Sunday, 8 May 2011

Bede Griffiths' "Jules Monchanin"

The following is the text of a contribution by Fr Bede Griffiths to the proposed Dictionary of Indian Christian Theology, ed. Eric J. Lott, D.C. Scott, and O.V. Jathanna (Bangalore: UTC, late 1980s) (see Sl. No. 30).
Jules Monchanin was a pioneer in the movement towards dialogue and inculturation, which has gained so much importance in the Church in India today. He had made a deep, though critical, study of Hindu philosophy and realised the importance of the advaita doctrine of Sankara in dialogue with Hinduism. So much so that he could say: 'Our only aim is advaita and the praise of the Trinity.'
At the same time he sought to establish a way of life which would be 'totally Indian and totally Christian.' For this purpose he adopted the traditional customs of a Hindu ashram, wearing the 'kavi' habit of a sannyasi, sitting on the floor and sleeping on a mat and adopting a strictly vegetarian diet. These things were innovations at the time but have since become customary among those dedicated to a contemplative life in India.
Above all he sought for an authentic life of prayer and contemplation nourished alike by the Bible and the Vedic tradition, seeking to find the point of unity between Hinduism and Christianity at the source from which each tradition derived. The ashram which he founded on the banks of the Kavery in Tamil Nadu remains a witness to the ideal of contemplative life which he had set before him. 

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