The Christian-Buddhist Encounter
I have a natural interest in dialogue between people with different spiritual and religious backgrounds: I was introduced to the Christian faith through my father, and the Buddhist way through my mother. I would be delighted to hear from others who have similar multi-faith backgrounds and particularly those who have maintained an interest in both sides.
Christian PerspectivesI am investigating the area where Christian practices have been influenced by the 'East'. Already, there are some amazing developments, where Christians and Buddhists meditate together. In Birmingham, there is a group which meets the third Friday of each month to practice together. Sometimes a Christian leads, sometimes a Buddhist. (If you are in the Midlands area and would like to know more, then please mail me).
Such dialogue is at an experimental stage - for those involved it can be very exciting and fun, but for it to be really worthwhile will take a lot of effort: there are many issues which need to be considered. However, perhaps the effort can be considerably reduced if one approaches dialogue with an open mind and pure heart. Progress can really take off in such a spirit.
But I stick out my neck with a cautionary note. Just because some groups are meeting doesn't mean that there is an improvement in mutual understanding. It could well be that progress is being made in the wrong direction, people deluding themselves into believing that they understand rather more than they do ... and one day the process may have to start all over again. I expect many instances of "The Emperor's New Clothes"; as more practitioners become involved, new insights may flatly contradict past assessments with much embarrassment. It is quite a challenge to be open yet discerning!
A good example of constructive progress is: The Empty Bell, a sanctuary for the study and practice of Christian meditation and prayer which gives special attention to the Christian-Buddhist dialogue.
The Empty Bell also has a useful set of Christian-Buddhist links
Many Christians naturally feel that they have a mission which should be continued to "spread the Gospel". In the past, it was marked by insensitivity and lack of understanding. Nowadays, global awareness seems to have a positive effect, whereby the crude approach doesn't work. So appropriate dialogue is acknowledged as very important:
Areopagus on-lineis a site that is part of a realistic Christian mission, noting that dialogue can only occur among those who are deeply committed to their perspective religious traditions. It has a wealth of news stories from around the world.
I have built a simple page devoted to Christianity. It covers my personal interests, to include just a few items, including a look at the Toronto Blessing and other signs of the Spirit, plus how I picked up a guide to the various scapulars one day on walkabout.
Buddhist PerspectivesThere are comparatively few Buddhists actively engaged in Dialogue at the moment. Most are from the Zen tradition. In Thailand, the most famous exponent was a Thai monk, the late Ven. Buddhadasa, who established Wat Suan Mokh in the South. Some would call him "Theravada Zen"!.
For an indication of those Buddhists who may be happy to engage in such an encounter now, it is worth looking around at those who are engaged in Buddhist 'ecumenism'. Most notable amongst these is Ven. Dr. Rewata Dhamma, who has been responsible for the Dhamma-Talaka Peace Pagoda. Ven. Rewata Dhamma, a senior Burmese monk (Maha Thera), has attended many Christian-Buddhist dialogues, such as the one in Birmingham (see Events below).
Since I haven't yet found much material related to Dialogue, I've included below various other links.
A light-hearted article Buddhist students in the United Kingdom indicates how circumstances have changed a lot during the past few decades.
Some interesting articles have been written by Brian Ruhe, a Buddhist who supports the use of meditation to establish a common ground between religions, including writings on Centering prayer. They are included in an online edition of a guide to Buddhist practice (over 200K Adobe Acrobat file). Take a look here.
For Buddhism, some relevant newsgroup:talk.religion.buddhism, uk.religion.buddhist, soc.religion.eastern, and alt.meditation. From time to time other religions are discussed: when last I used the groups regularly, there was one character who persisted in sophisticated attempts at missionising, but he didn't get far!
Please click here if you wish for information specific to Buddhism, another personal selection.
Official resourcesI hope to provide links and/or addresses to organisations specifically engaged in Christian-Buddhist dialogue. Dialogue is being conducted between scholars and also between ordained religious, and in some cases with all involved!
Other investigations and Research InterestsI have attended a few 'official' meetings where lots of individuals meet in groups, but most of my 'dialogue' has been on a much smaller scale. Recently, I have asked a question which seems to be overlooked, "Is Jesus is interested in dialogue with the Buddhas?"...
I have written a little book entitled, In sight of the beginning. I finished it and then realised that it was leading to something else, so it's currently missing one chapter. As a taster, you are welcome to ponder an analogy for a missionary.
PublicationsThere are lots of books listed on:
Here are a few titles I have read:
Robert A. Jonas has compiled an Inter Faith bibliography with further titles.
The following appears to be quite a popular journal, though I haven't read it myself:
Page last modified: 20 March 2001