Christianity Looks East: Comparing the Spiritualities of St John of the Cross and Buddhaghosa, by Peter Feldmeier

Over the years that I lived in Mexico I could visit the spot where Montezuma and Cortes met and wonder what history would have been like if both had a sense of "the other". Peter Feldmeier's book presents a modern and post-modern methodology for theology and religious dialogue in which partners John of the Cross and Bhadantacariya Buddhagosa make their critical move toward the Other over time, culture and spirituality while illuminating the goals and possibilities of dialogue, and the convergences and divergences of the Christian and Buddhist paths to holiness and liberation.

This paperback of only 120 pages of text followed by an extensive glossary and bibliography is a helpful and illuminating companion for one of the great theological challenges and distinctive journeys of our time--which is how Paul Tillich identified inter-religious dialogue some 40 years ago. Now, comparative theology, dialogue, and pluralism no longer seem so irrelevant to our daily living and witness.

Feldmeier, a Roman Catholic priest and professor, trained in ecumenical settings, chooses the writings of a 16th century Christian mystic and the fifth century Buddhist monk to examine three central themes: the human being, the path of the spiritual life and the ultimate horizons of union with God and Nirvana. Put into quest form-Who are we? How do we become holy? What are we striving for-these three themes have broad application beyond establishing a ground for the spiritual practice of hospitality which has to lie behind all true inter-religious dialogue.

His suggested list of conditions and intentions for this imagined dialogue of San Juan and Buddhagosa is a valuable aid in itself for anyone embarking on almost any authentic dialogue. (Montezuma and Cortes take note, please)

The first condition is that it should be without any ulterior or covert motives; second, one must come with essential openness to the other and to one's own tradition; third, that other religious traditions are respected in their own right and on their own terms; fourth, in the spirit of trust and openness, differences are not to be eschewed; fifth, make no hasty determinations about the other.

By doing this, inter-religious dialogue becomes a holy ground of spiritual hospitality in which we should walk barefoot and humbly and where the pitfalls of the ego or self must be avoided, as any in both Christian and Buddhist traditions would agree if internal growth and transformation are to take hold.

William Derby

An Anglican sensitive to the conflicts within the Church and Communion, or to the demands of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue might find the above list sufficiently helpful to master; but even when one is not engaged in understanding the various expressions of holiness before us, the book helps raise the critique of one's own life. By forcing clearer grounded conviction, it can strengthen one's own spiritual traditions, and expand one's horizons of awareness.



Like learning one's own language by studying another's, and discovering one's own deficiencies in the process, this book and its insights expand the heart, mind and soul in unique ways to give Christians a better understanding of their faith.

With such a resource in hand and in practice, progress in dialogue might not be such an empty or limiting practice and the future of such complex inter-relations becomes more encouraging.