VOLUME XI:2 July - December 2021
Indian Portraits: 
Eight Chrsitian Encounters with Hinduism

Yann Vagneux
Yann Vagneux’s book is a fascinating read, so fascinating that I finished it in a few days. I will return to it in the future, however, to better assimilate its structure, its beauty, and its deep insights. 
The author’s familiarity with India added much to the value of this fully annotated volume. He visited many of the hermitages where the people he writes about had lived, as well as the shrines to which they had gone on pilgrimage.
Not to be overlooked are the lovely color photos of the eight individuals to whom the author devotes a chapter.
Vagneux does not simply tell us about these individuals; he establishes an encounter between the reader and the persons he is writing about, be they the more familiar personages we have all heard about or those who have been completely “hidden” from Western readers, for example,  Sister Thérèse de Jésus (1925-1976), also originally from the Carmel in Lisieux, Vandana Mataji, and Prasanna Devi.  Although many of us are aware of Henri Le Saux's disciple, Marc Chaduc (1944-1977), never before have I seen such detailed information about his life before his mysterious disappearance.  
I loved the citation from Le Saux on the meaning of discipleship in the chapter devoted to Chaduc:
The seeker will no doubt have been helped by masters, for it is only from others that one can receive the teaching of Salvation. . . . Indeed, that teaching is not merely communication, it is communion, we would say in Christian language. But herein lies the great secret. The Master’s role is not to transmit notions.  Above all, it is to awaken the disciple; to open the disciple’s inner eye, the one which plunges inwards and recognizes the Mystery there. It is to open the disciple’s consciousness to the Spirit which inhabits him, to that Spirit which fathoms and scrutinizes the depths of God. No doubt the words pronounced by the guru travel from mouth to ear on the outside, as does any human word that necessarily travels through the ambient air. But really speaking, the guru’s words are transmitted directly from heart to heart, through the unifying medium of the Spirit, so that everyone communes with the Eternal Word. This is why, in India silence is considered to be the most favourable atmosphere for teaching Wisdom.
My question about this collection of portraits is the inclusion of chapters devoted to Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier. It is certainly true that both of them were Christians who had a deep encounter with Hinduism, so in that sense, they have a place in this book. The active and engaged spirituality of Mother Theresa and Jean Vanier was so different from the hidden, contemplative spirituality of the others about whom the author writes that the inclusion of chapters devoted to them seems out of placeat least, that was my reaction to them. I would have preferred to see these two chapters included in a follow-up book in which Vagneux would give us portraits of others in India who had similar experiences and made similar contributions. 
Moreover, I thought the chapter on Jean Vanier was overly long and not very interesting. I found myself becoming impatient, wanting to “get on with it” and move on to the next chapter. Perhaps this is simply a personal reaction that others may not share. 
I should be quick to add, however, that this observation does not diminish my high regard for the book as a whole. I strongly recommend it and hope other readers will enjoy it as much as I did. 
The book is widely available on Amazon.
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