Sunday, August 13, 2006
Ten years ago, I chanced upon the name and writings of Henri Le Saux (1910-73).
A French Benedictine monk, he lived in India from 1948 until his death. He took the Indian name Abhishiktananda, which means “Joy of the Amointed”. He sought to explore the meaning of being a Christian hermit in India. He tested, deepened and enriched his Christian faith by accepting to be completely open to the purest spiritual tradition of India.
When, after nineteen years of Benedictine life in France, he came face-to-face with Indian spirituality in the person of Ramana Maharishi, he recognised that harmony of the two traditions was not a simple matter. But he discerned the precious truth at the heart of Indian religion, and set out boldly, not merely to study it, but to live it to the full, adopting the Hindu way of renunciation (sannyasa). Through his long engagement with Indian spirituality he found that his own Christian experience was greatly enriched. His deep personal insights light up his writing.
Referring to the powerful pull to the unconscious exercised by the sacred pilgrimage sites of India he wrote:
A summons like that may be rendered fruitless by man’s lack of courage or freedom, but nonetheless it evokes such an inner resonance that henceforth he can never again find satisfaction anywhere in the world of illusion. ... Such a call pierces you to the heart, and there releases the most secret archetypes which are waiting for you in the depths of your psyche. From now on it will be through these myths that the summons of your truest being will torment you unremittingly. But how few there are who dare to accept themselves in their timeless mystery! The mind is always at work, and its argumentative, self-centred wisdom busily discusses and appraises the Spirit’s gift until finally it too often allows it to escape; yet that gift, to have its true effect, ought to be accepted without question. It will never be won by him who does not renounce absolutely everything and fears to risk his life.
Reading this, it struck me that perhaps it is the same fearful mindset that makes people disregard social justice – when it should be a fundamental design principle running through all human endeavour.