The Catholic/buddhist/hindu/sufi Mystic


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Through his study of contemplative Catholic and pagan mysticism, Merton became a universalist of sorts. Nowhere did he say that Buddhists, Hindus, and Sufis worshipped false gods or that they were hell-bound because they do not believe in the Christ of the Bible. When writing about Zen Buddhists, Merton always assumed that they were communing with the same “ground of Being” that he himself had found through Catholic monasticism.

Merton said that monks of all religions are “brothers” and are “already one.” At an interfaith meeting in Calcutta, India, in 1968, sponsored by the Temple of Understanding, Merton said:

“I came with the notion of perhaps saying something for monks and to monks of all religions because I am supposed to be a monk. ... My dear brothers, WE ARE ALREADY ONE. BUT WE IMAGINE THAT WE ARE NOT. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are” (“Thomas Merton’s View of Monasticism,” a talk delivered at Calcutta, October 1968,
The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1975 edition, appendix III, p. 308).

Merton used the terms God, Krishna, and Tao interchangeably.

“It is in surrendering a false and illusory liberty on the superficial level that man unites himself with the inner ground of reality and freedom in himself which is the will of God, of Krishna, of Providence, of Tao” (“The Significance of the Bhagavad-Gita,”
The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, appendix ix, p. 353).

“Since in practice we must admit that God is in no way limited in His gifts, and since there is no reason to think that He cannot impart His light to other men without first consulting us, THERE CAN BE NO ABSOLUTELY SOLID GROUNDS FOR DENYING THE POSSIBILITY OF SUPERNATURAL (PRIVATE) REVELATION AND OF SUPERNATURAL MYSTICAL GRACES TO INDIVIDUALS, NO MATTER WHERE THEY MAY BE OR WHAT MAY BE THEIR RELIGIOUS TRADITION, provided that they sincerely seek God and His truth. Nor is there any a priori basis for denying that the great prophetic and religious figures of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., could have been mystics, in the true, that is, supernatural, sense of the word” (Mystics and Zen Masters, p. 207).

In his last speech, Merton called “original sin” a myth (“Marxism and Monastic Perspectives,” a talk delivered at Bangkok on December 10, 1968, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, appendix VII, p. 332).

Merton rejected the view that non-Christians are lost sinners who are “all corrupted in their inner heart” and deceived by the devil (
Mystics and Zen Masters, p. 206).

I think Merton would have made a wonderful family member here at ULC--if the world religions would think as he did we would be in a much more peaceful and serene world--manifesting the ideal, the compassionate and the loving beings that we really are.



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He wrote over 60 books in his short life. He is one of the greatest spiritual mystics of our age--he was truly human as well as a holy man. How did he die ? Well, he was a huge beam in the eye of the political world as well as the religious. --I am no conspiracy theorist but I do question many things, as do many.

The Dalai Lama said:"I have never met a Christian in this lifetime as enlightend as Thomas Merton".

The Dalai Lama
Thomas Merton

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Thomas Merton met in November 1968 in Dharamsala, India where the Dalai Lama was living in exile.

His Holiness and Thomas Merton had three lengthy meetings during the eight days Merton was staying with the exiled Tibetans. After their final meeting Merton wrote:

It was a warm and cordial discussion and at the end I felt we had become very good friends ... I feel a great respect and fondness for him as a person and believe, too, that there is a real spiritual bond between us. (1)

The feeling was undoubtedly mutual. In his autobiography, Freedom in Exile, the Dalai Lama described Merton's visit as one of his "happiest memories of this time" and said that it was Thomas Merton who "introduced [him] to the real meaning of the word 'Christian'." (2) Later, in an interview, when asked the three most influential people in his life His Holiness replied his Dharma teacher, Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Thomas Merton. (3)

Again and again over the years in his public teachings the Dalia Lama has held up Thomas Merton as a model for interfaith dialog and world peace.

At the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1996 the Dalai Lama said:

I always consider myself as one of [Thomas Merton's] Buddhist brothers. So … I always remember him, and I always admire his activities and his life-style. Since my meeting with him … I really follow some of his examples … So for the rest of my life, the impact of meeting him will remain until my last breath. I really want to state that I make this commitment, and this will remain until my last breath. (4)



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