Philippians 2 and the Heart Sūtra

Form and Emptiness as Keys to Contemplative Practice

One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is the hymn found in Philippians 2:5-11: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,     did not regard equality with God     as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,     taking the form of a […]

How Mysticism is Unique — and Universal

How, exactly, does Christian mysticism relate to all the other “mysticisms” of the world (Kabbalah, Sufism, Taoism, Vedanta, Zen, etc.)? A reader of this blog writes: I have been reading your Big Book of Christian Mysticism: on page 64 you say that “Ultimately … no absolutely clear distinction can be drawn between Christian and non-Christian […]

Benedict’s Dharma (New York: Riverhead Books, 2001)

This book is an interesting interfaith experiment — in which four Buddhists (Norman Fischer, Joseph Goldstein, Judith Simmer-Brown and Yifa) reflect on the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict. For Christians, this is an interesting way to see how one of our foundational contemplative texts can be seen by practitioners of other wisdom traditions. While on occasion I found myself arguing with the various writers on one point or another, for the most part Benedict’s Dharma is a respectful, yet honest, contribution to interspiritual dialogue. It also includes an inclusive-language translation of Rule by Patrick Barry, OSB, and commentary from Christian monastics Mary Margaret Funk and David Steindl-Rast.

Parker Palmer, perhaps one of the most important living Quaker writers (or, for that matter, one of the most important living contemplative writers of any identity) addresses the 2015 graduating class of Naropa University. With grace and humor, he offers six soulful suggestions for their lives, quoting figures as diverse as Diane Ackerman and Saint Benedict along the way. This is nineteen minutes of gently quiet inspiration. Watch it and be edified.

In Buddhist history the word silence corresponds to right view: seeing impermanence, the truth that everything is appearing, disappearing, and changing from moment to moment. Impermanence is not something you see objectively—it is something you taste directly. Then impermanence makes you silent, because impermanence is very quiet. That silence connects you with a deep sense of human value.
Silence is not just being silent. You are silent, but simultaneously there are many words, many explanations, and many representations there. Dynamic actions, both physical and mental, are there. In other words, silence is something deep and also very active. In Japanese the word for this silence is mokuraiMoku means “silence” and rai means “thunder.” So silence is quiet, but there is an enormous voice like thunder there.
Dainin Katagiri
Each Moment is the Universe (Boston: Shambhala, 2007), 63

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (New York: Jericho Books, 2012)

Coming out of the evangelical tradition, Brian D. McLaren understands that some Christians may be nervous about a positive engagement with persons of other faiths because they wish to preserve a strong sense of Christian identity. This book explores this very issue, and recognizes that interfaith dialogue is a conversation, and need not be a threat to anyone’s faith. By looking at doctrine, liturgy, and mission, he takes on some of the obstacles that Christians may feel are holding them back from building interfaith relationships, and shows how, especially in today’s world, engagement with other religions is not a betrayal of Christian discipleship, but can and perhaps should be a necessary part of it.

Video of a panel discussion at a conference I participated in at the Mangalam Research Center in Berkeley, CA, April 6-7, 2013. The theme of the conference was “The Language of Meditation Across Religious Traditions.” On Saturday the conference speakers presented papers amongst ourselves; on Sunday we participated in the panel discussion featured in this video, and then three of us led meditations for the conference attendees. It was a delightful weekend and a wonderful opportunity not only for me to share the language of Christian contemplation with scholar-practitioners of other faiths, but also to learn of their work as well.

Where Three Streams Meet: Celtic Spirituality (Dublin: The Columba Press, 2000)

Benedictine monk Seán Ó Duinn explores the neolithic, mythical, and Christian elements of Celtic spirituality, showing how these “three streams” each contribute their own unique qualities to the mystical splendor of Ireland and the other Celtic lands.