Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Universal Heritage of Wisdom

"The Path of Wisdom"
- in my meditation garden -

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I came across an article about a new Buddhist–Christian dialogue initiated by the Vatican. The article featured a picture of Pope Francis meeting with a group of Buddhist monks in Rome and it included the following statement issued by the official Roman Catholic Church:

In a world where diversity is seen as a threat
this new dialogue is a sign of our openness to one another
and a commitment to our common fraternity.
We are all pilgrims and so
our dialogue with one another is part of our ongoing quest 
to grasp the mystery of our lives and the ultimate Truth.

While I was thrilled to see such a statement coming out of the Vatican, it was also no surprise to me that many “Christians” are very upset at the sight of a pope and bishops sitting down with Buddhist monks in the hallowed halls of Rome, meeting together as fellow “pilgrims” in order to  “grasp something of the mystery of the Truth.” Some people believe that the church should be converting Buddhists to the one true faith rather than learning from them. Many believe that a Christian-Buddhist dialogue dilutes the truth of the Christian faith, it makes it pseudo-Christian. I beg to differ.

I have no hesitation in identifying myself as a “follower of Jesus” and I place myself firmly within the heritage of thousands of years of Christian tradition;  and yet at the same time I am totally convinced that I can and, in fact, I am obliged to turn to other paths outside my own tradition as I make my way along a way to wisdom.  The road to wisdom is always a shared path and anyone who thinks they alone possess the truth is likely quite far away from it.

In their book, New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Living, Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko make the point that in the 21st century we are all being called to move way from our old comfortable niches in which we have pitted ourselves against one another when it comes to the spiritual quest. In this 21st century the boundaries and borders of various paths to wisdom need to be more porous than ever before in human history. 

The authors suggest that “interspirituality” must become the key characteristic of an authentic pursuit of wisdom for our own contemporary times:

Interspirituality plants us firmly outside of a fundamentalist adherence
to our own particular religion or spiritual path,
demanding that we take seriously the revelations, realizations,
and contemplative gifts of all authentic wisdom and religious traditions,
as well as insight from science, ecology, art, culture, and sociology.

Our various traditions are a common inheritance for all of humanity,
each with its own integrity,
yet also belonging to a universal heritage of human wisdom.

Yes I am a committed follower of Jesus, but  as a truth-seeker I also have an obligation to look to the rabbis and teachers, poets and Imams, the Zen masters and monks of all the many paths of the truth - they have uncovered a way to wisdom that is indeed a “common inheritance” for every human being. I also have an obligation to explore the wisdom of science and to seek the truth in art and poetry. I even have an obligation to pay attention to what today’s contemporary agnostics or atheists may be saying about their own journey of wisdom. 

Many may say that we live in confusing times, that the path through the wilderness of life is no longer clear-cut for any of us.  I think it’s all pretty exciting!

So, "hats-off" to the sometimes-stuffy church of Rome for opening the windows to this fresh new dialogue. We are indeed all fellow pilgrims.

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