Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Abhishiktananda


Last November I wrote a blog on Monastic Interreligious Dialogue and spoke of the extraordinary experience of Christian monastic women meeting for three days with monastic women of the Buddhist tradition. Little did I know that several months later I would be writing this blog today from a different office wearing a different hat - the hat of administrator for the North American Commission for Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, MID for short.

I want to introduce you to an extraordinary and very interesting man: Abhishiktananda. Henri Le Saux, as he was known in his early life in France, was born 100 years ago this year. At the age of 19 he entered a French Benedictine monastery. As a young monk he felt a call within a call and that was to go to India and live out his monastic life there seeking God in the most radical way possible: by total renunciation. And so he became a sannyasi, a renouncer. From then on his name became Abhishiktananda.


Along with Fr. Jules Monchanin, Abhishiktananda founded a small ashram, Shantivanam, at which he never really felt at home. He traveled the length and breath of India. Eventually, Bede Griffiths who came to India several years after Abhishiktananda took over the ashram and it still exists today. Eventually Abhishiktananda found peace in the foothills of the Himalayas.


Abhishiktananda's search for the Absolute never waivered although for many years he felt a deep tension between his very strong commitment to Christ and his belief in the authencity of the "advaitic experience" (experience of non-duality) in the Hindu tradition. In the end Abhishiktananda believed that "the integration of the advaitic experience into a Christian's own faith is for the Christian a necessary task."


Abhishiktananda died at the age of 63 five months after suffering a massive heart attack but he left us several writings; I would be happy to send titles to anyone who is interested. Meanwhile, if you are curious about MID here is their web site: www. monasticdialog.com








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