This article explores the journey of William Johnston (1925–2010), who was born in the Falls Road District of Belfast in 1925, in a climate of intense conflict. He recalled being born in the midst of terror into a family that supported the Irish Republican Army. He studied in both Ireland and Great Britain, entered the Society of Jesus, and went to postwar Japan as a Jesuit missionary in 1951, where he entered into the practice of Zen, which transformed his life. His reflections on his background in Northern Ireland, his transition to Japan and the practice of Zen, and his relationship to Catholicism and Zen offer insights into how meditation can transform the experience of space in Ireland, in Japan, in Zen, and in Christian mysticism. Johnston practiced Zen under the guidance of Yamada Koun Roshi for a time, but Johnston insisted on continuing to recite the Jesus Prayer despite Yamada's contrary instructions. Johnston respected and learned from his practice of Zen, but he believed that its path differs importantly from Christian faith, and he rejected the project of double belonging. Toward the end of his life, influenced by the Japanese experience of bombing of civilian populations, his engagement with Buddhism, and his continued meditation on the teachings of Jesus, Johnston embraced the practice of nonviolence.


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pp. 171-180
Launched on MUSE
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