When the history of Christian monasticism is written for the twentieth century, it will include one surprising and revolutionary development that nothing in its previous history could have prepared it for: the living dialogue with Buddhism. Over the past thirty years, while Christian theologians were eagerly discussing their doctrinal traditions with their Buddhist counterparts and rethinking their characterization of the “non-Christian” world, men and women monastics East and West were sharing methods of meditation and experiencing life in one another’s communities. All of this, in turn, was part of a larger pursuit among religious-minded people across the world for a revitalized spirituality, one open to the inheritance of traditions previously considered false or at least irretrievably foreign.
As the essays gathered together in the book will show, with Buddhist and Christian populations almost evenly distributed and the preservation of community-based monasticism still living in both traditions, Korea is in a unique position to reflect on the ideals of a life of “self-renunciation” as they have been conceptualized and embodied in these two world religions, and to ask what meaning the monastic experience still has for society at large
KIM Sung-hae, a historian of religion specializing Chinese Religions, is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Sogang Jesuit University in Seoul, Korea, and is a member of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. Her books include The Righteous and the Sage: A Comparative Study on the Ideal Images of Man in Biblical Israel and Classical China (in English, 1985), Zen Buddhism and Christianity (in Korean, 1996), and Encounter of East Asian Tradition and Christianity (in Korean, 1999).
James W. HEISIG is a permanent fellow of the Nanzan Institute in Nagoya, Japan, where he has been for the past thirty years. His recent books include Philosophers of Nothingness (2001), Dialogues at One Inch above the Ground (2003), and El gemelo de Jesús: Un alumbramiento al budismo (2007).