Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Engaging Buddhism

Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh a leading teacher in the Engaged Buddhist Movement
Some of my first inter faith engagement was through an interest in Buddhist Meditation as a spiritual practice. In 1989 as a relatively fresh Christian I undertook as part of my Lenten Discipline that year, a course in Buddhist Meditation run by the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order ( now known as the Triratna Buddhist Order)  in Leeds. When later I was at Theological College my interest in Christian engagement with other faiths had developed and I was able to attend inter faith courses in Birmingham run at the old College of Ascension by it's then Prinicipal Andrew Wingate. One of those I attended was a three day programme on Christian - Buddhist relations. My interest in Christian - Buddhist engagement was also encouraged as I entered parish ministry, my own Vicar during my curacy practisced Buddhist meditation and we incorporated times of meditation alongside our reading of the Daily Office and I encountered congregants in my first incumbancy who had Buddhist interests or were partners of Buddhists.

Throughout this exploration - which became a little eclipsed post 9/11 with my engagement with Islam and also Judaism -  the work of Thich Nhat Hanh (known as Thay to his followers) a Vietnamese monk who had been friends with Thomas Merton was an inspiration and challenge to me. I remember reading his beautiful little book Living Buddha, Living Christ on one of my ordination retreats. More recently I have felt an urge to return to Thay's work and  to engage once again in more regular meditation practice as a part of my own spiritual discipline, particularly as a way of maintaining and developing compassion and awareness in my work.

Last month Thich Nhat Hanh was visiting Ireland and Britain on a speaking tour details of the talks with some recordings can be found here. An excellent resource  on Thich Nhat Hanh  and his teachings on what has become known as Engaged Buddhism can be found at  the On Being website Brother Thay: A Radio Pilgimage with Thich Nhat Hanh and links to Shambhala Sun's many articles on Thich Nhat Hanh can be found here. A wealth of resources on the wider Engaged Buddhist movement can be found at The Network of Engaged Buddhists not least of all the informative and comprehensive booklet What is Engaged Buddhism?

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