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: 





This song I have to offer you this morning doesn't have a sing-along part, except that the last two words of every verse are, �The Great Mother.� So if you want to sing those two words with me, you could sing � oh no, every verse is �nourished by the Great Mother.� So if you grab that line, you could sing that one with me. Other than that, there's too many words for you. This is from the Tao Te Ching, a combination of Chapter 10 and Chapter 20, my two favorite chapters of the Tao Te Ching. One of these great little revelations I had, it's just a fact that delighted me to no end, is when Buddhism moved out of India and moved into China, it met Taoism. And as I mentioned last night, even Taoism could be considered the ultimate apophatic tradition in the sense that it's really very much the way of negation. When the Tao is forgotten, virtue arises.


It's whatever it is that's the source of all of our other constructs. It's always talking about this darkness and the uncarved block, but also this great image of the Great Mother. I do not know its name, perhaps it is the mother of the ten thousand things. It's a marvelous image. Anyway, when Buddhism meets Taoism, it finds a very good friend, because Buddhism itself is going to adapt this Taoist way of expressing its own, what it considers to be its own truths. And can anybody tell me what that gives birth to, when Buddhism meets Taoism? Zen. Zen! Yeah, you knew it. Okay, good. You're way ahead of me. It gives birth to Zen. Now here's my favorite part of this. Do you know where the word Zen comes from? It's related to the Sanskrit word dhyana, for meditation, which becomes Chan in China, becomes Zen when it goes to Japan, becomes Tien when it goes to Vietnam, becomes Son


when it comes to Korea, but it's all from that Sanskrit root dhyana first. So this meeting of Buddhism and Taoism gives birth to a whole new school of Buddhism, the school of Zen. So Taoism is, I wouldn't say infected, has an influence more than we know. So now, enough, I'll sing this song, it's called The Great Mother. Flesh and the blood, the heart and the soul, can you avoid separation? Others are joyful and others can feast, I alone do not know where I am. A child not taught how to smile, nourished by the great mother.


White dark mirrors free from all dust, can you breathe like a baby? Others have everything more than they need, I alone have nothing at all. I'm just a fool in confusion, nourished by the great mother. Mark, you're just in time, I'm singing from the Tao Te Ching here. Loving all people, you govern the land, but can you rule without ruling? Others are brilliant and others are clear, I alone still grow up in the dark. The insights of scholars escape me, nourished by the great mother.


Opening and closing the gates of the sky, can you be like a woman? Others are clever and others are sharp, I alone am stupid and dull. I'm just like a wave on the ocean, nourished by the great mother. Teaching and learning from all living beings, but doing it all without trying. Everyone else has got something to do, I alone am aimless and sad. Old Taoist alone is not realistic, nourished by the great mother.


I'm just like a wave on the ocean, nourished by the great mother. I especially love the last line that's from chapter 20. Everyone else has got something to do, I alone am aimless and sad. The translation is really, I'm different, I'm nourished by the great mother. I think it's a good description of monk. Everyone else looks busy and they're productive, and I'm just sitting here. I brought along also that quote I was mentioning to you yesterday from John of Cromstead, this idea of being united with God as being united with all things, as Father Bede said yesterday. By cleaving to God during prayer, I become one spirit with God and I unite with myself by faith and love those for whom I pray for the Holy Spirit acting in me also acts at the same time in them. It's a beautiful description of intercessory prayer.


Can I read it again? By cleaving to God during prayer, I become one spirit with God and I unite with myself by faith and love those for whom I pray for the Holy Spirit acting in me also acts at the same time in them. If I'm one spirit with God, the Holy Spirit is working with me. If I love someone, the Holy Spirit is acting in them too because I'm one spirit with them. Can you just read the last line? Boy, you're a fast writer. I was trying to read so fast that you couldn't write it down. I become one spirit with God and I unite with myself by faith and love those for whom I pray for the Holy Spirit acting in me also acts at the same time in them. This is a beautiful description of intercessory prayer, I think.


This apophatic dimension that we just touched on yesterday we're going to talk a little bit more about today which is why I also wanted to bring in the Tao Te Ching and this reading that we'll use to close also. But just a quick review of what we've done. This is our closing session for this. First of all, we just spent the first session talking about universal wisdom and this idea of a perennial philosophy. Again, saying that not everybody believes there is such a thing. There's the core of spiritual knowledge that we share versus contextualists who think you really just can't pick mystical writings out of a tradition and have them all make sense. But I'm trained in the school of the perennial philosophy and universal wisdom by Father Bede. And then laid a foundation with what? With Nostra Aetate, first of all, from Vatican II and an astoundingly Roman Catholic approach, of course, we're using to this.


Then those documents from the Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialogue. The different theologies of comparative religion that Paul Knitter introduced us to. And then from there, my favorite little thing which may have been more confusing to you than helpful is this whole idea of the talos, scopos and praxis. Which I'm still working on that one, but I think it's been a very helpful tool for me that we actually don't agree on the talos, we don't actually agree on this, at least how we describe this end. But quite interestingly enough, we actually quite often do agree on the scopos. This idea of what the proximate goal of the spiritual life is. And also, we can really help each other in praxis, in practical ways of achieving that scopos, which even the most conservative documents of the Church are agreeing with. I'm still confused because I don't know the difference between the goal and the end. The simplest one is when you're playing soccer,


the end is to win the game. That's the end. The goal is to make a goal. So you make goals along the way to the end. To win the game, yeah. When I'm learning how to play a musical instrument, I want to be a great guitar player, but I need to learn how to play scales. But my ultimate end is not to learn how to play scales. My ultimate end is to play Mozart, or to play Rachmaninoff or something. So there's a proximate end and there's a far end. But they call one scopos, the goal, and the other one talos, the end. So the scopos is along the way. Yeah, exactly. Our proximate somehow. We might even say, we can even somehow bring ourselves to a state of tranquility and peace and calm and quiet. But that last leap is grace. That last little bit. Fr. Bruno corrected me one day.


I came up with yet another scheme about spiritual anthropology. We were right in the middle of the refectory and I was showing him this little diagram. Then we moved to this stage and then we moved to that stage. He says, you know, Cyprian, it's like you built a ladder to the moon. I said, what? He says, yeah, you climb up that ladder and your ladder looks like it goes all the way to the moon. You get to the top of the moon and you realize you're still a million miles away. He says, that's grace. The ladder we can build can only go so far. That last little bit is the working of grace. So, we don't agree on the articulation of the end and vivo la differenza, perhaps. But we do agree on this goal, this idea of going beyond the small self to the bigger self. We also can really share some practical things in terms of praxis. That document that I read to you from the Vatican about some questions of meditation that even suggest that just because these means are not Christian doesn't mean we can't use them. For myself, this would be a justification


for learning about how to meditate through Buddhism, learning asana practice through yoga, how many various things we can name there. And then last night we talked about contemplative prayer and dialogue and somehow to me the very center of that is the idea that quite often religion is this thing we use to build up our ego or to build up our collective self-ego. What we learn in contemplative prayer is actually that those kind of walls of ego start dissolving. We start recognizing our unity with the greater humanity. And secondly, along with that, we start to realize that maybe another tradition is actually going to be able to teach us something about our tradition. We really open up and figure out and understand that we don't actually know all the answers. We haven't got all the best articulation necessarily. So, yes, Jesus is Lord, the fullness of divinity dwells in Jesus bodily. And yes, the fullness of revelation is in Roman Catholic Christianity. But we may not have any idea what any of that means, really.


And another tradition may actually help us uncover what's already there. So this last bit, and again I'm going to try to stick close to script so I don't get carried away. The experience of the soul in its depth. So, to be in dialogue with other religions, with other spiritual traditions, I guess we've pointed it out pretty clearly, requires not just notional knowledge, but experience. This is one of the big themes of Abhishek Dananda, especially in his later writings. He had no interest at all about Christology, he even said at one point. I have no interest in these notions. What I'm interested in is this experience and leading other people to this experience. And to be in dialogue with other traditions, I think requires this experience. Because in their own way, each of the great spiritual traditions of the world,


especially in their higher spiritual disciplines, have experienced this depth. And if the perennial philosophy is true, actually have come from this depth of experience. The tradition is an articulation of this experience and a path to lead others to this experience. And unfortunately, what we find along the way is that we Christians are sometimes sadly lacking in bringing that same depth of experience to the conversation. And I find this quite often in conversations with, again, my main commerce with people involved in the Indian tradition through yoga, or Buddhist tradition through various forms of meditation, or the Sufi tradition. And I find quite often, to my embarrassment, these people are a lot more committed to their spiritual practice than me and my friends are.


And have studied these traditions, which have tracked them a lot deeper than I and my friends have. So what we're trying to get at here is not at the level of doctrine and dogma. It's not at the level of articulation of the talos. It's not even at the level of ritual or language or cultural expressions that we are necessarily going to find agreement. That's not where we're going to find agreement. Fr. Bede uses this anthropology of spirit, soul, and body and talks about it that way, too. At a physical level, at least at first glance, we are separate from each other. At even a psychic level, at least at first glance, we're separate from each other. But at this level of spirit, there's already a unity. So at the level of ritual, at the level of articulation of our theology, our teleology, our articulation of the talos,


we're not going to necessarily find agreement. Nor should we try to force it all to agree and simply say, see, it's all the same. This is a big phrase that I run into a lot among people that I hang out with. It's all the same. It's really not. And to say that is really to insult my tradition and to insult your tradition as well. So Fr. Bede wrote this and returned to the center. Where is this eternal religion to be found? And he uses that Sanskrit phrase, sanatana dharma, the eternal dharma. It is to be found in every religion as its ground or source. But it is beyond all formulation. It's the reality behind all rites. It's the truth behind all dogmas. It's the justice behind all laws. So there's the Tao Te Ching right there too, isn't it? When the Tao is forgotten, virtue arises. But it's also to be found


in the heart of every person. It's the law written on our hearts. This is what the Prophet Jeremiah says. It's what Paul echoes in his letter to the Romans. It's not known by sense or reason. It's known by the experience of the soul in its depth. While I have this here, I just glanced at it as I was turning the page here. There's also this beautiful paragraph from the Svetasvatara Upanishad that I keep in my scriptures. Even, what are the use of scriptures to anyone who doesn't know the source from which they come? Only those who realize that one that is ever present within the heart attain abiding joy. The Lord of love is the supreme creator hidden deep in the mystery of the scriptures. So all of these things, our scriptures, our rituals, our dogmas, our doctrines, our language, we have to find the heart of them in order to really engage in this dialogue at depth.


And then Father B goes on to quote this beautiful section from William Law's book The Spirit of Prayer, which I'll paraphrase for you here. Your natural senses cannot possess God nor can your natural senses unite you to God. No, your understanding, your will and your memory can only reach after God, but they cannot be the place of God's dwelling in you. But there is a root or a depth in you from whence all these faculties come forth. There is a root or a depth in you from whence all these faculties come forth. Remember we talked yesterday about the apophatic anthropology that corresponds with apophatic anthropology just as there is an unfathomable depth to God, so there is an unfathomable depth to me. There is a root or a depth in you from whence all these faculties come forth as lines from a center or as branches


from the body of a tree. This depth in you is called the center, the fund, the bottom of the soul. This depth is the unity. This depth is the eternity. I had almost said this depth is the infinity of your soul. And it is so infinite that nothing can satisfy it or give it any rest but the infinity of God. It's at this depth we're saying that all true religion is to be found and it's at this depth also that we find the source from which all true religion springs and the goal to which all true religion aspires. Back to that image that we borrowed from liturgical theology of the source and the summit. The spirit is both the source and the summit. And most importantly this depth is present


in the heart of every person. It's from this little section of William Law that Bede gets the title of that book, Return to the Center. He has this beautiful teaching about the fall of Adam and Eve and he uses this image of the center there saying that it's from this center that we fell and it is to this center that we must return. And ultimately the purpose of every religion is to make this known and to map out the path of the return to the center. And let me go back to Fr. Bruno's beautiful paragraph again which was from The One Light his beautifully edited collected writings of Fr. Bede Griffiths. Not only is the mystery present in a different way in every one of these traditions but we're supposed to learn from all of them.


We're supposed to learn from the primal tribal religions all the way up to the highly developed traditions such as Hinduism or Christianity. The great religions all begin with a mystical experience and it's only then that they develop into complex systems of thought but if we really want to know the mystery we have to penetrate through the exterior shell of the rationalized system to realize within ourselves the original experience. We have to penetrate through the exterior shell of the rationalized system to realize within ourselves the original experience. And that experience at least as it's articulated by someone like St. Peter in his second letter, is to participate in the divine life which Jesus came to share with and among human beings. St. Peter says that you may become participants


in the divine nature, partakers in the divine nature. There's this little moment in the Eucharistic liturgy that I love so much these tiny little rituals that has a prayer on it when the priest pours the water into the wine and says, by the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who came to share in our humanity. That's marvelous, that's the core of it right there that we may be participants in the divine nature. This, Fr. Bruno says, this is the reign of God. This is the reign of God. And this is the essential message of all religion and the central message of the Gospel. External religion, including our own with its rights, dogmas and institutional structure exists only to bring people to this personal experience of the mystery. The external forms


the language of religion all of that can be and should be continually revised in order to enable us to communicate the mystery to people of a new age. We can keep changing the language. This seems to be one of the greatest gifts Fr. Bede had is he could keep re-articulating these very classical, traditional Christian teachings to people but in a whole new way, in a whole new language as we were talking about sometimes through the language of Vedanta or Yoga. In the end, coming up with a brilliant description of the transfiguration and resurrection of the Ascension but through the language of Yoga convinced me that they actually could have happened just like they said it happened. So re-articulating the very traditional, classic dogmas of the Church with a new language how can we re-articulate this mystery? Because the exterior is not necessarily the thing that


is so important as this interior experience. But the mystery, however, we have to recognize already dwells in the heart of every human being and the Church, that is we we have to awaken up to this universal revelation that's when our work really starts. Now who else might agree with this is Pope Benedict himself. My musical collaborator, John Pennington thinks it's very funny that I keep mentioning Pope Benedict I could unashamedly say I was raised in the best of the liberal tradition you know, there's not much I could say I'm traditional and in some ways conservative about some things but I'm really raised in, I think, the best of the progressive and liberal tradition and I read everything I can that Pope Benedict writes


who would be really the stalwart of the more conservative traditional tradition and he thinks it's very funny that I keep bringing him up in public, he thinks people are going to think I'm some kind of retrograde conservative, and he says to me you know, people don't like him you don't do that just in church, you do that in public places where there are no Catholics around. We were doing this concert at this place called the Boulder Center for Integral Life which is mostly ex-Catholics and fallen away Christians and recovering Catholics and here I am quoting Pope Benedict and he's like, why do you do that? Partially, it's this because I want to stay in dialogue with my tradition and I'm not going to assume he's wrong just because obviously he's a brilliant man and he's, I think, probably a very holy man and certainly being tried by fire right now I want to be in dialogue with my own tradition and I'm going to assume there's something right in what he says too


and I want to also model to other people you can't leave anybody out of this conversation if you want to believe in inter-religious dialogue then you need to talk to my Pope too he needs to have a place at the table too if we're going to be liberal, let's be liberal sometimes the most conservative people in the world are liberals you won't have any parity at all with a conservative point of view obviously Pope Benedict and I are not going to sit down and have lunch but I have no place in the conversation with Pope Benedict I have nothing to bring to him if I'm not first learning his thought and don't make any mistake about it he's a brilliant man and brilliant theologian as well we were having a Sangha meeting once and somebody was railing on the Pope and saying something like, oh he's stupid and I'm like, have you ever read anything Benedict has written? No. Then you have nothing to say in this conversation right now you have nothing to say if you don't understand his thought


and his thought is very well laid out you know exactly how he got to where he got so excuse me for that little harangue but I made my point did I make my point? I'm in that spot yeah and we can be in dialogue with our own tradition from that vantage point we can also disagree other than what they hear in the media yeah, for God's sake so here we go Pope Benedict gave this audience in St. Peter's Square in 2008 which missed everybody's attention and it's from a little known but very influential ancient Christian mystic only known as Pseudo-Dionysius who took his name after Dionysius the Areopagite in the Acts of the Apostles when Paul was preaching to the Athenians about them worshipping an unknown God


and Paul was describing, well we know who this God is so this theologian probably in the 4th century took his name wrote under the name Dionysius the Areopagite but we call him Pseudo-Dionysius for the school anyway, Pseudo-Dionysius' theology is the foundation for our apathetic theology because he's the one who wrote about this divine darkness in the most clearly, some of the earliest writings on it this is a, here's kind of a textbook definition yet again of apathetic theology marked by the conviction that it is impossible to say who God is that only negative expressions can be used to speak of God that God can only be spoken of with no and that it is only possible to reach God by entering into this experience of no that's the apathetic tradition within Christianity you're going to hear this of course articulated much later in the theology of somebody like Meister Eckhart, you know for instance and very shaky ground for a lot of people


because we don't like to lose all of our definitions and all the things we hold on to to think we have God figured out so anyway, the Holy Father is going on to say that Dionysius the Areopagite Pseudo-Dionysius has a new relevance today just in his own day Pseudo-Dionysius was a mediator between the spirit of Greek philosophy and the gospel because he was obviously steeped in Greek philosophy was one of those people who articulated Christian mysticism through Greek philosophical language so the Holy Father says that Pseudo-Dionysius today could be a great mediator in the modern dialogue between Christianity and the mystical theologies of Asia because there's a similarity between the thought of the Areopagite and that of the Asian religions so Pope Benedict is certainly not close to being in dialogue with the great spirituality of


with Eastern mysticism I'm going to go right now and here he says we can begin to understand that dialogue does not accept superficiality actually maybe he's not going to answer that question but I will answer that question for you it's just in his apophatic theology which many of the traditions of Asia articulate much more than Western Christianity does I never heard about apophatic theology until I was 35, 36 years old the Via Negativa and yet somehow it tends to be right much more near the center of even popular religiosity in Hinduism, Daoism and Buddhism for instance this way of darkness so that we have our own tradition of that we can be in dialogue there as a starting point but this is the main point of this through studying somebody like Pseudo-Dionysius, which is not an easy read mind you


but neither is really studying the philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism he shows that we begin to understand that dialogue does not accept superficiality I must tell you that when I copy things into my computer sometimes I'll highlight little sentences in boldface type just so I remember later on what the point of the paragraph was and I had this entire paragraph highlighted I couldn't figure out what was the most important word so I'll read it for you carefully Precisely when one enters into the depths of the encounter with Christ that's when an ample space for dialogue also opens when we enter into the depths of the encounter with Christ an ample space for dialogue opens when one finds the light of truth one realizes that it is a light for everyone and polemics disappear


and it's possible to understand one another or at least to speak to one another to draw closer together the path of dialogue consists precisely in being close to God in Christ the path of dialogue consists precisely in the depths of an encounter with God through Christ in the experience of the truth which opens us to the light and helps us to go out and meet others the light of love, the light of truth in the end Dionysius tells us take the path of experience Dionysius tells us take the path of humble experience the humble experience of faith every day then the heart is made big and we can see and also illuminate reason so that it sees the beauty of God if we take the path of experience if we take the path of real serious encounter with God the heart is made big


and the heart can see and also illuminate reason so that it sees the beauty of God this is a beautiful image here of the heart illuminating reason so the rational mind by itself just can't do it it's cold but reason illuminated by the heart what we mean by heart is the depth the heart in the scriptures is always dropping down it's the very center of our being when reason is actually illumined by this depth of encounter with God then all the facts somehow tie together in a whole new beautiful kind of poetry, don't they? so dialogue can't also happen just at the rational level it's got to happen here in this depth of encounter when I've had an actual encounter with spirit then you and I might have something to talk about an ample space for dialogue opens up when one enters into the depths of the encounter with Christ when one enters into the depths of encounter with Christ we find the light of truth


and we realize that it is a light for everyone and suddenly the polemics disappear and it's possible to understand one another or at least to speak to one another and draw closer together and when we enter into the depths of the encounter with Christ the experience of truth we find the path of dialogue then we open up to the light that experience helps us to go out and meet others so Dionysius tells us, and the Holy Father affirms take the path of experience the humble experience of faith it will make your heart big and the heart will be able to illuminate our reason so we can see the beauty of God back again to this importance of practice of praxis as Baba Haridas says daily sadhana I can't do this work


unless I'm involved in my spiritual practice I can't do it without that it doesn't make sense otherwise it's just an exercise maybe in comparative anthropology or ethnomusicology or philosophy but it's not real dialogic dialogue it's really not an encounter with another tradition if I'm not coming from a place of depth and I wanted to add one last little beautiful poetic expression of it from the great Franciscan Saint Bonaventure who himself was highly influenced by Dionysius this is from his treatise The Journey of the Mind to God Seek the answer in God's grace not in doctrine Seek the answer in the longing of the will not in understanding Seek the answer in the sighs of prayers


not in research Seek the bridegroom, not the teacher Seek the darkness, not the daylight And do not look to the light but look rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination And I'll end just with that sentence of Father Bede's Again, the deeper our contemplation the nearer we will be to God The nearer we are to God, the more open we'll be to the world And that is where the hope lies This is Bonaventure again, The Journey of the Mind to God


Seek the answer in God's grace not in doctrine In the longing of the will, not in understanding In the sighs of prayers, not in research Seek the bridegroom, not the teacher The darkness, not daylight And look not to the light, but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination So that's all I've got to say about that But this would be a time for anything we need to review from the whole weekend questions, clarifications but also just your own meditations and observations It would be nice if I could hear from each one of you


at least one little pearl or snag that stuck you over the weekend I'm not going to force you to talk but it would be nice If you take for all in any religion there are two kinds of people those that embrace that mystical experience that gives them some experience with the telos of their religion and if they're going to dialogue with people in other religions there are two kinds of people in those groups those that have had that mystical experience at least embraced it, worked towards it and those that haven't since you don't have time to dialogue with everyone in the world when you're dialoguing with people in other religions is there a prioritization where it would be worthwhile to seek out those in the other religion that at least themselves had that experience


so that a common ground even though we don't share the telos we had that common core experience versus dialoguing with people that haven't, even in the context of their religion should you seek out people in that group is there more fruition there My experience is that generally those are the kind of people who are going to find you anyway the people who have had some depth of experience in their own tradition are quite often the people who are very anxious to learn about another tradition and can enter into a dialogic dialogue so like meets like, deep crawls on deep at the same time, that's not to negate the importance in our day and age at least for someone like me to try to actually understand the other religion even at its surface level so there's that level of dialogue that I think is also important


that I would know the five pillars of Islam that I would know the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga that I would know the four noble truths of Buddhism I'll give you an example, there was a seminary and I was talking to it I was talking about doing inter-religious dialogue and working with a lot of people who were influenced by Hinduism and he says to me, this man is like 40 some years old an educated man, he says with those Hindus, they always teach you can have sex with everybody, right? This guy is about to be ordained a priest I said, what? He says, well, that's what I was taught the Hindus have sex with everybody all the time Where did you get that from? I said, in India, it's much more strict about their sexual morals than anything I've ever seen in America so even at a surface level, it's pretty important that we understand just the basics of each other's religions, because we're living cheap to jowl in our society But, again, back to my first point


I think people who have had a depth of encounter are actually going to seek each other out and find each other anyway The quote that you have from Benedict XVI is that on the Vatican website? I bet you could find it It's 2008, I think I even have the date It's like May 24th, 2008 I bet you could find it May 14th, 2008 See, people tease me for my footnotes The challenge as a Christian of having the opportunity to be in India and Turkey is to witness your faith and be that presence with the population that haven't had the mystical experience


that don't want to hear what you have to say and that's what I found is the big challenge they want to attack you from all these things and attack your faith but that is the big challenge of having dialogue with people even within our own tradition Brother, could you turn this off now? Brother? Can we turn the tape off? Can we turn the recording off? You can tell I'm about to say something controversial Oh, is it? Oops, sorry