Bold/other font size or underlining are introduced by the writer as special emphases to engage the attention of the reader. A letter to the Vatican. Subject: ‘ New Age ’ in the Catholic Church in India icon

Bold/other font size or underlining are introduced by the writer as special emphases to engage the attention of the reader. A letter to the Vatican. Subject: ‘ New Age ’ in the Catholic Church in India

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The Golden String: An Autobiography, 1954

Christian Ashrams: Essays Towards a Hindu-Christian Dialogue, 1966

Return to the Centre, 1976

Vedanta and Christian Faith, 1978
The Marriage of East and West: A Sequel to The Golden String, 1982

The Cosmic Revelation: The Hindu Way to God, 1985

River of Compassion: A Christian Reading of the Bhagavad Gita, 1987

Christianity in the Light of the East, 1989
A New Vision of Reality: Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith, 1989

The New Creation in Christ, 1992
Universal Wisdom; A Journey through the Sacred Wisdom of the World, 1994


Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings, with an introduction by ^ Thomas Matus, OSB, Orbis

The Other Half of My Soul: Bede Griffiths and the Hindu-Christian Dialogue, compiled by Beatrice Bruteau, Quest

Bede Griffiths- A Sage and a Prophet, K. John Martin Sahajananda, 2004

Beyond the Darkness: A Biography of Bede Griffiths, Shirley du Boulay, 1998

The Western Lover of the East: A Theological Enquiry into Bede Griffiths’ Contribution to Christology, Fr. Lourdu Anandam, 1998

Bede Griffiths and Sannyasa, Dr. Fr. Jesu Rajan, 1989

Bede’s Journey to the Beyond, Dr. Fr. Jesu Rajan, 1997


The Further Shore, ISPCK, 1975 [on Sannyasa, the Upanishads and the Advaitic Experience]
The Mountain of the Lord – A Pilgrimage to Gangotri

Prayer, ISPCK,1972

Hindu-Christian Meeting Point in the Cave of the Heart, 1966

Guru and Disciple, An Encounter with Swami Gnananda, a Contemporary Spiritual Master, ISPCK, 1974

Saccidananda, A Christian Approach to the Advaitic Experience, ISPCK, 1965

The Secret of Arunachala- A Christian Hermit on Shiva’s Holy Mountain, 1979

^ The Church in India : An Essay in Self-Criticism, CLS, 1971

Towards the Renewal of the Indian Church, 1970

Swami Parama Arubi Anandam : Memoirs of Jules Monchanin, 1959

An Indian Benedictine Ashram, 1951, and the French version Ermites du Saccidananda [with Jules Monchanin] 1956


TAPOVAN ASHRAM OF SWAMI SHUBHANANDA in Bandaria, Gujarat [Founded 1979] see page 29

A Spanish Jesuit, Angelo Beneditti came to India as a 20-year old missionary in 1948, received diksha from a Hindu guru and became Shubhananda [both names mean ‘blessed’]. He was ordained in 1959. I realised the cosmic nature of God from my contact with Hinduism. I find all religions manifestations of God." After doing research on the Bhagwad Gita at Poona University, he started the Tapovan Ashram. Among his achievements: he has given discourses on the Gita in several European countries. His gurukul has only a couple of Christian students. We don’t discuss religion, but we do talk about the great leaders in every religion including Jesus Christ. Source: The Week, October 20, 1996.

My German friend wrote to me, I regret that I promised you too much regarding Swami Shubhananda in Gujarat. I was there three months.There was first an old nun with that Swami, but during a raid on this place, the money was robbed and the nun was left behind with a shock. She went to an Gurukul run by the same Swami to stay there. Another nun came, of the sort who can never be in peace in one place and who changes often places. She was really highly depressed and some other things were wrong with her, some mental sickness.One day she called me, and I did not react.Then she screamed with an unnatural high, sharp, piercing shrieking voice, so I suspect her to have a demonic obsession. She liked her cow very much, too much, and was always more happy with the cow than with humans, she liked the cow licking her, anyway this was really somehow unnatural. The villagers behaved ‘libidinal’ and I was nearly raped* by one of them, and others were not better.They had in this Ashram mother Mary cast in the image of Saraswati. Now, when I was in retreat with [a well-known charismatic lay preacher], he gave me a message ‘not to go back to this Tapovan Ashram’.” *my friend was a young man at that time.

The ^ Bombay Jesuit Samachar August 2002 informs us of his inaugurating a “Centre of Spirituality and Meditation at the side of our Temple-Church” at Sachidananda Gurukul to give “courses… to Catholics and non-Catholics.” Among their recent seekers were “a group of visitors from Germany.” That the spirituality of this ashram must be compromised is evident from a donation of Rs. 2.5 lakhs received by them from “a Hindu benefactor from Bombay.”

^ THE KURISUMALA ASHRAM in Vagamon, Kerala [Founded 1958] see pages 2, 29, 32, 37, 45-46, 48, 57

The UCAN report in The New Leader of August 1-15, 2002 is captioned: Truly Indian Christian Ashram Draws God-Seekers. One seeker drawn to the ashram was Swami Dharmananda Giri of the Ramakrishna Mission. That is about the most important memory that the ashram could recall about its 44 years of existence. And that it now follows Indian philosophy and spirituality. In the Cover Story on Spiritual Gurus, of The Week of May 11, 2003, K.A. Jacob reporting on this ashram writes, Visitors take part in the daily routine of yoga, prayer, meditation and physical work.

The other gurus dealt with are those of pranic healing, reiki, vipassana, T.M, Art of Living & Mata Amritanandamayi.

^ THE SANJIVAN ASHRAM OF SWAMI SHILANANDA in Sinnar, Maharashtra [Founded 1988]

The cover of The Week October 20, 1996, carried a full page colour picture of Swami Shilananda [see page 30] in his temple at Nasik in Maharashtra with the caption “Mixing Religions- Cross on Shivling, Christian Priests Worship the Hindu Way.” Shilananda too is a Spanish Jesuit, ordained in 1960. Formerly Peter Julia, [both Peter and Shila mean ‘rock’] he had come to India in 1948, aged 23, with Shubhananda. He “donned saffron” in 1962. In 1968 he started the ashram in Nashik city, and later moved it to its present location near Nashik. He is the author of A Rainbow of Feasts: An Inter-religious Appreciation, 1994, a book on Indian festivals.

The photograph shows Shilananda in sannyasi attire worshiping before a lingam- [see pages 32, 36, 37, 46, 74] shaped tabernacle that is adorned with a cross and an OM. “The Sanjivan or ‘True Life’ temple with a small cross on top is styled as a Shiv shrine. Even the tabernacle with the Holy Eucharist … is in the form of a Shivling. ‘The power of life comes from God’, says Shilananda, ‘Shiva is the most ancient God of India, and the Shivling is a symbol of life-giving power’, reports The Week. What about conversions? ‘I have not baptised a single person’, he says. The fusion of religions is as simple as the Word, says Shilananda. ‘OM expresses divinity through sound. It contains all sounds. In St. John’s gospel it is written I am alpha and Omega. So you can say Christ is OM. No problem.

Abhishiktananda [Fr. Le Saux] of Shantivanam, writing under the pseudonym Vanya in Guru and Disciple, tells of his experience in the chapter ‘Alone in the Temple’ of being alone all night enveloped in the mystery of the Presence of the supreme symbol of the Shivalinga. He continues, Shiva is everywhere present in his Linga, wholly present in each point of the Linga… Nothing can divide Shiva from the Linga in which he manifests himself …Shiva is wholly present in the Shivalinga, in the Linga that stands in the temple… which is entirely Shiva and in which Shiva is all… No one has understood the secret of the Shivalinga so long as he has not entered into Shiva himself, who is the heart, the beyond, and also the whole of the Shivalinga… Shiva is completely present in himself and completely present in his Linga, his sign, his manifestation… Le Saux continues in this vein for SIX pages [41-46].

Note from this writer :

^ THE LINGAM: It struck me that if one substitutes the words ‘Shiva’ with ‘Jesus’ and ‘the Linga’ with ‘the Eucharist’, the above passage would be Catholic !! But through the Ashram Movement, Jesus HAS been replaced by Shiva and other deities, the Eucharist has been dislodged by/made “secondary” to the lingam and occult meditations [see page 14], and the Cross [Crucifix] has been integrated with the OM [see pages 7, 27, 35, 70, 79, 80]. The cover picture of The Week was appended to my February 15, 2001 36-page article ‘Inculturation or Hinduisation ? – The OM and the Siva-Lingam’, in which the two symbols are explained at length with references from various sources, including the opinions of the French priest Abbe Dubois [see pages 6, 7] who lived in India for three decades. In Vandana Mataji’s Shabda Shakti Sangam, Asharose has explained the meaning of the Shiva Linga in her article on Shiva, pages 37 to 40.

^ THE SAMARPAN ASHRAM OF NISHTATAI, near Lonavla, Maharashtra [Founded 1988]

The Week describes her as a French nun who worships the Hindu way. Formerly Sr. Pierre-Marie, a cloistered Benedictine, she came to India in 1970, aged forty-seven. Having studied Indian mythology for years in Paris, she learnt more Hindu prayers from a guru who also taught her how to regulate her breathing to reach a state of complete peace. After retiring from Poona University where she taught French, she set up her small ashram in Kamshet. In her puja room, sacred texts of Islam, Sufism and Zoroastrianism are found alongside the Bible and the Gita.


^ The front cover of her book Descent to the Source, ATC, 1987 shows the symbol of the Om flowing into the shape of the heart surmounted by a cross. The Foreword is written by Fr. Paul Puthanangady SDB, [see page 69] former Director of the NBCLC. The cover of herTowards an Alternative Theology- Confessions of a Non-Dualist Christian, ATC, 1991 is a picture of Jesus the yogi.

Sr. Grant, a Scotswoman educated at Oxford, came to India in October 1956 to the Sophia College for Women in Bombay and eventually became Head of its Department of Philosophy. She took part in the ^ 1969 All India Seminar [see pages 2, 3, 27, 29] and several regional, national and international commissions for the renewal of seminary formation and evangelization in the ‘70s. She was on the staff of De Nobili College, Pune, initiating scholastics, seminarians and many others into Indian Spirituality says The New Leader June 16-30, 2000. Fr. Noel Sheth SJ at a memorial on Grant’s 3rd death anniversary in 2003 said, The CBCI has several commissions to guide various facets of Catholic life in India.One of them is for the formation of seminarians who are training to become priests. Sr. Grant [see pages 35, 42, 68] was at one time the sole female member of this commission for seminary formation,The Examiner, May 10, 2003. One can imagine what her influence on these future priests has been.

The latter book consists of lectures that she gave at the Teape Foundation in Bristol, England, in 1989, and excerpts from them will give us an idea of the theological positions of Sr. Grant and of her influence as an ashram leader.

^ The greatest influence on Grant’s life was the teachings of Shankaracharya, the great 9th century Hindu theologian.

[ix] She has lectured on the vedic philosopher’s teachings at the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. [xii]

She admits to her familiarity with [and leaning on] Jungian teaching when she describes the beautiful image of the Ardhanari, Lord Siva represented as one human figure, half-man half-woman, an image reflected in Jung’s conception of the animus and anima” [see pages 17-18] [x]. However, she was put off by the promotion of a Catholic piety by her Mother-General who had been the Superior of a Spanish co-adjutrix who had been subject to what she believed were visions of Jesus giving a ‘message’ of love and mercy in terms which aroused in me the strongest negative reactions… The focus was very much on the love, mercy and suffering of Jesus and his desire for love and consolation in return, and this latter point I am afraid revolted me.” [16, 17]
She was pretty dualistic at least as far as Christianity and other religions were concerned before her horizons were soon widened, and used to tear up, month after month, with barely a glance, the first issues of Mountain Path, the journal of the Sri Ramanashram in Tiruvannamalai where the greatest advaitin of modern times had [lived]. [19]

^ Her first encounter with Abhishiktananda [who had visited Ramanashram when the guru was still alive] in 1957 was “epoch-making”. Of him she says, He had staked his whole life on his faith in Christ, and in his sober moments he could not doubt that faith, but neither could he see how to reconcile it with the truth of this other experience which was to him self-authenticating… In the depths he knew that truth cannot contradict truth, and was convinced of the validity of both advaita and Christian revelation. Now, This encounter with non-dualism through the person of Swamiji hit me like a bomb. What had struck me as alien and somehow repulsive when Ramana Maharshi first appeared upon my desk I now recognized as insidiously and dangerously connatural. [26, 27] She became a regular at the Ashram.

Their appreciation of her is revealed in their review of her book “^ Lord of the Dance” in their journal: ‘Sara Grant’s is a refreshing perception that is willing to consider any claim that Christ is the unique saviour as an intolerable narrowness.’ [78] Our presentation of the theology of salvation would seem to be one of the areas where [such] reformulation is most urgently called for… It is surprising how many Christians alienated from the Church have been encouraged to look again, and more closely, at the faith of their origins by discovering a community that is open to the truth of other Churches and other religions. [79, 91]

Born in 1922, she died in 2000 shortly after completing her life’s work, a doctoral thesis on ‘Shankaracharya’s concept of Relation’. Joining the CPS Ashram in 1972 when it was taken over, she became its acharya in 1977. She merited a full page in The New Leader of June 16-30, 2000 which said, Only a month before her death, she wrote in a letter, ‘I’m wrestling with advaita and religious pluralism*. It could be the summary of all her life.

*see pages 43, 45, 51
THE IDHAYA ASHRAM OF MATAJI PREMA in Pondicherry [Founded 1995]

A Catholic friend of mine from Italy who visited there recently sent me this brief report:

This Ashram was opened and blessed by Cardinal D. S. Lourdusamy [brother of Fr. Amalorpavadas].
Sr. Regina Mary the superior general of the congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary executed the decision of the general chapter and also directing the ashram by her wise guidance. Her vision, clear perception of realities and perseverance played a great part to accomplish this spiritual movement… OM Shanti, OM Shanti, OM Shanti."
^ Its brochure also says this about their “apostolate”:

*To live a deep inner spiritual life through Bhakti yoga, Gnana yoga and Karma yoga.
*Idhaya teaches methods of meditation and yogic practices which lead one to deeper God-experience.

The Sister that welcomed me (not the superior, she was not there...) told me that both Br. Martin of Shantivanam and Fr. Korko [see pages 16, 30, 34, 85] used to spend time in their ashram. Surprise: Fr. Korko is a Pondicherrian ( his brother is a famous yoga teacher here in Pondy!). About the liturgy: luckily it is ok, because, as sister said, they don't have their own priest, so, they go for mass at the nearest convent, where they get Latin liturgy (sister was so sorry about that!). They are habit to welcome novices of they order, postulants, people in formation and sometime also visitors from abroad. The ashram is frequented by the people from Aurobindo Ashram [see page 54], Hindus and Muslims... I can say that the sister was really welcoming and nice, as the big statue of Jesus the Sannyasi, seating in yoga position under a big tree that welcomes the guests at the entrance of the ashram.

First started in a small location as Sadhana Kuttir, our Bishop Gratian Mundadan CMI of Bijnor Diocese offered us, for the second time, two vacant buildings on a magnificent site in Jaiharikal, Pauri Garhwal… and we gratefully accepted this gift of land in 1984.

^ In addition to Christian murtis, there is a beautiful statue of Krishna playing the flute, the Buddha standing with his right arm raised in abhaya mudra, …a fine mosque carving for Islam, plaques of other founders and saints of various religions, Living with Hindus, Vandana Mataji, pages 43-48. [see pages 29, 42, 77]


The goal of the Anjali ashram [see page 85, my visit] centres on a ‘New Society’. How do they intend achieving it ?

The following information is obtained from the ashram’s August 15, 2004 silver jubilee souvenir:

^ In the first general body meeting of the CBCI, Fr. D.S. Amalorpavadass was appointed as the secretary for Liturgy and Catechetics Commission and served the NBCLC from 1967 as founder-director till 1982, renewing the Church in India according to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council… He won international recognition and was member of several Vatican and International Commissions and Theological Organizations… After his term of service in the NBCLC, the diocese of Mysore invited him to be the Visiting Professor of the Chair in Christianity in the University of Mysore… In 1981, he established the Department of Christianity and became its head… The ashram was started [by him] in a rented house on August 15, 1979 and moved to its present location near Sri Chamundi Hills in 1983. Fr. Amalor ‘attained mahasamadhi’ in a road accident on May 25, 1990.

The ashram offers week-long programmes of Indian Christian Spirituality (ICS) experience, or Atma Purna Anubhava [APA]. Here, the seekers ‘gradually get awakened to the One Reality without a second’. They devote time to ‘dhyana and yoga, to various Indian forms of prayer/ bhajan, kirtan, nama japa, to the practice of various sadhanas according to one’s aptitude, and to ashram seva’. The routine also includes ‘reading from Indian Scriptures, melodious recitation of the Gayatri Mantra… particularly to dhyana with select asanas and pranayamas’ etc… Thus Anjali serves as a spiritual power-house for all the seekers especially through this experience on Self-Realization… Those who have been initiated into APA are offered a deeper experience of God called Brahma Sakshatkara Anubhava (BSA). It is a direct, immediate and deep experience of the very core and the ultimate mystery of God, Brahman… It is experiencing the oneness of oneself and one’s oneness with Brahman who is one. With this divinization of the self (Tat Tvam Asi) the seeker finds that he is taken up into an experience which transcends all the passing realities (samsara) of the human person and the world. At that stage, one would have transcended all difference of world, the human person and God. [The words are taken from their souvenir!]

And one would have experienced the total reality as one and whole or as non-dual (advaita) at its very core and being (sakshatkara)… Our quest for the ultimate goal of Release and Liberation (Moksha) is integrated with the practice of justice (Dharma).In 25 years, nearly 10, 000 and 275 people have done the APA and BSA programmes respectively. The ashram also conducts Dialogue Meetings for non-Christians; a One Month Experience for mainly for seminarians in formation ‘sent by their respective superiors’; Gita Sadhanas on the Bhagavad Gita, for which ‘Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ of Sameeksha, Kalady, has been the resource person’; and lastly, ‘Other Experiences’.

[Traditional Catholic devotions were eliminated:] One of the happy developments in the course of 1985 and hence a very significant contribution of our ashram has been the identifying, evolving and sharing of [a new spirituality] …Some of the [traditional] spiritualities [the rosary etc. ?] appear to be pietistic and hence found irrelevant to the concern of a new society. This led to a very systematic process when some 15 Bishops and 10 Caritas directors went through a 10- day national programme.

Fr. Amalor himself gave renewal seminars for 14 women’s and 3 men’s religious congregations in 45 sessions of 5 to 7 days at the ashram, and 10,000 religious went through this experience in their own places … towards radical change in lifestyle and structures. From 1987 to 1989 alone 469 priests in Trivandrum, Ranchi, Tanjore, Salem and Madras-Mylapore dioceses attended these courses. The Anubhava programmes since 1983 also list FABC / BISA VII bishops (30), Jesuit novice masters (9)… Major Superiors (40) among the seekers. [FABC = Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference. BISA = Bishops’ Institute for Social Action]. As NBCLC Director guiding the Ashram Movement he was responsible to form the Ashram Aikiya [AA] fellowship. The ashram was the venue for the Ashram Aikiya satsanghs of 1985, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997. 341 people have stayed for periods upto 3 months, 25 from 6 to 12 months, and 45 people from 1 to 4 years. [At the time of my visit, an elderly Hindu occupying a hut next to mine told me he had visited many times before.] Swami Gnanajyothi was the President of AA from 1995-1999, then became Vice-President. He has taken the ashram message to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, South Korea, Germany etc. Over 1000 nuns including 30 superiors, and nearly 700 priests of Trivandrum, Khandwa, Hyderabad, Bellary, Kottar, Tuticorin and Trichy dioceses and the 2003 diocesan synod- Chennai, and from the Goa Pilar Fathers, Karnataka province OFM Cap., OSM religious etc have attended the programmes conducted by Gnanajyothi from 1995 onwards. Lay persons associated with the ashram carry on the founder’s legacy through the Swami Amalorananda Trust and the Christian Renewal Movement of India in Alundur, Trichy, founded 2001, which trains people ‘at different levels all over Tamil Nadu’. The Trust was set up with the help of the Archbishop of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, the director of Caritas India and of Missio-Germany to get three acres of land. On January 30, 2001 ‘His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy [brother of Swami Amalorananda] came along with the newly consecrated local Bishop to inaugurate’ the centre. They were later helped by ‘the local Bishop of Mysore to get some more funds from abroad’. Addresses for correspondence to ‘Swami Amalorananda’s Haven of Renewal’ include the NBCLC, Federation of Catholic Associations, FABC, the Nagpur diocese Commission for Laity, and the Pontifical Council for Laity, Vatican. Anjali Ashram is also involved in social and upliftment schemes. The ashram team ‘and Swamiji visited ALL the dioceses of Tamil Nadu and gave three days Integrated Spiritual Leadership to the laity’.

The ashram presents itself as multi-religious and leads all who belong to religions or no religion to the presence of the indwelling and all-pervading Spirit. Religion is divisive by nature and therefore the spirituality of the ashram is beyond religion to unite all in God or in Truth and lead all to the new society or the Reign of God… to keep up the dynamism of the New Society in the modern world’. Seekers are urged to maintain silence, because otherwise, the intense vibration that is kept up here may be weakened in course of time.

In this 48-page souvenir, there is a single Bible verse [Mt 13: 31-32], against 3 from the Upanishads and 4 from other sages. The name of JESUS figured once on page 4. Swami Amalor is stated to have ‘Emerged in the tradition of Jesus Christ, St. Peter, Swami Parama Arubi Ananda [Monchanin]… and the sages of our land Sri Aurobindo… to facilitate the Reign of God – a New Society in India…’ [front inner cover]

^ The ashram souvenir places on record the deep concern, interest and frequent visits of the late Bishop Joseph Roy from 1988 when he was Vicar-General and became a member of the ashram society, till he passed away [not ‘mahasamadhi’ which term is reserved for yogis and ashramvasis] in 2004. Information from other ashram literature:

The daily time table commences at 4:30 am with ‘bath, yoga and personal prayer etc’. At 6:30 am, Celebration of the Eucharist. The satsangh is from 8:15 pm. Ashrams have always been associated with ‘…political struggle and liberation. It is hoped that this ashram too will play a similar role today’. The literature expresses concern that if the quest ceases, ‘the movement comes to a halt and gets insitutionalized and so gets bogged down’. It meets the needs of the present times when ‘there has been a great attraction for eastern spirituality, oriental cults and new religions, for yogic and other meditations’. Of the architecture and layout: the entrance path ‘symbolises the arrow of our life moving non-stop towards the target, Brahman’. ‘Wholeness is facilitated by the practice of an integrated spirituality of India, yoga’. In the sanctuary, ‘two pictures on grill are kept, one is that of Shiva in his cosmic dance as Nataraj, and the other that of the Risen Christ’. ‘On the top of the gopuram there is a dharma chakra on all four sides… According to Hind tradition Lord Vishnu takes descent to… make the wheel move again’.

The 10 pyramid-shaped cottages correspond to the 10 avatars of Vishnu. There is an ^ OM building, shaped like the Devanagiri script OM. And there is the Yin Yang building. The occult philosophy of the yin-yang is explained along with a reproduction of the symbol. The building’s 18 cells ‘evoke the 18 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita’. The Alundur centre has a Yin Yang building too: One pyramid-shaped diagram of the Millennium Memorial equates the ten commandments with 10 facets of yoga, the 9 planets with the occult personality tool, the enneagram [enne = 9], the 7 sacraments with the 7 chakras, and so on. It is not surprising that the brochure says that the ashram is located at the base of the ‘sacred’ Chamundi mountain on land close to the ‘sacred’ river Kaveri. And that the founder was ordained in the ‘auspicious’ [because Vatican Council II was announced] year of 1959.

Some of the programmes of Anjali Ashram for the silver jubilee year 2004 included:

February 16-25 [and other dates]: SELF-REALIZATION; May 4-9: ^ UPANISHADIC SADHANA; July 27-August 1: YOGIC ANUBHAVA; September 21-26: DHARMIC ANUBHAVA; October 5-10: [BHAGAVAD] GITA SADHANA; November 9-14: SUFI MYSTICISM; December 7-12: VIPASANA ANUBHAVA. [Anubhava = experience]

Seekers are suggested to bring along with them an alarm, torch, ^ YOGA DRESS and a shawl’ ! The New Age is here !

Shabda Shakti Sangam [ed. Vandana] carries a testimony [pages 259-261] by Caroline McKenzie, an artist friend of Jyoti Sahi in whose ashram she spent 6 years “exploring Hindu iconography through carving sculptures of Vishnu, Shiva” etc. After that she spent 6 years studying Sanskrit at a Hindu centre in Melkote. Finally she came to Anjali Ashram. In her words, “I began to trust this type of Christianity because it had the same type of holistic background as I had experienced in the Hindu culture… I was eventually received into the Catholic Church… The one thing which kept me going was learning to meditate… through the guidance of Vandana Mataji.”

McKenzie becomes a Catholic Christian, but not once did I hear the name of Jesus or His salvific action mentioned. This is the syncretized and ‘cheap’ Christianity that Western seekers, and increasingly Indians, are opting for at the Catholic ashrams. The issue of man’s fallenness and sin never arises. Meditation and yoga is all that is needed.

I visited the ashram, 20/21 May 2005. Fr. Louis says their aim is self-realization -union of jivatma with paramatma.

He admits that visitors are encouraged to ‘follow their own tradition’ and that yoga is a ‘physical, mental, psychological and spiritual’ exercise. Large pictures of Aurobindo, Auroville, the ‘Mother’ and a calendar of Sri Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda adorn the main hall. The Surya Namaskar prayer is displayed: …O Sun, your golden orb covers the entrance to Truth. Kindly open thy entrance to lead me to Truth. A notice says Atma Purna Nivas-Dhyana – Wholeness, Personal Integrity and Oneness with Brahman.” The mandir has the Koran and Bhagavad Gita beside the Bible.

^ THE ROLE OF THE CBCI AND THE NBCLC [pages 3, 10, 13, 14, 16, 28, 29, 31, 43, 65, 67, 74]

In several pages of this report, I have shown that the Ashram Movement has taken support from the NBCLC & CBCI.

In Find Your Roots and Take Wing, page 53, Vandana says that the “secret of success of a Dialogue meeting held in Bombay in October 1988” where 200 men and women of different faiths had a five-day live-in, “is the fact that we prayed together in three groups each morning for an hour- a group doing yoga asanas, another singing bhajans, and a third doing dhyana (meditation). In the evening again, there was a half-hour Sandhya where all the participants prayed from different scriptures… In ashrams, this interfaith dialogue is a natural, normal part of life.”

^ On page 92 of Living With Hindus, she adds that the event was co-organized by the Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue of the CBCI and included “representatives from the Vatican and the World Council of Churches.”

Sr. Sara Grant, on page 61 of Towards an Alternative Theology, writes, In 1972, the Catholic Church in India was in the full tide of liturgical renewal to which Vatican II had given a great impetus. Centres for ‘experimentation’ were set up and we were one of the first of these. This meant that we had a certain freedom with regard to the Indian ways of worship and even the use of other scriptures in our liturgy. Some years later this permission was temporarily withdrawn.

It was later renewed by our Bishop [in Pune] when authority for liturgical experimentation was delegated by the CBCI to the Bishops of each region. But almost simultaneously, the Liturgy Committee of the Church of North India recognized us as an official experimental group with a mandate to evolve a more Indian way of celebration of the Eucharist. [The ashram was reopened “as an ecumenical venture in collaboration with the Anglican Community of St. Mary the Virgin… through the good offices of their Bishop Christopher Robinson.”] The Church of North India gave us even more freedom than the Catholic Church, which we made good use of when Fr. Yesudas celebrated [the Eucharist]. We continued to read a passage ‘resonating’ with the biblical readings from other scriptures every day, but did this in a paraliturgy as the Catholic Bishops no longer allowed other scriptures to be read during the Liturgy of the Word, pages 61, 90, 21.

^ In Find Your Roots and Take Wing, page 27, Vandana Mataji says, A very significant document was published in 1974 by the NBCLC after a research seminar of about 50 scholars on non-Biblical scriptures. In all the ashram writings the authors take the support of the NBCLC, for which I can give numerous references.

^ Brian Michael of Mumbai in his Yoga and Paganization of the Catholic Church in India, 1999, said about the NBCLC:

The paganization of the Church in India was devised by Fr. Amalorpavadas and his brother Archbishop Lourduswami. The temple of the Centre of the Bishops’ Conference in Bangalore was built by Fr. Amalorpavadas. It’s tower is in Hindu style with an empty pot on top called kalasam. The Hindus believe that, according to agamic rites, it becomes an embodiment or sacramental in-dwelling of the deity of the temple. The late Bishop Visuvasam of Coimbatore in a pastoral letter (April 1994) wrote, ‘Pastors of souls whose prime duty is to guard the purity of faith and worship ought to see that the agamic concept and practice of kalasam is against the First Commandment, and hence no kalasam may be used anywhere’. The Bishops’ Conference meeting in Ranchi in 1979 took note of the bitter feelings of Catholics at the kalasam and absence of a Cross on top and said, ‘As there is no liturgical ruling in the matter of a Cross on the roof of a church, we do not see the imperative need to have a cross on the top of the dome.’ It is humbly suggested that since the POT has replaced the Cross, in future all Indian Bishops hang a POT round their necks instead of the golden Cross that they now wear. A pagan symbol continues to be atop the church of the Bishops in Bangalore. Is this not paganization with the Bishops’ approval ? [Inside the temple,] on both sides there are grills. One grill is of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Another is that of the dancing Shiva [Nataraja],” page 25.

^ Vandana Mataji, Living With Hindus, page 64, says, “Orthodoxy on the whole is, however, changing, becoming more open, flexible, broader-minded. Thus, it is heartening to see a postive note of encouragement, given not without humour, for instance, in the Guidelines for Inter-Religious Dialogue published by the CBCI when it says:

‘Christian consciousness is growing in this area and a certain degree of shock-therapy need not always be ruled out’ (No. 88). I have personally seen this therapy work successfully… Catholics are more likely to get shocked, or at least feel uncomfortable, at hearing Christians singing, for example, Om Namah Bhagavate Vasudevaya.”

Note from this writer :

During 2005, the NBCLC offered 30 seminars, symposiums, leadership courses, catecheses, workshops on liturgy, dance and drama, art, architecture, music and culture, Indian Christian Spirituality and Dialogue, God-experience, contemplative retreats etc. for laity, priests and religious. With the evidence on hand, it requires little imagination to guess their content. I know lay persons who have attended these programmes. Without exception, they have been exposed to the type of ashram spirituality that we have encountered in this report. Some of them confess that they picked up their interest in occult alternative medicines like reiki and pranic healing from their animators at the NBCLC. Fr. Paul Puthenangady SDB, [see page 65] former Director, had himself told me [in 1999] that these therapies were harmless and Catholics could practise them. A diocesan parish priest and a Mother Superior who are related to each other, and are both in their 60s, shocked their conservative families on their visits home in Bangalore after doing courses at the NBCLC, when the priest celebrated an ‘Indian rite’ mass which had a lot of ‘innovations’, and both the nun and the priest used the Om mantra and swore by yoga and eastern meditations.

Fr. Painadath [see page 46] has been a regular contributor to NBCLC’s Word and Worship publications.

The NBCLC is under the direct control of the CBCI. Its present Director is Fr. Thomas D’Sa. What is also surprising is that ^ Vatican representatives including Cardinal Lourdusamy [see pages 31, 66, 67, 68, 74] have been associated with some of the programmes of the ashrams.

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