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BY THE SAME AUTHOR Swami Parama Aritbi Anandam: Memoir of Fr. J. Monchanin (out of print) ,,, Saccidananda: a Christian Approach to Advaitic Experience


Hindu-Christian Meeting Point-within the Cave of the Heart The Mountain of the Lord: Pilgrimage to Gangotri In Spirit and Tru(h: an essay on Prayer and Life The Church in India: an essay in Christian self-criticism (out of-print) Towards the Renewal of the Indian Church (out of print) Guru and Disciple:. an Encounte·r with Sri Gn71.n71.nanda, a contemporary spiritual master The Further Shore The Secret of Arunachala: a Christian hermit on Shiva's holy mountain Ascent to the Depth of the Heart: The Spiritual Diary of Swami Abhishiktananda

ISPCK 2001

Published ~Yi~. Rev. ~,¾nos of the Indian S.ciety for Promoti,,ng,, Cl)ristia_oKnowledge(ISPCK), Post ]}ox 1585, Kas~Jiab,,



Origuial ~~ edition 1967 ReprintediQ4.~~ 1969, 1972, 1975, 197~ New and ~ed edition, 1989, 1993, 1999, 2001





Page Reprinted 2001

0 Abbi.;~~~


Society, 1989


Author's Preface

2. A Mystery of Faith


3. The Universal Theophany


5. The Sabbath Rest of God

38 '48

6. On the Way


7. Silence ~ Yoga


8. The Word of God


9. The Prayer of the Name


10. OM! ABBA!

Printed at Academy Press, E-40, Sector Ill, Noida.


1. The Holy Presence

4. The Call Within

ISBN: 81-721,4129-7



EDITOR'S NOTE PREFACE ~ter. the ~f~ printing of 'Prayer in India (and separate editions m Bntain and the U.S.A.) it was thought that it would be wc:>rthwhile to make available a translation of the fuller and more freely expressed version which Abhishiktananda later ~te for his French publisher. The present edition of Praye'r

ts transfatedfrom·Eveilasoi-eveil



RECENTYEARS have witnessed a far-reaching "return to. the sources" within the Church. This·:is what brought about' the Vatican' Council, and equally the post-conciliar turinoil. The latter questions everything that has been•carried down to us by the stream of history-'-no.t only the contribution of Scholastidsm and·theMiddle.Ages'or,the heritageof Gree~ Roman. antiquity, but just as much· the ,whole cultural t and religious world of Palestine, the very context in which the first Christians awoke to faith in the risen Christ and in which Jesus himself used human language to tell of his experience. as God incarnate. :·· This movement· is undoubtedly legitimate, for in. the last resort there should not be ~ny intermediary between Christ arid the peliever. Through .the Spirit the believer should participate. in the· very experience of Jesus himself: Of course, there ar~ bound to be intermediaries at ,the external level, because· our life is ·set in history and in time, and moreover it is essentially ' livedin community. However, these intermediaries, of whatever type they may be~for example, other· people, ideas .or institutions-all exist with a view to bringing aboutthe personal· .meeting and direct contact between·man and God ..They .ought to be. entirely -transparent to the mystery, lest they ;become



idols like those from which throughot1tIsrael's· history God · sought to free his people through the teaching of the prophets. If this return to the sources, which is taking place equally in the spheres of history and canon law, of theology and liturgy, is to have its full effect in the Church and the world, it is essential that it-be, accompanied by an inward renewal, and that the Church should_more and more .feel the necessity for meeting with Christ at"the level .9f contemplation and deep . experience. The Council has reminded us. that the Church·is the people . ofGod·and th~ Body:ofChrist;The'r( of Christ himself, which·in the course. of ages spreads froW one people to,another, reaching as the r Psalmist says p2i8) ''From sea-to sea the ends of the,earth". The·.Cburch. is,.that communion in Jove which unit~s all those whom the Spirit has made to sharein the experienceof fo~_us. ,TheChurch, as a:visible society, has •no other purpose than. to prepare mankind for this experience and for the universal communion which it implies:r. ·In the time after the Council Pope Paul VI laid a ·greater stress·than ·any of his predecessors on .the need.for: a renewal of contemplative life in the Church; and indeed, without this inward renewal,.there is a serious.danger that an the present turmoil may degenerateinto a mere questioningof the.structures and formulas.~hich have been .inherited from the past, and the substitutionin their place,ofother structuresandformulas,which would.,perhapshave even less value than the old. ·, -· ··The·renewal of the Church -shouldreach as far as the centre .of our being, to•,our hearts; and, within the··heart of-Christ, should be. united to, the. Source from which,the Spirit.wells where:Jesus constantly abode in the Father's



presence; and where he loved.his fellow meg with the same love with which he loved God and was loved by him, In these days everythi9g is .:beingq11estioned~ begipning with the basic identity of the individ.ualand of the Christian,:whether priest .or layman. None of the ideas ~nded dow.nby tnidition are any.longer felt _to.besatisfying. Even the idea of God is under ~ttack, .and so -too.are the concepts which sougµt: to .define.thedivine-human mystery of Christ.and of the Church. From now on.the real and definitiveidentity of the__ individual and of the.Christian will found, on the further side of the idea of the person and of his perceptible ~onsciousness, in that depth of his spirit where he awakes to himself on emerging from the·hands of his Creatorwith'a simple loving gaze directed atGod his Father-indeed, at the very point where he receives the new and secret name which expresses his etem,a:lidentity in Goa;·. . ',,. ' , . Long before Jesus appeared on the earth, and even before the time qfthe great prophetsof Israel/Iridia's religious intuition had been irresistibly drawn tow11rds' thatdepth· of being and 'awareness iri whiSfiw'ererevealed irisepaiablyin their ultimate truth the'triystery of riian and the·mystery'of God-in ·vectic language, brahmaw,··aiman, 'and purusha:Thereby at one stroke their whdle'religion was renewed ahd setfree, just as later on thtfteaching'of'Jesus·freed Judaism; and with it the _western world.;'from the Law anfffrom the religious forms which,.had overlaid relation between God and man. From then on the secularization of the world was..set in motion. All at onceeverything'became secular,profane; but at the very same moment the·'sacredness of'everythi~g was. tediscov~red-no longer the symboli9 .saci:~,dnessattributed by, rrien,lP: d11ngs, but the essential sacredness Whichis the universal radiance of



the divine mystery, as it 'is manifested in the world and in history. Only this. experience of the-depths of. man and of . . . \. able in :these days to provide·the world and the Church with the intui~ons, .which are needed in order -to•·completethe dangerous transition, already.under Way,from the ·world·of symbolicsacredness to that of the sacrednessof the Real. The . I solutionof the presentcrisiswill onlybefound in the deepening of contemplativelife-at the-heart of the Church:- 1 . *


his comrade not to _growweary on the way and constantly reminds'him of the mountain top where God awaits hiin. The book was first written in ·English2 at the request of Christiansin India. Then a few years later friends in Europe asked for it to be publishedin French. In that edition the text was somewhatexpandedand supplementedwith an additional essay3 which had been written some time previously with a similar aim. May it help people to find the inwardpath and to make their way to ..the heart's centre", wher~in awaking to ourself, we awake to God.4


The purpose of,this li!tl_e. book is to help Christians10;their . inner ~newal;:and1tomake them increasingly,attentiveto .the call of the,Spirit.:who,from the -deptbsof their spirit; invites . them to pray "in truth"·and"withoutceasing",accordingto the verywords of Jesus in the Gqspel.The bookwas writtenQeside theGaµges in very;close;contactwith-thespiritual~xperiem;e of the Upanishads,.alluded:to above,and.innoless close.eon~ct with:the mystical traditionof the Chµrch,apove all.with what the Gospeland its firsthe,arershavepassedon .t.9us ~onceming the.innermostmystery of.the soul of Ch,rist . .. In this J:,ookthere is nothing technical,and the theologi_cal basis which it presupposeshas been,giye.nelsewhere) It_seeks rather to be a travelling companion.on the road .that .leads within, to be the often repeated word1ofa friend, as he helps




Especially .in Saccidananda:a ChristianApproach to Advaiti,;,E,cperi. ence.It has not seemed necessary to reproduce _hereth~ numerous quotations from Chri~tian and other mystics include4 in that book,which would have· illustrated the themes worked out below. Reference to Saccidanandais made here once for all.

2. · Prayer, is.P.C.K., Delhi, 1967 and following editions. 3. Now published separately "In Spirit and Truth". 4. A reference to the French title, Eveil soi-eveil Dieu, Paris, 1971.






pee~cin the cave of the


CHAPTER I· ' Y. ' 1·1 i .

is brahman, for ever alone, · '''


the unique I, the unique Self,• Enter, 0 man,

JEsus often urged his disdples to pray and to be constant· in prayer. He himself set them an example.:The Father's name was always on. his lips, and at night used to go ~way to some solitary place where, as St Luke says, he "continued in prayer to God" (Luke. 6: 12). . . · · "Watch and pray", he told his friends; "take heed, watch, for you do not know· on what day your Lord is coming" (Mark

into this depth -of thyself,


with thought 'turned within, with mind sunk in the Self, at peace, fixed in the Self,

13:33; Matt.24:42)'.

having become thyself!


After the Master, St· Paul gav:e thesame teaching to the Church; "Pray constantly." ''Pray alhiltimes in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication. To th~{¢nd keep alert with ~• persev'erance." (1 Thess. 5:17; Eph. 6:18): '


Sri Ramana Maharshi



Prayer is not a parHime occupation: which only belongs to certain moments in the day. Still less could there be two classes of devout people; some whose vocatioi:t is to devote their whole life to· prayer-whom we might ·call .".full-time contemplatives"-and others whose time is mostly taken up with professional or family activities, or even witli a pastoral or


teaching ministry,'and whc therefore can only be "part-time" in their prayer. . To suppose.that a faithful believer could be satisfied with being a part-time contemplative would show a total misunderstanding of Christian life. Just as it is unthinkable that anyone could be a part-time man, so equally no one could be only a part-time ,Christian.There is no p~ of our life1in which we can escape the mystery of God which fills our whole being, anch:qWihichthe€hristian has been::'uniquelyconsecrated_ in his baptism. In ·fact, from the day when we committed ourselve.sto Chris~~d acknowledgedhim as·Lord and Master, there.i~ !}Qta sm,.glemmentof our ~e-whether we vvake or sleep, walk, s'it,.wrk,. eat oi-piay-which is not indelibly marked by the claim of .God upon us, and which does not have to be li~ed wholly in the name ofJesus, under.t:qeinspiration of the Spirit,to tJ,leglory of the Father. .· ..·· ,. . . To live in, constant prayer, to lead a contemplatite life, is nothingelse.than to live in the actual presenceof God. Everyqne indeed, 1>,y tpevery fact that he exists, is alr~d~ iµ the presence of God. To exist at all, tobe. a human being, to be this p~cular h~man bei~g. }s on~ p6ssibl~ becau~ tfils This is, if possible, 'even mor,et:ru,eof the C~s~n, ,whoby God's grace has been called to know the ultimate secret of the divine life, and has been empowered by his faith in Je~us to become the child of God (Joitn 1:12). · TQ live in ,UJ.e,presenceof God should be as natural for. a Christian,.asto breathe the air which s~und~ him. Furthermore, to live conscioµsly aµd w:9rtliilym this presence-in other w~rds, to pray_:_shouldnever have for him even the appearanceof a duty which he i.~bound to perform in.obedience to some ~xtemaj law. No, for him to live in God's.presence is

of Presence.


· The Holy Presence


not a duty; rather .for him; ;as.for every human being,ijt i~:an inalienable birthright, written .into. his very nature. It· js ,tbe · most spontaneousdesire,ofhis being, the most direct e'lpression iof,his love for God,, whose child he :is.






Whether we like it.or not, we are always present to God: it . is utterlyimpossible not tp be in his presenc(i.There is no time artcl·ilt> place.inour,,no.occupado.n_, h~w_e. ver seemingly trivial;iil 'Whichwe are not before.God. It 1s.eYr,nwrong,to say . that there·aretimes or occupationsin which God is more pre~ent to us and we are more directly in touch with ;~im. God in , llimself, always Md invari3bly the same, .ttie Eternal, the.Infinite;·the Ahnig~ty: He .neither changes nor ,moves, neither comes nor ,gqes; ,Always. mid everywhere he is Himself,in his unique fullness! There is no sense, either symbolical or mythicaj.,ifl; which lly,,9anbe :more "here" or· less >'there''.,since heis indj~is,ible. In truth, it is to himself alone that Go4is.present. From all· eternity he is i!}hitnselfand exists,for..himself.,yJhe ey~·.nor. uttered by the lips; the very thought•of it could ' ' '





cp.KenaUpanishad, eli,. 1 ·and 2; see below p. 51.

. 20


·tlMystery. of Faith

,',; ..

never even enter man's heart (cp. 1 Cor. 2:9). Faith alone enables us to penetrate into the mystery of God-and therefore, also of ourselves, at that point where ti> each of us is revealed .that new and .secret name which speaks of his own special calling at. the heart of divine love (Rev. 2: 17).. It is truly in the uttering and hearing of that name that God?s chosen ones reach the bosom of the Father, and also the very depth. of their own being. Such is the mystery of what_is at the same time .within and. beyond, immanent and ·transcendent, which only faith can discover, andwhich ultimately it "tastes" in the eiperience of Wisdom;6 It wassurely of this that the Spirit:granted an intuition. to the Upanishadic seers when they sang, for example: He who knows. brahman attains the highest ... hidden _inthe secret place (the cave of the heart) ·and in the highest _heav~ns. (Taittiriya Up.,2.1) •. 6.

The exp~rience of wisd~, in which faith is [>t!tf~ted, clearly be based psychologically on precisely that "experience of the self' ~hicli . is also the summit of India's ascetic'discipline and conte~plation. 01ice this intuition is reached, there is no more any danger ofcOl)founding God, the supreme Self, the supn~meSubject and.Person, with any thing.orobject . ,wh~tever.There is then no question of "super~im11osing"our human inyths and abstractions upon the absolute and transcendent God-'-and consequently upon the self, upon the mystery of the conscious person, which is the very image of God. This "super-imposition", as it is called in Indian philosophy, immediately ceases when the inner Llght (iirunanent to ' the consci()USself, as it is to every being) is filially perceived in its infinite splendour. \\'.hen the'sun is·at its zenith, objects no longer any shadow on the·ground. This sense of the divine_Presence, always at the same time immanent ~nd transcendent, is the determining fa_ctor in all Indian approaches to theological and spiritual problems. (Cp. "An Approach . · to Indian Spirituality", in The Cl(!rgyReview, Feb. 1.969). And see pp.








Now, that light whi~h is higher than the firmament, . which shines beyond. everything, beyond the highest worlds, truly that light is the very same ' which shines in the human heart. (Chandogya Up., 3.13.7) As. vast. as the· space outside is that space at the centre of the heart; withinit are all the worlds, heaven and earth, . fire and wind, sun and moon, lightning and· stars·.. , everything... (Chandogya Up., 8.1.2}




To live by faith is to have the mind open and awakened to ~e mystery of God-of God in himself certainly and first of all,,.::ut no less to the mystery of his manifestation in the ..universe. . · :: Trµly there is nothing in the created universe, in all time : ~cf ~(space, which does not manifest God and reveal his to mankind. In creating us God bestowed on us ·totelligence and reason, thus making us able to reculd Iq:ep 'her there, all alorie and face to face with himself (cp. lfusea 2:6f · ·· · > . • · ··-.._. .

· him,apart lhem stre~gtheninghis ego?"






Strictly" speaking,therei~'of Qouistfrfo "outside"or ',!inside"

to themysteryof Godandof his Presence;Howeyer,the miilcl is sOfascinated·by sensible objects that the·firsf essential discipline·in the spirituallife is to freeoneselffrom the appeal of the externalwodd;2This is whythe masters"of the spiritual life insist ori the necessity for·recollection~d for bringing back to their centre and origin all the thoughts arid desires ' which from·every'side ceaselessly'floodintOthe,soul.That was, for example~ the kind of stistaiiled 'meditation recommendedby ~aria Maharshi; ·whicfr,heealled. "the search:for'the self', contrastingit with'conventionarpractices 3 of meditaiin. . In fact, it is only.when our spirit' ha,$':;been iolill{litup bfthe gloryofthe PiesenceOthat 'werealize."that tfiisPresenceis a'boundlessoceanof glory,withoutshore'.or horizon in any direction.In the blazinglight of this glory our very /, howeverpersonal itmay'be~finds it difficultto hold . itselfapart this.infinitude.Farbeyondthelimitsto which 'iris restricted"b}' the'sensesofby intellectualunderstanding, it seems to be 'extendedthroughoutthe.universetandthrough ' all cr~tion; as rttuchoutwardlybeyondall tliirigs inwardly beyond itself. Ii seems to reach the' most ~nwardcentre of evefy being; nothingin allcreation ailyloriget appeatsto'it-as "other", ariymore than ariy of God's workscanapj>ear"other".




to him. ·



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Th~ Call Within ~'' ' ·,, ' .;,


.:';, ./'' : "


. ·. , ' ··-,; .. _'i


·.Ii is indeediri this experienceofJhe ,untqqePrese°:cetbat the Chri~tianrealize~th,eab~,olti~~aloe elf. th~ ~owmwidment'of Io-ye, th~ pnlY,.,;'11i1':Y''. .. of t~~t:new· Test~ment: A:new c9mmand~ent,.sai9 Jesus (Jphn1.B:3:4); a_ndyet an old c::ominandm~rit~i>ps¢i-y~s ..~t John; the ~gjn~ing; and,~as its ,sollf~ein'the recy origin df.our b,eingin th~h~t

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'. VI can in .fact only JrulyJove o.ur neighbour ~ ou,rself, ·whe~'w/ha~e r~1i~ed·in the deep expenince of I>resertce that·all ·QJ~an.beings we C>ne ip·.the .uni.ty,ofJhe_ Spirit, .ariq ih.a'i ther~fore,no,onecan'~- stranger'tC> ~l,se.N9,9ne can understand that the '.IQYe,of Gog ,and tqe 'lilv~,q(~he neighbout one arid. the sam,eloye,e~~~P,l µiose)VhO_ th_J;oqgh this same experiencehave realized in the Spirit ,that'there,IS only a single Son of God. ' · · ·. Jesus is "the man for others", as weare often reminded today. But in the first place·Jesus·is the. man for. God. He is the man for others preciselyin virtue of the fact that, as Man God ; and • ' . _,, he .,J has •• , ,. "realized ,. • • ; ,• , in , the • .••,.,depth . . , of his ' , own heartdhat ' Go~,.i,donejs,.,~,dthat:~e,is his opJy Son. There,,ispp within -.orwithoutiQthis,, w_~ichJesus h_as ,come to..t~ch us a~cLto.. s,harewith us. As '3/ith.Jesus,,so \1/;,~th 'us,.it is ihe hearing.ofqod'.s uniqueWor~ that,m,ak~~ lJS~obe, ,~d makesus aware that,God,is .everywhereand ln all things, \1~d thati~the end God.alo~eis. . . . -..









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'ihe Cteator piim:edoutwanl theopenings• (of the senses);.· ·,; . therefore,QDe look11.oinwanl~d ntit mside on~., ,,;, .. · •, _J)esµjµg immo~ty, a ?lrtain sage . .. , , .. , •· . . mmeii'hlsgmiwithm, and sJiaightway beheldthe,$elf.'' 3. - See Saccidananda,chap.3, "Theinward Quest". • ' · ,i, • • 1 ·


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,- _AccprQingto, the _s:c,i;iptures ·chii~t'.s ,~!?9'.will 'bring about thesumffiingup of alf things in