Home Discussion Forum The Trappist monk Thomas Merton saw the connections between Christianity and Zen,...

The Trappist monk Thomas Merton saw the connections between Christianity and Zen, do you?

Or do you believe they’re too different, or even maybe that the introspective type Zen meditation is anethema of Christianity…
Buddhism, from which what is termed ‘Zen’ was codified, is quite varied, as is the practice of Zen. There are Zen Christians out there, and Zen Taoists, even Zen pagans and Zen ancestor worshippers. I believe Zen is the seed of Buddhism, but not necessarily one with it.
I also think Christian Mystics like St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, and even the Islamic Sufi Mystics applied aspects of Zen before the Buddhist terminology even made it’s way to Europe and North Africa.


  1. I’ll have to revisit the Christian mystics you mentioned. I’ve been reading the Gospel of Thomas (found at Nag Hammadi in 1948 and listed as a “gnostic” gospel, though theologically it really isn’t). I believe Jesus’ actual words about himself have a “zen” feel to them, but the things written about him after the fact become much more self-conscious and convoluted.

  2. Yes… definitely. There is a great connection. I am a catholic and my faith developed so much when I delved into meditation. John’s book, The Dark Night of The Soul is an experience of this emptiness. “In nothingness, I am filled.”
    If you want to learn more, I suggest Antony De Mello’s book Sadhana. I learned a lot from that. I’m sure there are others.

  3. I did see a connection and similarities and overlap between the two when I was stepping out of the bounds of Christianity (catholicism) and exploring other religions and philosophies.
    I do believe that Jesus’s words in the bible are very much misinterpreted by Christians and that his words are totally in line with Buddha’s teachings. But, people will interpret anyway they see fit.
    Now, I don’t care if there are similarities or not because the idea of religion is silly. You can seek you path without following the strange guidebooks that somebody else wrote hundreds of years ago.

  4. I have the book and found it suprising that Merton made the connections he did. Bouhhdism is about reaching Nirvanah, meaning basically being freeded from the necessity of reincarnation.
    It is not the same thing as living with God in Heaven that Christians struggle to achieve and neither does it use the same means. One is entirely introvetred and the other is entirely extroverted, or at least its supposed to be. Thats basicqally two different ways of taking the ego out of circuit.
    As for mediation, that is a good thing for either, because that puts your ego out of cuircuit as well and you can then perceive things more clearly

  5. There are many Christian/Buddhist. I feel God the Father is an undivided and indivisible Whole, a pure consciousness that fills all time and permeates all space. This makes our purpose not to find God, but to realize God’s presence and to understand that this all pervading consciousness is always with us. Life flows up from the inside where the Divine Presence is springing up from within us. When we realize this, we recognize that this all-pervading consciousness is responding to us from every person, thing or event that transpires.


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