Foundation for Inter-Faith Dialogue

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Archival Photo, Foundation for Inter-Faith Dialogue (for Community Use). Music.

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#set-foundation-for-inter-faith-dialogue

This talk is before "this Fall, when I go to Lebanon, Syria and Jerusalem." (When did he go?)

The tone quality (guitar and Cyprian's voice) is excellent.

Audience is large and mixed (women's and men's voices responding and singing). This is not at New Camaldoli Hermitage.

Transcript: 

Really, I get excited about the theology. That being said, please don't worry about grabbing every concept, every phrase, every Greek or Sanskrit word that goes by. That's not what it's about. If you catch anything, I'd just like you to catch the spirit of the dialogue, and maybe even I'd like you to be infected with my enthusiasm for the whole topic. That's the main thing. There's going to be no test for this, but I'm just going to throw out some concepts and what grabs grabs. I imagine a mind like a big net, and as things go through, they catch or they don't. The big things catch, and the little things get through, and then the older and older we get, the more and more we study a topic, the smaller and smaller the holes are. So whatever size the holes are in your net, don't worry about it. It's all good. Okay? Make sense? Okay, good. So here's a song for you to start with. And I haven't looked at the sheet in so long, and I'm not even sure.

[01:02]

I think I called it The Ground We Share, didn't I? Okay, good. So just to make sure, because that's what I want to talk about. And I get, this phrase is coming in a real lot to me. Brother David Steinler-Rost, our friend, actually wrote a book called The Ground We Share that he did with Robert A. Kinroshi, who just passed away recently. I love this phrase, and I have done a little bit of work with our Muslim friends up in the Santa Cruz and San Jose area recently. And I was asked to give a talk for this organization called Pacific Institute. It's an Islamic Sufi organization based around disciples of Gulen, I can't get his name now. Fathullah Gulen, I think that's right. And that's the title that came to my mind to talk for them. Let's find the ground that we share. This fall, inshallah, God willing, I'll be doing a trip to the Mideast with an imam and

[02:09]

a Pakistani singer, a percussionist, I work with him myself. And we're going to be going to Lebanon, Syria, and Jerusalem together, doing dialogue through music. And he wrote me, originally we were just going to go to Lebanon and Syria. And he wrote me an email and said, sit down, why don't we go to Jerusalem together? I want to go to the holy land, I want to go to the eternal city with you. And I just got goosebumps, this imam saying he wants to go to Jerusalem with me. It felt like the fullness of time. And so, as I left, I was with him in Denmark and I was in England at the time. And I was thinking about Jerusalem as this idea of the ground we share. This place where Christians, Jews, and Muslims share and reverence the place. And even the image of Jerusalem, what that means in the monastic tradition, those four levels of meaning, it's the historical city, it's the place of God's peace,

[03:12]

but there's also that inner Jerusalem. That's the ground we share, actually. The place where we're right with God. So that psalm, this psalm has all these levels of meaning. I wrote it specifically for our tour this fall. I've been able to use it in quite a few places already. The first two verses are from the psalms about Jerusalem. The third verse is from the Koran, the story of Muhammad's night flight to Jerusalem, where he was able to discern the hearts of all the people that were there. And then the last verse is from the book of Revelation. So, the words are there for the refrain. If you want to sing, very interesting, along with me. I don't mind people making mistakes and singing it poorly. I just, I like the beautiful lines of people singing. So. Sorry. Let's do it all over again.

[04:29]

The land of peace and the ground that we share. How my heart was glad when I heard the call. Let us go to God's house, let us hasten there. Now our fees are within your walls. The land of peace and the ground that we share. The holy ground is the ground that we share. Like the holy city Jerusalem. The prophet's land and my parent's land. The land of peace and the ground that we share. Let my tongue be mute, let my hands fall off.

[05:55]

If I place you not over every other care. God forbid I remember not. The land of peace and the ground that we share. The holy ground is the ground that we share. The holy ground is the ground that we share. Like the holy city Jerusalem. The prophet's land and my parent's land. The land of peace and the ground that we share. God's servants carried by the holy one. To the farthest house they denied through the air. He saw the good and the evil done. In the land of peace and the ground that we share. The holy ground is the ground that we share.

[07:04]

Like the holy city Jerusalem. The prophet's land and my parent's land. The land of peace and the ground that we share. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem. Coming down from heaven like a bride prepared. God will dwell in the midst of us. The land of peace and the ground that we share. The holy ground is the ground that we share. Like the holy city Jerusalem. The prophet's land and my parent's land. The land of peace and the ground that we share. The land of peace and the ground that we share.

[08:10]

The land of peace and the ground that we share. And so we begin. In some ways this is a, this was kind of an afterthought. When I first joined the community I had the honor of meeting Father B. Griffiths on his last trip into America on his way back to India, and he consequently died about nine months later, and kind of absorbed his writings, immersed myself in it right away, and started

[09:18]

studying especially Buddhism and Hinduism, and then in this last phase of my own life, these past eight years I've been pretty much dipped in lots of interfaith ritual, interfaith dialogue, and my travels around the world and around the country, and even my own life there in Santa Cruz, and then later on I was asked to talk about what were my theological foundations for this work I was doing, and it was only then that I started writing it down and actually going back and figuring out why I was doing what I was doing. So that's where this whole topic comes from. It's part of the mandate of the Kamaladees, specifically from John Paul II, for us to engage in interreligious dialogue, and I'm quite pleased to be able to continue that work myself. So I also thought it was pretty important for us to do a retreat based on that teaching, even to keep that fire alive for ourselves, for our monks, for our oblates, and for our friends.

[10:18]

We talk about it some, but all that to say I'm also approaching this not necessarily as a theologian. I'm not a theologian. I'm a guitar-slinging monk, you know, so I'm telling you about these minds who are far greater than my mind, who have laid the foundation for me. My main influence, of course, is Father Bede, who, for those of you who don't know, he was an English-born Benedictine monk, convert from Anglicanism, intimate friend and student of C.S. Lewis, who went to India in 1955, started one ashram with another monk called Kurusamala in Kerala, and then moved over to Shantivanam in South India, in Tamil Nadu. And he, building on the work of two people who came before him, Père Jules Monchanin, a French priest, and Henri Lassot, Duktenirava Shiktananda, a French monk, who were the original,

[11:22]

the two there, building on their work, he turned Shantivanam into quite a place of international renown, and he himself became an internationally known figure in interreligious dialogue, specifically starting with this Hindu-Christian dialogue, because Shantivanam was set up as a Hindu-Christian ashram, but then expanding his own knowledge, specifically into the area of Buddhism and Taoism, and I think Sufism he spoke with, with some elegance as well. But he talked about one specific thing, even in this talk that I heard him give, about the universal call to contemplation, has kind of set the tone for all the work that I've done in these past eight years especially, and what I understand it to mean is twofold, this universal call to contemplation. First of all, that all people are called to the graces of the contemplative life. This is not unique just to Father Bede, mind you. Folks like Father Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington, John Mayne, Lawrence Freeman, are part of

[12:24]

this same movement in the thinking that it's not just professional religious who are called to the contemplative life, are called to the graces of the contemplative life, that this call is universal, and the more I read the writings from the patristic era, from the fathers of the church, and they were decidedly all fathers, this contemplative experience is meant to be the natural flowering of our baptism, that union with God is something that happens with baptism, and the rest of the spiritual life is the unfolding of that. It's already there, so this word realization becomes very important. Now, what has happened in the past, I don't know, 20 or 30 years, but I think the awakening has gone on since the end of the 19th century as far as I understand Western history, is that people outside of the church and outside of professional religious have woken up to this universal call to contemplation, and there's this great phrase a friend of mine has in the bottom of his emails, I must hurry and catch up with my people because they are

[13:27]

far ahead of me and I am their leader, and quite often it's the religious institutions of Western Christianity that are running trying to catch up with where the lay people have already gone, and this great exodus to the East, especially the 50s, 60s and 70s of people gleaning things from Asia, from other places, from India, from other places of Asia, specifically I want to say specifically through India and yoga, through China, Japan and Zen and Buddhism, having found something really important, really valuable and really true, and not being able to find that in Christianity, or else wanting to find some kind of a bridge to uncover it within Christianity, so it's this bridge work. So the first meaning of this universal call to contemplation is that everybody is called to the graces of the contemplative life, and people are finding it outside of the church, waking up to it, and then the professional religious are also waking up to it as well,

[14:28]

and trying to steer it and trying to nurture it. The other side of that, of course, as we've already touched on, that somehow this contemplative core is the heart of every religious tradition. I want to say, I like to use these words that I borrow from liturgical studies, source and summit, the source and summit of every religious tradition, that somehow there's a mystical core to the religious traditions of the world, and there's also a mystical height that we see the great souls of the tradition reach also. Here's how Father Bede puts it, when we get beyond the multiplicity to unity, we find a common tradition, a common wisdom that we all share. So that's also the other meaning of this universal call to contemplation. Not only are all people called somehow to share the grace of the contemplative life, but every authentic religious tradition has this as its source and its summit, its core and

[15:31]

its goal. Now in the scholarly world, this is known as the perennial philosophy, and Father Bede really was quite a fan of this notion of the perennial philosophy. This is a, the phrase goes all the way back to the philosopher Leibniz, but more currently made popular by Aldous Huxley in the middle part of the 20th century. In India it would be called the sanatana dharma, the eternal dharma, the eternal teaching. The idea of it is that there's a common core of teachings about the transcendental essence of religion that underlies the world's authentic religious traditions. Father Bede just used to like to refer to this as universal wisdom. This is a phrase I also like as well. As a matter of fact, the last book that Father Bede put together was this book called Universal

[16:33]

Wisdom, writings from the world's spiritual traditions, which include Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, writings of Ashvagosha from Buddhism and the Dhammapada of Buddhism, Al-Ghazali, the Sufi mystic, the writings of the Sikhs, and then obviously excerpts from the Jewish scriptures and the Christian scriptures as well. I want to add that not everyone is a perennialist, but this tradition certainly goes back not only to liveness, but also to, for example, William James, the author of the Varieties of Religious Experience, and includes the great scholar of comparative religions who's still with us, Houston Smith, who I had the great honor to meet last year and had about an hour of conversation with him. He's just got a new book out about his life, his autobiography. It's quite wonderful. Pico Ayer wrote the introduction to it. My favorite way to describe this perennial philosophy, just to give you a short summation

[17:38]

of it, is this, and I'm going to say it in three parts. There are various articulations of it. This is the one that makes the most sense to me. Unfortunately, I don't have this on your handout, but this you may want to take down and note. First of all, the first step of it is that there is spirit, or divine power, or a god, or whoever you want to name it. That's the basis. First, there is spirit. Secondly, that that spirit, that divine, is not just outside of us. And I have a whole harangue about this word supernatural and how it's really not used in the early Christian tradition. So the spirit is not just supernatural, just outside of nature, but the spirit, this divine, is found within us. And there's a very clear authority of this, of course, in scripture. St. Paul says in Romans 5, the love of God is poured into our hearts by the spirit living in us. But third, most of us have no knowledge or awareness of this power of the divine within

[18:48]

us, because we're living in a world, in a state, that is marked by whatever we want to call it, sin, delusion, separation, ignorance, the different traditions call it different things. But we all tend to agree on that, that we're not aware of this, that there is spirit, that the spirit is somehow within us. But our religions, our authentic religions, teach us that there's a way out of this state, the state of sin, or delusion, or separation, or ignorance. If we follow the way that's laid out by our tradition, we're going to have this awakening, this experience of the indwelling presence of God, which is a realization, a rebirth, an enlightenment, a conversion. I like the word realization, because it has two different meanings for me.

[19:49]

One of all, to realize something is to become aware of it, like I suddenly realized that. But to realize something also means to make it real, to realize a plan. So somehow to become aware and to make something real are the same thing, aren't they? So our religious traditions purport to lead us to this realization that there is spirit and that that spirit is within us as our source and our summit. Ultimately, then, the main purpose of every religion is the mapping out of this way. Equally important, what's not often articulated in various forms of this perennial philosophy, but where I think Christianity really shines, is that that awakening to this indwelling power of the spirit then manifests itself in love for others, this mercy and compassion. This is, I think, one of those unique Christian contributions to the whole conversation, and

[20:49]

it's always been an accent of ours. As Jesus says, not just that that love of God is poured into our hearts, he says that love of God flows from out of our hearts, like a stream of life giving water, love and service. As co-creators in St. Peter talks about us being participants in the divine nature, this is a theme our father Bruno is particularly fond of and has written beautifully about, especially in his book, The Future of Wisdom. So as I said, and I always want to give full acknowledgement of the other side of the debate. I took enough debate in high school to know that you should learn both sides of the argument. Not everybody shares this notion of the perennial philosophy. There's a wonderful book by a Jesuit named William Harmless, simply called Mystics, and his chapter 10 actually kind of takes apart this argument for the core and tends to argue

[21:54]

much more in favor of contextual as opposed to core, meaning that the core people he thinks tend to cherry-pick little ideas and say, I see it's all the same, and not give enough credence for the idea that mysticism is contextual. And now, obviously in a sense disagreeing with everything I've just said, but I loved this chapter. I thought he laid it out just beautifully, arguments for and against, especially his arguments against the idea of a core context. So to say there are reputable scholars who do not agree, do not buy this whole concept of the perennial philosophy and the core of traditions. You know the famous saying, all roads lead up the mountain? I think it was Henri de Lubac I read somewhere saying, no they don't, basically, and you better be careful, you're going to get up the top of the mountain and realize you're on the wrong mountain. You're going to be looking across the valley at the right mountain and think, what did I do? So not everybody agrees that there's a core. Many other people, scholars, would rather think that religions start out with a problem,

[22:59]

and religions are the way of solving the problem, you know, the problem of death or the problem of evil. But I have to say, obviously, since I'm doing this presentation and this work, I prefer this approach, the way that Father Bede articulates it, that we start out with an experience, somebody's experience or somebody's experiences, and our religions, our faith traditions, are our way of understanding that experience and letting that experience transform our lives. Not just understanding it, but letting that experience transform our lives. And then our faith traditions are our way of passing on that experience. Our faith traditions are our way of articulating it through language, through rituals, through dance, through song, through art, and obviously through philosophy. Now as that experience starts to get expressed, one person's version of it starts to look

[24:02]

very different from another person's version of it, but that should be no surprise. I like to say, viva la difference. For all of his teaching about the universal call to contemplation and universal wisdom, Father Bede wrote in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, a book called The River of Compassion, he says, I passed this out to some friends of mine and they were horrified by this, the Buddhist nirvana and the Hindu moksha are not the same, nor are they the same as the Christian vision of God. So the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Muslim, and the Christian are all experiencing ultimate reality, but experiencing it in different ways through their own love and through their own traditions of faith and knowledge. There is a tendency to say there are no differences anymore, but I do not think that that's true. And then he adds, beautifully and not surprisingly in a very personalist tone, in a sense, actually,

[25:02]

the experience of ultimate truth is different for each person. Why? Because each person is a unique image of God. Because each person is a unique reflection of the one eternal light and love. That's a very subtle argument there, but also very, very beautiful. Now, that of course doesn't negate our efforts at understanding each other, and also doesn't negate our efforts at finding common ground. I'm not going to give you any easy answers in the next 48 hours either, mind you. I kind of love the dance of the complexity of this whole thing. We have a group that meets in Santa Cruz called the Sangha Shantivanam, and our mission statement reads that our aim is to understand the experience of ultimate reality as found in the world's spiritual traditions. Now, in order to do that, I need to really enter into someone else's experience, don't I?

[26:03]

As much as I can, as much as is given to me. My friends know that there are a couple of words that really raise my hackles, and they are, it's all the same. No, that doesn't respect my tradition, it doesn't respect your tradition, to just give you that blanket statement, it's all the same. We have very different experiences, and I want to respect those differences, and I want to understand the legitimate expressions of an experience of the divine, and even uphold someone else's vehicle for union with God, and not diminish it by saying it's the same as mine. And to me, that's when the real work starts. Finding unity in diversity. And here's Father Bede's words again, this is from Return to the Center, and so, he says, and so I have to be a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Jain, a Parsi, a Sikh, a Muslim, and a Jew, as well as a Christian, if I am to know the truth, if I'm to find the point of reconciliation between all religions. The only way to find it is actually to find this experience inside me, to enter as deep

[27:10]

into it as I can. I don't have my copy of your notes there. I don't know if that was the first thing I, probably it's not what's, the first thing is the Arbery quote, is it? Yeah, okay, good. No, we're not there yet. There's a phrase you may know, it's, I believe it was coined by Martin Buber, but Ramundo Panikkar brings it up too, talks about dialogical dialogue as opposed to dialectical dialogue. Have you ever heard that distinction? Dialectical dialogue is with, I come presenting my point of view, and you come presenting your point of view, and basically, I'm trying to convince you of the rightness of my argument, instead, they talk about dialogical point of view, means I come into this dialogue assuming you have something to teach me. That's why I've come here, not to convince you of my position, I've come here because I'm assuming you have something to teach me. That's a beautiful way to be in the world, isn't it? So I have to be a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Jain, a Parsi, a Sikh, a Muslim, and Jew, if I'm

[28:15]

to know the truth, I want to learn from you those aspects of ultimate reality, which my may not have uncovered yet. And so, that leads us to the journey to the center, and that was probably Father Bede's most famous book, most popular book, Return to the Center. The challenge for all of us, each of our religious traditions, and we're going to start with this, and this is hopefully what we're going to end with on Sunday morning, is to rediscover the depth of our own tradition. We have to rediscover the depth of our own tradition. It's amazing how many Christians, how many Catholics do not know the depth of their own tradition. I don't know what religion you all are, speaking from my tradition, amazing how many Christians and Catholics do not know the depth of their own tradition, and so have nothing to bring to the table when the party starts, when the dialogue starts.

[29:17]

To try to discover the original inspiration, here again is Father Bede. And that's the hope of the future. I put it here in my notes, that's also the hope of the present, by the way. That's the hope of the present, that religions will discover their own depth. As long as we remain on the surface, we'll always be divided in conflict, as we see. When we stay on the surface, we're divided in conflict. When we discover our depth, we converge on unity. As you go deep into any religion, Father Bede says, you converge on the center. And everything springs from that center, and everything converges on that center. Again, this image of the source of the summit. This is not just abstract speculation for me. In my life, this is what I'm doing to bring peace in the world.

[30:21]

I don't think this is abstract at all. This, just read the headlines today. This, this is what we need to do to discover our own depth, and to encourage people of other traditions to discover. We're going to find a unity there. This is a building block for world peace. I find this very exciting. And I've been convinced by thinkers who are holier and wiser than I am, that we're entering into this new phase in the history of the planet. Without getting too deeply into it here, some call this the second axial period. Do you know the teaching about the axial periods in philosophy? Just a little bit about that. The best book I ever read is by Karen Armstrong, the book called The Great Transformation. Almost too much detail about it. But the first axial period, somewhere between 200 and 900, before the common era. People usually put it right around 500, 600 BCE.

[31:24]

When this amazing phenomena happened all across the globe, that this is the time when Upanishads India split off from the Vedas. Just briefly on that, you know, the Vedas are mostly about sacrifices and rituals and hymns. Upanishads are much more about interiority and meditation. Well, right about the same time, what happens? Buddhism, the Buddha and the whole movement of Buddhism. The same time, Taoism in China. Around the same time, the Greek philosophers and their catchword of knowing thyself. And the late prophets of the Jewish tradition. This all seems to be going on at the same time. And some philosophers want to say there's this whole shift in human consciousness happening across humanity, across the globe at the same time. What are the salient features of it? It seems to be something like a greater sense of individual responsibility.

[32:31]

But also a beginning of the charting of the individual spiritual path. That the thinking before that was much more tribal, much more group-centered. But this is also the birth of monasticism, which in a sense is this great image especially of this individual spiritual path. So that was the first axial period. Now some are speculating we're in the second axial period now. And what's the second axial period? This new period will be and already is marked by a sense of global consciousness. Is this, could this be what Teilhard de Chardin talks about as this omega point? When you know consciousnesses are all arising to a certain common realization. We are now aware at least that every tribe, nation and religion in some way shares a common history and a common future. And that is making us realize that we belong to humanity as a whole

[33:37]

and not just to our specific group, be it ethnic or social or religious. And this could be the second axial period. Part and parcel of that, of that new consciousness is horizontal and part of it is vertical. Here's why the cross works as this beautiful universal symbolism. Let's talk about the horizontal aspect first. The horizontal aspect is something like this. Cultures and religions, and mind you, they often go together, don't they? Cultures and religions, especially when you're looking at something like Islam, but even more so Western Christianity. We celebrated the feast of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux today. You should have heard Father Robert talk about the Crusades and how religion got mixed up with Western civilization. So cultures and religions, horizontal, meet even on a surface level.

[34:37]

And they engage in what Huard Cousins calls creative encounters. But these creative encounters are not going to make us one bland world religion. And I've seen both Western and Indian teachers agree on this point. Not going to make us one bland religion. Again, borrowing a phrase from Teilhard de Chardin, as Huard Cousins does. This convergence gives birth to, you ready for this $25 term? Complexified collective consciousness. That's a mouthful, huh? I'm just saying it because I like the alliteration. Complexified collective consciousness. Now here's a simple, here's a simple form of what that means. In other words, Teilhard teaches, true union diversifies. True union diversifies. It gives birth to greater complexive consciousness. It doesn't turn everything into one bland something.

[35:42]

True union diversifies. Our union, the conversions of our centers of consciousness, give birth to even more creativity. At the same time, everything that rises will converge. Also a phrase from Teilhard that Franria Conner borrows, if you recall from her short stories. That is, everything that's reaching for spirit will eventually meet. Again, both the source and the summit, what Teilhard calls the omega point. So that's the horizontal perspective. And we're seeing it, again, writ large, especially just in the headlines, the news. Cultures are meeting and hopefully having some kind of creative encounters. I found this beautiful writing from a man named William Bridges. He talks about interface, interface. Interface is where the surface of one thing meets the surface of another. It's less like a dividing line and more like a permeable membrane.

[36:46]

And the action at the interface is the interplay, the communication, the mutual influence that goes on between peoples and cultures that are side by side, face to face. The interface is where the vital relationships are established that are absolutely necessary for our survival. So that's at a horizontal level. This interface, when we realize this interface is less a dividing line and more a permeable membrane. So there's our vertical axis of the cross. And this is the horizontal axis of the cross, the vertical perspective. This consciousness is not only communal and global, this is the horizontal axis, it's also both cosmic and ecological. This is part of what we're regaining, hopefully, if we really are in this second axial period. We're actually regaining something of our depth. It's also necessary for us, for all cultures and religions,

[37:52]

to plunge our roots deep into the earth in order to provide a stable and secure base for future development. This new global consciousness has to be organically ecological, sustainable, and it has to be supported by structures that ensure justice and peace. We're going to talk a little bit more about that tomorrow. We talk about the foundations for dialogue, but even at the Catholic Church teaches. So that vertical axis is not just reaching up the spirit, it's also regaining what we may have lost in this ascent of the first axial consciousness, in this jettison away from earth, away from body, away from the feminine, where we've lost something vital. So this new consciousness is also going to be ecologically rooted. It's also going to be based in structures that ensure justice and peace.

[38:53]

William Johnson writes beautifully about this in Arise My Love, about the new mysticism, how it's got to embrace the feminine, got to embrace the earth, and got to embrace social justice, or it's no mysticism whatsoever. This is, again, this is the sin of first axial consciousness, is somehow we left all that behind in our pursuit of spirit. Well, that's left us in a bit of a mess, hasn't it? So at the same time, while we're reaching for the sky, while we're reaching for this omega point, and I think Teilhard would agree with us on this, we also have to band together to bring about a new integration of the spiritual and the material, to bring about a new integration of sacred energy and secular energy into a total global human energy. That's a quote from a Francisco scholar named Ilia Dalio. At the same time, we need to band together to bring about a new integration of the spiritual and the material of sacred energy and secular energy

[39:54]

into a total global human energy. This is why, again, I say this is not superfluous abstract work. This is the vital thing that's needed for our day and age. This is our philosophical, theological, spiritual foundations for this work. So thus, the need for dialogue, the need for community, the need for relationship, the need for well-worn paths between huts with a growing awareness that each person and each group is something of the whole, and bringing a valuable part of the conversation. This is the first thing you have on your handout there, this quote from A.J. Arbery. You know, the whole history of the Sufi tradition is quite complex, and many people think they know a little bit about,

[40:54]

a lot about Sufism. They actually don't know very much about it at all, including myself. So I was trying to do lots of study about this and trace the lineage of how Sufism grows out of regular observance Islam. And this is apparently a rather famous book that I just stumbled upon in a bookstore and didn't even know it was famous until after I read it, called Sufism and Account of the Mystics of Islam by A.J. Arbery. I like this paragraph a lot. It has become a platitude to observe that mysticism is essentially one and the same, whatever may be the religion professed by the individual mystic, a constant yearning of the human spirit for personal communion with God. Much labor and erudition, however, have also been expended upon the attempt to show how one form of mysticism has been influenced by another. While proof is often difficult or even impossible in such elusive matters,

[41:54]

it's generally agreed that no religious movement can come into being or develop without having contact with other established faiths or denominations, which are bound to leave their impress upon the new creation of thought and emotion. So the traditions themselves are nothing to pure stock. Everything is being impressed by the religions around it with which it comes into contact, the traditions around it. It's impossible for a religious movement to develop without having contact with other established faiths and denominations, and they're all bound to leave their impression upon this new creation of thought and emotion. While mysticism is undoubtedly a universal constant, he continues, its variations can be observed to be very clearly and characteristically shaped by the several religious systems upon which they were based. Now, with all that in mind, we can start to talk about a little bit about some of the ground we share.

[43:00]

I just want to do one last little bit here, and we'll stop for this session. Our foundational text in Roman Catholicism is from Vatican II, 1964, called Nostra Aetate. I have to tell you, I gave much the same presentation to a group of Lutherans in Copenhagen in Denmark this last year, and it never occurred to me how Catholic I was until I sat in this room full of Lutheran, they weren't all ministers, but they were all working in interreligious dialogue for an organization called Dan Mission. That's a global organization, and as I was laying this whole thing out, I asked for questions and answers, and questions at the end, and this one woman said very kindly, she said, this is a very Catholic approach, she said, and I was waiting to see if that was good or bad, and she thought that it was actually okay. It wasn't the worst thing,

[44:02]

but we have a very specific way that we look at it that I think is also very valuable. This is one of the things that we bring to the conversation. So for this next little section, I'm undoubtedly, this is terribly impressed and colored by my own Roman Catholic background, and this one little paragraph, especially in Nostra Aetate, is what many of us go back to over and over and over again. It says, the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and the doctrines, which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless, often reflect the ray of that truth which enlightens all people. The Church, therefore, urges her children to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life,

[45:07]

acknowledge, preserve, and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture. Now, you'd have to have even a greater memory than I to understand how shocking and groundbreaking this is in 1964, in the last throes of the Counter-Reformation stance of the Roman Church in only 1928, so not even 40 years before, Pope Pius XI, in a cyclical entitled, Mortium Animus, had denounced ecumenical dialogue, because you can't have dialogue with error. So now, not 40 years later, the Church is saying what? We don't reject anything that's true and holy in other religions. We acknowledge that there's true and holy things in other religions. We have a high regard for their life, for their conduct,

[46:12]

for their precepts, for their doctrine. Even though they're different than ours, we acknowledge that they reflect a light of truth which enlightens all people. Of course, that's an allusion to the prologue of the Gospel of John, this light that enlightens all people. And then this verb here is very important. The Church urges her children to enter into dialogue, not allows, suggests, urges. Of course, this is the great thrust of John XXIII and Paul VI in Vatican II, is to get into conversation with the modern world. Urges her children to enter, with prudence and charity, into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. So while witnessing to our own faith and way of life, we not only acknowledge and preserve, we encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians. And their social life and culture.

[47:13]

That's our foundation. That's a pretty good one. I think we'll stop my input there. Any questions, comments, disagreements, agreements, observations, clarifications? If somebody doesn't say something, I'm going to feel like you're not listening. This isn't a question, but I just wanted to say that Peter mentioned the perennial philosophy. I was first introduced to that in graduate school in studying holistic psychology. You know, and we had a whole course on world religions, and I can't remember how he did that, but also that phrase, collective consciousness, I think was... Well, collective consciousness, that would be...

[48:21]

This is different. This is complexified consciousness. I'm not sure where the interface between Teilhard and Jung was, but this is a little different thing. But it also plays into it in another way, which we may touch on in the third session. It's nice to feel that things are time. Good. Anyone else? Feel free. Comments, questions, please. Hearing you speak, I feel like I've been left behind. How's that? Well, you know, I've been brought up Catholic and gone to church. Well, there was a period of time where I went away from the church, but I've come back, and, you know, my parents are both Catholic, and I went to a Catholic grammar school, a Catholic high school. So it's kind of like I'm not, you know, I've been set on a good path, but I don't really think about, you know, venturing any other way. I kind of feel like I'm a little narrow-minded, I guess, listening to you speak.

[49:25]

I don't feel like it's necessarily... It's just kind of, it's like it's old-fashioned, something that's been passed on to me. It's not a part of me to do anything, you know? Yeah, I don't know that every person has to engage in this study, and has to study other traditions and that. So I certainly don't want you to feel left behind or even old-fashioned, but the purpose of this, obviously, this retreat and this topic is specifically to do that, to kind of open our minds up to another approach. I mean, traveling is a great way of doing it. Traveling is, yeah, yeah. Fortunately, I've traveled a little bit, but of course not nowhere. But, I mean, again, looking at the headlines, we don't have to travel very far. You know, I, of course, I've spent, you know, I had like six trips to India now, and I've been around Southeast Asia a bit, and some things in Europe. But I would say the best and the deepest work I do, and I don't like the word work necessarily, but is in Santa Cruz. Yes. Because hundreds of people go through Mount Madana Yoga Center every year,

[50:31]

and they are much more influenced by yoga and by Advaita than they are by Christianity. I don't know how many hundreds of people are involved much more with Buddhism through Zen or Vipassana or something else. So I don't have to go very far. And then, of course, we have this new great relationship with the Muslims in our area. So I don't have to go very far to bump up, have this interface with people of other traditions, even if they weren't born in another country. You know, and a lot of these are actually, you know, middle-class, middle-class Americans as well. It's culture. It's not just that, though. I mean, it is kind of a breeding ground for all kinds of experiments. Probably the university set it off because some of the old Italians still complain about, this whole town went to hell as soon as that university came in 1973. That's my point. You know, you have a prior generation saying,

[51:32]

you should do this, you should do that. You know, if I may just add this one other thing, I had a discussion with a friend of mine who's a little more of the traditionalist bent, and he was arguing with somebody who wanted to introduce world religions, study world religions as a part of a curriculum for grade school kids in a certain summer camp or something. And he said, no, no, no, they have to learn their own tradition first. And I thought, you know, this is not a luxury anymore. That's just their own tradition. I mean, if you're growing up in India, you don't just learn Christianity, you learn about Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism at the same time. We don't have that luxury of living in that vacuum anymore. And so much harm is being done by the fact that people are completely ignorant about other traditions and are saying all kinds of stupid and very harmful things because of that. So we don't have that luxury anymore. We should obviously learn our own tradition and learn it very well. And at the same time, we're going to, you know,

[52:34]

in this day and age, we're going to have to. I've always shared this a lot. I was in Shantibana and I loved Brother Martin's afternoon talk. So you could come in and ask me a question. And there were people there from all over the world. And one of the things that he said was that religion can be a nest or it can be a cage. And I really like that really spoke to my heart because I think religion is what you're saying is your parents gave you a religion. They baptize you, raise you in a framework to then discover God in a personal way, you know. So you can get, I think, and I see that in my own parish, you know, people get stuck in their religion. They don't go deeper, as you're saying, you know, when you go deeper in that convergence and that finding that God dwelling within.

[53:34]

Like that religion gives you a framework to discover God and an opportunity to leave the nest. But fly and soar, not like fly away, but soar in God and know that indwelling God within you rather than get stuck in the framework of the religion, of the rules. Well, we're all seeking a relationship. That's what we're all seeking, a relationship, a personal relationship. That's our path. And no matter what path, it's all personal. It has, you might be guided, but you're enlightened. And one thing about it is, I'm really pretty much

[54:36]

since when and how? Yeah, and I have found that this has been going on 20 years and now that I've been involved in studying this, this has made me more of a Catholic, not less. It's really made me do my homework about my own tradition. And that's the kind of wild thing about it, you know. And even in some ways, even more traditional than I used to be, you know. It's kind of funny. I totally agree. Yes, it's done the same thing with me, more than I've learned in other religions, the more I've really gone deeper. But it's in our Catholic tradition. Yeah, it is. It's in our Catholic tradition and our Catholic faith. Yeah. It's there, and you really want it. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Please. I, too, recently come back to the Church and where I go to Church, I've been friends with some people. And this one woman told me that, you know, that the Buddhist religion or, you know,

[55:39]

because I have different things in my home. And she says, well, those things are of the devil. You know, it's, and I almost hear fear in her. And so then that was making me question, you know, isn't it? So it's nice to hear you say no. You know, we want to. Yeah. So it's not me. You have to have a fear. So, yeah, because I was questioning myself. It's absolutely fear. And we understand why people are that way. But as soon as, boy, it's amazing how many times people pull out that devil thing, you know, that those are the devil. That's, yeah, it's pretty scary. Is there a hand over here too? No. Okay, we're right on time. So let's, can we sit in silence for about 10 minutes together to let our minds sink into our hearts? I like to use this teaching about meditation

[56:40]

that there are four elements to meditation. Second, third, and fourth are very practical. The first is kind of theoretical. The first is why. First step in meditation is always remembering why we're doing it. Like Thomas Martin used to say, a monk should ask himself every morning why he's a monk. So every time we sit down to meditate, we should ask ourselves why we're doing this. And in some way, I like to say every talk I ever give is about the why of meditation. And maybe we could use that phrase of Father Bede's, the idea that we're finding the center of our tradition. And the center is also the center of ourselves. And then the second, third, and fourth are all very practical. And I'll just offer them to you if they're of help to you. First one is posture. It's good erect posture so that the body becomes a servant,

[57:41]

becomes a tool for us. So feet flat on the ground, back straight, not stiff, but straight. Hands somewhere where they can stay for the next few minutes comfortably. I find it's best to at least drop the eyelids so that the eyes are, Basil Pantin used to say, not open, not closed. The third element is the breath, following the breath. In some way, it's just this subtle thing of bringing us home to our bodies. Deep and proper breathing also has a way of relaxing all the muscles, especially in the core of the body. So again, the body becomes more of a vehicle, becomes a friend, becomes a tool for our meditation. And then last of all, at least in the tradition I was taught, is the mantra, this sacred word or phrase that we use, mainly because the mind needs something to do.

[58:42]

So we give it one thing to do. We give it a sacred word or a phrase. Now, if you have a style of meditation that you do without a mantra, please feel free to do that. And of course, if you have a mantra that you use all the time, please stay with that. If you're looking for some kind of a sacred word and would like to borrow a phrase for just now, you can always use that sacred syllable OM from India, which is this primordial sound of creation being manifest from the divine. Or else I like to offer this, especially if you're a Christian and devotee of Jesus, to just say this simple phrase, Oh my Jesus. It's got a little bit of the OM there in the beginning. It's got the saving name of Jesus, but it's also very personal. It's got the bhakta devotion to it. And if you would just place whatever that sacred word is on your breath, I like to put it on my out-breath especially. And in some ways it's said, it's said softer than a whisper.

[59:45]

And if the mind wanders off, just keep coming back to that word. And that word becomes an emblem, a symbol of our desire to realize, to be aware of, and to make real, to realize our union with God. I'll ring the bell three times to begin and three times to end. This is a reading from the Bhagavad Gita. Living alone in a secret place, let the yogi practice harmony of mind and body, free from desires and void of possessions, the mind constantly engaged in meditation. In a clean place, prepare yourself a firm seat, neither too high nor too low, covered with the sacred kusha grass, a deerskin and a cloth. On this seat, restrain the function of your thought and senses,

[60:50]

fix your mind on one point, and practice yoga to purify yourself. Be immobile, holding body, head and neck straight and motionless. Rest your gaze between the eyebrows without attention to anything around you, with your soul in peace and all fear gone, strong in your sacred vow. Sit disciplined, controlling your mind, your thought set on me. Sit disciplined, controlling your mind, your thought set on me. I bow to you. [...]

[61:56]

Thanks everyone, off to a good start, sleep with the angels tonight, and we'll see you back in here at nine o'clock. There are no vigils at law, it's at seven. Everybody's rooms are okay, food, you understand about food and everything like that, so anything you can ask me and there's somebody on desk at the bookstore from starting at eight o'clock tomorrow. Okay, good night.

[71:26]

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