In October 1968—a few months before his death, Merton gave a talk in Calcutta, in which he said:
The only ultimate reality is God. God lives and dwells in us. We are not justified by any action of our own, but we are called by the voice of God…to pierce through the irrelevance of our own life, while accepting that our life is totally irrelevant in order to find relevance in Him. And this relevance in Him is something that can only be received, not something we grasp or possess. It is something that can only be received as a gift. Consequently, the kind of life that I represent is a life that is openness to gift; a gift from God and a gift from others.