Yoga and Sacrifice (Big Sur retreat)

The Hermitage known as “New Camaldoli” is on the Big Sur coast just south of Lucia, on the way to Hearst Castle. The Hermitage is very different from the Castle, which is a tourist attraction that exhibits fragments of Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture.

You could say that New Camaldoli has more in common with Shantivanam than with Mr. Hearst’s hideaway, even though the monks who pray and work there are in the lineage of the Medieval saints Benedict and Romuald, transmitted through the Renaissance-era monks Ambrose Traversari and Paul Giustiniani.

New Camaldoli lives from a real, not imaginary past. Like the Ashram in southern India, the Big Sur Hermitage challenges our present with prophetic hope, grounded in the Genesis promise. Both witness to a cross-cultural present, in view of a future inter-spirituality, whose outline can be sketched from lines that lead back to Bible and Gospel, as well as to the sages of ancient India.

Jules Monchanin, Swami Paramarupyananda, foresaw a reciprocal Advent of the Church in India and of India in the Church. He knew that the new birth in which this Advent was to culminate had to include Yoga, but he wrestled with doubts about the classical Indian texts on Yoga. As a young disciple of the yogi-guru Yogananda, I struggled with doubts about Church dogmas and structures. But when I realized that she was a mystical body and a mother-guru, who welcomed me into her embrace, I found Monchanin’s prophetic hope a source of comfort and insight.

In these years since I joined the monks in Big Sur (forty-eight years this Friday), God’s grace and my own study and practice of Yoga have led me beyond his and my doubts. This weekend, I shall share some thoughts on Yoga with a group of retreatants in Big Sur. Usually the Hermitage offers only silent, individual retreats, but a few times a year, a facilitator from Big Sur or Berkeley offers moments of group reflection and meditation on a specific theme.

“Yoga and Sacrifice” can trouble us like “Church and India”: for many people, Hindu or Christian or whatever, Yoga liberates the human spirit from sacrificial religion, that is, from ritual purity and deontological morality. If we pay attention to the Gospel, we find that Jesus also offers liberation, as when he teaches that love of God and neighbor contains and transcends “Law and Prophets” and when he tells us to leave our sacrifices and first go seek reconciliation with anyone who has something against us, and only then to make our offering to God.

Now I am going to upload a short video on YouTube, sketching out the retreat theme. Come join me there: do a search for thomasmatus, and click on the latest upload.

About ashramdiary

Thomas Matus, who blogs this Ashram Diary, was born 1940 in Hollywood, California. Academics: A.B. in music from Occidental College (Los Angeles); S.T.L. in ecumenical theology from Athenaeum Anselmianum (Rome, Italy); Ph.D. in comparative mysticism from Fordham University (New York). Initiated into Kriya Yoga (by direct disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda) in 1958. Became a Catholic in 1960 and entered New Camaldoli Hermitage (Big Sur, California) as a novice monk in 1962. Lived for more than 30 years at the Monastery of Camaldoli in Italy. Traveled to India some 20 times; made frequent retreats at Saccidananda Ashram (Shantivanam) in southern India. Was in Brazil, off and on, from 1999 to 2006. Now back in California, he lives at the Hermitage in Big Sur and Incarnation Monastery in Berkeley, California. See:
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