Volume XIII:2 July - December 2023
Swami Abhishiktananda at Indore (10 October 1973)
Swami Abhishiktananda at Indore (10 October 1973)

Revisiting the Spiritual Legacy of Swami Abhishiktananda:
The Radical Turning Point of his Awakening

 “I have only one message, the message of the Absolute.”[1]
Swami Abhishiktananda (1910-1973) has been recognized as one of the most authentic witnesses of the in-depth encounter between Christian and Hindu spiritualities during our times.
But to what extent are his views on Hinduism and interreligious dialogue relevant in India today?
It is a matter of fact that Swami Abhishiktananda’s thought had gone through several stages over the twenty-five years he spent in India. Regretfully, some of his writings are marked by a missionary vision that was predominant at some stage of his own spiritual evolution. These writings do not contribute to the religious harmony of Indian society and have become a source of controversy.
Towards the end of his life, however, he underwent a radical inner transformation. He adopted a pluralistic vision that enabled him to move beyond the concepts and doctrines that had been at the core of his early theological formation.
His experience of Awakening is trans-religious in the sense that he transcended all doctrinal levels and theological notions and situated himself in a theocentric spirituality of Being. Surprisingly, this transcending of his Christian and Catholic identity has rarely been noted in the monographs devoted to him over the last fifty years. However, the letters he wrote to his friends after his Awakening in July 1973 prove clearly that he had indeed evolved towards a mysticism of Being that was beyond institutional faith.
In this final stage of his evolution, he no longer recognized himself in his previous writings (except for Guru and Disciple, in which he did not superimpose himself on Shri Gnanananda’s teaching)[2] and fully embraced religious pluralism, which has its roots in the Divine Being—a notion that has been diversely interpreted by religious traditions at the level of nāmarūpa.
The time has finally come, after fifty years, to reinterpret Swami Abhishiktananda’s work from the perspective of his ultimate vision and message and to cast aside once and for all his earlier views influenced by the theology of Fulfillment, which are merely historical and provisional, and which, moreover, represent a major obstacle to dialogue between traditions, particularly in the socio-religious context of contemporary India.
The Missionary Project
One cannot deny that Swami Abhishiktananda arrived in India with a missionary attitude, which can already be seen in a letter he wrote in 1947, a year before he left his monastery: “I dream of giving our blessed Father [St. Benedict] new children who will fashion a Christian India, as their elder brothers fashioned a Christian Europe.”[3] However, he was soon captivated by the extraordinary spiritual wisdom present in the Hindu tradition: “I had come here to make You known to my Hindu brothers, but it was You who made yourself known to me by means of them in the overwhelming features of Arunachala!”[4]
Although he recognized the authentic spiritual riches of the Hindu tradition, he would still believe in Christian supremacy and think that only a fusion of Hinduism with Christianity would enable the former to find its true value![5]
The Darshan of the Sages
A major event occurred less than six months after he arrived in India, and it would be the turning point of his spiritual itinerary: The darshan of the sage Shri Ramana Maharshi on 24 January 1949. The centrality of this meeting to his life, with its immeasurable impact on his quest for Advaita, is no longer in doubt: “Ramana’s Advaita is my birthplace.”[6]
His mystical experiences during successive stays in the caves of the holy mountain Arunachala (1952-1955) after Shri Ramana left his body were foundational experiences that marked him forever and prepared him for the great Awakening to the Self. As he would write some twenty years later in his Diary, “But as for myself, like Shri Ramana, it was Arunachala that awakened me. Oh, that awakening!”[7]
During these stays, between 1952 and 1955, he would experience, what he called his “first overwhelming experiences.”[8] These experiences represented, in fact, the first intuitive revelations of Being, of Self Consciousness, which would be bestowed on him as he meditated and studied in depth the teachings of Shri Ramana Maharshi and the Upanishads. Yet, they were only a glimpse and could not be considered stricto sensu as an Awakening (ātmabodha) because of their concomitance with identity contractions and anxiety attacks to which his personal diary bears witness: “In committing myself totally to Advaita, if Christianity is true, I risk committing myself to a false path for eternity.”[9] However, he knew, through an inner certainty that surpassed all belief, that his advaitic experiences were true, that the message of the Upanishads was as authentic as the revelation of Christ was for him.
A second great encounter with a living sage, Shri Gnanananda Giri, took place in Tirukoyilur (Tamil Nadu). With him, he discovered the profound meaning of the guru-disciple relationship and experienced a great deepening. As he wrote to a friend, “In him I have felt the truth of Advaita.”[10]
Inner Conflict and Fulfillment Theology
However, as he tried to reconcile his faith with the truth that he recognized in Advaita, he experienced an inner conflict that would be present for the rest of his life and that he was only able to overcome at the time of his profound spiritual Awakening in Rishikesh in July 1973.
To bridge the gap between the truth of Advaita, which he understood and recognized as early as 1953, and his faith in the Christian Trinitarian theology, he turned to the inclusivist approach of the Fulfillment theology that had already been formulated in India by Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya, John Nicol Farquhar, and later by Pierre Johanns and the Calcutta School of Indology. Despite its limitations, it represents a constructive step, in the Christian theological thought of his time. Indeed, rather than blindly denying or rejecting the Vedāntic tradition and, more generally, Hindu philosophy, Fulfillment theology recognized a partial truth in it. However, it was incomplete and subordinate to Christian revelation, which alone holds the full truth. Christianity is therefore seen as the culmination and fullness of what was incompletely revealed in the Vedic tradition.
This perspective was officially adopted by the Roman Catholic Church when the Second Vatican Council promulgated Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, on 28 October 1965.[11] It was subsequently reiterated in the Declaration by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Dominus Iesus (16 June 2000).[12]
The crucial problem with the Fulfillment theology is that it fails to see Hinduism—and other religions as well—as an authentic path toward salvation or liberation. It can only see the preparatory role of the Hindu Dharma, from which, however, innumerable great sages have emerged! It is hardly surprising, then, that Swami Abhishiktananda’s ideas on the supremacy of the Christian faith—which he later abandoned altogether—shocked and even scandalized Hindu readers of his books.[13] Such an approach cannot contribute to harmony in the multi-religious context of Indian society[14] and ultimately runs counter to the very possibility of a fraternal and sincere interreligious dialogue. A true dialogue, indeed, is based on the premise that all religious traditions are equal from the outset.
Unfortunately, for two decades and against his own deep spiritual intuitions since his retreats at Arunachala, Swami Abhishiktananda was convinced that Christianity is the culmination and fulfillment of what had been incompletely revealed in the Vedic tradition. He would even dream
of a Christian India because [he thought that then] only will India find its spiritual fulfillment. Hinduism will merge into Christianity without losing the least of its positive values; there its contradictions will be resolved, its symbols will attain to truth, and perhaps they will even remain with a deeper meaning.[15]
How could Swami Abhishiktananda have failed to see for two decades that he was on the wrong track when he had already understood and integrated advaita, even at the risk of breaking completely with the Catholic institution? Did he not write as early as 1953: “I am really myself only in advaitic kevala”,[16] and then three years later, “True advaita blows up the institutional Church of the Vatican”?[17]
However, despite his deepest insights, he continued to waver—as we can see from his Spiritual Diary—and was often trapped by his old theological convictions:
Christianity and Advaita are mutually exclusive. . . . The truth of Advaita is unassailable. If Christianity is unable to integrate it in the light of a higher truth, the inference must follow that Advaita includes and surpasses the truth of Christianity and that it operates on a higher level than that of Christianity. There is no escape from this dilemma.[18]
Going beyond Fulfillment Theology
Swami Abhishiktananda eventually rejected the idea that Christian dogmas could be superior to Advaita. He definitively abandoned Fulfillment theology in 1971 when he began revising the first French version of Saccidānanda.[19] He realized how much it was saturated with Fulfillment theology and could not identify himself with it anymore. As he wrote in October 1972, “It is only the patching up of an old wall. I would never write it now.”[20]Saccidānanda, the revised English translation of Sagesse, remained inconclusive and unfinished despite the changes he made to the original text.[21]
In time, Swami Abhishiktananda realized that the Truth lies beyond concepts, myths, and symbols, and eventually completely gave up his theological and comparative approach to religions. As he wrote in January 1973:
We have to descend into the ultimate depths to recognize that there is no common denominator at the level of nāmarūpa[22]. So we should accept nāmarūpa of the most varied kinds. . . . No comparisons, but we should penetrate to the depth of each one’s mystery, and accept the relativity of all formulations. Take off from each of them, as from a springboard, towards the bottomless ocean.[23]
A week later, in February 1973, he wrote along the same lines in his Diary:
The awakening to the mystery has nothing to do with dogmas about the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption. . . . It is the entire trinitarian superstructure that collapses. For that is still nāmarūpa. . . . My whole thesis in Sagesse has collapsed, and it is in this total collapse that the awakening is found.[24]
In his notes written between 10 and 19 April 1973 for the lectures he was to deliver at Vidyajyoti College in Delhi, he stated,
All the speculations of the Councils, the Fathers and Scholasticism are not always a growth. The Trinity is not a trans-advaita, as I thought and wrote in my book Saccidānanda. There is no Trinity any more than there is God, except at the level of manifestation.[25]
Besides, Swami Abhishiktananda realized that Fulfillment theology was a definite obstacle to genuine dialogue as it asserts the superiority of the Christian tradition over Hinduism and, more generally, over all other religions.[26]
In his Introduction to the English edition of Saccidānanda, Swami Abhishiktananda stated his new view on dialogue:
Dialogue . . . only becomes worthwhile when it is accompanied by full openness to one another and when both sides accept the fact that each has something to receive and learn from the other, not merely at the intellectual level, but with regard to [the] inner life of the Spirit. Dialogue about doctrines will be more fruitful when it is rooted in a real spiritual experience at depth and when each one understands that diversity does not mean disunity, once the Centre of all has been reached.[27]
But the most important reason for his ultimate rejection of the theses developed in Saccidānanda—was his new and profound spiritual insights after the arrival of his disciple Marc Chaduc, who experienced a profound Awakening less than a year after he arrived in India, in May 1972. It was in the fire of this experience that Swami Abhishiktananda finally recognized the path transmitted by the Upanishads as an authentic path to liberation. He wrote to Odette Baumer, “I now know that the Upanishad is true, satyam.”[28]
It was a slow transformation that finally shattered his conceptual world. Relieved at last, he exclaimed to his disciple, “The Christian nāmarūpa-s have disappeared.”[29]
On 25 June 1973, as he was about to complete twenty-five years in India, he wrote to his friend Raimon Panikkar,
What a blessing to have ventured on this step, even though I could not know then what was awaiting me here. What awaited me was this marvellous discovery that aham asmi (‘I am’)—so simple and so marvellous! ... Etad vai tat[30]—"That, just That.”. . . but no longer any one to say it!”[31]
Then, Marc’s initiation into sannyāsa—after which he would be known by his monastic name of Swami Ajatananda—deeply moved him; it was for him the culmination of his twenty-five years in India. In it, he saw much more than an external sign; rather, it was both symbol and mystery, carrying an inspiring and transformative power. The living example of his disciple, who had responded unreservedly to the call of the Absolute in his heart, accelerated a deep inner process of surrender that, after an intense retreat together in the jungle, culminated in a devastating experience of Awakening in Rishikesh.[32]
The Ultimate Awakening
The last and definitive turning point in his life—his spiritual Awakening—occurred on 14 July 1973 in the town market of Rishikesh when he suffered a heart attack and collapsed on the ground. When he recovered his faculties, he immediately became aware that the one who had clung so firmly to a doctrine throughout his life had disappeared, leaving only an impersonal experience of the underlying “I Am”:
It was a marvellous spiritual experience. The discovery that the Awakening has nothing to do with any situation, even so-called life or so-called death; one is awake, and that is all. While I was waiting on my sidewalk, on the frontier of the two worlds, I was magnificently calm, for I AM, no matter in what world! I have found the Grail![33]
What he called “the discovery of the Holy Grail” would have a profound impact on his theological views. He, indeed, experienced “an Awakening beyond all myths and symbols,”[34] and moved away from all notions of Christian exclusivism and triumphalism. He realized that Truth lies beyond all religions and conceptualizations, which are merely nāmarūpa-s, and which point to the unspeakable Reality without ever being able to express or encapsulate it. As he had already written to his disciple, more than a year before his Enlightenment, “What is horrifying in theology and Canon Law is the treatment of nāmarūpa-s as absolutes, whereas they are a game, a līlā, the sparkle of māyā.”[35]
Indeed, we can see that the theme of liberation from philosophical and theological concepts as nāmarūpa-s will recur again and again in his diary and letters during the last two years of his life, signifying his gradual liberation from the grip of conceptual thought. His deep insight of the early fifties now became evidently true: “One simply is. And this fundamental experience is, at the same time, that of the unique and single existence.”[36]
His final spiritual Awakening, which is itself beyond any discursive description, is the essential and primary key to understand his real message and the relevance of his spiritual itinerary. In the dazzling light of his deep Awakening to the Self, all previous theological and Christological concepts exploded in what can be called a trans-religious experience. In this falling apart of all intellectual notions, a new luminous awareness emerged which led him to a deeper knowledge of Christ in the light of his own non-dual experience.
During his convalescence at the Roberts Nursing Home in Indore, he had the opportunity to express his new vision in his correspondence. In a long letter to his close friend Murray Rogers, he mentioned the profound shift that had occurred in him:
The more I go, the less able I would be to present Christ in a way which could still be considered as “Christian.” I can start with “Christ” only if my approach is “notional,” by ideas. For Christ is first an “idea” which comes to me from outside. Even more after my “beyond life/death” experience of 14 July, I can only aim at awakening people to what “they are.” Anything about God or the Word in any religion, which is not based on the deep I-experience, is bound to be simply “notion,” not existential. . . . Yet I am interested in no Christo-logy at all. I have so little interest in a Word of God which will awaken man within history. . . . The “Word of God” comes from/to my own “present”; it is that very awakening which is my self-awareness. What I discover above all in Christ is “I AM.” . . . Christ is this very mystery “that I AM,” and in this experience and existential knowledge all Christo-logy has disintegrated. . . . If at all I had to give a message, it would be the message of “Wake up, arise, remain aware,” of the Katha Upanishad. The coloration might vary according to the audience, but the essential goes beyond. The discovery of Christ’s “I AM” is the ruin of any Christian theology, for all notions are burnt within the fire of experience. . . . I feel too much, more and more, the blazing fire of this “I AM.” in which all notions about Christ’s personality, ontology, history, etc. have disappeared.[37]
A month later, again he wrote to Murray,
The Christ I might present will be simply the “I AM” of my (and every) deep heart, who can show himself in the dancing Shiva or the amorous Krishna! And the kingdom is precisely this discovery . . . of the “inside” of the Grail! . . . The awakening is a total explosion. No Church will recognize its Christ or itself afterwards.”[38]
He also wrote many letters to his disciple, Swami Ajatananda:
I really believe that the revelation of the AHAM is perhaps the central point of the Upanishads. And that is what gives access to everything; the “knowing” which reveals all the “knowings.” God is not known, Jesus is not known, nothing is known, outside this terribly “solid” AHAM that I am. From that alone all true teaching gets its value.”[39]
These few quotations from his letters give an idea of the unbelievable Copernican change that had taken place in Swami Abhishiktananda. They confirm that the lifelong convictions that had prevented him from becoming fully aware of the Self had finally been abandoned. Christ’s experience of “I AM” was not different from its Hindu equivalent, the “Aham Asmi” of the Upanishads. Hence, Christians and Hindus can only and truly meet in the “cave of the Heart.” beyond the contradictory formulations of their theologies or philosophies. There alone can they directly experience the eternal “I AM”: “Deep in his heart, the Indian seer heard with rapture the same ‘I AM’ that Moses heard on Mount Horeb (Exodus 3:14).”[40]
Spiritual Awakening and Religious Belonging
How does the awakened being relate to religious belonging? This is a very complex question, because awakening is only possible to the extent that we accept the loss of all concepts and myths. Otherwise, no progress can be made at a deeper level, that of Being.
If we consider the usual criteria that define the parameters of Catholic doctrine, we can reasonably say that Swami Abhishiktananda no longer fits within the traditional limits and doctrinal lines established by the institution, but rather within a non-dual and more ontological perspective of the Christian faith, which transcends concepts and doctrines while understanding their genesis and conditioning and respecting their expression.
The awakened person is first and foremost established in Being (brahmanishtha), in the “I Am” (aham asmi). From then on, Jesus is naturally seen as the embodiment or living expression of “I Am,” the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Trinity being considered secondary.
There is therefore a clear move away from any particular doctrinal positions. An absolute priority is given to the experience of Being that transcends the boundaries between religions. The awakened person cannot be defined as belonging to this or that religion; his or her affiliation is now universal in nature.
It is thus difficult and foolhardy to pass judgement on someone who is awakened because they escape all classification, even though they may adopt the behaviour and attitudes of a devotee within the framework of a given religion. Internally, however, they have overcome all forms of conditioning and all bonds of religious identification.[41]
Abidance in Being and Interreligious Dialogue
Interestingly enough, throughout Swami Abhishiktananda’s search, his theological reflection, limited as it was by his own traditional formation, always remained incomplete and provisional, never leading to any synthesis. However, a depth was now reached through Awakening, which is far beyond any particular theological language and cuts across all religious boundaries. Indeed, the realization of the non-dual Truth to which the Upanishads point transcends the plurality of all religions. As Swami Abhishiktananda said,
The Upanishadic experience has nothing to do with any religion whatever, and still less is it a matter of mere logic or epistemology. It is of a different order altogether. It is the ultimate awakening of the human spirit, with which religions are now being confronted, as they were confronted in the past with the categories, first of mythical, and later of logical thought.[42]
It is at the level of Being that true dialogue must be articulated between religions.
For Swami Abhishiktananda, if Hindu-Christian dialogue and, more generally, interreligious dialogue is to occur, it can only be fruitful if it is carried out at the deepest level of interiority, from the non-dual experience that transcends the plurality of particular religions. As long as religions remain on the conceptual level, their approach remains relative, and they cannot reach the immediate and ultimate experience of Being nor can they truly meet each other. A real and effective meeting can only take place from the depths of one’s own Being. A true dialogue is therefore a recognition of that most intimate and ever-present “Beingness” that makes one blind to any notion of “otherness,” thus revealing the “onlyness” of the Self amidst the inexhaustible differences of appearances.
Even before his own awakening, in his most important essay on dialogue,[43] prepared in 1969 for the pan-Asian theological journal Asia Focus, Swami Abhishiktananda spoke with great insight about the foundations of interreligious dialogue and the essence of religious pluralism.
Interreligious dialogue is the immediate consequence deriving from the acknowledgement and acceptance of religious pluralism.[44]
Only one who has penetrated his own depth is able to discover and meet the depth of another. Indeed, to penetrate one’s own depth is to penetrate the depth of all and only such an individual has understood the depth and the very essence of his own religion. Religion is no longer for him a conventional pattern of thought and behaviour received from his tradition, but a living experience of the Presence of God in oneself and in the whole universe with the necessary commitments that flow from it.[45]
Revisiting Swami Abhishiktananda’s Writings from the Perspective of his Ultimate Vision
Swami Abhishiktananda was a paradoxical bridge-builder. Though he had the merit of immersing himself wholeheartedly in Indian culture and Hindu spirituality; though he had the darshan of Shri Ramana Maharshi and the great fortune of practicing his teachings; though he became a disciple of the sage Shri Gnanananda Giri; though he lived as an authentic sannyāsī, trying throughout his life to establish a synthesis between Hindu Advaita and the Christian faith; though he became a pioneer of Christian inculturation in India and one of the main inspirational figures of the Christian ashrams movement; and though his writings have inspired so many sincere seekers all over the world, those same writings are interspersed with Fulfillment theology and missionary vision, making them a source of controversy and a cause of consternation among Hindus and a real challenge to interreligious dialogue with Hinduism.
The time has now come, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his mahāsamādhi this year, to face up to the apparent contradictions of his path.
First of all, it must be acknowledged that the writings that pose a problem for dialogue are precisely those in which Swami Abhishiktananda no longer recognized himself at the end of his life. These writings, which belong to the period of his adherence to the theology of Fulfillment, must now be relegated to the background.
Secondly, we can no longer present Swami Abhishiktananda’s legacy as a homogeneous whole. Over the twenty-five years he spent in India, his vision underwent an enormous evolution, from a utopian dream of seeing India become Christian and the mountain of Arunāchala populated by Christian monks[46] to his final abidance in Beingness and his unified vision in non-dual Consciousness. It is essential to interpret the evolution of Swami Abhishiktananda’s thought in the light of the radical change that occurred at the end of his life. All the previous stages of his vision were being provisional and limited by his theological conditioning.
Finally, Swami Abhishiktananda’s great and unique message, which is also the message of the Upanishads, is the one he left us at the end of his earthly life. It is simply an invitation to the Awakening, the Awakening he had already caught a glimpse of in the early 1950s, and the one he finally experienced fully at the end of his life.
“In this adventure, I have found the Grail. And what is left for me to do in this life, apart from inviting others to make this discovery?”[47]

[1]Swami Abhishiktananda, Ascent to the Depth of the Heart (Delhi: ISPCK, 1998), 322 (entry: 25 July 1971).

[2]“My Gnanananda is entirely true. In it I have not superimposed myself upon the master” - Letter to O. Baumer-Despeigne, 23 December 1970, in James Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda: His Life Told through his Letters, rev. ed. (Delhi: ISPCK, 1995), 242. See also: “Of all that I have written, Gnanananda is almost the only thing that remains afloat. All the rest consists of nāmarūpa amusing itself with the ‘theology of fulfillment’.” (Letter dated 4 February 1973 to Marc Chaduc in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 286-287).

[3] Letter dated 18 August 1947 to J. Monchanin in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 18.

[4] Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, 162 (entry: 14 November 1956).

[5] See Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, 28 (entry: 31 March 1952): “I dream of a Christian India because I think that then only will India find its spiritual fulfilment. Hinduism will merge into Christianity without losing the least of its positive values; there its contradictions will be resolved, its symbols will attain to truth, and perhaps they will even remain with a deeper meaning.”

[6] Spiritual Diary, 9 March 1955 (unpublished), quoted in O. Baumer-Despeigne, “The Spiritual Journey of Henri Le Saux-Abhishiktananda”, Cistercian Studies, 18, no.4 (1983): 316.

[7] Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, 354 (entry: 30 May 1972).

[8] Letter dated 8 March 1968 to O. Baumer-Despeigne (regarding Guhantara) in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 199: “For me it is the direct expression of my first overwhelming experiences”.

[9]Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, 73-74 (entry: 25 September 1953).

[10]Letter dated 14 March 1956 to J. Lemarié in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 90.

[11]“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these [non-Christian] religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.” (Second Vatican Council, Declaration Nostra Aetate, 2)

[12]“This definitive self-revelation of God is the fundamental reason why the Church is missionary by her very nature. She cannot do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is, the fullness of the truth […]” (Declaration Dominus Iesus, 5)
“Thus, faith requires us to profess that the Word made flesh […] is […] the fulfillment of every salvific revelation of God to humanity...” (Declaration Dominus Iesus, 6; Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 4)
“God […] ‘does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain gaps, insufficiencies and errors’” (Declaration Dominus Iesus, 8; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 55)
“Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel…” (Declaration Dominus Iesus, 21; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 29; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 843)
“If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.” (Declaration Dominus Iesus, 22; Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis)

[13] The fact is that Swami Abhishiktananda, in his dialogues with sannyāsī-s, or with his personal friends like Swami Chidananda in Rishikesh or Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup in Delhi, never presented his theses implying a superiority of the Christian tradition over Hinduism, but some of them discovered these later when his books, originally intended for a Western Christian readership, were translated into English and published in India.

[14]See e.g., the virulent criticism against Swami Abhishiktananda’s views by Sandhya Jain in her Editorial “The Trespasses Against Ourselves,” in the daily newspaper, The Pioneer (New Delhi) on 26 October 1999 (available online: https://www.sandhyajainarchive.org/1999/10/26/the-trespasses-against-our-self/). Accessed 29 December 2023

[15]Ascent to the Depth of the Heart,28 (entry: 31 March 1952).

[16]Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, 73 (entry: 26 August 1953).

[17]Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, 144 (entry: 17 February 1956).

[18] Saccidānanda: Theological Perspectives on Advaita and the Trinity (Delhi: Christian World Imprints, 2023), 36.

[19]However, the English version published in 1974 was still heavily impregnated with this theory, despite his modifications, and he could not remove all references to it without having to rewrite the whole book!

[20]Letter dated 18 October 1972 to R. Panikkar in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 278.

[21] Saccidananda: Theological Perspectives on Advaita and the Trinity,ed. Swami Atmananda Udasin, trans. James Stuart, 3rd ed. (Delhi: Christian World Imprint, 2023).

[22] Lit. “name and form”, the phenomenal manifestation of reality, syn. for māyā.

[23] Letter dated 26 January 1973 to Marc Chaduc in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 284.

[24] Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, 368-369 (entry: 2 February 1973).

[25] These notes, kept at the Abhishiktananda Society, were published under the title “Outlines of Christology and Trinitarian Theology” in Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, 64 (August 2000): 599-611, and republished in Swami Abhishiktananda, In Search of Ultimate Understanding: Selected Essays in Hindu-Christian Spirituality (Delhi: ISPCK, 2023), 297-313.

[26] See Swami Abhishiktananda’s article: “The Depth-Dimension of Religious Dialogue”, written in 1969. Initially published in Asia Focus and the Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection (1981), it is now available in In Search of Ultimate Understanding, 110-134.

[27] Saccidananda (2023), xxviii.

[28] Letter dated 28 May 1972 to O. Baumer-Despeigne in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 268.

[29] Letter dated 16 June 1972 to Marc Chaduc in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 272.

[30] Katha Upanishad 2.3.

[31]Letter dated 25 June 1973 to R. Panikkar in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 301.

[32] He wrote to his sister about the impact of this experience in the jungle and the sannyāsa dīkshā of Marc: “I had experienced emotions which were too powerful. I have told you about 30 June [dīkshā], then from 10 to 14th a ‘week’ in the jungle with Marc which was so spiritually powerful that the body could not stand up to it.” (Letter dated 9 August 1973 to Sister Marie-Thérèse Le Saux in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda,308). A few days later, he shared the same with Mother Françoise-Thérèse: “…The emotions in Marc’s sannyāsa, plus an absolutely fantastic ‘week’ in the jungle by the Ganges from 10 to 14th [July], had been too powerful… There are inner experiences which the body/heart cannot bear.” (Letter dated 16 August 1973 to Mother Françoise-Thérèse of the Carmel of Lisieux, in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 309).

[33]Letter dated 9 August 1973 to Sister Marie-Thérèse Le Saux in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda,308.

[34] Mrs Odette Baumer-Despeigne arrived in Indore on 10 October 1973 and stayed with Swami Abhishiktananda for a week. She witnessed first-hand his state of Awakening “beyond all myths and symbols”. See O. Baumer-Despeigne, “The Spiritual Journey of Henri Le Saux – Abhishiktananda”, Cistercian Studies, 18, no. 4 (1983): 327-328.

[35] Letter dated 26 June 1972 to Marc Chaduc in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 273.

[36] Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, 52 (entry: 24 July 1952).

[37] Letter dated 2 September 1973 to Murray Rogers in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 310-311.

[38] Letter dated 4 October 1973 to Murray Rogers in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 311.

[39]Letter dated 20-21 October 1973 to Swami Ajatananda in J. Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, 316.

[40]Saccidananda (2023), 86.

[41] This may explain why Swami Abhishiktananda continued to celebrate Mass daily at the Roberts Nursing Home in Indore, since he was staying in a Catholic institution and this sacrament retained all its value. When asked earlier by H.W.L. Poonja why, as an advaitin, he continued to celebrate the Eucharist, Swami Abhishiktananda replied, “Because I love the taste of it!”

[42] The Further Shore (1975; repr., Delhi: ISPCK, 1984), 108.

[43] “The Depth-Dimension of Religious Dialogue”, in In Search of Ultimate Understanding, 110-134.

[44] In Search of Ultimate Understanding, 117.

[45] In Search of Ultimate Understanding, 122.

[46]“When will Arunāchala be inhabited by Christian monks?” (Letter dated 4 March 1953 to A. and L. Le Saux in J. Stuart, Swāmī Abhishiktānanda, 60).

[47] Letter dated 4 September 1973 to Odette Baumer-Despeigne in J. Stuart, Swāmī Abhishiktānanda, 312.

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