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Monday, January 4, 2010

From Thich Nhat Hanh on Thomas Merton

I love Buddhist thought.  I do not agree with some of the more Pelagian elements that I (perhaps mistakenly) perceive in some of the practices, but overall, I find much of what Buddha taught and much of what good Buddhists practice compatible with Christian thought and practice.

I will not indicate all of my demurrals and caveats, I will leave them to the reader.  But I will say that I find the sharing of thought inspiring in my own spiritual journey and trust that these may help you as well.

from "Introduction"
by Thich Nhat Hanh
in Contemplative Prayer
Thomas Merton

Our approach to prayer in Buddhism is a little different from that of Christianity. We practice silent meditation, and we try to practice mindfulness in everything we do, to awaken to what is going on inside us and all around us at each moment. The Buddha taught "If you are standing on one shore and want to cross over to the other shore, you have to use a boat or swim across.  You cannot just pray, 'Oh, other shore, please come over here for me to step across!'" To a Buddhist praying without also practicing is not real prayer.

To me, this reads a lot like "faith without works is dead."  If one prays without the intent to follow through on the prayer, one might say that faith is lukewarm.  And mindfulness, being awake, doesn't that also sound like what the Saints consistently teach--I think of Thérèse and her little homily that all of our sorrows are regrets for the past, fears for the future, but the reality is that we have only these moments, the present time in which we live.  Mindfulness, awareness of the present moment, is a  critical element of being a person of faith

source as above

The greatest relief we can obtain is available when we touch the ultimate, which is the total, unconditional surrender to God.  When the wave knows that its ground of being is water, it overcomes all fear and sorrow. The moment we surrender our entrie being to God, all our fears vanish. 

When the wave knows its ground of being--how powerful is that?  And while this is not the Christian concept of salvation, it is certainly complementary to it and adds to it a dimension that makes it something that we begin to participate in in this world while we live and breathe.  Too often, theories of justification and sanctification sound like distant theoretical objects.  But here we can see that sanctification begins with surrender, with the Shalom, that God has offered those who love Him from the time of Abraham, and which God continues to bestow on those who love him in the present day.

And may that Shalom come and visit and rest upon the houses of those who join me here daily--may you be blessed with the peace that passes understanding throughout this years--in your going and in your staying, in your reading and in your living.  May the chesed of God be with you, upon you, and with you and yours throughout this year and may He bless the entire world with His compassion and love.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. A necessary antidote to the trivial things in which I all too often immerse myself.

    And a heartfelt shalom to you!

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  2. Dear Dylan,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. This post was a pleasure for me and I'm glad it proved so for you.

    shalom,

    Steven

    ReplyDelete