Extracts from Falling in Love with India

– from the letters of Bede Griffiths

edited and introduced by Adrian B. Rance

 and Published by Saccidananda Ashram, Shantivanam.

(with kind permission Adrian B. Rance)

Fr. Bede’s writings taken from letters to his friends Dr. Mary Allen and Mary Dunbar (whom he calls Micheline).

from Nirmala Ashram Kengeri

July 8th 1956

“…I have had a great excitement this week. I have begun practicing Hatha Yoga! I was lent a book on yoga asanas by a Father Francis. I don’t think I have told you about him. He is a Cistercian of Chimay in Belgium and was novice master at Caldey for some three years. He has come out here by permission of his superiors to explore India. He has travelled far more than I have and has a profound interest in everything Indian. He has just learned Sanskrit and is practicing yoga seriously. He is living at present with Père Monchanin and Père le Saux at their ashram near Trichinopoli. They have an ashram entirely Indian in style, consisting of small huts thatched with palm leaves and a chapel where everything is as near Hindu as possible. Did you see their booklet, An Indian Benedictine Ashram? It is a remarkable work with a wonderful insight into Hinduism in its relation to Christianity. But unfortunately all this does not go down with Catholics, so that they don’t get any postulants. Father Francis feels that there is no real future in it, though it is a wonderful ‘witness’ to an Indian monastic ideal. He would like, I think, to start a Cistercian community himself. But he may come and work with us for a time. I like him very much and find myself in complete agreement with him on almost everything.

To return to Yoga, I am finding the practices most beneficial. I can’t quite stand on my head – which is said to be the most beneficial practice of all – (Nehru does it every morning) but I can do the next best thing, which is resting on the head and shoulders with the feet in the air. All the exercises affect the spine and I am beginning to feel how the spine is the basis both of bodily health and of nervous energy. It is said that these exercises help to awaken Kundalini, and also relieve constipation and most other diseases! I am also practising pranayama, the control of the breath and trying to establish a good sitting position. I can’t do the lotus position, putting the feet on the opposite thighs, but I can almost do another called Siddhasana, the ‘perfect’ pose which is said to be as good or better. The book in question is called ‘Yoga asanas by Swami Sivananda’. It is really rather exciting. I have always avoided this before, but now I feel that it has something definite to give in teaching control of the body and the breath as a preparation for control of the mind and union with God…”

P194 195

4th August 1956

“…a genuine Catholicism is that in which no aspect of truth is ignored. Probably we shall never see on this earth a perfectly Catholic church, there will always be defects in the vision of the actual church, but we have to strive constantly to enlarge our vision so as to embrace all truth…”



  • From Kerala – before founding Kurisumala Ashram in 1958 with Fr. Francis Mahieu

    4th December 1956

    “…I go to Madras tomorrow for a week. Then I shall be staying at Shantivanam, Kulithalai PO, Trichy Dt. Madras State. You can write there if you like, but letters will be re-addressed from here. I expect to spend Christmas there. It is the ‘Benedictine Ashram’ in Hindu style of Fr. Monchanin and le Saux. I shall not return here till the end of the month. I shall write again when I can, if possible for Christmas. Sorry not to write more now.

    With my love to you both – please pray that we may work out God’s will – it is not easy to see how things will go.”



    22nd December 1956

    “… I am spending Christmas here in Shantivanam. It is incredibly primitive; little thatched huts in a clearing in a wood and no conveniences. I will tell you more later…”



    6th January 1957


    “… Now I am back at Shantivanam. I forgot if I described it to you. It is really a wonderful place. There are about six little huts with thatched roofs scattered in a wood of tall Palmyra palms and other trees and bushes, connected by little winding paths. Each hut is in perfect solitude and has nothing but a concrete floor, a wooden plank bed and a mat. Sitting on the floor and lying on planks is no joke. I sleep well, but I ache! There are no arrangements for washing, just a bucket for ablutions to be performed outside. The refectory is nothing but a small room with concrete floor and mats. We eat sitting on the mats with our hands. The chapel is most remarkable. It is built in the form of a Hindu temple – a mandapam or entrance hall and a garbha girha or sanctuary where the altar is. Over the altar and sanctuary is the sacred sign OM with Sanskrit texts. We sing the office in Latin but have Sanskrit prayers before and after. There is quite a little congregation of Tamil Christians and the epistle and gospel are said for them in Tamil…

    … there are monkeys in the wood here and a family sits on a tree opposite my cell to take its breakfast. The river Cauvery – one of the sacred rivers of India, runs nearby, and I go every day to meditate by its side and to take a dip in the holy water…”

    P242  P243


    4th January 1959


    “I hope you had my Christmas letters from Shantivanam. I was really charmed with the place this time and almost felt that I would like to live there. There is a beautiful stretch of the River Kavery flowing beside it, about a mile wide, and some lovely hills rising beyond. I was altogether enchanted by the Tamil Nad this time – that is the country between here and Madras. It is usually very parched as it gets so little rain, but this time it was green and fertile (it is the time of the monsoon) and looked so lovely. To me it is the real heart of India or at least of South India, far more than Kerala or Mysore…”



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