By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 09-10-2015

I was particularly glad to be in the USA during the historic visit of Pope Francis towards the end of September 2015. I followed closely as much of his visit as possible through news media, especially television. For me this was not the case with the visit of Pope John Paul II some years ago. Even though John Paul visited St. Louis where I lived, I went about my life and work of daily routine. The visit of Francis was important for me in many regards. Both of us had joined the Jesuits in 1958 before the Vatican Council II unleashed many long-needed substantial changes in the Catholic Church. Francis went on becoming a bishop, a cardinal, and finally the Pope. I left the Society of Jesus after being a Jesuit for 25 years while being a professor at JDV (Jnana Deep Vidyapeeth: Institute of Philosophy and Religion, Pune) training future priests, got married, and started teaching psychology in a US university as well as practicing clinical psychology in psychiatric hospitals and clinics. Both Francis and I were nourished in our formative years by the same spiritual food and, especially, the spirit of service inculcated by the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola. By observing Francis closely, I detected in him love and compassion, that was the hallmark of Christ’s earthly mission. I know that Francis is conservative in certain areas such as married priesthood and women’s ordination. But I also know that he has a very difficult job in holding together a church that is pulled in so many directions by ultra conservatives and ultra liberals. Yet his unwillingness to judge anyone together with his humility, simplicity, and forthrightness is praise worthy as well as a pleasant and welcome whip of fresh air.
Service of humanity with love and compassion is the only goal in life worth having. Service of humanity begins, of course, with one’s own near and dear ones. That is where the saying, charity begins at home, is very relevant. The extreme preoccupation of the overwhelming majority of people to secure scandalous amount of wealth for oneself and one’s close ones makes me believe that their service of humanity ends with their own relatives. The teaching contained in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that everyone is our neighbor, and that everyone is our brother and sister seems to fade into the background, and has become a cry in the wilderness. Every year when I come back to the US I am more and convinced that capitalism is not working. It is a convenient economic arrangement for a few – really a club of a few enormously wealthy persons served and maintained by the society free of cost. A capitalistic system that does not serve the vast majority of people in a society has no reason to survive. The current Republican frontrunner, a billionaire, for the presidency, for instance, boasts about financing his own campaign until nomination. What does that tell us about democracy?
I came to the US in 1974; the death penalty that was abolished was resurrected in 1976. It certainly was a step backward. Yet recently I was happy to hear that the US prison system is considering a mass release of about 6000 prisoners who were languishing in US prisons for years for drug-related offenses that could have better been dealt with means other than incarceration. About nine billion dollars (1 dollar = about 65 rupees) a year are spent in keeping all kinds of criminals in over-crowded prisons. Are there compassionate and less punitive ways other than incarceration for those who can be reformed and rehabilitated? We need to come up with a creative alternative to the current prison and legal system that is out-dated. I started with love and compassion. I assert that life is not worth living without love and compassion for all.

About The Author

Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti

Dr. John K Thekkedam (Swami Snehananda Jyoti) spent most of his life as a clinical psychologist in USA. He began his public life as a Jesuit priest. Quite attracted in distinct philosophies, he left the society and founded 'East West Awakening'.