Sunday 31 October 2010

Bro Ludvik Zabret, SDB passes away

Fr Michael Fernandes told us this morning, here at Provincial House, Matunga, that Bro Ludvik Zabret, SDB had passed away yesterday at around 1200. The news had been conveyed by the Salesians in Slovenia to Fr Loddy Pires, thinking he was still provincial.

Bro Ludvik was a great pioneer in the field of agriculture. He was responsible for the greening of a desert land, now called Sagayathottam (Uriyurkuppam, Tamil Nadu). Later he was sent to join Fr Giuseppe Moja at Sulcorna, where again he worked wonders on the land, planting cashew trees and sugarcane. He had acres and acres of wonderful pineapples, but his problem was marketing, so he would turn the pineapples into wonderful wine... Bro Ludvik was later posted to Nashik, where again he transformed the land into a farm, with grapes, rice, wheat, a piggery and a dairy.

He spent the last years of his life in India at various places in Goa - Fatorda, Loutolim, Odxel. Reasons of health led him to return to his native Slovenia, where he was assigned to a lovely house for senior Salesians. I had the fortune of seeing his homeland during GC25, when he made arrangements with his then provincial to bring Romulo and myself over to Slovenia. We went by train to the border, where he had come to meet us; then we drove into Slovenia. Can't forget the pristine beauty of the place, and above all the food: tables groaning with food at breakfast, then again the same spread at the mid-morning break, and then lunch, and  then supper: hams, sausages, salamis, vegetables fresh and pickled, butter, bread, coffee and milk, cheese, and even a shot of the local grappa - both for breakfast and for the mid-morning break. It was then that I began to understand Ludvik's love affair with food: good food, fresh, home-grown: these are things that any Slovenian values, because the land is covered with snow half the year; the other half is for growing and storing.

God bless you, Bro Ludvik. RIP.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Fr Thomas Manickam CMI passes away

While at the ACPI Meeting at Faridabad, we received the news that Fr Thomas Manickam, CMI passed away after a brief struggle with cancer.

Fr Manickam was a regular visiting professor at the MPh level at Divyadaan, Nashik - teaching his beloved Ecosophy. Those who were there during his first stint will never forget his outspoken ecosophical recommendations - and also how he managed wonderfully to inspire his MPh students to not only study and do research, but to actually engage in taking care of the surroundings.

Fr Manickam grew to love Divyadaan and the community there. When Ashley and a few others visited Dharamaram some years ago, he introduced them to his CMI confreres saying, "This is my community."

RIP, Fr Manickam. Wonderful that you were give the grace to work almost till the very end.

IGNOU Seminar on Philosophy and Distance Learning

Immediately after the conclusion of the ACPI meeting, several of the participants attended another 2 day seminar organized by SOITS (School of Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Studies) and CBCI Chair at the IGNOU campus, New Delhi, in the region of the Kutub Minar, Mehrauli.

The chief movers of the seminar were Prof. Gracious Thomas, HoD School of Social Work and CBCI Chair, and Dr John Peter Vallabadoss. Several of the participants gave papers, including Jeff Shawn Jose, a young MPh student of Dharmaram Vidya Ksetram, Bangalore. Keith D'Souza and I did a video recording on hermeneutics on the 28th, and then a live panel with Dr Babu Emmanuel, CBCI Spokesperson, on the same topic, with an audience of philosophers. There were also other panels on Distance Education and Philosophy, and Dalit Philosophy.

Great exposure for all of us.

The IGNOU campus is impressive, the Convention Centre magnificent, and the inaugurtion of the Seminar very well organized. The chief guest was Prof. Godabarisha Mishra, Member Secretary, Indian Council of Philosophical Research. The keynote address was given by Dr Vijay Kapur, IAS, advisor to the Vice Chancellor of IGNOU. Prof. Gracious Thomas gave the welome address, and Dr George Panthanmackel, who was responsible for creating the BA and MA Philosophy Syllabus for IGNOU, gave a speech.

35th Annual ACPI meeting, Faridabad

Just back from Faridabad, near Delhi, from a meeting of Christian Philosophers of India - the 35th Annual Meeting, I think it was. The topic was "Tradition and Innovation: Rootedness and Dynamic Openness". About 40 philosophers attended, from various parts of the country. Quite a decent meeting, with good papers on the whole.

There were the general philosophical papers: Johnson Puthenpurackal, Keith D'Souza, George Panthanmackel, Sekar Sebastin, and others. There was an interesting panel discussion on Ambedkar, Narayana Guru and Periyar as Indian Masters of Suspicion. I myself presented a paper on the Tradition-Innovation Dynamics in Christianity; John Peter Vallabadoss gave one on Hinduism. Unfortunately the person scheduled to give one on Islam did not turn up. Robert Pen gave a paper on Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action. Mathew Chandrankunnel gave a paper on Tradition and Innovation in the Science Religion relationship.

The highlight of this year's meeting was the release of the ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a 2 volume affair, handsomely brought out by ATC Bangalore, with Johnson Puthenpurackal and George Panthanmackel as the chief editors. Wonderful effort, with over 500 articles, 80% of which were written by various Christian philosophers in India.

The 11th volume of the ACPI papers, Violence and its Victims, edited by me, was also released at the same function.

Wonderful hospitality by the OCDs at Carmel Vidya Niketan, Pakhal Village, Pali P.O., Faridabad, Haryana State.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Why preach?

The Catholic missions went into crisis after Vatican II. Where before Catholics tended to believe that no one could be saved unless they were baptized, the Council taught that all people of good will could be saved, provided they lived according to their conscience. Where before other religions were often considered works of the devil, the Council recognized the seeds of truth in all religions. Where before missionaries would sometimes rely on argument to make a point, the Council encouraged dialogue and deep respect.
In our own country, conversion and missions have become bad words. Our fellow countrymen and women cannot understand why we should go around trying to convert people. It smacks of superiority. And, besides, there is the accusation that we are foreigners. The colonial hangover persists – Christianity came to India with the Portuguese and the British (forgetting sometimes that it came already with the Apostle Thomas to South India).
So why preach?
One reason is that good news of its nature calls to be shared. Bro Joe used to write letters to famous people, and he used to get replies from them. Now if you get a reply from the Queen of England, does it make sense to hide it in your file? You have to tell someone! Or when a child is born, do we shut our doors and windows and keep quiet about it? No, we tell everyone, our relatives, our neighbours, our friends. And when someone passes an exam, we distribute pedhas. Even Goenka of Vipassana, who would declare that Vipassana is not about converting people, at the end of the course would say: if you have been touched by what you have experienced, Go and Tell, Go and Tell! Good news of its nature calls to be shared. If Jesus is good news to you, you will share him.
Another reason is that if something is precious, it would be selfish to keep it for myself. This was one of the reasons that drove St Paul: the good news is not the private property or privilege of the Jews; it belongs to all the peoples of the world. And he considered a privilege to be chosen to spread that good news.
But the ultimate reason is not a reason of the head, it is a reason of the heart. I have been filled, I have been overwhelmed by God's love, and I can't keep quiet about it, it comes out in my eyes, on my face, in the way I live. St Paul is the greatest example of this: Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! It is a fire burning within me. The love of Christ drives me on. I count everything as rubbish for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! Who has known the length and the breadth and the height and the depth of the love of God? Who can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus? I live, no not I, but Christ my Lord lives in me.
So the question is: do I love? Am I in love? Have I been overwhelmed by the love of Christ Jesus, so that it overflows, and cannot be hidden?
Different times, different styles, of course. There is a sister who has been traveling by the local buses every day to attend class in one of our institutions for over 14 years. She says that she has never converted and will never convert anyone. I think instead that she is the most dangerous Christian in that town, simply because she knows hundreds of people, and she gives a good image of Christians to them: the bus conductors, the dirvers, the young people and others in the bus, the bhajiwala on the footpath, the mochi, the police officials, doctors…. She is practically family to several of these, present at every function, affectionately called aji. This is the new way of proclaiming the gospel: the way of friendship. And if and when people ask, be ready to give an account of your faith.
So there is a ministry today of wasting time – wasting time with people, spending time in the villages, attending social and cultural functions in the cities. We need to be willing to waste time, to have patience (away with false notions of punctuality), to know the language. Fr Francis d'Britto said at the Khristapurana book release function in Nashik last year: Fr Nelson Falcao is a gift of the Salesians to Marathi literature: set him aside for Marathi!
And: proclaim the good news always; sometimes use words. There may be laws against taking the name of Christ; but there can never be a law against kindness. Yet here is where we tend to fail! I will never forget a Muslim gentleman who told me: Father, tell your Father to be a Father. Or the election official in Mumbai who said to me: when I see Fathers, I get angry. Some of us government people give everyone a bad name by behaving rudely; but you are Fathers! You are Fathers of our fathers! You have no right to be rude! Or the Sindhi lady to Fr Bulchand: Father, aap ko gussa honeka haq nahin.
And again: love knows when to speak and when instead to keep silent. (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est)

Humility, truth and gratitude

The gospel of today is the famous parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Lk 18:9-14).

I was thinking about the link between humility and truth. True humility does not consist in a false negation of oneself. I don't see Jesus going around with this kind of humility. Humility instead means self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-acceptance. It is built on the truth of myself. But 'truth' goes even further. For what do I have that I have not received? And so the truly humble man recognizes that all life is gift, and lives in gratitude.

So humility is ultimately Eucharistic.

I can see Jesus walking tall through the fields of Galilee, holding his own in the houses of the Pharisees, at home in the company of tax-collectors and prostitutes, wonderfully all there, giving thanks to his Father for all the good things, and then also the bad. ("Although he was Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. He made his prayer with loud cries and entreaties, and because of his supplication his prayer was heard." Heard? How? By being allowed to drink the cup to the bitter dregs. And still: the institution of the Eucharist: thanking the Father before drinking the cup.)

Gutierrez on real suffering

Joe Mannath shared with us long ago about hearing Gustavo Gutierrez, one of the great fathers of Liberation Theology, at some North American University. Someone in the audience asked Gutierrez what he thought and felt about the Church which misunderstood him so much and caused him suffering. Gutierrez replied: the real sufferings are the sufferings of our people. We would be betraying them if we made too much of our own sufferings.

What a wonderful reply, and what a window into the soul of this great man.

Friday 15 October 2010

File photos from the past

From the files again... the first at Divyadaan, August 1999, the second at the Vivekananda Memorial, Kanyakumari, October 2000, during an ACPI meeting at the CMI Centre for Dialogue there....

Old photos of Swami Shilananda

Old photos of Swami Shilananda's Sanjivan Ashram... Just came across them in my collection. Wyman, Cletus, Blany, Swamiji, and myself in the first photo; Blany, Cletus, Swamiji, myself and Ashely in the second.

Thursday 14 October 2010


When life seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams - this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be. 
Dale Wasserman, Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh, Man of La Mancha (New York: Dell Publications, 1966), 99, as cited in Michael Pennock, Moral Problems: What does a Christian do? (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1979) 76.

Don Bosco, the madman. And, much before, him, Jesus. And Paul: Fools for Christ's sake.

"Maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be."

Discussion and dogmatism

When the air becomes dogmatic, discussion becomes a futile endeavour - a poor substitute for personal, painstaking intellectual probe - so the call for silence. (Pseudo Skeptic Ludwig)
The air can become dogmatic on the right. It can also become dogmatic on the left.

The only one that a pluralist cannot agree with is one who disagrees with him.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Small wine makers of Nashik

Mr Phadtare was saying a few minutes ago that the small wine makers in Nashik had gone through a severe recession in the last two years, but that they were now finally coming out of it. The recession was caused, among other things, by unethical production and marketing practices by the larger wine makers: dumping of stocks; threatening retailers if they stocked other brands; bribing them not to stock other brands; buying even the retail sales personnel to move only their stock; buying wine in bulk from smaller makers, giving them a very small margin of profit or even not paying them at all; not paying growers, suppliers (of bottles, corks, chemicals, etc); and so on.

The small wine makers have decided to do two things: (1) cut back production; (2) create niche markets.

Cutting back production is reduction of turnover size, where turnover includes final sale. Such reduction cuts back costs of production, and is a realistic response to the long turnover period due to difficulty in sales. Creating niche markets is also an effort to increase turnover frequency by reducing the lag in final sales.

My question is: discounting the unethical factors that have entered, what phase are the small wine makers in? Stationary, surplus expansion, or basic expansion? Certainly not surplus expansion, because there are no radically new ideas in circulation as far as wine making is concerned, and, on the contrary, there has been cutting back of production. Can we say that there has been a surplus expansion, followed by a basic expansion? Or is it that they have always been in a stationary phase?

Mr Phadtare said that he had increased turnover size in an effort to meet costs, but that it had not worked: he landed up with huge initial and transitional payments, and huge deadstock: given the manipulation of the market, the final sales were simply not coming through.

Could it be that something has gone wrong, that we are in a trade cycle, and so larger concerns are (1) mopping up what profits there are to be had, (2) swallowing up or else destroying smaller concerns?

Stationary phase: the standard of living remains stable. There are really no profits; what looks like profits are actually the salaries of the producers. There is basic production; some setting aside for repair, maintenance, replacement; the crossover to the surplus circuit; surplus production with its own incomes and expenditures; the crossover to the basic circuit in terms of wages and salaries spent for basic goods and services.

Pray without losing heart

The gospel of the coming Sunday (29th of Year C) speaks about praying constantly without losing heart. It is once again Jesus who recommends this sort of prayer: pray earnestly, and without giving up, even if He delays in hearing you. Wonderful. So: instead of getting disheartened about things, discouraged about people and affairs, we turn to the Lord who has all hearts in his hands, and pray with insistence.

"Cor regis in manu Dei - quocumque voluerit, vertet illud." The heart of the king is in the hand of God - he turns it wherever he will. Basic text for Thomas Aquinas' reflection on grace: God has our hearts in his hand, and he turns them where he will.

The attitude of gratitude

I found last Sunday's gospel (about the 10 lepers and the one coming to thank Jesus) very inspiring - all the more so because we were hearing the Word in the beautiful surroundings of Swami Shilananda's ashram.

It struck me that you can have faith, but still be deficient in gratitude. The 10 lepers all had faith: they believed, they took Jesus at his word, and went to show themselves to the priests, and on the way discovered that they were cured. But only one turned back to give thanks to the benefactor. And Jesus remarks on this: Were not all ten cured? Has only this foreigner returned to give thanks?

Expecting thanks can be a dangerous thing, and a form of the will to power, as Henri Nouwen has pointed out. But giving thanks is something wonderful. It makes life eucharistic, and quietly joyful. We gave thanks for the fresh air at Sinnar, the hundreds of varieties of grass and vegetation in the one acre of land that Swamiji had fenced, the - beauty that emerges when the earth is left to itself, the physical absence of noise (there is little traffic noise at the ashram, especially when the wind is blowing west to east).

Expecting gratitude

The most subtle desire for power, and the most difficult to overcome, is the desire for thanks. As long as people keep thanking us for what we have done for them, they are, in effect, admitting that they were at least for some time dependent on us. And it is perhaps exactly for this reason that we find in areas where people are living in very poor conditions a certain resistance against explicit thankfulness. Nobody likes to be considered in need of help or as not being able to take care of himself - facts which an expression of thanks often explicitly asserts. It should therefore come as no surprise that men and women who have spent many days helping others seldom hear a word of thanks. It would only be, in such cases, a reminder of dependency and a threat to self-respect. Not only individuals but even whole countries have thus refused gifts of money and badly needed medicine because they preferred to die with what self-respect they had rather than to live with the feeling that others have to keep them on their feet. (Henri Nouwen, Creative Ministry, 75) 
A.S. Neill, in Summerhill 266, speaks of parents who expect gratitude; how the child hates to be indebted to anyone; and the phenomenon of hating the benefactor that Nouwen has noted above.

George Kollashany in a Goodnight long ago on the street boys ministry: Those for whom we have done least by way of material benefits are the most grateful. It seems that what they appreciate most is the fact that we have treated them as equals. Often we forget this when we bring these boys into our institutions.

We have, in fact, often wondered why our own boarders rarely become our benefactors (though there are honorable exceptions), and rarely join the past pupils association.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Root of the Great Depression of 1929

One of Lonergan's aims in working out his economics was to explain the root of the Great Depression of 1929 and its consequences.

According to Lonergan, money decisions must adapt to the phases of production, rather than vice versa. The root of the Depression was therefore, according to him, a misunderstanding of the 'pure surplus income' generated in the phase of surplus expansion, as manifested in price and income variations.

Given that the capitalist mantra is 'maximization of profit', the capitalists tend to two types of mistakes. (1) Thinking that pure surplus income is meant for their private use, when actually it should go back to fuel the surplus expansion. (2) Wanting the surplus expansion phase to continue indefinitely, when it should naturally slow down, and the fruits of the increased production of new means of production, as well as of higher wages, should be now seen in a basic expansion.

On the part of workers and trade unions, one again pure surplus income tends to be misinterpreted as an opportunity to demand higher wages, when instead it should be seen as needed to fuel the surplus expansion. Also, if higher wages are successful obtained during a surplus expansion, more money flows to the basic circuit, while the amount of goods in that circuit has not increased. This leads to an inequality of supply and demand, leading in turn to higher prices and inflation. Inflation can lead to demand for still higher wages, and so we have a wage-spiral. The logical consequence is a drain of money from the surplus circuit, a premature cutting short of the surplus expansion, and therefore possibility of the eventual basic expansion. (M. Shute, Lonergan's Discovery of Economic Science [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010] 205-9.)

Saturday 9 October 2010

A plus factor...

I was just recalling that, while what we got in school might have been the basic bread and butter of (intellectual) growth, the significant plus factor when I was a child were the books of puzzles and things that Dad would get for us. This was rather extraordinary for a lower middle class family, I realize now. The point was that Dad used to work in the Bombay docks, and from there he would get occasionally copies of these kind of books. They were a great hit with us kids. We went through them all and solved them; and when guests came, we would promptly inflict the books and puzzles and solutions on them. They were a delightful method of growth, a painless method, a powerful intellectual stimulus.... The equivalent of the internet today; only, they allowed more focus than the internet. A child like Sheetal Maria here in our house simply does not have such opportunities. But perhaps we could do something on the score....

Thursday 7 October 2010

The physicality of a book...

"'The book is a physical object,' says Sebastian, 'And I see it as a work of art, where binding, typography, edition matter.' He recalls the time the late T.G. Vaidyanathan bought a book for its physical beauty alone. He had no intention of reading it, merely caressed it and put it back on the shelf. On another occasion he taped the edges of a book he was smitten by so it would never be opened." (Suresh Menon, "A Modest Miracle:The Groaning Shelf is a stylish, cultural landmark communicating one man's passion to a larger audience," The Hindu, Sunday, 3 October 2010, p. 2. Menon is citing Pradeep Sebastian, The Groaning Shelf, Hachete.)

John Arthos' The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics is a book like that... beautifully printed and bound, a work of art. 

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Producing endless cars...

Germany is encouraging people to use bicycles and public transport instead of cars. Public transport is subsidized, and footpaths have cycle tracks.

Rome tried to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads by decreeing odd days and even days: cars with odd numbers only allowed on odd days, etc. People responded by buying two cars, one with an odd number, the other with an even one.

The point is that there is a problem. The current industrial model aims at maximization of production. Eventually a saturation point is reached, as for example with cars in the European nations. First the aim was one car per family; then two cars per family; perhaps now there is a move to encourage three cars per family - one for the husband, one for the wife, one for the kids.... Of course one solution is export. But then perhaps one is merely delaying facing the implications of the current model.

Then there is the need for infrastructure: what kind of infrastructure would we need in terms of roads and parking, if every family in India were to have a car? What about the impact on non-renewable energy resources, and the environment?

Is there another way? This is a great question. Gandhi had one suggestion - and Richard Howards and Joanna Swanger have been offering a very interesting reading of his suggestion in the recent issues of Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education. Lonergan seems to have another suggestion - one that I have still to understand fully - but his vision seems to be strangely Gandhian at least in its end point:
“Nor is it impossible that further developments in science should make small units self-sufficient on an ultramodern standard of living to eliminate commerce and industry, to transform agriculture into a superchemistry, to clear away finance and even money, to make economic solidarity a memory, and power over nature the only difference between high civilization and primitive gardening.” (For a New Political Economy, CWL 21:20)
What are the answers? I don't have them. But we need to reflect. No short cuts. Hard work.

Tuesday 5 October 2010


Just back from Karunapuram, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. Long (and somewhat tiring) journey by the Kakinada Shirdi Express, made worse by the fact that it ran consistently 40 minutes late, making me miss my connecting Jan Shatabdi to Nashik... The Deputy Station Superintendent refused to endorse my ticket for the next train, on the grounds that I had two tickets and not one: it seems you should have the same PNR on both tickets.... The type of bureaucratism in our Indian Railways! I walked out in a huff to buy a current ticket, found the lines interminably long, and so in the same huff went to the ST stand and finally got a bus which made its way two and a half hours later into Naveen CBS....

Whatever. I had an experience of another facet of our vast country. The number of Sai Bhaktas on this train is unbelievable. Some go from one Sai Baba (Shirdi) to another (Puttaparthi).

But back to Karunapuram: some 900 acres of land bought piece by piece from the Lambada community by Fr Colombo, a PIME missionary. Some 30 institutions counting.... Provincial Houses, Homes for the Deaf, the Blind, the AIDS affected, the Aged; a hospital; a couple of colleges; 4 or 5 formation houses, including our own Don Bosco Vishwajyothi; and so on. Karunapuram, City of Compassion: a whole 'religious' town.

The highlight for me was the Ashram That Was and the Ashram That Is (Maliekal language): the Ashram That Is is run by Brother Paulson, now Paulaiah, and attracts some 35,000 people, mostly not Christian, on Saturdays. Amazing. I can't say anything else. Paulaiah has suffered at the hands of the official church: misunderstanding, perhaps even calumny. My impression is that he has borne it well. Sign of genuineness. Wonderful. He has been joined now by a young Dr Prakash Rao, doctor in pharmacology, who discovered a vocation to preach the gospel alongside Brother Paulaiah. The two have decided not to use the donations from the people for their own livelihood; Rao's father has helped them buy land, and they have a small farm, quite flourishing when I saw it (they use the Japanese method of cultivating rice, for example).

One of the highlights of Vishwajyoti is the Immersion program: every year, all the students (so not only Salesians) of the college go for a 15 day experience: first years to the Street Children's works of the province; second years to nearby villages; third years mostly to Ravalapalem (to Pallithanam's PARA, I would guess). They are accompanied by a staff member. Something that our province used to have immediately after the novitiate, which we discontinued, and never reintroduced. Perhaps something we might have to look into.

And of course, another highlight: my first Rajnikant film: Robot - Enthiran, starring also Aishwarya Rai. Extremely slick, high tech, and a grosser. But not one of Rajnikant's best, I would venture. So that means that I have to see another one.

But: I think I should consider myself fortunate to have seen Robot: people have been seen queuing up the whole night to see the 4.00 a.m. show - yes, the 4.00 a.m. show - in Chennai.

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