Shantivanam (Forest of Peace)

“Pilgrimage is wandering after God. That it may be to a definite destination doesn’t mean that it’s not wandering, and it doesn’t destroy its continuity with the . . . kingdom-preaching wandering of Jesus. . . .

“Pilgrimage is a journey back. It can give us new eyes—the eyes of children. And that’s just as well, because only those who come as children can enter that strange kingdom. Children’s eyes see color and significance where we see only grays and emptiness. Pilgrims are dancing, delighting children. In the curious spiritual geometry of the kingdom, you can only go forward by going back.”  The Sacred Journey, xv-xvi

Heading out today to Shantivanam. I am excited about it. Some people can have the eyes of children without a change of scenery, and that might be true for me some microscopic percentage of the time. But mostly I find that pilgrimages and retreats break up my regular schedule in a way that allows me to see things anew, to wander after God, who sometimes feels so absent, or at least so extremely silent. I’m always wandering after God, but on pilgrimage it’s much more intentional.

So. Shantivanam. We don’t know if there will be WiFi. We don’t even know if there’s phone reception. We have had a relaxing few days, some regular tourism and some “religious tourism,” but staying at the Raintree is rather luxurious, a good transition from the rigors of travel.

Shantivanam refers to its accommodations  (on its web page) as “basic, but adequate.” That’s about as much as we know for sure, but I do have a schedule. There’s lots of silence — everything below with an asterisk indicates silence, and so we will be breaking silence with periods of necessary verbal communication (which is, of course, the opposite of normal life). Here’s what we’ll be doing [all from their web page]:

What’s the daily timetable?

*5.00 a.m. Angelus (wake up bell)

*5.30 a.m. Namajapa (chanting), and private meditation

*6.30 a.m. Morning prayer, ( 6.45 on Sundays ) Eucharist, breakfast

10.00 a.m. Coffee break

12.00 noon Angelus bell

*12.15 p.m. Midday prayer, meal, silence

* 3.30 p.m. Tea

4.00 p.m. “Four-O’Clock Talk” by Brother Martin on scheduled days

*6.00 p.m. Angelus, meditation, silence

*7.00 p.m. Evening prayer, supper

(silence suspended after supper until 9:00 p.m.)

*9.00 p.m. Namajapa, silence (see article on Nama Japa)


What is expected from guests?

a) To concentrate on the purpose for which they have come to the ashram, and to observe quiet in and around the ashram so as to preserve the atmosphere of peace and prayer.

b) To refrain from smoking in the ashram and from taking liquor or drugs during their stay.

c) To help cut vegetables after breakfast

d) Guests should not give any money or gifts to the individual. If at all you want give something to a person, It should go through the guest master or the superior. Please co-operate with us well running of the Ashram.

e) To respect the times of silence, which are:

From services until the end of meal times

From noon prayer until afternoon tea

From 6pm (meditation time) until after supper

After 9pm

See youse laters, alligators!


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