Unorthodox Metropolitan

Kabir Saxsena


It always brings an inner chuckle to my heart when I enter the portals of the Delhi Orthodox Centre since within resides one of the most comprehensively unorthodox Metropolitans that one is ever likely to meet on this planet with the possible exception of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is no surprise to learn that they are good friends, able to render unto the traditionalist flock that which is pleasing to their ears as well as regale their respective modern friends from their own and other religious folds with erudite and wide-ranging religious and philosophical disquisitions.

Father Gregorios, for I and my other Buddhist friends always call him that, out of our love for him, as well as the recognition, a little subliminal perhaps, that he is indeed a fatherly shepherd to our restless, striving souls, was first introduced to me during the World congress of Religious Concord at Rishikesh in the autumn of 1993. Here was dignity, authority and a remarkable intelligence melded into one. I was immediately enamoured of Father, not least because he was very warm in his appreciation of the Buddhist meditation session that I led at his request. The congress included several items that would have caused a lesser, narrower mind to flinch and wince in dismay and real consternation but Father took it all in his stride, nay, positively relished the proceedings. It seems that there was and is space within the flowing robed figure for all the faiths, all the varied ensouled seekings of mankind towards God, the ultimate reality. Father was not well at the time, recovering from a stroke and was undoubtedly in some considerable pain. This was hardly noticeable, as Father displays more than his fair share of stoicism.

I can easily picture Father in ancient Athens, engaged in erudite and joyful dialogue with the great philosophers of the day. Socrates would have been happy to include Father Gregorios among his debating partners at the Academy. And it would have been Father who would have astonished all and  sundry with his breadth of awareness and knowledge, quoting effortlessly from the known thinkers of the day as well as a few that the listeners would never have heard of.

Recently Father organized a major conference on Alternative healing systems which I was sadly unable to attend. The point I wish to make however is to illuminate the unusual fertility of the mind at work here. The pre-conference notes that father prepared were masterly. I had never read anything on the subject that was so clear, direct and inspiring of action. One could say that anything that is of real benefit to the mind, body and spirit of human beings is of interest and comes under the wisdom-gaze of father Gregorios. When I met  with him on a few occasions, at the Delhi Orthodox Centre I was amazed to find myself in a new replica of an Oxford Don's study, books virtually supporting the roof. I also realized that Father had probably read most or all of them, had written some of them too!

Father can be stern - a good shepherd has to be - but the abiding feeling I always receive is that of warmth and kindness.

Father once gave a talk on Dharmakirti and Dignaga at our Tushita Meditation Centre in Delhi. It was stimulating to say the best. Here was an ostensibly Christian Father, discoursing on the intricacies of Buddhist madhyamaka philosophy with flowing gusto.

To think of Father Gregorios is to remember that the world needs many more like him, beeing willing and ask to investigate beyond the confines of their adopted faiths and with a concern to better the lives of their fellow beings. It is for these reasons that I love and admire Father Gregorios and pray that he will stay with us for a longtime to come.