Zen master (Catholic Priest) tells curious to embrace a new faith ^ | 01.22.06 | EVONNE COUTROS 

Posted on 1/22/2006, 9:26:02 PM by Coleus

Zen master tells curious to embrace a new faith

RIDGEWOOD – The two-hour lecture at the Old Paramus Church Education Center began with several minutes of silent meditation.  And for many who attended, participating in meditation was a first step in understanding the basic teachings of Buddhism and Eastern philosophy.  “All attempts at mutual education are important to help us grow,” said Robert Kennedy, the noted Jesuit priest and Zen master. “It widens our vision.”

Kennedy Roshi, as he is known to Buddhists, was the key speaker at Saturday’s event, which was attended by more than 100 people of varied faiths. It examined immortality, salvation and schools of thought in Buddhism and Christianity.  It is the third lecture in a series to promote the understanding of Buddhism and Eastern thought sponsored by the Dhamma-Chakra Society of New Jersey. Kennedy is a practicing psychotherapist and retired chairman of the theology department at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. After being ordained a priest in the Jesuit tradition, he also studied Buddhism for many years and in 1991 was installed as a sensei, or teacher, of Eastern thought.

Saturday’s lecture focused on many aspects of Eastern philosophy as well as Christian theology.

“I think the Buddhist and Christian traditions are both magnificent and both give wonderfully poetic metaphorical examples of what is inexpressible,” Kennedy said. “I don’t think the metaphors can be reduced to each other but that makes it all the better. Everything is not reduced to one way of looking at things.”

Kennedy praised the strong outreach among Catholics and Jews to Buddhism.

“I don’t think Buddhism is interested so much in learning from us, but they are open to us,” said Kennedy, who holds doctorates in theology and psychology and is the author of “Zen Gifts to Christians” and “Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit.”  “I think we’re coming to appreciate each other on a practical level as in marriage.”

Parviz Dehghani is a Muslim who has been married to his Buddhist wife for 25 years and attended the lecture as both religious scholar and admirer of Kennedy as a Zen master. The lecture allowed the public to understand the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, Dehghani said.  “This lecture gives people a different direction in their own faith,” he said. “It gives them a sense of enrichment in their own beliefs and a different way of looking at what they have been believing all along and through their lives. If Buddhism can enhance them to be a better Christian or Muslim, that’s what it’s all about.”

Kennedy studied with Yamada Roshi in Japan, Maezumi Roshi in California and Glassman Roshi in New York. Glassman installed Kennedy as sensei and conferred the Inka, or final approval, on the cleric in 1997 that elevated him to master, or roshi. John LoGiudice of Paramus is a practicing Catholic who came to the lecture with several family members and friends to gain more knowledge of Buddhism. “I gained an insight of how the Buddhists and other cultures think and from what I gather – with Buddhism being an older culture – perhaps they are a little bit more advanced spiritually,” LoGiudice said. “It’s a journey. We’re trying to learn more about it.”


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“Parviz Dehghani, another scholar who had been at Fordham, also came to Temple and finished his Ph.D. with me, writing his thesis on Afdal Al-Dīn Muhammad Kāshānī.”