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image of Religion and the Arts

"Arunachala" is a slightly edited version of chapter six of The Cave of the Heart, a Biography of Swami Abhishiktananda, published by Orbis Books in 2005. It tells of Abhishiktananda's heart being opened to the Vedic tradition by his encounter with Ramana Maharshi and how he subsequently realized that, just as Ramana had been drawn by the Mountain of Arunachala itself, so was he. In a curious sense he was, indeed, in love with a mountain. Abhishiktananda is an excellent subject for the discussion of the "inter-religious imagination" for three reasons: First, because he was a pioneer of extraordinary courage in exploring the boundaries of Hinduism and Christianity. Secondly, because despite having a good theological mind, he was more heart than head, and his determination to explore everything in the light of experience rather than theory give his conclusions an exceptional immediacy and value. Thirdly, because few people have ever experienced "double-belonging" so acutely: he was torn apart by the tension he felt between the two, a tension he only resolved towards the end of his life. The author refers to him initially as Henri in this essay, as he did not adopt the name of Abhishiktananda until 1950.

Affiliations: 1: Oxford, England


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