Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Compassion and Meditation by Jean-Yves Leloup

Compassion and Meditation: The Spiritual Dynamic Between Buddhism and Christianity by Jean-Yves Leloup is a series of lessons, taken from transcripts and lectures, that looks at the similarity between the paths of Buddhism and Christianity.  Leloup, an Orthodox priest, has a broad ranging knowledge, drawing on experiences he’s had with meditation and his interaction with like-minded Buddhists.

Leloup’s emphasis, obviously, is in how these two spiritual paths are similar, and from the introduction the reader is immediately made aware that Leoup is, if nothing else, a scholar.  However, he doesn’t weigh down the slender volume with a great deal of quotes and citations.  Rather, his focus is on his own understanding, conversations he’s had with spiritual leaders from both Christianity and Buddhism.  He has a great reverence for the teachings of his own spiritual mentor, Father Seraphim, and for HH, The Dalai Lama.

The author spends a great deal of time focusing on Buddhist teachings as they parallel the teachings of Christ.  I suspect this is because, as a priest, he is most often invited to talk in Christian settings and, therefore, is trying to show a presumably predominantly Christian audience why Buddhism is not so very different from Christianity.  However, he doesn’t go so far as to suggest that the paths are one and the same.  Interestingly, he avoids the subject of salvation and the afterlife, never clearly stating whether he believes that Buddhist are going to enter Heaven (or, for that matter, if Christians will ever attain Nirvana).

I think this is just as well.  After all, these things are not for us to judge and Leloup’s discussions are interesting.  Although there are some points that are not as fully developed as others, it is easy to see that this is a topic that is very near and dear to his heart.  He is passionate about compassion and sees potential in meditation akin to prayer.  There are a few question and answer sections which I realize are more transcripts from the lecture but I found these to be oddly placed and felt that a good editor could have easily interwoven these parts with the main body of the lecture for a stronger over-all effect.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book very much, culled a lot of great quotes from it, and am eager to share this book with one of my friends.  From where I sit, this is high praise indeed.

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