Hi Nattering Nabob –
I was actually shocked to see what a long and distinguished history that meditation has in Christian circles.
I know. It's one of our 'secrets' ... meditation, contemplation ...
"Outwardly, the practice of Zazen (sitting meditation) and Christian contemplative practice have much in common. Thomas Merton found during his trip to Asia that, while those concerned with theology of Zen and Christianity could find little common ground
, the actual practice of the monks was remarkably compatible."
Christian Spirituality in the 21st Century (article)
It is here that the split between philosophers and theologians and spiritual practitioners makes itself felt again. Christians vacillate about what to draw from the storehouse of Christian tradition in order to compare it to Zen. Should it be monasticism, or mysticism, or something else again? One popular choice by people on both sides has been Meister Eckhart. But why Meister Eckhart? Is it because of his Christian mystical doctrine that he shares with the church’s mystical tradition? I don’t think so. There is something in Meister Eckhart that resonates with Zen practitioners, and if we could focus upon it, it would give us a clue to the nature of Zen enlightenment and point to the one choice that is almost never considered as a suitable partner for the Zen-Christian dialogue, which is the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas.
It seems almost incomprehensible that a dynamic Zen Buddhism would have anything in common with a Thomism already in eclipse. Yet Zen is highly metaphysical, not, of course, in the traditional Western philosophical sense, but as a deep metaphysical insight into the ultimate nature of reality, an insight that is not turned to subsequent conceptual elaboration, but is geared to liberation or awakening from our delusive existential state.
This kind of metaphysical insight finds a counterpart in the living heart of the metaphysics of St. Thomas, in what Jacques Maritain called the intuition of being. Maritain, in fact, has already given us a penetrating explanation of Hindu mystical experience that could be adapted to help us understand the nature of Zen enlightenment...
... Unfortunately, this vital current of thought has remained virtually unknown in the English-speaking world and its application to the current Zen-Christian dialogue unexploited and, incidentally, the riddle of Meister Eckhart unsolved.
Our third conclusion: important philosophical and theological issues need to be resolved if Christian spirituality is ever to benefit as it could from Zen Buddhism. We need to situate Zen enlightenment in relationship to the metaphysics of St. Thomas and the mysticism of John of the Cross. This will allow us to avoid seeing Zen as a threat to Christianity, or facilely identifying Zen practice with the Christian life of prayer.