Deep Ecumenism does not necessarily mean just nodding one’s head in agreement all the time to how our religions have or have not evolved over the years.  Sometimes religions can forget some of their deepest insights and need to be awakened.

Jesus and the Buddha. Artist unknown. From The Buddhist Christian Church.

While Thich Nhat Hanh tells us he is “very excited” about the encounter between Buddhism and Christianity in the twenty-first century, he also calls for a “very drastic change” to occur in the Christian tradition.  What is that change?  To know more deeply our mystical tradition and especially to recovery the Apophatic Divinity. 

If we can bring into Christianity the insight of interbeing and of non-duality, we will radically transform the way people look on the Christian tradition, and the valuable jewels in the Christian tradition will be rediscovered.

Notice what he is saying in this wish of his that Christianity recover its apophatic tradition—that Christianity has lost touch with some of its “valuable jewels.”  This is what happens when religions lose touch with their deepest essence and pursue empire longing instead of the deepest teachings of its founders and practitioners, lovers (mystics) and prophets (warriors).  TNH calls for a “radical transformation” of the way people look at the Christian tradition.

I think he is right, and this insight exists within the Christian tradition among its mystics. For example, by rediscovering Eckhart’s profound apophatic theology and his unconscious Buddhism we can unlock these “valuable jewels” and at the same time launch a true interchange of Buddhist and Christian wisdom.  I am very excited to bring Meister Eckhart together with Thich Nhat Hanh and other Buddhist teachers who have so much to teach us all. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, p. 56. 

See also Rev. Matthew Fox and Lama Tsomo, The Lotus & the Rose: A Conversation Between Tibetan Buddhism & Mystical Christianity.

Banner Image: Statue of Meister Eckhart, Town Hall Tower, Cologne, by Elisabeth Perger; photo by Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons. Thich Nhat Hanh in Paris, 2006; photo by Duc, Wikimedia Commons.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you feel that “valuable jewels” have slipped away from the Christian consciousness?  And that a very “drastic change” is needed to retrieve them and that the mystical and apophatic tradition can bring them back?

Recommended Reading

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

The Lotus & The Rose: A Conversation Between Tibetan Buddhism & Mystical Christianity

How can we move away from “us vs. them” thinking as our surroundings feel more divided and polarized than ever? Co-authors Matthew Fox and Lama Tsomo discuss how Tibetan Buddhism and Mystical Christianity answer this question from unique points of view, with many commonalities and practical tools to break down the barriers between us.
The Lotus and the Rose is an extraordinary example of what can happen when spiritual leaders from different traditions open up and speak from the heart.” — Paul Chaffee, The Interfaith Observer.

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10 thoughts on “Thich Nhat Hanh’s Advice for Christianity”

  1. Avatar

    During my 10 year apprenticeship in Native Spirituality, there was a teaching called “The Eight Great Powers”. This teaching was about the wheels of different world religions coming together… a sharing of the knowledge and wisdom within them all coming together as one. It was said that the Christian religion would be the last one out of the eight to open and share its wheel with the others. Perhaps this is because, like you mentioned in today’s DM, that we need to retrieve, rediscover and reclaim these lost jewels first, for ourselves, before we can share them. In order to do so, we must be open and willing to change.

    Personally having chosen to be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit, I was led to retrieving, discovering and reclaiming some of these lost jewels within the mystical tradition of Christianity, thanks in large part to those whom are doing the same, such as Mathew Fox and others. I’m truly grateful to have been connected with these other seekers, for the journey has been lonely at times. These connections and the sharing that happens within this, has not only been encouraging in many ways, but most importantly it has helped me to trust more deeply in my own experiences of what I was discovering, retrieving and reclaiming… the lost jewels as gifts to be received, accepted, acknowledged and responded to, from the Holy Spirit, within the mystical traditions of Christianity.

    Thank you also for referring me to the two books, written by TNH, about the Buddah and Christ. I’m reading them now, and I too like TNH am excited about the encounter with the insights and wisdom he shares through his writing of these two coming together.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I’m glad you are reclaiming some of the lost jewels within the mystical tradition, which has been revived in large part by Matthew!

  2. Avatar
    Patricia M Devine

    Yes, indeed, it is Matthew we have to thank for exposing us to the lost jewels. I was particularly grateful today to learn of the Apophatic God that Eckhart describes. Liberating ourselves from language is a necessary thing to do. Like Rumi, sometimes I think “words, words, words, I am sick of words!” I have identified with my Jewish brothers and sisters who never tried to define God. I am thankful to Eckhart for naming the dark mystery however.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Patricia, I am too. The teachings of Meister Eckhart are such as gift to us, and Matthew has brought him to us by way of Thomas Merton who was told by Buddhist teacher, D. T. Suzuki to look into Eckhart. The question is why hasn’t the Catholic Church made him a Doctor of the Church like Thomas Aquinas. The quick answer is because they condemned him of heresy at one point–but so did they with Aquinas. They need to do some serious rethinking with regard to Eckhart!

      1. Avatar

        I have found that those men and women condemned by the Church (Hildegard, Eckhart, Teilhard, the Celtic teachers etc.) have the most to teach me. I would think it is a badge of honor for them (and don’t forget Matthew in this group too!).

        1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
          Richard Reich-Kuykendall

          Elaine, Thankfully Hildegard has been made a saint, but Aquinas was first condemned before he was made a saint. Why not Meister Eckhart??? And you are right too, “Matthew is in this group too!” In fact, I have a t-shirt that has all over its front, the names of many of the heretics throughout the ages. Included among these is Matthew Fox! On the shirt it also says, “Heretic: In good company.”

  3. Avatar

    There is a good book comparing Buddhism with Christianity: “Speaking in Silence / Christians and Buddhists”…, edited by Susan Walker (Published by Paulist Press 1987). It is surprising how much they both have in common.

  4. Avatar

    YES! I do think Christianity needs to open up to its apophatic history and move toward a great revival and awakening. Since i began studying Buddhism many years ago, I began to experience greater and deeper understanding of the Christian scriptures. There are jewels and pearls of wisdom in both of these as well as in other traditions;. for example, The Bahai
    Faith. I have been a deep ecumenist for years and greatly blessed by each tradition I have encountered. The American culture and belief system of “Separation” needs to be deeply examined so that Americans/Europeans/White-bodied people can come to terms with how this mistaken belief has twisted and distorted so many people & cultures around the world.

  5. Avatar

    I have also been attracted to our mystical/contemplative spiritual traditions (like the commentators above) of all our major religions in human history, especially the oldest as represented and undervalued by our world Indigenous cultures. In the last several years there is even a deepening of awareness and research of our interconnection with the many spiritual dimensions of the eternal ‘afterlife’ and Cosmos — our Loving/Creative Oneness of our Universal and Eternal Souls….

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