The 2008 Meeting of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies: Chicago, Illinois, October 31-November 1, 2008

Article excerpt

The Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies (SBCS) sponsored two sessions in conjunction with the 2008 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). The first session addressed the topic "Cognitive Science, Religious Practices, and Human Development: Buddhist and Christian Perspectives." The second session focused on the life and legacy of Trappist monk, spiritual writer, and interfaith pioneer Thomas Merton (1915-1968).

The first session, moderated by Sandra Costen Kunz (Phillips Theological Seminary), featured five papers probing the relationship between research in the natural and social sciences and lessons from the experience of Buddhist and Christian practice: "The Body and the Mind: Buddhist Bowing and Neuroscience," presented by Paula K. Arai (Louisiana State University) and coauthored with Sascha du Lac (Salk Institute for Biological Sciences); "Who Hears? A Zen Buddhist Perspective" by Robert Aitken Roshi, founder and retired Zen master of the Diamond Sangha in Honolulu (read by Ruben Habito, Southern Methodist University); "'Your Cell Will Teach You Everything': Old Wisdom, Modern Science, and the Art of Attention" by Noreen Herzfeld (St. John's University); "Verbal Imagining: Scientific Reflection on Visual Cognition in Light of Traditional Tibetan and Christian Theologies of the Image" by Thomas Cattoi (Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley); and "Cognitive Error and Contemplative Practices: The Cultivation of Discernment in Mind and Heart" by Wesley J. Wildman (Boston University). Revised versions of three of these papers with an introductory essay by Prof. Costen Kunz are included in this issue of Buddhist-Christian Studies.

The theme for the society's second session, chaired by Alice Keefe (University of Wisconsin), was "Thomas Merton Forty Years after His Death: Buddhist and Christian Perspectives." Four presenters examined and evaluated Merton's distinctive contributions to Buddhist-Christian relations, theological reflection, and interreligious dialogue. In her paper "Self-Surrender in Merton's Writings and Contemplative Psychology," Daijaku Judith Kinst (California Institute of Integral Studies) concentrated on the place of subjective transformation in Merton's thought, describing his "great gift" to the literature on the contemplative life as the "fearless" rejection of self-centeredness in the practice of prayer and spiritual formation. …