The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

Synopsis

"The moment of takeoff was ecstatic...joy. We left the ground--I with Christian mantras and a great sense of destiny, of being at last on my true way after years of waiting and wondering..." With these words, dated October 15. 1968, the late Father Thomas Merton recorded the beginning of his fateful journey to the Orient. His travels led him from Bangkok, through India to Ceylon, and back again to Bangkok for his scheduled talk at a conference of Asian monastic orders. There he unequivocally reaffirmed his Christian vocation. His last journal entry was made on December 8, 1968, two days before his untimely, accidental death. Amply illustrated with photographs he himself took along the way and fully indexed, the book also contains a glossary of Asian religious terms, a preface by the Indian scholar Amiya Chakravarty, a foreword and postscript by Brother Patrick Hart of the Abbey of Gethsemani, as well as several appendices, among them the text of Merton's final address.

Excerpt

Readers of Thomas Merton know that his openness to man’s spiritual horizons came from a rootedness of faith; and inner security led him to explore, experience, and interpret the affinities and differences between religions in the light of his own religion. That light was Christianity. For him it was the supreme historical fact and the perfect revelation, but affirmations in many lands and traditions and, as St. Paul indicated, the “witnesses,” were there; the witnessing continues. Merton sought fullness of man’s inheritance; this inclusive view made it impossible for him to deny any authentic scripture or any man of faith. Indeed, he discovered new aspects of truth in Hinduism, in the Madhyamika system, which stood halfway between Hinduism and Buddhism, in Zen, and in Sufi mysticism. His lifelong search for meditative silence and prayer was found not only in his monastic experience but also in his late Tibetan inspiration. His major devotional interests converged in what he called “constantia” where “all notes in their perfect distinctness, are yet blended in one.” Believing in ecumenicity, he went further and explored new avenues of interfaith understanding, encouraged by the open spirit of Vatican ii.

Not only in religion and in religious philosophy but in art, creative writing, music, and international relations—particularly in a possible world renunciation of violence—he knew the challenge of reality. Intellectual illumination and phases of doubt enhanced the religious process; therefore, in a sense, he never withdrew from the world. Sometimes a bright idea would cap-

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