Experiencing God in the land of the Buddha
As part of Buddhist-Catholic dialogue around the world, Catholics are now participating in Buddhist meditation
By Dorothy Novaka
Scarboro missioner Dorothy Novak and her Buddhist friend Bee renew their energies during a day's outing by standing barefoot and touching a tree. Thailand.
Living and working among the Thai people has been a great reward for me these past four years. I have tried to be open to experiences that help me to get to know the people and to be part of their lives and culture.
My involvement in Buddhist meditation retreats has been one such experience. At first I questioned whether or not I should attend-my spiritual prayer had always been my way of meditating. However, these retreats have become a gift for which I am truly grateful.
Usually 15 to 20 people attend the three-day retreats in the coastal town of Cha-Am, three hours' drive outside of Bangkok. Tony, the retreat director, arranges for Zen Masters (monks) to come and teach us the ways of meditation. We do sitting meditation and walking meditation. We begin by learning mindfulness of breathing and the Master explains and demonstrates each step, always welcoming our concerns or questions. After each meditation, we share how we feel and what we experience within ourselves.
The spiritual training specified in Buddhism is the training in higher thoughts. There are different mental trainings known as Samadhi (concentration) and Vipassana (insight), and subjects of the Ultimate Truth.
Participants on the Buddhist meditation retreat with Scarboro missioner Dorothy Novak when she received news of her brother's death.
Every three months or so, we gather together for lunch with one of the Masters to share our experiences of the retreat and how it has helped us to be more peaceful.
The retreats have been a source of many blessings for me. I have met people of different religions and cultures from all over the world-a wonderful opportunity for sharing, listening, and seeing the hand of God at work. This has brought me to a deeper understanding of my own faith and of God's love. As well, the meditation training has enabled me to keep my mind more focused during prayer.
Now I have a greater understanding of the Thai people and their culture through the teachings of the Buddha. I have found that many of the teachings are the same as those taught in our Christian faith-giving love and kindness to all.
While on a Buddhist meditation retreat this year, I received news of my brother's death in Canada. I experienced such a deep feeling of peace, and was overwhelmed by the support and love received from the group as we meditated together. The monks held a beautiful service for my brother in which we all told him we loved him and wished him happiness on his journey. I could feel my brother's presence there with us. Even now, as I write about this experience, I fill up with tears of joy and thankfulness to God.
"Dialogue with the great religions of Asia recalls for us the universal value of self-discipline, silence and contemplation in developing the human person and in opening our hearts to God and neighbour."
Pope John Paul II speaking on the Church's dialogue with Buddhists and Hindus. Rome, 1991.