Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sri Lanka 7 - "All experience is an arch..."

Studying a map in California!

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink 
Life to the lees...
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' 
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades 
For ever and for ever when I move. 
- Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

My High School English teacher, Fr. Robert Cregan, SJ, now of blessed memory, made us memorize Tennyson's entire poem.  It is still stuck in my head after all these years.

I love travel because it is another form of learning.  While I travel to teach every year, I really travel to learn. Travel humbles me. It makes me more human, thus it makes me more catholic.

I traveled to a Hindu Temple Monday. It is only a short walk from where I am staying. There are many Hindus in Sri Lanka.

Once my shoes were off,
and I crossed the threshold,
a world of gods and goddesses awaited.

There is the playing of instruments, chanting, movement, blessings and offerings....

And lots of bell ringing!

The Hindu priest moves fire in a circular motion around the deity (aarti).

Here are some close ups of the god/goddess shrines

Nandi facing Shiva linga.

After offering their gifts of fruits to the gods/goddesses, the faithful carried coconuts with camphor burning on top, as they circumambulated the shrine.

As I watched these faithful Hindus,
I thought of all we have in common:
sacrifice and reverence,
     intercessory prayer,
          holy shrines and images,
               pilgrimages and priests,
                    bells and smells,
                         humility and humanity,
but mostly I thought of how
all experience is an arch wherethro' gleams the untravell'd world.
I cannot rest from travel.
I have too much to learn.

from the Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate 2, 1965.
Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust...

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.