Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue

Dec. 1, 2001

International Buddhist Meditation Center

Present: Ron Stone, Rev. Kusala, Fr. Alexei, Claudia, Dan Reinke, Mary Ann Gould, Lucy Palimino, Ralph Barnes, Fr. Jim Fredericks, David Holland, Anita Merwin, Dr. David Chappell, Al Albergate, Alice Linsmeier, Eric DeBode, Tim Langell, Ven. Dr. Karuna Dharma, Dr. Michael Kerze.

Rev. Kusala reported on the conference on Benedict’s Dharma which met in Indiana with several of the contributors to the book on a Buddhist view of the Rule of Benedict. He reported that the next Gethsemani Encounter will take place in April of 2002.

Jim Fredericks
reported that his book, Faiths Among Faiths, received an award from the Society for Buddhist Christian Studies.

Dan Reinke’s
M.A. thesis on the LA Buddhist Catholic Dialogue has been submitted to Parallax Press.

Al Albergate
will be retiring as Director of Community Relations of SGI to pursue a degree in philosophy. He reported on the parish/temple dialogue between St. Monica’s parish and the Santa Monica SGI community.

Alice Linsmeier
works for the Jesuit Refugee Services with kids interred by the INS who are kept in Juvenile Hall. She asked for help with kids who speak Chinese, Sri Lankan, etc. Children of Buddhist background are among those detained.

Eric DeBode
represents the California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty and requested any interested parties to contact him at socalcpf@yahoo.com.

Tim Langell
runs an Internet company and maintains a website: ChristBuddha.org. He teaches at Pasadena churches about the interplay between Christianity, Buddhism, and Sufism.

We discussed possible ways for our dialogue to respond to the events of September 11. Our dialogue has been a model for how two religions can cooperate. One suggestion was having a dialogue with Muslims. Yet our focus is on Buddhist Catholic relations. Rev. Kusala said that for Early Buddhists this world will always be unsatisfactory but Al Albergate said this view doesn’t represent all Buddhists. Dave Chappell said that since SGI is a lay organization, it has a responsibility.

Our dialogue focused on the tension between what appears to be “true” Buddhism and Christianity, and how it is practiced.

Fr. Fredericks: In the light of Sept. 11, Catholics ought to talk about how Catholicism has been used to foment social violence. The Church has backed oppressive regimes, crusades, etc. There has also been “Religious Nationalism,” for example, the Church in Spain, Chile, Argentina. But there’s also examples of Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka and Vietnam. It’s a sign of the maturity of our group to talk about the failures of our tradition. Muslims struggle with Islam being a different way to hold the world together than Western secularism. We need to look at our dirty laundry.

Rev. Kusala
: But that’s not the true Buddhism or Catholicism. It’s not what Buddha or Christ taught. If the practice of Buddhism is done correctly, a person can achieve Nirvana or Enlightenment. Otherwise, they are just a practitioner.

Ven. Karuna Dharma
: The Buddhist clergy is really contributing to the problems with the peace process in Sri Lanka. They are against reconciliation with the Tamils.

Fr. Fredericks
: Roman Catholicism has a problem with anti-Semitism. Islam has a problem. Muslims say: this is not true Islam. We have to deal with the reality.

Dan Reinke: But can we say that the radicalism of Islam is Islam? Is the anti-Semitism of Christianity Christianity? After all, the sacred of the world is run by sinners.

David Holland
: The Gospel and the Dharma don’t exist purely. There’s ethnocentric realities versus world centric views. .

Anita Merwin
: Isn’t there a difference between the religion and the people who practice those religions?

Dr. Kerze
: But if we take away the people who practice religion, do you have the religion?

Tim Langell: The idealism of religion is the most important thing about it; it’s essential core. When people take it and do things against it, then it’s valid to say there’s a connection between what people do and a religion, but also, that the religion remains intact.

Al Albergate
: How a religion is taught is central. The Buddha didn’t address every situation a person could encounter. The religion evolves and tradition changes. There is no Buddhism outside the people; we are all Buddhas potentially. Yet some may teach Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam, so that killing is approved.

Dan Reinke: Ultimately, we are responsible for our people and why extreme forms are allowed to exist.

Tim Langell: Sometimes we don’t have a choice about allowing it to exist.

Claudia: There’s an old saying: we can’t judge events of the past from the light of the present. Therefore I try to stay in the present and see what I can learn. How can I improve my practice and help others?

David Holland: Sept. 11 was a gift in that it allows us to see our reaction, our rage, our despair, to see inside ourselves and our own violence. On September 11, we attacked ourselves.

Mary Ann Gould: Peace has to begin with me, with the individual.

Dr. Kerze
: But by taking a look at our past, our dirty laundry, we can take responsibility for it and learn from it..

Our next meeting will be 2 PM., January 19th, at La Salle High School.

Our topic will be: How we as religious communities have failed and how we can look to our own traditions to fit them. Michael Kerze will prepare material on the history of anti-Semitism in the Catholic tradition and what has happened since Vatican II. Ven. Karuna Dharma will see if one of the Sri Lankan monks will talk about the situation there.

Dave Chappell and Jim Fredericks discussed future plans of the Society for Buddhist Christian Studies. A conference will be held in Thailand at the end of July and first week of August in 2003. A conference is in the planning stage for Los Angeles in 2004. We agreed that our Los Angeles dialogue will support and collaborate with it.