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They are Love: Empathising with Hindu and Roman Catholic nuns and monks
The Catholic religious as well as their Hindu counterparts are a much abused lot in India. There are a few wo/men who feel an anthropomorphic call from God qua Brahman to leave the world and its vanities and take up lives of celibacy. They are perfectly normal people with functional libidos who want to sacrifice their beings to God qua Brahman.
According to both Roman Catholic and Hindu mystical literatures these people feel an inner compulsion to live apart from society and seek God qua Brahman in a very focussed manner. Most succeed to some degree but many feel lonely and what is known in theological terminology, acedia. They often feel they have nothing to look forward to; it is during their human moments that they experience the loneliness and abjection of being sarx in the here and the now. It is this sense of being all too human that ordinary society cannot tolerate.

The logic is twisted; we can do everything and wallow in sensuality, but they cannot. This is what is called the holiness game. I want you to represent my ideal of holiness- I can be less than human but I'd want you to be holy. Just because you have left everything.

When I have a tummy ache or a fever or jaundice my family falls backwards to help me recover. Who is there for the average Jesuit priest, the Loreto nun or the Ramakrishna Mission monk? Instead when any of them are admitted to hospitals or we see them on the road we whisper and nod at the fact that they look so rotund and well fed. In short we fail to empathise with their humanity and existential loneliness.

While we try to avoid colleagues during our family times, all these men and women do not choose their colleagues. Their communities are formed by the Will of God qua Brahman. Unlike our offices, their offices are really 24x7. They do not have breaks; they cannot put their guards down since their bosses live with them.

None cares whether they are burning out. The shrill voices cry: be holy, be perfect and watch us enjoy life. You chose to leave the comfort of family and kith and kin. We did not ask you to leave everything! Lifespan psychology be darned. We want you to be perfect. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you meet either a Hindu or a Catholic nun or monk:

1. Unlike you and I, they are struggling to be perfect. They are at least trying to be good. You and I don't care if we evade taxes. But they continuously examine their consciences.

2. They do not have the kind of support structures you and I have. I recently broke my leg. My parents and my wife were with me during my long desolate nights to bone union. If in my place it was a celibate wo/man they'd have to depend on God who often is silent.

3. We take vacations. We need breaks. A monk or a nun cannot take breaks - they have to keep their vows…even if they sip soft drinks in public some unkind person may slander them.

4. They are generally overworked and under tremendous pressure. They have to show results or they can be transferred from one monastery to another. We have homes, they have to move continually. This becomes stressful especially when one ages. So when you meet a monk at an airport keep in mind that he may have a non-air-conditioned room this same night while you sleep in the comfort of quilts in your chilled room. The monk is travelling by air since he has heart disease due to overwork and might die if he travels in a train.

5. I might want to watch a sunset with my wife; they have none to share their sunset experiences. They are lonely and you want them to play the holiness game.

6. They miss kids. They do not have future generations who will remember them. None to look after them when they are old. If you think they lead happy old ages, visit old priests' home which are often dank, dilapidated and the priests do not have adequate medical insurances. The treatment they can afford is below par. This after serving others all their lives.

There are a fortunate few celibate wo/men who feel the Presence of God in their beings in the here and the now. They do not feel empty and meaningless. They are few and far between. Then too we have to keep in mind the binaries of William Blake; are they feeling fulfilled since they are innocent or are they feeling satiated with God qua Brahman because they are experienced?

Being human is to be abject and broken. Being human is to fail in being perfect. Being human is to accept the ups and downs of life. While most of us have given up the struggle to seek God qua Brahman; many in our midst witness the Love which is God. Let us not judge these struggling people.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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