Raimon Panikkar : The Universal Monk

Raimon Panikkar-Alemany (November 2, 1918 – August 26, 2010; also known as Raimundo Panikkar and Raymond Panikkar) was a Spanish Roman Catholic priest and a proponent of inter-religious dialogue. As a scholar, he specialized in comparative religion.

“By monk, monachos, I understand that person who aspires to reach the ultimate goal of life with all his being by renouncing all that is not necessary to it, i.e., by concentrating on this one single and unique goal….

The monk is compelled, as it were, by an experience that can only articulate itself in the praxis of one’s life. It is an experience of the presence of the goal of life, on the one hand, and of its absence (of not having reached it), on the other……

There can be no monasticism without this experience of conversion, of turning around and turning inward, of stripping off the very many things that cling to us, of abandoning the ‘usual’, the ‘normal’, and even the secure and often reasonable way. as one Upanisad says: “On the very day that one is ‘brokenhearted’, on that same day one becomes a renouncer”; one brokenhearted, i.e., one indifferent to the world, a disillusioned person. . . .

. . . a fundamental monastic archetype could be described as the life of those who….adopt a solitary journey beyond the supportive environment of their culture, of social life, of religious traditions, etc. The monk is called to go beyond what the culture – even the religious culture – in which he lives allows him to be, or leads him to.”

From “Blessed Simplicity–The Monk as Universal Archetype” Raimundo Panikkar (Editor) (1982)

What changes when we free the monastic vocation from the attitude of mono-cultural dominance? Nothing and everything. Let me give three examples of traditional values of the religious, East and West, that can be reinvigorated by the encounter of monks in dialogue qua monks.

Paradoxically enough, the first, the classical contemptus mundi of the monk, today takes a new and more subtle turn: not abandoning the world (which is practically impossible), but swimming against the current, like living fish in the rivers, without rage or violence, but with poise and elegance, that is, with love and patience. “La paciencia todo lo alcanza,” used to say Teresa of Avila. Patience does not give up, rather, it perseveres and insists. It never gets discouraged, because it does not believe that a single individual, system, doctrine, or religion has the total answer. Humility, to me, means the courage to be imperfect, not finished.

Secondly, the monastic vocation has meant “solitude.” But solitude does not mean isolation. On the contrary, solitude demands that I be truly myself so that I may share without encumbrances solidarity with the entire reality: Buddhakaya, karma, mystical Body, universal love. The greatest scandal of human history is religious wars—be they explicitly or implicitly religious. Even the fact that sometimes they can disguise themselves under the cloak of religion shows our responsibility: “Not of the world,” but in the world—which the “Father” loved so much.

Thirdly, the monastic “calling” is ever new. It does not repeat itself, and it has no blueprint; it is not prescribed by any law. It needs to be not just discovered, but created by our cooperation with the very dynamism of reality, by holy “obedience,” that is, by attentive listening (obaudire) to the “divine” Voice—which is the Hindu name for revelation (sruti). It is not enough to “imitate” the Buddha, Christ, God. We have to become the Buddha, Christ, God—without asking like Peter, “What about John?” “You follow me” was the answer.

From “The New Monk” by Raimon Panikkar http://www.monasticdialog.com/bulletins/72/panikkar.htm



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