Dharma the Book
240 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.63 x 9.28 x 5.56
Publisher: Riverhead Books; (July 2, 2002)
Saint Benedict's Rule-a set of guidelines that has governed Christian
monastic life since the sixth century-continues to fascinate laypeople
and monastics alike. Buddhist monks and nuns have been intrigued by
Benedict's insights into human nature and by the similarities between
Christian and Buddhist traditions. Now, through personal anecdotes and
thoughtful comparison, four prominent Buddhist scholars reveal how the
wisdom of each tradition can revitalize the other. Theirs is a lively
and compelling dialogue which will appeal not only to Buddhists and
Christians, but to anyone interested in rediscovering the value of an
ancient discipline in the modern world.
Reviews - Amazon.com's Best of 2001
When four senior Buddhists sit down to discuss the rules of Christian
monasticism, ideas fly. In Benedict's Dharma, Zen priest Norman Fisher,
meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, professor Judith Simmer-Brown,
and Yifa, a nun of the Chinese Buddhist tradition, flesh out The Rule
of Saint Benedict, which has guided the organization and daily life
of the Western Christian monastic tradition since the ninth century.
time, these Buddhists find in The Rule of Saint Benedict, which is included
in its entirety, points that resonate with the their own experiences--points
such as an emphasis on reverence, a pragmatic mindset, and the need
for hard work and practice. From these agreements, as well as out of
some marked differences, come lively evaluations of both Buddhist and
the end, as the Christian monk David Steindl-Rast says in his "Afterword,"
the resources of the monastic tradition, for lay people as much as for
monks, still have much to offer everyday life. Taking a Christian text
as a source of inspiration for Buddhism offers a new rapprochement for
those who have fled to Buddhism from a Christian upbringing. And for
the Christian faithful, it offers a fresh perspective on a revered but
musty classic. --Brian Bruya
- Reviewer: G. Merritt from Boulder, CO
"There is fire in the Rule of Saint Benedict" (p. 121) David
Steindl-Rast, OSB, writes in the Afterward to this collection of Buddhist
reflections on that Rule. Written in the sixth century, Saint Benedict's
Rule is a set of guidelines governing Christian monastic life. This
137-page book is the result of a two-week "Encounter" between
Buddhists and Christians, in which Norman Fischer, Joseph Goldstein,
Judith Simmer-Brown, and Yifa were participants. Their "fresh take"
(p. xiv) on Saint Benedict's Rule is followed by a new, 80-page translation
of that Rule by Patrick Henry, OSB.
The Rule was written to practice "Christ's way." Christ said,
"Whoever perseveres to the very end will be saved" (p. 97).
For Buddhists, Benedict's Rule is about "walking the path to spiritual
awakening" (p. 105). That is, both the Rule and Buddhist dharma
offer "general guidelines for an inner journey" (p. 1). Judith
Simmer-Brown notes that the Rule offers us insight into living a contemplative
life amidst the demands of everyday life, or "anyplace you find
yourself" (p. 3). From a Buddhist perspective, Benedict's Rule
is about learning to live life "so it gets into your bones, under
your skin" (p. 34), and about living with "a love of true
life and a longing for days of real fulfillment" (p. 36), for this
was "Christ's way."
It is evident from this book that "the monastery wall is always
permeable" (p. 81). Benedictine monasticism is designed to lead
one to spiritual riches on the path of humility (p. 95). It is possible,
we're told, to practice a contemplative life outside the monastery walls.
"The world is vast and wide," Norman Fischer writes. "Why
put on your robe and go to the meditation hall when the bell rings?"
(p. 89). Daily practice is "the common ground" for monastics
of East and West (p. 124), and in his excellent Afterward, David Steindl-Rast,
OSB, concludes that "lay practitioners are running away with the
monastic ball" (p. 126). "Step out into the dark night,"
he writes, "raise your eyes to the starry sky, and you will experience
what contemplation was before it had a name" (p. 126).
We find Buddhists and Christians travelling the same "ladders and
bridges" in this harmonious book. Buddhist or Christian, this book
will appeal to to that monk or nun cloistered in each of us, who is
interested in "a life spent seeking the truth."
Amazon.com - Reviewer: Vraja from Vedanta Society, Santa Barbara,
Benedict's Dharma is a rare find--a book on spirituality that is lovingly
burnished by practice. Benedict's Rule was above all a work for practical
application; what few understand is how well the Rule translates into
Rarely have I enjoyed a book as thoroughly as this one; I regretted
reaching its final page, for the journey it provided was such a delight.
Yet the greater truth is that this book is meant to be a passageway,
pointing the way to greater spiritual understanding and greater self-knowledge.
The truths it uncovers are applicable to anyone who is serious about
leading an authentic spiritual life.
This book is an exceptional treasure, offering significant and practical
insights on every page.