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Without-BuddhaWITHOUT BUDDHA I COULD NOT BE A CHRISTIAN, Paul F. Knitter, Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions, and Culture At Union Theological Seminary, New York City (2009)

Full Disclosure first: The reviewer has been “sitting zazen” — meditating at home and at the Zen Desert Sangha in Tucson — for about 15 years. Meditating at the Zen center includes meeting with a Zen Roshi (master teacher) on a weekly basis in dokusan (one on one meeting room) to discuss the Zen spiritual path. It’s like meeting with a Spiritual Director in the Christian tradition. At an early dokusan, the reviewer, an Episcopal priest, asked the Roshi, a fully transmissioned Zen master in the Diamond heritage, and also a Roman Catholic priest in the Redemptorist order, “So how can we be a Christian and ordained as well, and Zen practitioner too — what about our faith and belief?”. The Zen master sat for a minute or two focusing on the questioner and then said, “Nothing to give up,” and rang the bell (end of the dokusan session).

Paul Knitter expands on this small encounter with an excellent introduction to Buddhist practice (meditation), which is different from prayer, and how it can help one’s Christian faith. Knitter, a Roman Catholic, teaching at a renowned Protestant seminary, trained at Tubingen under the great scholar Karl Rahner, weaves Buddhism ideas into Christian thought in an intelligent manner. Along the way he unpacks some Christian ideas on “salvation,” “heaven,” and “hell” that have gotten in the way of real Christian encounters and experiences. Christianity and Buddhism have come together in thought and practice in recent years around the common ground of “mystical experiences” in Christian language, and in Buddhist language “emptiness.” Thomas Merton, just prior to his death, was a leader in convening Buddhists and Christians, particularly monastics, in the sharing of these common experiences. This is a worthy read.

—The Rev. Paul Buckwalter

The Rev. Paul Buckwalter writes reviews of books you can find in the Renouf/Nelson Library.

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