Bathing in the Ganges.
It was at Devipatan, in northern India near the Nepalese border. They were a group led by Matsyendranath, a Russian yogi who lives in Sydney and who had invited me to join his group of Russian speaking nathyogis. They were a remarkable group: young, happy, very committed to the spiritual path, sensible, peaceful and joyful. It was obvious that I appreciated them. In fact I was living out the recommendation given in the ‘Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions’ (Nostra Aetate) of Vatican II, which states “Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.” They in turn appreciated this attitude. Indeed, they were surprised, puzzled and curious.
Therefore, one evening they asked me many questions: about the selection of the books of the Bible; the Gnostic gospels; monastic life; the Orthodox ‘prayer of the heart’; the reality of eating Jesus’ body and blood; corruption in the Church; the relationship of Church and State and so on.
So there I was, in a small temple town where no one speaks English, witnessing to Russian speakers about the truths of the Catholic Church. They in turn expressed their appreciation with words of high praise. We had truly met.
We journeyed down to Allahabad for the great festival of the Kumbhamela where– some 40 million pilgrims over the space of about 2 months immerse themselves at the meeting of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. I joined with the nathyogis and some 10 million others on that day in immersing myself in the waters. I felt something of Jesus’ emotion as he immersed himself into the waters of the Jordan and into the whole history of Israel although he was their source.
The whole experience was an authentic act of interreligious dialogue that gives much room for reflection. It was a new evangelisation, in the best sense of the word.
This short article was published in Dilatato Corde (on-line journal of Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique / Monastic Interreligious Dialogue), Volume III Number 1, January – June 2013.