Thomas Merton’s double birthday

December 10, 1941. Thomas Merton entered a monastery, putting an end to his previous life and beginning another that was to prove more fulfilling in many ways.

December 10, 1968. Thomas Merton was accidentally electrocuted. See previous sentence.

That makes today a double anniversary for one of the more interesting and creative men of the 20th century. He was an Englishmen who became an American, a hedonist atheist who became a monk, an intellectual who became a mystic, a Catholic who met the Dalai Lama as one monk to another.

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Oregon 2005 (1)


1. Another mountain

In October, 2005, when I came back from my first visit to the Pacific northwest, I wrote up a short piece on a day at Crater Lake and emailed it in various directions. I wrote another, and another, and before long I found that I had written more than a dozen little pieces on one or another aspect of the trip. So I decided I might as well pull them all together, fill any remaining gaps, and annoy my friends with yet one email more. And this is that set of essays. 

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The Monk in the Lab

This article by the Dalai Lama appeared in The New York Times April 26, 2003 at a time when some people thought that invading Iraq was going to lead to peace. But maybe the way to peace doesn’t lead through war but through self-mastery.

The Monk in the Lab



These are times when destructive emotions like anger, fear and hatred are giving rise to devastating problems throughout the world. While the daily news offers grim reminders of the destructive power of such emotions, the question we must ask is this: What can we do, person by person, to overcome them?

Of course such disturbing emotions have always been part of the human condition. Some – those who tend to believe nothing will “cure” our impulses to hate or oppress one another – might say that this is simply the price of being human. But this view can create apathy in the face of destructive emotions, leading us to conclude that destructiveness is beyond our control.

I believe that there are practical ways for us as individuals to curb our dangerous impulses – impulses that collectively can lead to war and mass violence. As evidence I have not only my spiritual practice and the understanding of human existence based on Buddhist teachings, but now also the work of scientists. Continue reading The Monk in the Lab