth, despite the limitations of belonging to an institution which told them what to believe, and in which they were subordinate to men.
I have never quite heard the term ‘patriarchy’
uttered so often, or with such vehemence, as during those two hours. As they poured themselves into the dance movement, sharing after each episode with touching vulnerability, I was moved by their womanliness, which was by no means masked by their role as nuns. These were real women, striving to be themselves, and through that process, striving to transform the church. Sr Margaret is a leading light in this magnificent mission.
She completed her Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) from the US (2005), and is the programme coordinator for Streevani (Voice of Women), Pune. A former president of CRI (Conference of Religious, India), Vasai unit, she has conducted several workshops to empower women religious in the dioceses of Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
(ii b) How Dare She Dream
by Gregory Gonsalves
If you thought Catholicism and feminism could never be reconciled, Sr. Margaret Gonsalves will prove you wrong. Here she speaks about a personal experience of this reconciliation
As a woman religious, how did you get interested in feminism?
When working in the CRI, I became highly conscious of the fact that women religious are treated as second-class citizens in a male-dominated church. In a patriarchal and hierarchical setup, religious sisters are doomed to play secondary roles, despite their competence and desire to be equals…
Reading inspiring books like those of Joan Chittister, OSB, a Benedictine nun who has fearlessly challenged the religious and political powers, has opened my eyes to the prophetic dimension of religious life, which consists in promoting an alternative society based on justice, equality and peace. Joan Chittister rightly observes, “We are trained to be makers and doers, not dreamers and seers.” I began to dream of doing advanced feminist theological studies that would equip me with intellectual and spiritual resources required to empower women religious to challenge the unjust patriarchal system. Taking a big risk, I finally felt impelled by the Spirit to fly away to California to complete my Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.), and fulfill my dream…
How does feminism* apply to men?
Defining the sexes by stereotyped traits, and limiting them on physical grounds to separate roles, should be replaced by the notion of universal personhood. Feminism*
is concerned with the liberation of all people from the clutches of patriarchy, so that they can become full participants in human society.
What are some of the major aspects of feminism?
Feminism empowers the powerless by offering a spirituality of nonviolent resistance to the powers-that-be. Viewing life from the underside, it critiques systems built on power for the few, and powerlessness for the majority. This worldview promotes compassionate thinking and living. It is holistic, and fosters intimate connection with Mother Earth. It views flesh as a blessing. It celebrates the dance of life, and has a non-hierarchical, egalitarian, circular orientation. It envisages the distribution of resources, the care of the planet, and dignity of life for everyone. It focuses on coming home to the here and now. It promotes personal and global peace**.
Highlighting the feminine dimension of God, it unleashes the divine Shakti.
How did feminist studies lead you to the process of transformation?
Getting in touch with the dream of the pioneering feminists empowered me to go ahead with the fulfilment of my dream. A feminist consciousness helped to bring about a deep awareness that I do not have to condemn human beings, but enlist their support to change the system, which is damaging to both women and men. This awareness has made me grow in compassion towards men and women with a patriarchal mindset, knowing that often they have unconsciously internalised it. Yoga, pranayama and meditation were a great help to attain inner peace in the midst of conflict. My horizons have been widened to network with those groups who are working nonviolently for systemic change.
Gregory Gonsalves is a Catholic priest.
The link to Feminism in the above Life Positive article by Gregory Gonsalves provides other links, all either New Age or occult or hardcore feminist.
Consciousness – The Emerging Divine Feminine by Kavita Byrd
Tantra – Honouring the Feminine by Amodini
Feminism – Walking on the path with women by Deepti Priya Mehrotra
Recommended Feminist Websites:
Check out their link on Peace to get their New Age understanding of peace:
Let me give you just one example to show how feminist “peace” and New Age go hand in hand:
Peace – Wise Women on the Rise by
Suma Varughese Editor in Chief, Life Positive
Making way for the divine feminine was a path-breaking summit held recently in India under the auspices of the global peace initiative of women, which highlighted the pivotal role of women in creating a peaceful, harmonious and sustainable world.
6. Positive Chronicles – A Man with a Mission
By Suma Varughese
Meet Swami Satchidananda, who is committed to wresting economic, social and spiritual freedom for this country and thereby achieve Mahatma Gandhi’s purna swaraj.
Like many spiritual personages, Swami Satchidananda is on the cusp of many polarities. He is a former Air Force pilot turned preacher of peace. A saffron-garbed sanyasi who is a follower of Christ. A spiritual teacher who is also an activist, with a mission to regenerate the country by helping it to win the spiritual, economic and social freedoms that constitute Mahatma Gandhi’s purna swaraj.
The swami’s spiritual transition was wrought dramatically through a plane crash in 1982. Recognizing that life
was not in his hands, the former Marxist set upon the task of understanding the mystery of life. Successively through dreams, he was led to four gurus, Justice Vithyathil, a retired judge of the Kerala High Court, Bede Griffiths, the well-known Dominican* monk, Swami Ranganathananda, then head of the Ramakrishna Mission, and finally, Mahatma Gandhi. Each honed his commitment to his ‘two loves’ Jesus Christ and Mother India. The swami is presently on the threshold of a one-year padayatra from New Delhi to Kanyakumari, a project that he calls Desh Vandana, with the mission of restoring values, particularly among schools and colleges. *error. It should read as ‘Camaldoli Benedictine’ – Michael
At 60, the Swami exudes a calm radiance and his passion for India rings through his voice. Excerpts from an interview:
Tell me about your Desh Vandana project.
It is an effort whereby we are trying to reach out to young people with a message – regeneration of the nation. They have to take responsibility for it. Somehow in India, the subject mentality is more prevalent than the citizen mentality. The papers are so full of sensationalism. There is a lot of negativity in society. One should cultivate a positive mindset. Life Positive is doing a great job towards that end.
Desh Vandana is a step into public life
for me. At the end of the one-year padayatra, I intend to start a community
of men and women who can take this forward. We shall set up a center wherever we are gifted with land. Even if I find half-a-dozen men committed to national regeneration, it will be enough. A concrete project that will emerge out of this padayatra is to ensure that every child in India gets a meal a day.
That’s a huge project.
The idea is to plant a seed for it. It’s a dream that I have been nursing for many years. It began when I was giving a discourse to a village school in Ranchi. One little girl in a ragged uniform, stood up and asked me what I would do if I were prime minister of India. When she persisted in her question, I said that my first act as prime minister would be to see that the children of this land did not go hungry. That child came and hugged me. Later, I learnt that she was an orphan brought up by the nuns and that she felt intensely about some things.
What is the objective of Desh Vandana?
The primary objective is to inculcate the values of love
and compassion, and an attitude of caring and sharing
among the people of India. That is why the feeding of children will be financed entirely by all those who are willing to skip a meal a week and contribute that money
to this project. There will be no reliance on governmental or foreign funds. It will be rooted in the sacrifice of people. That is where it will get its power. I am very confident that it will work, seeing the response of the children I have spoken to so far. Desh Vandana will be a monument to Mother India on her 60th birthday.
What was the turning point that moved you to spirituality?
I survived a plane crash, which should have almost definitely resulted in my death. The crash happened on July 8, 1982. About 18 of us were on that plane. I was a crew member. When it caught fire, I knew there was no way out. We took the crash position. I saw my whole life
unspooling before my eyes, then I saw the vision of a rising sun and I got absorbed into it. However, the plane plunged into the Dharmapuri lake in Salem district, Tamil Nadu, and all of us survived.
This incident made me realize that life
is not in our hands. Earlier, I was confident that I was master of my destiny. Now I recognized that there was a force operating from behind. I felt convinced that my life
had been spared for a reason and thenceforth I decided to live for peace
and not for war, as I had been doing earlier. Eventually, I left the Defense Forces.
Being a Marxist, I did not want to accept the existence of God
immediately, so I decided to read and find a solution to this that would suit my rational mind. However, I soon understood that this was beyond the rational mind. I returned to religion, which meant Christianity
for I had been born a Syrian Catholic in Kerala. While I was trying to understand more about Christianity, I was revealed my first guru, Justice Vithyathil, in a dream, where I was shown as a little boy sitting on his lap.
I went to him the next day and his very personality gave me the assurance that he could guide me. I often use concepts like ‘butterfly spirituality’ which I would credit to him. This term refers to the butterfly’s transition from the pupal stage. There is a lot of struggle it has to go through when emerging from the pupa, but if you help the struggling insect it will die. I find that this law holds good for us. One has to wait and allow nature’s processes to unfold.
Around then, I had a vision of Jesus Christ and realized that the spirit of Christ went beyond the Jesus of history. Jesus is not the only Christ. Gandhi was also Christ. Anyone who embodies light can be Christ. Jesus can be the standard.
You also had an association with Bede Griffiths, did you not?
He was my second guru. Incidentally, I encountered all my gurus through the identical dream of seeing myself sitting on their laps. Bede Griffiths was a well-known Dominican monk* from Oxford who came to India in search of spirituality. He has written many books, including A New Vision of Reality, and he used to be passionate about bringing the West and East together: the meeting of the rational mind with the intuitive mind, he used to call it. He helped me to see beyond church organizations and relate to a Christ who was beyond religion. Through him, I learnt to accept church organizations with all their limitations and my hostility towards them melted. Bede Griffiths was a very scientific personality. He was close to Rupert Sheldrake, who popularized the concept of morphogenetic fields, Fritjof Capra, and David Bohm. That ability to integrate
science and spirituality
my rational mind.
*It should read as ‘Camaldoli Benedictine’ – Michael
Swami Ranganathananda, the former head of the Ramakrishna Mission, was my third guru. I remember feeling blissful while sitting in his lap during my dream. His book, Unbound Christ, influenced me powerfully. He gave me sanyas and that is how I got my name, Swami Satchidananda. When I left the Defense Forces, I was called Squadron Leader NV John.
Your last guru
was Gandhi, right?
Yes. The dream that initiated him into my life
was a powerful one. I dreamt that I had got a post card from Gandhiji telling me that he would come and see me on January 30, at 5.05 p.m. I learnt later that this was the exact time of his death. I was excited and told my wife Lalita about the honor bestowed upon us. Exactly at that time, the doorbell rang and there stood Gandhiji. He invited me to take a walk with him and he asked me, “Have your read the works of J.C. Kumarappa? He has the answers to what you are seeking.” I had then been on a search for a socio-economic philosophy for the modern world. On waking up, I started my search for J.C. Kumarappa, who was Gandhiji’s economic adviser, and finally found a Gandhian in Hyderabad who had his books. Two books particularly inspired me, Practice and Precepts of Jesus and Economy of Permanence.
That took me deeper into a study of Gandhi and I found that he answered a lot of my questions. I feel spirituality has to be practical and involved with our life
and struggles. Gandhi found the deepest core in humanity and mobilized a mass awakening of a scale that has never before or since been attempted. My search has been to look for that core and revive it again. I went through the various religions, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism, with that in mind. I found that what is common to all of them is the grace of God
What is your mission?
In a letter Gandhiji wrote shortly before his death, he mentioned that India has won political freedom but she is yet to win economic, social and spiritual freedoms. Only then would we have the purna swaraj of his dreams. He said these were difficult to achieve and would take time.What did he mean by economic, political and spiritual freedom?
Economic freedom would mean the transcendence of poverty and hunger. Not a single child should go without a meal. Social freedom would mean the removal of the caste system, untouchability and discrimination against women. There is still so much of untouchability left. In Tamil Nadu, I have seen upper caste Christians walk away when a dalit priest administered the Holy Communion. And women may be talked about highly but nowhere else in the world is there so much of dowry deaths and harassment of women. Spiritual freedom would mean overcoming our imperfections. We are one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And the most hypocritical. We make promises we don’t keep; at least our politicians do. They also bend the law to suit themselves and so on. Moral freedom implies that justice must first be meted out and the law held supreme.
In your talk yesterday, you mentioned that we were moving towards an explosion point. Can you elaborate on that?
History goes through cycles. India is going through that. We are reaching its nadir. There is a cry that is emerging from the heart
of people: of anger, frustration, helplessness. We cannot ignore it. My concern is how to respond to this.
What is the reason for this?
The economic crisis we face today. More and more people are coming under the poverty line.
What about the trickle-down effect that economists and capitalists talk about?
I don’t think that is what is needed. It is here that Gandhiji, Kumarappa and Schumacher become relevant. What is needed is a dignified existence for all. In India, this is embodied by a little plot of land. It is most important that land reforms be carried out and land distributed equitably to all.
How can this be done?
By forceful political action. I do not mean violent but through the force of the law.
Gandhi was against the machinery of courts and other governmental institutions.
At this evolutionary stage of mankind, the government and law are needed. They will have to play a part. At the same time, this is not the only way. An awakening has to happen. This can only be through education, conscientisation, and mobilization of people.
So what is your movement all about?
I have founded the Dharma Bharathi Mission and Dharma Bharathi Ashram to promote an Indian Christian sanyasa parampara. I am the initiator and acharya guru
of the National Regeneration Movement (NRM), which is basically involved in peace
and value education. My goal is to expand this towards national regeneration.
I have already started a project for the regeneration of Kerala, through promotion of values among schools and colleges. In the last three years, I have worked with 30-35 colleges.
What has been the response?
Some of them have been influenced. They are able to pause and think. That is a great achievement. We offer various programs like the Teacher’s Enrichment Program, Students’ Orientation Program, Family Ethics
Program. I have many collaborators.
Do you mean followers?
I don’t think in that way. I am looking for people with a commitment to the nation. I am not too much into personality cult. I am attracted to the concept of servant leadership. In that respect, Jesus was my model. He said that the Son of Man had been born to serve and not to be served. I feel spiritual people have to look into what the spirit is guiding them towards.
You mentioned your wife earlier. Were you married?
Yes. I have two children as well, Deepti (24) and Deepak, who is studying business administration. My wife is a very senior bureaucrat. She works as Chief Income Tax Commissioner in Vizag.
She is neutral about my activities. She is a wonderful, courageous woman. She was in the news for her courage in the beginning of her career for raiding smugglers. That’s how we met and fell in love. She has had to take the brunt of my changing mindset. Like other men, I believed that my wife should follow my footsteps and I asked her to quit her job when I quit mine. There were a lot of conflicts and finally we went to Bede Griffiths. After hearing us out, my guru
became angry with me for the first time. He told me that my wife was not my property and that I had to allow her the same freedom that I sought for myself.
I struggled with the issue and discovered that I was not strong enough to go ahead without her. I was too dependent on her for emotional support and companionship. It was this dependence that made me demand that she follow me.
Finally, in 1996, she gave me permission to leave home and we prepared an agreement whereby she would look after the kids and I would transfer all my property in her name. In July ’96, I left home. For five years I lived alone in a village in Andhra Pradesh, testing my survival ability. I experienced solitude and loneliness. In 2001, I decided to enter into the sanyasa stage, as the last step of the chathur ashrama evolutionary pattern that says that man must move from brahmacharya (student), grihastha (householder), vanaprastha (surrendering worldly duties and responsibilities) and finally sanyasa (complete renunciation) ashramas.
Could you not have continued your activities as a householder?
It was very difficult because she was in government service, living in a government house and I would be receiving a great number of visitors. I think it was necessary to take sanyas. It’s a call and you respond. It is not to be generalized.
I was very much attached to my wife and children. There was so much pain
in letting them go. First, I had to leave the job, which meant economic security, then family, which meant emotional security, then church, which meant spiritual security. Leaving behind all these securities, today I exist only by the grace of God. I own no property. My ashram in Kerala is owned by a trust. Today, I feel totally free. Joyful and light.
Are you enlightened?
I am free, not enlightened. Freedom is a precondition to enlightenment. The concept of grace gives you freedom. When you are sitting in the lap of God, you feel so free. Not afraid of anything. Saranagati gives you a lot of freedom; of being loved and cared for.
Swami Satchitananda is the founder of the Dharma Bharathi Movement. See
DHARMA BHARATHI-NEW AGE IN CATHOLIC EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
FR VARGHESE ALENGADEN-UNIVERSAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT
The Swami’s account of the long-dead Mahatma Gandhi materializing at the Swami’s doorstep at an auspicious time pre-informed in a ‘dream’, and enlightening him on socio-economic issues during their evening stroll — and becoming the Swami’s guru — intrigues me very much.
The paragraph on ashram leader Bede Griffiths which is highlighted in red color is pure New Age-ese. Sheldrake and Bohm are leading new Agers.
The Catholic Ashram movement is heretical, seditious and New Age. See
CATHOLIC ASHRAMS AND THE CAMALDOLI BENEDICTINES
7. India’s most prolific “Catholic” author of New Age books,
Luis S. R. Vas‘ articles on the web pages of
New Age magazine Life Positive email@example.com; a search reveals 42 contributions of his, some of the most New Age being:
1. Mindfulness Meditation October 2009
2. At the cutting edge of Christian Spirituality July 2004
3. Meditation-The Yogic Priest October 2008
4. A dossier of alternative therapies available around the world April 2005
5. When Christianity Meet Buddhism
6. An educator of life
November 2008 (Eknath Eswaran)
7. The Mindful Way To Wholeness
8. Unthink Erase Vaporise
9. Portrait of a Jesuit sanyasi
July 2012 (Fr. Tony de Mello SJ)
10. Yoga Nidra: the Indian version of self-hypnosis
11. ESP Seriously Explored
For more about Luis SR Vas, including details on above articles 1 through 4, please see
NEW AGE AUTHOR LUIS S R VAS
Other “Catholics” who are found on the web pages of Life Positive:
8. The mystic priest
(Fr. Tony de Mello SJ)
By Marita Nazareth, August 2012
Marita Nazareth is a soft skills facilitator specialising in Emotional Intelligence. She will be holding a workshop on Emotional Intelligence with Life Positive Foundation in Mumbai on May 19 and 20. Be there!
9. To Christianity via Vipassana
By Father Peter D’Sousa*, March 2008
I consider myself fortunate to have come in contact with the technique of Vipassana meditation through a fellow priest. My first course in Vipassana was a memorable one. All that I looked for in my priestly studies was presented to me in a simple and scientific way. Through it, the teachings of Jesus have come more alive. There is joy in praying, living a religious life has become more meaningful, and above all, the treasures hidden in the Bible are being revealed with every reading in all their splendour. Life itself has become wonderful! I have found the treasure in my own house through the path of Vipassana.
The journey in Vipassana has been exciting, and at times, adventurous. Exciting, since life is seen with new eyesight or insight. Insights have a transforming effect for a steady pilgrim on the path. Adventurous, because most of my earlier beliefs have been shattered or changed.
Life has become more interconnected than before. There is a harmony in spite of the contradictions and paradoxes that life presents.
To be religious is to be inter-religious, is obvious.
Rites, rituals, dogmas become less important and almost disappear from one’s horizon of life but yet remain fascinating. Being takes precedence over ‘doing’ or being and doing become two sides of the same coin.
Father Peter is a Catholic priest, and is attached to the Father Agnel Ashram.
*This should read as Fr. Peter D’Souza SFX, a Pilar priest in Goa.
10. NLP with Soul
By Abhishek Thakore, February 2006
A Jesuit Priest (Fr. Richard [Dick] McHugh) teaches a unique adaptation of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) that emphasizes mind fulness and spiritual awareness.
During his early days in India, Dick studied at Sadhana Center in Pune. This was perhaps one of the turning points in his life. At the end of the year of the course, Tony De Mello (author of the wonderful book, One Minute Wisdom and many others), the head of the center, asked Dick to stay on. For the next two decades, Dick learnt and gave courses on psycho-spiritual subjects, group work, gestalt, bio-energetics, intensive journals, rational emotive therapy and NLP. ‘By then, Indians had taken over the center and began to run it quite well. So in 1993, I decided to return to the States.’ But the attempt to return to the US did not prove to be too successful. ‘India was home for me. So I returned for good,’ says Dick with his trademark smile. Today, he spends eight months in India, two in Ireland and two in the US in a typical year, delivering his courses in gestalt, communication and NLP. He also does group work and individual counseling.
Dick teaches NLP in a very in depth manner. The journey starts with a 10-day basic NLP course which is an introduction and grounding in the basics of NLP. This is followed by a 10-day advanced level. Beyond that there are five-day sessions on NLP – health, meta programs and communication.
Dick also does ‘Tools of the Spirit’ which is, essentially, using NLP for increasing awareness and specifically, working on the spiritual level.
‘NLP is the science of what happens naturally inside a person. Each one of us has a spiritual connection with people. Our daily experience also consists of how we relate to the world. Spirituality is a part of ourselves that we can’t avoid. Questions like my position in the world, how I relate to people, the purpose of life, how do I fit into the world, are there for us all,’ says Dick insightfully. As one of the first and perhaps a select few to have done a PhD entirely on NLP, Dick has been with the science ever since its inception. ‘In NLP too, the ultimate goal is awareness. It is the study of everything that goes on inside of us. Our relationship with others and God is also a part of our everyday experience. NLP works on all of this. And with quantum physics we already are beginning to discover that we are all one – there is nothing like dualism,’ he adds.
‘My daily method of prayer is Vipassana. For me it revolutionized my whole approach towards prayer and religion. It made me understand deeply what awareness means. When I first started praying, the Catholic style of speaking to Christ never appealed to me – there was always a struggle. When I realized and experienced Vipassana, it was the opening of a whole new world for me. It made me realize that you don’t have to do anything or change anything – just let awareness take over. It was something I had been looking for – a very basic and easy way. I teach this, and strongly recommend Vipassana to my participants as well,’ he says. His tryst with Vipassana was in 1973. But what does this have to do with neuro-linguistic programming – with all its sub-modalities and patterns?
‘Vipassana is a prayer of mindfulness. In a very NLP sense, it is taking prayer from an auditory level to an entirely kinesthetic level – the level of sensations.’ But then modeling is another essential part of NLP. So theoretically one should be able to ‘model’ someone who has attained enlightenment?
See NEURO-LINGUISTIC PROGRAMMING
11. Becoming aware
By Sharukh Vazifdar, August 2009
Former Jesuit priest, P J Francis (Francis Padinjarekara)
has a single point spiritual agenda: Cultivate awareness and allow it to guide you towards the divine.
A former Christian priest, Francis not only courageously left the order in 2006, but he has also married his soul mate since, an Irish woman called Liz Dillon, with whom he currently lives in Ireland. They got married in 2008 in Ireland in a moving Celtic ceremony. The couple also works together and has started Awareness Arc, an organisation that holds workshops for individuals and corporates, helping the transition from unawareness to wakeful living.
Francis was in town for the book launch of his book, A Dewdrop in the Ocean (see review in the June 2009 issue of Life Positive) and we met at a relative’s place in Andheri, in the western suburbs of Mumbai.
Francis joined the Order at the age of 17. He carried on as a Jesuit priest for 35 years, becoming a clinical psychologist and the director of the Sadhana Institute of Spirituality and Counselling in Lonavala for 14 years. He had a decade-long bout of depression, anguish and fear starting in the ’80s because of his changing beliefs. Eventually he found himself moving beyond religion. He says, “I could not compromise my freedom to do what I have to do and teach what I have to teach.” He realised that he did not belong to the Church anymore, because his experience of God did not match what he was taught by the Church. Francis says, “God is not the object of belief, but the subject of experience.”
One of the persons who has most impacted him is the enlightened Jesuit priest, Father Anthony de Mello…
Surely, this church man has transformed into a man of God.
12. Liberating the religious
Margaret Gonsalves*, April 2011 *See pages 1-4
Although religious sisters have been a powerful source of liberation for the downtrodden and deprived, they themselves are trapped within the patriarchal walls of the catholic church.
Margaret Gonsalves with notorious dissident nun Joan Chittister*
The article is a mix of feminist “theology” and anti-Catholic ranting.
Sample: Working with a team of priests I realised that sisters were condemned to a secondary collaborative role unless they had sufficient theological background. It did not take me long to discover that we are victims of a patriarchal mindset because the scriptures are written and interpreted by men who have propagated God as male, thus reinforcing societal male domination.
Sr. Gonsalves is founder of ANNNI (Alliance of Nar-Nari-Nisarg- Ishwar or Alliance of Men-Women-Nature-God).
*There’s this May 2009 Life Positive article contributed by Sr. Joan Chittister about a “oneness” ecumenical gathering of “contemplatives” by the Global Peace Initiative of Women:
New Age journal Life Positive takes an extraordinary interest in gender issues in the Catholic Church. I wonder why? See, for example:
We read about ex-Jesuit P J Francis (Francis Padinjarekara) above. Here’s Life Positive on another:
13. Knock, and it shall be opened
Joseph Murphy (20 May 1898 – 16 December 1981), an ordained divine science minister and author, was once a Jesuit priest in Ireland. After an experience of the power of prayer to heal, he left the Roman Catholic Church and migrated to the US, where he became a member of the Church of the Healing Christ founded by seminal New Thought thinker Ernest Holmes whose statement of beliefs mark him as one of the flag-bearers of the New Age. The Power of the Subconscious Mind speaks of the tremendous power of faith to change not just our body and health but our destiny. This book anticipates New Age staples like Louise Hay’s books of healing, George Clason’s The Richest Man in Babylon and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret.
A Jesuit again, only this time he’s the supreme face of Zen Buddhist meditation in India:
14. Awakening to my Original Face
By Nandini Murali, March 2007
A first-person account of a three-day retreat at Bodhi Zendo, a centre for training and practice in Zen meditation, near Kodaikanal.
A quest begins with an inner longing. I first heard of Bodhi Zendo, a centre for Zen practice and training, near Kodaikanal, six years back. Living just 80 km away, why didn’t I go there earlier? I believe I visited when I was ready to receive. I went because I was called. I heard because I was seeking. My intuition guided and responded to my inner quest; the spirit’s longing for the Self.
Bodhi Zendo (Bodhi – enlightenment, Zendo – Japanese term for meditation hall), is an expression of the spiritual quest of its founder, Fr. AMA (Arul Maria Arokiasamy) Samy, (70) Jesuit and Zen Master. “The place originally housed cows to supply milk to a nearby Jesuit institution. Since the latter closed down, the friendly Jesuit provincial permitted me to set up a Zen meditation centre,” recalls Fr. AMA who established Bodhi Zendo in 1996. Bodhi Zendo is located in St. Joseph’s Farm of the Madurai Jesuit province, in Permumalmalai, 12 km before Kodaikanal. The early years were uphill. It was difficult for the Christian religious hierarchy to understand why a Jesuit priest should espouse Zen instead of serving the poor. “They were not enthusiastic about me and my apostolate of Zen,” says Fr. AMA Samy.
AMA Samy’s Indian Christian parents migrated to Burma as laborers. The Burma-born AMA Samy, who was influenced by Burmese Buddhism in his early years, came to India after World War II.
“During my Jesuit training and studies, my spiritual life became empty and lost. Christian theology and spirituality didn’t satisfy me. I had come seeking liberation and God-experience but I did not find them,” explains AMA Samy. His quest led him to the Upanishads and they expanded his heart and mind. While Hindu ashrams inspired him, they did not give him what he was seeking. Influenced by Swami Abshishitananda*, who introduced him to the teachings of the Indian Advaitin, Ramana Maharishi, AMA Samy devoted himself to finding the answer to the sage’s ultimate poser: “Who am I?” The Catholic priest led a peripatetic existence as a beggar-sanyasin, who later lived at the shrine of St. Antony the Hermit, near Dindugul. “Many people, including my colleagues, thought I had lost my mind and my way too,” smiles Fr. AMA. But his quest still remained without a sense of direction. *A Benedictine priest Henri Le Saux, ashram founder
A fortuitous meeting with Jesuit Fr. Enomiya LaSalle led Fr. AMA to Zen meditation. In 1972, Fr. Samy went to Japan to train in Zen under the well-known Zen Master Yamada Ko-Un Roshi. The mysticism, body-mind unity, compassion, unconditional acceptance of the self and others that Zen embodied, appealed to him. “What I had glimpsed in the Upanishads and Ramana’s teachings I could now realize for myself,” says Fr. AMA. In 1982, Fr. Samy received the Dharma seal of enlightenment from his master, making him the only Indian so far to have received this honour. Since then Fr. Samy has been teaching Zen to students and disciples across the globe. Fr. AMA recalls his Zen master’s words at the conclusion of his training, “Japan is known for importing things, making them better, and then exporting them. So now I’m exporting Zen back to India!”
Fr. AMA Samy’s spiritual journey has infused an eclectic approach to the Christian tradition to which he belongs. “I’m often asked to what religion I owe my allegiance,” he says. “I stand in the in-between of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Advaita, and Christianity. It is a creative fidelity both to Zen and Christianity without mixing them up or confusing one with the other,” explains Fr. AMA. To substantiate, he cites the Bodhi Zendo logo: two overlapping circles that enclose the Buddha under the cross/Bodhi tree; the whole in a mandorola. The mandorola symbolizes the complementarity of opposites: temporal and eternal, finite and infinite, divine and the human, earth and heaven. Fr. AMA, however, cautions about the shortcomings in interpreting either Zen or Christianity in terms of the other. “I teach Zen as Zen,” explains he.
According to Fr. Samy, Zen highlights the sacred and the profound through simple everyday examples. “The mind is openness,” says Fr. Samy as we walk in the outdoors. Just then we heard a bird warble. We paused. “When you hear a bird sing, let the sound enter you. Be the sound. Your self is infinitely open. You are openness. Be that,” explains Fr. AMA Samy, with the wonder of a child and the enlightenment of a mystic. Fr. AMA’s exposition of Zen is action-oriented. “Zen is not static. It is a process of go-ing, do-ing, becoming,” he says with Taoist overtones.
What exactly is Zen? Is it mysticism? Religion? Philosophy? Psychology? The path to global and inner peace? Zen is all these to some extent, and none of them, essentially. The term ‘Zen’ is a Japanese modification of the Sanskrit word dhyana or meditation that modified to Ch’an in China and Zen in Japan. Historically, Zen Buddhism and Zen meditation is an offshoot of Mahayana Buddhism. Originating in India, it was subsequently taken to China by Bodhidharma in the fifth or sixth century from where it spread to Japan and other parts of the Far East.
The essence of Zen is satori or awakening or enlightenment. As the famous Zen koan (metaphorical couplet) encapsulates, “What was your original face before your parents were born?” – it is awakening to the ultimate reality. And paradoxically, the only way to know satori is to experience satori. This peculiarity is characteristic of the Zen tradition –very little is ‘taught’ to students. Rather, students are expected to discover for themselves through personal engagement with the process.
At Bodhi Zendo, as in most Zen centres, beginners are given a brief orientation so as not to disturb the other practitioners. Ursula, a German disciple of Fr. AMA, imparted the physical requirements of meditation: posture, position of hands, and breathing in and out. Besides, she also oriented me to the significance of the various bells sounded at prescribed intervals, and the general rules and regulations at Bodhi Zendo. But other than these minimal inputs, I had to gradually discover the mental aspect of the meditative process experientially. Fr. AMA has often been criticized “for giving too few instructions.” “There is a great temptation to translate Zen into a technique, an automated mechanical discipline of the body and mind. Too much emphasis tends to be laid on effort and concentration, on a desperate striving for a breakthrough. This is lifeless Zen,” says Fr. AMA.
Life at Bodhi Zendo begins at 5.30 am to the clarion call of a brass gong that resonates in the serene stillness. Half an hour later, we tiptoed towards the zendo or meditation hall for the first session of zazen or formal sitting meditation. A beatific Buddha with a half-smile is mounted on a wall at the entrance. Illumined by the glow of a candle, with dimmed ceiling theatre lights, an incandescent aura enveloped the place. Through the transparent window panes, we saw the sylvan setting scalloped by mountain ranges. Would we be able to look inwards and see our true Self with such window pane clarity, I wondered…
The harmonics of a Japanese bowl bell faded into the stillness, and gently ushered us into zazen. Within a few seconds, the zendo pulsated with the equipoise of collective sacred silence. Initially, I was amused and amazed at my monkey mind swinging through the labyrinths of my consciousness and plumbing the depths of my unconscious with the practiced ease of an Olympian gymnast! I heard my thoughts; a thousand fantasies grappled for my attention; emotions locked themselves in the recesses of my body. But I gently guided my mind back without reproach or self-blame by re-focusing on my breathing. Later, with improved breath awareness, I felt centred and grounded. I’m told that during sessions – periods of intensive eight hours of daily zazen and complete silence – a wooden paddle or kyosaku is applied at the acupressure points on the shoulders on request. The practice dates back to the hard knocks administered by Zen masters to galvanize their disciples into awakening!
According to Fr. AMA Samy, “Breath awareness is a form of non-doing; action in non-action.” Mindfulness – the quality of being awake and aware of body, mind, emotions, and thoughts – is central to Zen meditation. Zazen then is a practice of “letting be”; of befriending our emotions and body; accepting oneself unconditionally and letting the other be the other. The see-saw between awareness, free floating thoughts, fantasies, and emotions, is a challenge both for beginners and even experienced practitioners. In Japanese Zen monasteries, Zen masters exhort their disciples to “sit like Mt. Fuji,” obviously an analogy to the majestic dignity of the mountain despite being buffeted by swirling snow and turbulent winds.
About 25 minutes later, the sound of a bell signified the kinhin or walking meditation before the next zazen. Contrary to what some people think, kinhin is not an excuse for a break or an antidote to motionless sitting. At the sound of wooden clappers, we make a formal bow and begin to walk inside the zendo in measured steps, one step after the other. With hands in front of the chest and forearms parallel to the floor, I was aware of my breath and the contraction of the muscles of the legs as I placed them on the clinical coldness of the wooden flooring. Advanced students of Zen ruminate on the significance of the koans during kinhin.
Life at Bodhi Zendo blends introspection, reflection, and action. It integrates other activities such as samu/seva (community activity), Zen Buddhist studies, and Dokusan or formal one-to-one meetings with the master.
As part of samu/seva, I was posted in the Japanese stone garden. I gathered dried leaves and carried them to the organic compost pit adjoining the garden. While mindfully engaged in the task, I realized that everything is part of the cyclical nature of life. The decayed leaves and flowers are transformed into organic manure that in turn enables florescence. Birth, growth, change, fruition, death, decay, and rebirth lead to renewal and continuity in an ongoing process. Surely, good/bad, beautiful/ugly – are illusory divisions of separate selves created by language and concepts?
According to Fr. AMA Samy, Zen is as physical as it is intellectual. “Work enables us to refashion our lives,” he says. The origin of samu in Zen is an advent of the migration of Zen to the Far East. Work was not a part of monastic life in India. According to Fr. AMA, meditation and work for the liberation of the oppressed are interrelated and underscores the Buddhist ideal of interdependence of all beings, inter-being, pratityasamutpada. As a Zen master once said, “Enlightenment without compassion is useless, and compassion without enlightenment is blind.”
One night, strolling on the terrace, I glanced upwards at the clear windless sky. The towering silver oaks, twinkling stars and the shimmering moon gazed benevolently at me. I felt united with the cosmos. At peace with myself. It was a moment of ‘AT-ONE-ING’ as I experienced the joy of opening myself to the Universe. A feeling of mudita (joy), karuna (compassion) and prajna (wisdom) welled in me. Truly, this is Zen. The art of joyful living. A human awakening.
x. We read the following excerpt on page 1:
“It does take time to develop a sense of equanimity. It can be achieved to some extent after long discipline and self-catechesis,” Rev. Dr Dominic Emmanuel SVD, director and spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, declares. Finding most comfort from Jesus’ teachings, he adds, “The principle of yin and yang or even the middle path taught by Gautama the Buddha, have also been of help to me in maintaining equanimity.”
and the references to Fr Prakash Olalekar on pages 2, 9, 10
“Initially I do get quite upset and angry (seeing things going wrong). Formerly, I used to suppress these feelings considering them unhealthy. Now that I have become aware that anger is normal, calling for an appropriate response rather than a violent reaction, I try out various ways of keeping calm and cool,” says Father Prashant Olalekar, a Jesuit priest involved in many social initiatives, and the director of Pasayadaan Holistic Spirituality Centre at Nala in Thane district. “I find interplay, movement meditation and mindfulness excellent ways to keep a balance and work towards constructive change. Approaches to spirituality like the beatitudes of Jesus, the ahimsa of Gandhi, mindfulness of Thich Nhat Hanh and discernment of St Ignatius of Loyola have made a big difference to me,” says Father Prashant.
Interplay, Movement Meditation and Mindfulness Meditation are all New Age.
By Suma Varughese, Editor-in-chief of Life Positive, April 1997
Sharon Clarke Sequeira, model, Mumbai
“I moved into spirituality via modeling and motherhood,” says Sharon Clarke Sequeria, 28. Perhaps not a route prescribed by the shastras or ancient texts, but given the extremity of artifice in modelling, definitely a pressure-cooker path to the Truth. Not that spirituality was an unknown quantity in her life. Indeed, her rapid ascent up the glamor world in Mumbai, India, via the Navy Queen and Miss India First Runner Up 1985, titles that made her a top ramp and photography model, as well as a Lakme face, in the early 1990s, ran parallel to an intense spiritual quest awakened when she was just 14. The occasion was a retreat organized for Catholic students by her school, Fort Convent, in Mumbai.
She found herself grappling with the question: “Who is Jesus?” Suddenly, feeling a gentle arm on the shoulder, she wheeled around to find the personage under dispute himself, telling her: “Don’t look for me outside, Sharon, I’m within you.”
For a Christian accustomed to a Heavenly Father, this was a revelation. Perhaps, not coincidentally, this was the beginning of a path that lay in synthesizing Christian thought and Indian spiritual practice.
Her guide in the quest is Dr Jayant Balaji Athawale, an autohypnosis expert and founder of the Sanatana Bharatiya Sanskruti Sanstha, which approaches spirituality scientifically and mathematically. Spiritual levels are calibrated in percentages, as are the merits and demerits of various spiritual practices like breathing, meditation, or the organization’s starting point, chanting.
Chanting Hail Mary for two years (members of different religious groups are encouraged to use the name of their individual God), yielded Sharon dramatic dividends. Today, few events or people upset her: anger seldom arises, and she has transcended her extended love affair with food that sent her weight soaring from 58 kg during her modeling days, to 95 kg. She is now down to 68 kg.
Her threshold to bear grief and pain has risen. Even her pulse rate is an incredibly low 46. All this through a love for God that grows more intoxicating by the day. Sharon’s quest for the indwelling God moved her away early from Catholicism. She recalls attending a retreat when she was 20 that struck her as being a spiritual kindergarten. “When invited to surrender their most precious belongings to God, many cried, I couldn’t understand it. Everything I had came from God in any case, so why should surrendering anything be a big deal?”
God was the final authority. She finalized her marriage with photographer Denzil Sequeira only after receiving divine sanction. “While praying at the Blessed Sacrament Church, I was told that we were already married. Another time, I saw a ring suspended in a shaft of light.” She even withheld kissing Sequeira until she had got the divine nod. Such an uncompromising moral code led to conflicts in modeling, where her refusal to bare often met with vigorous opposition.
Through her spiritual initiation by Dr Athawale, her material desires, such as becoming India’s No 1 model, became sub-limited by a growing love of God. Motherhood temporarily dampened her fervent progress, but after plumbing the depths, she came back with a vengeance two years ago, buoyed by Dr Athawale’s prescription to further her growth through teaching others. Her most cherished spiritual milestone occurred in 1994, while attending Guru Purnima, an auspicious day, at the ashram of Bhaktaraj Maharaj, Athawale’s guru, in Dhule, Maharashtra, India. She recalls the guru darting a look at her akin to the look of God, “brighter than a thousand suns”. “I knew then that I would be dancing only to God’s tune and not that of others,” she says rapturously.
Since the reader may not “get” it, Dr. Vinod Prabhu is Fr. Vinod Prabhu IMS, a “Catholic” priest
16. Way to God
By Suma Varughese, Editor-in-chief of Life Positive, June 2004
Pilgrimage into Self-Awareness
Dr Vinod Prabhu, Varanasi firstname.lastname@example.org
I am 49 and an ordained Syrian Catholic priest teaching in Vishwa Jyoti College, Varanasi, run by the Indian Missionary Society, of which I am a member. While principal of the institute, I was diagnosed with a rare haematological disorder, Polycythemia R.V. My health deteriorated drastically, and I was advised a heart transplant. Bed-ridden, I shuddered at the thought of my impending death within six months as predicted by doctors. My condition brought me in touch with the basic meaninglessness of life. As a priest, all my religious practices and rituals seemed to fall short of effect and significance.
I realised that I needed to acquire my own resources to face the situation. A deep dormant desire to experience the Divine in my own way came alive in me, hitherto obscured by academic pursuits, ambition and over-activism. I set the purpose of my newly-found life. However long I lived, I should live purposefully, so that not just life but even death had meaning.
Cosmic Reality, I knew to be beyond my grasp. I also knew that the teachings of masters and religions are not points of destination, but rather of departure. Therefore, it would be wrong to base myself in any tradition or heritage.
What followed was an intense flight into freedom beyond anxieties of life and death, with help from all the scriptures of the world, scientific interpretations of the universe, insights of wise seekers from various traditions, and my own imaginative reflections.
My yearning intensified with glimpses into my own unworthiness; the evil thoughts, dishonest ways and deceptive pretensions I had indulged in, together with my good qualities. This self-awareness reassured me that I was on the right path. All the rest followed effortlessly, it seemed.
Unable to set my profound discernments into words, I could only place them into these incomplete phrases:
You are infinite waters, formless, tasteless, colourless
You flow into me when I stoop and empty myself
You then assume my form… aham brahmasmi
You transform me into yourself… I your infinitely minute form
Brahmavid Brahmai Bhavati, even in this minute little way of mine
I cannot any more afford to think, feel or act as I did early, inflated in my ego
You infill me, enforce me to be as you are…
So true, this whole existence is just extension of myself/yourself… Aatmaivedam Sarvam or Brahmaivedam Sarvam!!
Continuing this pilgrimage, I designed a website, http://www.carecommune.org, to carry messages of cosmic harmony, oneness, peace and healing. People from all over the world, many invalids and seriously ill, responded. Carecommune is now a symbolic community of seekers, where we invite other people suffering from sickness or loneliness to contact us. We send them vibrations of love-peace-joy-health, and communicate with them personally; it is just the sharing of our minute sarvabhutahite rata. Giving our time and our harmonious magnetic vibrations totally free of cost, we experience an intense ‘orgasmic’ pleasure, relating with people.
All our effort is aimed at bringing people in close contact with the magnetic Oneness of Infinite Love, which you may call by any name. (I call it ISH, from It/She/He).
Though still under medication, I enjoy every moment of the day. I have resumed teaching, continue my pilgrimage and working for Carecommune. I feel no need for any diversions or ‘weekends’—my point of attention when I was ‘successfully active’. The overwhelming peace that I experience deep within and a sound sense that all is well are the only proof of my unique pilgrimage. I wish that every particle that comes in contact with me, would experience the magnetic harmonisation of this pilgrimage.
17. Meditation-The Yogic Priest
By Luis SR Vas, October 2008
Father Joe Pereira is a priest, a student of BKS Iyengar, and a teacher of yoga to addicts to help them cope better with rehabilitation therapy
In his early days as a priest, people knew Father Joe Pereira from Mumbai as the singing priest. His deep bass voice and love for music, led him to attend a performance in Mumbai of the internationally renowned violin virtuoso, Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin’s own interest in Eastern arts, led him to play with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, and to write the foreword to the BKS Iyengar classic, Light on Yoga. At the performance, Menuhin’s introduction of Iyengar as “my next violin instructor,” piqued the young priest’s interest. He soon began taking weekly classes from Iyengar near his Mumbai parish. That was in 1968. By 1971, Father Joe was teaching yoga. In 1975, he became a certified Iyengar instructor. He incorporated hatha yoga and meditation into his pastoral duties, and eventually added a ministry for alcoholics to the parish’s services.
Initially, the church did not favour his teaching yoga for any purpose. “My vicar-general was very concerned about my yoga,” Father Joe recalls. “One day he had to go to a doctor for surgery to remove his varicose veins. The doctor told him, ‘If you go to this priest I know, who teaches yoga, you won’t need surgery.’ Mother Teresa, too, did not seem too happy with the situation. She asked him, “What is this yoga that you are teaching to my nuns?” Father Joe explained that the nuns worked so hard that they fell asleep during their prayers. Yoga helped them cope better with their tiredness, and stay alert. He introduced them to simple yogic breathing, and Benedictine mantras.
Father Joe adds, “Today I get a lot of support from the church. I must acknowledge that it is a conversion of sorts.” He attributes his ability to be unconventional, to his mother. She was one of the first graduates in the country, while his father was not, and was four years younger.
Father Joe is far more than just a healthy and fit Bombay priest, who does not look his 50-odd years. His story and his presence are one of those unique products of India, innately spiritual, and embracing the fluidity that moves between traditions, while staying true to one main path. He ambles easily between cultures verbally. He quotes a Sanskrit phrase of meditation, refers to a speech at a Cambridge University conference on the use of yoga for drug rehabilitation, and shares his love of Mother Teresa. Beyond the story of a priest teaching yoga, there is a deeper more compelling one of healing the poor, and being open to those most in need.
His yoga practice has taken him on a personal healing journey, as well as a charitable one. “I had two serious accidents and needed surgery three times on my legs. Now I can sit in full lotus position and do all my exercises. I do not have any memory of them.” In 1997, 17 years after those perations, Father Joe needed remedial work on his spine. He was fortunate to be able to meet Iyengar personally every two to three weeks.
Iyengar devised a special programme for him of 26 exercises, “each more painful than the last”. After a year and a half of the exercises, there is no pain. “That is Iyengar. You trust the process.”
In 1971, Father Joe approached Mother Teresa. He was having a crisis of faith. After the seminary years, well protected from temptations of the world, he fell in love. As part of the generation of priests after the Vatican Council, he was frustrated with the progress of change. “I was in a hurry to change the church.” He approached Mother Teresa and asked her to pray for him. “I do not pray for priests, I pray with them”, she said and together they prayed, Father Joe crying like a child. “Don’t quit,” she said, “the Lord has work for you.” She added that it might take 10 years or more.
Ten years later in 1981, he and one of the recovering alcoholics he had brought into the parish programme founded the Kripa (“Grace”) Foundation. It focused on serving addicts through a unique recovery programme, combining the “12 steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous with instruction in yoga and meditation taught by Father Joe. Eventually, he added western psychological models, such as dyads and gestalt therapy, (it is New Age) and Christian Meditation launched by Irish Benedictine Fr. John Main. Christian Meditation consists of repeating the mantra Maranatha (Come, Lord) for half an hour, twice a day.
From its humble origins in the annex of the parish church in Mumbai, the programme has grown. It includes more than 30 counselling, detoxification, and rehabilitation centres throughout India, and offices in Germany and Canada. The recovery rate of the programme is an astonishing 65 per cent.
For Father Joe, this work was perhaps the most fitting byproduct of his own spiritual journey. He struggled with alcohol abuse himself as a young man. “I have all the qualities of an addict,” he says. “I am not exempt from the self-destructive behaviour patterns people come here to be healed of.” Father Joe’s collegial relationship with Iyengar (he returns to the latter’s institute in Pune every July for intensive studies in yoga therapy), led him to ask Iyengar to devise practice techniques and sequences (of asana and pranayama), specifically, to help people cope with addictive traits and residues.
Eventually this led him to taking drug addicts from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. As a result, he was offered the Boys Town on Diamond Harbour Road in Kolkata. Instead of three addicts, he was attending to 250 a year. “Mother was thrilled,” that such a thing was possible. As addicts recovered, they went back to their own states and new centres were set up. Soon there were centres in Delhi, Goa and all seven of the North Eastern states, totalling 31. Now he wishes to work in the largest slum in SE Asia, Dharavi in Bombay. Before that, he had been invited to work in the North East of India, in the states known as the ‘seven sisters’. “We started helping those with HIV+ and Aids. Ten years ago, they were thrown in jail for having Aids, and food was thrown through the bars, to avoid contact”. Now he wishes to build Aids hospices, and more drug rehabilitation clinics, in India. Forty per cent of his funds are from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
He helped 150 drug pushers find other jobs and gave 50 sewing machines to their wives to offer alternative employment recently. He continues to practise, and preach mainly through the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa inaugurated his centres in Mumbai and Kolkata. She had asked him to give a talk at retreats for her nuns. It seems like the mantle from Mother Teresa has fallen to a degree on his shoulders. As he said to his superiors when he first applied to set up his rehabilitation centres, “We cannot let Mother Teresa have a monopoly on this work!”
So how can one deepen one’s faith and spiritual practice? He quotes Iyengar saying, “Holiness is wholeness”. “Sometimes this leads to your being out of control. You really go through a period where you can see two levels of existence. Finally, one comes to live by faith alone. The more you learn to let go, the more you are in tune with the present. The struggle comes when you forget this, and try to control life, which brings stress.”
Sometimes he has encountered problems with fundamentalists within the Church. “Oh those fundamentalists, they are always seeing the devil on my shoulder,” he jokes. In his mind, “Jesus is the supreme Yogi because he said the Father and I are one, and yoga means yug = union = one.”
He says, “For all those interested in inculcating the values of this special field, and practising and teaching yoga therapy to addicts, I present an outline of the yoga workout thatis programmed within the Kripa Model of Recovery. I present the first two phases of practice. Phase I is at the primary care level and Phase II is practised at the after-care level of treatment.
“Phase I consists of postures that are called ‘restorative’ and are done with the help of a bolster. The purpose of such a prop is to induce the patient to honour and affirm the body. During the active days of addiction, it is the body which has been badly abused. This initial phase helps to reverse the process by ‘loving the body into life’. The patient eventually recognises the body as the very temple of God. This set of postures, reduces the need of dependence on medications and conditions the person to set himself on the path of wholeness and holiness.
“Phase II leads the person to ‘communicate’ with the various systems of the body thus ‘rejuvenating’ them. This calls for ‘tapas’, austerity brought about by a structured time management at the Kripa Rehabilitation Centres. It is necessary that the one who leads the group is a practising Iyengar Yoga Instructor, and that he/she is quite transparent in upholding the spirit of dedication and commitment to this special work of God.”
1. Yoga and meditation guru Fr. Joe Pereira is a notorious name-dropper, exaggerator and consummate liar.
FR JOE PEREIRA-KRIPA FOUNDATION-WORLD COMMUNITY FOR CHRISTIAN MEDITATION
2. Mother Teresa is notorious for her naivete. Recently, a Brazilian visitor to my home who has close associations with Propaganda Fide, Rome lamented her statement that one should let a Hindu be a good Hindu… etc., as that flies in the face of the spirit of the Vatican document Ecclesia in Asia. He also promised to send me a picture of Mother Teresa paying obeisance to an icon of Buddha. He didn’t, but I sourced it.
MOTHER TERESA AT PRAYER IN A BUDDHIST TEMPLE
The following Catholic priests have registered themselves in the Life Positive alternative therapists’and practitioners’ directory:
Fr. A. Selvaraj OFM Cap.
St. Mathias Church, 26, Kamaraj Salai, Ashok Nagar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600083 Phone: 9597166607
Categories: Emotional Freedom Technique, Hypnotherapy, Meditation, Pranic Healing, Reflexology
Fr. Selvaraj is presently at Infant Jesus Church in Vallam, near Chingleput, Tamil Nadu
All of the practices that he engages in are New Age and there are files on all of them at our web site.