It was,after Vat. Council 2 and during a time when Christianity in the West, was searching and trying to somehow go back to its roots and the roots of the early Christian mystics like the “Fathers of the Dessert”.
I don’t recall all the details as to what means of transportation I took to go there, whether bus, train or what, but on arriving we were shown to our rooms and we registered and on registration, we were give a name tag and mines was Br. Rolph o.f.m. (Franciscan monk).That night I had a dream which I can never forget. It had been some twenty odd years since my father passed away from a massive heart attack and I had never dreamt of him till now. In the dream, we were together in a large room, seemingly a kitchen. There were windows and there was lots of light coming in. My father was standing near a long sort of table which was against the wall below the windows and he had a basket close by in which he was like making and packing things to eat. I was happy to see him and so I called out, “Daddy!” but he looked at me with a smile and putting his finger to his mouth indicated to stay silent and so I did. Finally, his basket was prepared and he opened the door next to the windows and he stepped out. I ran to the door as he stepped out into what seems like a field of light and i yelled, “Daddy, Daddy” but he never answered and I, still calling out to him, awoke.
So, this first morning of the symposium when I go for breakfast, I find myself in line with my tray and utensils and am next to a man and I observe his name tag. It says “Yungian psychologist”. I can not recall his name but I introduce my self and ask, ‘May I sit with you for breakfast?” He accepted and sooner after we were seated, I tell him about my dream and ask, “can you tell me what you think about this dream?” He clearly stated that no one but ourselves can really interpret our dreams but we can have clues and so if I wanted, he could give me some clues to work on. He explained that the open door was a sign of an invitation. I can look at the ‘father’ as being my own or it could be “Father” in religion or it could be the aspect of the ‘father’ within. He advised me to work on it.
This dream was too powerful to ignore and so after breakfast I went straight back to my room and I prostrated myself on the floor and I prayed, “Father, I accept your invitation, please guide me” From that day on, for the full seven days of the symposium, every day was, for me, a learning experience. Too many events were happening and I remember asking Fr. Pannikar for a consultation in which he strongly advised me to go to India. He said “it’s in India you will discover your Indian roots”. In future blogs, I will talk about India
I also met Dom Tholens and we had a good talk about the ministry he was doing at that time in Holland. He explained that many youth were not going to mass on Sundays and he wanted to offer a space where they could have an alternative. He was able to have the use of different parish churches in different areas where he held gatherings with young people and offered a space for music, meditation, Tai Chi or some spiritual practice as an alternative to Sunday mass.
I was asking him if he thought I could do something similiar in Montreal and if so, how could I be trained to do it. He asked me to give him three days to pray and to think about it. On the third day I went to see him and he invited me to take a walk outside with him. I still remember the walk with this holy man as we walked in a path between these tall trees. He told me that after serious prayer and consideration that he came to the conclusion that I should go and spend one year with Fr. Bede Griffiths in India. He insisted that I should have a visa for one year.
As we were about to end our talk together, it began to snow. It was one of those beautiful soft tender moments of the snow-flakes falling down softly on us and on Mother earth. I felt so peaceful as I thanked him and it was the last time I ever saw him.
I also made friends with Madame Odette Baumer. She was a good friend of Fr. Henri Le Saux and she told me many stories of his life. She strongly also, advised me to go to India.
We corresponded for several years afterwards and on occasions when she came to Montreal, we met. Last time I saw her, she was on a flight to California for an Inter_Religious Conference where she was delivering a talk on the life of Fr. Henri Le Saux. She was leaving in a few hours but we had time to have lunch and to talk and I said good bye after as she went to her room for a nap.
“Blessed Simplicity is the monastic principle par excellence”, Fr. Raimundo Panikkar told the more than 80 participants of the East–West monastic Symposium at Holyoke, Massachusetts, November 19-23, 1980, as he “struggled with all to describe the monk in our modern day.”
The event, sponsored by the AIM North American Board for East–West Dialogue, was experienced as superb by an admixture of monks, nuns, scientists, scholars, professors, contemplatives, psychoanalysts, therapists, artists, masters and disciples, seekers and the sought. “The monk”, Fr. Panikkar contended, “is not the paradigm for the fullness of the humanum but rather the monastic dimension is one constituent which every human being has and must cultivate in one way or another.” The monk is the one who before all else aspires to be whole, one, unified, integrated, centered. This monastic dimension is the primordial religious dimension, previous to all divisions, previous to and different even from the way it is lived by individual monks.
A Symposium participant, impressed with the urgency of the immanent mutation in modernity, asked the question: Where do we begin? Begin by being present was the response still resounding in the hearts of the group during the final 21/2-hour liturgy which featured the singing of bhajans, the arati (Eastern fire blessing) at the doxology and contemplative dancing with the gifts.
“Others who flanked the rostrum with Fr. Panikkar were Professor Michael von Bruck of East Germany; Sr. Myriam Dardenne, OCSO, Whitethorn, California; Ewert Cousins, Bethlehem, Connecticut; Abbot Cornelius Tholens of Amsterdam; Basil Pennington, OCSO Spencer, Massachusetts; Armand Veilleux, OCSO, Quebec; Paolo Soleri, Arizona and Odette Baumer, Switzerland.
Monastic communities represented at the Symposium included: Benedictine Grange, Conception, St. Procopius, Assumption, Transfiguration, Osage, St. Mary’s (Wrenthem), Sacred Heart (Yankton), Hampton, Redwoods, St. Benedict’s (Spencer, Massachusetts), Mistassini (Quebec). Fr. Felix, a priest from Bombay, assisted with the liturgies during the five days, as did Sr. Marie Therese Archenbault, OSF, Sioux Indian from Denver, focusing the indigenous contemplative presence for the group. Kalpana Das, Hindu from the Monchanin Crosscultural Centre in Quebec, was also present.
Workshops and meditation sessions of various forms were offered to the participants during the Symposium supplying a fruitful cross fertilization of the new monastic synthesis being offered by Fr. Panikkar and others. A public communication issued from the Symposium stated that a network of the heart in common concern for the contemplative dimension in everyone has been forming, which itself has to be the common ground for every effort to build a world of well-being and mutual support. These insights constituted a challenge for all to join hands across walls and barriers of exploitation and destruction, in mutual understanding and respect.
The Symposium urged Churches and institutions to stress what is common among them and respect their differences. All divisions between action and contemplation must disappear, all polarization between East and West, right and left, must be overcome. The urgency of a common effort to avert the threat of disaster was recognized, as well as our individual responsibility to be well informed, to “think globally and act locally” now.” (This is a report of a conference called “Mysticism of Integration” held at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts from November 19-23, 1980, and featuring the thought of Raimundo Panikkar.)