September 6, 2007

Mother Teresa : A Saint In Question


Kaveeta Kaul

An inconspicuous presence, frail, bent, clad in the now legendary bordered white saree has shaken up the keepers of morality one more time since her earthly demise a decade ago. Mother Teresa’s letters lately released “Mother Teresa : Come Be My Light” speak of her anguish at feeling alone and Godless in a mind littered with doubt and faith faltering with disillusionment.

The soon to be canonized nun universally regarded an epitome of Love and service towards the ‘poorest of the poor’ had spent her life in unswerving belief in her Missions of Charity while being hounded within by demons of darkness. She had the right to question her predicament and perhaps did so in complete trust. Nevertheless do we have the right to question or look askance at her dilemma? No

We ought to accord dignity to the dead and especially those whose Karma we can neither ever hope to better or even equal!

The release of this book and its timing is a tad uncanny. Its ten years since Mother Teresa’s demise and her canonisation is well on its way. Her detractors have much to gloat about whilst for Her believers , another reason to validate the monumental proportions of her contribution to the human race despite serious misgivings she faced spiritually. She said in one of her letters “If I ever become a saint I will surely be one of ‘darkness.”‘ And in another: “If there be no God – there can be no soul. If there is no soul then Jesus – You also are not true. Heaven, what emptiness.”

For who her saintliness was forever a question these revelations provide fodder. For others who can evaluate the journey of this marvellous woman, the letters prove once again how she might have fought numerous battles within and without to carry on the work none before or after her have even remotely considered undertaking.

To be plagued with doubts about the existence of God is only human. After all its not as if He is revealing Himself at the earliest given opportunity. It takes aeons to get a semblance of a glimpse. So why expect Mother Teresa to have had personal sessions with Him in her living room, all bathed in translucent light with angels playing the flute ?!

Sainthood is a symbol of respect conferred on mortals by mortals. In the final analysis it does neither diminish nor embellish the personal journey of a divine being. It may prove to be a beacon for others like us but bears no relevance to those who have transcended material planes.

Time magazine says “In this era of “ethnic cleansing,” identity politics and dislocation of communities, it is heartening that one of the most marginalized people in recent history — a minority Albanian inside Slavic Macedonia, a minority Roman Catholic among Muslims and Orthodox Christians — should find a home, citizenship and acceptance in an Indian city of countless non-Christians. She blurred the line between insider and outsider that so many today are trying to deepen.

In fighting for the dignity of the destitute in a foreign land, she gave the world a moral example that bridged divides of culture, class and religion.

The ‘period of darkness’ has been one which has been traversed by almost all religious seekers. While the layman falls by the wayside in hopelessness out of severe doubt, saints carry on seeking and questioning, arriving at their Truth through countless incarnations and Karma.

Syllogistic leanings in this case would undoubtedly led credence to prevailing doubts. but this would be sinful if not a shame. There can be no greater proof of her saintliness than in the propensity of her work and the multitude of souls she rescued.

“….In her campaign to win permission to leave her order, the Loreto Sisters, to found the Missionaries of Charity, with the radical goal of going outside convent walls to live among the poor of Calcutta’s slums. “Please let me go,” she wrote in one of many insistent letters to her archbishop. “If the work be all human, it will die with me, if it be all His it will live for ages to come. Souls are being lost in the meantime.”

If the test of time be the barometer to gage the merits of divine work, no further proof is required. Its not as if she made impassioned pleas in her lifetime to be recognised/designated a saint. Neither does the conferring or not of this nomenclature on a pure soul like her make a dent on her spirit. One believes in the innate goodness of humans even today as a matter of principle and not a magical phenomenon. There are so many pristine souls going about doing their bit selflessly, unsung in complete anonymity and peacefully. One only has to read ‘ Autobiography Of a yogi” to know the inference.

For me personally, she had an effect which was mesmerizing. I remember foretelling even a decade ago that she will be canonized as a saint.. The voluminous extent of her mission and the journey was not humanly possible. There most certainly was a divine calling and help accorded . I had also met a lady who had gone to her in extreme confusion, being at the edge of sanity. In her own words” Mother touched the crown of my head, twirled her fingers lovingly and in a jiffy it seemed everything became clear”.

At the end of the day, our doubts either take us forward in quest of greater truth or they shackle us down into abysmal depths, emerging from which is daunting. Not only do some of us doubt our own divinity but are ready to cast aspersions on saints at the first hint of a controversy. Give me a ‘questioning saint’ any day over a bogus one who claims to have met God first hand and then proceeds to mercilessly, guiltlessly rip the innocent of their beliefs and valuables.

If proof be the sole criterion then the number of those who swear by her work even today speaks volumes.

“The order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, has expanded — the group says it now has more than 4,800 sisters and more than 750 homes worldwide. ”

One loses nothing in believing. Disbelief on the other hand solidifies our ignorance and ego..both impediments in the path to final enlightenment.

I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.
Mother Teresa
Video : Is Mother Teresa a Saint or Human?

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  1. Kav

    I agree.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — September 6, 2007 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  2. it took me sometime to read the exchanges of the last post n well… i missed the exchanges real-time, mite have poked in a few there 🙂 but amen! much ado abt nothing.. Di would always be the enigmatic princess/mother/woman/public figure.. globally.. after her death, cant we remember her for the goodness she had… who knowz… personally… i would rather listen to ‘good-bye England’s rose…’ see the snap where thousands of bouquets covered the street down to the palace.. and hope life washes off the negatives that have chased her AD – after death 🙂 hope christ aint have a proprietary rite over this acronym:

    well.. again.. personally.. Mother Teresa never moved me much.. coming from the same city, and doing rounds of the place where the M of C is head quartered (it is very near my school) i have heard, even seen the flip side of the organization… and somehow i always felt that.. it was more to do with Christianity than service to man.. again, it wud be a clouded judgement coz aint much of a theist myself 🙂
    the post herein rather makes me gain a lotta respect for Mother T… and its great if she could have ridden over such personal questions and doubts to do what she has done for the society…
    whoz the perfect soul? who has the perfect judgement? but one can have the strive towards perfection.. in which wud lie the beauty of life and its betterment too. christianity has had its way of compounding social welfare with preaching.. conversions and subtle domination… but i guess, again we can let her RIP now.
    ur belief, ur trust can yield into a lotta things… things that u won comprehend if u carry on the debate..

    nothing changes with a sainthood… these worldy jargons and demi-gawds play are a farce… shez a noble laureate, shez a woman with a cause who has left an impression… lets remember her for this.. sainthood or not… we can say.. “let there be light” (of human goodness and wisdom) and “lets make things better”
    fire and forget .. aint no sense to hunt for the hidden linen.. after all angels & demons coexist – principle of duality.. esp.. after death, cant we stop the moral/philosophical and etc. etc. judgements we suddenly conjure??
    death is a great leveller…. so lets turn the page.

    Comment by saptarshi — September 6, 2007 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  3. Mother Teresa A Saint In Question

    Mother teresas letters have been published in which she confesses to having doubts on the presence of God in her life. But that did not stop her from dedicating her life for the poor..great!

    Trackback by — September 6, 2007 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  4. In the past century I cannot think of a single other name that deserves to be called “Saint”!!

    Comment by dilip — September 6, 2007 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

  5. Dilip

    Unfortunately there is a restriction on having living saints, otherwise I would offer one name.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — September 6, 2007 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

  6. […] Kaveeta Kaul comments on the recently released complilation of Mother Teresa’s letters, which reveal that Mother too had occasional doubts about God’s existence. “If there be no God – there can be no soul. If there is no soul then Jesus – You also are not true. Heaven, what emptiness.” […]

    Pingback by To doubt is to be human… | DesiPundit — September 7, 2007 @ 5:23 am | Reply

  7. Shaan Khan please offer the name. There are so few people out there to look up to. Just say that while the person isn’t a Saint (because the person isn’t dead) that person should be some day.

    Comment by Steve — September 8, 2007 @ 8:17 am | Reply

  8. It is so inspiring that even when she was so much in doubt she continued doing her work with the same eagerness. and the kind of work that she was doing was not something that can be done without dedication. how many of us can think of picking up kids from dustbins, lepers from the roads and bathe and clean them and feed them and then go begging all over the world for funds to look after them.for me that is enough to be called a Saint.

    Comment by Neha — September 8, 2007 @ 11:45 am | Reply

  9. Hi Shaan.. you do? Enchante

    Hi Sapt..good thing. Some souls are born with a purpose..sometimes their death serves a purpose as well. Mother was one of those. The idea was not to deprive her of what is rightfully due. Its to do with setting precedents, inspiring, awakening divinity.. not to be taken lightly especially in times like ours when examples are few and far between.

    Hi Dilip.. agree..

    Shaan.. now look what you have done. Poor Steve has actually committed the cardinal sin of taking you by your word. And as for you do accept my heartfelt sympathy for thus living in our mundane world shrouded in anonymity, with your divinity unacknowledged…some day perhaps..Do let us know when that happens. I will dedicate a to you.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — September 8, 2007 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  10. Steve

    A hint about this living Saint that I mentioned, he never sings that one old song from his grandmother’s bollywood collection, “Aadmi Hoon Aadmi Se Pyar Karta Hoon”

    Kav my dear…one song for you too, “Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye To Kya Hai.. Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Kaye To Kya Hai (sung at a slower pace the second time)..” 🙂

    BTW I did have the good opportunity to meet Mother Terresa. I sat next to her, and said to myself, “so near and yet so far”. I looked at her and my life (the mischievous deeds) flashed in front of me. I never felt so small. Somehow she sensed what was going through my head, she placed her arms around my shoulder and looked at my father and said to him, “Don’t worry he will be OK”.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — September 9, 2007 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  11. Dear Kaveeta,

    I happen to hold quite radial views regarding Mother Teresa.She was a great humanitarian,but
    to call her a saint might be stretching it too far.Great personalities like
    Therese Neumann,Saint Francis of Assisi,Ramana Maharshi & Ramakrishna Paramahansa were saints,they communicated constantly with God.

    In my humble opinion, she did great service to mankind.But was she in constant communication with God ?
    I am not so sure ?

    Its been a while since I read your blog..I have a lot of catching up to do.
    Hope all is well with you.


    Comment by Srikant — September 9, 2007 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

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    Comment by — September 10, 2007 @ 2:41 pm | Reply

  13. Ahh.. Shaan .. your humility, worldlessness (?)is touching.

    and if Mother did indeed say you are going to be must be.

    Dear Sri

    welcome back 🙂

    Communication with God is something which can be debated for aeons. for those who believe in no personal god , as in God in the form of say Jesus or Krishna would you then term them as less than saints? Lord Buddha did not believe in any one God. He believed and taught in the power of the Self to achieve greatness and ultimately Oneness..this is what he practised and attained Nirvana with. It has been said that when Buddha gave his preachings even the Gods from the heavens came to listen to him. The goal ultimately is freedom from any ego.. even of the Godly has to merge with the Universe in complete bliss.
    Like Swami Vivekananda said ‘ you can be born in a church but should not die in one’. What he meant was going beyond nama rupa and form.


    Comment by kaveetaakaul — September 10, 2007 @ 5:03 pm | Reply

  14. Ahh.. Shaan .. your humility, worldlessness (?)is touching.

    And you wanted me dead so that you can write eulogy. What can I say, “Dost Dost Na Raha. Pyar Pyar Na Raha. Zindagi Hume Tera Eitbaar Na Raha”

    Comment by Shaan Khan — September 10, 2007 @ 10:10 pm | Reply

  15. Wanted you dead? no you misunderstand khan saheb.. Your decision to make public your sublime divinity was the inference to ‘that’ when it happens. tsk tsk wise and yet so …ahem ahem!!

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — September 10, 2007 @ 10:20 pm | Reply

  16. Wanted you dead? no you misunderstand khan saheb.. Your decision to make public your sublime divinity was the inference to ‘that’ when it happens. tsk tsk wise and yet so …ahem ahem!!

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — September 10, 2007 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

  17. No No, No explanation necessary. Generally I would have done a Veeru by now, but after RGV’s Aag, I am too embarrassed to even remember that scene.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — September 10, 2007 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

  18. nautanki dramebaaz Sk

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — September 11, 2007 @ 7:19 pm | Reply

  19. There is a spiritual world that interfaces with the material world.

    What we have is a case of Mother Theresa agonzing for 5 decades, since she insists that her experience confirm to the theology that she believed (That Jesus will make his presense felt to devoted followers). She unnecessarly suffers for decades since her theoligical expectations are in conflict with how the spiritual world is interacting with her.

    Just to clarify, I am not at all implying that Jesus’s presense was never felt by her during early days. What I am saying is that our spiritual nature spiritual phenomina evolves into another..we need to remain tuned in. She could have tuned in to whataver the spiritual dimensinion was offering to her and found the peace within. But apparently she was insisting that the spiritual diemsnion confirm to her theology. That path only leads to anguish and frustration. The theology of organized religion and dogma cannot force the spiritual dimension into its little box.

    Interesting she was living in the heart of Hinduism (India), and she could have needlesly avoided the 50 year anguish by choosing to look a little outside her self-imposed theological box.


    To discuss this issue more: Visit

    Comment by Arjun — September 23, 2007 @ 11:15 am | Reply

  20. she is realy a great saint indeed. we can’t say that the greatness comes with words but her work reflects her greatness………..
    she is in our heart and will be always……

    Comment by Deepak — February 9, 2009 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  21. off course, she is omnipresent……….

    Comment by Deepak kharbanda — February 9, 2009 @ 11:57 am | Reply

  22. She was a saint.For centuries to come we will not have another noble human being like Mother.
    Our social fabric has been so woven that there is no thread of sacrifice and love.It is selfishness and only material gains.

    Comment by B K CHOWLA — September 3, 2009 @ 7:05 am | Reply

    • Absolutely Chowla ji. The sad part being that while she was alive most regarded her a s a human soul steeped in philanthropy and were unable to decipher the divinity sparkling brilliantly within her.
      AS for our ‘social fabric’ even in the last thirty years things have taken a downswing for the worse. The advent of media into every area of our life, its growing intrusion and influence in every decision of the common man has left us as plain robots, unwilling to think, assess, analyse for ourselves. Materialism has gained strong foothod since it is erroneously believed that the material brings with it happiness. Nothing can be further away from the truth.

      Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 8, 2009 @ 10:35 am | Reply

  23. Thanks kav.. A nice and in fact a blog itself after a looooooong time.. I agree with mr chowla that today’s world is all about material gains.. I am sure that in today’s world we will find more people who will adore Ambani(just an example) than mother teresa or any other saint..

    Comment by Rajeev — September 5, 2009 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Rajeev. I know its been a painfully looong time. I have missed writing so much but personal demands kept me away. But now I am back and kicking 🙂
      Like I said in my earlier comment to Chowlaji. the rich and famous by virtue of the self same fact garner admiration, respect awe and deference which formerly was reserved for the virtuous. Sad but true.

      Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 8, 2009 @ 10:36 am | Reply

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