Sanctuary House
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Fr. Keating, OCSO of St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, CO, is the founder of Contemplative Outreach, whose mission is to reinvest Christianity with a simple and practical and powerful method of meditation/prayer, which he calls Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer came about when Fr. Keating--then Abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, MA--witnessed many visitors to the Abbey ask about the monks' prayer method and about meditation. He asked Fr. William Meninger, now also at St. Benedict's Monastery, to formulate a viable methodology based on Christian tradition and practice. Fr. William masterfully emulated the great spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, the inspired work of a 14th century anonymous English monk. Fr. Thomas, drawing from his extensive experience as a contemplative for the past 40+ years, has given modern voice to the psychological, theological and experiential dimensions of this simple and universally effective and applicable Centering Prayer method that has given thousands of people-- active and inactive Christians, lay and religious, Catholic and Protestant--new hope via direct experience of their spiritual nature and their connection and unification with the Divine. In 1985, Fr. Thomas founded the Snowmass Inter-religious Group, an assembly of adepts from various religious persuasions who come together annually in order to "stand in each other's shoes" and discover commonalities and differences regards vital spiritual perspectives. Fr. Keating is a contemporary Christian spiritual master whose many books are extraordinary insights into the heart of the Church and the Christian spiritual journey. He has made a 24-tape video and audio series, entitle The Spiritual Journey, which is designed to be the equivalent of a 2-year formation in contemplative Christianity. It is available from the: National Office of Contemplative Outreach 9 Williams St. Butler, NJ 07045 Links: www.centeringprayer.com nationaloffice@centering prayer.com www.snowmass.org His books include: Open Mind, Open Heart - handbook of the Centering Prayer method Invitation to Love the psychological and experiential dimensions of Centering Prayer Intimacy with God - developing higher states of consciousness Crisis of Faith Heart of the World Awakenings Reflections, and others, all found in fine bookstores
Fr. Thomas Keating
Lex Hixon (Sheikh Nur al Jerrahi)
Lex Hixon (1941-1995) was a true and contemporary spiritual master who had the disctinction of walking many authentic spiritual paths as an adept. His first spiritual immersion was via the Lakota spirituality. He became a Sufi sheikh (Shiekh Nur al Anwar al Jerrahi) under Sheikh Muzzafer Osak Ashki al Jerrahi (1914-1983), of the Helveti-Jerrahi Order and Imam of the main mosque in Istanbul. As head of the Helveti-Jerrahi Order, Sheikh Muzzafer was the wine- bearer of love and brought this lineage of love to America, passing in on to Sheikh Nur in 1985. Sheikh Nur expanded this nectar, preserving its clarity and potency by guiding the approximately 1500 souls who took hand with him in the integration of ecstasy and orthodoxy--less an orthodoxy of do's and don'ts as an orthodoxy of the heart, a communal intensity and intentionality that keep the dervish fully on the path of return by constantly connecting to the Source of Love. Lex Hixon also was a Zen Buddhist roshi under Sensai Bernie Glasman. And he was also intently a student of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, as well as a Vedantist in the lineage of Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa for more than 30 years. A noted writer, poet and performer of poems by Ramprasad, Lex Hixon had the gift of communicating in his writings the transmission of authentic spiritual experience. He certainly was an inspirer of Sanctuary House. His books include: Coming Home: Enlightenment in the Various Religious Traditions Atom from the Sun of Knowledge {Islam} Mother of the Universe {about Kali} Mother of the Buddhas Living Buddha Zen The Great Swan {about Ramakrishna } All are available from: www.sufibooks.com Sufi Books 227 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013 phone: (212) 334-5212.
Sheikha Fariha Fatima al-Jerrahi
Lex Hixon (1941-1995) was a true and contemporary spiritual master who had the After the passing of Lex Hixon, Sheikh Nur al-Jerrahi, in 1995, the leadership of the American tariqa of the Helveti-Jerrahi Order passed to Sheikha Fariha. She was made a sheikha at the same time as Lex Hixon, by Skeikh Muzzafer Ashki Ozak al-Jerrahi, in 1985 in Istanbul. Fariha, a mother of two, is the first sheikha in the 300+ years of the Jerrahi Order, and more than signals the swelling of the feminine in Islam. Her beauty and natural ecstasy have, for example, melted hearts and moved through forbidden spaces, while on Umra and Hajj in Mecca and Medina. Rather than confront, she moves in inspiration and prayer such that boundaries seem to bow before her. She and her husband Ali Rahman often visit the two dozen Circles of Nur around the country. In September 1999, she made her first visit to Sanctuary House and the Crestone Circle of Nur. Links - www.ashkijerrahi.com 
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H. H. Dalai Lama
His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal leader of the peoples of Tibet, needs no introduction. Especially since his exile by the Chinese from Lhasa in 1957 and the relocation of the seat of government to Dharamsala in northern India, he has served as perhaps the prime example of compassion to the world. His name means the Ocean of Compassion. Sanctuary House is honored that he is the inspirer of the Buddhist shrine room. May his ministry be ever blessed and may his example be the energy expressed and constantly available. Books by and about the Delai Lama are available through: www.snowlionpub.com 
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SHRI PUNITACHARIJI MAHARAJ: "BAPU"
Shri Punitachariji Maharaj, of the State of Gujarat in India, (affectionately known as 'Bapu') is the founding saint of Girnar Sadhana Ashram, at the foot of sacred Mount Girnar outside of Junagadh, and also of the Datta Ganga Ashram on the banks of the Ganges in Rhishikesh. While no amount of biography can do justice to the life of a saint, still some details will be helpful. This saint of saints, born in Uttar Pradesh in northern India, was at an early age a most sought after pujari, by virtue of the consistently striking results obtained from the ceremonies which he conducted. While he became a professor of Sanskrit, yet wishing only for union with the divine, he left everything for the Himalayas, and then followed guidance to Mount Girnar, one of India's three most sacred mountains, living in several caves for many years, eating only whatever the Lord might bring him and performing sadhana (spiritual practice) for 18 hours a day. On November 15, 1975, Bapu was visited by Lord Datta--the unity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Sadguru Datta offered Bapu, due to his ceaseless one- pointed focus and purity, a boon. Bapushri, who wanted nothing for himself, asked only for something for all of humanity, especially to address their spiritual longing in these times of great challenge and change. The Lord, fully propitiated, gave to Bapu the divine mantra--HARI OM TATSAT JAI GURU DATTA. Since then Bapushri has been offering this maha mantra to all seekers regardless of religion, caste, sex or color. Utterly resisting all commerciality, Bapu is now coming to the West so that seekers might be blessed with the gift of this maha mantra and its corresponding Sahaj Dhyan Yoga--Yoga of Spontaneous Meditation. The lineage out of which Shri Punitachariji has sprung goes back to Guru Datta, sixth incarnation of Vishnu. Lord Dattatreya, Guru Datta was born many thousands of years ago (in Sat Yuga), was Guru to Paresharama (in Treta Yuga), was the "night Guru" to Lord Rama and then to Lord Krishna (in Dwapara Yuga) and in our Kali Yuga has given his essence and form to many saints. Lord Datta was accorded the "onerous distinction," as Bapu calls it, of being Sadguru--the Guru of Gurus for this kalpa (a period of time spanning many yugas). Traditionally portrayed with three heads and six arms, Sadguru Datta is, therefore, the unity of knower, knowledge and the act of knowing; of creation, preservation, and destruction; of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh; of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Lord Datta is the essence of wisdom behind all scripture and the teachings of every Avatar, Messiah, prophet and saint. The very name 'Datta" means, "He who gives away all his possessions," for he gives those who long for the truth all they desire, including his own form and essence (tattwa), which he has done again and again over the millennia to bless humanity and preserve this lineage. Lord Datta, often depicted as wearing only a loin cloth, is the naked truth. Lord Datta guides and guards the path of yogis, the mystic path. All the 84 siddhas (perfected beings) gather in the subtle caves of Mount Girnar and are in constant devotion to Sadguru Datta. These siddhas, manifesting for the benefit of souls, were especially evident from 600-1200 C.E. in the tradition known as the "Nav Naths" (the Nine Masters), who worked every kind of miracle to show the people that God is everywhere and in everyone. Prior to Bapushri, was Shrivadi Sai Baba, to whom everyone came (Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Christians). In this same openness, Shri Rang Avadoot Maharaj then manifested the naked truth throughout his life in Gujarat. When I was in the small Gujarati town of Mahij this past year, I saw the humble living quarters of this sage, who, when he died, began appearing in the dreams of children to tell the citizens of Mahij of his appreciation that they had been so kind to him, so that he was going to send them "one like himself." He sent them Bapu. Bapu, Shri Punitachariji Maharaj, a master of the spiritual journey, has merged with Lord Datta and lives only to bless humanity with this divine mantra-- HARI OM TATSAT JAI GURU DATTA, which, after chanting it aloud in a group or silently by oneself, leads automatically to the coveted state of meditation. This path of union known as Sahaj Dhyan Yoga, spontaneously brings to practitioners all that they need (described by Maharishi Patanjali in his Ashtanga Yoga--the Eight Limbs of Yoga) to fulfill their spiritual aspirations. While there are thousands of mantras, HARI OM TATSAT JAI GURU DATTA carries the fullness of Sadguru Datta, bringing all the yogas into the body, psyche and spirit, so that what thousands of seekers receive not merely philosophical but actual and tangible and a constant source of growth and strength.
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Please write to: His Holiness Maharshi Punitachariji Girnar Sadhana Ashram, Bhavnath Taleti Junagadh 362004,  Gujarat , INDIA Phone: in India (02856-25457) outside India (2856-25457) Links: www.sahajyoga.org
St. FRANCIS -- The Lamb of Assisi
I would love to have walked with the patron saint of Sanctuary House over the Italian hillsides, not knowing where we'd sleep or if we'd eat that day or the next. Some call him the greatest of Christian saints. Maybe, but Francis would have had nothing of that. Except for a brown cassock and hair shirt, and maybe a pair of sandals, he had nothing at all, including pride. Yet he could not resist giving whatever he had away. After his initial spiritual awakening during a fever, the result of fighting in a local war, he started visiting caves. Then it was he threw the fine fabrics of his father's textile business out the window to the poor of Assisi. Dragged before the bishop and a crowd gathered around the church steps, the young man returned even the clothes that had come from his irate merchant father. Then he walked naked out of Assisi, this true child of God, having never been so free, so protected, so wrapped in the innocence of love. Francis was a poet, who by no means escaped from life to get to God, but rather came fully to G-D because he lived fully. His uncomplicated theology centered on God's love for humanity, and the central Having given up everything, he walked naked out of town and into eternity. Gospel text governing his Order of Friars Minor is about how The Lord feeds the birds of the air and dresses the lilies of the field in a finery that outdoes Solomon, so that they needed to take no thought about tomorrow, what to eat or wear. This attitude of poverty was theology enough for the poor man of Assisi, who loved the sun and the moon and the stones and the birds. After deep internal callings, at the run-down chapel of San Damiano outside of town he heard Christ on the Cross tell him to "Rebuild My Church," He started where he was, rebuilding that very chapel. And when he found Christ in the thing he feared most--a leper he wanted to flee from but then turned and embraced wholeheartedly--suddenly all that had been to him hateful was transformed into love. Both wealthy and poor became his companions. Loving men and women equally--quite something for the 12th century, he had a great love for the feminine. Regards his friars in hermitages, Francis suggested that four be the limit of their number and that two be mothers and take care of the other two contemplatives, rather like Martha and Mary. He was devoted to the Virgin Mary and also to Ladies Poverty, Chastity and Charity, as well as helped St. Claire, his spiritual consort, found the Poor Claires. Once the local folk came running to put out a great fire, but found only Francis and Claire sharing a meal in Divine radiance. Tempted by a prostitute, Francis said he would lay with her if she would lay with him. She accepted and went to prepare the bed. But he lay down in the fire in the fireplace as if he were resting on a down comforter, his faith as real as fire, which made the woman real enough to acknowledge her sin and take as her lover only The Lord Most High. When asked how with such meager clothing he protected himself from winter, the icy cold that must have been overwhelming as he was lifting stones to build San Damiano, he would reply that if longing for our heavenly home burned in our hearts, the penetrating wiles of winter would not trouble us. He is our first environmentalist and our first ecumenist. He took all people's sufferings on himself, knowing himself to be Christ's love for humanity. When a person on the road needed help, the poor friar never asked if he or she were Christian--he saw not classes of rich and poor, but individual persons. I take Francis to be our first ecumenist. People loved him, because he saw who they were. And, by grace, he loved them out of inner confinement. Francis said his companions should desire above all else the grace of prayer, that anyone upset should resort immediately to prayer, that no one could make progress in holy service without prayer. In helping develop the gifts given by God to each of his friars, rather than a teacher to a class he was a brother to his brothers. By divine revelation, he knew the character, talents and virtues, of each brother called to the Order. He also knew their faults and corruptions. So it was that Francis could praise the faults of one and lift that brother out of shame, whereas in another he would scold the faults and so blunt the force of pride. Once three famous robbers visited the place of St. Francis' friars and asked for food. Brother Angelo, though a delicate and noble monk, told them how shameful they were and ordered them away. But Francis said Angelo should take fruit and wine and find the men, bowing before them and asking forgiveness. After he'd done so, one of the robbers had a vision of hell, and saw how this holy friar had confessed he was sorry for what he had said, whereas they had committed great crimes without compunction. The three went to Francis and asked if they could attain mercy for their many sins. Francis showed them every courtesy, explained that God's Infinite Mercy surpasses all sins, no matter how great, and invited them into the Order of Friars Minor, wherein they remained faithful and were given the grace of performing great penance. And so with all creatures. Francis traveled to preach to the wolf of Gubbio, reminding "Brother Wolf" of the duties of a servant of Christ, and thus quelled the appetites of this creature who had devoured a number of citizens. His body exuded not an impulse of fear as he preached to a creature of the Kingdom. He is our first environmentalist, for few in our Christian tradition other than Francis, who preached to the birds when no one else would listen to his overflowings of love for Christ, have led us to see that watching a bee invade a flower or wind bending pine boughs has much to do with Christianity and the Sonship of God. Francis saw all creation as scripture. Once he gave a penance to Brother Rufino to preach naked except for his breeches in a local church. Rufino, while lacking the gift and courage to preach, went instantly. Francis, reflecting how this brother was one of Assisi's noblest citizens, followed to relieve him of this obligation. But Rufino was already devoutly preaching the giving up of the love of the world when Francis, also in only breeches, entered and was laughed at. Rufino's voice stilled as the poor saint began speaking with such authenticity and fervor of his full humanity about the nakedness of our Lord's Passion that the crowds wept and cried for God's mercy, so that nearly all were transformed to a new state of innocence. He was so loved because he was so human. St Francis, to whom pain suffered on behalf of Christ was bliss, told Brother Leo, who on Mt. Alverna had been tempted by the devil, that he loved him more the more that temptation had attacked him. The poor saint, who saw life separate from God as the real pain and death, knew that God never tries His devotees more than they can endure. As he himself drew close to Sister Death, he stayed alone, weeping before his Beloved for his sins. But having devoted his life to dying, Francis already lived eternally and was often seen by Brother Leo, who brought his holy companion a bit of bread and water, to be rising three feet off the ground, or at times as high as the very tall beech trees, so rapt was Francis in union with God. St. Francis went on one of the Crusades to the Holy Land. Soon after arriving, loving holy silence, he and his band of twelve brothers wandered away from town, and by a miracle were not killed when captured by "the enemy." They were taken to the Sarazen camp, beaten, and brought before the Sultan. There Francis began to preach with such ecstasy of The Holy Spirit that he offered to enter the fire for Christ. So taken was the Sultan with the unshakable faith and spiritual beauty of this poor little man of God that he wanted to convert, though could not lest his subjects kill him. He did give Francis a beautiful dagger which allowed him to go anywhere in the Sarazen kingdom and preach the Gospel- -for the saint had truly pierced the heart of "the enemy." When Francis took his leave, he promised that, after he had given even his body to Christ, he would send two friars to baptize the Sultan. Until then the Sultan was to prepare himself in faith. When Francis died, the Sultan grew ill, but kept up hope. It was then the lamb of Assisi in a vision appeared to two friars who traveled to the Sarazen camp. The holy Sultan, receiving the instruction and baptism they brought, by his sickness soon died, but by the merits of Francis already had been reborn. Francis, gentlest of souls yet tamer of wolves, mirrored Christ by mastering our Lord's paradoxical nature, for suffering every humiliation, insult and hardship for Christ was for Francis the highest bliss. Indeed, my favorite story is about perfect joy. He tells Brother Leo to write down that all the great theologians joining his Order is not perfect joy, nor is his friars converting all unbelievers, nor is his performance of many miracles that heal the sick. Rather if on a winter nigh he comes--starved after walking for miles with nothing to eat, body frozen and shaking with fatigue and blood flowing from wounds made by icicles hanging from his habit--to the gate of Saint Mary of the Angels and is refused entrance and yet maintains his patience without yielding to the temptation of rage, then he says to Brother Leo to write that this is perfect joy.
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Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa
Perhaps the premiere sage of our century died in the 1890s, yet embodied the fullness of spiritual possibilities for our global age. This poor man, whom very few people discovered while he was alive, was an avatar whose spiritual infusion was so profound that--loving God formlessly and in every form, and loving religion itself so that he fell in love with every religion--he actually became Kali, became Jesus, became the prophet Mohammed, became the Buddha. His main disciple, Swami Vivakananda, came to America in 1893 for the first Parliament of the World's Religions, during the Chicago World's Fair of that year. Speaking to "my dear brothers and sisters of America," Swami Vivikananda was the star of that event, transcending with universal love and knowledge the differences and difficulties of those in attendance, such that all present came to respect and revere this brilliant Hindi sage, whereas before the opinion of Hinduism had been merely heathen. Sri Ramakrishna, a devotee of Mother Kali and husband to the Divine Mother Sri Sarada Devi, was the founder of the Vedanta Society. And he is the direct inspiration behind Sanctuary House's four shrine rooms. In 1998, while Barbara and I were in Rajkot, India, because our plane was late, we went to the Sri Ramakrishna temple there, a replica of the original in Dakshiniswar, outside Calcutta. Entering the temple, on the left was a bas relief of "the peaceable kingdom" set in the jungle, and the bas relief on the right was a Christian praying in a hut, a Buddhist praying in a hut, a Muslim praying in a hut, and a Hindu praying in a hut. "This is Sanctuary House," I said out loud, recognizing that the urge to make what had been four small courtyards at the cardinal directions into four shrine rooms was a direct gift of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhans. Lex Hixon's book on Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna (Shambala, Boston/London, 1992) is superb, as is the book, A Prophet for the New Age, by Richard Schiffman (Paragon, NY, 1989).
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