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).

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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