Author: Shirley Du Boulay
Publisher: Rider Books
Hardback: 308 pages
Readers in India:
This is a biography of Father Bede Griffiths (1906-1993), a British Benedectine monk who assimilated the tenets of Indian philosophy , culture, way of worship yet remained true to the Catholic order he belonged to.
Though he had predecessors in this endeavor like Roberto de Nobili, Swami Abhishiktananda (Father Henri le Saux), he was perhaps the most well known. He came to India in 1955 and established Kurusimala Ashram in 1958 along with Father Francis Acharya. Ten years later he was invited to manage the Saccidananda Ashram (Shantivanam) near Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), by Swami Abhishiktanananda (its co-founder). Father Bede Griffiths remained for rest of his life in this Ashram and took it to great spiritual heights.
It is a well written book however it is rather factual and fails to move you and strike a chord. I have read better biographies. But it was effective enough to generate an intent in me to read the books written by Father Bede Griffiths when I come across them , especially his autobiographies - The Golden String and its sequel The Marriage of East and West. I would also like to pay a visit to Saccidananda Ashram (Shantivanam) if I happen to be in the neighbourhood of Trichy.
The following extract from this book based on author's discussion with Brother Martin, who succeeded Father Bede Griffiths in Saccidananda Ashram, summarizes succintly the four stages in spiritual development of Father Bede Griffiths:
First was Bede's discovery of the love of Christ, so total that it led him to become a Benedictine monk.
Then, in the 1930s, came a period when he began to discover other religions, though never doubting that, though all religions contains some elements of truth, 'there is only one absolutely true religion...Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and without him no man comes to the Father'.
By 1973, however, he found that this statement needed qualifying: 'Christ is the ultimate fulfilment of all religion, the final and definitive word of God, but the same cannot be said of Christianity. Christianity, as an organized religion seeking to express the mystery of Christ, the divine Word in human terms, suffers from the same defects as other religions.
Two years later he went further, writing: 'I am so tired of the childish pretence that Christianity is the only true religion and must be shown superior to others.' He was moving gradually to the third stage, a conviction that all religions are complementary.
In the early 1980s came a glimmering of the final stage, the idea that there is one reality beyond all, a reality found in all religions. Bede became more and more interested in advaitic experience.
The latest development in his own thought, Bede wrote to Nigel Bruce, was that he had become more and more 'advaitin':
It seems to me that we have ultimately to go beyond all forms of thought - even beyond the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church etc.
All these belong to the world of 'signs' - manifestations of God in human thought - but God himself, Truth itself, is beyond all forms of thought.
All meditation should lead into silence, into the world of 'non-duality', when all the differences - and conflicts -in this world are transcended - not that they are simply annulled, but they are taken up into a deep unity of being in which all conflicts are resolved - rather like colours being absorbed into pure white light, which contains all the colours but resolves their differences.