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Posts Tagged ‘Meister Eckhart

Healing The Divide: A Book Review

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Healing The Divide Cover

Amos Smith‘s Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots is a joy to read!

As a lay person who has studied our Christian mystical heritage (my favorites are Meister Eckhart, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, and St. John of the Cross) for 40+ years now, I’ve come to almost similar conclusions as the author. The themes that he tackles in his book, like paradox as the key to understanding Jesus, the nondual approach to Christianity, the transformative power of contemplative prayer, compassion and social justice as the fruit of spiritual practice really resonates with me.

Our Christian theology since the Middle Ages has become over-analytical and too rational, leaving no room for paradox and mystery. This has resulted in a Christianity that is too intellectual, legalistic, formal and rigid – and for the most part irrelevant to the contemporary person. What the 21st century man or woman wants is a direct encounter with God. And this is what is meant by Christian mysticism – a direct experience of God through the person of Jesus, which results in personal transformation as well as the transformation of our society.

If I’m not mistaken, this is what the book advocates, based on a theology which sees the person of Jesus through the eyes of the Christian mystics, specifically the Alexandrian mystics. And herein lays the value of the book: it is not just a book only about mysticism but about Christian mysticism, solidly built on a Christology based on what the author refers to as the “Jesus Paradox.”

Like the author, I’m convinced that paradox is the key to understanding the deepest truths in life, and that includes the truth about Jesus. Another author puts it this way:

Paradox is the best form of language for expressing some of the fundamental truths of human existence.

Jesus is not only divine, neither is he only human. He is absolutely divine and relatively human! This is the key to understanding Christian mysticism. And for those who can absorb it– this could be a life-changing experience!

What the book offers us is a fresh approach to Christianity that is not only based on theology (although the book is very theologically sound), but one that is also based on a personal encounter with God – an encounter which leads to personal transformation.

Highly recommended!


Christmas Letter 2014

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Jojang and Matt

Jojang and Matt

Dear Family and Friends,

Waiting is a mystery, a natural sacrament of life. There is a meaning hidden in all the times we have to wait. It must be an important mystery because there is so much waiting in our lives.

–Fr. James F. Donelan, SJ

“Mama, please help me find a spot in the house where I can pray?” Matthew asked me one morning.

Surprised, I said, “Okay.”

The request was music to my ears because it was a healthy sign that Matthew is well enough to be able to practice what he loves most – meditation and contemplative prayer.

Gone are the days when our days, weeks and months are measured by the number of times he is rushed to the hospital. Gone are the days when a foul smell is enough to trigger an asthma attack.

Indeed, waiting is a sacrament because the last time Matthew was able to sit, meditate and pray was twelve years ago…

Thank you, Lord. You are so good!

Although Matthew has not fully regained his old health back, nowadays when he is not feeling well, we already know what to do and shortly after he is able to recover and bounce back. Of course, we still need to be careful, and avoid situations and places that may trigger him. But we have gone a long way off from before. Slowly but surely, we hope that he becomes even stronger than when he was before.

We would like to thank Dra. Chona who patiently and lovingly took care of us throughout all these years. You are God’s angel for us.

Lastly, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its sixth year, we have 230+ followers and have reached 249,500+ hits; a wonderful reaffirmation that we must be doing something good and reaching out to so many people. We appreciate our cyber friends who regularly keep in touch. And even those that drop by once in a while.

Let me end this letter with a Christmas Prayer (not my own). It echoes what we have in our hearts….

Christmas Prayer

Meister Eckhart once said:

What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?

Lord, we do far too much celebrating your actual coming into our hearts. I believe in God, but do I believe in God-in-me? I believe in God in heaven, but do I believe in God-on-earth? I believe in God out there, but do I believe in God-with-us?

Lord, be born in my heart. Come alive in me this Christmas! Amen.

We pray that Christ will be alive for you this Christmas and all throughout the New Year ahead.


Matthew and Jojang

Written by MattAndJojang

December 8, 2014 at 11:59 am

What Are The Ten Books That Have Shaped You?

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List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. It’s not about the ‘right book’ or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Doesn’t have to be in order. Then share with 10 friends and me so I can see your list.

–Salman Azhar

Here’s my list:

1. How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler

The book that taught me not only to make the most out of reading books, but also how to think critically.

The three main questions are: What is the whole book about and how are its parts related to that whole? What, in detail, does the book say and what does the author mean by what he says? And the third question is, Is it true, and what of it?

– Mortimer Adler

2. The Bible

As a Christian, I consider it as God’s word and the most important book in my life.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

– Psalm 119:105

3. The Gateless Gate, Yamada Koun Roshi

An incisive commentary on the classic book of koans by the modern-day Zen Master, Yamada Roshi.

You will feel as though the whole universe has totally collapsed. Strange as it may seem, this experience has the power to free you from the agonies of the world. It emancipates you from anxiety over all worldly suffering. You feel as though the heavy burdens you have been carrying in mind and body have suddenly fallen away. It is a great surprise. The joy and happiness at that time are beyond all words, and there are no philosophies or theories attached to it. This is the enlightenment, the satori of Zen.

– Yamada Koun Roshi

4. The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart

The book that contains the entire text of the vernacular talks of my favorite Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart.

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.

– Meister Eckhart

5. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, St. John of the Cross

A classic on contemplative spirituality by one of the greatest Christian mystics, St. John of the Cross.

My Beloved, the mountains,
And lonely wooded valleys,
Strange islands,
And resounding rivers,
The whistling of love-stirring breezes,
The tranquil night
At the time of the rising dawn,
Silent music,
Sounding solitude,
The supper that refreshes, and deepens love.

– St. John of the Cross

6. The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton

The autobiography of my favorite spiritual author and childhood hero, Thomas Merton. He was a great influence in my life.

The very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me.

– Thomas Merton

7. The Silent Life, Thomas Merton

A book which describes the different Catholic contemplative religious orders.

I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude—to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.

– Thomas Merton

8. New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

A modern-day classic on contemplative prayer.

Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source.

– Thomas Merton

9. The Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kapleau

One of the best books on Zen practice written by a Western Zen teacher.

The world is one interdependent Whole and each separate one of us is that Whole.

– Philip Kapleau

10. Christian Zen, William Johnston

A book on Zen meditation written from a Christian perspective by a Jesuit priest and missionary.

In the twenty years that I have spent in Japan – so meaningful and rich that this land is almost my land – I have had some contact with Zen, whether by sitting in Zen meditation or through dialogue with my Buddhist friends. All this has been tremendously enriching; it has deepened and broadened my Christian faith more than I can say… Contact with Zen… has opened up new vistas, teaching me that there are possibilities in Christianity I never dreamed of.

— William Johnston

— Matt


The Snow Leopard (An Excerpt)

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The Snow Leopard

An excerpt from Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, A National Book Award winner. In this excerpt, Peter Matthiessen writes about his Zen enlightenment experience and the death of his wife, Deborah Love, whom he affectionately calls D in the book. A year after her death, upon the invitation of the famous naturalist George Schaller, he travels to the Himalayas to  seek for the snow leopard, which also becomes a metaphor for his spiritual journey as he searches for his True Self. The book, The Snow Leopard, is based on his five-week journey to the Himalayas.

In November 1971, I attended a weekend retreat at the New York Zendo. All-day meditation in the lotus postures can be arduous, and D, who had been suffering for two months with mysterious pains, decided to limit herself to the Sunday sittings. On Saturday evening, when I returned to where we were staying, she opened the door for me; she was smiling, and looked extremely pretty in a new brown dress. But perhaps because I had been in meditation since before daybreak and my mind was clear, I saw at once that she was dying, and the certainty of this clairvoyance was so shocking that I had to feign emergency and push rudely into the bathroom, to get hold of myself so that I could speak.

Before dawn on Sunday, during morning service, D chanced to sit directly opposite my own place in the two long facing lines of Buddha figures — an unlikely event that I now see as no coincidence. Upset by what I had perceived the night before, by pity and concern that this day might be too much for her, I chanted the Kannon Sutra with such fury that I “lost” myself, forgot the self — a purpose of the sutra, which is chanted in Japanese, over and over, with mounting intensity. At the end, the Sangha gives a mighty shout that corresponds to OM! — this followed instantly by sudden silence, as if the universe had stopped to listen. And on that morning, in the near darkness — the altar candle was the only light in the long room — in the dead hush, like the hush in these snow mountains, the silence swelled with the intake of my breath into a Presence of vast benevolence of which I was a part: in my journal for that day, seeking in vain to find words for what had happened, I called it the “Smile.” The Smile seemed to grow out of me, filling all space above and behind like a huge shadow of my own Buddha form, which was minuscule now and without weight, borne up on the upraised palm of this Buddha-Being, this eternal amplification of myself. For it was I who smiled; the Smile was Me. I did not breathe, I did not need to look; for It was Everywhere. Nor was there terror in my awe: I felt “good,” like a “good child,” entirely safe. Wounds, ragged edges, hollow places were all gone, all had been healed; my heart lay at the heart of all Creation. Then I let my breath go, and gave myself up to delighted immersion in this Presence, to a peaceful belonging so overwhelming that tears of relief poured from my eyes so overwhelming that even now, struggling to find a better term than “Smile” or “Presence,” the memory affects me as I write. For the first time since unremembered childhood, I was not alone; there was no separate “I.”

Already the Buddha-Being was dissolving, and I tried to convey gratitude, to inform It about D, but gave this up after a moment in the happy realization that nothing was needed, nothing missing, all was already, always, and forever known, that D’s dying, even that, was as it should be. Two weeks later, describing to Eido Roshi what had happened, I astonished myself (though not the Roshi, who merely nodded, making a small bow) by a spontaneous burst of tears and laughter, the tears falling light and free as rain in sunlight.

One intuits truth in the Zen teachings, even those that are scarcely understood; and now intuition had become knowing, not through merit but — it seemed — through grace. The state of grace that began that early morning in the Zendo prevailed throughout the winter of D’s dying, an inner calm in which I knew just how and where to act, wasting no energy in indecision or regrets: and seemingly, this certainty gave no offense, perhaps because no ego was involved, the one who acted in this manner was not “I.” When I told the Roshi that I felt this readiness and strength, even a kind of crazy exaltation, he said quietly, “You have transcended.” I think he meant “transcended your ego,” and with it grief, horror, and remorse. As if awakened from a bad dream of the past, I found myself forgiven, not just by D but by myself, and this forgiveness strikes me still as the greatest blessing of my life.

In those last months, it seemed that love had always been there, shining through the turbulence of waves, like the reflection of the moon in the Zen teachings; and love transformed the cruel and horrid face that cancer gives to death. One day, knowing she was dying, D remarked, “Isn’t it queer? This is one of the happiest times in all my life.” And another day, she asked me shyly what would happen if she should have a miraculous recovery — would we love each other still, and stay together, or would the old problems rise again to spoil things as before? I didn’t know, and that is what I said. We had tried to be honest, and anyway, D would not have been fooled. I shrugged unhappily, she winced, then we both laughed. In that moment, at least, we really understood that it didn’t matter, not because she was going to die but because all truth that mattered was here now.

After D’s death, I wondered if the specter of remorse might overtake me. It never did. In the grayest part of the empty months that followed, my heart was calm and clear, as if all that bad karma of the past had been dissolved on that early morning of November.

Toward that Presence who prepared me for D’s death I was filled with gratitude, quite different from the thankfulness I felt toward Eido Roshi and toward D, toward kind family and friends and children. It was not that I felt grateful to myself, yet the question seemed inescapable: where could that vast Smile reside if not in my own being? In chanting the Kannon Sutra in such desperation, I had invoked Avalokita, but I had been paying no attention to the words, only to D, who sat in the line of Buddha forms across the way. And so it was hard to identify Avalokita with that Presence unless He was also D, also myself — in short, what Meister Eckhardt meant: “The Eye with which I see God is the Eye with which God sees me.” Or Jesus Christ: “I and my Father are One.” Surely those Christian mystics spoke of the Lord-Who-is-Seen-Within.

That year I was a new student of Zen, expecting nothing, and almost another year had passed before something said by an older student made me realize what had happened. I went to Eido Roshi, who confirmed it. But a kensho, or satori, is no measure of enlightenment, since an insight into “one’s True Nature” may vary widely in its depth and permanence: some may overturn existence, while others are mere tantalizing glimpses that “like a mist will surely disappear.” To poke a finger through the wall is not enough — the whole wall must be brought down with a crash! My own experience had been premature, and a power seeped away, month after month. This saddened me, although I understood that I had scarcely started on the path; that, but for D’s crisis, which had cut through forty years of encrustations, I might never have had such an experience at all; that great enlightenment was only born out of deep samadhi. In this period the invitation came to go on a journey to the Himalaya.

— Peter Matthiessen

Written by MattAndJojang

April 13, 2014 at 11:17 am