A 40 Year "Retrospective Journey"

“Be good, keep your feet dry,
your eyes open, your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.”
Thomas Merton

October 17, 2008

Good Morning Bangkok

October 17, 1968
Thomas Merton arrived in Bangkok around 1:00 am on Wednesday October 17, 1968. He missed most of October 16th when he crossed the International Date-line earlier in the trip. After catching up on some sleep at the Oriental Hotel Merton was off to Wat Bovoranives to meet with the English Buddhist Monk Bhikkhu Khantipalo and the Abbot, the Venerable Chao Khun Sasana Sobhanna. In his journal Merton makes reference to a short paper by forest monk Acariya Maha Boowa Nanasampanno which he describes a "spiritual masterpiece".

It is important for me, as a novice student of Merton, to recognize that Merton comes to Asia after many years of study, practice, dialogue, and correspondence in relation to Buddhism and other eastern religious traditions. In his recent book on Merton's letters, "Signs of Peace: The Interfaith Letters of Thomas Merton", William Apel describes Merton as a "pioneer in interfaith understanding". Apel's book touches on Merton's letters with interfaith correspondents such as:

  • Abdul Aziz - Sufi scholar and long-term correspondent from Pakistan;

  • Amiya Chakravarty - Indian teacher and professor with wisdom from both the Hindu and Buddhist perspectives;

  • John Wu - Catholic convert and Chinese scholar who collaborated with Merton in the writing of "The Way of Chuang Tzu";

  • Abraham Joshua Heschel - Noted Hebrew scholar and activist.

  • D.T. Suzuki - Japanese Zen teacher;

  • Glenn Hinson - Baptist professor;

  • Thich Nhat Hanh - Vietnamese Buddhist monk;

  • June Yungblut - American Quaker and peace activist;

  • Dona Luisa Coomaraswamy - Interfaith pilgrim and wife of Indian art historian and philospher Ananda Coomaraswamy.
In his preface to "The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton", Amiya Chakravarty writes... "Readers of Thomas Merton know that his openness to man's spiritual horizons came from a rootedness of faith; an inner security led him to explore, experience, and interpret the affinities and differences between religions in the light of his own religion. That light was Christianity..."

Peace and Blessings to All.... Rob

“Only when we have the courage to cross the road and look in one another's eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God
and members of the same human family.
Henri Nouwen

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