'shrine' in the yoga hall where the symposium took place.

I and other Oblates and friends were invited by Fr.George, the Prior, and members of Shantivanam community to "come and share in our joy" at the lives of Swami Abhishiktananda and Swami Bede Griffiths, whose 40th. and 20th. death anniversaries occurred in 2013.   It was indeed a joyful and memorable occasion for me and those 40 or so others who gathered in the Yoga Hall, where Fr.Bede gave his regular  '4 o'clock talks', to listen to the 4 eminent speakers.


Dr.Christian Hackbarth-Johnson started the symposium with his paper giving a very vivid and memorable account of the last months of Abhishiktananda's life. Fr.Nathan, who sought  Fr.Bede for spiritual guidance from 1979 to 1984 while a young Holy Cross priest at Woriur, Trichy, and who was struck profoundly by Abhishiktananda's ascetic life while writing his doctoral thesis on Sri Ramana Maharshi, gave the second paper entitled ' the blend of advaitic experience of Bede Griffiths and Abhishitananda'.   Besides helping us to go deeper into these experiences, Fr.Nathan reminded us that "to give meaning to our life we are in need of mystics. Spiritual experience alone gives the power to live in the global world. In the world of loneliness and selfishness we need mystics to guide us towards wholeness and happiness. These two great mystics are our examples for life".

Rev Dr.Lourdu Anandam,Rector of St.Peter's seminary,Madurai,who wrote a theological enquiry on Fr.Bede  in 1998 entitled 'The Western Lover of the East' gave the first paper on the morning of our second day together.  It was entitled 'The relevance of Bede Griffith's vision for today" and it initiated much engaged discussion with all the participants.  Brother Martin concluded the seminar with his paper 'The Christian Mission in India today', where he proposed that dialogue with Hinduism necessitates Christianity to step out from its exclusive vision of Christ in which it will shake hands with Hinduism and work together for the empowerment of the people.
Our days together at Shantivanam were very valuable.  Discussion and interaction both inside and outside the Yoga Hall with all the participants were stimulating and thought provoking. The event was rounded off beautifully by students from  Kalai Kaveri Academy,Trichy, giving us a cultural programme of dance on the last evening.  Many thanks to Fr.George,the Prior, and all the community, for initiating the symposium, and ensuring its smooth running.  
Michael Giddings

 group photo of some of the delegates


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