Foundation for Inter-Faith Dialogue

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.


AI Suggested Keywords:


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

AI Summary: 





A little song for you to begin today.
This is taken from the Brihparanyak Upanishad, this mantra.
I have kind of a funny story to tell about this.
I learned years ago that this was the world prayer for peace for the World Council of
And so my partner and I, my collaborator and I, John Pennington, have been singing this
literally all over the world, and every time I sing it I tell people this is the world
peace prayer from the World Council of Religions.
And I was in Copenhagen and wound up sharing an event with the head of inter-religious
dialogue for the World Council of Religions.
We were going to be on together.
He was going to speak and I was going to sing.
I forget his name now, he was a Sri Lankan doctor and also a minister.
And I said to him, well, I know the world prayer for peace from the World Council of
And he says, what would that be?
And I said, well, it's from the Brihparanyak Upanishad, they meet from death.
He says, that is not the world prayer for peace from the World Council of Religions.
So, I would say they're missing out on a really good prayer.
Did he give you the name for it?
I don't need, no, he never, we just ended it, it ended in kind of a brittle silence
at that point.
I've been misspeaking all over the world, you know, for the past few years.
It is from the Brihparanyak Upanishad, I'll sing a little of the mantra that goes with
But Valerie knows this, so she can lead all of you in this.
What you really do is you just repeat after me every line.
You come in on my last word, so I'm going to sing, lead me from death into life, lead
me from death into, lead me from falsehood to truth, you're supposed to be jumping in
Lead me from death into life, lead me from falsehood to truth, lead me from falsehood
to truth.
You've got to come in on my last word.
Lead me from death into life, lead me from falsehood to truth, lead me to hope from despair,
lead me from hatred to love, lead me from war into peace, lead me from, oh, it's not
I thought it was a hard one, but I'm doing it anyway.
There we go.
And this last line, as you learn it, we just sing it all together.
Now I'll do just one verse of it for you, the verse from the Bhagavad Gita, actually
the same section we read last night.
The mantra, the Sanskrit mantra goes like this.
Lead me from death into life, lead me from falsehood to truth, lead me from falsehood
to truth, lead me to hope from despair, lead me from hatred to love, lead me from war
into peace, lead me from death into life, into love, let peace fill our hearts, our
world and our universe.
Lead me from death into life, lead me from falsehood to truth, lead me to hope from despair,
lead me from hatred to love, lead me from war into peace, lead me from death into life,
into love, let peace fill our hearts, our world and our universe.
When your soul is in peace, you are in peace, your soul is in God.
Cold or heat and pleasure or pain, you are ever in God.
With your soul in peace and all fear gone, strong in your thoughts, rest with your mind
in harmony.
Your soul on me, your soul on me and lead me from death into life, lead me from falsehood
to truth, lead me to hope from despair, lead me from hatred to love, lead me from war
into peace, lead me from death into life, into love, let peace fill our hearts, our
world and our universe.
Okay, so that's just a brief review of what we did yesterday to make sure we're still
all on the same page.
We talked about this idea of universal wisdom, which I'm going to bring up again in just
a few moments, this idea that there's a common core, a common deposit, you might say, of
wisdom that the religious traditions share that leans right into this idea of the universal
call to contemplation, which is somehow assuming that there's a mystical core to all the authentic
religious traditions, and also part and parcel of that is that all people, all individuals,
not just professional religious, are called to experience that contemplative core and
that mystical union with God.
As a matter of fact, for the Christian, that would be the full flowering of baptism.
We also talked about the idea that not everything, though, is the same.
Father Bede's notion that every religion experiences it differently and even every
person experiences it differently, which is quite a beautiful, mystical sense about that,
I think.
I talked about part of the challenge of this day and age is this new axial consciousness,
how maybe in this first axial consciousness, Father Bruno likes to talk about this ascending
plane, you know, ascending towards spirit.
If you read Teilhard de Chardin, we talk about this breaking into what he calls the neuosphere,
breaking into consciousness.
In that trajectory toward spirit, toward pure spirit, it's been very much a masculine energy.
It's been away from body, away from earth.
And also, the positive side of it is beginning to map out this individual spiritual quest
with a certain individual moral responsibility that, for example, plays out especially in
the late Jewish prophets.
Also, more knowledge of self.
Again, back to Teilhard, who I'm just happy to be reading these days, this idea of a kind
of concentrated self-consciousness really comes to the fore.
Also, some people talk about a piercing of the rational mind through the mythic mind,
a piercing of this sense of individual identity away, in a sense, from the tribe.
But our new axial consciousness, if such a thing is actually going on, and it sort of
strikes me in my bones that it is, is a recovery of where this vertical axis of the cross is,
is rooted, which is in a sense of ecology, a sense of body, a sense of social justice.
And the horizontal axis of the cross is also calling us to a tribal consciousness again,
a new, let's say, not tribal consciousness, a global consciousness.
So beyond a sense of tribe and beyond a sense of individuality, but a new kind of, Teilhard's
words again, a complexified consciousness.
We're all heading toward, I hope we're heading toward, a new union of consciousness.
So that our work here is not abstract speculation.
This is really what we're doing for ourselves and for the planet.
So how do we approach this?
The last thing I gave you last night was this foundational little paragraph from Nostra
Aetate, from the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church, that says,
we reject nothing of what's true and holy in other traditions and of our own.
As a matter of fact, we have a high regard for their manner of life, for their conduct,
for their precepts and doctrines.
All those things that, even though they're different from the way we view the world,
are still reflecting a ray of truth.
And encouraged then by the church to enter into dialogue.
Encouraged by the church to enter into discussion and collaboration with these other traditions.
While witnessing, of course, to our own faith and way of life.
We not only acknowledge, we not only preserve, we not only tolerate, in some way we also
encourage the spiritual and moral truths of these other faiths.
And I mentioned also, that's a rather groundbreaking thing, because just in 1928, ecumenical dialogue
was being pretty much condemned by Pope Pius XI.
So, based on Nostra Aetate then, this is kind of a framework I've gotten from a scholar
named Paul Knitter, whose writings I like very much.
This is mainly from a book called Introducing Theologies of Religion.
His last book, which a friend of mine just recommended and said he loved it a great deal,
is called Without the Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian.
Do you know this book?
I'm really anxious to read it.
He's really a wonderful scholar and very, very easy to read.
So he talks about, this is where you can pick up on your list there, on the handout.
He talks about theologies of inter-religious dialogue tending to fall into one or another
of four groups.
The first of them would be the placement theology.
And this is what we find usually in most evangelical fundamentalist theologies.
Let's try not to say what's good or bad, let's just say where they're at.
You won't find this in mainstream Catholicism.
Having just read that document to you, you couldn't possibly find this in mainstream Catholicism.
But you might find it somewhat on the fringes of Catholicism.
A replacement theology means there's only one true religion,
which is going to completely replace the erroneous one.
You've just got to wipe everything out.
Now there were shades of this in Catholicism and Catholic missionary activity,
but certainly in this day and age it's not the teaching of the Church.
Even, I'm thinking immediately, I was in Alaska a couple of years ago,
and this may not seem like a big deal, but it's a big deal.
They have this wonderful music among the Yupik Indians, Yupik Eskimos.
This is out toward the mouth of the Yukon.
It's called potlatch.
They gather together, and the young men play drums.
I guess that the older men play drums, and the women and the boys sing these songs
and do these dances with their fingers.
It's like a chanting style. It's very beautiful.
In the meantime, in church, they're singing the most horrendous, horrible, saccharine,
unmusical, cheap liturgical music I've ever heard anywhere in my life.
Just horrid stuff.
And my friend who brought me up there, I said,
Why? Why? Why are you singing this horrible music at Mass?
And meanwhile, these people are doing this wonderful liturgy, in a sense,
in their potlatch with this great music and great ritual.
And the Catholic ritual is just horrid. Just horrid.
He said, well, because the missionaries came in and said,
you can't do anything of your native tradition at liturgy.
You have to wipe it out completely and replace it with Roman Catholicism.
Replace it with, you know...
That's replacement theology at a very practical level.
And how many times the missionaries have done this?
Fr. Bede would speculate this is even why Christianity never was...
the Christian missionary effort was not a great success in India.
This idea that we just had to wipe everything out and completely replace it with what?
Really with Greek philosophy and Roman law and Roman liturgy, huh?
So there's still shades of that.
This is not the mainstream teaching of Catholicism, though.
That there's only one true religion that's going to completely replace the erroneous one.
Not the teaching of Roman Catholicism, at least in this day and age.
And today, if you have conversations with my friends who are Evangelicals and Fundamentalists,
and this usually comes out on a very practical level,
this same argument will go on.
I was having a discussion with somebody about chant.
And I was saying, well, I was defending Roman Catholicism using chant.
And I said, if you look at all indigenous peoples,
they all have a kind of a native chant.
And we could tap into that.
And he says, ah, but see, that's before they're converted to Christ.
And you have to come in and wipe that out completely and replace it with Christian music.
But Catholicism always has taught that grace builds on nature.
Not that grace is just a snow over a dung heap, as it would be taught by,
which is, I think it's a direct phrase of Martin Luther's,
this idea that we're just totally corrupt and we have to be totally covered with grace.
Nothing is good.
The mainstream Catholic thought has always been that grace builds on nature.
There's something good there.
And of course, that's what we hear reflected in that document.
So that leads to our second thing, second theology of religion,
which is fulfillment theology.
It still says there's only one true religion, but notice the subtle difference.
But that one true religion fulfills all the other religions.
Do you hear the subtle difference?
It doesn't replace, it fulfills.
So we have this famous phrase of Justin Martyr,
Semine Verbi, seeds of the word that are scattered all over.
They get gathered up and all of that is brought to its fulfillment in the person of Jesus.
And then, of course, Christianity becomes the unfolding of what that experience means.
Now, Bidadi Shuktananda, when they go to India, for instance,
they are definitely operating out of this fulfillment theology
that Jesus, Christianity, and perhaps even to some extent Catholicism,
fulfills all these other religions.
That would be pretty much at least conservative mainstream Roman Catholic thought at this point.
Fulfillment theology. Understand it?
So next, a theology of mutuality.
What does that mean?
That there are many true religions and they're called the dialogue.
Now, there are theologians within Roman Catholicism,
and have been for a couple of decades now at least,
who want to have this accepted as a mainstream theology.
It has not been accepted by Roman Catholicism as a mainstream theology.
I have this whole packet of papers together.
I call it the strange case of Roger Haight,
who is this Jesuit theologian, I think it must be two years ago now,
who was pretty much silenced by the Vatican for specifically this,
him writing about trying to have the theology of mutuality
be accepted as a mainstream theology in Roman Catholicism.
Our other friend of Kamalgali and a friend of Bidadi Shuktananda,
and one of my also favorite authors on this is named Jacques Dupuy,
a Belgian Jesuit who just died maybe two years ago.
Also was really edging that way.
He also got not completely silenced, but was put under suspicion for a while
by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
But all of his writings on this are really quite wonderful and quite nuanced.
So there's definitely some of that alive in the Roman Catholic tradition,
this idea of mutuality, that there are many true religions
that are just called into dialogue.
The fourth one, a little farther away, is the theology of acceptance,
that there are many religions and they have different ends completely.
In some way we're almost back to the theology of replacement here actually.
It's interesting how this comes full circle.
There's a well-known Jesuit named Francis Clooney,
who was actually here for a conference we had a couple of years ago.
And Paul Knitter puts him in this category,
that these traditions actually do have very different things they're heading toward,
and we should just accept that.
He doesn't talk so much about a theology of...
No, I'm going to stop there because I was about to say something I only had half-baked.
At any rate, this is the farthest end.
Just accept the fact that there are different traditions
and they all have different ends to which they're heading.
This word end is going to be important when we talk about something a little bit later
in the next session on Talos and Skopos.
So there's four.
If you turn the page, he puts it another way too,
which is somehow even a little easier to grasp.
Theologies of religions are often categorized in three different models.
They would be exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism.
Exclusivism, again, very similar to our replacement theology,
there's only one Savior, there's only one religion or church,
and no salvation is possible outside of that.
Very literally so.
This phrase about no salvation outside of the church
is one that's gone through quite a lot of nuancing over the generations.
Paul Nutter does a brilliant job of that in his book
Introducing a Theology of Religions.
It's quite interesting how he says the same thing,
but it keeps meaning different things along the way.
What does it mean, church? What does salvation mean?
So, inclusivism, another model, maintains that
although there's only one Savior, one true church,
salvation remains possible outside of them,
though it's still always ultimately dependent on Jesus Christ and the church.
So you can still say there's no salvation outside the church,
but suddenly the notion of what Christ is, who Christ is, expands,
but even more, this notion of what church is expands,
and the notion of how that grace is mediated through Christ,
how that grace is mediated through church,
can expand and be a little more liberal view on that.
And then finally, pluralism, which holds that there are many Saviors
and different paths leading to salvation,
and none of them is necessarily more superior than the other.
Three different models.
Interesting just to think for a second,
and I have to think about this all the time,
where are you on this?
Don't tell me. Just think about it.
We don't want it on tape, especially.
Just thinking, where are you on this?
Just think about that.
What do you believe?
Inclusivism, exclusivism, pluralism,
replacement, fulfillment, mutuality, acceptance.
I'm not sure we have to come down really firmly in one area.
But there's another brilliant article called
Praying to the Buddha, written by a Vietnamese priest named Peter Phan,
who's also been under suspicion recently, mind you.
We're definitely walking on thin theological ice here at this point.
He's talking about his mother,
who was a very ardent, practicing Catholic all her life,
but who also prayed to the Buddha,
because the Buddha was a very good man.
She saw that.
And in this article he says,
there are respected Christian theologians
that advocate all of these positions.
This is really still very much in debate,
that make credible appeals to both scripture and tradition
to support their views.
And incidentally, these positions occur among theologians of other religions as well.
So there are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh theologians
who would all fall into basically these same categories.
This is not just about Christianity or Catholicism we're talking here.
But apart from that intellectual exchange,
I want to move to something a little more practical.
There's also, again, within Roman Catholicism,
there's a broader conception of dialogue within the Church.
There's a Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
that was established after Vatican II.
There are two different documents I want to talk about.
One of them was issued in 1984,
and it's called
The Attitude of the Church Toward Followers of Other Religions,
Reflections and Orientations on Dialogue and Mission.
You can make an acronym out of that.
What's beautiful about that document is that
it states that the evangelizing mission of the Church,
even though it's a single reality,
is still complex.
It's still articulated.
It indicates five different elements
that are all part of this mission of evangelization.
I've got that listed there on number one.
First of all, part of our evangelizing mission
is simply presence and witness.
You might call to mind, for example,
a Charles de Foucault martyred in Algeria
and his witness to that,
or the Trappists who were killed only a few years ago in Senegal.
I'm also thinking of the early Camaldolese martyrs.
We get our third good of our charism
from the fact that some of our monks
basically just lived as contemplative monks
up in the wilds of Poland and Hungary
and were martyred.
But their only evangelizing mission was presence.
Now think of how we could be that
in our towns and villages.
The second element of evangelization,
and we're seeing here now
some of this vertical and horizontal axis
of community plus rootedness,
commitment to human liberation
as an evangelical instrument.
Third, I thought this was very, very wonderful.
Our liturgical life, our prayer and contemplation,
as an evangelizing tool.
Now what does that mean?
If you note, my first discipline in theology was in liturgy.
This word liturgia from the Greek
really means a public work done in the service of others.
A public work done for service of others.
It's something that we refer to like a library or taxes
or something like that.
So imagine our liturgy
as a service we're providing for the world,
as an evangelizing service to the world.
This is a tool of evangelization
just by doing our liturgical life
and by saying our prayers.
Of course that means having the door open.
The fourth element of our evangelization
is interreligious dialogue.
And finally comes proclamation and catechesis.
Now notice there's a difference there, isn't there?
The fourth is dialogue.
The fifth is proclamation and catechesis.
Now from my own colored lenses,
I'm thinking that dialogue is what we were talking about yesterday,
the dialogical dialogue, not the dialectical dialogue.
It's dialogue in saying,
what do I have to learn from you
as well as what do I have to convince you of?
And then comes proclamation and catechesis.
Now, why I think this is all very interesting
is I was always taught when I was studying theology
that you should always pay attention to hierarchies
embedded in Roman documents.
Nothing is ever laid out in any order by accident.
So I note here that presence and witness,
commitment to social development and human liberation,
liturgy, prayer, and contemplation,
and interreligious dialogue
all come before proclamation.
I think that's significant.
Before proclamation,
you might say that all those other things
somehow lay the groundwork for the proclamation.
Maybe I may not even dare
start speaking words of proclamation
until I've first established myself
as a holy and loving presence,
until I've shown some commitment
to social development and human liberation,
until I've, I don't know,
maybe built up a liturgical life
of prayer and contemplation
that I can share with the world,
and sat in dialogue with my neighbor.
Maybe then I can start talking.
I will have established enough of a relationship
and lit enough groundwork
to actually proclaim the gospel and do catechesis.
Not to say that all that other stuff
hasn't already been its own form
of proclamation and catechesis.
Whether this is an exact translation
of something St. Francis said or not,
I'm not exactly sure.
But the Franciscans love to have
this little saying posted all over the place.
They say, Francis said,
preach the gospel and use words if you have to.
And all those other ways
are preaching the gospel
without having used words.
So then in 1991,
that same council issued another document
called Dialogue and Proclamation.
And in that document,
there were four different kinds of dialogue
that were described.
So we're just in the area of dialogue,
which was the fourth element
of the last thing we talked about.
And you see them listed there
under number two.
And first of all,
there's, I love this one,
there's just the dialogue of life.
Which is those, to me,
it's those well-worn paths between huts,
which I believe that phrase comes from
from Raimundo Panicar,
in which people engage others
in their community
in a neighborly exchange of daily joys,
problems, concerns.
There is, again, both somehow
this horizontal axis of building community
and even that vertical axis
that's digging deep into the ground
and the practical exigencies of life,
especially of a communal life,
in a city or a village, in a society.
And then there's a dialogue of action.
Action as dialogue,
which is a call for Christians
to cooperate with people of other faith
in projects of mutual interest.
So that could be digging a well,
that could be relieving poverty,
that could be fighting AIDS,
that could be how many things?
That already is a dialogue,
a dialogue of action.
And then there's the dialogue
of religious experience.
Again, like the one about prayer
and liturgy and contemplation,
I love this one,
in which people share spiritual practices.
What an evangelizing tool that is right there.
We have this wonderful friendship
with the people from Esalen and Ta Sahara
and the Native American center
called Window to the West.
And I'm especially thinking of Ta Sahara
and the Native Americans,
what a joy it is for us
to share practice together.
To be with the Esalen tribe
out in their holy spot in Coachella
and do the sweat lodge with them.
Share their practice.
To be at Ta Sahara and sit zazen with them.
Or for them to come here
and participate in the Eucharist.
I have this one story.
The man who was the acting head
of the Esalen tribe,
his name is Little Bear.
Tommy, yes.
He hasn't been too active with the tribe
apparently in the past few years.
And I believe I was presiding at Mass that morning
and during the Eucharistic prayer
tears are running down Little Bear's face.
And afterwards I asked him,
why were you crying during the Eucharistic prayer?
And he said, when you did this
over the bread and wine
you were calling down Great Spirit, weren't you?
Well, he got that more than most Catholics get it.
And that was the dialogue of religious experience.
I think he understood the real presence of Christ
in the Eucharist better than many Catholics do
at that point.
So, this is what, in which people share practices,
even prayer and contemplation with others
of different faiths.
And quite often, what I found,
sharing scripture,
but also sharing practices of meditation,
sharing meditation practices
is another place to build wonderful friendships here.
And then, finally, there's the dialogue of theological exchange,
which is usually, of course, talking heads
and specialists who undertake to enrich each other's conception
of their respective religions and spiritual traditions.
Not where most people live, though, is it?
Most people don't want to talk about the fine points
of the difference between Advaita, Vedanta
and the mystical marriage of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.
But what I want you to note here again
is this hierarchy.
That I was taught to find embedded in all Roman documents.
First, there's a dialogue of life,
then the dialogue of action,
then the dialogue of experience,
and then comes a dialogue of theological exchange.
And maybe you shouldn't even bother having that theological exchange
until you build some groundwork of relationship
and some experience of that
in which you're engaging dialogue.
So what I find in both my work and my life,
what I'm mainly concerned with
from that first document,
is that third and fourth aspect.
The idea of liturgical life,
prayer and contemplation and dialogue.
And from that second document,
that dialogue of inter-religious experience,
that dialogue of religious experience
in which people share practices from other different faiths.
That's where I found that I spent a lot of my time
slowly and very carefully
even trying to foster environments
and create interfaith rituals.
Which is not always the easiest thing to do
because we are people of the word.
As soon as you start getting into proclaiming scriptures,
it's very easy to leave somebody out
who's not going to be able to follow along.
For example, in an inter-religious gathering,
I'm never going to have a text read.
If it's in my power,
I'm not going to have a text read about reincarnation.
Somebody's going to be left out right away for that.
Finding these words we actually can agree on
is actually a rather difficult thing.
At the same time,
if I'm going to read something about the Christian scriptures,
I'm not going to start out with saying
you must confess Jesus to be Lord.
I can't start out there.
Nor am I going to read the psalm that says
all their pagan idols are silver and gold.
I'm not going to start there.
So it's not the easiest thing to build these environments
where we can actually find words to agree on.
Again, why I say, I think this,
when we get into the techniques of prayer and meditation,
I think we're actually on safer ground.
Which incidentally becomes also
the area where we can build on common experience
and share our experiences.
This is why I think some of the most fruitful dialogue
that's going on between traditions
is actually between monks.
Because quite often we're talking about experience.
We're talking about practice.
We're talking about practical things in our experience.
I remember our first time visiting Tassajara.
We didn't talk about a lot of theology and philosophy.
We were like, wow, those are cool robes.
Where did you get those beads?
Can I get some of that incense?
It was more about this.
But then really talking about,
as our friend Hung Sher calls it,
the mechanics of meditation
and our actual practical experience
leading up to and coming out from.
So while I'm laying a foundation here,
I also want to bring in this document
that doesn't get brought up very often.
I'm a hopeless optimist in these things.
Father B read this same document
and actually took some exception
with some of the things that were written in it.
I was picking through it
trying to find something positive to build on.
It's called
The Letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church
on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.
It was issued by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1989.
I think we can actually safely assume
that this was very close to the pen of our present pope,
Benedict XVI, who was at the time
the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
And in Chapter 5 on questions of method,
and actually I quoted this extensively
in the book that I wrote
that was published last year
in a sense as a justification
for the work I was doing in that book.
It says this.
It says,
The majority of the great religions
which have sought union with God
have also pointed out ways to achieve it.
Listen to that sentence again
since I botched it as I was reading it.
The majority of the great religions
which have sought union with God
have also pointed out ways to achieve it.
That word ways is going to be important again to us later
for our discussion this afternoon.
Have pointed out ways to achieve that union with God.
But that's assuming there's something good in these traditions.
We're assuming that they're seeking union with the Divine
and we're acknowledging that their ways
are in some way valid ways.
So then it goes on to quote
Nostra Aetate
which we mentioned at the end yesterday
at the beginning today
by saying that
just as the Catholic Church
rejects nothing of what's true and holy in these religions
and there's the paragraph you have right there
on the bottom of page 2
neither should these ways
be rejected.
Just as the Catholic Church rejects nothing
of what's true and holy in these religions
neither should we reject these ways
with which other great traditions have sought
to achieve union with God in prayer.
Simply because you're not Christian.
Do you understand the importance of that?
They're practical methods.
This is under the section titled
Questions of Method.
So we don't reject somebody else's method of prayer
or achieving union with God
just because you're not Christian.
On the contrary
one can take from them what is useful.
All we have to do is
make sure that Christian conception of prayer
isn't obscured
and that Christian logic
and requirements of prayer
are never obscured.
And within that context
all of this
these bits and pieces
should be taken up and expressed anew.
Now what I usually use that for
in the work that I do
is this is why we can learn things from
This is why we can
adapt something like yoga.
Because these are ways
that these traditions have sought union with God
and we're not forbidden from
using these ways
as long as we keep the Christian conception of prayer in mind.
This is right from the congregation of the doctrine of the Church.
You couldn't get a more
conservative body than this.
This is Roman Catholicism
at least at its most
it's about as liberal as it gets.
It's about as universal as it gets
in mainstream institutional church.
But you know
what have we not incorporated in Roman Catholicism
when we got Christmas from pagan rituals?
We got Easter from
so many things we actually have.
And ways and means
these practical ways
these are things we can adopt for ourselves.
Filtering through our own understanding
of prayer
our understanding of grace
our own logic about prayer
we hold on to those core things.
Somehow we hold on to the interior
but the exterior can be expressed in many different ways.
I think we'll mention this again later.
The same actually applies to philosophy
and to language
and to ritual.
Those things are
though they're tied to the core
they can be changed.
That's why we used to have
Mass always in Latin
and now we can have it in English.
We used to face one way
and now we can face another way.
The exterior things can change around that
as long as we hold on
to whatever that core is
of our Christian kerygma.
So what we're aiming for
is to learn from other traditions
to learn what's useful
from other traditions
while we remain faithful to
and while we explore ever more deeply
the Christian conception of prayer.
Which may actually
this is the funny part of it
may actually appear clearer to us
as we explore those other techniques.
So I want to also add
while we're on this topic
that the latest official teaching
of the Roman Catholic Church
at least as it's articulated in the document
like Dominus Iesus
favors inclusivism
while really putting a harsh warning out
against the dangers of pluralism.
Especially under the pontificate
of Pope Benedict XVI.
It categorically affirms
the fulness and definitiveness
of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Categorically affirms the unicity
and unity of the Church
and states that it would be contrary
to the faith to consider the Church
as just one way of salvation
alongside those constituted by other religions.
Categorically states that.
And goes on to say
even if these other traditions
are said to be converging with the Church
towards some kind of eschological kingdom of God
still there is a uniqueness
and a unicity about the Roman Catholic Church.
This is of course a good deal more
protective and defensive in tone
than the other documents we've talked about
that didn't feel the need to articulate
and accentuate that unicity and uniqueness
quite as much.
So I just want to note the change of tone
and the change of climate
and keep moving on.
And as I said, this is what I'm calling
the strange case of Roger Haight
where he was quite roundly silenced
for his work in these things.
So, let me repeat one more time.
What I'm mainly concerned with here
are prayer and contemplation
and how they lead into inter-religious dialogue.
What I'm mainly concerned with also
is this dialogue of religious experience
in which people share spiritual practice
with others of different faiths.
And this is where I want to bring up our idea
of the perennial philosophy.
Again, the common core teachings
about the transcendental essence of religion.
I want to remind you of that one more time.
I mentioned it in just a few parts.
The idea that first of all
that there's a spirit of God.
Secondly, that that spirit of God
is not just outside of us.
Somehow it's inside of us too.
Third of all, that most of us
have no knowledge or awareness
of this divine power within us
because of whatever the traditions call it
sin, delusion, ignorance, separation.
And then next, that our religions
actually teach us the way
toward the realization of this divine indwelling.
They lay out a path for us to experience
this union with the divine.
What's important about all this
is that this is a knowledge,
this what we're calling perennial philosophy,
that only comes out of
and then leads to the inner journey.
So this is the importance of experience
and the importance of interior experience.
So let's put those two together.
This is the primacy somehow of interior experience
because this awakening is only possible
through some kind of an interior experience.
So it goes hand in hand with
the way of meditation,
the way of contemplation.
It goes hand in hand with something that's
beyond our normal spiritual life
of ritual and activity.
So this is in Hinduism,
this is the move from the Vedas to the Upanishads.
What is it in Christianity?
It's the move, not away from ritual,
but somehow to discover the underlying depth of ritual,
that core out of which ritual comes
and toward which ritual points,
that beautiful image from Buddhism
of the finger pointing at the moon.
Do you know this image?
That all of our religions and traditions
are fingers pointing at the moon,
but please don't mistake the finger for the moon.
So this interior experience is the moon.
And the rituals, our activities,
even our dogmas and doctrines
are the fingers pointing at the moon,
but the moon is that awakening,
that experience.
Even somehow our study and teaching,
those are fingers pointing at the moon.
What's important about this
is this journey to the depths of our own being,
what Father Bee called the return to the center,
to have a conscious contact with the spirit
in the cave of our own hearts.
This is the building block I'm talking about
in these areas for dialogue.
To start the dialogue there,
it's for this reason that so many of us
have studied the great mystical texts
of these other traditions,
which, as the document says,
which have sought union with God in prayer,
so that we can find new ways
of expressing this experience.
Furthermore, since these traditions
have also pointed out ways to achieve that union,
and since the Catholic Church rejects
nothing of what's true and holy in these religions,
neither are those ways with which other religions
have sought union with God
to be rejected out of hand
simply because they're not Christian.
On the contrary,
we take from them what's useful.
We take up these bits and pieces
and express them anew
in the light of Christian understanding
of prayer and the ultimate end.
A few concrete examples.
There's this beautiful practice
that's common in Shantivanam, our ashram in India,
and other especially Christian ashrams throughout India,
where there's a reading of non-Christian sacred texts
at the beginning of the liturgy,
or just before the liturgy begins.
There was an original proposed Indian rite
after the Second Vatican Council,
which was never fully adopted.
And in that rite,
they suggested using the Indian scriptures
actually within the liturgy itself,
like next to the first reading or before the Gospel.
It was never fully adopted,
but to do it within the liturgy
and not before the liturgy.
And I happen to see that it's called
the pro-manuscripto version of that,
which is the original version that was being proposed.
And in it, there was an explanation
of this practice.
And you remember this phrase I said a little while ago,
the seeds of the Word, the Semine Verbi.
It said,
even if we recognize only seeds of the Word
in these scriptures,
the final manifestation of the Word in Jesus Christ
did not render these seeds pointless or irrelevant.
Even though it's come to its fulfillment in Jesus,
those other seeds are not irrelevant,
those other seeds are not pointless,
since Jesus came to fulfill, not destroy.
So there's fulfillment, not replacement.
You see it's playing out right there.
Just as the New Testament
did not abolish the Old Testament,
but helped to discover a richer and deeper meaning
in the Hebrew scriptures and the Jewish scriptures.
So, again, the document,
this pro-manuscripto version says,
the non-Christian scriptures,
even if they represent only a cosmic revelation,
still form part of the dynamism of the Word
and are better understood when placed in this context.
We understand these other scriptures
of the cosmic revelation
when they're put in the context of the Gospel.
In other words,
this is Jacques Dupuy's explanation of this all.
We can't consider other traditions to be equal,
even with the preparation of Israel
that's contained in the Jewish scriptures.
We don't think that they have the same identical meaning
in the history of salvation as that of Judaism,
or the same relationship with Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, all these other scriptures,
from the seeds of the Word or the cosmic revelation,
are already oriented to the same event
that the Old Testament was oriented to.
They're already oriented toward Jesus.
So, this is the phrase of his that I love so much.
They're not just pre-Christian,
they're pro-Christian.
They're not just pre-Christian,
they're pro-Christian.
They're all, he says,
authentic evangelical preparations.
The Bhagavad Gita is already pointing to Jesus.
In other words, it's small.
The Tao Te Ching is already pointing to the Gospel of John.
And as such,
this is a rather startling phrase,
destined by God,
who directs all of human history
to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
We're still in this fulfillment theology.
He's even bold enough to say
that they represent true personal interventions of God.
Now, the official teachings of the Church
would never talk about them as revelations,
but we're not very far from that, are we?
Father Bee would talk about them as a revelation.
These other scriptures,
be it the Vedas or the Tao Te Ching
or the Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada,
they represent interventions of God
in the history of the nations
and point them toward their decisive intervention
of God in Jesus Christ.
Not only pre-Christian, but pro-Christian.
They're all pointing to Jesus somehow.
So this song I sang for you at the beginning,
I didn't do the second verse,
which is from the Bhagavad Gita.
It's a beautiful, beautiful verse.
I am the taste of living water.
I am the light of the sun and the moon.
I am Aum, the sacred word,
the sound and the silence.
Now, in the Bhagavad Gita,
those are on the lips of Krishna,
singing about himself.
I easily hear those words on the lips of Jesus.
I am the taste of living water.
I am the light of the sun and the moon.
I am the sacred word, the sound and the silence.
So that Bhagavad Gita to me,
Father Bee wrote a beautiful commentary on it, by the way,
is not just pre-Christian,
it's pro-Christian.
With that in mind,
this is a subtle little argument here of my own.
We might also rightly question
the use of the word only.
As I read it there,
as the document says,
if there are only seeds of the word,
or only a cosmic revelation,
that's not an only to me.
That's a pretty big thing already,
to be seeds of the word
and to be part of the cosmic revelations,
cosmic revelation.
What's not mentioned here also,
is that not only are those scriptures,
not only is the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching
and the Vedas understood better
when placed in the context of the Bible,
I'm going to make the startling statement that
maybe the Bible too is better understood
when it's put in the context of these seeds of the word
and this cosmic revelation.
Maybe I understand the Bible better
when I see it in the context of this greater universal wisdom,
the perennial philosophy.
Personally, I have found that to be the case.
I love our scriptures more,
having studied these scriptures of other traditions.
For Fr. Bede, his approach to the Bible
was Bible as literature before he converted.
So, not only are those other scriptures
understood better when placed in the context of the Gospel,
maybe the Bible is understood better
when it's placed in this context of universal wisdom
and these seeds of the word
to help us to see our own tradition
as an expression of a larger movement
of the Spirit and humanity.
Jacques Dupuy,
Christ in the Encounter with Other Religions,
I think is the name of the book.
I read it in Italian, so I only have the Italian.
It's like Jesus Christ in the Encounter with Religions,
I think is the name of it.
I went a little over my time here,
but we have any questions, comments, questions?
You had a lot of explanation from Dupuy
of the pro-Christian.
Was that the same or different
when we looked at the earlier model
of the fulfillment theology?
It's right there, it's still in fulfillment.
It's still in fulfillment theology, yeah.
Because it's saying that pro-Christians
are all pointing to Jesus Christ.
Yeah, he's very careful about that.
Fragile area, what he's talking about there,
is saying that they're destined by God,
which puts them somehow on the footing
of being authentic revelations,
an authentic revelation in itself,
destined by God, that God wanted this to happen.
Now, not all Christian theologians
are going to agree with that,
that God wanted the Tao Te Ching to happen.
God meant for the Bhagavad Gita to be written.
Yeah, please.
And is that the reason he got
in a little bit of heat
with the Vatican authorities?
You know, I don't...
Explain it.
I was thinking it would be much worse
in terms of why he may have raised problems
about the whole...
He was exonerated at the end.
It was a couple of little subtle points, actually.
Just not making...
I think it was, and I'm speaking
a little bit out of context here,
that he didn't make enough clarification
about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ
in the history of salvation.
In some writing.
But he was clear by the time he died
of all those things.
We can go back and look those things up.
Oh, Roger Haight?
I was going to...
Exactly, yeah.
I was going to bring that along,
but I thought we might get too distracted by it.
Anything else?
Please, Chuck.
Well, I think it was a few years ago
that, you know, the regular stations
across around the Lent season
were out there hosting...
I think they had an Indian theologian
give the meditations,
and they actually quoted the Bible people.
Oh, the Gita.
Oh, interesting.
Do you remember that?
I don't remember his name,
but I have some faint recollection of it.
Let's see.
It's beautiful.
I just want to agree with you.
My travels through the world
and being able to be in India
and read the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita,
that I truly gained a better understanding
and appreciation for our Bible
and our scriptures.
I don't think I've heard the seeds...
The seeds of the Word.
And I've listened to Fr. Bruno talk
about perennial philosophy,
and I never understood it,
so thank you for making it really clear.
Oh, good.
I love him, but it's like,
okay, I don't know.
I've heard him talk about it twice.
Based on my experience at Shantivanam especially,
it's become part of my regular prayer life,
that it's part of my prayer.
I always read from another tradition.
At the beginning,
I usually have a prayer format
pretty similar to what's done at Shantivanam.
And with all the retreats I do,
we always do that as well.
I never said that.
I'll take a stab at it.
Theologos, the study of God.
Theology is the study of God.
Where religion, it means a relinking,
it's really kind of a practical way,
a means toward achieving union with God.
Theology is much more a study,
whereas religion is much more a practical way,
a tradition.
You could be just studying Christian theology, yeah.
But there's also a theology of religions,
which would be the study of God
in a comparative way.
Anything else?
So we'll do a brief meditation here again.
This is a lot of stuff,
and you're doing really well.
I guess it's not...
I don't feel like I'm leaving you behind.
You're still with me on all this?
Okay, good.
So let's, if you can,
let's get out of our heads
and back down to our hearts again.
If you don't mind me giving you
these simple instructions again.
So always starting out
with this why of meditation.
What can we glean
from what we just talked about?
Oh yeah, this is it.
It seems to me that this knowledge
this unifying knowledge
only comes out of
and leads to the interior experience.
This perennial knowledge
only comes from this inner experience
and it's always pointing to this inner experience.
It goes hand in hand
with this way of meditation and contemplation,
which is something beyond
our normal spiritual life
of ritual and activity,
even our study and our teaching
and our breaking it all apart.
It's somehow the place,
the depths of our own being,
to have conscious contact
with the Spirit
in the cave of our own hearts.
So that's our why.
The how, the next three steps are,
first of all,
I'm always urging this posture,
this good upright posture.
Most of us here are in a chair,
so I heard the most beautiful descriptions
of our upright posture
in yoga classes,
this beautiful shape of the spine
and how these vertebrae
sit on top of each other
like dinner plates in the kitchen cabinet.
And if you could just kind of close your eyes
and imagine those vertebrae
sitting one on top of each other.
And you know,
the strange thing about this,
it seems a little illogical
that something as heavy as the head
could sit easily on top of this
very delicate little spine.
And yet it does.
How marvelously, wondrously we're made,
that big gray brain sloshing around in there.
And yet somehow it does.
It sits together with this immense perfection.
We feel the weight come down
in our sits bones.
And then if you could just for a moment
take a deep, quiet breath
in through your nose.
And as you exhale, drop your shoulders.
Do that again.
Take a deep, slow, quiet inhale
through your nostrils.
And then exhale fully and drop your shoulders.
And even feel that make you align even more.
So we're ready on to the breath.
And you see how this breath
can be such a tool and a friend for us.
It has a way of calming the muscles
around the core of the body.
But even more subtly,
it starts us on this interior journey.
We follow it in.
We go from the outside to the inside.
Because most of the time
we're living outside of ourselves.
And our breath can call us to live inside.
And then I invite you to
add a word to that breath.
Some kind of a sacred,
even a pregnant word.
A divine word that is a symbol in a sense
of your desire to be in union with God.
Your desire to realize this divine
in the depth of your own being.
And if the mind starts wandering,
just come back to that word.
Even a single day,
A reading from Dhammapada.
A reading from Dhammapada.
Even a single day of a life lived
virtuously and meditatively
is worth more than a hundred years
lived wantonly and without discipline.
A single day's life of a wise
and contemplative person
is worth more than a hundred years
lived wantonly and without discipline.
A single day's life of one
who puts out great effort
is better than a life of a hundred years
lived in idleness and sluggishness.
A single day's life lived
by one who grasps
the impermanence of all conditioned things
is worth more than a hundred years
lived in blindness and ignorance.
A single day's life of one
who sees the deathless state
is worth more than a hundred years
lived without perceiving it.
A single day's life of one
who sees the truth
is worth more than a hundred years
of not seeing the truth.
Sound of the bell
Sound of the bell
Sound of the bell
Sound of the bell
Sound of the bell
Sound of the bell
Sound of the bell
Questioner 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21,
22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30.
So the next thing on our schedule is Eucharist at 11.30, and then you take your lunch down
there at the retreat house.
There's really no place to sit together, you kind of have to be hermits for lunch, and
then we'll be back in here at 3 o'clock.
And then we'll be back in here at 3 o'clock.