Angeles Buddhist- Catholic Dialogue
Aug. 1, 2001
Soka Gakkai International Friendship House
Present: Dan Reinke, Sr. Thomas Bernard, Ven. Sumana, Fr.
Alexei Smith, Ven. Suchat, Ralph Barnes, Al Albergate, Dr.
Rhonda Jessum, Ven. Karuna Dharma, Anita Merwin, Claudia,
Dr. Michael Kerze
Daniel Reinke formally present copies of his masters
thesis, The Buddhist-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Southern
California: An Historical Overview, to co-chairs Ven.
Karuna Dharma and Dr. Michael Kerze. Dan had worked on the
thesis for several years, researching the records and publications
of the Dialogue, attending dialogues, and interviewing members
of the dialogue. Dialogue members can read one of the copies
by arranging with co-chairs. His thesis is a well documented
source of excellent historical information about Buddhism
in California and in Los Angeles, as well as the Dialogue,
its genesis and achievements.
Dan thanked the Dialogue for its help and also for the insight
and understanding of interreligious dialogue he gained in
the process. Dan closed his presentation by quoting from the
conclusion of his thesis. The quote was from Leonard Swidler
who was writing about the journey of Buddhists and Christians
to visit each other:
But, to make the journey in either direction, a reliable
bridge would have to be erected, a bridge of dialogue.
In fact, a kind of footbridge has already been set up and
a number of venturesome individuals have gone forth over it
and come back with stirring, stimulating news of the
toher. As a result more have set about to expand the narrow
footbridge to something broader that will bear heavier traffic,
for more and more travlers are being attracted by what they
hear of the other and, even more fundamentally, by the ever-pressing
human search for Truth. What is this bridge, dialogue?
Dan concluded that: This bridge is the Buddhist-Roman
Catholic Dialogue of Southern California, a bridge based on
respect and mutual love.
The dialogue read additional material Ven. Karuna Dharma provided
about sunyata and the Heart Sutra which lead to a discussion
of the five skhandas and its role in the Buddhist psychology.
Ven. Sumana: Skhanda means heap or aggregates, a collection
of aggregates. They are not single but are the result of something
that comes together. A feeling of joy, for example, is the
result of a stimulus. Therefore there is stimulus and perception.
Ven. Karuna Dharma: Skhandas refer to the constituents elements
of a human being. It is a collection of another group of collections.
One must have a thought in order to have an emotion, even
if you are unaware of the thought. You cannot separate body
and mind. The skhandas are rupa, form sense organs
and objects of the senses, sensation, the result of some contact
with form, perception and the thoughts that arise from perceptions.
It is awareness of sensation, directing attention. Conceptions
arise from that perception, our idea, our name for it. Perception
and conception are intertwined, its difficult to separate
them. There are five thought moments between a perception
and a conception before we attach a name to it so there is
a moment of pure perception but we go back and forth in our
minds so rapidly we are not aware of it. Right after it we
put values on it and thats where we add karma to ourselves;
Rhonda Jessum: At the beginning of vipassana practice body
sensation, images, and internal talk are something to observe.
The self arises from the congealing of body, sensation, image,
and internal talk. If you achieve equanimity it is the entrance
into insight, the rising of these congealed pieces into the
arising and falling of self and not-self.
Sr. Thomas Bernard: What is the importance of memory? In the
Western tradiiton, it is through memory that things do not
die. When we remember, it becomes present to us again. For
the Greeks, it was to be remembered in progeny or in literature
and history and therefore one sought to be heroic so as to
live in the sagas and epics of the poets.
Fr. Alexei: In Eastern Christianity and Judaism, we pray that
God keep the memory of the departed eternal and thats
what keeps them alive.
Ven. Karuna Dharma: In Buddhism, memories are as false as
Michael Kerze: How then did the Buddha remember his past lives?
Ven. Sumana: The skhandas are based on impermanence, on dukkha,
anicca, anatman. The Buddha had a special knowledge, a special
jnana, that allowed him to remember his past lives. It was
one of his six special qualities. But everyone can do it.
Why is someone wealthy and sick? That can express something
in a past life.
Al Albergate: When you use the term God, I think
of about ultimate reality. I think of this in Karunas
paper in terms of ultimate and phenomenal. Sakyamuni talked
about the ultimate law of the cosmos, something that cant
be described in words but only experienced.
Ven. Sumana: We do remember in order to assuage grief and
express our feeling, our appreciation. We do it for our need,
to value a human being as a human being.
Our next meeting will be with a visiting Pure Land group from
Japan in early September.