From Wisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh, (1889-1929), compiled and edited by Kim Comer. (Reprinted from http://www.bruderhof.com. Copyright 2003 by The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.) For this and many other books on-line from The Bruderhof, see <www.plough.com>
“A Warning to the West”
Christian: Haven’t you visited America and western Europe? What did you think of our Christian witness and heritage?
Sadhu: What homesickness I had in Europe! I felt like a bird in a cage. The whole atmosphere was heavy for me. Many people thought I suffered from the cold climate, but this was not so. I have experienced far greater cold in the Himalayas. It was not the physical atmosphere that oppressed me, but the spiritual atmosphere. In India, one feels everywhere that there is a desire for higher things; (even though through idols and altars, pilgrims and penitents, temples and tanks of other faiths). In the West, however, everything points to armed force, great power, and material things. It is this power of evil that makes me so sad. India is more and more seeking the Master’s truth. The West is in danger of becoming more and more indifferent. And yet the West owes so many of its blessings to Christianity.
At one time the ostrich could fly, but because the ostrich stopped using its wings, it became unable to fly. So are the people of Europe and America; they do not appreciate the faith of their forebears and are fast losing it.
The West is like Judas Iscariot, who ate with Jesus, only to later deny him. The West ought to fear the fate of Judas, lest it hang itself on the tree of learning. You have so many privileges. We in the East have to give up many things when we become Christians. For you, it is not so. Therefore be careful that you don’t lose your only possibility for eternal happiness…
Although America is a “Christian” nation and there are many sincere Christians in America, the majority of the people there have no faith. There, where it is so easy to have religion, where religion is offered on every side and no one is persecuted for their beliefs, life should be peaceful. Instead, there is a mad rush and hustle and bustle after money and comfort and pleasure. In India, many Christians suffer bitter persecution but continue to find happiness in their new faith. Because it is so easy to have faith in America, people do not appreciate what a comfort there is in faith.
Christian: What advice do you have for Christian churches in the West?
Sadhu: A scientist had a bird in his hand. He wanted to find out in what part of the bird’s body its life was and what the life itself was. So he began dissecting the bird. The result was that the very life of which he was in search mysteriously vanished. Those who try to understand the inner life merely intellectually will meet with a similar failure. The life they are looking for will only vanish.
When I returned from Europe, I began reading the writings of the German mystic Jakob Boehme and was attracted to him as soon as I had read the first pages. This simple, uneducated shoemaker had an experience of God that has influenced millions of people. I may be wrong, but I am convinced that simple people like Boehme have a pure intuition, and grasp easily and readily the Master’s profound spiritual truths. Educated people, especially those I met in the West, repress their native intuition and substitute in its place a kind of artificial rationalism. That is why the Master called simple fishermen as his disciples.
I do not condemn theologians, but it is unfortunately the fashion in Western thinking to doubt and deny everything. I protest this tendency. I never advise anyone to consult theologians, because all too often they have completely lost all sense of spiritual reality. They can explain Greek words and all that, but they spend too much time among their books and not enough time with the Master in prayer. It is not that I oppose education, but education without life is certainly dangerous.
I Corinthians 1:20 — Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
I Corinthians 3:18-20 — Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”
Revelation 2:4-5 — “…I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”
Almighty and everlasting God, strengthen us, we beseech thee, with the Holy Spirit the Comforter, and daily increase in us thy manifold gifts of grace; the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might; the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill us, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —Book of Common Prayer