This volume in The Modern Spiritual Masters Series focuses on Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri le Saux, 1910-1973) who was born and raised in France but went to India as a Benedictine monk in 1948 and founded with another French priest a contemplative community. But his attraction to Hinduism led him on a path which resulted in his adopting the life of an Indian holy man. Swami Abhishiktananda made the most out of silence and solitude on pilgrimages and at one time spent two years living as a hermit in the caves of Arunchala. He also sought out gurus and was quite taken with Sri Ramana Maharishi.
Shirley Du Boulay, the editor of this collection of Swami Abhishiktananda's writings, is the author of a biography about him, The Cave of the Heart. In the introduction, she discusses the tensions he lived with as a man who was attracted to and immersed in both Christianity and Hinduism, the East and the West:
"He remained a priest, and he remained a Benedictine monk, but he was a long way from the average expectations of a Catholic priest. He was beyond all structures, yet he remained a disciple of Jesus. As far as the church is concerned, he never left it but he did become distanced from it. He came to see more and more clearly the false duality of the church, for instance, in regarding people as active or contemplative. In the end even the Mass became unimportant: he could celebrate or not. Everything was divine, so it didn't really matter."
This paperback is divided into the following sections: Benedictine monk, Advaita, East-West, immersion in Hinduism, the life of the hermit, Christianity, God, prayer, and awakening. Swami Abhishiktananda writes about the penetrating power of chanting Vedic hymns, the grace of India that is manifested in interiority, the presence of eternity in the present moment, morning and evening worship, the secret of the guru, solitude and silence, prayer and enlightenment. Here are a few examples of his thought:
"There is as much true prayer when the whole attention is concentrated on an ache, as in the marvelous silence when we think we are in ecstasy."
Don't Get Caught Up In Your Thoughts
"God is too close to us. That is why we constantly fail to find him. We turn God into an object and God escapes our grasp. We turn him into an idea but ideas pass him by. So Mary Magdalene was too much taken up with her thoughts about Jesus to be able to recognize him in the gardener at Calvary."
Live in the Moment
"The present moment is all that matters; tomorrow is God's business."