I got an e-mail a couple of days ago... A CD project of Buddhist Music.... I wanted to pass this along as the end date for submissions is Nov. 20th.

Also a new book “Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian”... Enjoy.

Peace... Kusala

— — ---

Dear Kusala -

Thank you for the service of your website www.urbandharma.org. We have one of your articles, "Meditation on a Coke Can" as a link on our website as it is very much in line with our product Ecological Awareness. Another overlap is the recognition of the role music plays in the dharma, given your promotion of the Paramita CD and the 2005 CD "Music in the Dharma".

We have another opportunity to once again pay tribute to the role of music to the dharma. As More than Sound productions, one of our current projects is to produce a CD that is a compilation of young musicians that have written & recorded a song that they recognize as having been inspired by their Buddhist practice. We are excited to be able to add this project to what others have done to recognize the role Buddhism has played in music. More details can be found at http://www.morethansound.net/dhamma-gita.php

Our overall mission is to produce a variety of high-quality audio CD's on topics and ideas that deepen our understanding of the human experience. Many of these are in line with your perspective on practice needing to impact the social issues of today, so please feel free to browse all our current products on our website www.morethansound.net.

We very much appreciate any assistance you can give us in getting the word out about this latest project to your community, particularly the musicians of course. Not only would we greatly appreciate a post on urbandharma.org, but also feel free to print the page from our website as a flyer to post or to send an e-mail to your list inviting entries for the CD.

We of course feel this is an everybody-wins situation. The musicians get another distribution outlet for their music. Listeners get entertained and a chance to strengthen their practice simultaneously. Both www.urbandharma.org and More than Sound get to support Buddhist practice as an integral part of life. It is another step, however small, in deepening the awareness on our planet.

With sincere thanks for your support and practice, AnnE O'Neil

— — ---


1. Do you have a song that you recognize as originating from insight through Buddhist practice?

We're accepting submissions for a new album!

These songs do not need to be explicitly "Buddhist" in any way. They do not even need to be recognized as Buddhist by a listener. The requirement is simply that the song writer/composer recognizes the origin as insight arising from Buddhist practice.
Selected artists will be featured on the CD, and given a full share of profits, as well as the option to feature and sell their own CDs in the More Than Sound store.

We will be accepting submissions for this CD until November 20th.

Entry guidelines: Entries must be mp3 format, minimum 124 kbit/s, minimum 44.1 kHz sample rate. We just need to get a sense of the song, and then if we choose your entry, we'll contact you for a higher-quality version. There is no limit on the number of entries you may submit.

Why we're doing this:

Buddhist practice took root in American society in the 60s. It has since spread these roots through mainstream culture, and is flowering now as artistic expression in younger generations - expressions as multifaceted as their global influences.
This artistic community includes a new generation of young Buddhists producing their own unique music. The diversity of this music shows Buddhist influence across genres and backgrounds - it is inclusive, connective, inspiring, and as such, beautiful.
In an effort to spread this beauty, More Than Sound is asking the community for entries for the compilation album Dhamma Gita: Music of Young Practitioners Inspired by The Dhamma.

A note from Hanuman:

This project also takes on a personal quality for me. My parents met each other at a Buddhist meditation retreat and have been meditators my whole life. So, I have been surrounded and influenced by Buddhist practice and have been aware of others manifesting Dharma practice in their lives.

I have sat on meditation retreats of varying lengths since 1990 and the practice has deeply influenced my own artistic expression as well as my actions in daily life. It has struck me time and time again that the quiet and stillness of a meditation retreat is the richest creative space I have encountered. The opportunity for reflection and listening are fertile ground for deeply moving art to manifest.

Because much of Dharma practice in the West was transmitted through largely monastic ideals, this particular creative aspect of it has not gotten the attention in balance with its importance to practioners. This CD is an offering of that art to the world. My wish is that it represents as wide a variety of musical expression as is reflective of the people influenced by Dharma practice.

Gratitude! - More Than Sound

— — —

New Book!

“Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian” - by Paul F. Knitter

October 10, 2009

A Look at Christianity, Through a Buddhist Lens / New York Times / By PETER STEINFELS


Five decades ago, Paul F. Knitter, then a novice studying to become a Roman Catholic priest, would be in the seminary chapel at 5:30 every morning, trying to stay awake and spend time in meditation before Mass.

Last Wednesday, at the same hour, he was sitting on his Zen cushion meditating in the Claremont Avenue apartment he occupies as the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

A few hours later he was talking about his pointedly titled new book, “Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian” (Oneworld). The book is the outcome of decades of encounters with Buddhism — and of struggles with his own faith.

Born in 1939, Mr. Knitter began his path to the Catholic priesthood at age 13, studied theology in Rome during the years of the Second Vatican Council, was ordained in 1966, completed a doctorate in Germany and began a long and influential career as a scholar addressing questions of the relationship between Christianity and other world religions.

He received permission to leave the priesthood in 1975, taught for many years at Xavier University in Cincinnati and after his retirement was invited to Union Theological.

“Am I still a Christian?” he asks in his new book. It is a question posed over the years by others, including some unhappy officials in the Vatican. But the question, he writes, is also “one I have felt in my own mind and heart.”

“Has my dialogue with Buddhism made me a Buddhist Christian?” he writes. “Or a Christian Buddhist? Am I a Christian who has understood his own identity more deeply with the help of Buddhism? Or have I become a Buddhist who still retains a stock of Christian leftovers.”

The struggles Mr. Knitter is writing about are not the familiar ones about sexual ethics, the role of women or the failures of church leaders.

His focus here is on what he calls “the big stuff”: What does it really mean for Christians to profess belief in an almighty “God the Father” personally active in the world, or in Jesus, “his only-begotten Son” who saved humanity through his death and bodily resurrection, or in eternal life, heaven and hell?

However much he tried, Mr. Knitter found that certain longstanding Christian formulations of faith “just didn’t make sense”: God as a person separate from creation and intervening in it as an external agent; individualized life after death for all and eternal punishment for some; Jesus as God’s “only Son” and the only savior of humankind; prayers that ask God to favor some people over others.

Mr. Knitter’s response, based on his long interaction with Buddhist teachers, was to “pass over” to Buddhism’s approach to each of these problems and then “pass back” to Christian tradition to see if he could retrieve or re-imagine aspects of it with this “Buddhist flashlight.”

He was not asserting, as some people have, that religions like Christianity and Buddhism are merely superficially different expressions of one underlying faith.

On the contrary, he insists they differ profoundly. Yet “Buddhism has helped me take another and deeper look at what I believe as a Christian,” he writes. “Many of the words that I had repeated or read throughout my life started to glow with new meaning.”

Those new meanings will unsettle many Christians, as Mr. Knitter recognizes, even as they address difficulties felt by many others. This will vary, of course, from issue to issue. Mr. Knitter’s translation of Buddhist meditation into a call for a Christian “sacrament of silence” may be readily welcomed. His search for a “non-dualistic” understanding of God and the world may be only leading him through Buddhism back to Thomas Aquinas.

“Perhaps I could have come onto these insights without Buddhism,” he said Wednesday. Yet even in those cases he often expresses these insights in language that will be debated, like God as “InterBeing” or “Connecting Spirit.”

When his comparison between “Jesus the Christ and Gautama the Buddha” leads him to conclude that both are “unique” saviors but not sole or final ones, he is treading, as he well knows, in a theological minefield.

One can predict that this book will receive instant condemnation from people who feel their duty is to protect Christian doctrine from wandering off course.

One can also predict that those condemnations will, in turn, make others hesitant to voice more nuanced, thoughtful criticism out of fear of piling on.

Mr. Knitter and his book deserve better. It is easy to draw up a list of substantial criticisms. For one thing, Mr. Knitter’s Christianity comes laden with all the impurities of popular piety and workaday theology while his Buddhism seems to be that of the best and the brightest.

Some readers may detect the reflex of the lifelong recovering cleric in his recoiling from whatever might appear to be patriarchal or excluding. And most important are questions about the nature and use of religious language for pointing to a mystery that can never be captured in human words.

Yet serious critics, no matter how major their differences, will not be able to ignore the enormous, almost disarming honesty of this book. Mr. Knitter admits his painful puzzlements and conducts his search for answers out in the open. He does not hide behind academic abstraction but writes clearly and personally and leaves himself open to correction.

Although he argues for a kind of religious “double-belonging,” he does not hesitate to ask whether this is ultimately a kind of promiscuity — or, as one of his students put it, “spiritual sleeping around.”

Mr. Knitter doesn’t believe so. But he has written his book in part to see whether fellow Christians agree.

Will his “double-belonging” resonate sufficiently within his own faith community that he can continue to consider himself a Buddhist Christian? Or if not, as he explained this week, will he feel obliged to recognize himself as a Christian Buddhist?

--- --- ---

Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian (Paperback) by Paul F. Knitter (Author)


Amazon.com Reader Review - Essential Reading for Christians and Buddhist, June 16, 2009 By Ronald P. Starbuck

This is a terrific book and I'm only 1/3 of the way through it now; it is speaks of truth in its highes form. It may very well be one of the most important books of our time on understanding the Buddhist and Christian dialog; and what they offer to spiritual seekers around the world. Prof. Knitter has written something here that is astounding and pure, brave and bold, and with great humility

— — —

Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian / Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian by Paul Knitter is a great read. It's provocative title, which is certain to raise more than a few eyebrows amongst Buddhists and Christians, attracted my attention some time ago at Vivocity's Page One but the price tag (over $40) dissuaded me from buying it. Later on, I saw it at Harris in Jurong Point and finally succumbed.

Paul Knitter was a Roman Catholic priest who became ordained in 1966. He left the priesthood in 1975 due to, as he candidly revealed, his struggle with celibacy. Knitter later went on to become a theologian and he is currently the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. He is also a proponent of religious pluralism and is married to a Buddhist.

One thing that strikes me about the book is that while Knitter is obviously a very learned scholar, he has written a very personal and accessible book. While there are the inevitable technical terms, the book has a conversational tone absent in many academic writings. But then this is to be expected from a book on a subject that is highly close to the author's heart. From the outset of Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian, Knitter tells his readers that his motives for writing the book is selfish. "I've written it mainly for myself." The book is an extended meditation on how his Christian identity has been influenced by his exploration of Buddhism and he demonstrates a passing familiarity with the Mahayana and the Theravada traditions. But Knitter's approach to Buddhism is more than academic. He has practiced Buddhist meditation and even took the "Bodhisattva Vows" as part of a Dzogchen community.

Knitter writes of how he had to rethink some of the traditional Christian doctrines that he had grown uncomfortable with. One example of this is the idea of God as a transcendent "Other" - a supernatural Being who exists apart from us in a heavenly realm. Most people, whether they are believers or not, envision God as an external Man-In-The-Sky separate from other finite beings, who can be petitioned by prayer to intervene in human history. This is the Theistic God. But they are also some people who, like Knitter, believe in God without buying into the idea of a Theistic God. In a nod to Paul Tillich, Knitter wonders whether God can coherently be understood as "The Ground of Being" which is not a being separate from the world but rather is the very foundation of all existence. Knitter explains how the Buddhist concepts of "Nirvana" and "Sunyata" enhance this understanding of God as a "dynamic energy field of Interbeing" which "persuades and influences us all, calling us to relationships of knowing and loving each other, energizing us when such relationships get rough, filling us with the deepest of happiness when we are emptying ourselves and finding ourselves in others."

A Christian may naturally wonder: "How does one pray to the non-theistic God"? Knitter dwells on this when he describes how he was no longer comfortable with the idea of prayer as addressing or petitioning an external Deity. The Buddhist concept of InterBeing, Knitter claims, has helped him to see God as "the inherent , connecting Spirit - not a Person but a personal energy - who lives and acts and has its being not just within but as each one of us creatures". The God that Knitter prays to is not an "Other" but "a creative, sustaining vitality that is one with my vitality".

One of the central doctrines of Christianity is that human beings must participate in realizing "the Kingdom of God". Many Christians believe that this encompasses social justice and standing up to oppression and inequality. Knitter contrasts this with the Buddhist emphasis on mindful acceptance and compassion towards evil and concludes that the two can complement each other. If Christianity can remind Buddhism about one's duty to be socially engaged, Knitter contends, Buddhism also has much to teach Christians about how to work towards peace by becoming peace. Buddhism would maintain that this is not done by denouncing evil:

This is why Buddhists don't take sides for some people and against other people. It's the same reason we heard in Chapter 2 why Buddhists don't want to call anyone evil. To pronounce them evil is to take sides against them, and to take sides against them is to cut off connectedness - and the possibility of understanding and feeling compassion for them. Once you do that, once you define anyone as an "evil-doer," there's little chance for peace. There's even smaller chance for justice.

At the end of Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian, Knitter poses this question that must have bugged him for many years. If he is to be a student of Buddhism, is he still a Christian? Knitter's answer is a qualified yes. He has been deeply inspired by Buddhist teachings, but at the end of the day he comes home to Jesus. Or to quote the rather blunt assessment of one of his students: "Well it looks like you love both Jesus and Buddha. But you sleep with Jesus." Knitter justifies his pluralism by arguing (rather convincingly, I may add) that religious identity is a fluid process rather than a static identity:

Our religious self, like our cultural or social self, is at it's core and in its conduct a hybrid. That means that our religious identity is not purebred, it's hybrid. It's not singular, it's plural. It takes shape through an ongoing process of standing in one place and stepping into other places, of forming a sense of self and then expanding or correcting that sense as we meet other selves. There is no such thing as a neatly-defined, once-and-for-all-identity. Buddhists, indeed, are right: there is no isolated, permanent self. We're constantly changing and we're changing through the hybridizing process of interacting with others who often are very different from us.

Personally I believe that religious identity should be a never-ending process of truth-seeking rather than a static defence of rigidly defined doctrinal truths. This is because we human beings are fallible and all our knowledge is provisional at best. Ultimate reality is beyond words. Our human condition is too shrouded in ambiguity for us to claim that we have a monopoly on absolute truth. As such, we should always be open to learning from other paths, no matter how different they may be from ours, while remaining true to the ideas that inspire us. Knitter's book is an excellent example of such an openness and I will definitely recommend this book to Buddhists, Christians or anyone who is interested in comparative religion.

Posted by Yueheng

— — —

Extract : From the - PREFACE - “Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian”


Am I Still a Christian?

Contrary to much of its message, this is a rather selfish book. I’ve written it mainly for myself.

For much of my adult life, but especially during the past twenty-five years, I’ve been struggling with my Christian beliefs. Those beliefs have been with me for along time. Born in 1939, brought up by hard¬working, deep-believing, working-class Roman Catholic parents on the suburban edge of Chicago, educated at St. Joseph’s Elementary by the School Sisters of St. Francis, I never for a moment doubted that God was everywhere, that Jesus was his Son, and that if you ate meat on Friday or missed Mass on Sunday you were in deep trouble with God and Jesus. Those beliefs began to be both refined and deepened when, at the age of thirteen, and to the bewilderment and reluctance of my parents, I announced that God was calling me to the priesthood. I went off to what was then called a minor (high school) seminary and spent the next fourteen years of my life studying and preparing to be a priest.

Ordained in Rome in 1966,1 was assigned the job of studying, and then teaching, theology. (The study was at the University of Marburg, Germany, and the teaching was at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.) After I was granted permission to leave the priesthood in 1975 (what had looked easy when I was thirteen became more of a nagging problem at thirty: celibacy), and even after I married the love of my life in 1982,1 was able to stay faithful to the other love of my life, theology. Instead of seminarians, I taught undergraduates at Xavier University in Cincinnati for some thirty years.

But as exciting as my job was, it didn’t really resolve — indeed it often seemed to amplify — the deeper, persistent questions that life kept throwing at me. When I say “life,” I mean the need and the effort to connect what I was taught about God and Jesus and heaven and hell with all that I was confronting and feeling and learning as a responsible (I try) and an intelligent (I hope) human being. More and more, I found myself—a Catholic Christian all my life, a theologian by profession — having to ask myself what I really do, or really can, believe.

Do I really believe what I say I believe, or what I’m supposed to believe as a member of the Christian community? I’m not talking about the ethical teachings of Jesus and the New Testament witness. The gospel vision of a society based on honesty, justice, and compas¬sion makes eminent, urgent sense. Nor do I have major problems with the controversial ethical or practical teachings of my church (most of them having to do with what one Catholic theologian has called “the pelvic issues”) dealing with matters such as birth control, divorce, the role of women, homosexuality, clerical celibacy, episcopal leadership, and transparency. Certainly, these are matters of grave concern, but with many of my fellow Catholics I’ve realized that, as has often been the case in the history of our church, on such issues the “sense” or “voice” of the faithful has a few things to teach the pastors. It’s a matter of time.

No, when I say I’m struggling, I mean with the big stuff— the stuff that applies to all Christians, not just my own Roman Catholic community. I’m talking about the basic ingredients of the Creed, the beliefs that many Christians proclaim together every Sunday and that are supposed to define who they are in a world of many other religious beliefs and philosophies. I’m talking about “God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,” who as a personal being is active in history and in our individual lives, whom we worship and pray to for help and guidance. I’m talking about “his only-begotten Son” who “died for our sins” and will “come again at the end of time” and who will grant eternal life and personal immortality to the body and souls of all those who answer God’s call, while those who reject the call will be dispatched to a hellish punishment that will never, ever end.

Do I really believe — or better, am I able to believe — what those statements are claiming and professing? Even when I don’t take them literally, even when I remind myself that they are symbols that have to be interpreted seriously and carefully but not always literally, still I have to ask myself: when I peel off the literal layers, what is the inner or deeper meaning that I can affirm? What do I believe when I say that God is personal (indeed, three Persons!), that Jesus is the only Savior, that because of his death the whole world is different, that he rose bodily from the tomb? The “what” of my beliefs can become so slippery that I find myself asking, in all honesty, whether I believe at all.

Now, as a theologian, I get paid to try to struggle with and answer such questions. My job, as Bernard Lonergan, S.J. taught us back at the Gregorian University in Rome during the early 1960s, is “to medi¬ate between religion and culture.” That means to make sense of the world in the light of Christian belief and experience andto make sense of Christian belief in the light of our experience and knowledge of the world we live in. That’s what I’ve been trying to do, lo these many years.

It is generally said that Christian theologians have two primary sources with which they carry out this job of mediation between religion and culture. On the side of religion, they draw on Scripture and tradition — that is, the first written witness of the early Christian communities, and then the long history of Christian efforts to comprehend and live that message through different historical and cultural periods. Christians in general, and Christian theologians especially, need to know their Bible and their history.

In order to explore the rich fields of culture, theologians draw on their own experience and that of others under different indicators: literature, movies, the daily news and analysis, the visual arts, the natural and human sciences (especially politics and economics). These two general sources for theology have been termed “the Christian fact” and “human experience.” Over the four decades of plying my theological trade, I’ve tried to make as careful and as intelligent a use of these two sources for theology as I could. But especially over the ups and downs of the last twenty years, I have realized that these two sources aren’t enough. At least, they haven’t been enough for me. By themselves, they haven’t sufficiently equipped me to grapple with the kinds of disconcerting and destabilizing questions that I mentioned above — about the nature of God, the role of Jesus, the meaning of salvation. It was only after I added a third ingredient to my supply room of theological resources that my work became more exciting, more satisfying, and, I think, more fruitful.

Like many of my theological colleagues, I have come to realize that I have to look beyond the traditional borderlines of Christianity to find something that is vitally, maybe even essentially, important for the job of understanding and living the Christian faith: other religions.

That is, the Scriptures and the traditions, the sacred texts, the past teachings, the living communities of other religious believers. It was only after I began to take seriously and to explore other religious Scriptures and traditions that I was able to more adequately understand my own. Stated more personally: my engagement with other ways of being religious — that is, with what I have studied, discovered, been excited about, or perplexed byin other religions — has turned out to be an unexpected but immense help in my job of trying to figure out what the message of Jesus means in our contemporary world.

In other words, following the examples and the instructions of theological mentors such as Raimon Panikkar, Aloysius Pieris, S.J., Bede Griffiths, and Thomas Merton, I’ve come to be convinced that I have to do my theology — and live my Christian life — dialogically. Or in current theological jargon: I have to be religious interreligiously. I’ve tried to practice and understand my Christian life through engagement with the way other people — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans — have lived and understood their religious lives.

Though I have found my conversations with all the other religious traditions to be fruitful, my deepest, most enjoyable, most difficult, and therefore most rewarding conversations have been with Buddhism and Buddhists. My closest other-religion friends have been Buddhists (I’m married to one!). Over the years, I have realized that this conversation with Buddhism has really been one of the two most helpful — really, indispensable — resources for carrying on my Christian and theological task of trying to mediate between my religious heritage (the Bible and tradition) and the culture that has marked my humanity. The other indispensable resource has been liberation theology and its response to the injustice and resulting suffering that infects so much of our culture: that’s what my book One Earth, Many Religions is all about.

My conversation with Buddhism has enabled me to do what every theologian must do professionally and what every Christian must do personally— that is, to understand and live our Christian beliefs in such a way that these beliefs are both consistent with and a challenge for the world in which we live. Buddhism has enabled me to make sense of my Christian faith so that I can maintain my intellectual integrity and affirm what I see as true and good in my culture; but at the same time, it has aided me to carry out my prophetic—religious responsibility and challenge what I see as false and harmful in my culture.

Right now, as I look back over my life, I can’t image being a Christian and a theologian without this engagement with Buddhism. And thus, the title of this book: Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian. Though the wording is perhaps provocative, it is definitely true!

The Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives:
The Los Angeles Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue:
Support www.UrbanDharma.org with a Donation:
The Urban Dharma Podcast and Audio Dharma Talks: