A gathering of “Monks in the West” was first proposed at the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (MID) in October 2003. At that meeting the Board received an enthusiastic report from five of its members who had participated in the first “Nuns in the West” meeting the previous May at the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, California. After hearing how beneficial it was for Buddhist and Catholic nuns to reflect together on what it means to be a nun in the United States today, the board appointed a committee to explore the possibility of sponsoring a similar meeting for monks. It suggested that the topic for such a gathering be the meaning and practice of celibacy in the monastic life.

The committee began its work by seeking advice from the Board’s advisors, one of whom suggested that it might be better to initiate an interreligious dialogue on monastic life with a somewhat “milder” topic: novice training, for example.

The committee then contacted the Buddhist monks who had participated in the second Gethsemani Encounter in 2002 to determine whether or not they or someone from their respective sanghas would be interested in a meeting of this kind. The response was very positive. One of the Buddhist monks, the Rev. Heng Sure, Ph.D. an American Chan (Chinese Zen) monk, proposed that the meeting be held at his monastery, located at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas near Ukiah, California. He also offered to help plan for and organize the encounter.

We agreed that this first meeting would take place October 13-14, 2004, immediately prior to MID’s annual board meeting, which was to be held at the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. We also decided that the gathering would be relatively small and that one of the items on the agenda would be to determine whether or not to plan for a future, larger gathering of Monks in the West. With the success of the first gathering of Monks in the West in 2004 co-organizers Fr. William Skudlarek, OSB and Rev. Heng Sure, Ph.D. started laying the ground work for Monks in the West II.

Please visit the site map to find an overview of Monks in the West 2004, Monks in the West II and other useful links.


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