From Zen Study to Mother Teresa : Ex-Gov. Brown Aiding Calcutta's Destitute

Times Staff Writer

Former California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., who was in Japan last year studying Zen Buddhism, is now in Calcutta working as a volunteer in Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity Home for the dying and destitute.

"I have always been impressed with Mother Teresa and her works," Brown told a reporter Friday by telephone. "Now that I have the time, I wanted to come here and see for myself."

Brown said he has been in Calcutta for a week and plans to stay at least two more.

"The people here are wonderful," he said, "volunteers from all over the world. They are all extraordinary."

Brown's duties at the home include bathing and otherwise comforting the patients, many of whom are dying of malnutrition.

Mother Teresa, 77, a Roman Catholic nun from Albania, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She founded the Calcutta home, which is called Pure of Heart, in 1948 to provide comfort and dignity for poor people in the last moments of their lives. She also manages a hospital for lepers in Calcutta, which is India's largest and poorest city.

Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, is staying in a $15-a-night room in a small, European-style hotel near the city's center.

Brown spent several months in Japan, studying Zen Buddhism and writing a book. In a January, 1987, interview with a Times reporter in Tokyo, he said that he had begun writing the book in Los Angeles, but that he had difficulty "in writing anything that I thought was interesting."

"I felt I was recycling newspaper stories that I had read, that I wasn't saying anything that came from a deep enough level that would really do what I wanted, because I feel in this book I have to speak from who I am and what I stand for, because I think that is the most important question."

Brown said at that time that he was "giving serious consideration to going to India and working with Mother Teresa for a while."

"The reason for that is I feel the need . . . , having the sheltered perspective of California affluence," he explained. "I don't think I understand well enough the suffering that is going on in the world."

Back in the United States, Brown did television commentary in San Francisco during the California visit by Pope John Paul II last September.

And there was speculation during the fall that the former governor might be edging back toward the political ring. "I'm not going to stay out of it forever," Brown said in November. "It's all a matter of time. There isn't much opportunity now. But things happen fast."

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