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Buddhist-Christian Studies 20 (2000) 247-248

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Christ and Buddha: Weaving a Path for the New Millennium

Thomas G. Hand, S.J.
Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA

This dialogue conference/retreat was held at Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA, August 10-15, 1999. Well over the stated limit of 150 people joined a faculty of ten in presentations, discussions, sharing, meditation, and rituals. The conference was born primarily out of the personal and social need for dialogue felt by Sandi Peters, who joined the program staff of Mercy Center after three years spent at Insight Meditation East, Barre, Massachusetts.

Besides Peters as presider, the faculty members were: representing the Buddhist side--Nigel Edmonds (Mahayana and Christianity), Chris Phillips (Theravada), Ven. Thubten Chodron (Vajrayana), Rev. Heng Sure (Chinese Mahayana), and Patrick Thornton (Theravada and Christianity); representing the Christian side--Thomas G. Hand, S. J. (Catholic), Kevin Hunt, OCSO (Cistercian monk), Roshi Jinne Richardson (Zen and Christianity), and Rev. Shari Young (Episcopal and Zen).

In a well-received keynote talk, Thomas Hand offered as the basis for the whole dialogue "The Primacy of Experience" in both traditions. The major themes were: (1st day) "The Challenges of Buddhist-Christian Dialogue," (2nd day) "The Language and Symbols of the Traditions," (4th day) "Weaving a Path for the New Millennium" as a joint venture of the two traditions together. On the third day, participants engaged in "Practice--East and West," including presentations geared toward practice both then and there and in the future.

One marked difference between this conference and those that Mercy Center put on from 1985 to 1988 was the quality of the participants. In the earlier conferences, many were seekers and intellectual questioners. This year, besides such qualities, the participants were sincere practitioners. In fact, a great many were practicing in both traditions. They often classified themselves as Buddhist Christians or as Christian-root Buddhists. The greater depth of dialogue that has developed in less than fifteen years was clearly apparent. What is more, the sharing and insights of both Buddhist and Christian presenters seemed to have become increasingly relaxed, articulate, and vital. Their presentations were met with much deeper understanding and enthusiasm by all the participants. [End Page 247]

Besides the presentations, participants deeply appreciated the chi kong and tai chi sessions, the daily meditation together, the day of practice, the tea ceremony, and the closing ritual. In a word, the conference was holistic dialogue.

Those of dual practice were especially happy to find that they are not alone, that many are coming together to weave a new Path for the new millennium.

Tapes are available. Contact Sandi Peters at (650) 340-7486.