This evening we watched a DVD about The Abbey of Gethsemani the Trappist monastery in Kentucky where Thomas Merton lived during the latter part of his life. The Abbey has a classic URL: http://www.monks.org/. A contemplative order they may be, out of touch with the world they are not.
We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men (and women) are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.
A modern day Zen monk is remembered for say that Zazen is ‘good for nothing’!
Here’s more on Thomas Merton for your interest and information.
The abbot (of Gethsemani also) urged the young monk (Thomas Merton) to write his autobiography, which was published under the title The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) and became a best-seller and a classic. During the next 20 years, Merton wrote prolifically on a vast range of topics, including the contemplative life, prayer, and religious biographies. His writings would later take up controversial issues (e.g., social problems and Christian responsibility: race relations, violence, nuclear war, and economic injustice) and a developing ecumenical concern. He was one of the first Catholics to commend the great religions of the East to Roman Catholic Christians in the West.
For some years Gethsemani has hosted conferences under the banner Inter-religious Dialogue when Buddhist and Christian Monastics join to debate. This years meeting which ended a couple of days ago was titled Monasticism and the Environment.
Links to the works of Thomas Merton on-line.
3 thoughts on “www.monks.org”
It was some years ago that i read some of Thomas Merton’s books and was surprised then to find how much his thinking was in line with our tradition. Even more when I realised he arrived there by dint of his owntradition’s form of meditation. Another exmple of the “all is one all is different” methinks.
Merton was also for me an introducton to spirituality. At university my creative writing teacher introduced me to him and then as I wrote she told me that my writing reminded her of the “Zen” poets from China and Japan and contemporaries such as Gary Snyder. I started to read them, found an ad for Shasta Abbey Buddhist Supplies, ordered a statue and received info from the Abbey and a few months later when I was eighteen I took the Greyhound bus from Denver to Shasta. A moment that changed my life and just now I can feel the gratitude in my heart to this professor who really took me under her wing in my young days. Interestingly, she was an ex-catholic nun. Thank you Rita for pointing me in the Way. If you are interested here is a bit about Rita Kiefer:
40 years ago this December, Thomas Merton died while on his first trip to the East, electrocuted by a badly earthed fan while stepping from a shower. His abbot Dom James had long resisted his travel and need for solitude in the hermitage, and Merton’s diaries reflect both the pain and the acceptance in equal measure. He was very much a human being in the robust sense of the word. Politically active, widely read and interconnected, yet profoundly surrendered to God. I used to carry a tiny Merton volume called “Zen and the Birds of Appetite” until it dropped to pieces. The diaries of the later years are particularly rewarding. I have volume 5, “Dancing in the Water of Life” here in Singapore. Highly recommended.