The Nature and Possibility of Christian Sannyāsa
The article begins by comparing the ‘Western’ and traditional Indian views of the stages of spiritual development during the life-cycle. The former is characterized as a period of education,
work and activity finally ending in retirement and relative inactivity. The latter, drawing upon the ancient Indian tradition as re-evaluated by writers such as Tagore and Thottakara, envisages the life-cycle as comprising four elements: the periods of education, householder, the forest-dweller and, ultimately, the renouncer or Sannyāsi. The article will concentrate on this latter stage, in particular, asking the question: is a Christian Sannyāsa possible? To answer this question case studies are explored from the contemporary and recent history of Christianity in India. In particular, the article concentrates on three main figures: Henri le Saux (‘Abhishiktananda’), Fr Francis Vineeth CMI and Swami Sadanand.
Abhishiktananda/ Henri le Saux, 1998, Ascent to the Depth of the Heart: The Spiritual Diary, in R. Panikkar, Trans. D. Fleming and J. Stuart (eds.), ISPCK, Delhi.. Referred to in the article as: ‘Diary’.
Abhishiktananda/ Henri le Saux, 1975, The Further Shore, ISPCK, New Delhi.
Tagore, R., 1924/1996, ‘The Fourfold Way of India’. Reprinted in The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore, Vol III, ed S. Kumar Das, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
Tagore, R., 1931/1988, The Religion of Man, Unwin, London.
Tagore, R., 1991, Glimpses of Bengal: Selected Letters by Rabindranath Tagore. ed K. Dutta and A Robinson, Macmillan, London.
Teresa of Avila, 1997, ‘The Interior Castle’, in Efrén de la Madre de Dios and Otger Steggink (eds.), Obras completas de Santa Teresa de Jesús, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid.
Thottakara, A., 2009, ‘Sannyāsa: Dynamics of a Life of Renunciation’, New Horizons of Indian Christian Living, Vidyavanam, Bengaluru.