The following quotations of Swami Abhishiktananda have been taken from Setu, the Bulletin of the Abhishiktananda Society (1978 – 2008), with the kind permission of the Abhishiktananda Centre for Interreligious Dialogue (Delhi Brotherhood Society). Website:


“What is important in the Upanishads are the ‘correlations’, which go beyond all the words employed and pierce the living flesh like electric shocks. Neither books nor lectures convey this experience. You have to awake to another level of awareness. The truth of the Upanishad is the awakening to the purusha that I am!”

(Letter 28.5.72) Swami Abhishiktananda, His life told through his letters, by James Stuart (Delhi, ISPCK, 1989 pp. 301). quoted in Setu, No23, December 2002 - February 2003 p.3.)


        The goal of the universe is consciousness of being, the final unveiling of the intuition that constitutes the human being. There were sages, there were seers, there were prophets and each of them grasped something of the mystery within, the mystery within every being. And their intuitions are stars, beacons for their brothers. From the shore they send a signal, and on the rock they have lighted a flame. And this flame is a call.

(Abhishiktananda, Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, Diary, October 22, 1966 quoted in Setu, No23, December 2002 - February 2003 p.1.)


        One who knows several mental (or religious or spiritual) languages is incapable of absolutizing any formulation whatever  - of the gospel, of the Upanishads, of Buddhism, etc. He can only bear witness to an experience – about which he can only stammer…

All formulations are upasanas, approaches in prayer, in contemplation in humility.

(Swami Abhishiktananda, Diary, 30 April 1973 quoted in Setu, No19, February 1998 p.1.)


        In the heart of every man there is something – a drive? – which is already there when he is born and will haunt him unremittingly until his last breath. It is a mystery which encompasses him on every side, but one which none of his faculties can ever attain to or still less, lay hold of. It cannot be located in anything that can be seen, heard, touched or known in this world. There is no sign for it – not even the would-be transcendent sign of sannyasa.

       It is a bursting asunder at the very heart of being, something utterly unbearable. But nevertheless this is the price of finding the treasure that is without name or form or sign. It is the unique splendour of the Self- but no one is left in its presence to exclaim, “How beautiful it is!”


(Abhishiktananda, The Further Shore, p.37 quoted in Setu, No13, December 1990 p.1.)


                “…It is always a great joy to be here (the hermitage at Uttarkashi). It is like another world, another birth’, as we say in India. Here the Upanishads open up to ever great depths. I realize that no cursory reading of the Upanishads (any more than of the Bible) can reveal their secret. We are so conditioned by our western mentality! It is easy to say that we must make our souls and our minds virginally empty. But to go on from that to actually doing so. It means quite a different angle of vision. And we have to attain this angle of vision, not conceptually, but existentially…”

(Abhishiktananda, extract from letter of 24.7.64 quoted in Setu, No 12, June 1989)         


“…Advaita, which is the highest experience of the mind, cannot isolate people and produce esoteric groups. As man’s supreme act, it cannot cut the umbilical cord. It takes a man out of himself, in order to bring him to his fullness as man. Is not that the deep meaning of the Resurrection? Everything dies, but everything is reborn. Advaita should result in the total integration of the whole man, and in each one’s integration in the totality of mankind. Religion is a form of service, not an end in itself…”

(Abhishiktananda extract from letter to O.B., 1.10.68 quoted in Setu, No 11, June 1988)


“… The message of the Upanishads, as regards its formulation, still depends on its Vedic-Brahmanic roots, but it is self-luminous – svaprakāśa; it reveals the depth in its proper light. It reflects it…”

                “…Similarly, the Gospel message is no more bound to the Jewish world in which it was revealed. Its universal value consumes and melts the wax vessels of the Judaeo-Greek world in which this honey was deposited. It echoes the very depths of the human heart: the message of love, of mutual giving, of relationship. The message that mankind’s condition is divine…”

(Extract from Abhishiktananda’s Diary, 14.12.71 quoted in Setu, No 10, April 1987) 


“…If the Word has become flesh, then as a consequence I myself have passed into the divine sphere, as the Offertory prayer says. Either I take this seriously, or I do not. It is not a matter of smiling at the Babe in the crib, but of taking seriously the fact that in his birth as man, I myself am born into the divine ‘nature’, as St Peter said, and of living accordingly…”

(Extract from letter to a Benedictine nun, 14.12.62 quoted in Setu, No 8, December 1984 p.1)


"In my case I waited thirteen years before being able to make an official request to go to India. And during those thirteen years how often the whole thing was again called in question, as soon as a glimmer of hope appeared. Nothing to do but trust and leave all to God. The important thing is not to do such and such a work for God, but to allow him to do through us what he himself wishes to do. The essential preparation for India is the deepening of one's inner life. When anyone puts this question to me -- "How not to forget God in the midst of activity?" my reply is very simple: "How rather to forget him?"We identify the Lord with the idea that we have of him, with such and such a practice (prayer, etc.) . Is it not enough to know that God, in transcending all things, is also immanent in everything? As if one could possibly depart from God!"

(From a letter of Abhishiktananda to a Carmelite nun, 21.4.63. quoted in Setu No.3, December 1979, p.1.)


“A real jñānī  is one who is entirely available to the Spirit and open to his inspiration. Anyone who refuses to do his share of the world’s work merely on the excuse that he must ensure peace and quiet for contemplation, has not begun to understand the meaning of jñāna. He thereby shows that he has not yet had an inner awakening to the mystery of Self and of Being. For the true jñānī  differences no longer exist, in the sense of the dvandva, or ‘pairs of opposites’. Everywhere he meets the mystery of God, the mystery of Self and of Being… and this excludes all possibility of difference, since it is in everything identical to itself.

          “When therefore the jñānī has to live in the world, his practical activity will be no less intelligent or vigorous than that of his fellows. Whatever he does will be carried out with full awareness and application. His work in the created world will at the same time be as committed and as free as that of God. He will give himself entirely to his work, and yet at the same time he will remain totally free and independent with regard to what he does.

          “No doubt the views of the jñānī  about what man truly needs will vary considerably from that of the technocrat…”

(Abhishiktananda, Saccidānanda, ch. 13, pages 152, 153, 155 quoted in Setu No. 4, June 1980, p.1.)



“Whether or not I wish it to be so, I am profoundly attached to Jesus Christ, and so to the koinonia of the Church. It is in him that the ‘mystery’ has been revealed to me, ever since my awakening to myself and the world. It is through his image, his symbol, that I know God, and that I know myself and the world of men. After my awakening here to new depths of myself (of the self – the atman) , this symbol has become marvellously filled out. Christian theology had already revealed to me the eternity of the mystery of Jesus in sinu Patris (in the bosom of the Father). Later India revealed to me the cosmic whole of this mystery – this revelation within which the Judean (Jewish) revelation is inserted.”… “For me Jesus is the Sadguru. It is in him that God has appeared to me, in his mirror that I have discovered myself, in adoring him, loving him, consecrating myself to him.”

Abhishiktananda's Diary 24 July 1971 quoted in Setu No. 5, October 1981, p.1.)


                “There is always an element of aestheticism in our way of sharing the lot of the poor. There is always something wanting in respect of the complete truth … I know something of this myself, living as I do half with the established Church and half with those who have nothing, half with Christians and half with Hindus – a very uncomfortable situation, believe me! That is why I find your remark about the ‘bridge’ very illuminating. It is precisely one’s existence as a bridge that makes this uncomfortable situation worthwhile. The world, at every level, needs such bridges. If, to be a Hindu with Hindus, I had become a complete sannyasi, I would be unable either to communicate the Hindu message to Christians or the Christian message to Hindus … However, the danger of living as a ‘bridge’ is that one risks not really belonging anywhere, whereas, however harrowing it may be, one has to belong wholly to both sides. This is only possible in God’s mystery.”

(Letter, 9 February 1967 quoted in Setu No. 6, December 1982, p.1.)


    “Everything was so wonderful during those first two weeks (i.e., after the heart-attack of 17 July). Later came the stripping away of all thought, meditation, contemplation. Now it is simply being there and being awake without any of the poetry of the awakening. I cannot send you any poetry in reply… Often I knew joy with marvellous poetry; now there is joy without any poetry, and that is even more true.”

(Letter to his sister M-T, 22.10.73 quoted in Setu, No 7, November 1983 p.1)


          “…I am totally incapacitated. All I can manage is to write a few words of news or business. But all mental concentration is beyond my strength. After two weeks of bliss at the beginning when I had my attack, these four months of helplessness have been a marvellous lesson. It is so delightful to write – in the abstract – about nakedness of the spirit. But then the Lord takes you at your word, removes every fine thought and leaves you lying there, capable of no more than simply being there! And that is what is most real. That is what I needed, chatterbox as I was!”

(Letter to a Carmelite at Lisieux 30.11.73 quoted in Setu, No 7, November 1983 p.1)


 "...In himself the Lord is everywhere. There is no being, no situation, which should not be a wonderful manifestation of his Being. We don’t succeed in being recollected while at work, because we have made for ourselves an IDEA of God and imagine that we can only find God by means of this idea that we have formed of him..."

 "...The true contemplative is he who has allowed the Spirit to carry him off and to deprive him of every support, even of that which he called his contemplation’."

(Extracts from a letter to a Carmelite, 14.1.62 quoted in Setu, No 9, March 1986 p.1)


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