Our Order values a pluralistic as well as pragmatic worldview. We can learn much from other contemplative paths and traditions, as long as we don’t lose sight of the foundational Buddhist principles that Siddhartha awakened to 2500 years ago. The only thing that is required is for us not to get sucked into the world of metaphysics and mysticism. It also helps for us to learn how to skillfully re-describe these lessons (and their language) into the contemporary words of a contemplative Buddhist spiritual leader. The past experiences we all bring into our spiritual practice enriches how we see the world around us and the insight we gain as we transition to the inner dimension of a contemplative. Here are some interfaith teachers and their work that offer the lessons of interconnectedness within a world bigger than a single view narrowly defined. They might just help us move our practice beyond the boarders of a mind set in stone.
Thomas Merton (Fr. Lewis). The Trappist monk, spiritual visionary, world renounced author, monastic recluse, scholar, student of Buddhism, who included many of the world spiritual leaders including the Pope and the Dalai Lama as friends, was most interested in exploring all dimensions of a contemplative monastic practice independent of theology and dogma sometimes. Although he was dedicated to his Christian faith and ministry. His work on a spiritual practice and contemplative thought engaged his mind for the remainder of his life. He passed away while attending a monastic conference in Thailand in 1968. All of his works deserve our attention. Some notable books: “New Seeds of Contemplation”, “the Way of Chuang Tzu”, “Zen and the Birds of Appetite”, and “A Book of Hours” is a good place to start.
Br. Wayne Teasdale. Brother Teasdale was an interesting individual as he combined a Benedictine Christian monastic experience with Hinduism as he also became interested in finding common ground with Buddhism. He was ordained in both religious. He also counted the Dalai Lama as a friend and teacher. He was an activist and teacher who worked to find paths between various religions. As a member of the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, he helped draft their Universal Declaration on Nonviolence. He held an MA in philosophy and a PH.D. in theology. Before his death, he lived at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Some of his books: “The Mystic Heart” and “A Monk in the World”.
Fr. Thomas Keating was a Trappist monk known as one of the architects of the Centering Prayer movement. He was Abbot of St. Joseph Abbey and founder of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplative Outreach. Along with Br. Teasdale, he was instrumental in developing the Interspirituality movement. His primary interest became exploring the common factors that led men and women to seek the monastic life among the various world religions. We wrote over 30 books. Some of interest are “Awakenings”, “Active Meditations for Contemplative Prayer”, and “The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation”.
Paul F. Knitter is the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary, in New York City. He is a leading advocate of globally responsible interreligious dialogue, and author of over ten books on the subject. Book of interest: “Without Buddha I could not be a Christian”.
Kenneth S. Leong is an accomplished Zen teacher, author, artist and poet who has a strong experience in Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism. He has been engaged in interfaith dialogue among various spiritual and religious organizations. His special interest is in the area of spirituality in the modern world. Book of interest: “The Zen Teachings of Jesus”.