Written by Ananda Murti (the first year student).
Who would have thought that taking a field trip with my seven classmates, all girls except me, and three adult teachers to two Benedictine monasteries in Belgium’s Ardeen region would be enlivening and eye-opening?
As usual, we were an hour and a half late (following our ashram time), and so the priest, Pere Luque, who had to show us around Maredsous Abbey was unavailable. We waited for a bit before he finally came and engaged us in an extremely wonderful conversation regarding his monastary’s founder, followed by questions from us on traditions, rules, and values.
Surprisingly, he was more interested in our culture than we were in his, and thus we students answered his questions.
Lunch was simple yet satisying. We had a few other brothers from the church join us, and they were extremely friendly and open to talk. I personally loved talking to the head father of the monastery as he was so overly confident of himself and took joy in having us inquire about his personal spiritual practice and the monastery rules and schedule. It goes something like this:
- free time to watch TV
- evening prayer
- 8 p.m. sleep
The second monastery was shared by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. It is called an ecumenical church. They see it as a way to do research into other religions and let all the different paths meet at certain points and topics.
To sum up, they were very open-minded, and what we liked the most was their attitudes toward other religious groups. To be honest, we are usually a bit closed, but they were not at all like that but rather inclusive. Although their philosophy, for some of us, is not as deep as our own, their attitude is what struck us the most. To end the day we drove back to Radhadesh eating whatever ladoos were left over. We really learned a lot about this two-thousand-year-old religion.