Teachers and mentors

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Father Henri le Saux

(Abhishiktananda)

It was during those 10 years after my return from that first visit to India that I came across the writings of Fr. Henri Le Saux.

There were no members of the Daharma Society in the Province of Quebec that I knew of and so I could not follow the teachings except through sporadic letters from time to time, from Toronto. I felt drawn to Eastern spirituality as I felt that somehow it suited me better.

I was searching to see if there were other monks like me with the same interests, and then I came across his writings!

Quotes from Henri le Saux:
– CONTEMPLATION is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source….‎
Appears in 20 books from 1972-2008

“One of the best reasons for hope in the crisis through which at present the world is passing is certainly the growing interest shown by Western people in the East. Western man has in fact much to learn from the spiritual and cultural world of the East, which has evolved in ways very different from his own. Perhaps too it is only there that he will discover that inwardness which he so patently lacks and will recover that identity which seems to have escaped him – but this time an identity which will reveal to him the very depth of his own being.” Abhishiktananada, Preface, Guru and Disciple.

Henri Le Saux was born in 1910, in Brittany, France. In 1929 he decided to become a monk and entered the Benedictine Monastery of St. Anne de Kergonan. He was ordained in 1935.
His attraction to India and her spiritual riches started as early as 1934. He came in contact with Fr. Jules Monchanin, who was then working as a village priest in Tamil Nadu, and who was longing for a contemplative life in the way of Indian asceticism or sannyasa. Fr. Le Saux was finally given permission by his abbot to go to India in 1948.
A profoundly decisive event in his life was his meeting with Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Swami Abhishiktananda spent several weeks and months in the caves of Arunachala between 1950 and 1955 in deep meditation. He then made several pilgrimages to the Himalayas, to which he was strongly attracted. In 1971 a French seminarian, Marc Chaduc, came to meet him after a long correspondence, and Abhishiktananda found in him a disciple.
In 1973 Abhishiktananda suffered a heart attack on the road in Rishikesh, which he survived for only six months. He described this experience as a great “spiritual adventure,” a “state beyond life and death,” an “awakening.” Fr. Le Saux had come to experience Christ within the context of Advaita, the Vedanta of non-duality, and, after overcoming the tensions brought about in him by the differences between the two traditions, he found an inner integration.

I believe that if father Henri Le Saux had not left his monastery in Bretagne and gone to India, if he had not rubbed elbows with Hindu contemplatives, had not gone to visit the Saints like Ramana Maharshi, and others, if he had not accepted Gyananda Giri as his Guru and lived in solitude in caves in the Himalayas, he would not have been the pioneer that we know today and he would not have died the extraordinary way he did, as explained to me personally by the priest who stood by his bedside at his moment of passing.  (summer of 1981 in South India) He said to me “Rolph, I wish that all the priests I know could die like this man!”

For me, the moment of our death is the most important moment of our life. I know, because in the year 1990, I stood at the door of death, lying helpless in a hospital bed after a heart attack. Yet as the pain took over, I remember saying, “if this is death, I surrender” and offered my life to God and then the pain  left and everything became beautiful beyond words. To this day I still believe the experience of death, (difference than the experience of pain) can be beautiful, although the contrary can be said for birth. I no longer fear death, but I still have to conquer my fear of pain.
Henri Le Saux never came to Montreal but we were able to meet some of his close friends and collaborators, Fr.Raimundo Pannikar, Mdme. Odette Baumer and later in India, Fr. Bede Griffiths and many others.

These men and women were pioneers in the field of dialogue and understanding between beings of many religions, and they contributed much to some of the historic events which followed. Their dialogue was not one of dry intellectual theological discussions but rather through the experience of meditation and silence. I thank God for having allowed me the grace of meeting some of them.
One of my first encounters in Montreal, was with Dom Tholens who surprised me by his knowledge of the ancient writings of the Vedas and I asked him if he considered them as sacred as the Bible and he explained that if I wanted a better understanding of the Bible, I should read the Vedas. Here is a quote of his: ”There is a humble interior conscience that invites all humankind to “Dream, Think, Believe and Pray,” a conscience that leads to the meeting of people of different cultures and religions, beyond any frontier—a humankind that prays round the altar of an unknown God, in whom we live and move and have our being.

The prayer of humankind is no longer a supplication addressed to a distant God, but rather the start of the ascent of all humankind to an increasingly higher consciousness that leads towards sharing in evolution and in final transformation. To understand one another, to forgive, value, help, enlighten, promise a happiness that will surpass all imagination: Peace—a Universal Peace in God.

Henri Le Saux (Swami Abhishiktananda) was the author of many books including Saccidananda: A Christian Experience of Advaita, The Secret of Arunachala, and The Further Shore. A collection of several of his essays appeared posthumously as The Eyes of Light.
A unique biography of his life, A Christian Pilgrim in India: The Spiritual Journey of Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux) was written by Harry Oldmeadow . Other World Wisdom books containing contributions from Swami Abhishiktananda are:

Those whose interests are the same today, can find easy access to a wealth of information in an article “The Revival of Contemplative Meditation in Christianity” here: http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Christian_contemplative_meditation.html

And the following video, if you are interested in dialogue, is strongly recommended!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHLYxcb1I00&feature=player_embedded

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