Buddhism and Catholicism

Moderators please feel free to move this post to a forum you might feel may be more appropriate, for now I will post it here.

Looking for suggestions for a book as a Christmas gift for a friend that is a non-practicing Catholic/quasi-Buddhist. There are a lot of questionable books out there that try to link Catholicism and Buddhism and that is not the type of thing I am looking for, nor am I looking for an overtly Apologetic book to “convert” my friend or bring him back to the faith immediately. I am simply looking for something that may begin the process of thinking more about it, and I thought something that discusses the two faiths in a “non-partisan” way so to speak, their similarities/differences, development, the founding figures, would be something interesting for him to read.

However, as I said, this is a difficult task as most books either try to advocate a hybrid Catholic-Buddhism, or are Apologetics that are not nuanced enough to walk the tightrope I am attempting. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

God bless,

Has your friend read any books by Thomas Merton? He was a Trappist monk who later in life learned about Buddhism, however still remained a devout Catholic.

I would second the suggestion of Thomas Merton, in particular his “Asian Diary”.

For something more on the purely Buddhist side, Karen Armstrong’s “Buddha” gives an interesting Western perspective.


I don’t know if it helps but a while back I did a series of Buddhism related blogs, beginning with this one. To be honest I wasn’t so much addressing Buddhism as such so much as I was looking at the phenomenon of Western Buddhism and how its practices are somewhat analogous to those found in Catholic mysticism but with the crucial personal element imparted by the Incarnation missing.

I collected some of these Buddha blogs together with others into a free ebook on Wattpad This Contemplative Life which your friend might like.

If I have this correct, Buddhist Monks beg for alms, St. Francis, when he started to adopt his way many centuries ago, seemed to beg for alms. Though Monks may not do this nowadays, it is still curious.

I wonder if there are any other similarities like this.

Can’t go wrong with Thomas Merton.

I offer Father Anthony De Mellow, specifically his book on Awareness, as another option. The affinity with Buddhism in that book is incredible. I really believe that this book meets the guidelines you set in your OP. Read some excerpts online to see what you think. May be just what you’re after.

There are. Buddhist monks are celibate, wear special robes, shave their heads (tonsure) and use rosaries (mala) though with 108 beads, not 54.

These elements are not unique to Buddhist monks, they also appear in Hindu and Jain monasticism. They are more generally Indian than specifically Buddhist.

There is known to have been Indian influence in Alexandra, due to international trade. Since Christian monasticism seems to have started in the Egyptian desert, with various hermits, it is possible that elements of Indian influence were incorporated. The Indians set the style for how a holy man should look, act and dress.


Is it ok for a Catholic to receive a blessing from a Buddhist Monk?

Curious as i am off to a Buddhist temple with my sister in a weeks time and she suggested we could have a Buddhist blessing! Any harm in it?

I suppose if we encourage non-Catholics at Mass to receive a blessing then it could be argued that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The only good or harm that it will do you lies in your response to it and what you believe about it I would think.


Good reply

PJD, I think your “direct approach” is likely to be a turn-off. Why not simply give him something of beauty which is Catholic, or which contains profound truth or goodness. Surely he would appreciate that. Maybe a good poet such as Gerard Manley Hopkins or Cardinal Bl. Newman, or a book of ancient Catholic art, or the sayings of the Desert Fathers, or some fiction by J.R.R. Tolkein or G. K. Chesterton. With his Buddhist leanings, maybe the Desert Fathers is the way to go, or better yet, St. John of the Cross.

Or some Thomas Merton.


Look into Father Bede Griffiths. He was a Benedictine Monk who led a monastary in India for almost 40 years. Journey to the Center and the Marriage of East and West are very good.

I think that Fr. Bede Griffiths was one who attempted “to advocate a hybrid Catholic-Buddhism,” which Paul said he wished to avoid. Same thing with Fr. Thomas Merton in his later years.

Christianity has its own mysticism and asceticism, which is why I recommended St. John of the Cross. And there are others, who also bear the title of Saint.

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