ADVENTURES IN ADVAITA VEDANTA...


Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..

THE ADVENTURE

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Feast Day of Benedict

Hari OM

Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.

Today is the feast day of Saint Benedict. Here follows an edited version of the Wikipedia entry.

Benedict of Nursia  (c. 480 543 or 547) is a Christian saint, honoured by both the Catholic and Anglican Church as the patron saint of Europe[ and students. Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, Italy, before moving to Monte Cassino. The Order of St Benedict is of later origin and, moreover, not an "order" as commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations.

Benedict's main achievement is his "Rule of Saint Benedict", containing precepts for his monks. It is heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian and shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master {AV-blog note - this 'rule' closely resembles the concept of Guru-shishya tradition, acknowledging spiritual mastery and authority of the abbot}.  It also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness and this persuaded most religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Benedict is often called the founder of Western monasticism.

Apart from a short poem attributed to Mark of Monte Cassino, the only ancient account of Benedict is found in the second volume of Pope Gregory I's four-book Dialogues, thought to have been written in 593. Gregory did not set out to write a chronological, historically anchored story of St. Benedict, but he did base his anecdotes on direct testimony.

Early life of Benedict
He was the son of a Roman noble of Nursia, the modern Norcia, in Umbria. A tradition which Bede accepts makes him a twin with his sister Scholastica. If we accept the date 480 for his birth, we may fix the date of his abandonment of his studies and leaving home at about 500. St Gregory's narrative makes it impossible to suppose him younger than 19 or 20 at the time. He was old enough to be in the midst of his literary studies, to understand the real meaning and worth of the dissolute and licentious lives of his companions, and to have been deeply affected himself by the love of a woman. He was at the beginning of life and he had at his disposal the means to a career as a Roman noble; clearly he was not a child.

Benedict doesn't seem to have left Rome for the purpose of becoming a hermit, but only to find some place away from the life of the great city. He took his old nurse with him as a servant and they settled down to live in Enfide.

On his way from Enfide, Benedict met a monk, Romanus of Subiaco, whose monastery was on the mountain above the cliff overhanging the cave. Romanus had discussed with Benedict the purpose which had brought him to Subiaco and had given him the monk's habit. By his advice Benedict became a hermit and for three years, unknown to men, lived in this cave above the lake. One day, the Devil brought before his imagination a beautiful woman he had formerly known, inflaming his heart with strong desire for her. Immediately, Benedict stripped off his clothes and rolled into a thorn-bush until his body was lacerated. Thus, through the wounds of the body he cured the wounds of his soul.

Later Life
St Gregory tells us little of these years. He now speaks of Benedict no longer as a youth (puer), but as a man (vir) of God. Romanus, he twice tells us, served the saint in every way he could. The monk apparently visited him frequently and, on fixed days, brought him food.

This prayer reads as if for a Vedantin...
You are encouraged to 'save' it!
During these three years of solitude, broken only by occasional communications with the outer world and by the visits of Romanus, Benedict matured both in mind and character, in knowledge of himself and of his fellow-man and at the same time he became not merely known to, but secured the respect of, those about him; so much so that on the death of the abbot of a monastery in the neighbourhood, the community came to him and begged him to become its abbot. Benedict was acquainted with the life and discipline of the monastery and knew that "their manners were diverse from his and therefore that they would never agree together: yet, at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent" (ibid., 3). The experiment failed; the monks tried to poison him. The legend goes that they first tried to poison his drink. He prayed a blessing over the cup and the cup shattered. Thus he left the group and went back to his cave at Subiaco. There lived in the neighbourhood a priest called Florentius who, moved by envy, tried to ruin him. He tried to poison him with poisoned bread. When he prayed a blessing over the bread, a raven swept in and took the loaf away. From this time his miracles seem to have become frequent and many people, attracted by his sanctity and character, came to Subiaco to be under his guidance. Having failed by sending him poisonous bread, Florentius tried to seduce his monks with some prostitutes. To avoid further temptations, in 530 Benedict left Subiaco. He founded 12 monasteries in the vicinity of Subiaco and, eventually, in 530 he founded the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, which lies on a hilltop between Rome and Naples.  {AV-blog note - herein we see example of a true master (Satguru) and the 'would be..' (false guru). The quality and truth of Benedict shone through.}

During the invasion of Italy, Totila, King of the Goths, ordered a general to wear his kingly robes and to see whether Benedict would discover the truth. Immediately the Saint detected the impersonation and Totila came to pay him due respect.

Veneration.
He died at Monte Cassino not long after his sister, Saint Scholastica. Benedict died of a high fever on the day God had told him he was to die and was buried in the same place as his sister. According to tradition, this occurred on 21 March 543 or 547. He was named patron protector of Europe by Pope Paul VI in 1964. In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared him co-patron of Europe.In the pre-1970 General Roman Calendar, his feast is kept on 21 March, the day of his death according to some manuscripts of the Martyrologium Hieronymianum and that of Bede. As that date would always be impeded by the observance of Lent, the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar moved his memorial to 11 July, the date that appears in some Gallic liturgical books of the end of the 8th century as the feast commemorating his death (Natalis S. Benedicti).

The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates St. Benedict on 14 March. The Anglican Communion has no single universal calendar, but a provincial calendar of saints is published in each province. In almost all of these, St Benedict is commemorated on 11 July.


 Rule of St Benedict
Seventy-three short chapters comprise the Rule. Its wisdom is of two kinds: spiritual (how to live a Christo-centric life on Earth) and administrative (how to run a monastery efficiently). More than half the chapters describe how to be obedient and humble and what to do when a member of the community is not. About one-fourth regulate the work of God (the Opus Dei). One-tenth outline how, and by whom, the monastery should be managed. Two chapters specifically describe the abbot’s pastoral duties.

Following the golden rule of Ora et Labora - pray and work - the monks each day devoted eight hours to prayer, eight hours to sleep and eight hours to manual work, sacred reading, or works of charity.

Influence.
The early Middle Ages have been called "the Benedictine centuries. In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI discussed the influence St Benedict had on Western Europe. The pope said that "with his life and work St Benedict exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture" and helped Europe to emerge from the "dark night of history" that followed the fall of the Roman empire.

St. Benedict contributed more than anyone else to the rise of monasticism in the West. His Rule was the foundational document for thousands of religious communities in the Middle Ages. To this day, The Rule of St. Benedict is the most common and influential Rule used by monasteries and monks, more than 1,400 years after its writing. Today the Benedictine family is represented by two branches: the Benedictine Federation and the Cistercians.

The influence of St Benedict produced "a true spiritual ferment" in Europe, and over the coming decades his followers spread across the continent to establish a new cultural unity based on Christian faith.



1 comment:

  1. Attend to the words of wisdom 'with the ear of your heart.' Profound words of Saint Benedict!

    ReplyDelete

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