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Reviewed by:
  • Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation by Susan J. Stabile
  • Bobbi Patterson and Sid Brown

Writing this review at the turning of the winter solstice, I experience the growing darkness. Gray shadows claim more spaces, placing their bets; will it ever get light again? If we aligned ourselves amid the silent monuments of the past, Stonehenge or some other, could we catch that first breaking of solstice light as sharpened attention? Might that mindfulness generate strength for the journey through darkness and light? Susan Stabile’s rich and important book, Growing in Love and Wisdom, answers yes. She decided to write this book upon hearing one woman’s darkness, her fear (p. 6) that she would lose her Christian faith if she turned to Buddhist meditation practices as sources of interreligious insight. Susan Stabile believes the opposite. And she’s no novice, having spent twenty years as a serious student of Buddhism before returning to her Roman Catholic roots. In this book, she explains how and why Buddhist sources enrich Christian faith, theology, practice, and life—a natural interreligious path for Stabile—and in these pages brings light that proves her point.

Before returning, steady-footed, to her Roman Catholic roots, she walked twenty years along Buddhist paths of analytic meditation and teachings. Stabile studied under well-known Buddhist teachers; so, she brings wide knowledge of Buddhist meditation practices’ analytic, affective, and sensorial approaches and affects. She claims and creates an inviting tone of spacious generosity (p. 7), drawing Christian angles from traditional Buddhist teachings, an invitation to all comers. What the reader will find, however, offers more than the usual interreligious “force for cooperation and peace” (p. 7). In the fifteen practices she expertly develops, the reader will receive step-by-step instructions and explanations that make real the spiritual enrichment and practical benefits only available through interreligious experiences.

The extent of her experience matches her down-to-earth tone, which encourages the total newcomer and welcomes the experienced in interreligious dialogue. Having studied for many years in Tibetan Buddhist and Christian monastic communities, I know the meditation practices she works with and admire her skillful interpretations, crafting a dialogue well suited for the birth of new Christian understandings and insights. If a reader has no experience in meditation practice, this book may be too far a leap. But perhaps not, as in the early chapters she provides a short but solid history of interreligious dialogue, specifically rooted in questions of prayer and meditation practice. She references the key lineage holders of such work, Steindl-Rast, Keating, Merton, the Dalai Lama, Rahner, and more, explaining through them how and why interreligious theology and practice brings new power to faith-based living.

She explains that the sharing heartens and nourishes not by “saming” or “simple blending,” but by educated and practical conversations open to noting points of convergence and divergence. Claiming her stance as anti–“double-belonging” (p. 19), a [End Page 215] claim I appreciate, she makes her case, quoting mostly major Roman Catholic figures from popes to Christian theologians to activist priests like Oscar Romero. Occasionally, I worried: Would she move over an edge, advocating Christianity above Buddhist, or Roman Catholicism over other forms of Christianity? She comes close, but never does, always pulling back to embrace the widest girth of interreligious sharing. I do sense, however, that the “seeker” she invites to read this book will receive most if s/he is at least interested in Christianity.

Her deep knowledge of the analytic nature of the “Spiritual Exercises” of Ignatius of Loyola, to name one example, further creates a solid channel of communication with the investigative and logical approaches specific to Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices. Such linkages encourage the reader to explore this interterritory, which she well marks in her second chapter on “core truths” that “operate across faith traditions.” Highlighting key touchstones of spiritual concern to both traditions, she establishes a framework, a path, familiar and unfamiliar. Topics include relations to the physical world, relations with...