Andrzej Ziolkowski in South India with Fr. Ama Samy, S.J.

As almost everything in my three month journey earlier this year through the holy places of South India,  I was led to Jesuit Fr. Ama Samy’s Bodhi Zendo in Kodaikanal/Tamil Nadu by a pure coincidence or, as it were, providence. Having completed a large part of my southern itinerary I was heading north. My next stop was Shiva’s abode on the Arunachala Mountain and the famous ashram of Ramana Maharishi. Br. Michael, O.S.B, who lived in the ashram, was the one who mentioned the Bodhi Zendo to me and said that I must absolutely go there. He told me about Fr. Ama Samy. It all sounded too familiar. A Jesuit, a zen master… hadn’t I hear this before. Of course – Fr. Kennedy S.J.! One look at the map however made it clear  that the idea of going there was completely crazy. Kodaikanal was totally out of my way. If only I had known about it two months before… I had missed the place by few miles on my way from Kerala!  There I was heading north towards Chennai. Going to the zendo meant making a complete u-turn 550 km south and would make havoc of all my travel plans. My decision was clear… maybe next time.

But the idea lived on in me. Finally two weeks later I booked the tickets in Mamallapuram and in Chennai I boarded a sleeper over night bus for the long  bumpy and rough ride to Kodaikanal. It was 4:30 am when I was dropped off.  One hour walk up a hill brought me to the zendo door. It was too early for the  staff to answer the bell. Suddenly the door was flung open and there he was: Fr. Ama Samy himself standing in the doorway. What a surprise! He showed me to my room and disappeared as quickly as he appeared. The morning zazen was going on and the Master was on his way to the dokusan room.

The next three days were to slow down and blend into the zendo’s daily routine of meditation, garden work, reading, silence and hearing into the sounds of the extraordinarily beautiful nature surrounding the zendo. It was an oasis of peace and serenity, hardly imaginable in the ever-present rattle of India 2000 m below.

I was lucky enough to have some private time with Fr. Ama Samy – a wonderful human being who humbly walks his talk with a heart warming smile, in whom Christ and Buddha were like two brothers in one household. Not compromising one another but at the same time inseparable and complementing each other. His insight-giving presence was his parting gift to me as I boarded a clattering bus that brought me down a winding road into the all too familiar heat and bustle of the plains of India below. Ahead to the north, the long awaited Buddhas of Ajanta were waiting for me.   (Andrzej recently translated Roshi Kennedy’s  John Main Seminar talks for the Polish WCCM website. He can be reached at:  and.ziolkowski@gmail.com)

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