“To enter deeply into meditation is to enter into the mystery of suffering love. It is to encounter the woundedness of our human nature. We are all deeply wounded from our infancy and bear these wounds in the unconscious. The repetition of the mantra is a way of opening these depths of the unconsciousness and exposing them to light. It is first of all to accept our woundedness and thus to realize that this is part of the wound of humanity. All the weaknesses we find in ourselves and all the things that upset us, we tend to try to push aside and get rid of. But we cannot do this. We have to accept that “this is me” and allow grace to come and heal it all. That is the great secret of suffering, not to push it back but to open the depths of the unconscious and to realize that we are not isolated individuals when we meditate, but are entering into the whole inheritance of the human family.”
― Father Bede Griffiths, The New Creation in Christ
Father Bede Griffiths (1906 – 1993), born Alan Richard Griffiths and also known, by the end of his life, as Swami Dayananda (“bliss of compassion”), was a British-born Indian Benedictine monk who lived in ashrams in South India and became a noted yogi. He has become a leading thinker in the development of the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism. Griffiths was a part of the Christian Ashram Movement.
In 1955, he embarked for India. At the time, he wrote to a friend: “I am going to discover the other half of my soul.”
Griffiths joined with a Belgian monk, Father Francis Acharya OCSO. They sought to develop a form of monastic life based in the Indian tradition, adopting the saffron garments of an Indian sannyasi (an ascetic or monk). At that point, Griffiths took the Sanskrit name “Dayananda” (“bliss of compassion”). During that time he continued his studies in the religions and cultures of India, writing Christ in India while there. He also visited the United States during the period, giving a number of talks about East-West dialogue and was also interviewed by CBS television.
Later, in 1968, he moved to Shantivanam (“Forest of Peace”) ashram in Tamil Nadu, which had been founded in 1950 by the French Benedictine monk Abhishiktananda (Dom Henri Le Saux OSB), from the Abbey of Kergonan, along with another Frenchman, the Abbé Jules Monchanin. The two had developed a religious lifestyle which was completely expressed in authentic Indian fashion, using English, Sanskrit and Tamil in their religious services. They had built the ashram buildings by hand, in the style of the poor of the country. Monchanin had died in 1957, though, and Le Saux wanted to devote himself to a hermit’s life. Griffiths came with two other monks to assume life there and to allow Le Saux his wish.
Griffiths resumed his studies of Indian thought, trying to relate it to Christian theology. At this point, he became known as “Swami Dayananda” (“bliss of compassion”). He wrote 12 books on Hindu-Christian dialogue. During this period, Griffiths desired to reconnect himself with the Benedictine Order and sought a monastic congregation which would accept him in the way of life he had developed over the decades. He was welcomed by the Camaldolese monks and he and the ashram became a part of their congregation.
‘Going native’ created tensions with the Catholic hierarchy as did Bede Griffiths’ remarkably progressive views. These included believing that homosexual love was “as normal and natural as love betwen people of the opposite sex”. He advocated inter-faith communities and wanted a Church that was more concerned with love than sin. He realised that God was feminine as well as masculine and was one of the first advocates of married clergy and ministries for women. Like that other great Catholic mystic Thomas Merton who also travelled to the East, Griffiths believed that meditation should take a central place in worship.
Griffiths was a proponent of integral thought, which attempts to harmonise scientific and spiritual world views. In a 1983 interview he stated, “We’re now being challenged to create a theology which would use the findings of modern science and eastern mysticism which, as you know, coincide so much, and to evolve from that a new theology which would be much more adequate.”
Watch Below: Father Griffiths speaks eloquently about how unconditional love reveals itself through surrender and facing one’s own death, and how that love is inside us even if we don’t realize it right away.
Book to Hang out With – Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings
Thomas Matus’ well-chosen anthology offers a wonderful introduction to those unfamiliar with Bede Griffiths and a convenient resource for those who know and love him. The selections represent Griffiths’ autobiographical writings, his reflections on reason and intuition (“masculine” and “feminine”), his conviction that Hinduism and Christianity can complement and enrich one another, and his ultimate certainty that advaita, or nondualism, is the heart of all great religious traditions. The selections are prefaced by an introductory essay that highlights some of the central themes in Griffiths’ work.
Order the book HERE via Amazon and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Love Serve Remember Foundation.