Why My Hindu Practice Has Made Me A Better Catholic
A man gains a better appreciation for the Catholic religion from his Hindu practice.
BY: Chris Fici
The path of Bhakti which I follow is a system of connection, or yoga, with God, based on the idea of loving, devotional service. Real devotional service is the giving of one's body, mind, and words to the service of God. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, a classical 16th Century devotional treatise, we read that:
"When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Kṛṣṇa favorably, as Kṛṣṇa desires.'
The Hindu diaspora is filled with examples of such fidelity, including A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who braved the rigors of old age to bring the Bhakti tradition to the West at the age of 70 in 1965. In my exploration of my Christian roots, I come across the same mood in St. Francis of Assisi, who understood very deeply that to truly serve means to be an instrument of God. St. Francis wrote that:
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in St. Francis's particular example that I understand that Bhakti is not exclusive to any one path or faith. Bhakti means devotion, love, surrender to the will of God. My own understanding of it as a practicing Hindu helps me to see its reality as the foundation of my Christian heritage as well.
As I pray and meditate and call God's names, it takes me into the memory of the examples before me, of my great-aunt chanting the rosary with daily and deep devotion in the living room of my childhood home, or of my grandfather taking to the Detroit airwaves in his youth to say the rosary as well. These connections, sacred and sustaining to me, is where I really feel I have become a better Christian through my Hindu practice. It has allowed me to honor a desire in my family to carry forward a torch of devotion to God that transcends any cultural boundaries or differences.
Without the grace and knowledge I have received in my practice and life as a Hindu minister, I would not be able to approach my heritage as a Christian in such a meaningful way. This reality leaves me with a grateful heart, and a desire to go deeper into this harmony, to honor where I have come from, where I am now, and where I am meant to go.
Chris Fici is a writer/teacher/monk in the bhakti-yoga tradition. He has been practicing at the Bhaktivedanta Ashram at the Bhakti Center in New York City since 2009. After receiving a degree in film studies at the University of Michigan, Chris began his exploration and study of the bhakti tradition. He currently teaches classes on the culture and art of vegetarian cooking, as well as the living philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, at New York University and Columbia University.