Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Henri Le Saux and Fr Bede Griffith (christians with hindu faith)

Henri Le Saux [who later became Swami Abhishiktananda] and Fr Bede Griffith [later Swami Dayananda]. Both were Benedictine monks, ordained by Catholic church. Le Saux was from France while Bede Griffith was from England. Fr Bede studied at Oxford; C S Lewis was his tutor too.
Both were drawn to Hindu religious approaches and tradition keeping their Catholic faith intact.
Henri Le Saux [Swami Abhishiktananda]
Le Saux spent sometime with Bhagavan Ramana. After Bhagavan's passing , he meditated in a cave behind the Ashram in the sacred hill of Arunachala. He founded the ashram [Hindu style] called " Shantivanam" in Kulitalai , 35 kms from Trichy in a tropical garden, along with another monk. [Shanti-vanam means "Forest of Peace'][About 250 km from Chennai] After many years of service there,he went to Thirukoilur, studied Hindu scriptures and was ordained a monk by Swami Gnanananda; was given the name Abhishiktananda. He had one foot in Catholic faith and another in Hinduism. He faced stiff opposition from Christian groups.
Le Saux made a big change later. He left Shantivanam and went to Uttar Kashi [near Rishikesh] and built a small hermitage for himself to live like a Hindu hermit. He lived there in deep contemplation and died there. His chief disciple there was another Frenchman who became Swami Ajatananda. You find an ashrma in his name in Rishikesh. After following Swami Abhshiktananda, Swami Ajatananda left the ashram and disappeared into the Himalayas.
Meanwhile , Fr Bede Griffith who was in Kerala, moved over to Shantivanam to expand it further. Fr Bede remained at Shantivanam for the rest of his life. He did travel to the west to give lectures and initiate "Inter-faith dialogue"-- after the second Vatican Council which prompted such dialogues from Rome.

Fr. Bede Griffith with Wayne Teasdale
Wayne Teasdale, an American of protestant faith, was drawn to Fr. Bede, spent several years with him in Shantivanam. He later expanded the base of interfaith dialogue or interfaith spirituality as it is called now in the USA. By his work, Shantivanam became famous ,attracting lot of christian devotees to India. Several ashrams called "Shantivanam" have sprung up in the USA.

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