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TitleMerton Dialoque With Suzuki
TagsInterfaith Dialogue Jesus Religious Pluralism
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Page 1

OPENNESS AND F I D E L ï W

THOMAS MERTON'S DIALOGUE WTH D. T. SUZUKI,

AND SELF-TRANSCENDENCE

b
Joseph Quinn Raab

A Thesis subnrittd to tht F d t y of Thco10gy of the University of St. Michaei's College
uid the Dcpuhnnit of ïheology of the Toronto School of Theology

in p& fulfüknent of the rrguirements for the degree of
Ooctor of Philosophy irt Thcology

awarded by the University of St. Michael's College

Toronto 2000

0 Joseph Quinn Rja b

Page 2

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Page 113

of authenticity.15 Suzuki then uses examples from the stories of the Desert

Fathers and quotations from Meister Eckhart to further illustrate and

support his basic iwightç.

Using the proper relation between Knowledge and Innocence as a

hermeneutical tool Suzuki makes ethical evaluations. If one sets

Innocence and Knowledge up in contradictory opposition, one ends up

with the legalistic enslavement to an ungrounded "knowledge" on the

one hand, or the misguided license of a false "innocence" on the other.

Knowledge without Innocence is the fallen state of alienation from the

ground of one's being. innocence without knowledge is illusory, it is the

quietism of empty-headedness. The proper relation of the two leads to

mindfulness and wisdom, or Prajna. But even in the recognition of their

complementarity, the responsibility of realizing the balance between the

hvo falls on the acting subject. Suzuki sees the story of the "great hermit"

as an example of a failure to maintain the balance.16

The "great hermit" is guilty of not realizing Emptiness, that is,
Innocence, and Abbot Poemen commits an error in applying
Innocence minus knowledge to the affairs of the world. The robbers
are to be consigned to pison, for the community will suffer; as long
as they are outlaws they must be depnved of their liberty
(ZBA, 107-108).

'%uzuki refers readers to his hnkovatara Sutra (London: Routledge k Kegan Paul, 1957).
pp. 32,43,89, etc ... .

I6The "great hennit" was attacked by robbers and when other hermits heard his cries they
rescued him and marched the robbers off to jail. "But then the brothers were very
ashamed." They went to Abbot Poeman for counsel and he saidcMRemember who camed out
the first betrayal, and you wïil learn the reason for the second. Unless you had been
betrayed by your own inward thoughts you wouid never have ended by turning those men
over to the judge." The hermit who had been attacked, "touched by these words, got up at
once and went into the city and broke open the jail, letting out the robbers and freeing them
from torturerf (See WD, XXXVII).

Page 114

Whereas in part one of his essay Suzuki focused on the relation of

Buddhist Emptiness to Christian Innocence, in part two he discusses it in

relation to poverty. He begins, "The metaphysical concept of Emptiness is

convertible in economic terms into poverty, being poor, having nothing:

'Blessed are those who are poor in spirit'" (ZBA, 108-109). Suzuki spends

the remainder of part two attempting to convey the utterly radical nature

of the kind of poverty he is talking about. It is a poverty so great that there

remains no-self to be poor, or to be proud of one's spiritual emptiness. In

order to comrnunicate this idea he draws on the sayings of some Zen

masters, but he ends the second part with a quote from Eckhart:

If it is the case that a man is emptied of things, creatures, himself,
and God, and if God could h d a place in him to act, then we Say: as
long as that (place) exists, this man is not poor with the most
intima te pover ty (eigen tlichste Armu t). For God does not intend
that man shall have a place reserved for him to work in, since the
true poverty of spirit requires that man shall be emptied of God and
al1 his works, so that if God wants to act in the soul, he himself must
be the place in which he acts-and that he would like to do (ZBA, 110).

Finally, in the third part of his essay, Suzuki discusses the 'virtues' a

Buddhist attempts to actualize. "They are: (1) Dana, 'giving'; (2) Sila,

'observing the precepts'; (3) Virya, 'spirit of manhood'; (4) Ksmiti,

'humility' or 'patience'; (5) Dhyana, 'meditation'; and (6) Prajna,

'transcendental wisdom"'(ZBA, 111-1 12). He clarifies that each of these

virtues is fundamentally related to the others. Although Prajna is most

comrnonly considered the goal of practice, it is also the basis of authentic

practice itself. So the "Paramita moves in a arcle with no beginning and

no ending. The giving is possible only when there is Emptiness and

Emptiness is attainable only when the giving is unconditionally carried

Page 226

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