As today's "Blest Guest," I asked Amrita from India (actually from a place with the delightful name of Allahabad, meaning in English, City of God), who comments on Blest Atheist frequently and whom I have come to know and have some affection for through the blogosphere. (See her blog, Yesu Garden.) I think you will find her post something from another world, literally.
Sadhu Sundar Singh: A Christian Ascetic Holy Man
Sundar Singh was born into a rich landowning family of Punjab on Sept 3,1889. He lived a life of comfort and ease and received his education at a Christian High School in order to learn English.
His mother used to take him to a sadhu (holy man) living in a nearby jungle who taught him the holy scriptures and religious traditions. Sundar sat at the feet of the hermit, drinking in the wonders of Eastern philosophy and religion.
His mother's sudden death affected the young boy deeply . Anger and disillusionment erupted in Sundar's heart. This often took the form of violence against Christians and missionaries connected with his school. He started taking great pleasure in ridiculing and persecuting Christians, especially new converts. In a blatant act of hatred, Sundar bought a Bible, tore it up, and burned it page by page as his friends watched the spectacle.
Three nights later, his soul seeped in bitterness, Sundar decided to commit suicide. A fast train passed by on the railway tracks near his house at 4 o' clock every morning. He would lay on the tracks and let it pass over him; that would be the end.
Contemplating his predicament, he got up to take his last bath. While bathing, he looked up to the star-speckled sky and, addressing the Unknown God, cried out, "God, if you really exist, reveal yourself to me." Then he lay down on his bed, waiting for the morning to dawn.
He was suddenly awakened by a blinding light and saw a vision of Christ. who looked at him with love and compassion and showed him his nail pierced hands and feet. The dazed Sundar fell down at Christ’s feet in worship and adoration. His heart overflowing with joy and excitement, the 14-year-old lad ran to his father and told him about this vision of Jesus.
The elder, staunch Sikh man chided his son, saying it was a figment of his imagination and that he should shun every thought of a foreign God. But Sundar would not budge from his faith and determined to follow Christ, whom he had seen face to face.
His conservative Sikh family used various ploys to destroy his newly found faith. Unable to do so, they even tried to poison him. Sundar was finally disowned by his family and driven away from home as converting to Christianity bought great shame to the clan. He lived in a Christian community, and at the age of sixteen he was baptized in the hill town of Shimla.
After that, he donned the yellow robes of a sadhu (a holy ascetic man) and set out on foot to traverse the length and breadth of India and the neighboring countries to spread the message of Christ. On his journey he would beg for food. At night, he found shelter under a tree. He had many strange and miraculous encounters with people who appeared to be angels or outlaws, and he once found that he had slept with a cobra.
At first, the Christians of North India were suspicious of his liberal ways, but they soon found out that Sadhu Sundar Singh was a devoted follower of Christ. They gave him the title of "the apostle with the bleeding feet." He received a lot of public attention in the cities he visited. People wanted to elevate him, but he responded by saying ,”I am not worthy to follow in the steps of my Lord ... but, like Him, I want no home, no possessions. Like Him, I will belong to the road, sharing the suffering of my people, eating with those who will give me shelter, and telling all men of the love of God."
In his missionary journeys, he traversed the entire sub-continent, even Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Afghanistan, and Tibet. He spoke of meeting a 300-year-old Christian hermit in a cave on the snowy slopes of the Himalayas. Both men spent several weeks together in fellowship.
The sadhu was not welcome in Tibet after he shared the gospel message. As on many other occasions, he was beaten, stoned, and left to die but miraculously survived. Once, he was sewn up in the dry skin of a yak and left out in the blazing sun to die of suffocation, hunger, and thirst. But at nightfall, a man who appeared to be an angel of the Lord came and rescued him and sent him on his way.
Nothing is clear about his death. In April 1929, he set off into the Himalayas to visit Tibet again as well as places of Hindu pilgrimage. He was last seen in a small hill town of Kalka, after which he disappeared. He never returned. His biographers say he died on the frigid terrain of the mountains or was taken up to heaven by angels. I would like to believe the latter.
Below are excepts from the Sadhu teaching from The Parables of Truth.
Parables of Truth
- When a man is in a state of sin, he has no sense of sin. A man dives into the water. On his head are mounds of water, but he does not feel their weight at all. However, on coming out of the water, if he lifts a vessel of water, he thoroughly understands how heavy the water is. In the same way, when a man is sunk in sin he has no sense of sin, but once he is delivered, he is conscious of the least sin.
- It may take a long time to know about a flower, but it doesn't take long to smell its sweet fragrance. It doesn't take long to enjoy Him. I know Him -- that is enough for me. People have been quenching their thirst with water, not knowing that it is hydrogen and oxygen. So it is with the water of life. If salvation is for a few, then it is not universal, and if it is not universal, it is not true.
- “How can I believe there is life hereafter? -- Heaven and Hell?” I was asked by a professor.
“But,” said I, “we find the proof in ourselves.”
“Can you give a proof about the future life?” he asked.
“Certainly. Eggs at first contain only liquid matter. Then, a young bird is gradually formed. Supposing the mother-bird tells the young one, ‘You will come out of this shell. You will see mountains, hills, clouds, fields and also your mother.’ What if the chicken says, ‘No, you are telling a lie. What proof do I have?’
‘Why, those wings, those eyes have been given to you. You can't use them in the egg shell. You can't see anything but yourself. Your eyes and wings are proof that you are being prepared for a world to come.’ When the chick came out of his shell he saw everything and his mother and he could enjoy everything.'”
- So we shall come out and see our Heavenly Mother-Father. Why these desires? Longings for peace? There is no room to satisfy all human desires in this life. But we shall see our Saviour and the saints in Heaven. In this body we could not see them. But all eggs do not get hatched. They need the Mother's warmth. So too we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit to make us warm. We must receive the warmth and heat from Him in prayer."
- "When I was in America a wealthy man was telling me of his experience. 'What do you think is the most precious thing in this drawing room?' he asked, 'Some say it is that beautiful picture or these precious stones. But the most precious thing in my house is that tiger skin. One day when I was hunting with my brother a tiger was shot. But he was not killed -- only wounded and still breathing. My brother fired and the tiger jumped on him and so my brother was killed but the tiger was killed too. These scars are my brother's blood. My brother gave his life for me. So this is the most precious thing in my house.'
- So when we read the word of God we learn that our Brother gave His life for us. There is no precious thing in the world than this. It has the mark of our Brother's blood."
- I have a stone in my hand. I hit somebody with it. The man's head is broken, and he dies. As long as the stone was in my hand, it was in my power. However, once the stone was out of my hand, it was out of my power. And it was too late. The man was dead. If I repent, that only means I won't throw any more stones in the future. But the man is already dead! In the future, we shall receive strength, but we must hold fast for the present. Otherwise, we are in danger of losing what we have.
- There is a danger of losing the gifts or the blessings which we have been receiving from our Heavenly Father. If there had been no danger of losing our crown, our Lord would not have given warnings. So,” watch and pray.” Gifts, blessings, spiritual life and crown — there is a difference between having these things and receiving them again. Those who repent may obtain forgiveness if they go to our Heavenly Father, but those who postpone may find it too late."
- It is an excellent plan to entertain noble and lofty thoughts in the mind at all times; for by the Law of Association one good and noble thought attracts another.
- A tree grows and develops in the light and heat of the sun. There is infinite space above the tree; yet, when the tree has reached a certain height, it cannot increase any more. Why can it not increase? The force of gravity draws it down. We are spiritual beings and are to grow upwards and not downwards though things in this world draw us down.
- The heat of the sun makes a tree grow, but by the heat of the same sun, another tree dries up. When a worm or an insect has entered a tree, the life of the tree is being gradually destroyed; then the heat of the sun instead of giving it strength helps the process of decay. We have life within us and are to grow through the light of the Sun of Righteousness. To what degree is it possible for us to increase? To this degree, “Be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.'"
- When governments began to mint coins, men began to make counterfeit coins. So, too, in the Spiritual life, the Evil One provides counterfeits of every virtue.
- In the spiritual life, we can do much harm when we fully intend doing good just like the man in Burma who rushed to pour buckets of water on his house which had suddenly caught fire and found that in that great oil-region he was pouring kerosene oil instead.
When I was growing up, my grandma and parents told us stories about Sadhu Sundar Singh. I was in awe of his spirituality and devotion, and it has left a deep mark on my life. Two years ago, his niece held a series of meetings in my town. She is also a missionary, and it was thrilling to hear about the rich legacy the Sadhu has left behind.
- Amrita from India