I review a lot of new books on this blog. I have discovered a lot of new authors with poignant insights into the Christian faith. I have been challenged and stretched by many of them., but I seldom have the privilege of dipping back into an old favorite. The Wisdom of the Sadhu complies the teachings of Sadhu Sundar Singh, the most famous convert to Christianity in early twentieth century India.
Singh converted to Christianity in his early teens (after the death of his mother and an evening of desperate prayers). At the age of sixteen he left the comforts of home to live a life of a Sadhu–an Indian religious ascetic that renounces the comforts of this life. He was a believer in Christ and a committed Christian; however, he rejected the cultural accruments of Christianity-in-a-Western-guise (as it was often presented by missionaries to the Indian people like in the Presbyterian school of his youth). He was a mystic who lived a life committed to Jesus, albeit with an Indian flair.
Wisdom of the Sadhu compiles the teachings of this Jesus follower. In part one, scenes, we hear Singh’s own story. In part two, conversations, we hear his answers to spiritual questions from seekers. In both sections, we read stories and parables that make vivid Singh’s (and our) spiritual quest.
The Q & A format of Singh’s ‘conversations’ may strike Western, tin ears as a sort of catechesis. And it is, but these stories and conversations are also Christianity in an Indian idiom. Even Singh’s favorite title for Jesus–Master–mimics his native Sikhism. This is gospel contextualization at its best.
Singh lived a life more disciplined and simple than most of us have the courage to lead. The back cover of this book compares him to Saint Francis and this is an apt description. He left the comforts and status of his family to follow Christ. Because of this, he is a prophetic witness of what it means to follow Jesus. This book is chock-full of insights on the spiritual life and the human condition.
I read this book for the first time about eleven years ago. At the time I was seeking ways to press into my faith in profound and risky ways. Singh was a prophetic voice for me and called me to deepen my commitment to Christ, simplicity and prayer. More than a decade hence, I find these words no less beautiful, poignant and challenging. I give this book five stars: ★★★★★