- Lumen Fidei 36 -



- Evangelii Gaudium 11 -

I N D I A N    S P I R I T U A L I T Y


GIOVANNI BALLINI, Spiritualità indiana. Magistero e mistica carmelitana, Nerbini Publisher, Florence 2010, pp. 210.  

The word "spirituality" expresses the research of an absolute value. Indian spirituality is here understood as a research of a spiritual path, a research of the Absolute, that has its origin in the Yoga ( योग ), the way of the ancestors, the ancient path of self-fulfilment for the Indian humans.

The purpose of the author is to provide introductory directions of the Indian spirituality in order to identify the common spiritual basis in the ancient religions of India and the Christian Faith.





The following pages are the fruit of the course given in 1999 as teacher at the Istituto di Spiritualità "Santa Teresa di Gesù Bambino" of the Convent of the Discalced Carmelite in Pisa.


Two are the main lines of Indian Spirituality: the encyclical Fides et ratio (FeR); the Instruction Dialogo e Annuncio.

The encyclical Fides et Ratio according to the words of John Paul II: "A great spiritual impulse leads Indian thought to seek an experience which would liberate the spirit from the shackles of time and space and would therefore acquire absolute value" (Fides et Ratio 72).

Following the direction of the Instruction Dialogo e Annuncio, the aim of this research is certainly that of encouraging the dialogue and the announcement.


The dialogue with the ancient religious tradition of India, in order to give a contribute to the reciprocal knowledge, above all in the field of spirituality, seeking the "compatible elements" (FeR 72). Announcement of the Gospel, Jesus Christ, which is here suggested following the spiritual teaching of St. John of the Cross, Master in the Faith, which is highlighted in every fields of this research. 



"The necessity of the Church in the plan of salvation"

(Benedict XVI, Sermon during his pastoral visit in Brescia, 8 November 2009)


Two years after the draft of the book "Spiritualità indiana", the three aforementioned letters of the archbishops reveal - to the author and to the reader - a wider and careful understanding, an understanding of the Church,  the Church which aims to a missionary transport and an interreligious  dialogue (Letter of the Card. Re) in order to bring, according to the typical mystic experience of St. John of the Cross (Letter of Card. Piovanelli), the Good New of Jesus Christ, the Only Redeemer of mankind (Letter Mgr. Benotto). Therefore, the book focuses on a vision of the Church, a vision directed towards three areas of the Christian mystery: the missionary (1.), the mystic (2.) and the christological (3.) one.


In fact, the text:


  • fits the old-aged tradition of the Church, which has always paid attention to the dialogue with the great religious traditions and cultures of the peoples (Card. Giovan Battista Re, Letter);
  • enacts this dialogue considering the original path of the Gospel in the bright footsteps of St. John of the Cross (Card. Silvano Piovanelli, Letter);
  • allows each man to draw from the living spring of every grace, that is Jesus Christ, in whom everything has a meaning, towards whom everything tends and from whom everything originates (Mgr. Giovanni Paolo Benotto, Letter).


Therefore, "Spiritualità Indiana", whose subtitle is "Magistero e mistica carmelitana", even before being a linear St. John of the Cross' step in a perfective progression, searching inside the great religious traditions of India some "compatible elements" (Fides et Ratio 72) and showing the differences with the Christian Faith, would like to be a book of veiled ecclesiology.

The book, in fact, highlights the central role of the Church, its necessity in the plan of salvation, also for those non-Christian religions and for all those who are searching God, as Benedict XVI stressed in his pastoral visit in Brescia (8 November 2009), recalling the "Ecclesiam Suam" by Paul VI, in the 30th anniversary of his death.


The work is flowing and articulate, rich of references to Indian "canonical" Hindu and Buddhist Scriptures and references to Catholic Church's teaching, as well as quotations from catholic authors and scholars, such as: Father Cirillo Bernardo Papali ocd (1902-1981), expert at the Second Vatican Council  for the matter of lay people and first lecturer of Indiology from 1950 at the Pontifical Faculty in Rome; His Excellency Mgr. Daniel Acharuparambil ocd (1939-2009), Archbishop of Verapoly, former lecturer of Induism at the Theological Faculty in Rome;


His Excellency Mgr. Marcello Zago  omi (1932-2001), scholar of Buddhism and former Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; father Ermanno Ancilli ocd (1925-1988), formerHeadmaster of the Teresianum and editor of important spiritual works such as: Dizionario Enciclopedico di Spiritualità (DES), La Mistica (LM) and La Preghiera (LP); Father Alberto Boccanegra op, former lecturer of Introduction to the Christian mystery at the Theological Faculty in Florence, for the thomist references related to the correct interpretation of God's presence in the humans.


While thanking the aforementioned Bishops for the hearty esteem and convincing words, a grateful thought is expressed to my pastor emeritus of the parish Cristo Re in Brescia, Don Enrico Bonazza, for having always followed, with attentive pastoral charity, my journey of seeker of God into the Catholic Church.



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Śiva in a Yoga position

(miniature of the 17th century)



Allegorical meaning of the main symbolic elements that surrounds Śiva:


  • between the two eyebrows there is the third eye, symbol of wisdom that destroys the forces of evil;
  • on the brow there is the crescent, symbol of control over time;
  • the funerary ashes that cover the body are the symbol of purity and destruction of the falsehood;
  • on the brow, and on other parts of the body, there are three lines made of  vibhuti (sacred ash) that represents the essence of the Ᾱtman, which is not touched by the vasana (attractions and repulsions, conditioning, attachment to the body, the world, the fame, the worldly pleasure, and so on); so, vibhuti shows the immortality of the soul.