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Vatican Announces First International Buddhist-Christian Dialogue for Nuns

A Pakistani nun holds a candle during a vigil for victims of Sunday's deadly suicide bombing in a park, Monday, March 28, 2016 in Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistan's prime minister on Monday vowed to eliminate perpetrators of terror attacks such as the massive suicide bombing that targeted Christians gathered for Easter …
AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

ROME — The Vatican’s office for Interreligious Dialogue announced the first-ever dialogue event between Buddhist and Christian Nuns this week.

The four-day conference titled “Contemplative Action and Active Contemplation: Buddhist and Christian Nuns in Dialogue” is being held this week at the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monstery in Taiwan, the Vatican revealed on Wednesday.

This international dialogue seeks to achieve two chief objectives, the Vatican said, namely, to promote dialogue of spiritual or religious experience and to create more space for women to participate in interreligious dialogue.

Among the topics to be addressed by the conference, the schedule includes sessions on the origin, evolution and present-day situation of monastic religious life for women in Buddhism and Christianity as well as discussions of Buddhist and Christian approaches to “active contemplation” and “contemplative Action.” Participants will also explore Buddhist meditation and Christian contemplation a well as the service of Buddhist and Christian nuns to humanity.

According to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), some 70 Buddhist and Catholic nuns will participate in the encounter. The Christian and Buddhist nuns hail mainly from Taiwan, but there are others from other countries South Korea, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cambodia, the Philippines, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Norway, and the United States, the Vatican noted.

Pope John Paul II famously examined the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity in his 1994 interview book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.

In it, John Paul said that Buddhism — like Christianity — is a religion of salvation, but “the doctrines of salvation in Buddhism and Christianity are opposed.”

The enlightenment experienced by Buddha “comes down to the conviction that the world is bad, that it is the source of evil and of suffering for man,” he wrote, and thus to liberate oneself from this evil, “one must free oneself from this world.”

Yet this liberation from suffering does not bring a person near to God, he noted, and “Buddhism is in large measure an ‘atheistic’ system.”

In Buddhism, “we do not free ourselves from evil through the good which comes from God; we liberate ourselves only through detachment from the world, which is bad.”

“The fullness of such a detachment is not union with God, but what is called nirvana, a state of perfect indifference with regard to the world,” he said.

Christian mysticism, on the contrary, “builds up civilization, particularly ‘Western civilization,’ which is marked by a positive approach to the world, and which developed thanks to the achievements of science and technology, two branches of knowledge rooted both in the ancient Greek philosophical tradition and in Judeo- Christian Revelation,” he said.

For this reason, Saint John Paul concluded, “it is not inappropriate to caution those Christians who enthusiastically welcome certain ideas originating in the religious traditions of the Far East — for example, techniques and methods of meditation and ascetical practice.”

“In some quarters these have become fashionable, and are accepted rather uncritically,” he wrote.

Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot Msgr. Indunil Janakaratne Kodithuwakku Kankanamalage will represent the PCID in the event, and the Rev. Dr. Simone Sinn will attend as representative of the World Council of Churches.

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