Present: Ven. Karuna Dharma, Al Albergate, Ralph Barnes, Rev. Kusala,
Gordon Gibbs, Anita Merwin, Fr. Jim Fredericks, Ven. Bangong,
watched Rev. Kusala's interview on a television program
talking about Buddhism and the visit of the Dalai Lama.
We agreed that Rev. Kusala spoke well of Buddhism and was
very telegenic. Reviewing the minutes of the previous dialogue,
Gordon Gibb pointed out his comment on the "mythic understanding" of
Christ was not accurately represented for, as the comment
now stands, it would be something he would not say about
Christianity. Michael Kerze reported on the meeting of
the Faiths in the World Committee of Nadeo in Mundelein,
Illinois. At the meeting, the response to the letter on
the spirituality of interreligious dialogue, to which the
Los Angeles dialogue contributed, was discussed and reviewed.
A response will be drafted for the US bishops and will
be sent to Rome where it will become part of the process
creating what will be an official Vatican statement on
interreligious dialogue. The committee thanked the dialogue
for their input and sent their greetings to the friends
they made during last year's Malibu dialogue and retreat.
A participant in the Malibu dialogue, Fr. Joe Gibino in
Brooklyn is hoping to do an east coast Buddhist Catholic
dialogue and retreat.
Jim Fredericks: India is very important for the letter on the
spirituality of dialogue. A prominent Indian Catholic theologian
is using Hindu thought to think of the Catholic Church in
India. Is this a wise way to use Hindu thought? People in
the Vatican are very concerned about this. For example, Tony
de Melo suggests that you can meditate and not need scripture.
But Hindu nationalists are burning down churches and schools
in India; the Church there is in a difficult position. This
is in the background for issues around dialogue.
I participated in a dialogue between Christians and Hindus.
It's a very different dialogue than between Christians
and Buddhists, for example, Hindus have God and gods. I
think a lot of Arinze's letter reflects the Hindu-Zoroastrian-Jewish-Muslim
dialogues. The topic at the dialogue was on the feminine
in the traditions. I talked last; I as the only man who
talked. A woman refused to lead the traditional Hindu role.
She renounced the world, meditated, and then found a "non-gendered transcendental
relationship." But God is a "thou" and don't "thous" come
in male and female?
Gibb: Christian theology is incarnational. It is relational
no matter how we identify the form.
Fredericks: Hinduism can move into non-gendered language more easily than
in Christianity. It certainly wouldn't work with sunyata.
Kusala: Sunyata is empty of independent existence and in that is its
fulness. To come to the place of emptiness in the self is
also to recognize our interconnectedness. In Hinduism, there
is lots of masculine and feminine and their coming together.
Fredericks: But I still have a problem with "non-gendered ultimate reality." God
is a thou.
Kusala: Is there "ultimate" language in Christianity? Can
you see the God of words as relative versus God as absolute?
Fredericks: Nagarjuna teaches that one ought not talk about sunyata as
Gibb: Jesus emptied himself of any concept of the Father &endash;
"Not my will but thine be done."
Fredericks: When I was in Japan, I lived across from a
famous rock garden, Ryonaji, in Kyoto. In the evening I'd
go in. There the idea of suchness speaks to my experience, "Shin-nyo," "true suchness,"
"Buddha nature." The Japanese language here is very cosmic.
This is a religious experience that gets me in touch with
a very sensate reality. I can enter into that as a Christian.
Is it an experience of God? Yes it is. I don't want to pray
to God &endash; I am with God.
ago, my only sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
I was beside myself. A cry came out of my marrow, my center,
to God to hear me! When I say the Christian God is a thou
I mean, he is a God who hears. How do I bring these two experiences
together? The Jewish roots of Christianity make clear, the
cry to God comes out of God's otherness, not suchness.
Kusala: Why do you have to walk across the street to find God? Isn't
it interesting that these gardens inspired you to a place
of reconnection? For those who practice, that becomes an every
Fredericks: What about that cry?
Kusala: It is the existential voice of suffering.
Gibb: It is also God's cry too: I too am receiving the disease;
I too am related to it. The nature of the Kingdom of God is
an experience of form and of emptiness, sunyata. That's why
Jesus points it out, it is here and not yet here, to those
who need absolutes in mind.
Fredericks: In the experiences of suchness and of the deep sense of otherness
of the thou in the experience about my sister, there is a
tension I don't want to get rid of. I can't get God down to
one side or another. The wisdom, the path, unfolds by renouncing
both, emptying the thou into suchness and suchness into God.
The Kingdom of God is right here and right now: open your
eyes and smell the scotch! The Buddhist folks, the Mahayana
especially, can appreciate that. But it is not the whole story.
The Kingdom is coming, not here, not yet. When you loose the
tension, Catholicism becomes insufferable, authoritarian.
If you the focus is just on the future, Protestants become
insufferable. It's not all evil, not all social critique.
Love is here and now!
Kusala: You don't want to pick sides. The "coin" aspect
of the two sides is their interconnectedness. Because of
our limitations, we can't see the coin, just the two sides.
Fredericks: Would Nagarjuna say, there is no coin?
Kusala: He would say, it's always heads, always tails, and neither,
Fredericks: Nagarjuna says don't say Nirvana exists, nor
it doesn't exist, nor both together, nor neither exists
or doesn't exist. What's left over? A teacher in Japan
loved Rilke: "And the rose,
ah, so beautiful." Take away the subject/object, what are
you left with? Just the "ah".
was teaching Nagarjuna once. The students were having a
very difficult time. A woman in the class objected: "I'm paying for this
stuff???" I turned to the blackboard &endash; I didn't know
what to do, then I felt it. I turned around and looked right
at her and I said: "You got it!" She said: "I did get it!"
"What?" "I can't say it." Then I said: "Nagarjuna is a genius."
And she said: "Yes he is!"