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Sadhu and Southern Baptist, Sunday surprise

[ by Charles Cameron — preferred place for prayer — and Gary Snyder’s disciples “will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at” ]

That sadhus like to meditate in cremation grounds was already known to me — they worship Lord Shiva, who likes to meditate there himself, not infrequently covers himself in ashes, and wears a necklace of skulls..

What surprised me though, was to find Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and author of The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home, Christianity Today‘s Book of the Year, recommending so similar a practice..



  • The Gospel Coalition, A Graveyard Is a Good Place to Make Big Decisions
  • TripAdvisor, Varanasi Photo: Sadhu meditation in smashan – where dead bodies burn
  • **

    And if the sadhu‘s practice seems more extreme — fiercer, spiritually? — than Dr Moore‘s quieter — dare I, should I really say, more contemplative? — approach, that only reminds me of Klaus Klostermaier‘s book, Hindu and Christian in Vrindaban, and this marvelous graph:

    Theology at 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade seems after all, different from theology at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Theology accompanied by tough chapattis and smoky tea seems different from theology with roast chicken and a glass of wine. Now, what is different, theos or theologian? The theologian at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is in a good position presumes God to be happy and contended, well-fed and rested, without needs of any kind. The theologian at 120 degrees Fahrenheit tries to imagine a God who is hungry and thirsty, who suffers and is sad, who sheds perspiration and knows despair.

    Here’s Fr Klostermaier saying Mass in Vrindaban:

    First thing in the morning I celebrate the Mass. I wonder if any person responsible for prescribing the liturgical vestments in use today ever read mass at 113 degrees Fahrenheit, in a closed room without a fan? Clouds of flies swarm around the chalice and host. They settle on the hands, on the perspiring face. They cannot be driven away, but return for the tenth time to the place from which they have been chased away. The whole body burns and itches. The clothes are damp, even the vestments. They soon dry. If a priest does not wear them all, he commits – according to existing canon law – at least a dozen or so mortal sins all at once. And it seems impossible to survive, physically or spiritually, without the Mass.

    And Vrindaban?

    Edward C Dimock and Denise Levertov, begin their delicious, delirious volume, In Praise of Krishna: songs from the Bengali, thus:

    Above the highest heaven is the dwelling place of Krishna. It is a place of infinite idyllic peace, where the dark and gentle river Yamuna flows beside a flowered meadow, where cattle graze; on the river’s bank sweet-scented trees blossom and bend their branches to the earth, where peacocks dance and nightingales call softly. Here Krishna, ever-young, sits beneath the trees, the sound of his flute echoing the nightingales’ call. Sometimes he laughs and jokes and wrestles with his friends, sometimes he teases the cowherd-girls of the village, the Gopis, as they come to the river for water. And sometimes, in the dusk of days an eon long, his flute’s call summons the Gopis to his side. They leave their homes and families and husbands and honor — as it is called by men — and go to him. Their love for him is deeper than their fear of dishonor. He is the fulfillment of all desire…

    That, too, is Vrindaban!

    6 Responses to “Sadhu and Southern Baptist, Sunday surprise”

    1. Sally Benzon Says:

      Thanks for this post, Charles. My own most earnest prayer was committed on Mt Fuji, climbing in driving wind and hard rain. I didn’t make the summit. Nor did I need to. The lesson was all there with each foot step.

    2. Charles Cameron Says:

      The closest I got was the (then) HQ of Soka Gakkai in the foothills of Mt Fuji, where I spent time with a PR flack, and never even went inside to visit Taiseki-ji, the temple founded by Nichiren and the place of the Gohonzon, central article of Nichiren Shoshu practice — nor do I have much memory of Fuji-san itself.
      Once more, I envy my friends their travels!

    3. Sally Benzon Says:

      Yes, I know of Taiseki-ji but haven’t been there. So many humbling temples to visit in Japan, as you know. I actually haven’t traveled much at all. And it seems I always end up with either my childhood willow tree, or the dewdrops on the morn. Here is a clip for you of some heartbreakingly beautiful gorgeous singing, W.B. Yeats put to song. (It is a masterclass and the tenor sings the song in its entirety at the beginning. Spoiler alert: this is one masterclass where the master, Stephanie Blythe, said she didn’t have a single thing to teach about the tenor’s singing.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOLKEIj_iss

    4. Charles Cameron Says:

      As you say, gorgeous!

    5. Wacays Says:

      Sulaiman bin Buraidah narrated on the authority of his father (RAA) that the Prophet (PBUH) taught us that when we visit graves we should say, “Peace be upon you, O believing men and women, O dwellers of this place. Certainly, Allah willing, we will join you. We supplicate to Allah to grant us and you well being.” Related by Muslim.

    6. Charles Cameron Says:

      Thank you, I appreciate this contribution

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