Deep Ecumenism: Bede Griffiths on the Wisdom of Hinduism


In the shadow of COP26 we are meditating on the powerful role that Deep Ecumenism can and must play in the future of the planet.  To get the most out of individual humans and our diverse communities, we must include the spiritual dimension.  That is where the fire of excitement and passion, sacrifice and visions is lit and stays lit.

We have been focusing lately on Anika Coomeraswamy and Meister Eckhart, the synergy of a Hindu and cultural scholar of the 20th century and a great Christian mystic of the 13th and 14th century.

Father Bede Griffiths envisioned and Brother Wayne Teasdale inspires the modern movement toward lay monastic communities. Photo by Newmonastic on Wikimedia Commons

Father Bede Griffiths was a 20th century Benedictine monk who oversaw a Christian ashram in southern India for over 50 years.  He was a pioneer in deep ecumenism and wrote many excellent books on Hinduism and Christianity.  He was an authentic monk and very holy man who graduated from Oxford University as a young man and as an atheist but on reading Thomas Aquinas was smitten by the Christian tradition.  C. S. Lewis became his mentor into Christianity.

“As one with the Earth, we are never lost.” Los Algorrobos, Panama. Photo by Ian on Unsplash.

Consider his learning about the sacredness of nature from living in India:

Perhaps this is the deepest impression left by life in India, the sense of the sacred as something pervading the whole order of nature. Every hill and tree and river is holy, and the simplest human acts of eating and drinking, still more of birth and marriage, have all retained their sacred character.  

How does this contrast with the West?

In the West everything has become “profane”; it has been deliberately emptied of all religious meaning. . . . It is there that the West needs to learn from the East the sense of the “holy,” of a transcendent mystery which is immanent in everything and which gives an ultimate meaning to life.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, p. 251.

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image:  Fr. Bede Griffith (second from left) leading a retreat in Denmark circa June 1984. Photo originally posted to Flickr by Dialogcentret billedarkiv.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree that the West has lost “its sense of the ‘holy’” and we can recover it through other cultures?

Recommended Reading


Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr.; from Hildegard of Bingen and Meister Eckhart to Thomas Merton; from Father Bede Griffiths to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice.  This revolutionary book does just that.  Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily meditations.” — Adam Bucko, co-author of Occupy Spirituality.
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