Pointing to the heart

There was a Center in Montreal that was originally known as Le Centre Monchanin. (The adventure began in 1963 with Jacques Langlais, priest of the Holy Cross congregation, which joined in 1967, Robert Vachon, Franco-American priest of the Congregation of La Salette, United States, and in 1971, Kalpana Das, educator of Indian origin and Hindu tradition.Incorporated in 1968 as the Centre Monchanin, it subsequently took the name Monchanin Cross-Cultural Centre in 1979. Since 1990, the new name, Intercultural Institute of Montreal, has reflected the organisation’s mission and activities.)….Notes from IIM on line.Ever since I had known this place, there was a custom every week-end to have Inter-Cultural and Inter-Religious activities. I attended mnay of these in the early years of this Center and it was there for the first time, I ever witnessed a Japanese tea ceremony. It was there too that for the first time I ever attended a live performance of  sacred music from India. I will always remain thankful to the founders of this Institute.

They have done excellent work in the city of Montreal of breaking barriers and educating the general Quebec population of the culture and religion of many of the new arrivals.

Thousands of immigrants fleeing the wars in Cambodia and Laos and Vietnam as well as in later years, those of Tibet and Sri Lanka, brought many of these people to our shores and Montreal was host to many.  Some worked in factories and in hospitals and restaurants and gradually came their monks and priests and slowly they established places of worship. Looking back from when I arrived in Montreal in 1956 to today, the face of Montreal has changed considerably and there is hardly a group that will not find a comfortable place of worship to which they are accustomed.

I do not want to take time to say how many Buddhist, Hindu, Sikhs and Muslim temples and places of worship exist in the city and surroundinag areas, but anyone really interested can consult maps and reference on Google and be informed.

At the time, in the fall of 1986, just after I had been assigned to this work of dialogue, I took the easiest method of gaining knowledge of as to where the temples were situated and who were the monks in charge, simply by consulting the “Monchanin Center”.  There I was able to gather enough information for the task which was assigned to me.

You may ask who was Monchanin of whom the Center originally got its name. For that you may consult:

Jules Monchanin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Father Jules Monchanin (who chose to call himself Swami Paramarubyananda), ( April 10, 1895 in Fleurie, Rhône – October 10, 1957 in Paris)……

I was more interested in his friend and colaborator Father Henri Le Saux. who was really exceptional and quite a mystic who wrote several books and who lived a life of a sannyas (like a Hindu hermit) in India. During my stay in India I followed the path to the places where he roamed and to the ashrams where he went to dialogue with Hindu saints and holy men and women.
Now in Montreal, it was shortly after the famous Inter_faith gathering for Peace in Assisi and I was on a journey to try and produce a model of that event here in the city of Montreal.  I now had names and addresses and even some ideas of who I should meet, through the advice of Fr. Robert Vachon who became a good friend and counsellor over the years.
I will always remember the day when I found myself sitting on the floor of a Buddhist temple, awaiting the Venerable monk who was in charge.It had been a series of phone-calls before this interview could take place and I wanted to invite him to come to our monastery to take part in an Inter_Faith Peace gathering.
It was not the first time I sat in a Buddhist temple, but then it was on my own initiative in India in 1971. This time I was here to beg the monk to come out to our chapel to offer paryers for peace.
It was a somewhat difficult meeting in a way, because the monk spoke neither French nor English and the translator had not arrived and so, I used gestures and photographs from the event in Assisi in last October, to try and make my objective known to him. He seemed to have grasped and the time came for me to leave and he accompanied me to the door.
As we were about to say goodbye, the interpreter arrived and I explained to her that I wanted her to give him a message.
She told me that the monk first wanted to apologize that due to the language barrier he was not able to speak much to me.
I told her to tell him that for me, it did not matter much because I believe our hearts understood one another and i pointed at my heart and he smiled as we said farewell.
It was some months later during the celebration of a Buddhist holiday in a Vietnamese temple to which I was invited and there were many monks, some Tibetan and some Laotian and some Cambodian.
The Vietnamese monk who was hosting, took me around to introduce me to the various monks and we came to the Venerable Hok Savan who I had seen some months ago in his temple.
As the Vietnamese monk was mentioning my name etc, the Cambodian monk not saying anything, was smiling and looking at me he pointed to his heart.
I knew then, that this was a sign that this work of dialogue into which I was involved, was a work truly of the heart.



One thought on “Pointing to the heart

  1. Pingback: Pointing to the heart « anotherexistinguser

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