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The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (New Directions Books)
ISBN 0811205703 / 9780811205702 / 0-8112-0570-3
Publisher New Directions
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This volume, the journal Merton kept on the journey to Asia where his life ended, also is a culmination of his long spiritual journey as a writer. "His ecumenism was total," the editors remind us, "and we find him ranging from Tantric Buddhism to Zen, and from Islam and Sufism to Vedanta." The book, however, is not dryly academic; rather, as the foreword suggests, "Merton's pilgrimage to Asia was an effort to deepen his own religious and monastic commitment." Merton himself was clear about this sense of pilgrimage; so too was he clear that this meant in no way a break with his Christian roots. "I think we have now reached a stage ... of religious maturity," he writes, "at which it may be possible for someone to remain perfectly faithful to a Christian and Western monastic commitment, and yet to learn in depth from say, a Buddhist discipline and experience." This book is the fruit of such learning. Including descriptions of his meetings with the young Dalai Lama, the book is meticulously edited and supplied with useful explanatory notes and appendices, including transcriptions of talks that Merton gave during his trip. Most movingly, however, the journal itself concludes with the narrative of his transformative experiences in Ceylon where he visited three colossal figures of Buddha carved from huge stones. "Surely," he writes, "my Asian pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself." A few days later he passed away. --Doug Thorpe [via]