People who confuse the mysticism of Paul, Augustine, the Gregorys, Teresa and John with what oriental writers discuss have only a surface-level grasp of their subject.

Fr. Thomas Dubay

There is another segment of individuals who have dabbled in Christian and oriental mysticisms and consider that they are more or less indistinguishable. An expert will not, of course, make this astonishing mistake, but others notice similarities (for example, an asceticism, an imageless awareness, a reaching out for the transcendent), while they fail to recognize, vast gulfs between the two.

Buddhist “contemplation” is impersonal, not a love matter at all, whereas that represented by Teresa [of Avila] and John [of the Cross] is preeminently a profound personal love union with God. The Buddhist writer neither affirms nor denies God; he simply has nothing to say about communing with the supreme Being. There are other major differences between the two mysticisms, but we may be content here to note that the differences between personal and nonpersonal, between theism and agnosticism, are vast. They are neither minor nor a mere matter of taste.

The same must be said of Hinduism. While this latter system is theistic, not agnostic as is Buddhism, yet the contemplation of its adherents is far removed from Christic communion. “In Hinduism,” remarks Louis Bouyer, “as in many other Far-Eastern spiritualities more or less closely related to it, like Chinese Taoism, the spiritual man tends toward an absorption of his proper personality in a deity which is itself impersonal.”While John and Teresa insist on the incomparable closeness of divine-human union in the seventh mansions, they likewise insist, as do all authentic Christian mystics, that God and the individual remain unambiguously two distinct beings: the one is not absorbed and lost in the Other. Speaking of the Hindu mystic, Sankara, Bouyer notes that “whatever the personalist expressions that Sankara used, he tended toward nothing other, in the final analysis, than an absorption or a reabsorption of himself in a great whole that was no one . . . and in spite of the images of fusion, or loss of self, or extinction of the ‘I’.

People who confuse the mysticism of Paul, Augustine, the Gregorys, Teresa and John with what oriental writers discuss have only a surface-level grasp of their subject.

***Author’s note: When I say that Buddhist awareness is impersonal and agnostic, I am making no judgment as to what an individual Buddhist may or may not attain in his exercises. One can hope that he is touched by grace and reaches out to the one God. Rather, I am reporting here what Buddhist writers themselves say of their contemplation.

Dubay, Fr. Thomas. Fire Within (Kindle Locations 6376-6378). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

Source: Fire Within (Kindle Locations 172-188).

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