Swami Snehananda Jyoti
I left home at the age of 17 with the dream of conquering the world for Christ. I had 16 years of rigorous training with the Jesuits before being ordained a Catholic priest in the Society of Jesus on my birthday at the age of 33. After further training I became a professor at Jnana Deep Vidyapeeth, Pune. A rising star on track for tempting positions in the Society and the Church I left it all for new experiences and experiments in truth and freedom in hitherto forbidden territories. Now I am in the foot-hills of Chokkan (Chokramudi, the second highest peak after Anamudi in south India) in the outskirts of Munnar. This morning I started my meditation at 5:45 am. At 6:00 am the church-bell nearby tolled followed by loud music blasting the cool, serene, peaceful environment. They are not helpful to me; but they think they are providing a service. Praying with Christ, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, I recollected myself, and worked through my disturbance.
My journey through truth and freedom has been all in all very exhilarating and life-giving. There were a few occasions that were extremely painful along the journey due no fault of mine. At these times I wished I had not left the Jesuits with whom I had a very safe, secure, and happy existence. Interestingly during these very trying and humiliating times in the USA and India, I beneficially used the training I received while I was a Jesuit to keep life on the track with honesty and integrity. Still I have no regrets about leaving my first vocation for the present one. After about 10 years of purposeful living in the neighborhood serving people irrespective of their religions, castes, socio-economic status, and political affiliations, I feel I have overcome the hostile local resistance led mostly by some prominent local church members and some vested interests.
I with my new dreams am a puzzle to many as I do not fit in with their designs. For instance, some statues at the entrance of the ashram land bordering the main road are coming up. They are the result of thorough, detailed, and prayerful discussions and planning between a very talented, spiritual artist and me. It is not at all a commercial enterprise. So far the statues of Christ (in Kerala style), of the Samaritan woman at the well (in Kerala style), of Gandhi, of Sri Narayana Guru, Mother Theresa, Sri Buddha have been completed. Statues of Sri Sankaracharya and Thommacharyar are at the planning stage. Other statues such as those of Vivekananda, Ayyan Kali, Nelson Mandela, Chattampi Swamikal, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ambedkar may appear depending on the funds. The personalities represented by these statues have immensely contributed to the well-being of humanity in one way or another. They have messages and dreams for us in a world where some humans will commit any crime for the lust of power, wealth, and sex.