Shirley Du Boulay produced religious programming on BBC television for eleven years. She is the author of biographies of Saint Teresa of Avila, Dame Cicely Saunders, Bede Grifiths and Desmond Tutu. In this paperback she presents the fascinating account a Benedictine priest who went to India and became enthralled with the mystical dimensions of Hinduism.
Henri De Saux (1910-1973) was born and raised in France. He became a monk at the age of 19 and had a burning desire to go to India. In 1948, he traveled there and partnered with another French priest named Jules Monchanin together they founded a contemplative community. They both believed in a meeting between Hinduism and Christianity which would be firmly rooted in the culture of India.
The two priests adapted the lifestyle of the Hindu renunciate by living simply, eating a vegetarian diet, and spending most of their time in devotional practices. Le Saux became Abhishiktananda a name which would become his for the rest of his life. All of this took place at a time when Catholicism was not open to other religions, and interfaith dialogue barely existed. Abhishiktananda wrote: "I am like someone who has one foot on one side of the gulf, and on the other side, I would like to throw a bridge across, but do not know where to fasten it, the walls are so smooth… How agonizing it is, to be perched on the knife edge between opposite slopes of Hinduism and Christianity."
Abhishiktananda also benefited from his meetings with gurus the sages Sri Ramana Maharishi and Sri Gnanananda. He made the most out of silence and solitude on pilgrimages and time spent in the Caves of Arunachala. These sparked mystical experiences and caused him to downplay the rites of the Catholic church that he had so diligently practiced all of his life: "To keep Advent as I formerly did, I should have to escape from the blazing Presence and imagine it was still 'to come.' "
According to Du Boulay, his major quest was "to lay hold of eternity in the present moment." Hinduism opened this experience for him and transformed this monk into a radiant human being. He died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-three.