Cenkantal - Sept 2020

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CenkÄ ntal Spirituality and Dialogue

No. 1.

Bulletin of the Chennai Jesuit Province

September 2020

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Spirituality and Dialogue

No. 1. September 2020

Cenkāntal is a Bulletin of the Spirituality and Dialogue Commission, Chennai Jesuit Province. It focuses on the Jesuit Mission Priorities. It appears four times a year: September, December, March and June. It is for private circulation only. On the Title: Ceṅkāntal - Red Malabar Glory-Lily, Gloriosa Superba – is one of the 99 flowers of the Tamil country enumerated in the poem Kuriñcippāṭṭu. C. J. Beschi compares Mother Mary’s rosy-hands with kāntal flower. (Kāntal nēriya cenkarattu ēntinal. Tēmpāvani 965; also kāntal-kai : kāntal-like ruddy hands, in Tirukkāvalūr Kalampakam 23). Cover page: Paṟai means “To speak or to communicate”. It is also one of the earliest percussion instruments dating back to prehistoric times. Tolkāppiyam, a Tamil grammar book written before the Christian era, mentions Paṟai as a standard musical instrument for many occasions. Now it has become a symbol of diaspora Tamils. Back-cover: ‘All are welcome to draw water from the wellspring of ‘living water.’ No one is excluded from sharing this God’s gift.’ Cover Design & Lay-out: S Jayaraj


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Members of the Commission: Fr. Maria Arul Raj A. (Coordinator) Sr. Amala Sarojini SSAM Mr. Kombai S. Anvar Mr. F. A. Nathan Fr. Anand Amaladass (Editor) Br. Antony Sinnamuthu Fr. Arockia Dass J. Fr. Leo Anand M. A. Message of the Coordinator: Friends, We are immensely delighted to release the first issue of the bulletin of the Spirituality and Dialogue Commission of the infant Jesuit Chennai Province. It is our joy to work with the motto of “Towards Abundant Life Together with Dialogical Spirit”. While thanking our Provincial Superior Rev. Dr. Jebamalai Raja SJ for entrusting us with the mission of building the culture of harmony amidst the culture of fragmentation, let me also extend my deep sense of gratitude to the members of the Commission, Fr. Anand Amaladass, the editor of the first issue, and all the contributors for the bulletin. Ever Seeking Your Collaboration, Maria Arul Raja SJ Co-ordinator Spirituality & Dialogue Commission Jesuit Chennai Province cc.spirituality@censj.org +91-9444266657 Address: Director IDCR Loyola College, Chennai – 600034

In this Issue Editor’s Foreword.................................................................................................. 4 Spirituality of the Marginalized Maria Arul Raj S. J........................................................................................ 5 St. Valluvar and St. Ignatius Anand Amaladass S. J. ................................................................................. 7 Woman’s Spirituality - A Tamil Woman’s Perspective Dr. Padma V Mckertich................................................................................. 9 Spirituality of a Tamil Muslim Mr. Anwar S............................................................................................... 11 Spirituality of a Journalist Dr. Albert P’Rayan...................................................................................... 12 The Significance of the Spirituality of the Marginalized Arockia Dass S. J......................................................................................... 14 Spirituality of a Folklorist Vincent Britto S. J....................................................................................... 16 What Sustains the Struggles of the Vulnerable? Ms. Shyamala Padmaraj............................................................................ 18 Universal Dimension of Ignatian Vision Ilanko Xavier S. J......................................................................................... 19 The Sacredness of the Secular and the Secularity of the Sacred Prof. Raimon Panikkar................................................................................ 20 Envisaged programme of events......................................................................... 22 What sprituality sustains this rural woman? Mr. S Jayaraj............................................................................................... 23 The ‘Samaritan woman’ Episode echoes in Indian Art Mr. S Jayaraj............................................................................................... 24

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Editor’s Foreword


he first issue of this Bulletin presents a few dialogical perspectives on spirituality. But first we need to clarify what we understand by spirituality. Spirituality is the answer to the questions: what for, by what, and how does a human being live? Spirituality is how someone lives; it is the way, how life’s goal expresses itself in one’s lifestyle. Philosophically seen, spirituality is an attitude of mind, which is manifested in the way one relates to oneself, to others, and to what transcends them both (viz. the supernatural world). This attitude could be based on or shaped by any religious belief, or a philosophical position or an ideological conviction. For instance, the world outside is neutral and the physics of life are the same for all: the sun, the moon and the stars, the rivers and mountains are the common factors of life for all. There are no Christian vegetables and Hindu coconuts. But if one is brought up as a Catholic Christian shaped by the values of the New Testament, then the common factors like birth and death, the sun and moon, are for him or her not just physics of life, but have a meaning, provide a specific perspective. These perspectives are guiding lights that sustain the concerned people to face realities as they come across – sometimes painful, inexplicable and oppressive. But people do not easily give up. They struggle to make sense of reality, as it confronts them. That inner spirit which takes them across the vicissitudes of life is what matters. People are usually very resilient while facing life’s challenges. They are patient hoping for the better days to dawn. So many wait at the doors of the government offices, railway stations and at the airport. If it does not happen today, it may happen


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tomorrow or the day after. The farmers know well: If it does not rain this year, next year surely it will. This inner dynamism of hope is inbuilt within the human beings. They will endure any hardship for the sake of the loved ones. Waiting is also a sign of inner strength. Siddhartha recounts his assets to Kamala: “I can think, I can wait and I can fast.” (H. Hesse) Are they not virtues of any spiritual person? What people need is the motivation. They look for a meaning in life. Nietzsche would say: If you have an ‘why’ in life, you will put up with any ‘how’. A mother would take medicine to cure her sick child. Those who have not found a goal or a cause to live for, face frustration and depression. Now what motivates people in life? Religion is one of the major meaning providers. Human beings are ingenious in creating networks of survival, as it happens now during these days of corona crisis. This issue of the Bulletin tries to share some thoughts that might serve as a source of inspiration to the people of good will. Anand Amaladass S. J.

CenkÄ ntal The Spiritual Struggles of the Marginalized Maria Arul Raja S. J.


ny comprehensive discourse on spirituality is to have an integrated vision of the divine-humancosmic realities. While incorporating the triple dimensions of the past-present-future, it is at once rooted within and beyond the grip of space-time. While dwelling upon the anatomy and the function of the spiritual world of the marginalized people, one needs to have a sharp focus on the dynamics of their hope-generating struggles for establishing a harmonious integration in life. The interaction between their crushed victimhood, assertive subjecthood, and constructive communityhood has to be closely probed into. In identifying the life-generating energies emerging out of the spiritual struggles of the marginalized, we could name some of the salient features as follows: (1) Acknowledgement of Conflict, (2) Exploratory Ethics, and (3) Cry for Reconciliation.

Acknowledgement of Conflict: Victimhood In every fragmented society, conflicts are created and resolved both from the side of the dominant and the marginalized. In every such exercise, the agenda of perpetuation and consolidation of the powers is pursued by the dominant. But the spirit of participation and democratization is present amidst the marginalized. Quite often, the dominant discourses on peace and non-violence have the

hidden agenda of silencing the marginalized. But the issues of the history of violence, denial of relational anthropology, critical consciousness are underscored by the marginalized for eventually building up egalitarian communities. This is often labelled by the dominant as deviant behaviour disrupting peace, harmony, law and order. But for the marginalized, no genuine harmony can be ever achieved without appropriately identifying, naming and encountering such conflicts in their spiritual discourses.

Exploratory Ethics: Subjecthood The wounded psyche of the marginalized people struggles a lot in discerning and choosing the right course of actions at every turn of their on-going history of dehumanization. When the ready-made package of moral prescriptions are imposed on them in the name of religion, faith, tradition or nationalism, then the marginalized people suspect the genuineness

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the case of feminism, the women envisage a right relationship without gender-bias; the blacks dream of an equal footing with no colour-prejudice; the untouchables envision a caste-free society; and the tribals dream of an egalitarian society. But the dominant people refuse to listen to their cry for fraternity, liberty, and equality, by unleashing violent exhortations on non-violence for perpetuating the existing power structures. From the depths of the collective assertion of the marginalized, though stifled, one has to identify the cry for ultimate reconciliation towards compassionate justice for healing the broken world. This spiritual cry of the marginalized plays a vital role in creating new heavens and new earth.

of the dominant discourses on peace, obedience, harmony, reconciliation, silence, or diplomacy. That is why the battered consciousness of the marginalized is forced into the process of exploratory ethics in their spiritual journey.

Cry for Reconciliation: Communityhood In every transaction of conflict between the dominant and the marginalized, the latter initiate the necessity of reconciliation between them by ending up the structural and physical violence. For instance, in


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(Dr. A. Maria Arul Raja SJ (amarajasj@gmail.com) is the Director of the IDCR (Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions), Loyola CollegeChennai for the doctoral studies on Comparative Religions and Cultures affiliated to Madras University. As the Dean of Studies for 20 years in Arul Kadal Jesuit Theology Centre, Chennai, he has been lecturing on Theology, Sacred Scriptures, and Religious Studies for 27 years both within and outside India. With interdisciplinary approaches, he has come out with research publications voicing out the agenda of the marginalized.)

Cenkāntal St. Valluvar and St. Ignatius Anand Amaladass S. J.


he great poet-philosopher Valluvar in his classical Tamil work Tirukkural devotes a whole chapter (62) to human efforts. He makes a general statement at the outset: “Human effort has a divine quality (the source of all wealth), while indolence can only bring about poverty and disgrace.” (616) The effort could be mental or physical, as we all know. Then at the end he makes a revolutionary statement. “Even if the divine providence does not seem to be beneficial, one’s personal efforts will bear proportionate results.” (619) This is revolutioanry in the sense that it is said amidst people who believed that ‘nothing can move without His favour’. In other words, after so much prayer, fasting, pilgrimage etc. when people feel discouraged that they did not get what they wanted, Valluvar tells them: “do not get disheartened. Your efforts will bear fruit.” Valluvar goes one step further and adds that “people, who work hard with ceaseless industry, will overcome even the relentless fate.” (620)

St. Ignatius in the 16th century seems to think in a similar way. He goes against the traditional belief of the Christian world. Great theologians like Thomas Aquinas and mystics like Meister Eckhart preached then that every thing happens according to His will. Our duty is only to accept it in faith and act accordingly. On our own we can achieve nothing.

But Ignatius said that we can increase God’s glory by our greater effort, by loving more, serving more with greater initiatives. The word magis is his trade-mark – all that we do is for the greater glory of God. There is a whole history behind this dispute. Many opposed this and called Ignatius anti-Christ, a heretic etc. But the Jesuits went all over the world and undertook many activities and even risked their life. Historians call them “Men of Thousand Masks.” The Jesuit efforts took many shapes. They entered the court of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar with an illustrated Bible; they took part in the “Tea Ceremony” in Japan; Matteo Ricci was honoured as Dr. Li; the Italian Jesuit Castiglione became the court painter in Chinese Emperor’s palace. Robert de Nobili became an Indian Sannyasi. Joseph Beschi became the much acclaimed Tamil poet; In Paraguay the Jesuits built up a state with musical

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invitation comes from above. It was there from the beginning and it will continue after we are gone. It will go on without us. No one is indispensable. At this level it appears nature as an outsider, inimical, even dangerous. This is one side. On the other hand, nature invites us all and says: Look at the world. Plough the land and cultivate it and give a new shape to it. Bring it under your control. You are the master of the world. (Genesis 1, 28) God gave us intelligence and freedom. They are his gifts. The laws of nature alone do not determine our life. They are only the foundation. They are like the blueprint of a building. But the building itself we have to construct.

conservatory; in Europe they became the consciencekeepers of the kings; in South America they became the friends of the black people; In Jaipur laboratory they were specially invited as scientists, astronomers; the Austrian Jesuit Joseph Tieffenthaler started mapping India as cartographer; Venance Bouchet drew the first South Indian map. The list is very long. All this was done to enhance the glory of God, to manifest his glory in every possible way. But none of these initiatives was against the will of God. One needs here to reflect a bit more. Nature sends two kinds of apparently contradictory messages. In life we need to respect the laws of nature and act in accordance with it. On the one hand, nature orders us: ‘you must obey my laws. Bend down and come inside. Join hands with the rest of nature.’ This


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Cultivating does not mean only the land. It includes also the human mind. The mind can go in the wrong direction. They need to be guided in the right direction. Searching and risk-taking, wonder and trust, are part of mature human mind. Thinkers and artists unravel the mysteries hidden in the universe. The ruling powers may prevent them and threaten the writers and control the media. But it is our task to cultivate the land and the mind with all possible efforts. Valluvar says: the industrious people will conquer even the enigmatic power that controls us – Ūḻaiyum uppakkam kāṉpar. Ignatius seems to echo this message with his Magis in all that we do.

(Anand Amaladass S. J, was professor of philosophy and religion in Satya Nilayam Faculty of Philosophy, Chennai, for over 30 years. His research now focuses on inter-cultural dialogue, art and religion, aesthetic spirituality and option for the least, Jesuit history in India and Tamilology).

Cenkāntal Woman’s Spirituality A Tamil Woman’s Perspective Dr. Padma V Mckertich


t was the day after my son was born that I realized how differently religious groups dealt with the post partum female body. Having been brought up in a notso-orthodox Brahmin household which nevertheless followed many practices of menstruation related isolation, I was completely flummoxed when a nurse at the hospital offered me a packet of sacred kumkum from the nearby Amman temple. I hesitated; my mother stood somewhat aghast by my side. No doubt to pre-empt any blasphemous act of religiosity or spirituality on my part – after all I was bleeding and ‘unclean’ – my mother informed the nurse that I ought not to take the kumkum. “Oh”, replied the nurse, “but this is OK. It is from the Goddess. She is a woman”. That the Goddess’s sex would allow me, a woman, the freedom that religiosity to a God depicted as male could not, came as a surprise and a welcome relief. That Amman was, like me a woman and therefore someone who would understand me and my body was a completely new idea, not one I had ever been exposed to. Temples to the Amman dot every corner of Tamil Nadu, indeed, every part of South India. Considered especially powerful, religiosity to Amman is heavily mediated among Tamil Brahmin households by a patriarchal control over the female body and female

desires. While I religiously visited the Amman temple near my house, I really approached her using the heavily tinted lens of Brahminical patriarchal orthodoxy. As I grew older, and I hope wiser, I became increasingly aware of these tints. While preparing to teach a course on Bhakti literatures from around the world, I also became aware that the Goddess was always a mother figure, never the beloved or friend that Krishna often was. I wondered why; like any human woman, was the Goddess too seen only in her maternal aspect? At the same time, the unbridled celebration of the female body in Andal’s poems appealed to me at a level that I still have not been able to fathom. Married into a Catholic family, the figure of Mother Mary too felt inexplicably close to me. To me, the virgin birth always felt a celebration of the female body, just like I always felt that Mary’s

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Today, at middle age, I realize with more clarity than before that Goddess traditions celebrate change, aging, death and rejuvenation, that they encourage us to keep in touch with the rhythms of our bodies and they offer space, community and courage to speak out against forms of injustice. For these spiritual traditions to make meaning to me, I need to temper them with my own experiences and approach them from a point of view that is simultaneously my own and larger than me. I also realize that all of us need to draw upon all the spiritual heritages that we are heir to, while being courageous enough to draw the contours of new heritages that our descendants can have recourse to. Like the image of the moon and waters that connects goddess traditions around the world, we need to be open to change and transformation, especially of things closest to us.

meeting with her cousin Elizabeth was an intensely feminine experience. I consciously began to look for traditions that celebrated the female body and female desire. It was thus that I came to goddess centric practices from around the world. With my reading on women’s issues and gender studies fresh in my mind, it did not take me long to discover that almost all religions have a strong ‘feminine’ strain in them, a strain that is often suppressed. Able now to deconstruct cultural practices with more confidence than before, I began to notice that families around me that worshipped some form of Amman were far more welcoming of girl children and understanding of the female body.


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(Dr. Padma V Mckertich is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Stella Maris College, Chennai, India. Her PhD (University of Madras) was on Indian fiction in English and the bhashas in the 1980s and was published by Orient Blackswan as Fiction as Window. Her articles on areas such as Indian Literatures, Literature and Science, and Bhakti Studies have appeared in a number of national and international journals. She has also translated S Ramakrishnan’s Tamil play Aravaan into English and co-edited a collection of translations titled Four Tamil Plays and an anthology of essays on interfaith dialogue titled My Faith and Others.)

Spirituality of a Tamil Muslim


Mr. Anwar S


n its history, ever since Islam bloomed out of the sandy deserts of Arabia in the early 7th century, Muslims have faced many threats. It was always localized, confined to different regions of the world. Like the crusades that played out in Europe and West Asia, or the Mongols on a conquering spree in the medieval times or certain colonial encounters with the likes of overzealous Portuguese. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the communist ideology, one witnesses the emergence of a worldwide Islamophobia, unfortunately coinciding with the rise of Hindutva forces at home. For the first time, the Tamil Muslim faces a threat, right in his homeland, where he never felt threatened, barring a brief period leading to the Indian independence and thereafter. For a pious Tamil Muslim, there are two aspects which sustain him in these trying times. The first is the Quran and the other is the Tamil Dravidian identity. It is common refrain among the Tamil Muslims that “Islam engal vazhi, inbath Tamil engal mozhi” which essentially means that “Islam is our way and sweet Tamil is our language”. Like any holy book, the Holy Quran offers hope to those who are tormented. There are many verses in the holy Quran, which give comfort to those facing hardship. One verse widely quoted among the Muslims, is from the Surah Ash Sharh - The Relief (94.6) “So, Verily, With Every Difficulty, There is Relief / ease!!” In this verse, the word “relief” is used in plural form. This implies that relief is always twice as powerful as difficulties or suffering. As such, no matter how trying the times may be, hardship can never overwhelm Allah’s Blessings!! Along with many other Quranic verses, the hardships faced by various prophets, from Ibrahim (Abraham), Moosa (Moses), Isa (Jesus) to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are constantly recalled over sermons for the faithful, not to lose hope.

The Tamil and the overlapping Dravidian identity offers the Tamil Muslim another great comfort. The inclusive Dravidian Movement does not discriminate on the basis of religion and its proponents have from the early days of the movement, identified social justice with that of the Islamic founding principles. The Quran and the shared linguistic and cultural bonding with the fellow Tamils, that date back to more than a millennium helps the Tamil Muslim sustain himself against any hatred directed at him / her.

(S Anwar is a writer, photographer and filmmaker with a deep interest in history. He was commissioned by the ASI to make a series of short films on the ‘Big Temple’ at Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, to commemorate the 1000th year of the construction of the temple. His documentary film ‘Yaadhum’ on the history and identity of the Tamil Muslims had won many awards.)

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Cenkāntal Spirituality of a Journalist Dr. Albert P’Rayan


ecoming a journalist was my dream during my college days. It all started in 1984 when I attended a public meeting addressed by Arun Shourie who, as the Executive Editor of The Indian Express, exposed the then Maharashtra Chief Minister AR Antulay and brought down his government. The investigative reports that I read in IE made me admire the person and his great qualities: conviction, commitment, courage and crusade against corruption.

As a journalist, I have been contributing articles on various social issues to different newspapers and websites for over three decades. The journey has been quite challenging. I have faced numerous hurdles during the journey and it is my strong conviction that I should fight for a right cause helps me sustain it. In 2005, I wrote an investigative feature article on ‘tsunami relief work’ to an American news website. In the article, I had mentioned about a local NGO’s failure to utilize the fund it received from an international organization properly. The NGO threatened me with legal action. I was advised by my family and friends to not write about “sensitive issues”. Again, it was my conviction that helped me carry on my journey as a journalist.


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I consider translating my vision into mission and carrying out the mission with conviction, commitment and courage is my spirituality. My spirituality is both my state of being and also the process of moving from being to becoming. It is both static and dynamic. For me becoming means blossoming and blossoming means to value my integrity. It is progressing from one state to another state. I feel there is an innate need in me to blossom. That is my spirituality. For me being spiritual means having a sense of purpose and living it. The purpose is to have a thirst for peace, to stand for truth and fight for justice. I realize that it is not always easy to lead such a purposeful life. The clash between the mind and the heart at times makes me go off the track. Then I feel that I am less spiritual than I should be.

nnumerous challenges while being on a spiritual journey. For me being spiritual means being ethical and committed to my profession. At times, the working environment forces me not to be ethical and go off the track. My inner voice says that I should be on the track. When I am ethically challenged, I feel that I am spiritually challenged. As a reflective journalist, I want to add meaning to my profession and through this vocation; I put my spirituality into practice. My spirituality demands me to write about the decaying education system, police atrocities, custodial torture, custodial deaths, violation of rights, etc. I consider writing about and discussing these issues as my spiritual experience and spiritual journey.

I am not an island. I am part of a family and society. I depend on them; they depend on me. We depend on one another. This interdependence creates the need for me to connect with others. The connection becomes meaningful when I translate my purpose into action. I feel the need for showing uncompromising adherence to certain principles and values, I call it integrity. For me, my integrity is my spirituality and my spirituality is my identity. The joy of carrying out my responsibilities as a journalist is a wonderful spiritual experience. I face

I cease to be spiritual when I am silent on issues that need to be condemned. I cease to be spiritual when I justify inequality and glorify cruelty. I cease to be spiritual when I am reluctant to call a spade a spade. I cease to be spiritual when I allow the powerful to gain the upper hand over the powerless. I cease to be spiritual when I fail to be the voice of the voiceless.

(Dr. Albert P’Rayan is a journalist and columnist based in Chennai. He contributes columns to The New Indian Express and The Hindu. As a freelancer, he also writes to other publications on educational and social issues. He can be contacted at rayanal@yahoo.co.uk)

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Cenkāntal Significance Of The Spirituality Of The Marginalized J. Arokia Dass S. J.


lmost all major religions have a group of people called marginalized, like Sutras, Dalits and Tribals who are mercilessly discriminated and suppressed by their own religion and spirituality. Tax collectors and sinners of Judaism, and Sudras of Hinduism are some of the religion-made marginalized people. But on the other hand, the marginalized themselves have their own indigenous religion and spiritualties, born out of their wounded experiences. Their spirituality is entirely different from that of the major and classical religions. In this write-up, I like to discuss on some of the unique characteristics of the ‘Spirituality of the Marginalized’ and its emancipatory potential. Though the subject covers a vast area, yet some of its salient features will link those diversity closely.

Spirituality of the Marginalized The spirituality of the marginalised stems from their experiences of success, failure, births, deaths, relationships, wellbeing and sickness, which shape how a person transcends these experiences. Antonio Gramsci, in Prison Note Book, mentions the ‘inner life’ of the subaltern which transforms their sufferings into an action of liberation. The struggle for an egalitarian society is the beauty of the subaltern spirituality. Folk deities of the marginalized like Madurai Veeran,


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Ondi Veeran, Veeranar, Karuppusamy, Kanniyamman, Esakkiyaman and others had really fought against unjust structure, got killed and thus became deities of their clan. Hence, they become their protectors, providers and role models. These deities are not somewhere sitting in far-away heavens; they are with the people, participating in their joys and sufferings. Therefore, the spirituality of the marginalized is deeply rooted in the life experience of the past and present. Three significant features could be identified.

1. Existential in Nature The Spirituality of the marginalized is essentially an existential spirituality because of their social discrimination, economic exploitation, educational deprivation and political exclusion. Classical religions and Sacred Scriptures are pushing them to the periphery. So their experience of life is more of deceitful anguish and anxiety. Hence, they want to

experience the values of the reign of God ‘here and now’, because the ‘Now’ reality of them is obviously an oppressed reality. So they look for an existential spirituality where the religion and deities are imminently available and tangibly accessible. Folk deities are closer to their way of life than the classical deities.

2. Quest for Self-dignity Christians believe that their dignity comes from God, since all human beings are created in His ‘image and likeness’ (Gen.1:27). God himself intervenes if anything or anyone destroys his ‘image and likeness’ (Exod.3:5-7). The marginalized people also have the same quest for dignity. Dr. Ambedkar observed that the untouchables occupied a poor and lowly status in Hindu religion and society. He was convinced that Buddhism was the best religion for his people and embraced Buddhism along with thousands of his followers (1956). The quest is found even now among the subaltern people. Most often, the victims of caste/ communal violence used say, “It should never happen to anyone else, as it had happened to me.” This sentiment of the marginalized highlights the new dimension of their spirituality i.e. ‘from victim to winner’ of new social life where self-dignity is revered as a high virtue.

Conclusion The spirituality of the marginalized has got several existential dimensions for the present as well as transcendental dimensions for the future. It gives meaning to their life, motivation to their struggles and orientation to their future. It gives neither an empty promise of a utopian world nor complicated philosophies for present world. It dynamically travels with the marginalized and it enhances them with a hope-filled future. In the words of Jon Sobrino, Latin American liberation theologian, “Hope is the seed of liberation” and we shall walk towards this liberation by imbibing with the ‘Spirituality of the Marginalized.’

(J. Arokia Dass S. J. is systematic theologian, teaching in Jesuit regional theologate – Arul Kadal, Chennai. He is a member of Tamilnadu – Pudchery Bar council and member of MH Bar council. He has Master’s Degree in comparative religion and philosophy from the University of Madras.)

3. Assertion of Identity Another important dimension of the marginalized people’s spirituality is ‘Assertion of their identity.’ Historically they have never been identified as fellow human beings, but by their caste identities which is to humiliate and dehumanise them. A small boy of a ‘high caste family’ used call the elderly person of a ‘low caste family’ by his name and caste. This situation started changing after mass conversion of Dr. Ambedkar, the rationalist movement of Periyar and the political awakening of the marginalized after the birth centenary celebration of Ambedkar. These external factors enkindled the ‘inner’ life of the marginalized people to a larger extent. Now they are able assert their identity and organize themselves as a political force.

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Cenkāntal Spirituality Of A Folklorist Vincent Britto S. J.


ne of the gifts that the people in Tamilnadu have received during COVID-19 lock-down period is Rain. One of the ill effects of this lock-down period is lack of food or lack of Sharing Of Food. Showers of rain and sharing of food not only sustain the life of every human being, but also add meaningfulness to life itself. In the Worship of Folk Deities or in any Folk Religious practices rain and food are the core elements. “May the country prosper, may good rain pour down” - are the words of greetings with which Folk Artistes bless the people in various performance contexts. More than entertainment, efficacy is a very important objective of Folk Performing Arts. The discourse through which the aesthetics of the performance of Folk Art forms and the rituals which go hand in hand with them is expressed in terms of powerfulness and efficacy of the performances. Whether a performance of Folk Art or ritual has induced people’s participation such as gradual expansion of the circle of performers in a Kummi performance or in tribal dance, people getting possessed by the deities and dancing in trance and people making ritual offerings in the form of food and animal sacrifice, etc. or whether such performance has brought in graces in the form of rains, prosperity, fertility, etc. are the aspects based on which a Folk art or ritual would be assessed. In


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most of the contexts of Worship of Folk Deities and other rituals, showers of rain leading towards prosperity and sharing of food would be the desired grace. In the villages Ārsuthippattu and Narthevan Kudikadu of Thanjavur region, there are troupes which perform Irāniyan Nātakam (Irāniyan Drama). The efficacious expectation out of its performance is rain. Within their own villages or in other villages the artistes perform this play when they experience the need for rain. Towards this purpose they rehearse the play for more than a week by observing fast and abstinence. In many places where the Irāniyan Nātakam troupe of Narthevan Kudikadu performed it rained heavily including Palayamkottai where this ritual play was performed during a Folk Festival organized by Folklore Resources and Research Centre, St. Xavier’s College, Palayamkottai in 1995. There have been also

shared by the people who participate in the village festivals. In Dargah worship by the Muslims there is a ritual called ‘Peer pot lifting’. In this ritual, a man who has been fasting for several days would lift from the oven a pot containing ritual food cooked out of rice and herbs, keep it on his bare head without any cloth on the head and would walk fast to the Dargah to the chanting of Allah’s name and to the sounds of rhythm produced by percussion instruments. In the Dargah this ritual food would be distributed to the people. During important days of feast and church festivals in the Christian tradition of southern districts food is shared by the people, wherein people offer vegetables, fruits, etc. and the food is cooked out of these offerings and shared by all.

occasions when the performers of other folk artforms felt very happy to experience rains immediately after their performance as blessing from heaven. It rained at the end of the three day long Vāsāppu (a form of Christian Folk Theatre) on Dhairiya Rāyar (The play seems to be on King Constantine who defended Christianity) performed by the men of Gengappattu of Thiruvannāmalai District in May 2007. Similarly at the end of Modikkūtthu performance in Nallān Pillai Petrāl of Thiruvannāmalai District there was a drizzle in 2006. The very fact that the annual festivals of the Folk Gods and Goddesses in Tamilnadu is called as Kodai (offering) in Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli Districts or as Pongal in some parts of Thoothukkudi and in Virudhunagar and Ramnad Districts or as Koozhootruthal (pouring porridge) in Northern Tamilnadu, it is very clear that food is given prime importance in festivals of folk deities. With gratitude to their family or village deity, people offer cooked food in the form of rice and meat of the animals sacrificed during the festival or in the form of ragi porridge for the good rains they have experienced, for the good harvest they have reaped and for the protection and well being of the people. The food that is offered to the deity will be finally

As rain and food are the basic necessities of life in the universe and of the humanity, the Spirituality of the subaltern people is concerned about fulfilling these basic necessities.

(Vincent Britto, S.J. is at present Principal of Loyola College, Vettavalam. He specialized in Ethnomusicology through a Masters programme at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. His Ph.D. was on “Mausic-making and People’s Participation in Ritual Contexts”. He is quite active in the fields of Music, Theatre, Folk Performing Arts, Spiritual Direction and Counselling.)

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What Sustains the Struggles of the Vulnerable?


Ms. Shyamala Padmaraj


he Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term “Marginalized” as to relegate to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group. This relegation of a specific group to the edge of society, excludes them from proper economic and equal access to resources there by hampering their productive and potential development both for the individual and for the economic benefit of a country as a whole. This group of people live around us and are pushed to a level of subordination, in any given society/ group. They live in a state of want, suffering and affliction where they find no means to an upward social mobility. Facing all these circumstances, there is an element of remarkable resilience that keeps them fighting and supporting one another as they go through life’s ebb and flow. Women are the most vulnerable section of this group and while one tries to understand this group of people who battle every day with their hard lives, it is but necessary to concentrate on this vulnerable section which actually is the back bone of the larger sections of the society. Many of these women are deprived of their basic every day needs - nutritious food, proper water, sanitation facilities etc., which are very basic to a qualitative life. In fact images of these women being exposed to violence, poor health structure, poor or no education, etc. are some of the deprivations that they face. In a social structure like ours, a woman is pushed towards being marginalized and exploited. So what sustains these women as they go about taking care of their children and in very many cases husbands who do not contribute to the maintenance


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of the family? These women’s fears of being ostracized by society, is to a large extent a factor which keeps them tied to their families no matter whatever be the hardships that they may face. Also the will-power to give to their off-springs a better life encourages them to pull along in their everyday struggle. Unless this very important section of a community is helped to develop their means of improving their condition, we will never reach the threshold of being called developed. Development of the vast section means more advances in areas of values, arts, science and technology as thereby envisioning a better nation and world. Mary Anne Radmacher has summed the everyday motto of these women thus: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’”.

(Ms. Shyamala Padmaraj, completed her Masters in Christian Scriptures from the University of Madras, Chennai. Parishioner of San Thome Cathedral Basilica, presently working at Stella Maris College in the Department of Value Education as Assistant Professor. She has travelled widely both in India and Abroad. )

The Universal Dimension of Ignatian Spirituality Ilanko Xavier S. J


nything that is pertinent to entire humanity is universal. The Catholic Church as a universal body promulgates, through its Catechism, its principle of human life as human being’s inborn urge to seek, to know and love God with all their strength. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises (23) presents the Principle and Foundation of human life as an active dimension to praise, reverence and serve God the creator, and at the end of the Exercises (234) he invites us to a contemplation to attain God’s love. When we combine service with Love of God, it becomes universal good. Thus, Ignatian spirituality implies a dialectic movement from service to prayer and from prayer to service. Where does this universality originate from? Inigo’s family had been adventurously exploring the end of the geographical world! Inigo had imbibed this spirit of global triumph, and also a desire of appropriating the universally known people to his own. This was evident when he took the name of Ignatius, because name Ignatius at the time was more widespread and more common to other nations. But this openly naïve action turned into deeper passion. He also had a special devotion to St Peter. This Peter as the head of the universal Church had a disposition of universal mindset: “I am only a human being; God has shown me that I should not call anyone unclean” (Acts 10, 26&28). Inigo’s interest in humanistic studies at Paris implies his longing for universal understanding of humanity, and his personal and spiritual life resonates with the universal spirit of St. Peter. Shift from defective understanding of externally universal to realizing interior and true commonality is the beauty of his spirituality. The coat of arms of Loyola family (seven red bars on a gold field and two wild gray wolves flanking a cooking pot), outwardly depicts their bravery and generosity. But the real meaning it had was a warning to all descendants of the Loyola family about the way they saw the world: ‘not all men are noble; most are loyal only to

the hand that feeds them; and so without the pot wolves will overcome them’. This misguided universal notion of generosity and the resultant insecurity, which is prevalent even among us, did not influence Inigo. He was able to share his experience and table with his companions because he was able to recognize the work of the multiple gifts of the Holy Spirit in others. Ignatian spirituality invites us to trust and share with others as companions irrespective of their nationalities. Ignatian spirit is centered not only on salvation of self, but also overflows into the salvation of all. It takes the approach of compassionate outlook towards the deprived section of the people and prophetic outlook towards the senselessly depriving section of the falsely adored humanity. Fundamentally Ignatian spirituality is centred on Jesus’ attitude of saving the entire humanity from the universally embedded falsehood towards personally felt universal Truth. For the Jesuits, the spirit of the mission to serve the entire world under the Pope is the fruit of the universal spirit. Thus, it breaks the narrow crooked minded approach into an open-minded innocent straight path. It is centered on the universal principle that we all come from God and we go back to God. “The more universal you are, the more divine are you,” - this motto characterizes Ignatian vision. (Ilanko Xavier M., SJ, was Novice Master of Madurai Province, currently serves as Socius to the Provincial of the new Jesuit Chennai Province and also pursues his studies at JDV, Pune. He has licentiate in Spiritual Theology from Comillas Pontifical University, Madrid.)

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Cenkāntal The Sacredness of the Secular and the Secularity of the Sacred Prof. Raimon Panikkar


ecularity represents the conviction that the saeculum belongs to the ultimate sphere of reality. The saeculum is not a subordinate and/or transitory state of Being, insignificant before an eternal, divine or transcendent universe, but neither is it the only reality… While secularism absolutizes worldly reality, secularity relativizes ultra-worldly or “divine” reality. It tries to maintain a balance between being and not-being, eternity and time, world and God, using traditional terminology. According to this conception, for example, there was never a moment when God existed alone. God and the world are “contemporaneous”. God is a relative being, in relation to the world. He is God of the world and for the world – just as the world is of God and for God… Contemporary sacred secularity prefers to enhance the sacred, divine or ultimate aspect of the secular, rather than underline the secular aspect of the divine, as has been done traditionally. To give an example, according to a traditional doctrine of some schools, Vedantic and others, this world is the Body of God. Now, however, the accent is not so much on the affirmation that the Body of God is this world, as much as the fact that this world is also divine. The centre of gravity has changed. The sufferings of the Mystic Body of Christ do not stand out so much as the sufferings of Jesus, so much as the suffering of the poor. These sufferings belong to divinity, that is to the ulti-


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mate order, and thus are less tolerable, because they are endowed with an ultimate character. Sacred secularity accentuates as much the fact that God becomes man, as the fact that man is considered a divine being, not so much by descent or ascent, but by the fact that between them there is a constituent relationship. Said more philosophically: the accent is placed not so much on divine transcendence as on its immanence, not so much on divine transcendence as on human transcendence. The centre is man, but this man is something more (not less) than his psychosomatic nature. What man does, his action and his creation, is serious and important; it touches the ultimate sphere of reality – it is transcendent. In a traditional framework, if a human being did not achieve his personal human fulfilment, that meant that his earthly pilgrimage had been a failure, but he could still reach heaven, enjoy the complete vision of God or have another chance in a future reincarnation or in purgatory, etc. In a word, all was not lost. But for a secular mentality, not to achieve human fulfilment on earth is equivalent to what the majority

The secular can be sacred when it is seen and lived in all its profundity and cosmotheandric nature, but, detached from its roots, it can become profane. The sacred can, in turn, be found in the secular, but it does not identify with it. Physical integrity, to give an example, belongs to the sacredness of the human body, but it is better to enter the kingdom of heaven crippled or with only one eye than to be excluded. As I stated more than forty years ago in a polemical tone: “Christianity is not humanism”. In a word: the secular in its (cosmotheandrical) integrity is sacred, but the sacred can manifest itself independently of the secular structures of reality. …

of traditions call hell, understood not so much as eternal suffering but as death, dissolution, a lack of achievement in Life: the state of a particular human being who will never reach that degree of humanity, divinity or fulfilment to which he was destined. Life can continue, my children may be better off, my “other more elevated being” may go towards other spheres, my “soul” may be saved, but I, my person, this concrete being, subject to the here and now, is lost. We previously referred to the meaning of tragedy. Heaven, the other life, the transmigration of the individual soul are, in the best of cases, palliatives and, in the worst, propitiatory victims. Human destiny acquires an ultimate character in its very worldly level. The kingdom of God is certainly to be found among us, in the interlude: it blossoms in the tempiternal instant – not in the non-temporal in nor in the merely historical between. Here, secularity becomes traditional, when it believes that there are very few who reach this height of salvation.

In modern history, science and religion have had a strained relationship. To avoid writing an entire treatise, we will quote a phrase of Galileo Galilei: “Religion tells us how to go to heaven, but not how heaven goes”. In fact, this is dealt with by natural science. The great division between modernity and traditional religions lies precisely here. Modernity believes (ingenuously) in an anthropology which is independent of any cosmology. Everything is centred on man who continues to speak of heaven, although this heaven can not be found anywhere. Galileo wants to know how heaven moves, but independently of how to go to heaven. Man cuts his umbilical cord with the cosmos; he converts only in history. Cosmology has been substituted by anthropology. The danger lies in its ideological assumptions, that is in the belief that man, and therefore his destiny, are independent of cosmology. Man “unhooks himself” alone from the cosmos. It seems irrelevant how heaven works compared to what heaven is like and how we get there. This gives rise to a disincarnate spirituality.

(Extract from Panikkar’s longer text on Sacred Secularity. Printed here with due permission from Dr. Milena Pavan, President of the Panikkar Foundation. – Anand Amaladass)

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Cenkāntal Jesuit Chennai Province Spirituality and Dialogue Commission Towards Abundant Life Together with Dialogical Spirit [In the light of the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAP) of the Society of Jesus and the Province Apostolic Preferences (PAP) the following concerns are to be addressed: Spiritual Animation, Walking with the Marginalized, Youth Empowerment, and Eco-Justice. Accordingly, the following programmes are envisaged for July- December 2020:]

Envisaged Programme (July - December 2020) Dates


Resource Persons


July 01-31

An Inner Walk with Ignatian Wisdom4-minutes Daily Video

Loyola JesuitsChennai

Commissions of Youth, Social Action, Communication & Formation

Harmony with Nature (English)

Fr. Robert Athickal SJPatna

August 06 August 22

September 04 September 19

October 10, 17 October 21, 28 November 10, 28 December 05


Response to Environmental Crisis (englis)

Dr. SelvanayagamLICET

Indian Constitution: An Retired Justice Introduction (Tamil) Paranthaman

Human Rights in Indian Dr. Philominraj SJConstitution (English) Madurai Feminism: Ambedkarite Perspectives (English & Tamil)

Ms. V. Geetha, WriterResearcher

Street Children: Challenges and Hopes

Salesians of Chennai

IDCR & Entomology Research Institute IDCR

IDCR- AICUF Tamil Nadu IDCR- AICUF Tamil Nadu

Social Watch, IDCR, AICUF

Feminism: Periyar’s Perspectives (English & Tamil)

Ms. V. Geetha, WriterResearcher

A Dialogue between Ignatian & Franciscan Spirituality

Dr. Michael Amaladoss IDCR & THALIR- Villupuram SJ & Fr. Nithya Sahayam OFM (cap)

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Social Watch, IDCR. AICUF IDCR- Social Watch

What sprituality sustains this rural woman? Mr S Jayaraj An artist, photographer, graphic designer and short film-maker, S Jayaraj has over the past 30 years demonstrated his talent and versatility nationally and internationally in scores of products – video films, audio-visuals, paintings, sketches, posters and publications of all kinds ranging from technical reports to pictorial brochures and newsletters. Jayaraj lives and works in Chennai, India. www.sjayarajart.com http://sjayaraj.blogspot.com E-mail: sjayaraj999@yahoo.com Mobile: 9840265685

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The ‘Samaritan woman’ Episode echoes in Indian Art