Benedict's Dharma the Book

Paperback: 240 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.63 x 9.28 x 5.56
Publisher: Riverhead Books; (July 2, 2002)
ISBN: 1573229407

Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews -'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 after 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 Christian practices.

And in 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." - Reviewer: Vraja from Vedanta Society, Santa Barbara, CA

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 Eastern practice.

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.