Zen Buddhism and Catholicism

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Zen Buddhism and Catholicism do have parallels. Yamada Koun, a Zen Rōshi enlightened teacher, to first invited Catholic priests and nuns into his zendo for Zazen (Zen meditation) in the early 1970’s. That initiative has grown in time. These first Catholic priests and nuns who took advantage of the opportunity were to pioneer a new type of person: a Catholic Zen Master. These trail blazers, teachers and students, quietly changed the spiritual landscape forever.

Because of the connection between Zen Buddhism and Catholicism, it is not considered unusual today for a Benedictine monk to regularly visit Tassajara, a Zen monastery in northern California. Public conversations are held with Zen priests on similarities and differences between Eastern and Western spiritual practice.

Buddhist Christian Dialogue

zen and catholicism2 imageTwo such participants in the Zen-Catholic interreligious dialogue have had a significant impact on this novel. First was Father Hugo M Enomiya-Lassale, S.J, a German Jesuit, who established Shinmeikutsu in the foothills outside of Tokyo. He was assisted by a number of German priests and nuns. Father Enomiya-Lassale authored The Practice of Zen Meditation. In it you will find two pictures of a zendo with a large, prominent cross on the wall—an early illustration of the interreligious change taking place.

The second participant  in this Zen-Christian interreligious dialogue who influenced the structure of this novel is Robert Kennedy, S.J., an American trained at Shinmeikutsu. He is a Jesuit priest as well as a Zen teacher and therapist. He authored Zen Gifts to Christians, a deep and mystical work combining the dual paths of Zen and Christianity. Father Kennedy (or Kennedy Roshi) has employed Zen’s Ten Ox Herding Pictures, also known as the Ten Bulls.

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Similarities between Zen and Christianity

Finally, The Gospel According to Zen—Beyond the Death of God, edited by Robert Sohl and Audrey Carr, was responsible for the epilogue of this novel. It features essays from Erich Fromm, D.T. Suzuki, and Alan Watts, plus quotes from Jesus and Meister Eckhart. After completely wearing out his first  copy, Dave Gordon was thrilled to find a replacement in a bookstore in Katmandu, Nepal.