November 27, 2011 by Mark Szpakowski Print This Post
Thomas Merton and Chögyam Trungpa: a dialogue and collaboration continued.
Filed Under Sunshine CaféTagged: alienation, avidya, basic goodness, Marx, Merton, original sin, Trungpa
9 Responses to “Merton & Trungpa”
Sorry, is the discussion concerning Merton & Trungpa aspirational? I do not find it on this site.
Thanks in advance,
There’s been various discussions of Merton and Trungpa in other sections of this site, so this café table provides a host/location for that topic. Jim Hartz has been considering the related themes of original sin (Merton, Catholicism), avidya (Trungpa, Buddhism), and alienation (Marx, Socialism), among others: hopefully he could condense that into an article to appear at the top of this page.
There’s a fascinating book by Robert H. King called “Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh: Engaged Spirituality in an Age of Globalization”; I’d love to see a similar volume (by Jim Hartz, presumably) on Merton and Trungpa.
I’d like to recommend this superb talk given by Andrew Safer at International Human Rights Day in St John’s, Newfoundland, this past Saturday, which references both Thomas Merton and Chögyam Trungpa.
Is it possible for you to do a brief review of the book you mentioned between TNH and Robert King…I would be interested in hearing about the main themes. I have been unable to source any further info about the relationship with Merton and Trungpa but an overall viewpoint of what religious leaders of that time were discussing would be good.
I think the book you quoted is quite a relevant book for the age we are entering into -where spirituality in religious discourse has become a main point.
In this age the barriers between religions are somewhat disappearing and even within the Asian Journal itself Merton talks about undertaking Buddhist practices under Buddhist teachers-something highly controversial for a Catholic priest to do at that time.
Still all this past conversation between great teachers may have some import on how Trungpas students could take forward his dharmic and shambhalian teachings in this present age.
Let us not forget that indeed Judith Simmer-Brown on a public address about the Sadhana of Mahamudra stated that Trungpa had discussed this practice with Merton -what indeed was happening at the time between the relationship between the two of them. Someone out there could write a thesis or book on this itself
Can you round up all those (inappropriately placed) items I did on the Vidyadhara and Merton friendship, some trying to provide Rita with a study regimen on the subject, to no avail, apparently? Do you have some sort of search mechanism that can to do that?
Also, it was Merton who provided that 3-way schema linking the Christian notion of The Fall or Original Sin, the Buddhist notion of Avidya or Ignorance, and the Early Marxian notion of Alienation, not me, but it’s an index of Merton’s genuinely 360 degree openness–especially toward Marxism, which takes the discussion out of just Comparative Religion/Christian-Buddhist dialogue, which has become a sort of “circle jerk,” into society, politics and economics–in fact, into political economy. It’s there where I came up with the notion that the global political economic system is the Five Skandhas WRIT BIG.
So, therefore, I find Merton’s view to be highly “Shambhalian.” It wouldn’t be stretching it too much to suggest he was a “Shambhalian,” in fact, having seen through the boundary separating the “sacred” and “profane” (in his language), or the “spiritual” and “temporal” (in the Vidyadhara’s language). I’d go so far as to say: he was more Shambhalian than many, if not most, so-called “Shambhalians”!
What would have–and still could, and needs to–grow out of that affinity between these great two friends would have been extraordinary, that’s a certainty. So, I see that Openness-To-Marxism aspect of Merton to be highly Shambhalian, and creative. Too bad most Tibetans and their “unconditioned minds” aren’t altogether unconditioned enough when it comes to Marxism, rendering them less than 360 degrees open, in fact.
Anyway, if you know Merton’s history at Gethsermani, it was transcending that “inside”/”outside” boundary that got him trouble with the “logic-of-non-contradiction” Church authorities: he manifested a lot of Prajna.
By the way, though I’ve probably mentioned it before, “The Development of Ego” chapter of Cutting Through was initially presented as a direct result of my having given the Vidyadhara a copy of Merton’s dying-breath Bangkok Talk. Merton’s 3-way schema in that talk, mentioned above, becomes truly prophetic, when you make the effort to beam (so to speak) the Vidyadhara’s “Shambhala Vision” through it–though that combination has left me in a kind of desert….
Jim……ermmmm…I have been reading Merton aka the Asian Journal which my local library had and briefly the stuff he wrote about the nuclear age and which was prohibited for a certain time from being published by the Catholic church,however, in the meantime have moved onto Tillich who I must get back to and now Arendt too.
The problem with Merton is that he was always hedging his bets because of being a monk in the Catholic church, he could not write what he really wanted to write, wonder if monks, and people in some other organisations have the same problem today? Yes the move in a lot of religious discourse is always to preserve the status quo or hidebound oneself in the past and end up reflecting endlessly on it.
Nowadays we seem to need some striker-outters, hitters from left of field, whether they be from western or eastern quarters, I am somewhat torn myself on the ‘following game’ haha, as you can probably see from my posts recently, and might just found some kind of independent centre for independent people who ask open questions etc yeh we could keep the doors locked and only allow in the lamas who are wishing to dialogue with us – so ‘lamas care’ would be the dialoguers –the master dialoguers. Things I think need to edge our way for a change…..zzzzzzzz….we have grown up. Well now or never, but not going to belong to an institution…no way…whether it comes from old or new frontiers.
Aka Marx –did read the Communist manifesto re reading around Merton…interesting. Yes we seem more and more to be heading for a more open society, and capitalism in our times is getting very edgy…wonder how much longer it has got to run…perhaps US will finally destroy it in an almost macabre way with the dragon eating its own tail. O well best Rita
fascinating clip from Merton -kind of a message for our age http://youtu.be/2WXo4ktQrg8 best rita
There is no division between the sacred and the secular – Thomas Merton, March 18, 1958:
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers….There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
A plaque marks that spot in Louisville.
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