A Sage and Seer of Composite Culture

I. C. Menon

The demise of Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios on 24 November, 1996 (KartikPurnima) is a sad and irreparable loss to humanity. This is no platitude. About a million people pass away from the world every week and the near and dear ones feel the loss irreparable, however low or high the deceased be. It is a natural feeling. But when a titan, an immaculate personality a spiritual beacon, a profound scholar well versed in the wisdom of the orient and the occident, a world renowned authority on Inter - faith studies, at home in the worlds of the arts and the sciences, master of several languages passes away, such an event causes a "void' which is well - nigh impossible to fill.

Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios was certainly a high - altitude flier in the field of knowledge and spirituality. He was well - versed in the history of mankind and the geography of the continents. From his high orbit he had a clear vision of the time - space continuum and the shocking fragmentation of the man - made world, thanks to the artificial barriers and boundaries of nation - states, races, communities, castes, languages, organisations and institutions with a rigid frame- work. He had the clarity of perception and felicity of expression. He made out the distinction between the container and the contents and the relative importance of the latter over the former. His viewpoint was that when the contents increase beyond the holding capacity of the container, it should be changed; not merely the corroding container but also the putrefying garbage from the contents.

A deep scholar of Indian spirituality and its universality, he believed that change is the changeless law of life, which it is difficult for the mind to accept without resistance. Mind and its offspring, though are not readily inclined turn inwards and examine the contents, the container and their relationship, not to speak of moving to the frontiers to look at the beyond; not only in regard to our three - dimensional world of matter and energy but the life of the spirit, of intelligence, consciousness, life, compassion, joy as also of desire, sorrow, suffering, pain and death. In short, his field of study embraced both the mundane and the spiritual, the transient and the eternal. Naturally therefore, the approach of the Indian Rishis, the anonymous authors of the Upanishads of yore and their pursuit of the service of Inner Energy which is Vedanta, attracted him and gave him direction in his lonely pilgrimage to the KINGDOM WITHIN. Now, anonymity is a state of the mind, where "I' (ego) is not; and it is the elimination, effacement of the ego, which is the essence of crucifixion.

Spirituality is religion in experience and then in action.The process of ego - elimination is the sine qua non of a religious person. Any activity, ritual, reading, prayer, fasting, meditation, silence through a multitude of varying practices is meant to keep that ultimate gate of entrance to the kingdom within, but the path is very narrow. ""Straight is the gate but narrow is the path''. The Katha Upanishad put it even more poignantly ""The path is as narrow as the razor's edge.'' The spiritual journey, pilgrimage, thus needs total attention and direction to the ultimate goal of ENLIGHTENMENT, COMMUNION, LIBERATION, SAT - CHID - ANANDA (Bliss), or whatever the label. It is the kernel of experience that is vital, not the shell of ostentatious rituals and mechanical practices. The latter without the former is cheap tinsel.

He felt, like religious revolutionaries in the past, that lack of spiritual quest and light among heads of religious organisations make them power - hungry and greedy; and hence they become authoritarian and property - oriented. That is why religious organisations by and large have become hotbeds of intrigues and rivalries and not thebeacon of LOVE and SERVICE. No wonder then that he was not understood by and popular with those who did not resonate at the same wavelength.

The Bishop was forthright in his pronouncements. As a servant of the poor and the under privileged in society, he used to warn against the evils of money power. It is easier for a camel to pass through the needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.'' Vested interests did not find such lessons palatable.

He knew too well that everything in the Universe was the Lord's property which should be used frugally and prudently. He was, not at all against the beneficial fruits of modern technology, which should be available to all, not to a few in all the continents. True, he was critical of hypocritical Pharisees, of parasites and bloodsuckers, which is also one of the essential teachings of Jesus.

He was sad and amused as to how guidelines for spiritual journey are misinterpreted and are misused for material pursuits. One such is the following: ""For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have in abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.'' The purport of this teaching is not to strengthen capitalism with all its ugliness, nor to keep the weak and the deprived lot in perpetual penury. How clever and subtle are the ways of the avaricious mind!

Likewise,""seek and thou shalt find; knock and it shall open'' was the call to the spiritual aspirant to move forward boldly, hopefully, towards that gate of compassion.

The corruption of the mind is a global phenomenon. That is why the savant wanted individuals and some groups of like - minded pilgrims in all continents to do deep heart searching, re - examine values and strive for total development everywhere, without decimating the plant and animal kingdoms, to build a world order based on justice and equity and rooted in the FAITH of Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of man. The sage realised that unity of all religions in this TRUTH and therein lies the hope for humanity.

(Courtsey: AIACHE News Letter, Vol. XXXI, No. 1, February 1997)