As far as the knowledge and experience are concerned,
I have no qualification to untie his shoe lace! But I had the blessings to
closely associate with Gregorios Thirumeni, since1967. In 90s I used to visit
every month and in the evenings had kanji and payar or dinner outside, when
I go to some places via Delhi. Later I had to stay with him and then functioned
as the organizing secretary and financier to the Rishikesh
Religious Concord in 1993. During that process, I saw him talking to the
highest Spiritual leaders of almost all religion, especially Hindu Spiritual
Leaders with authority, not only on public meetings but also on
private talks with them. I never saw him searching for any sacred aspects
of their religions that they have cherished and could not be shared with.
All of them including the chief of Vanaprasth Ashram respectfully listened
to him admiring his knowledge and agreeing to his suggestions, and came to
one platform to discuss with other religious leaders in his presence.
His written speech at a Marxist forum in 1988, made the hard core Marxists
think widely on where they were standing! He said that their dogmas and old
teachings cannot be sold in this modern world and will not have much value
very soon! This lead to an open discussion between him and E.M.
Sankaran Namoothiripad on Spirituality and Marxism. Now a stage
has come where Christians are exposed to the world like Marxists. The fundamentals
of Church beliefs are being questioned. Gregorios Thirumeni's absence is
There was an open discussion between E.M.S and Dr. K.N. Raj, the first Chairman
of the Centre for Development Studies, on this theme in the journal Mainstream
sometime in 1975. It continued for several weeks. That was on dialectical
materialism. Raj said, Marx didn't say that religion is needed or not, but
he said only that religion is an opium of man. EMS could counter all the
arguments of Raj on that subject and established that all religions are opium
of man and he kept a view that Marx was against all religion. Later when
Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios made an attack on Marxian Philosophy, EMS had to
say: "To the Indian context, Marxism is Daridra Narayana Seva!" This
was a drastic deviation from all his previous arguments, and even it is a
deviated Marxian Philosophy. Later, in one of the Gregorios Memorial speeches,
EMS also added that his proletarian organization and the early Christian
Church have a lot of common things. The dialog started on Gregorios Thirumeni's
paper: whether Secularism is needed in India or not. It was presented at
a Marxist lead Trade Union conference in Calicut. This paper was then published
in their Party daily Deshabhimani, and immediately came the answer
from EMS. Then the dialog went on. The arguments of these two giants went
into unassuming heights. For example, Gregorios Thirumeni argued that if
you don't see something, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Then EMS answered,
I am not going to make God out of those unseen things. But the basic question
both were discussing was almost on the same thing: what is unma (truth)!
This was then published by Chintha publishers. Sophia Centre, Kottayam
also published it as a booklet. The booklet is in Malayalam. (The English
version is not available. You can get a copy from Fr. K. M. George.)
I met Gregorios Thirumeni after his said resignation. He was in deep sorrow
and agony. He told me, "There are very few people in my church that
I can convince of my arguments!" He was frustrated and wanted to withdraw
to a remote camp like the Motropolitan Theophan the Recluse. He purchased
some land on the outskirts of Delhi and started to slowly building an Ashram,
to move to that place for the rest of his life. But when he realized that
he was going to be alone there, cut off from the public, without medical
help, he kept the building process in abeyance. I think, nobody had supported
that idea. Our church doesn't have Monasticism as an agenda, and no one (including
him) has much training in that direction.
I regret that I didn't understand him at that time properly and helped him
accordingly to fulfill that desire. Like, from the works of Metropolitan
Theophan the Recluse, Christian churches and the world would then
have been much richer with his theological and other scientific works and
writings. (Bishop Theophan resigned from the Metropolitan-ship of the vast
Vladimir region and the Rector-ship of the prestigious St.
Peter's Burg Seminary, and spent 27 years in a cell and produced valuable
1000 Theological works). But, Gregorios Thirumeni's Christian habit was focused
more in social activities rather than in monastic isolation. He was more
interested in practicing Socialist humanism, which he thought was the ideology
that could bring us nearer to a just society. Perhaps that may be the reason
why he found more humanity in the people like C. Achutha Menon and EMS Namboothirippad.
But Gregorios Thirumeni is the product of the Indian Orthodox church, and
he was representing the present Church on various forums. On many occasions
he received me in Pazhaya Seminary when I returned from my retreats at Kurisumala
Ashram under the guidance of Rev. Francis Acharya. He arranged my stay at
the Seminary and enthusiastically asked questions about my meditations and
night vigil experiences etc. that I took in from the Ashram. I could only
answer: "Peace"! One night, I listened to few of his problems till 3.00am,
including those concerning church issues. I told him at one stage: "Thirumeni,
I think, I cannot help you". He had a good laugh and said, "you have already
helped me with your patient listening." Why he wanted to share all those
important matters to this theologically illiterate man, who was sitting in
front of him as a student, that too with the freedom that he had granted
to me? Even now, I don't know it fully. During another private dinner at
Delhi, I inquired: If Jesus Christ is the founder of the Church, why can't
you leave the problems to Jesus Christ? He said: "I feel isolated and nobody
in the church understands that". (Why did he want to walk in front of Jesus
Christ? This remark was occasionally used by Mother Teresa, to stop her fire
brand, enthusiastic volunteers, from jumping into certain impractical events.)
In 1993, we conducted the World Religious concord at Rishikesh. He wrote
me later that it was a super success event! During one of the early morning
private sessions that we two had throughout our stay in
the Vanaprasth Ashram, I told him to thank his church members and volunteers
for supporting the event. He magnanimously acknowledged in public the leading
role his church members who were a little bit unhappy on what was happening,
and thought that they were not properly recognized. They even thought the
agenda was a Hindu Agenda.
He always wanted to keep the identity of the Orthodox Church. In many circles,
he was called a red bishop, a politician. At the same time no one should
forget the role of his church by acknowledging him and making him a Priest,
appointing him in the WCC, entrusting him the Principal-ship of the Orthodox
Seminary and then finally anointing him as a Bishop etc. He was given the
six foot land, together with the tombs of other senior Bishops, at the Seminary
chapel itself, honoring his last will. Almost all his works are being published.
A prestigious, multi-storied library in his name is going to be inaugurated
on Nov. 24 at the Orthodox Seminary. There is an Award in his name, given
to outstanding personalities, in Delhi. The first award was given to his
friend, Dalai Lama. All these activities are supported by his church and
his disciples. But with all respect to him, I doubt very much, whether he
could have prevented the current split in his church!
Once I thought if this great self-made-person was born in Europe or America
or in a Catholic Church, what would have been his position in the world!
Of course, it is a matter of debate. I had the proud
privilege for watching him in Moscow, sitting on the moderator's chair of
a top secret discussion held between the Nuclear Scientists of both USA and
Soviet Union sometime in 1985. It was one of the glorious contributions towards
world peace, using his position in the WCC.
Swamy Vivekanandan was allowed to make a 5 minute speech at the world Religious
conference in Chicago in 1893, which he made a historical one by the extended
time. The same conference after a century was inaugurated by Gregorios Thirumeni.
There are several other such unassuming
roles he played in several world events.
So, he was a great lamp, lit by Jesus Christ! But that bright lamp didn't
always have a proper stand. But a day would come when true Theologians in
all religions would find his greatness. Like that of the 4th
century Gregory of Nyssa, it need not happen in this century. This evaluation
will continue, somehow somewhere, on his role in the Church, the body of
Christ, its life, mission and charity. There will be so many vicks lit for
him, not necessarily by his church members!
Let me give an example. Last month, during my short trip to India, when I
met Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer at his residence in Ernakulam, he was remembering
Gregorios Thirumeni. He reflected: "There is an absence of genuine persons
in every sphere of our life. What a loss to Christianity and to the country
and to the world itself!" When I took Thirumeni for the first time to Justice
Iyer's official residence in Delhi, while he was the Judge in the Supreme
Court, sometime in 1976, the judge didn't give any importance to Thirumeni.
He didn't even take his feet from the tea-poy and was looking at me and started
talking. When I
introduced him and when the discussions started, Justice Iyer asked about
a book on his favorite theme, life after life. Thirumeni patiently explained
the content of the book and its theme and then asked a question, whether
he heard of a book Life before life! This discussion went on for hours
and finally Thirumeni became his teacher. While in the car on the drive back
home, Thirumeni expressed his opinion about the meeting: "I thought he was
a tiger, but he seemed to be like a child!"
Gregorios Thirumeni was admired by many only from a distance, especially
from his church. He was a fire to many who went near to him. Many people,
even Priests and Bishops asked me how I could keep a friendship with him.
The answer was: I got acquainted with him not through his church!
I would have heard the following quote of Vaclav Havel, from Gregorios Thirumeni
first, if he was alive: "The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else
than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human modesty,
and in human responsibility. Without a global revolution in the sphere of
human copiousness, nothing will change for the better"
About the present crisis in the Church, I have shuttled between
Damascus and Kottayam several times to explore the possibilities for a peace
formula. I found it is impossible at the present set up. One has to accept
the reality! There is no administrative unity possible between the two Orthodox
Church factions. The latest trend in the world is that the Christian churches
are withering away! Our Orthodox Church has been divided almost like the
division of the Communist party in India, forty years back. Still, many people
are there in both the sides, who cannot understand why they should stand
as separate political parties and fight for the cause of poor and needy together,
if their goals are genuine. When the leadership and the members became corrupt,
the division was inevitable. The ideology was left behind. They didn't speak
of any Spiritual reasons for the division, as their ideology was based on
dialectical materialism. But how can the two factions of the Christian Church
founded by Jesus Christ and supposed to be governed by the Holy Spirit, fight
in the street? Either they are not feeling as the part of the body of Christ
or there is no Holy Spirit in the Church!
Apostle St. Paul says in his letter to Corinthians: "..there must be divisions
among you so that the ones who are in the right may be clearly seen." While
we are all waiting to see the right ones, Apostle appeals to all of us: "By
the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my brothers,
to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be
completely united, with only one thought and one purpose."
St. Ephraim the Syrian, representing the pure Christianity, made his prayer
almost 1700 years ago:
"O Lord and Master of my life! Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness, of
discouragement, of lust of power, and of vain speaking! But bestow upon me,
Your servant, the spirit of chastity, of meekness, of patience
and of love! Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may perceive my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother! "
Let not our faith divided! Let not our hope faded! Let not our love diminished!
We need healthy discussion. No doubt. Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios told me once
"It is easy for me to cooperate with different religious leadership for inter-religious
dialogues than dealing with different sections of Christian Churches and
believers." He told me ever since the church was formed, there were difference
of opinions. We can see that even St. Paul criticizes St. Peter in our Bible.
Does it mean that St. Paul didn't
respect St. Peter? No! If we learn the history of the formation of
the Christian Creed (Symbol of our Faith), you can see how much differences
of opinion the Christians had. Now we have almost 1/3rd population of Christians.
Out of this, Rev. Billy Graham claims that he had converted 160 Million people
to Christianity. It is a great number for an individual. No doubt, he has
got a special place in the Christian church history. But when you calculate
the total number of Christians lived after the formation of the mother church
in Israel, and when you calculate the percentage of that with the existing
2000 Million Christians in the world, you can see that there were greater
people than Rev. Billy Graham who worked silently and formed Churches in
different parts of the world and prescribed an Order to maintain the faith,
facing all bitter and deadly tests.
What we need is healthy criticisms with full respect and understanding of
the other person or the Church he represents and mostly with Christian love.
Here is where Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios's greatest contribution lies. Nobody
in the world had ever done such an attempt to bring all the Christians together
than him. He was disappointed on many occasions, but he was praying and every
day working in that direction. Many occasions, his intellectual deliberations
were not accepted even by his own Church. He taught the politicians that
they should learn from the Enlightenment liberalism, Imperialist pragmatism,
and Socialist humanism, while avoiding the down-side of these philosophies.
Well, it is only with collaboration and interaction with other Churches alone
one can attempt to make differences bring down, in his own heart. The basic
law should be love of Jesus!
Well, one should not underestimate the influence of the geographical contemplative
traditions. Pope Paul VI said: "The Non-Christian religions carry within
them the echo of thousands of years of searching for God.
They have taught generations of people how to pray. They are all impregnated
by innumerable Seeds of the World and can constitute a true preparation for
the Gospel...In the mind of Lord the Church is Universal by
vocation and mission; but when she puts down her roots in a variety of cultural,
social and human terrains, she takes on different external expressions in
each part of the world..." We have lot of things to learn
So, till the end of our life we have to search for the truth. That is how
the Creator molded us in this world! We need the Protestants fervor, Catholic
monastic discipline and Orthodox celebrations in our personal
Christian faith. Yet it is not complete. Centuries before Christ, the Spirit
made a certain section of people to pray: "From untruth lead me to the truth.
From darkness lead me to light. From death lad me to immortality". We need
to form such groups who can write such prayers. May the good God bless all
of you and continue a healthy discussions, because I am also learning from
all of you! Each one of you have unique talents and it is important to our