Gethsemani: the conversation continues
“I think that we have now reached a stage of … religious maturity [where] it may be possible for someone to remain perfectly faithful to a Christian and Western monastic commitment and yet learn in depth from, say, a Buddhist or Hindu discipline or experience.”
The Asian Journal
Gethsemani Abbey, in Trappist, Kentucky, the home of famed Cistercian contemplative, Thomas Merton, was first chosen as the site of an inter-monastic dialogue in July 1996. Almost fifty Buddhist and Christian monks and nuns, and lay people, gathered at that time to practice and dialogue about the spiritual life. His Holiness the Dalai Lama attended. At the 1993 interfaith dialogue session at the Parliament of World Religions, His Holiness had suggested that the dialogue continue in a monastic setting, where he could be “a monk among other monks.” Hence Gethsemani …
… Over six days in April 2002, twenty Buddhists (Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan) and thirty-five Catholics (mostly Benedictine and Trappist), gathered at Gethsemani to continue the conversation. This time without the Dalai Lama, who was unwell.
Participants engaged in a full schedule of activities, which began early with morning meditation, and continued with two sessions in the morning, a Buddhist ritual, two afternoon sessions, and a Christian ritual. “Suffering and its Transformation” was the dialogue topic.
“Suffering caused by a Sense of Unworthiness and Alienation” was the theme of the first day. Here one’s personal suffering, and how to overcome it, was emphasized. Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron observed, “… some of the presenters told personal stories…”