If science and technology could eliminate our problems, we would need to question, why have religion? Especially as religion sometimes sows more hatred than the contrary. But material development alone cannot solve our problems, and so we need a religious tradition. But if a restaurant serves one kind of food at all times it would soon have no customers. Our task is to reduce conflicts between the traditions which already exist.His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke those words at the opening of the Gethsemani Encounter in 1996. This historic gathering brought together fifty Buddhist and Christian monks and nuns at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. It was the Dalai Lama who suggested the meeting should be held at Gethsemani, the spiritual home of the celebrated advocate of inter-religious dialogue Thomas Merton, who he had met shortly before the latter’s death in 1968. Writing in his book Keeping Faith – A Skeptic’s Journey Among Christian and Buddhist Monks Fenton Johnson describes the scene in the chapter room at Gethsemani Abbey:
Along the right wall, under an image of the risen Christ, stood our Trappist hosts, the “white monks,” dressed in white robes covered with black hooded scapulars and cinched at their waist with broad leather belts. Next to them, wearing black robes, stood the Benedictines, the “black monks,” the more publicly engaged, apostolic of the Roman Catholic contemplative orders. Among these monks were scattered a few women, most dressed in the white blouse and below-the-knee gray skirt favored by many post-Vatican II sisters. Along the left wall under a batik banner of the seated Buddha, stood the Buddhist monks, some wearing maroon trimmed with saffron, others wearing saffron trimmed with maroon. A single Japanese monk wore dove-gray robes trimmed in black and white; a single Taiwanese nun wore saffron, peach fuzz sprouting from her newly shaved head. Among these Asians mingled the American Buddhists – some wearing black Zen robes, some wearing street clothes.That evocative description is the cue for my soundtrack from the sadly deleted CD from Sony Cz Close Voices from Far-away, a musical dialogue between the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis and the Zen monks of Gjosan-rjú Tendai Sómjó.
If science and technology could eliminate our problems… does that sound familiar?
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