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The Buddhist Studies Group at the University of Virginia, an organization devoted to promoting the academic field of Buddhist Studies, is organizing a conference with support from the Contemplative Sciences Center. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to participate in a training for Cognitive Based Compassion Meditation. As I experienced the various meditation practices that comprise Cognitive Based Compassion Meditation, I was aware how each of the practices had a parallel in the Christian contemplative tradition. Reflecting on the four days of training, I concluded that there were two essential differences between mind-training and compassion meditation in the Buddhist tradition and the practices found in the contemplative tradition of Christianity.
First, mind-training and compassion meditation evolved over several hundred years in a relatively small geographic region.
At this point in my life, it is the second difference between the Buddhist and Christian traditions which is more significant to me than the first. As one explores Christian contemplative practice, one comes to understand God as the Beloved, as one with whom a sensuous love-affair occurs.
This entry was posted in Spirituality and tagged Buddhism, christianity, contemplation, meditation, mysticism.

For those who missed it, Pope Francis gave high praise to a Trappist Monk who had an affinity for unbiblical contemplative prayer. This is how it seems to be going: People are being encouraged into contemplative prayer by men and women such as Rick Warren, Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, Mike Bickle, James Goll, Beni Johnson, and many others. Christians and Buddhists can use very similar techniques of contemplative prayer and meditation to help make their spiritual teachings a living part of their daily existence.
The conference, coinciding with surge in interest in meditation and contemplation both within the U.Va. While rooted in Buddhist experience in India, these practices evolved primarily on the Tibetan plateau within the context of a particular cultural and religious setting. Many writers point out that a key difference in the Christian contemplative tradition from the Buddhist tradition is the focus on a belief in God.
Perhaps most striking is French mystic, Bernard of Clairvaux, and his reflections on the sensuous Song of Songs as an allegory for the contemplative path. While I find Buddhist practices refined and enlightening, my encounter with the Beloved through the communion of contemplative practice draws me further along the mystical path.

Whether or not a Buddhist believes in a deity, the deity is not central to Buddhist practices of meditation. In 2004, after thirty years of Zen meditation and training, he was installed as a Zen sensei (teacher), making him the first North American Trappist to be both Catholic monk and authorized Zen instructor.
The result is that Christian contemplative practice differentiates among various schools that include, but are not limited to, Heychastic spirituality, Ignatian spirituality, and Carmelite spirituality from the Spanish mystics. What draws me to continue the path along the Christian contemplative path is not so much the belief in a deity but the understanding of who God is within the contemplative tradition. Even with a graduate degree in spirituality, I have trouble tracing all the various tributaries of contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition!
The panels will address current issues in the study of Buddhist meditation as they relate to psychological interventions, meditative practice, issues of geography and culture, and the literature on meditation.

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