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A couple of poems written by Judy Siqueira

- BEINGNESS-in-ONE:    FATHER BEDE GRIFFITHS' CONTEMPLATION - A REFLECTION BY SISTER JUDITH THACKRAY, OSAh

From Maarten Turkstra (Brother John)

 

This account includes talks between Fr. Bede and Maarten after his pilgrimage to Mount Kailash. “

 

Shantivanam Ashram 1987

 

Noon, Oct. 14th

The ashram seems perfect and even improved on the edges.  There is a new open sided shelter with a conical roof of woven palm fronds for the tea area, which used to be shaded by a mango tree.  The haystacks, seen just as one comes through the gate, are taller than ever.   We go directly to the hermitage of Fr. Bede.  I prostrate full length on the ground in front of him and touch his feet, as is my custom on arriving after a long absence.  Lola watches me.  As soon as I’m out of the way she is down on her knees and touching his feet, just as she saw herself doing in her dream.

“How’s your health Father?” I ask him.

“I am well and getting even better,” he says, yet I see him thin.  We sit with him for a while conveying all the greetings from friends on the other side of the world and tell him a little of our trip to Mount Kailash.

“Oh you must give a talk about it one afternoon for the guests.  They will be fascinated to hear about Mount Kailash.” He says.

Various friends from former years are here again now.  There is the staff and sister Mechtilde form Belgium who is the guest master, and Hob Hobletson from America and Kirstie from Finland are all a pleasant surprise.

Lola has not complained about anything.  She has gone to see about a hut in the women’s compound and has not returned.  I hope that she will love it here this time.  That will be a wonderful blessing.


 In the evening before meditation I see Lola.  She has been given an excellent hut in the mango grove with her own bathroom and primitive form of oriental flush toilet.  The water comes from a hand pump sticking up out of the bathroom floor.  One fills a large bucket to take a splash-bath or flush the toilet.

“Bede will give a talk on the Purusha tomorrow afternoon.”  I tell her.  “It is the Hindu understanding of the Cosmic Christ, or Adam Kadmon of the Hebrews, the archetype of man, the first and the full potential.  Christ says, ‘before Abraham was, I am.’  Mohammed says, ‘When Adam was still between water and clay I was already a prophet.’

“And beyond Purusha is the Purushothaman.  We shall hear more of that tomorrow,”

“I am overloading your mind with unfamiliar names I know and ideas.  Excuse me I was just showing off and teasing at the same time, but really it is this understanding of Purusha which he uses to weave all the differing religious traditions together in a web of complementarity.”


These afternoon talks are a long standing tradition at the Ashram.  I remember when I first arrived we would gather in a circle on the sand under the coconut palms and Father Bede would read from and comment on the Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita.  We later put a book together, called the Cosmic Revelation, which pretty much covered those first talks I heard him share with us.

  

Truth or Tact

 

Lola wants to go to Fr. Bede with a question that we have been touching on for some time…  to withhold the truth, or to express it in such a way as is understandable to the hearer.

My understanding of this question came via Islam, in a desert village near Khartoum.  The month of Ramadan had been spent with Sheik Nyal and his Khalifa father of the Qadiri Order, the ones who wear green, and there were many of his disciples.  They had decided that I should go to Mecca and were training me for the task.

“Sheikh Nyal, tell me?”  I asked him one day.  “Do you think I can really go to Mecca?  You know my theology is not very orthodox.  You have heard me discuss the value of the other religions.”

“Of course you must go!”  He said without hesitation.  “The prophet Mohammed, upon him be peace, teaches in the Hadith (the oral teachings), that we should speak to each person according to their understanding.  And this is humility, because we don’t simply insist on imposing our own point of view on others.”

“But Sheik it sounds to me as if you are training me in hypocrisy.”

“No, this is not hypocrisy.  The prophet tells us that such discrimination is of the essence of wisdom.”  He assured me.

My response was enthusiastic.  “I have felt inspired since my youth by Solomon and his quest for wisdom.  These many years I have been travelling in search of wisdom and now it is given to me so simply and so correctly.  I thank you for this.”

After our conversation I offered to read an excerpt describing Solomon’s love of wisdom.  They agreed and I read this piece from the Book of Wisdom.

 Lola’s question revolves round this question of wisdom.  One could say that truth and deception are opposites and yet it seems that they can find their synthesis in wisdom.

We went to see Fr. Bede this morning and after talking of everything we asked Lola’s question about truth.

“I’m afraid I have to agree with brother john,” he says quite simply.  “If I go to a meeting of Hindu Swamis I never mention anything about Christianity or speak of my personal love for the Trinity.  It would amount to a breach of trust.”

 

 

Purusha

 

Thurs., Oct. 15th (Lecture Notes)

Father Bede usually likes to begin his lectures with a chant as is the tradition of India.  It is a way of including the time of the lecture into sacred space.  Today it is Om repeated three times with Shanti, Shanti, Shanti at the end.

“The Hindu experience of God in the Upanishad is that of Brahman-Atman, the Transcendent and the Imminent, but they are one.

Then there is Purusha, a person, a man.

This Primordial Person occurs in various traditions.  In the Vedic traditions it says,

He is one fourth here on earth and three fourths are above heaven.’

In Buddhism the term Tathagata is used of one who has reached the goal.  It is once again a Supreme Person.

In Islam there is the Universal Man, Who is the eye of God according to the vision of Ibn-I-Arabi.

The prophet Mohammed says,

When Adam was still between water and clay I was already a prophet.’

This portrays a similar understanding to that of Jesus saying,

Before Abraham was I am.’

For the Hindus the whole creation is seen to have a form.  Brahma is Supreme Reality.  Atman is Supreme Consciousness.

In Buddhism Ultimate Reality are Nirvana, a blowing out; or Sunyata, emptiness, yet these qualities manifest in the Tathagata, the Person.

Ultimate reality is beyond word and thought.  So God, or a person, or loving are approximations.  God is unknown yet he does reveal himself in Jesus and in so many ways.

Nirguna Brahman is beyond attributes.


Dionysus the Areopagite, in his Book of Divine Names, invites us through his mystical theology into the Divine Darkness, which is beyond person, beyond attributes.  It is evident that every word about God both reveals and conceals.

The gods of the Vedas are understood as names and forms, Nama-Rupa, of the One without name or form.

This is too much for most people.  They need a name and form and Hinduism offers an ample selection.

In Hinduism during the period of the Mahabharata, the 3rd century B.C., there developed the Bhagavata movement; God as a person, and then Bhakti, devotion, is shown towards that somebody.

India could have gone Jain or Buddhist till this Bhaki movement swept the people back into Hinduism.  It began in the South, in Tamil Nadu.  It’s roots are in the figure of the Purusha from the Vedas.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad, which was written during the 3rd century B.C., embodies this new personal perspective.  “The Lord”

 

            “Veda ham etam purusha mahantam aditya varana.tamasa parastat”

            ‘I know that great person the colour of the sun

            Knowing whom all is revealed.

            There is no other way to go.’

 

This experience comes by grace.  It says,

 

            “Not by much learning, not by much practice,

            But those who are chosen,

            They are the ones who come to me.”

 

This personal god is then given a name.  Shiva serves as one example.  By this late date when the Bhakti movement is afoot Shiva’s name has come to means Gracious.  He is sometimes referred to as Shakar Gang, Sweet Shiva.  He used to be terrible and black.  He lived in graveyards and wore no clothes.  This new meaning to his name was given to propitiate him. 

At this point a form of monotheism arises.

The Hebrew word Eloheem was originally plural.  Then with Moses the name Yahweh is given and the EI becomes singular.  Only in Second Isaiah does a full monotheism develop. 

Only through knowledge of god can there be an end of misery,” say the Upanishads.

 

Now the Bhagavad Gita is precisely the revelation of a personal god in Hinduism.  There are 18 books.  The first six deal with Karma yoga.  The householder could thus find the good through Bhakti, devotion, rather than only by way of Sannyasa, which is renunciation.

Ghandi is an example of somebody who lived by this devotion to the service of his fellow man.

The next six chapters are devoted to Bhakti.  Now it is in the Gita that the understanding of Krishna is moved above creation.

“They are in me but I am not in them.”  The implication is that he creates and sustains creation but is not limited by creation.

Hindu philosophy endlessly debates the relation between god and creation.  There are six main schools of thought.

In the fifteenth chapter of the Gita two Purushas are spoken of the perishable and the imperishable.  The physical world is a manifestation of Purusha and consciousness is Purusha, but beyond these is Purushothaman the Supreme Person.

The Gita combines many streams, the Vedas and Upanishads, element of Buddism and then the Bhakti movement, which is devotion to a personal god.  Bhakti, devotion is expressed through hymns and songs.  Jnana, which we could call contemplation, is less developed.  Sri Aurobindo teaches an Integral Yoga, which combines these three elements.

 

Question:  Father would you say something about Jesus as “Son of Man” In Daniel, Ch 7, it says ‘one like a Son of Man appears to him.’  And Jesus identifies himself to the high priest as ‘the son of Man’.

 

Father Bede replies. “St. Paul says Christ is the original Adam.  Adam is humanity; in him all humanity is contained.  The first Adam was earthy, he fell.  The second Adam, Jesus, is from heaven.

  

Question:  “To the Advaitin the personal god is condescension to human weakness.

 

Dom Bede “The ultimate reality is a dynamism of love, a communion between persons.  This is a vital debate in India today.  What is the nature of ultimate reality?

 

“’All men from the first to the last are one image of him who is.’  Says Gregory of Nissa.

            “’At the end there will be one person loving himself.’  Says St. Augustine.”

 

Purusha (what to do with this piece from Jung?)

If it were possible to personify the unconscious, we might think of it as a collective human being combining the characteristics of both sexes, transcending youth and age, birth and death, and, from having at its command a human experience of one or two million years, practically immortal.  If such a being existed it would be exalted above all temporal change…it would be dreamer of age-old dreams and owing to its immeasurable experience, an incomparable prognosticator.  It would have lived countless times over and over the life of the individual, the family, the tribe and the nation, and it would passes a living sense of the rhythm of growth, flowering and decay.  (Shamanism & Jung, p. 21)

 

This level of transpersonal awareness, of course, precisely embodies that “hidden immortal within the mortal man” which Jung has made it his goal to set free. 

 

Journey to the Four Directions

 

Fri., Oct. 15th ‘87

To tell the whole story of our pilgrimage to Mount Kailash in a bit more than an hour needed some forethought.  We both agreed that we would leave out the interpersonal conflicts, except perhaps for the climax at the top of the high pass of Dolma on the north side of Mount Kailash where we behold the mirror of the King of Death (Yama), in which all our past deeds are reflected and where the legends of the place were acted out by our little party with uncanny accuracy.

 

We sketched the difficulties of travel and spoke of the rich tradition which Tibet has guarded intact while much of that old tradition was put to flame by the Muslim conquerors of India.  We spoke of the visas and the border crossing and the difficulties of walking with our heavy loads and it was fun to talk about and the idea of, Going to Hell in a Bucket.  We spoke of Lhasa and the ten days crossing the desert.

The real jewel for me was Manasarovar and our week long stay in the cave by the lake.

What is the source of the legends of that place?  Is it not that this has been for thousands of years a place to come to for those seeking the solitude and support to engage in extreme spiritual practices.  We were lucky enough to meet the Medicine Lama at the end of his two years of retreat and we saw the caves and studied the legends of both Padma Sambhava and Milarepa.

 

Praise Heaven! The talk was a success.  Lola contributed excellent colour and detail at several points; we sang the Tara evocation and mantra, to begin the talk, and the Love Song of the Chumash to close.  Everyone was given an offering of Manasarovar water with a small spoon, in the palm of the hand, to sip a bit and rub the rest on top the head.

 

A Normal Day

 

Evening, Sat., Oct 17th

All is well in the Grove of Peace.  The guru does not say mass or even come into the chapel on Saturday mornings.  So Christodas the chief disciple is preaching.

Breakfast consists of Idlis and coffee as usual.  I write a letter to Rupert and wash some clothes.  After morning tea Lola and I walk across the footbridge of Tannirpalli.  Our new clothes are ready; Lola gets a top for her saris and I a new suit in simple off-white cotton, a kurta and two lungis.

Noon prayer is okay.  The lunch reading is from the preaching and boastings of Swami Rama. 

After Lunch some new and old friends leave, a couple from Australia and Hob the Vipassana-psychologist.  I have a fitful sleep after lunch and some reading, with headache, as the stuffy heat of my little room in the corner of the guesthouse stifles me.  There will be a hut available to me tomorrow, God willing.

Afternoon tea is quite normal under the new thatched roof of the gazebo.  I still have trouble believing that they cut down the old mango tree and put up this thing for Father’s 80th birthday, but it must be a great help when it rains.

Lola will teach yoga after tea to the women’s group, nuns in saris and a few western women.  She does deep breathing with slow graceful movements and some stretches.  In the evening I go over to Lola’s hut for a bath of cold water before prayers;  Bede speaks of prayer as the distinguishing mark of the religious vocation, not social work, or teaching, or hospitals, these may flow out of the prayer but the prayer is to be understood as primary.

 

Hermetic Philosophy

Lectures Notes

 

Bede, 4pm. Sun., Oct 18th

This Book is called, Meditations on the Tarot.  Amity Press, 1964 edition.  The author is given as Anonymous, but there is a note that explains that it is written by a Russian Catholic living in France.

The basic doctrine is that the ultimate cannot be expressed.  This Divine Mystery reveals itself in the form of Jnana to the higher mind.  It is experiential.  It is wisdom.  Wisdom manifests as power, which the author refers to as magic.

Each religion receives the one Divine Mystery in the terms and symbols of their own language and culture.  A symbol is a sign under which the Divine reality can be present.  Christ is a symbol of God.

All religion is a symbol, an expression in human terms of the Divine Mystery.  Our task in religion is to go beyond the symbols to the Divine Mystery.

There is often no similarity between religions on the basis of ritual or language, but in meditation, in silent experience, there is meeting.  There is knowledge beyond word and thought, where we meet in the ineffable reality.

Each tradition has its value and its limitations. 

The Buddha felt, judging from the quarrels of the Brahmins, that it is useless to name the mystery.  Only negative indications are given, Nirvana, blowing out, Sunyata, emptiness.  Don’t talk about it.  Follow the noble eightfold path and you will experience for yourself. 

Hindus also use the negative mode, ‘neti neti’, not this, not this, but more popular are the terms Brahman and Atman and the audacious, ‘Brahman asti.’  I am Brahman.

Then there is the beautiful phrase ‘Sat Cit Ananda.’ Sat, Being is the ground of all.  It is also conscious.  Cit’ is consciousness itself without objects and from this arises Ananda, bliss.

 

Advaita speaks of the Reality beyond word and thought and also of pure unity.  The danger of this position is that it is somewhat static.

There are more dynamic views.

In Buddhism Nirvana and Samsara are the same.  In Kashmir Shaivism, Consciousness and Energy, Shiva and Shakti, unite to form Para Shiva.

In Christian Doctrine the mystery is conceived of as love.  Love demands relationship.  There is dynamism.  Consciousness develops through contact with others.  The distinction is made between object consciousness and inter-subjective consciousness.  Knowledge demands some kind of dualism, some reflection.  The Highest knowledge is self-reflection.  The ‘Word’ of God as the fist creation is the self-reflection of God.

Beyond all this knowledge is the One.  The question remains however, is there knowledge or plurality with the One.  If the One knows itself then there is the possibility of love.  Thus there arises in Christianity the image of the Father and the Son, and that knowing and loving which passes between them is the Holy Spirit.

Human love is the most real event in human life.  Now the question is, is there a reflection of this in God.

Jesus says, “I and the Father are One.”  And people often ask “Is this Advaita?”

But no, it does not say, “I am the Father,” but rather ‘We two are One.’

“Who sees me sees the Father, but I am not the Father.”

 

A communion in Love is the Ultimate Reality.  And we can discover the ultimate Reality through our human love relationships, mother, sister, etc.

Perfect love is perfect oneness and yet there is distinction in the One.

Nirvana-Sunyata and Brahman-Atman are unique insights into reality.  The Trinity is also a unique communication of God.  In the experience of the communication we become One with God and with all creation.

God, Christ and Spirit are all masculine in the Latin translations, but then we can try the “Godhead” as feminine.

 

The first year postulants of the Holy Cross sisters in their saris are here today for lunch with a Tanzanian Priest and a few white smocked nuns to chaperone them.  They have all come to the talk.  One wonders what they make of all this intellectualism.  But the Indian women picking up Bede’s energy even if he were speaking in a foreign language.

 

Weaving the Threads Together

 

Brother John.  Father Bede in the course of three months we have found ourselves exposed to Hinduism and Buddhism, the Chinese presence in Tibet, plus the I Ching, which we carried with us and consulted regularly, and then Islam, though a very mystical form of Islam.

What is it in your view that we can look to as a common thread running through these traditions?  I have thought of your talks on Purusha and perhaps something on the metaphysical level.

 

Dom Bede.  Well let’s do Purusha first.  That concept is very clearly defined in Hinduism.  It comes in the Rig Veda, the Purusha Sukta, “Three fourths of him is above in heaven, one fourth is here on earth.”  That is the immanent and the transcendent, and he is the Universal Man, which is contained within himself.

Then  in Buddhism you get the Tathagata the one who is “thus gone” or gone to “that”.  “That” is Buddha conceived of as the one who has attained the ultimate, who has realised the Dharmakaya.  He really appears as the Universal Person transcending all yet present in all.

In Islam the Universal Man appears again as Insan-al-Kamil.  He is like the eye with which God see the universe and with which man sees God.

In the Hebrew tradition there is Adam Kadmon and the “Son of Man” who is both man at the beginning and the one who according to Daniel, Comes in the clouds at the end.  So he is the eternal one.

That is the link between these cultures but at a rather lofty level, not the level at which you were experiencing with the I Ching and the popular Tibetan Buddhism.  I don’t know if there is a link at that level.

 

Brother John.  Well it’s nice to know that at some level there is a link, for when one goes about visiting these people what one sees is inevitably the popular religion, and the differing mythologies and the cultural differences which are interesting to explore, but when one sits back in one’s study or here with you it is good to also know what there is that provides a common thread.

Now what of the Chinese, we haven’t touched on them?

 

Dom Bede.  Well that is a problem.  I don’t know the Chinese culture that well,  but Lao Tsu became sort of a figure of that kind didn’t he?  They don’t even know that he was an actual individual.  Legend has it that he walked off one day and disappeared.  He is the archetype of the wise man and one of the immortals.  Later he comes to be almost identified with the Tao itself.

 

Brother John.  That’s right.  There is a wonderful scene in the Chinese classic “Monkey” where lao tsu and Quan Yin with the whole Chinese Pantheon are Living in the Heaven Realm.  Lao Tsu is always busy concocting the elixir of immortality for the garden parties that Quan Yin holds on the lawns of her palace.

 

Dom Bede.  I think Lao Tsu is the figure.  He is not fully a Universal Man but there is a whole mystery that surrounds him.

 

Now for the philosophical and metaphysical background we can start with Brahman, in Hinduism, which is simply the reality, underlying all phenomena, that which is behind all the names and forms of the world, Brahman the one Reality is conceived positively in Hunduism.  It is Being and that being is realised in consciousness, in the Atman.  And Being realised in consciousness is Bliss.  So there arises the formula SATCITANANDA, which is a nme for the Ultimate.

Now Buddha won’t allow any name for the Ultimate.  He won’t name Brahman even.  He teaches a way, the Eightfold Path; and says to follow that path and you will find out for yourself what is beyond names.  Don’t talk about it don’t try to describe it.  It is Nirvana, the passing beyond, the blowing out.  Then in the Mahayana they call it Sunyata, emptiness, the Void, beyond all positive appearances of being is the One which is everywhere in everything, it is total and yet it has no name no form whatsoever.  It’s a marvellous idea really.

Mind you the Hindus would say of Brahman “neti, neti” not this, not this.  No name no form.  So one sees that they are very closely akin.

And then of course this theme is continued in Islam - the concept of “Al Haqq” It is amazing that beyond Allah the personal God is Al Haqq, the Reality.  It is almost identical with Brahman and is almost pure Advaita you know as it is expressed by Ibn-l-Arabi.  The same doctrines emerge out of totally different religious contexts.  They all seem to rise to the same vision of non-dual reality.

 

Brother John.  Well it is essentially experiential is it not?  That is why they are so similar.  Now what of the Christian tradition, which starts really with the Hebrew?

Dom Bede.  There is Gregory of Nyssa’s idea that God reveals himself in the darkness on Mount Sinai, and then when Moses wants to see him he says you will see my back, you cannot see my face.  There is the idea that no man can see God and Live.  Then there is the Shekhina, the presence of God, which descends upon the Mercy Seat within the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem.  And the mercy seat is empty.  It’s amazing really.  That is the Shekhina, the presence of God, which is there but is not seen. 

In the New Testament there is not very much really.  Saint Paul speaks of God “who dwells in inaccessible light.”  There is a mystical vision behind it all but it doesn’t come out very much.  There is hardly a name for the transcendent mystery.

 

Brother John.  Yes in the New Testament it is the personal God who features rather like Krishna in the Bhagavat Gita where God has become very personal and immediate.

 

Dom Bede.  Now in the Christian Tradition beyond the New Testament there is a great richness, starting with Origen, and then Gregory of Nyssa, and Dionysus the Areopagite…

 

Brother John.  How does Meister Eckhart relate to Mahayana Buddhism?

 

Dom Bede. Well it’s almost the same as with the Advaita of Shankara.  Again there is a totally different approach and yet they both put forth the idea of a non-dual reality.  Something beyond sense, beyond imagination, beyond thought, this is the total reality.

For the Chinese I would have to look it up more.  It seems to come in the Neo-Confucian philosophy where Taoism and Confucianism have been merged into a Universal philosophy.  But I can’t remember the terminology at the moment.  We have in the library the Everyman edition of Chinese philosophy.

 

Brother John.  Now how about on the level of practise, on the level of mystical experience.  Is there a common thread there?

 

Dom Bede.  Well there are the two aspects as shown in the Upanishads.  There is the Jnana, the experience of the one blissful reality, and then there is the personal manifestation of Krishna in the Bhagavat Gita.  In Buddhism there is the experience of Nirvana, which is bliss again, and then its personal manifestation in Buddha the Tathagata.  And in Islam there is the personal God Allah and then the mystical experience of the one beyond.

And in Christianity you get the personal manifestation of God in Jesus, then there is the concept of the Divine Darkness, then in Eckhart he speaks of the substance, the spark, beyond the trinity really, which is the manifestation of the Hidden Godhead.

 

Unfinished

 

Lola and I flew back from the ashram in the South to Delhi and thence to Hong Kong, just so she can see the place for a day.  Her real focus is the stop in Hawaii and the possibility of meeting up with the father of their son who died by the riverside.  She finds out that he is living on the Big Island and I remembered an English friend, met at Bede’s ashram, who also lives on the big island.  He had lived for many years in Benares and had apprenticed with a maker of sitars.  Lola arranged to meet her man and I went to see my friend.

“How was the meeting?” I asked her.

“It was very cordial.  We were both a bit in shock when we met but then we talked and shed a few tears recalling the past; and our son who was gone.  And here I am again very pleased to have faced those memories.  In a sense we could both tie a bow into the long string of memories that has hung, unresolved, between us for years.”

 

Next and last stop was L.A. and back to our tepee on the hillside overlooking the Ojai Valley and Chiefs Peak beyond the valley thus tying the fourth set of strings into a final bow in order to seal our Journey to the Four Directions.  Our primary circle was the walk around the mountain, then the travels from Delhi and back to Delhi; there was Lola’s encounter with the father of her first born Lola in Hawaii and the fourth was when we arrived back in the tepee and gave thanks to Chief’s Peak for having sent us to visit his bigger brother on the other side of the world.  Lola and I invited the friends who had contributed to financing our journey to the house of one of our contributors on the beach in Malibu and held a slide show of the photos that Maxine had taken in order to share a few glimpses of our adventure.

 

A couple of poems written by Judy Siqueira after a 45 day Vispassana

Please click on File below to see poems:-

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From: Roland Ropers

RUTH PFAU - Pakistan's Mother Teresa - state funeral on 19th August in Karachi


http://www.epochtimes.de/wissen/gesellschaft/leben-und-abenteuer-der-lepra-aerztin-und-nonne-ruth-pfau-a1138117.html


The German nun and medical doctor Ruth Pfau, born in Leipzig on 9th September 1929, had lived and worked in the „hell“ of Pakistan since 1960. She died in Karachi on 10th August 2017.

She built more than 150 leprosy hospitals.  Due to Dr. Pfau's persistent and selfless efforts, Pakistan was declared 'leprosy-free' in 1996 by the World Health Organization.
We met on several occasions - last time in May 2014 (see photo below). Ruth Pfau is „honoured“ in my book on „MYSTICS of our TIME“.



Please note that the fragments below are protected by copyright laws and cannot be copied or reproduced, except by naming the author and the original place of publishing (the Oblates page). 


Pilgrim in India (novel)

extracts from a novel by Savitri I. Mayer 

Extract from the prologue

 

          I was in India during 1983… and part of my experiences during that trip are in this novel.

          All the information and teachings are faithful to the sources; the texts looked up and quoted appear in the bibliography: Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Swami Vivekananda, Father Bede Griffiths, some Buddhist schools…, and a few more.

          Father Mark is a character inspired by Father Bede Griffiths, in whose ashram I stayed some time and from whom I received diksha, beside the ashram cross and a new name.

          I doubted a lot about either putting Father Bede as a character and portray him faithfully in the novel, or create a fictional character. Finally I chose the second option because it gave me more freedom and I could create a character that, even if very similar to Father Griffiths, is nontheless a fictional character, mainly in some anecdotes and dialogues exclusive to the fiction and to the character, Father Mark. But Father Mark’s teachings are Father Bede’s teachings and are taken from his books (which I mention in the bibliography) and also a little from my memories. Father Mark’s ashram (Satyavanam) is also inspired by Father Bede’s ashram: I describe the spaces, the rhythm and the activities of the fictional ashram as they were and as I experienced them in Shantivanam during the time I spent there.

 

Extract from chapter 5

 

The trip to Satyavanam

 

          After the second visit to …., I thought the moment to meet Father Mark had arrived. Earlier it would have not been right, because it was a Christian ashram and it was during Easter. But now I assumed there would be place, so I sent a brief letter announcing my arrival (as I had been advised to do) and one night I took a bus directly to Tiruchirapalli, the nearest town to the ashram.

 

……………………

 

          I took a taxi and after a pretty long journey arrived at the ashram. The entrance was an arcade painted in pink, with some sculptures on it. These were sitting figures, with the style and the colours of the Hindu murtis, but it seemed to me that they represented Christian saints.

 

          I went inside and walked on a path lined with palm trees till I arrived at the reception office, where the manager, an Indian man of middle age, received me with great consideration. They had received my letter and so I was expected and a room was prepared for me. This room was small and simple but comfortable. A bed, a wooden plank hanging from the wall as a table and a chair, besides a pair of shelves for the clothes. That room and a few others were part of a modest building with roof in straw, and all the rooms opened to a corridor which was by a garden. It was possible to see many trees and plants, and just in front of my room there was a thick shrub with orange flowers that gave a mild scent.

          The manager gave me a piece of paper with the timetable of activities and said he would come later to take me to Father Mark´s hut.

          I hurried up… I put my things on the shelves and had a shower in the bathroom, which was at the end of the corridor and was a tiny wooden space as modest as all the rest. I had taken a shower in the morning, in the hotel, but because of the heat I had perspired and wanted to be impeccable for the meeting with the father. I dressed modestly: a pair of trousers and a kurta.

          I was restless, intrigued… My friend had spoken about the father with such great admiration: Would I feel the same?

 

First meeting with Father Mark

 

          I was nearly dressed when I heard a soft knock on the door. I opened it and saw the manager:

—I can now take you to meet the father —he said, with such a firmness that to postpone this was impossible.

          I asked him to wait some seconds… My hair was wet, which may not have been appropriate and so I took my white shawl and covered my head with it.

          We had to walk on a long path…, till the manager stopped near a humble little hut with roof in straw, saying:

 —This is the father´s hut.

          It was a very simple dwelling, with a door, a window, a little garden in the front and very high trees —palms, coconuts and banana trees— that gave shadow to the garden.

          Behind the opened window I saw the figure of an aged man. He was dressed in a saffron gown, his arms and one shoulder naked, and he seemed to be writing, sitting at a table by the window.

          We waited silently… and some minutes went by, till the father raised his head and saw us, greeting us with a smile and a gesture.

          The manager, going ahead and with a slight head inclination, told the father that I came from Argentina and after some exchange of words he left.

          And the father, with a gesture and a namaste, invited me to go near him…

          While I was walking towards him, his face was becoming more distinct.

          I saw the light of his clear eyes. And his smile. He had a thick white beard, long white hair, and blue eyes very bright. He seemed the image of purity.

          Immediately, I perceived something immensely loving coming from him, something ineffable.

          Then… all my thoughts ceased.

          I felt warm in my chest…, in my cheeks. And was invaded by a feeling of love so strong and sudden and incomprehensible. A feeling of love very pure…, different to other kinds of love I had experienced till then.

          I stayed motionless in front of his window, while he looked at me smiling and asking questions…

          I answered as I could, because that inexplicable love was paralysing me.

—My name is Moira…, I am from Buenos Aires…, I knew about Satyavanam

through a Spanish friend.

And babbling I said the name of my friend, whom the father immediately remembered.

          Afterwards, I stayed looking at him with delight… And he went on talking, in a concise and formal way, while I expressed myself in a monosyllabic way. He asked me if my room was comfortable and how long I wished to stay. He said that there were group meetings in the mornings and the afternoons, to share a coffee with milk (milk from the ashram´s cows). And said that if I needed to talk with him privately, I only had to go near his hut and wait till he called me.

          I was then conscious of two realities at the same time.

          On one side that old humble monk, who was concerned with my comfort and who was speaking in a very British English about such ordinary things as my room and the ashram routine.

          On the other side, that loving and amazing energy, that seemed to come from him and surrounded me, halting my thoughts and making me nearly weep.

What I was feeling was bewildering…

          Finally, the father dismissed me doing a namaste, which I gave back in the same way, and overflowing with love I went back to my room.

In a while, the father would give a discourse.  That time waiting seemed to me endless: I wanted to listen to the father, to meet the people staying there, to share the activities…

 

His first discourse

 

          The discourse was given in a circular space, without walls, with a wooden ceiling supported by trunks. In the center there was a curious sculpture: four identical figures of Jesus Christ facing the four cardinal points. They were sitting in meditation posture, with their hands on the knees doing a mudra, and the marble of the four Christs was black.

          When I arrived some people were there already, sitting on the floor on cushions or rugs. After a while the father came. His body was like a reed, tall and thin, slightly bent forward, and the saffron robe, the kavi, reached to his feet, which were discalced. He was carrying some books and handwritten papers and placed himself on the floor, facing us, on a little straw carpet.

—Today we shall begin a new subject —he said, putting on his reading glasses.

“I arrived at the right moment” I thought.

—We will read some of the Upanishads and from that reading, we will compare

Hinduism with Christianity… This is very important!

          The father began to read…, and from time to time he stopped to comment, explaining what the Vedas and the Upanishads are. The Vedas are the oldest texts of Hinduism, transmitted initially by word of mouth, and were created by thinkers and poets from their inner experience. The Upanishads, the last Vedas´ texts, are the most philosophical, and convey a deep spiritual understanding.

When the father made comments, he took out his glasses and stared at us, attentive to our responses.

 

          After a while he said:

 

The Hindu vision “It is this vision of a cosmic unity, in which man and nature are sustained by an all-pervading spirit, which the West needs to learn from the East.

 

And he stressed that one of the more important messages from the Upanishads is that the Spirit can only be known through union with Him. And that this is possible because the Spirit, Brahman, is present in each one of us, it is Atman, our own being.

 

The Self which dwells in the heart of every creature… It is smaller than the small, greater than the great, —he read.

 

          I listened to him with great interest as did the other people: all quiet, sitting in front of him. Even if the father was explaining very intangible themes, he managed to capture our attention completely.

          But from time to time, I looked around me with joy…

          I felt so well!

          Everything seemed to me beautiful and perfect. The evening sun radiating behind the father; the father, who also radiated; the four black Christs in their eternal meditation.

Everything was perfect!

 

Ruth, a soul friend

 

          From that afternoon I began to share the activities in the ashram and my days slided through meditations, Masses and teachings, but also social life. There were two circumstances of intense communication that repeated every day, in the middle of the mornings and in the afternoons, when we met to have a coffee with milk. We did it in a round open space, which was surrounded by palm trees that gave shadow and by plants that gave scent.

          There I began to meet people and to discover my affinity with them. And during one of the first mornings I met Ruth…

          I was sitting on a trunk, drinking my coffee and pleased, watching the people, when a girl slightly overweight, with a  kind face and nice smile, came near me. She was dressed with a white robe that reached her feet and her glance was frank and intelligent.

—Hi, your first time in Satyavanam? —she asked, with a very American English.

          Immediately I knew that she was from California (where she was studying in an important university, in something related to education) and that this was her third time in India and in father Mark´s ashram.

—India is like a magnet for me, I come every time I can —she confessed, and then she told me in detail of her experience in India and in Satyavanam.

          From the very first moment I liked Ruth very much. And this was reciprocal. We began to meet each other often and in few days we were intimates. As she used to say:

“We recognized each other as soul friends, as spiritual sisters”.

          Ruth was profound, sincere and wise, with a bright intelligence that balanced her not much physical beauty. She had hair in opaque chestnut colour combed without style and she dressed with robes in rustic fabric that looked like sacs. These were special clothes for her sojourn in India and she herself made them.

          Ruth practiced meditation for many years and the most important thing in life for her was the spiritual search.

……………………..

 

Everyday life in the ashram: living in paradise

 

The love for the teacher

 

          The mystery of the energy, of the vibration that persons and places give off… In Satyavanam that mystery prevailed. It was like living in paradise…, or as we imagine paradise should be.

          During those first weeks, the anxiety and the mood swings disappeared from my feelings. I got stabilized in a state of serenity, joy and harmony.

          I was happy, and I was happy in a quiet way, without ups and downs.

And every time I came across the father, I felt that inexplicable love… It was so strange: a feeling of complete purity, full of respect and veneration.

—This is the love for the teacher —Ruth explained when I told her—. I feel the same for Father Mark. When I am here, what I long most is to see him or to listen to him, and besides that, to assist him.

          It was reassuring to know that she felt the same as me.

          There were two periods for meditation: one hour at dawn and one hour in the afternoon. During those times everyone would sit to meditate alone, in any place. But we were attuned with each other, as we were all doing the same. I liked, especially at dawn, to go to the river side, which was near the ashram. There I found room on a stone or against a trunk… The sun was just appearing, softly and tenderly, and my first thoughts were for God, to Whom I offered my meditation…

 

Om Sri Bhagavate

Satchitanandaya Namaha

(Let us greet the Lord, who is Being, Consciousness, Bliss)

 

          Everybody gave some help in the ashram, which in my case was usually to peel and cut vegetables in the mornings. And a couple of times it was my turn for serving the meals…

          The dining room was a big rectangular space, with the walls painted in smooth green.

          We sat forming two facing rows, on the floor, with the exception of aged people, who were provided with chairs.

          The father shared all the meals with us, sitting as everybody else on the floor, in the end of a row. And during the occasions I had to serve, was astonished at his frugality. I had just helped him with a serving of rice and vegetables, and already his hand made a gesture showing that it was enough.

          The meals were also a delight for the soul. While in silence as we consumed the food, we listened to fragments of sacred texts read by some disciple. Then, the act of eating, so linked to body and matter, seemed infused with a sacred quality. The usual pleasure of the senses disappeared. We gave to our body the food it needed, but our attention was focused on something more essential, on something that nourished us spiritually.

          There were three services every day and to attend them was glorious…

The chapel, painted in brick colour inside and outside, was as simple as all the other buildings in the ashram. In the style of many Hindu temples, it had the altar within a dark and half closed space, put on a level from which some stairs descended. The father seated himself in front of those stairs and the monks staying in the ashram and not only residents but also visitors sat on both sides.

Even being very simple, or maybe because of that, the chapel was very beautiful.

          The images were trimmed with flower threads, the incense was burning on the altar and the Mass integrated in the rituals of the religions of the East and the West.

          We all sat on the floor and once all were accommodated, the devotional chanting, the bhajans, would begin. The father and the monks leading them, while they were playing wind and percussion instruments. Father Mark played a small drum called kanjira with his hands.

And those chants were moving: the father in front of us with his kanjira and everybody singing, praying aloud…

 

Om Asato ma sadgamaya        From the unreal lead me to the Real

Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya        From darkness lead me to Light

Mrityor ma amritamgamaya    From death lead me to Immortality

 

          And when the father gave his sermon, his words moved me in a permanent way, not only for what he said but, and mainly, for how he said it. Never, in the few times that I had attended a Mass and listen to the priest,  had I perceived such a power, such a conviction, such a truth. All in him was inspiring…

          I remember phrases from his sermons, like that time when, with joined hands and shining glance, he said:

 

“Prayer and meditation are ways of going beyond appearances and touch Reality…

Meditation is a way of going beyond the ego and opening to the Spirit, letting Him transform us.”

 

Or that other time:

 

“The word God has infinite meanings and none is adequate… It points to Something that is beyond words and things.”

 

And he also seemed to go beyond words and things, nearly ethereal, luminous


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POEM WRITTEN BY JUDY SIQUEIRA











POEM WRITTEN BY JUDY SIQUEIRA AFTER A 45 DAY VIPASSANA