Zen and Christianity

Discussion in 'Eastern Religions and Philosophies' started by lunamoth, Jun 16, 2004.

  1. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    I wasn't sure where to put this thread--please move if it fits better elsewhere. And forgive my unskilled questions!

    I've been reading a little by Thomas Merton and I am finding his thoughts about zen and Christianity very interesting. Can anyone recommend books by him or others on this topic, and also on meditation in Christianity? I know there is another thread about meditation, but I am so lacking in understanding about it that I really need something for beginners. I most appreciate names of authors and especially book titles as this is the thing I have easiest access to for now.

    Thank you!
     
  2. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Lunamoth,

    thank you for the post.

    the only unskilled questions are the ones not asked :)

    here's a link to a site for the World Community of Christian Meditation.. it was started by some Benedictine monks. in any event... this is a great resource that you may want to explore. i'm linking to a specific section that gives some basic instructions for how to meditate.

    http://www.wccm.org/item.asp?recordid=howto&pagestyle=default

    which book of his are you reading now?

    if you aren't reading one of his books currently, i would suggest the Seven Story Mountain, which is his autobiography. Merton has written nearly 70 books... so there is alot to choose from :)

    you can find more information about Thomas Merton here:

    http://www.mertonfoundation.org/merton.php3?page=aboutmert_bio.ext

    just a snippet from this site:

    During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk's trip to the Far east in 1968, the Dalai Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known.

    now.. for books that are related to the dialog between Buddhism and Christianity, there are a few texts that may be of interest. given the WCCM link above, i think you might find this book "The Good Heart" by HH The Dalai Lama to be very interesting. in this book, the WCCM asked HH the Dalai Lama to attend one of their meditation retreats and to give the Buddhist understanding of some of the teachings of Jesus. HH the Dalai Lama replied that he'd not read the Christian texts however, he would do so and explain what he thought. the teaching that he chose to speak about was the Sermon on the Mount. i think you may find it quite illuminating.
     
  3. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Dear Vajradhara,

    Thank you for your reply and the information. I quickly checked out the wccm mediation link. Looks simple, but not easy. I can see my first lesson will be in sacrifice: with two preschoolers around the only way to get 30 minutes in the morning will be to get up a lot earlier, and to get 30 min in the evening will be to give up either some reading or computer time.


    which book of his are you reading now?

    Zen and the Birds of Appetite, which is a short collection of essays by Merton. A few of them comment on other people who have looked at Buddhism and Christianity or Buddhism as known in the west. Things I like especially so far, but have a hard time really grasping well enough to explain coherently, is the mysterious Gift of the Holy Spirit and Its role in direct experience, love. Also absorbing a bit about the Ground of Being, about dying to self in Christ.

    if you aren't reading one of his books currently, i would suggest the Seven Story Mountain, which is his autobiography. Merton has written nearly 70 books... so there is alot to choose from :)

    I picked up Birds because the only other one at my Borders was the Seven Story Mountain, which looked interesting, but long. However, after reading this short book I am more inclined to make the committment. Will also look for HH the Dalai Lama's The Good Heart. Over 70 books--not surprising, but also why specific recommendations are helpful. Guess I could browse reviews at Amazon.

    Thank you again for the Merton website--got that one from you previously. Don't know why I like books so much better than websites, 'specially when I seem to spend so much time in this forum!

    Zen is so very very different from my way of thinking, sometimes it seems like a big joke (no offense!), often impenetrable. Sometimes I get glimmers. It frustrates me that it is not something I can hope to delineate and catagorize, fit in the neat boxes I have created over my years. I don't know what I expect from learning more about it. Just looking to deepen my experience, I guess.

    Cheers,
     
  4. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste lunamoth,

    thank you for the post.

    actually.. this is one of the hardest things for us in modern societies to do.. find an hour a day to do some plain sitting. there are so many demands on our time and attention.. espeically if you have children, which you do.

    to facilitate my practice, i do two things... and you've probably guessed them... i stay up later than i would normally, so i can meditate at night.. and i get up earlier than i'd like to meditate in the morning. though, i don't do both on a day to day basis... usually, one or the other. for me, it's easier to say up at night rather than waking earlier in the morning.

    the Ground of Being is a fascinating conception of God, for my way of thinking. the term was coined by a protestant theologian named Paul Tillich. you can read more about Mr. Tillilch and his theology here:

    http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/courses/mwt/dictionary/mwt_themes_755_tillich.htm

    it's a bit indepth, sorry about that.

    i like books better as well... something about being able to touch them... and take them with you to a park to sit under a tree and feel the fresh breeze on your face....

    none taken :) Zen is rather like big joke... but the joke is on us.. .and we just don't get it yet :)

    Zen, as a form of Buddhism, can be hard to penetrate and get a grasp on intellectually, not by accident mind you. this is delibrate. the point of Buddhist praxis isn't to understand the teachings intellectually, though that does have value, rather, the point is to actually experience them... which, as you know, is something that is very difficult to communicate.

    have you ever tried to describe what an orange tastes like to someone that has never eaten one?

    no matter how you try.. they will not have the actual experience of eating the orange until they actually do it. no about of reading about it or hearing about it will produce the actual experience.

    Buddhism is a broad subject and, as you are not a Buddhist, i would encourage you to be rather open in your exploration of the tradition.. some schools will be very clear and make a lot of sense.. and others won't. if you find Zen to be too difficult at this point, you can, for instance, check out the Theravedan school.
     

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