As an Indian Christian Religious, the two wings of my prayer life are Biblical and Indian Spirituality. At home, we had everyday family prayer which included Rosary and reading from the Bible. I was responsible to conduct it. It was a vocal prayer that did not touch my heart though there was devotion to do it. After coming to the Congregation too, prayer was mostly a recitation of psalms and singing of songs. Though I was faithful to it there was not much impact on my life. Prayer was like an activity I had to do but I did not enjoy it or experience anything in my heart.
During my education in the Seminary, I was introduced to both Biblical and Indian spirituality which made a deep impression on my life and I began to experience the warmth and joy of the magnanimous heart of God. Teaching Scripture to the novices and catechists gave me a chance to enjoy the treasures in the Word of God. I was deeply touched by the unconditional love of God who has been very active in salvation history and in my own personal history.
There are many quotations from the Bible which have inspired, challenged, and strengthened me in my vocation and mission. “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you …, I call you friends …, I have chosen you …, bear fruit that will last … (Jn. 15: 9 to 17) … I made myself all things to all people in order to win at least a few for Christ Jesus ( 1 Cor. 9: 22).” St. John’s Gospel invites me to enter into a contemplative union with God while St. Paul has inspired and motivated me to follow his pastoral heart in reaching out to the people in loving service.
In Indian spirituality, the practice of Ashtanga Yoga and the study of the Bhagavad Gita has greatly helped in my spiritual life. Yoga means four-fold union: union with God, self, others, and creation. Ashtanga means an eight-step methodology to attain this union. The first two steps are Yama and Niyama which means social and individual discipline in one’s daily life. Asana means the posture which should be comfortable and steady. It also includes my attitude towards my body and keeping the body fit and relaxed through exercise. Pranayama is the control of breath. Through breathing in and out consciously the body becomes relaxed and attuned to the Divine presence within and without. Pratyahara is controlling the senses by withdrawing from the sense objects. Dharana is concentrating on one point, one person, or one Word. Dyana is meditating on that and Samadhi is contemplation or becoming one with that. In practice, it is to concentrate on my favorite form of Jesus, meditate and contemplate which means to imbibe the values of Jesus and to be filled with the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Following this method can lead one to a deep spiritual experience and oneness with the Divine present everywhere.
Bhagavad Gita is known as the Gospel of India. I was inspired by the deep intimacy of Krishna and Arjuna as master and disciple. It has helped me to understand my relationship with Jesus. Krishna suggests three margas (ways) to Arjuna to attain liberation of self and union with God. They are Gyana (knowing), Bhakti (loving), and Karma (serving). These are very much present in John’s Gospel too. “Eternal life is to know God (Jn.17:3). God so loved the world (Jn.3:16). Do as I have done (Jn. 13:15).” Knowing God experientially, loving God intimately, and serving God by serving others selflessly (Nishkama Karma).
Questions for reflection:
How do I attune myself to the presence of the Divine?
What do the two wings of prayer, Biblical and Indian spirituality, awaken in me?
Jane Karakunnel is from Patna Province. At present directress of Catholic women’s Association of Patna Archdiocese and the Bihar Regional Secretary of the women’s commission of CBCI. She has BTH from Dharmaram College, Bangalore and MTH from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. She has been teaching Scripture in formation and pastoral ministry in parishes. She is also the directress of the SCNAs Program in Patna Province.