Last year, I published a small book titled Monk of All Faiths. I based the format on Kahlil Gibran’s classic The Prophet and used inspiration from a variety of interspiritual thinkers to offer insights into topics from perennialism and God to Spirit and destructive emotions.
In the month of November 2022, I will be publishing several excerpts from the book. I’ve added subtitles for online readability. If you like what you read, the book is available in hardcover and ebook editions on Amazon. Enjoy.
Introducing the Monk
He was known as the monk of all faiths. For over forty years, he had traveled the world, staying in monasteries, temples, churches, caves, tents, and synagogues, with gurus, sufis, yogis, mystics, shamans, and religious families alike. Like a chameleon, he took on the attributes of their traditions, prayed, ate, meditated, and served as they did, living each religion to the best of his ability.
He had never written anything, never given interviews, never broadcast his message, yet word of his peaceful interactions with people of all faiths had spread. Those who had heard about him were curious. Why did he go on this journey? How did he get along with people? What had he learned?
Answering Questions for the First Time
On this day, the monk had agreed to answer questions about his journey for the first time. A small group of men and women had gathered in a spacious retreat center in the mountains, eager to hear what he had to say.
There was no pomp or ceremony when the monk arrived. He was wearing a simple polo shirt and slacks, and with his tan skin, short-cropped gray beard and balding head, the monk could have blended into any crowd.
As he sat down in a chair centered on a slightly elevated stage, many in the audience bowed their heads in reverence.
The monk greeted them with his hands in prayer pose. He spoke in a gentle voice and addressed the audience with a simple: “Hello brothers and sisters. Thank you for coming.”
He was ready for his first question.
A young man said: “We appreciate your presence here today and are glad to meet you. Tell us, why did you choose to live with people of all faiths? Why not settle on one path?”
A smile spread across the monk’s face as he joyfully replied: “Perennial. That was the word, the idea, that started my journey. In nature, perennial herbs and flowers bloom repeatedly. They remain in the earth, then blossom and show their true colors when certain conditions are met.
Growing up, I traveled the world with my parents and was around people of all faiths. We attended churches and temples in busy trading hubs where the monks and priests read equally from the Bible, Gita, Koran, and Torah. I knew that each religion had its own culture, and that each book read differently, yet, instinctively, I also felt like something deeper tied them together.
When I first came upon the idea of perennialism in my late teens, it felt like a continuation of my life experiences. Curiosity overtook me. Could the same esoteric truths be present in all of the world’s religions and show their colors when the right conditions were met? Merely asking the question was exhilarating.
My thirst was such that I read all the scriptures in search of clues. I scoured through the words of Moses, Krishna, Christ, Buddha, the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Bahaullah, and Guru Nanak. I explored first nations wisdom from Africa, Scandinavia, America, and Australia, and read books by masters and saints from every tradition. Their teachings, stories, and methods fed my soul, and I found considerable overlaps—but something was still missing.”
Traveler at a Train Station
“Then it struck me. I was like a traveler at a train station who spent all his time reading travel brochures and never went on a trip. Reading about the beauty of waterfalls in Kenya was well and good, but I could never appreciate their full beauty unless I saw them with my own eyes. I needed to experience the lived reality of religion to find the perennial truths on my own.
In that spirit, I reached out to a Christian monastery in France and asked if I could stay with them for six months. They agreed. During that time, I learned more about lived Christianity than I had from any book. After my stay was over, I made the same request of a Buddhist monastery in Kuala Lumpur. They also agreed. And so it continued. Within three years, I did not need to make requests. People saw the value of what I was attempting to do, and I was offered to live at places of worship, monasteries, and with families of different religious persuasions all over the world. From Texas to Norway, Japan to Argentina, India to Israel, it seemed like everyone wanted to show me the beauty of their beliefs.
In every instance, I took on the attributes of their religions. I prayed, ate, meditated, and served as they did. I took part in their ceremonies. I lived each religion to the best of my ability. And just like bluebonnets, the perennial truths showed themselves to me each and every time.
Reading religious texts had prepared me well, but it was only through lived experience that I came to feel those truths, live them, experience them.
My perennial journey has now lasted four decades. It has become my life’s mission, the reason why I took the vows of a monk. Today, as I answer your questions, I hope to share some of the insights that I have gathered along the way. Please remember that words of wisdom are only seeds. It is through application and action that perennial seeds sprout, grow, and flower.”
Excerpt from Monk of All Faiths © Gudjon Bergmann 2021
All rights reserved.
- Monk of All Faiths: Inspired by The Prophet (fiction)
- Spiritual in My Own Way (memoir)
- Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides (nonfiction)
- Experifaith: At the Heart of Every Religion (nonfiction)
- Premature Holiness: Five Weeks at the Ashram (novel)
- The Meditating Psychiatrist Who Tried to Kill Himself (novel)
Picture: CC0 License