75 Books for Buddhist-Christian Dialogue

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama

Are you interested in exploring the richness of dialogue and interspiritual practice between Christianity and Buddhism? If so, then here’s enough literature to keep you going for a while. Each of the seventy-five books on the following list has some sort of connection with both Christianity and Buddhism.

Some of these titles are academic studies, some the writings of monastics, others geared toward the laity. Some are books by Christians about Buddhism, or by Buddhists about interfaith dialogue; by Christians who find meditation a helpful adjunct to their primarily Christ-centered faith, or by persons who identify as “dual practitioners,” seeking an authentic path that is simultaneously faithful to both the Gospel and the Dharma. One or two are by Christians, about Christian spirituality, but informed by the author’s Buddhist practice.

This list is rather weighted toward the Christian side of the conversation. I would love to include more Buddhist authors and more Buddhist perspectives on Christianity, but I’m not as familiar with the Buddhist side of this conversation. While the most popular topic of these books is meditation, some are more narrowly focused on matters such as theodicy or psychology.

I have only read a fraction of these books myself, so I offer them here with no endorsement other than my own interest in the subject. A list this size will naturally entail books of varying quality or merit, so you are advised to read with a discerning mind.

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  1. A. William McVey, Existentialism and Christian Zen: An East/West Way to Christ
  2. Aelred Graham, Zen Catholicism: A Suggestion
  3. Aelred Graham, Conversations: Christian and Buddhist
  4. B. Alan Wallace, Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism and Christianity
  5. Bonnie Bowman Thurston, ed., Merton & Buddhism: Wisdom, Emptiness & Everyday Mind
  6. Brian J. Pearce, OP, We Walk the Path Together: Learning from Thich Nhat Hanh & Meister Eckhart
  7. Carrin Dunne, Buddha and Jesus: Conversations
  8. D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Buddhist and Christian: The Eastern and Western Way
  9. Denise Lardner Carmody and John Tully Carmody, Serene Compassion: A Christian Appreciation of Buddhist Holiness
  10. Donald W. Mitchell, Spirituality and Emptiness: The Dynamics of Spiritual Life in Buddhism and Christianity
  11. Donald W. Mitchell and James A. Wiseman, eds., Finding Peace in Troubled Times: Buddhist and Christian Monastics on Transforming Suffering
  12. Donald W. Mitchell & William Skudlarek, OSB, eds., Green Monasticism: A Buddhist-Catholic Response to an Environmental Calamity
  13. Donovan Roebert, The Gospel for Buddhists and the Dharma for Christians
  14. Elaine MacInnes, Zen Contemplation for Christians: A Bridge of Living Water
  15. Elizabeth West, Happiness Here & Now: The Eightfold Path of Jesus Revisited with Buddhist Insights
  16. Gordon Peerman, Blessed Relief: What Christians Can Learn from Buddhists about Suffering
  17. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus
  18. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Spiritual Advice for Buddhists and Christians
  19. Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle, Living in the New Consciousness
  20. Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle, The Practice of Zen Meditation
  21. J. K. Kadowaki, Zen and the Bible
  22. James William Jones, The Mirror of God: Christian Faith as Spiritual Practice, Lessons from Buddhism and Psychotherapy
  23. James Wiseman and Donald Mitchell, eds., The Gethsemani Encounter: A Dialogue on the Spiritual Life by Buddhist and Christian Monastics
  24. Janet Conner, The Lotus and the Lilly: Access the Wisdom of Buddha and Jesus to Nourish Your Beautiful, Abundant Life
  25. Jean-Yves Leloup, Compassion and Meditation: The Spiritual Dynamic Between Buddhism and Christianity
  26. John Cowan, Taking Jesus Seriously: Buddhist Meditation for Christians
  27. John P. Keenan, The Gospel of Mark: A Mahayana Reading
  28. John P. Keenan, The Meaning of Christ: A Mahayana Theology
  29. Kakichi Kadowaki, Zen and the Bible
  30. Kenneth S. Leong, The Zen Teachings of Jesus
  31. Kim Boykin, Zen for Christians: A Beginner’s Guide
  32. Kristin Johnson Largen, What Christians Can Learn from Buddhism: Rethinking Salvation
  33. Leo D. Lefebure, The Buddha and the Christ: Explorations in Buddhist and Christian Dialogue
  34. Marcus Borg, Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings
  35. Mary Jo Meadow, Christian Insight Meditation: Following in the Footsteps of John of the Cross
  36. Mary Jo Meadow, Gentling the Heart: Buddhist Loving-Kindness Practice for Christians
  37. Patricia Hart Clifford, Sitting Still: An Encounter with Christian Zen
  38. Patrick Henry, ed., Benedict’s Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict
  39. Paul F. Knitter, Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian
  40. Paul O. Ingram, Theological Reflection at the Boundaries
  41. Paul Mommaers, Mysticism, Buddhist and Christian: Encounters with Jan van Ruusbroec
  42. Perry Schmidt-Leukel, ed., Buddhism and Christianity in Dialogue: The Gerald-Weisfeld Lectures 2004   

  43. Peter Feldmeier, Christianity Looks East: Comparing the Spiritualities of John of the Cross and Buddhaghosa
  44. Raimon Panikkar, The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha
  45. Rita M. Gross and Terry C. Muck, eds., Buddhists Talk about Jesus, Christians Talk About the Buddha
  46. Rita M. Gross and Terry C. Muck, eds., Christians Talk About Buddhist Meditation, Buddhists Talk about Christian Prayer
  47. Robert Aitken and David Steindl-Rast, The Ground We Share: Everyday Practice, Buddhist and Christian
  48. Robert Kennedy, Zen Gifts to Christians
  49. Robert Kennedy, Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit: The Place of Zen in Christian Life
  50. Robert Powell, Christian Zen: The Essential Teachings of Jesus Christ
  51. Roger Corless, The Vision of Buddhism
  52. Roger Corless and Paul F. Knitter, eds., Buddhist Emptiness and Christian Trinity: Essays & Explorations
  53. Rose Drew, Buddhist and Christian?: An Exploration of Dual Belonging
  54. Ross Thompson, Buddhist Christianity: A Passionate Openness
  55. Ross Thompson, Wounded Wisdom: A Buddhist and Christian Response to Evil, Hurt and Harm
  56. Ruben L. F. Habito, Healing Breath: Zen for Christians and Buddhists in a Wounded World
  57. Ruben L. F. Habito, Living Zen, Loving God
  58. Seiichi Yagi and Leonard Swidler, A Bridge to Buddhist-Christian Dialogue
  59. Susan J. Stabile, Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation
  60. Susan Walker, ed., Speaking of Silence: Christians and Buddhists on the Contemplative Way
  61. Thich Nhat Hanh, Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers
  62. Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ
  63. Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan, The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward a Buddhist-Christian Awareness
  64. Thomas Merton, Mystics and Zen Masters
  65. Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton
  66. Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite
  67. Thomas Ragland, The Noble Eightfold Path of Christ: Jesus Teaches the Dharma of Buddhism
  68. Tilden H. Edwards, Jr., “Criss-Crossing the Christian-Buddhist Bridge” in Tarthang Tulku, ed., Reflections of Mind: Western Psychology Meets Tibetan Buddhism
  69. Tom Chetwynd, Zen and the Kingdom of Heaven
  70. William Johnston, Christian Zen: A Way of Meditation
  71. William Johnston, The Mirror Mind: Zen-Christian Dialog
  72. William Johnston, The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism
  73. William Skudlarek OSB, Demythologizing Celibacy: Practical Wisdom from Buddhist and Christian Monasticism
  74. Willigis Jäger, Mysticism for Modern Times
  75. Wolfgang Kopp, Free Yourself of Everything: Radical Guidance in the Spirit of Zen and Christian Mysticism

Are there any other books that belong on this list — especially by Buddhists who are engaged in some form of Buddhist-Christian dialog? Please let me know, and if you have any opinions about some of the titles on this list, I’d like to hear that as well.

Happy reading. And please note: If you follow the links of the books mentioned in this post and purchase them or other products from Amazon.com, I receive a small commission from Amazon. Thank you for doing so — it is the easiest way you can support this blog.

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  • http://inadequatedisciple.blogspot.com/ Colleen

    But, Carl, which would you recommend and why? I do find some of the Buddhist teachings to be a bit clearer and less nuanced than ours because there are so much fewer of them. At same time anything that puts them on equal terms would be apostasy. They have part of the light, but it still has huge veil over it if it isn’t Christ-centered and orthodox.

  • Keainid

    Carl, thanks for the list! I have been following your blog in silence for a while now, and this is an area of particular interest for me. You’ve just provided an great reading list for the next decade!

    I can personally recommend the following from your list:

    1. Living Buddha, Living Christ. Thich has a really great way of explaining how he came to a fruitful understanding of Christ’s teaching, and offered insights into it from a Buddhist perspective that helped me as a Catholic.

    2. The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton. This is especially interesting if you’ve read The Seven Storey Mountain first, because Merton is in a very different place from one to the next. By the end, he’s developed quite an appreciation for all contemplative practice, and a real desire to learn from it regardless of the source.

    3. Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian. Knitter’s book can be pretty challenging at times, but in a way that makes you really sit down and think about your own sense of faith practice. I was reading this with a prayer group I belonged to, and it was fodder for some great discussion.

    I would also recommend something not on the list: Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh: Engaged Spirituality in an Age of Globalization, by Robert H. King. It draws a parallel between the two spiritual greats, showing how each one developed his own appreciation of the other’s practice, and how their own faiths moved them to be monks who actively engaged

    the world.

    Thanks again, and Merry Christmas!

  • http://monkandbard.com/ Quinn

    Many thanks for the above comments. A starting place is just what I need.

  • Chris

    I’m a Catholic who practices Zen and so I’ve read many of the books on this list. I’ve found the most profitable books to be the ones written by those who are mixing/integrating the two traditions. While the monastic dialogues are of interest (I’ve a whole cache of the monastic inter-religious dialogue newsletters as Br. Harold from Gethsemani was very involved and generous when I was there) and are profound in their own way, as someone looking to delve into the practice they are paradoxically a bit theoretical.

    The two religions in many ways are quite different. My theology professor brother likes to point this out to me. So my advice, watch out it is free, is to go do the practice. Books can be helpful but once you start to conceptualize ‘it’ you’ve missed ‘it’ completely. Roshi Robert Kennedy SJ likes to say that anything you can say about Zen you could easily say the opposite.

    Check out Kennedy’s website, I think he makes it somewhere in the south (LA?) and if you want to explore this fully, there is nothing better to do than meet with a teacher and sit a sesshin with him. He is a real Zen master; his presence is powerful. Although my aforementioned professor brother did a panel discussion with him as Holy Cross and thought of him as a forgetful elder.

  • Chris

    PS many zen teachers are dismissive of Merton’s understanding of Zen and koans as it is only intellectual. Again, people who are in some way practicing both, as a teacher or under a teacher, would be of most assistance.

    Jager is highly regarded and his book Man’s Search for Meaning should be on this list.

    • Carl McColman

      I would hope that those teachers would recognize that Merton’s writing, intellectual though it may be, can be a portal through which many Catholics and other Christians first encounter the spirituality, discipline and practice of the eastern traditions. It would sadden me to think that potential students would be turned away because of their enthusiasm for Merton, or made to feel somehow inferior because their horizons have been expanded by a mere theorist.

      • Chris

        I don’t think anyone would turn someone away because of their enthusiasm for an author. If they were turned away, the teacher might be of questionable insight to begin with.

        I don’t want to belabor the point but Zen in particular seems to point to the place before concepts. The more you think about it the further away you get. However, if you went to a teacher saying this they might suggest taking up books and studying as a valuable tool.

        This is a helpful list.

        Best,

        Chris

        • Carl McColman

          I think we’re on the same page here: at the end of the day, the best thing any book can teach us about prayer and meditation is to put the book down, and do it.


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