Bro. John Martin Sahajananda 

10th October 2014  is the 57th mahasamadhi (death anniversary) of Abbe Jules Monchanin. This year also marks the 75th year since Abbe Monchanin arrived in India (1939). To mark the occasion, I wish to share with you some reflections from Ma Atmajyoti-Ananda, which were originally presented as a talk at Shanitvanam in 2007, on the occasion of the 50th mahasamadhi of Abbe Monchanin, and which focuses on the year 1939.

“Abbe Monchanin finally departed for India on 5 May 1939, at the age of 44, after seven years of waiting…We begin, now, to see an appreciation of all happening according to the will of God. Regarding the long wait before departing for India, he wrote: ‘When I look back, it is impossible to regret leaving after such a long delay. I think it was exactly at the moment it had to be’ (Quest of the Absolute, p.24). Furthermore, in May, on the sea journey to India, Abbe Monchanin wrote in a letter to his mother: ‘It [the journey to India] had to be. The call was irresistible. With God all has to be risked without counting the cost. It is for India that I want to love beyond myself’ (Quest of the Absolute, p.26).”

Abbe Monchanin was a saintly man whose life provides an example to us of the spiritual virtue of waiting in faith for God’s will to unfold. May he pray for us.

Bro. John Martin Sahajananda 

MESSAGE FROM  Aranya Ashram, Rishikesh 2016

Dear Friends, 

Sunday April 10 will mark the birth anniversary of Jules Monchanin (1895, France), founder of the tradition of the Hermits of Saccidananda, on which Aranya Ashram, Rishikesh, is inspired. 

Yesterday, whilst reading Thomas Merton's book "Contemplative Prayer", I chanced upon this quotation from Monchanin. Here, Monchanin is referring to the vocation of the contemplative, and I'm sure - more specifically - that of a Hermit of Saccidananda. They are words which bring me great consolation!

"For us, let it be enough to know ourselves to be in the place God wants for us (in the modern world), and carry on our work, even though it be no more than the work of an ant, infinitesimally small, and with unforeseeable results. Now is the hour of the garden and the night, the hour of silent offering: therefore the hour of hope: God alone. Faceless, unknown, unfelt, yet undeniable: God." (From Ecrits Spirituels, p.126)

Praise for the life and teachings of Jules Monchanin, and for the desert he entered with faith, hope and love.

Aranya Ashram welcomes enquiries from women seeking to be part of this interspiritual, contemplative community longer term.

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Aranya Ashram, Rishikesh


Death Anniversary of Jules Monchanin 10.10.15

(article sent by Brother Martin)

Here I send you some thoughts shared by Mataji Mary Louise, the head of Ananda Ashram.

Jules Monchanin was born great, lived great and returned back to the Trinitarian Kingdom utterly dear to his heart with even greater greatness. While on moved ‘solo’ but with a ‘spirit’ of the divine unction-empathy, deeply grounded in his brilliant intellect- deep in his pulsating heart for the divine-human, constantly detecting and sustaining the divine in the human and the human in the divine. He was super at only this and nothing else. His ‘solo quest’ was nothing else but the urge to penetrate via medium Son- Spirit into the unfathomable and unexplored depths of the oceanic love- exquisite and unique expression of the Father’s compassion-concern-care for His children of the planet.

It was in the name of this zeal- this enthusiasm that we saw him among the greats-super- greats of his time. Born genius was at home with all the great artists, painters, musicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers and historians of his time.

As a mystic-prophet he was comfortable with the charismatic Church but bore the brunt of the Organized Church, with patience, humility and faithfulness in communion with His Master’s undying dedicated love for His spouse. While the French hierarchy was contemplating the road to Vatican, Monchanin by love- choice emanating from his addiction to fall in line with the Father’s love, concern for His unloved, unwanted children of the planet offered himself as a generous gift to serve the marginalized society of the miners- equally great with the lower strata of our humanity as the great and the super greats.

And with this great dream to identify himself with His Master in his 33 years on earth, Monchanin landed up in India and in our Diocese of Trichy, just to be ‘grain of wheat’ buried in the Indian-tamilian soil and wait its yield at the time of the Lord’s harvest- which by then will have known many a ‘bleak and frozen Winters’, ‘sparkling signs of the Spring’ clouded shrouded Summer’s “glow”.

But Monchanin had a dream and a great one at that, flourishing in the West he kept yearning for the East. Quite late in life at the Lord’s hour his great yearning as we know was fulfilled. The super brain came to India to live the ‘Good Friday of his intellect’. The genius had the material prepared  to build his own ‘internal altar’ in the depths and offered unceasingly as the pure incense his unlimited gifts of silent immolation, withdrawals, enfouissenment, depouillment as the burning ‘embers’ consumed his last sign, last breath and the last flight which took off not with material and earthly expertise but flew with rapid and great freedom-delight-comfort like Royal eagle in the skies to nestle forever into eternity under the comforting and rewarding presence of His Father’s delight. Monchanin was put aside, kept aside from birth to death just for the intensity-integrity of this ‘eternal parousaic osmosis. Amen! Amen!



In 1939, Fr. Jules Monchanin (1895-1957) arrived in India from France. From 1939-1949 he served as a parish priest in numerous parishes in the diocese of Trichy, Tamil Nadu. Henri le Saux arrived in Trichy in 1948 and in 1950 the two priests established Saccidananda Ashram. Monchanin remained at the Ashram until serious illness caused him to return to France in September 1957; he died one month later. Swami Abhishiktananda (le Saux) continued to oversee the care of the ashram until 1968, when Fr. Bede Griffiths arrived. He did this with the help of local people including Mr. Vishvasam (born 1926), who remained living in nearby Thannipalli village until his passing in 2008. Mr. Vishvasam served as Fr Monchanin and Fr le Saux’s cook from 1949 -1957 and was resident at the ashram during that period. During a meeting in 2007, Mr. Vishvasam was able to affectionately recall several stories about Fr Monchanin.


The Memories of Mr. Vishvasam – Cook and Friend to the Hermits

Collated by Ma Atmajyoti-Ananda, Beyond #13 of Aranya Kutir (

Mr. Vishvasam begins by explaining how it is he came to be at Shantivanam.

“I first met Fr. Le Saux in March, 1949. Le Saux came to a village near Dindigal (Tamil Nadu) where I was working for the parish priest. I was one of two boys working in the kitchen and Fr le Saux asked the priest whether he needed both boys. The priest said no, so le Saux asked whether he could take me with him, and he also asked me if I was willing to go. I said yes. Le Saux said, “After getting permission from Fr. Monchanin, I will send you a letter”. On March 30, 1949, Fr. le Saux brought me to Bhakti Ashram, in Kullitalai, and I have been here [in this area] ever since. I was in Bhakti ashram for seven to eight months until the Fathers started Shantivanam, in 1950. From 1949 to 1957, I was the cook at Shantivanam. I liked that job very much.

“When I arrived on 30 March, Monchanin said, ‘If you had arrived a day earlier, I would have given you last months’ salary’. And I said, ‘No problem, I will get it next month!’ ” (Laughing).

“Monchanin was very kind to me. As Shantivanam was a forest, no one wanted to live there but I liked to live there because of Monchanin’s kindness. Monchanin treated everyone equally and shared his love and affection. He was silent by nature, calm, and he always wanted to live a serene life. Fr. Monchanin suffered a lot but he was not sad. I never saw him angry. If he had been an ordinary man, there would have been a word called ‘angry’, but Monchanin was always praying. How could he get angry [when he was praying all the time]? Even while walking, Monchanin used to pray: when he walked from his hut to the chapel, he would pray the rosary.

“Whenever Monchanin walked through the village, he would chat with the people and they would all feel happy to see him. People of various religions would seek his advice. The local people would call Monchanin by the name ‘Big Father’.

“Fr. Monchanin hardly had any money and if anyone came saying that they hadn’t eaten for the day, he would give what little money he had. I received a good salary of Rs10 a month. Once, Fr. Monchanin needed to go to Trichy to see his Bishop. He didn’t have enough money so he asked me for 50 paise. I used to laugh to myself, ‘A foreign priest, how is it that he is like this?’ The trip to Trichy cost 50 paise by bus and 60 paise by train, so he didn’t even have that much money when he needed it. Will anyone believe this – a foreign priest asking money from me? (Laughing) Fr. Monchanin always trusted in God. I was very happy that I was able to help Fr. Monchanin.

“Monchanin lived very simply. Once, he returned to the ashram late at night from Pondicherry. He wandered around many times in the pitch dark, trying to find his hut. He couldn’t find it and so he went down towards the riverbank and sleep there for the night. The local people were surprised by his simple living.

“One day, I went to Fr. Monchanin with a list of vegetables that I was planning to buy. I wanted to check the list with Fr. Monchanin and ask him for some money for the shopping. Fr. Monchanin was sitting with a book on his lap and looking up into the distance, contemplating. I gave Fr. Monchanin the vegetable list, which he took in his hand but then he continued looking up and contemplating. He was absorbed in prayer. I called for Father’s attention a few times but he did not give any sign of hearing me. This shows the fullness of his soul towards God. He lived in his hut abiding by the words of God. He did everything with the fear of God.

“In August 1957, Monchanin went to Pondicherry and he stayed there for a week. His health condition was very severe and all advised him to go back to France. But Fr. Monchanin said, ‘Even if my health becomes worse, I will die in India; I will die in Tamil Nadu.’ And he strongly said, ‘I won’t go to France.’ [He was worried that if he left India, he would not get a visa to return]. The officials of Pondicherry assured him that he would get permission to return to India. Still he didn’t want to go, but after he got that assurance, he left India. He sent a telegram from Pondi saying he was not coming back to the Ashram.

“I came to know of Monchanin’s death from the telegram which was sent from Pondicherry to Fr. le Saux. Fr. le Saux and I were relaxing and talking to each other when the postman came and delivered the telegram. As soon as he read it, Fr. le Saux cried aloud and went into his room [with his head in his hands]. The one person who cried for Monchanin was Fr. le Saux. On seeing his reaction to the telegram, I understood that Fr. Monchanin had died. I went into Fr. le Saux’s room, closed the door and asked him what happened. I felt deep grief because Monchanin was not someone who was just known to me for just a year or two; I had been with him since 1949.

“[In all that time] Monchanin’s heart and manner remained the same. Monchanin lived his life as an apostle. Parama Arubi Anandam (Supreme Formless One): he was an Arubi. He had great faith in God, and never changed his mind or his words. Only his body was here, his soul was always rejoicing with God. Till the end, he was a holy man”. (By Ma Atmajyoti-Ananda, 2007)




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