(This typed yesterday).
Seven more days in India! One more day at Ramana Maharishi’s ashram!
Right now is the rest period between noon and tea at 4:00.
I’m in my little room right now.
After tea will be chanting, meditation, and puja — offering rituals.
It’s amazing how well you’re taken care of here,
with monkeys —
all for whatever donation you would like to make. A lot of ashrams have you do “seva,” selfless service, or work, but here they feed you three hot meals a day, usually five or six south Indian dishes, and also do the clean up.
(Shiva’s trident left at the top of Mount Arunachala).
I’ve canceled two destinations I had originally planned. One was a three-day visit to Shantivanam, the monastery/ashram founded by the Benedictine monk Bede Griffiths, who practiced a blend of Christian and Hindu contemplative religions.
If you’ll forgive the philosophical digression — or perhaps I should say uni-gression — Griffith’s believed that what happened to the early Christian Church when it encountered Greek and Roman philosophy and culture ought to happen in its encounter with Hinduism.
When Christianity came west from Jerusalem, spread by Paul, it incorporated many Greek, and then Roman, ideas into its theology and ritual. The New Testament was, of course, written in Greek, and the Gospel of John is suffused with Greek philosophical ideas. The Greek philosophy of stoicism, for example, posited that the universe is governed by a divine principle of reason, called the “Logos.” So the Gospel of John begins in Greek, “In the beginning was the Logos,” which is usually translated as “the Word,” a completely Greek idea made central to the Gospel.
Griffiths felt that as the Church incorporated Greek ideas, then, it could incorporate enlightened ideas from other religions and philosophical systems, such as Hinduism, now. So, his monastery/ashram, Shantivanam, stands as a blending of Christian mystical and Hindu contemplative philosophies.
I thought it would be an important place to visit, since my memoir is going to explore the commonalities among Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist contemplative practices.
But, once I walked through the gates of Ramanashram, I knew I was going to stay here as long as I could.
I also canceled my trip to see the Ellora and Ajanta caves at the end of my journey, so I could spend more time at Ma Indira Devi’s ashram in Pune.
The caves for me would be more of a cultural destination than a spiritual one, at least, on this pilgrimage.
Tomorrow, I’ll write more about the hike up Shiva’s mountain and the visit to the temple town, Tiruvannamalai. Then, so long to Ramanashram!