The Difference between Catholic and Zen Meditation

December 9, 2007

Today I came across the following very interesting exchange between two American Zen Buddhists and an American Catholic priest,which took place in Japan in the late 1980s and is recounted in David Chadwick’s Thank You and OK: An American Zen Failure in Japan:

 “What’s the difference between Catholic meditation and zazen?” asked Norman.

“Zazen has no object.  There have been some disputes in the [Jesuit] order about the appropriateness of a form of worship that doesn’t focus on Christ or Mary or something sacred to the Church.  I also had a problem at first with letting go of an object of devotion in meditation.”

 “What did you do about it?” I asked.

 “Some people, like some nuns I knnow, combine zazen with devotional concentration.  I came to believe that true faith needs no form to support it and that a mere mental symbolic representation of a sacred object in one’s imagination is not the holy object itself, and so I sit still and wait, which is an invitation for God to enter.  It seems to me that’s at least as appropriate as carrying a mental picture into the vastness of meditation.  In the end, I cannot hold on anyway and am left naked to face God on God’s terms, not on mine.”

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One Response to “The Difference between Catholic and Zen Meditation”

  1. Robert West Says:

    The Cloud of Unknowing is a good source showing Christian meditation on nothingness. Nice blog, I will link to it from my own Buddhist Christian blog


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