Christian and Buddhist


Much has been written about the compatibility of religions. Aside from syncretic examples, which amalgamate different religions erasing their differences, there are cases of people who belong to distinct religious and spiritual traditions like Christianity and Buddhism.

The prominent Trappist monk Thomas Merton is a Christian who developed a profound interest in Buddhism. Influenced by Aldous Huxley’s book on mysticism, Ends and Means,[1] Merton was drawn to apophatic mysticism, which sees negation (and the affirmation that comes with it) as the path to plenitude/God. He would later relate this thinking to the Buddhist teachings about the void and emptiness. Islamic Sufism had an impact on him, but Buddhism was more significant. In the end, he claimed to be both a Christian and a Buddhist and said: “I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own traditions”.[2]

There are other cases, such as Robert Kennedy, a Jesuit priest and a Zen master from the White Plum Asanga school, or the reputed theologian Paul F. Knitter, author of Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian.[3] In an interview published four years ago, Knitter explains that Buddhism has helped him “to rediscover, to deepen what it means when, in the New Testament — maybe it’s the only definition of God that we find in the New Testament — when it says that ‘God is love’.”[4]


[1] See
[2] Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal (London: Sheldon, 1974), p. 343.
[3] Paul F. Knitter, Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian (London: Oneworld Publications, 2009).
[4] Thomas C. Fox, “Double Belonging: Buddhism and Christian Faith”, National Catholic Reporter, 23 Jun. 2010,