...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... December 2, 2003
Benedict's Dharma 2 the Web Site...
2. From Day 3, Benedicts Dharma 2, Questions and Answers...
3. A Buddhist in Catholic Clothing ...Charlotte McGuinn
4. Jesus through Buddhist Eyes
5. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (MID)
6. Book/CD/Movie Review: Free Offer
- The MID Bulletin/Magazine
Benedict's Dharma 2 the Web Site...
six months and what feels like a thousand hours BD2 is up and
running, please visit when you find the time, I think you will
find interesting dialogue, thought provoking questions, and
some creative answers. Peace... Kusala
the index page...
Mary Margaret Funk, OSB, executive director of MID, and
the American-born Buddhist monk Kusala Bhikshu joined Mr. Karl
Peterson, a specialist in early Christian music, in leading
participants through a week-long Benedictine Experience... Benedict's
Dharma 2... Forty men and women from around the country gathered
for this very special "Benedictine Experience" inspired
by the book, "Benedict's Dharma," in New Harmony,
Benedict's Dharma the book, a Zen priest Norman Fisher,
meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, professor Judith Simmer-Brown,
and Yifa, a nun of the Chinese Buddhist tradition, flesh out
The Rule of Saint Benedict, which has guided the organization
and daily life of the Western Christian monastic tradition since
the ninth century. Time after time, these Buddhists find in
The Rule of Saint Benedict, which is included in its entirety,
points that resonate with the their own experiences--points
such as an emphasis on reverence, a pragmatic mindset, and the
need for hard work and practice.
Meg and Rev. Kusala went through Benedict's Dharma chapter
by chapter during the week long experience adding their own
Meg - The History of Benedict's Dharma the Book, History
of the Rule of St. Benedict, The Spiritual Journey, Christian
Renunciation and Practice.
Kusala - God, Heaven, Sin, The Eightfold Path, Relative
and Ultimate Reality, Unity and Diversity.
- Levels of Dialogue, If someone breaks a Monastic Rule, IBMC
and the Formless Rule, Monastic Accountability, Formless Practice,
Meg - The Effects of Original Sin, The Art of Discernment,
The Essence of Vigils, The Difference Between Therapy and Spirituality.
Kusala - What is Freedom, Is Ownership Real, Forgiveness
and Acceptance, Patience.
- How Does a Catholic Die, How Does a Buddhist Die, The Difference
Between Suicide and Dying in a State of Grace, A Visit to the
Coroner's Office, Compassion and Loving-Kindness, Getting Ready
Meg - Monastic Way of Life, Community is Not Optional, Accountability
and Obedience, Ritual, Prayer, and Work, Being Celibate.
Kusala - The five precepts, Buddhist Meditation, Right Mindfulness
and Right Concentration, Impermanence, Unsatisfactoriness, and
- Extrasensory Perception, Balance and the Middle Way, Not-Self
and Ego, Jesus Christ/Human, Christianity and Suffering, Dogma,
Meg - American Benedictine Monasticism, The Divine Office,
The Essence of Monastic Life, The Essence of Contemplative Life.
Kusala - A Short History of Buddhism, Buddhism in the West,
Ultimate Authority, Monks and Dharma Teachers, Unity and Diversity,
- Pureland Buddhism, Tibetan Mandala's, Refuge in Buddhism,
Dangers in Meditation Practice.
Meg - Seeking God Through the Rule of St. Benedict, The
Practice of Silence, The Unskillfulness of Murmuring, Pan in
Kusala's Room, Ghosts and Demons, Leadership and Humility.
Kusala - Spirits of the Dead, Life in the Monastery, Where
Does Humility Come From, My Ultimate Authority.
- Where the Dharma Came From, The Pitfalls of Christian Meditation,
People with Powers - Good or Evil, The Danger of Oneness, Emptiness.
From Day 3, Benedict's Dharma 2, Questions and Answers...
3 - Thursday - May 1, 2003
Extrasensory Perception, Balance and the Middle Way,
and Ego, Jesus Christ/Human, Christianity and Suffering,
MEG: As Christians, we would say matter is Jesus. Jesus
became matter with us, so all human matter is as matter deified.
So matter is in its, not in its essence but in its existence
is holy. It's sort of like we become holy diving into our human
being through Christ Jesus. And we're graced humans, really.
the incarnation is not to transcend through higher states of
consciousness into Nirvana, but somehow embodying it.
do we die? Yes. Do we have carnal body? Yes.
don't know how this works, but something about matter is much
more defined than it is in your tradition.
Kind of like Chardi, isn't it?
George MacLeod, matter matters.
MEG: But we are pointing out, then, why to critically meditate
in that tradition and go up the stiles of that philosophy is
pretty serious, depending on which school you are meditating
if you stay in the Christian tradition, this whole human --
and that's why, for instance, Adrian Montcalm, he would have
in the center of his formation field in anthropology, Christ
is our center. Christ and all is taken up in Christ.
to your distinction between Nirvana and enlightenment, we would
say we just enter into as humans through Christ. And then whatever
is the experience is the experience, but it's Christ that is
our desire. And, so, we don't desire anything beyond Christ,
really, because as Christ is taken up through the Holy Spirit
and the Father, that's kind of like their job; not our job.
We just totally surrender.
so our effort is just to be in the presence, and so our meditation
practice is more like that.
KUSALA: Is it to be in the presence?
KUSALA: Our job is to be in the present!
MEG: You are to be in the present. Now, how we get to the
presence is to be in the present moment, because all we have
is right now.
KUSALA: I'm just curious now, do you have a self, and does
it go anywhere when you have spiritual attainment?
MEG: Okay. This is the big difference between Thomas Keating
and myself. I think we have self, big time. Thomas would say
there is a no self, but I think it goes too much in your direction.
think the self, even back to the apophatic or kataphatic tradition,
the self is, because of Christ Jesus being human, we have that
whole experience of being human. And we cannot negate the human
experience which has, and I think it's that healthy thing you
were talking about, it has the sense of ego. But what we do
is we surrender it, and then couple it with our love, which
our chatter then, instead of back to our self, self-centeredness,
we make Christ our center, the mystery our center. So that any
self that we have, if you are apophatic, you just throw that
self, but it's still duality.
there is another problem when people think they are in a nondual
unitive consciousness too soon, I say, "Well, who's got
that experience?" They say, "I do." And I say,
"Well, who's telling me about it?" It can't be nondual.
You may access the experience of -- how would you say that?
KUSALA: A nondual experience?
KUSALA: In my understanding of Buddhism I would call that
an enlightenment experience.
MEG: You would access enlightenment, but then where do you
KUSALA: You live in samsara, the world of constant change,
birth, death, and suffering, samsara.
MEG: What suffers in samsara?
KUSALA: The self sufferers, it wants things to be different
than they are. This body of ours can't suffer, it can only feel
pain. Our body is always stuck in the present moment experience
of samsara, and subject to sickness, disease and death, but
our mind isn't. Our mind has the potential of transformation,
MEG: Are we losing anybody here?
What keeps going through my mind is Buddhism seems to try to
solve the problem of suffering and pain. Christ suffered, and
Christianity as a whole essentially grew out of that.
people are going to the St. Francis Chapel, and there are symbols
of creation there, but his great attainment was to get the stigmata
and to find so deeply the reality and meaning and substance
of life in the suffering of Christ that he was able to take
it onto himself and share in it.
Pope John XXIII, when he was dying, refused chemicals that would
alleviate his pain, and he offered his suffering as a prayer
for the healing and the bringing together of the church. So,
I think suffering is not to be welcomed, but in the center of
suffering you can find God. And the word, you said one of the
basic things is compassion. Well, that means calmness, too.
With compassion is suffering, suffering with another person.
It's a positive attitude toward suffering.
MEG: Again, we had this conference at Gethsemani on suffering
just recently, and the book is over there about it, and we came
to three stages of suffering, and then you are already beyond
that. But the first is when you see it, we must alleviate it.
First of all, we must prevent it wherever we can.
if we can't prevent it, the second stage is alleviate it, stop
the suffering any way we can. Third, if we can't prevent it
and stop it, we must transform it. And this is the transformation
of suffering through the Bodhisattva idea, or we say through
Christ Jesus lifting up all suffering, and even in the mystical
sense taking on, transmuting suffering, taking on another person's
suffering for the sake of the world.
we were really, by the end of that we were really quite compatible.
The difference is the way in which you envision the human body
and because we have a human God mediator.
MEG: Their self effort mediates their enlightenment. And
we have Christ Jesus who mediates our enlightenment, and that's
a big difference.
KUSALA: So, if we could take suffering out of Christianity,
would you still call it Christianity?
MEG: What do you think, Dr. E?
MEG: I don't think so. This is such a stumbling block to
the Buddhists. (Indicating the crucifix.)
A Buddhist in Catholic Clothing
...Charlotte McGuinn Freeman
went to Good Friday Mass this afternoon in my usual state of
bemused and bewildered attendance. As the song says, Here I
am Lord. Thing is, I'm not entirely sure why. I'm no longer
filled with that blissy joyous heart that characterizes the
early years of faith practice. Nor am I cast out into the desert
of the dark night of the soul. The best I could come up with
as I was driving over there this afternoon is that we are asked
to take refuge in the Buddha, the Sangha and the Dharma ...
and Catholic Mass is, for better or worse, where I experience
the Sangha and the Dharma. (As for the relationship between
the Buddha and Jesus, well, that's a different blog entry.)
My attitude right now toward my faith seems to be mostly a strong
sense that it's important to show up. Here I am Lord.
general, I'm much more interested in the practice of
faith than I am in the object of faith (including doctrinal
disputes), and so, Good Friday is a little odd for me, being
as it's really all about Jesus sacrificing himself for us. I'm
not a very good Christian because I don't actually believe that
Jesus is the one and only road to salvation. I'm not so sure
I even believe in salvation, in the traditional going-to-heaven
sense (I'm enough of a Buddhist to think that being stuck in
heaven with my own personality for eternity sounds dreadful).
But there's no point in celebrating Easter if you skip Good
Friday, and my dark writerly sensibility likes the dark holidays.
As I listened to our priest and two older ranchers do the dramatic
reading of John's version of the passion story, what struck
me today was not the story of Christ's sacrifice, but the righteous
vehemence with which the crowd, that is, all of us, demanded
Christ's death. We sacrificed him. John's Passion emphasizes
the many many times Pilate offered to free Jesus, and his ultimate
refusal to carry out the death sentence because he could find
no evidence of guilt. Christ was frightening, and the crowd
wanted killed that which frightened them. I couldn't help but
think of the violence with which many who have advocated peace
these past months have been met, the thirst for blood and the
righteousness of those who advocated this war. I mean in no
way to suggest that Saddaam Hussein was not evil or was in any
way Christ-like, but listening to the Passion this afternoon,
what struck me was how very often we human beings are wrong
about our judgements. How prone we are to lashing out. How easy
it is for us to justify violence. How hard it is to be good.
Good Friday, I'm planning to spend the afternoon rereading Elaine
Pagels remarkable book, The Origin of Satan, which traces the
evolution of scapegoating those who don't believe in Jesus and
branding them as satanic (I hate to think what google searches
this entry is going to cough up). On the stereo for this rainy
Good Friday afternoon are the following CDs: Johnny Cash's God,
Iris Dement's Infamous Angel (what better for Good Friday than
"Let the Mystery Be"?), The Roches' fabulous post-9/11
project Zero Church, The Great Aretha Franklin: The First 12
Sides and Odetta: The Best of the Vanguard Year.
with the precepts, what is important to me about Good Friday,
what is important to me about all religious holidays, is that
they ask us to look inside our own hearts and confront the hard
questions. What would we have done? What have we done?
Jesus through Buddhist Eyes
Conference of the European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies
Ottilien, Germany, 26 February - 1 March 1999 *John D'Arcy
ambitious conference, attended by well over one hundred participants
including a number of practitioners of Buddhist meditation from
southern Germany and Austria, has put the European Network of
Buddhist-Christian Studies firmly on its feet.
mainly for academics working in the field and held entirely
in English, the conference, on "Buddhist Perceptions of
Jesus," traced various paths from the polemics which characterized
relations between Buddhists and Christians well into the century
now ending to the remarkable progress made by Buddhist-Christian
dialogue in recent decades. The Archabbey of St. Ottilien has
itself been the scene of intermonastic exchanges between the
Benedictine monks and their Japanese Zen counterparts.
architecture of the conference brought out clearly the distance
that has been traveled. Iso Kern (Berne) examined the missionary
methodology of the Jesuits in 16th and 17th century China. He
showed how they preferred to rely on arguments from reason rather
than affront the Chinese with the full implications of Christian
revelation, treading a thin line between absorption into harmony
with Chinese religion as "a special type of Buddhism"
and controversy about the uniqueness of Jesus and his redemptive
death on the cross. The Christian idea of a Creator who redeems
a sinful world by the substitutionary sacrifice of his own Son
was so repugnant to Confucian sensibility that the Jesuits chose
a different route, though Prof. Kern defended them against Pascal's
accusation that they "hid" the scandal of the cross.
Heinz Mhrmel (Leipzig, in a paper read in his absence) sketched
the sterile polemics which characterized early Buddhist-Christian
encounters in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, while frank Usarski (São
Paulo) analyzed the equally bitter exchanges between early German
converts to Buddhism and their Christian opponents. we were
to find not only that these controversies are still remembered
in Southeast Asia, but that the obstacles to understanding encountered
by the Jesuits in China and Japan still cause problems in Buddhist-Christian
fundamental importance to the development of the conference
was a difficult paper by Shizuteru Ueda (Kyoto) on "Jesus
in Contemporary Japanese Zen." Starting with his teacher
Nishitani's presentation on "Nietzsche and Eckhart"
to Heidegger's seminar in 1938, Prof. Ueda set out to show how
both European nihilism and Christian absolutism can be overcome
by Nishitani's understanding of Shûnyatâ: "The
last ground of 'I am? is without ground and groundless."
Shûnyatâ is itself subject to Shûnyatâ:
nihilism can only be surmounted through nihilism itself. This
dynamic relationship between Into-Nothingness and Out-of-Nothingness
is Zen's point of access to Paul's characterization of Christian
life-out-of-death: "I live no more, Christ lives in me
" (Gal 2:20). Confronted by the question "Who said
this?," as Nishitani confronted his Christian friend Muto,
the Christian challenged to ask whether he or she can actually
say it, thereby bearing true witness. Ueda's problem is not
with this witness, but with the Christian claim that Jesus is
unique, for god is not only infinite Person but infinite Openness
of these themes were echoed by two speakers who based themselves
on experience rather than philosophy: Karl Schmied, a lay associate
of Thich Nhat Hanh, and Than Santikharo Bhikku, an American
monk at Suan Mokkh and Buddhadâsa's translator in the last
eight years of his life. Without repudiating his Catholic roots,
Mr. schmied said that he had simply found more joy in Buddhism.
If Jesus is Son of Man and Son of God non-dualistically, could
not the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity be one
of non-duality, despite obvious differences (rebirth/historical
uniqueness; no-self/person; emptiness/being). Cannot Jesus be
seen as a universal bodhisattva whose "center" is
everywhere rather than as God's "only" son?
Bhikku, who still visits the Christian congreation in which
he grew up, said that he also foumd it impossible to accept
that Jesus should be the only "incarnation" of the
divine rather than a universal prophet, adding tht his work
with Catholic priests and nuns in the Philippines had enriched
his Buddhist practice. Buddhadâsa had found Christian equivalents
for dharma, law, duty and thefruits of practice in nature,
God, redemption and salvation, though the concept of a "good"
creation appears naive to Buddhists, for whom this world arises
out of ignorance and craving and is characterized by suffering.
are Christians to respond to this sympathetic but demanding
Buddhist agenda? The cudgels were taken up by two Lutheran theologians
with long experience of Buddhism. Notto Thelle (Oslo) suggested
that Buddhists will have to become more daring in crossing boundaries
now that Buddhism is spreading in the West. Their assumption
that Buddhism is unsurpassable has the effect of "neutralizing"
all other traditions and amounts to the same strategy as Christian
"inclusivism," which Prof. Ueda had rightly found
to be inadequate. Prof. Thelle developed interesting complementarities
between Buddhism as a "religion of the eye," which
begins as philosophy and grows into story, and Christianity
as a "religion of the ear," which initially takes
a narrative form but gives rise to philosophy. It is beginning
to exist, not ceasing to exist, that is the true mystery, The
Christian concept of creation, traditionally couched in the
language of being, could more appropriately be seen in terms
of nihility as c component of all things. The Christian emphasis
on reconciliation and communion suggests the Buddhist "between
" (basho) and is ne way off speaking of the "suchness"
of reality as revealed by the Tathâgata Jesus. Whereas
Buddhists stress compassion, for Christians the responsibility
that leads to action is important: should Buddhists be more
"disturbed" by social injustice?
theme was also taken up by Michael von Brhck (Munich), who pointed
out that all religion, inasmuch as it is asocial construct,
is also a social factor. His main concern, however, was with
the spirituality beyond religion, the reality beyond distinct
identities, to attain which "you have to Shûnyatâ
Shûnyatâ," as Prof. Ueda had said, just as
Christians must avid trying to "grasp" God. Both Buddhism
and Christianity are ultimately about death and dying. The test
of whether Buddhists and Christians have really heard the "lion's
roar" of the Buddha or Jesus is their response to suffering.
Understanding -- not the same thing as agreement -- will be
built on this, not on the "hermeneutic devices" of
doctrines. Not pluralism, but what he called "relationalism,
a partnership in identity" will disclose the universality
of our attitudes, e.g., to social reality. For Christians, spirituality
means accepting God's unconditional love and ourselves as expressions
of its power. The lotus and the cross are not in opposition!
and comprehensive as it was, this conference opened up still
further areas for exploration, among them the Buddhist and Christian
teachings on nature/ creation. the Network's next meeting will
be held in Lund, Sweden, in2001. questions were raised about
the conference methodology (underrepresentation of women, more
interactive process), but it definitely marked a new phase in
relations between Buddhists and Christians in Europe.
D'Arcy May teaches interfaith dialogue and ethics at Irish School
of Ecumenics, Dublin, Ireland.
Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (MID)
• Mission Statement
response to the Vatican’s request that Catholic monks
and nuns assume a leadership role in the dialogue between Christianity
and the great religions of the East, Monastic Interreligious
Dialogue—Dialogue Interreligieuz Monastique—was
established by the Benedictine Confederation in 1978.
North America, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (MID) is an
organization of Catholic monastic women and men who bring their
charism of listening and hospitality to interreligious dialogue.
Dialogue is conducted at the level of spiritual practice and
experience for the purpose of mutual spiritual benefit and communion.
the past 25 years we have learned from happy experience that
monastic interreligious dialogue, while increasing our understanding
and appreciation of other religious traditions, also helps us
come to a deeper comprehension and a fuller expression of our
own spiritual and theological heritage.
the annual meeting of the Board of Directors in October 2003,
the following mission statement was approved and adopted:
fosters dialogue at the level of spiritual practice and experience
between North American Catholic monastic women and men and contemplative
practitioners of diverse religious traditions.
engage in dialogue to promote the unity of the human family
and mutual understanding among the world’s religions.
Free Offer - The MID Bulletin/Magazine
the month of December, MID is offering the latest MID Bulletin
free of charge. Simply email your name and address to
Sister Mary Margaret FunK at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
and she will send you a free copy.
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