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Concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi

ABSTRACT In our pluralistic society, the diverse religious traditions offer an opportunity for inter-religious dialogue which has as its aim an appreciation of, and respect for, the integrity of individual traditions. Swami Abhishiktananda is a clear example of one who offered an alternative to Christian exclusiveness in his willingness to engage in an inter-spiritual lifestyle in which Eastern and Western mystical traditions are seen to be mutually enriching.

By opting to make his own life a crucible to test his beliefs and convictions Abhishiktananda endured lifelong trials and tribulations. His life can broadly be divided into four phases, namely the 'fulfilment' phase, with concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi typical Western triumphalist missionary mentality, followed by the crisis phase thanks to his encounter with Hindu spirituality. This led him to the third phase in which he dared to relativise all conceptualisations as concretisations of the inexpressible Mystery.

Abhishiktananda spoke of an experience, which he called ati-Advaita, or Advaitatita which is an experience of Unity and Trinity. He claimed that the sages of India were correct to say neither one nor many, but just to say, not-two, advaita, and not-one, an-eka. Introduction Thirty-seven years have passed since Abhishiktananda attained his ever cherished Advaita Samadhi non-dual union and went on to inspire a generation of Indian Christian theologians.

His arrival in India and the path he dared to choose generated powerful currents, waves and ripples in the Indian subcontinent as well as around the world. During the 1960s and 1970s, Bangalore became the epicentre of much theological discussion and experimentation, with the staff members of Dharmaram College, St Peters Seminary and the National Biblical Catechetical and Lirturgical Centre NBCLC 1 taking daring steps to develop, promote and propagate an Indian Christian theology. However, at present, the state of affairs has changed.

Even those movements that followed over the last four decades, such as liberation theology and its subaltern perspective, women's liberation and the Dalit-empowerment movement, are now lacking momentum and vigour. Concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi various facets of Orientalism emerged in certain quarters, their impact was minimal.

Yet, since we are currently celebrating the birth centenary of Abhishiktananda we offer an introduction to the life and thought of Abhishiktananda and its contribution to ongoing religious dialogue in the 21st century. In 1929, at the age of 19, he wrote to the novice master of the Benedictine Monastery of St Anne de Kergonan seeking admission and was accepted. However, gradually he found that the life in the abbey did not satisfy his desire to experience God. He longed for an even deeper monasticism.

By 1934, he realised his life's vocation was to travel to India. It appears that he believed India would help him to lead a life of simplicity and allow a greater degree of renunciation in his monasticism.

He began preparing himself by studying Hindu texts, which he believed would help him to communicate effectively with members of the Hindu faith. Despite his desire to go to India, he was not granted permission to make inquiries in this regard until 1945 and he remained in Kergonan Abbey until 1948.

Whilst functioning as the abbey's librarian, he had the opportunity to read the works of the Fathers of the Church, in particular those of the Desert and Greek Fathers, from whom he learned the apophatic way of mysticism. Between 1946 and 1948, he was placed in charge of teaching novices at the abbey. Prior to this, however, in 1942, Abhishiktananda wrote a concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi for his mother, entitled Amour et Sagesse [Love and wisdom].

It was a meditation on the Trinity, which he considered the noblest mystery of the faith and in which he refers to God as being beyond thought. As we shall see during the course of this article, the doctrine of the Trinity continued to be important for Abhishiktananda, particularly in his Christian understanding of the advaitic experience.

In 1947, Abhishiktananda wrote to the Bishop of Tiruchirapalli in India, Monsignor Mendonsa, enquiring about the possibility of coming to India. In his letter Abhishiktananda indicated that he sought 'to lead the contemplative life, in the absolute simplicity of early Christian monasticism and at the same time in the closest possible conformity with the traditions of Indian sannyasa' Stuart [1989] 1995: Father Jules Monchanin, who answered his letter on behalf of the Bishop, also shared a similar vision of an Indian Christianity.

Abhishiktananda knew Monchanin through his published concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi, whilst Monchanin saw Abhishiktananda's desire to come to India as an answer from God and therefore encouraged him to make the journey.

Self-Atma: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi Part One & Two

Abhishiktananda left France for India in 1948, with the goal of starting a Christian ashram to facilitate a truly Indian Christianity. Together with Monchanin, he founded an ashram on the bank of the Kavery River at Tannirpalli. But it was more commonly known by the name 'Shantivanam' Grove of Peace. The ashram was governed by the Benedictine rule, but many Hindu customs were also incorporated, including dressing and acting as Hindu sanyasis.

The bishop, Mendonsa, was very supportive of the ashram from its inception. He believed that the approach taken by Monchanin and Abhishiktananda would allow the Indian Church to be as legitimately Indian as possible, just as in previous eras, where the Church was able to articulate the Gospel via Greek and Roman thought and philosophy.

Abhishiktananda's visit to the ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi 2 in January 1949 was a turning point in his life. This influence was powerful; it was a: New concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi these experiences were, their hold on me was already too strong for it ever to be possible for me to disown them.

He was convinced that the Hindu advaitic experience of the Self was central to any dialogue with Hinduism. He sought concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi attain the advaitic experience by accepting Gnanananda Giri 3 as his Guru. By spending prolonged periods of meditation in the caves of Arunachala in the south of India and at his hermitage at Uttarkashi in the Himalayas, he tried to live what he believed.

However, Abhishiktananda had to struggle a great deal to reconcile his advaitic experience with his Christian faith. As he continued his experimental investigation of Advaita, he preferred to use Hindu terminology to express his religious experience and, as such, his beliefs as a Christian transformed Friesen 1998: Yet, at times he was afraid that he was exchanging his Christian beliefs and risking his eternal salvation for an illusory experience, a 'mirage' Panikkar 1998: Nevertheless, in his final years, Abhishiktananda became convinced of the authenticity and truth of his advaitic experience.

He gradually gave up his dream of a community of Hindu-Christian monks; instead, he devoted himself personally to being a sanyasi who was at the same time both Christian and Hindu. In 1971, looking back on the ashram, Abhishiktananda wrote, 'Expansion in human concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi, success, numbers are of no importance.

All that belongs to the realm of maya, appearance, and the monk is only concerned with nitya, the real' Stuart [1989] 1995: In 1968, after entrusting Shantivanam to Father Bede Griffiths, an English monk who had joined him in India, he left the ashram to live the life of a hermit in his hermitage at Uttarkashi in the Himalayas, never to return. Abhishiktananda remained a Roman Catholic priest until his death, even though at times he used to participate in Hindu worship.

By way of accepting Marc Chaduc as his disciple, he arranged a joint Hindu-Christian initiation diksha led by himself and Swami Chidananda, a Hindu monk at the Sivananda ashram in Rishikesh. It was during his time with his disciple in 1973 that Abhishiktananda received what he regarded as a definitive advaitic experience. The intensity of this experience removed all doubts for him. But it also resulted in a heart attack, which he considered an 'adventure'.

He had further advaitic experiences, which, for him, confirmed the validity of his initial experience. After several years of life as a hermit, weakened by the myocardial infarction, he died on 07 December 1973 at Indore nursing home. According to Raimundo Panikkar, his colleague and confidant, we can discover four stages in the development of Abhishiktananda's life, experience and thought Baeumer 2000. The first phase could be named the 'fulfilment' phase. He arrived in India with a typical Western triumphalistic missionary mentality.

He was ready to bear the 'Whiteman's burden' 4 of educating, fulfilling, saving and winning the inferior cultures and civilisations for Christ. The second phase was one of crisis, on account of his encounter with Hindu spirituality, personified in Sri Ramana Maharshi, that shook the foundations of his Christian fulfilment theology.

Being a Benedictine monk, fortunately, he was open and was ready to listen. The tensions created by his meeting of Hindu spirituality at its highest and purest level were partly theological, partly psychological and partly spiritual.

During this stage he was greatly surprised and was torn apart by two experiences, two 'ultimates', two identities, two worlds of religious expression, and, in his own words, 'two loves'. This led him to the third phase, in which he relativised all conceptualisations, particularisations and formulations as 'namarupas' [name and form], which he considered as concretisations of the one, unspeakable, inexpressible Mystery.

After experiencing the 'explosion', or 'awakening', which were his own cherished words, we see him redefining and re-identifying the 'correspondences,' which he discovered at both the beginning and the end of his experience. What is fascinating is that the 'explosion' which amounts to a liberation, did not destroy his faith in Jesus, but transformed it.

The name Abhishiktananda can literally mean 'the bliss of the anointed' or 'the anointed bliss', which implies a person 'whose joy is Christ' or 'who is the joy of Christ'. The second interpretation would go beyond devotion to Christ to an actual sharing of Christ's experience Panikkar 1998: Christ's 'anointing' was his experience of Sonship with the Father.

Abhishiktananda equated this experience of Sonship with the Hindu advaitic experience. In his view, this experience is the most important goal of human life.

Abhishiktananda's entire life was a dialogue between his Western traditions and the Eastern Hindu traditions that he sought to understand and to experience. The nature of Abhishiktananda's advaitic experience Abhishiktananda understood his experience as advaitic but not monistic, whereas the Western interpretation of Advaita was often monistic. Abhishiktananda insisted that although the advaitic vision is that of 'not two' non-dualthe advaitic experience is not that of 'only one' monism.

He insists that the experience is neither dvaita [two] nor eka [one] but a-dvaita [non-dual] and an-eka [not one], which gives value both to unity and diversity simultaneously. Individuality is not swallowed up or identified with the One.

He speaks of Advaita-aneka [not two, not one], '. God himself 5 is both one and many in his mystery - or rather, to put it more accurately, he is not-one, an-eka, and also not-two, a-dvaita' Abhishiktananda 1984: The distinction between Advaita and monism is crucial for understanding the vision of Abhishiktananda.

It plays an important role in his attempt to reconcile Hindu and Christian thought. Abhishiktananda's use of the term an-eka is also central to the understanding of his vision. Monism has a tendency to deny and to devalue the world, which would lead to an 'acosmism' in actions.

Only if the world of diversity has reality, is there a basis for a more dynamic interaction with the world. A monistic understanding of reality, that insists there is nothing but Brahman, will see the world of diversity as maya [unreal or illusion]. A non-monistic understanding of Advaita can revise this view of maya, granting reality to diversity as well as to unity. Abhishiktananda achieved this through incorporating the Saivist 6 concept of sakti [power] into his system of thought.

He tried to give a more positive view of maya by looking at it in terms of the concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi, or energy of God. This would amount to a revision of the classical Hindu concepts of maya and sakti. Abhishiktananda tried to describe his experience using Western language, as well as by using and interpreting Hindu ideas.

He emphasised the priority of experience anubhava over concepts. He believed that all genuine religious documents and scriptures have their origin in the immediate personal experience of 'seers' or rishis. Abhishiktananda wanted to reinterpret Christianity on the solid foundation of advaitic philosophy, just as concepts of god self and world in the spiritual teaching of ramana maharshi Fathers of the Church interpreted Christianity on the basis of Greek philosophy.

According to Abhishiktananda, the advaitic experience of Jesus is equally available to every human being. He believed that the early Upanishads report a similar experience to that of Jesus, as expressed in Jesus' declaration that he and the Father are one Jn 10: As per the non-monistic Advaita proposed by Abhishiktananda, the world is not an illusion.

According to him, the monistic interpretation of Advaita developed only at a later stage as a result of the 'dialectics' of the disciples of Sankara. Following the teachings of his mentor and his inspiration, Gnanananda Giri, and also Ramana Maharshi, he made a distinction between a pure consciousness experience nirvikalpa or kevala samadhi and a return to the world of diversity in sahaja samadhi.