|Radio National |
|with Rachael Kohn |
on Sunday 12/11/00
The Monk and the Mantra
Father Laurence Freeman is head of the World Community for Christian Meditation. A monk of the Monastery of Christ the King in London, Father Laurence travels the world promoting the practice of Christian Meditation, which focuses on the "Selfless Self" and the "Light Within."
A full web transcript is now available.
Details or Transcript:
Fr Laurence Freeman is a monk of the Monastery of Christ the King, Cockfosters, London in the Olivetan Benedictene Congregation. He was educated by the Benedictines and took a Masters Degree in English Literature at Oxford University. He was ordained a priest in 1980.
His spiritual guide was Dom John Main, the Canadian Benedictene Monk who opened the first Christian Meditation Centre in London in 1975.
After John Main's death in 1982, Fr Laurence succeeded him. In 1991 the World Community for Christian Meditation was formed with Fr Laurence as its spiritual guide.
A full transcript follows.
Hello and welcome to The Spirit of Things, Iím Rachael Kohn.
Today we bring you Part Two of 'Meditation East and West'. You heard ĎGarry and the Guruí last week, Garry McDonald in a wonderful three-way chat with me and his Swami, whoís taught him to be calm and at peace with himself as he pursues the nerve-wracking business of being one of our greatest stage and screen performers.
This week we bring you The Monk and the Mantra.
Father Laurence Freeman is a Roman Catholic monk of the Monastery of Christ the King in London. Oxford educated, he became the prodigy of Dom John Main, the Canadian Benedictine monk who opened the first Christian Meditation Centre in London in 1975.
After the death of John Main, Laurence Freeman took up the mantle of leadership. Earlier this month he invited the Dalai Lama to speak at the annual conference of the World Community for Christian Meditation in Belfast, where he spoke on religious harmony and peacemaking.
I spoke to Father Laurence Freeman when he was in Sydney.
Laurence Freeman: In the 25 years since the Christian Meditation Community started I would say thereís been a steady deepening and expansion of the interest in meditation within the Christian tradition, and thatís grown out of a general spiritual awareness in our society. People are looking for inner peace and deeper spiritual experience.
Rachael Kohn: Now when John Main began has explorations into meditation he was warned off that path by his own order, was he not?
Laurence Freeman: Yes, this was back in the Ď50s before he became a monk. John Main was a diplomat in Malaysia and on an official visit one day, he met an Indian monk who ran a spiritual centre and an orphanage and was very much involved in social questions in Malaysia at that time, and he was deeply impressed by the holiness, the interiority as well as the social activity of this man. And John Main said to him, ĎCould you teach me, as a Christian, how to meditate?í and of course the Swami said, ĎNaturally, it will make you a better Christian.í So John Main began to integrate his two periods of meditation into his daily life and his other Christian periods of prayer.
Now some years after that, he became a monk, still meditating, and meditation indeed had brought him to this decision to become a monk. The novice master (this was still back in the Ď50s) was a little suspicious of meditation and how he had learnt to meditate and so on and he advised him to stop meditation and to go back to the form of mental prayer that really characterised most Christiansí prayer at that time. And, because it was the 1950s, and people were still obedient, John Main accepted this advice although it was very difficult for him to do and he gave up meditation, continued to pray obviously, in these other ways.
But in the late Ď60s when he was Headmaster of a school in America, he was led back to question some of the deeper questions about what Christian monasticism is for today, what the church is for, is the church really responding to peopleís spiritual needs. And in asking himself these questions, he went back to the roots of his own Christian monastic tradition which was to the 4th century, into the early Christian monks who were called The Desert Fathers, and there he came across the same essential teaching on the method of meditation that heíd been taught all those many years before in the East.
Rachael Kohn: Is that whatís called prayer of the heart?
Laurence Freeman: In the Christian tradition itís called prayer of the heart or contemplation. Itís a prayer that takes you deeper than words, deeper than thoughts, deeper than the mind.
Rachael Kohn: And of course in the popular mind, meditation is always associated with a mantra; now I understand Christian meditation also uses something like a mantra.
Laurence Freeman: Very much so, yes. I mean the Jesus prayer of the Orthodox Church is the repetition of the holy name of Jesus in the heart. That actually is a later tradition than the one that John Main was influenced by. There in the writings of John Cassian, one of the great teachers of St Benedict of course, he found a very simple method of bringing the mind through distraction, through its anxieties and fears and fantasies, into stillness and silence, and this was through the repetition of a sacred word or verse and the word that John Main came to recommend people to use was the word ĎMaranathaí is the oldest Christian prayer in the language that Jesus spoke, Aramaic. It means ĎCome Lordí or ĎThe Lord comesí. Now it is not the only mantra you could use of course as a Christian, but itís a very beautiful and ideal Christian mantra.
And you find the tradition of the mantra in fact in all religious families.
Rachael Kohn: Just before we explore how people have responded to Christian meditation, I wonder if you can comment on what Iíve detected as a kind of growing resistance to Buddhism for example, and also meditation within the Catholic church. Certainly Cardinal Ratzingerís (from the Vatican) statement about the superiority of Catholicism and the exclusive path of the Catholic church as opposed to other traditions which are meant to be inferior could be seen as something of a signal against say the growing popularity of Buddhism.
Laurence Freeman: Well the Catholic church is a large family. I think uniquely in the worldís religions, it undertook 30 or so years ago, a quite remarkable and courageous self-examination. It threw open its own doors, it criticised itself, it threw itself open to the holy spirit, and that was a trauma of quite major proportions which has been tremendously fruitful and tremendously painful. And so not surprisingly, in a large family, you will find different voices and different opinions and the Catholic church has many different voices.
When there is a contradiction between the messages coming out of the Catholic church I think the thing to do is to listen to what the Pope is saying. He remember, was the person who invited the world religious leaders for the first time in 1986 I think it was, to Assisi, and invited them to pray together. And this was a historic moment, itís one of the great icons I think of the modern world that this picture of the worldís religious leaders, of the Pope standing next to the Dalai Lama praying together. I always think of it as comparable to the other great icon of the modern world which was the picture of the planet earth taken from the moon. Itís something weíve never seen before. So itís in that context I think you have to look at Cardinal Ratzingerís statements which are very heavily criticised by his own colleagues.
I think they were an embarrassment to many of his colleagues and to many people in the church, and I think those kind of comments are not in the spirit of the Vatican Councilís teaching on interreligious dialogue or the Popeís great encouragement of interreligious dialogue.
Rachael Kohn: And I suppose meditation can be seen as one of the areas of common ground between traditions, which is probably why Christian meditation grew just around that time.
Laurence Freeman: Yes I think in our modern world thereís a great suspicion or a great distrust sometimes of religious organisation or religious institutions. This is not altogether fair because these religious institutions also do a great deal of good in the world. But thereís a general feeling, particularly in the Western world, that organised religion is suspicious. Therefore there is a great deal of interest in spirituality.
But you canít separate spirituality from the religious tradition. But what has happened is a recovery of the more contemplative tradition, and contemplative spirit of Christianity and the recovery of that is happening at the grassroots level as well as at the clerical level.
In our Christian Meditation community there is a Cardinal who is teaching meditation; next week heís giving a retreat in France to our meditators. Here in Australia, we have a great deal of support and encouragement from Bishops and clergy, and involvement in the teaching of meditation. I think these sort of controversial statements that come occasionally from Cardinal Ratzingerís office shouldnít be allowed to obscure the fact that a very important spiritual renewal is taking place, and that involves change, and people are frightened of change, particularly people in charge of big institutions. But itís a change for the better.
Laurence Freeman: Meditation of course is a universal spiritual element in all religions. When you start to meditate it brings you to the heart of your own faith, your own religion, it helps you to understand what is essential about your own religion. At the same time, it opens you to a respect and a reverence in fact, for what is true and holy in other religions. So it is the real basis for deep dialogue, and unfortunately a lot of the dialogue that goes on is very much in the head, itís very sort of diplomatic exchanges or intellectual exchanges. But the dialogue that comes out of people who meditate is much more profound and in fact much more transformative.
Rachael Kohn: I wanted to ask you about that experience because in the video that you made called ĎComing Homeí, one of the older women said it was like falling in love when she took up Christian meditation, but it also clearly changed her prayer life; she had been used to a particular kind and it kind of shook her up for a while there. Is that a typical response?
Laurence Freeman: I think it is, yes. I think for most Christians prayer is something we do either with the head or with our feet in the sense that we walk to church or we sit in the pews, or we are praying with the mind in the sense that weíre talking to God, or thinking about God or making petitions, asking God for things. And these are valid forms of prayer, necessary forms of prayer, as in all religious traditions.
But I think what has largely been neglected in training of Christians spiritually, is the prayer of the heart. When you look back at the Christian tradition you see this is the centre, this is the core of what prayer is about. When you recover this experience of contemplative prayer then the other forms of prayer fit into place, they become more meaningful.
Rachael Kohn: Do they actually remain intact, or for some people is the experience of meditation sufficient, is it overwhelming, does it actually push out the other more intellectual dialogical kinds of relationships that one has with God?
Laurence Freeman: That hasnít been my experience. Sometimes I think certainly when people start to meditate there is a period where it may seem to be all that they need, but I also think that fairly quickly they begin to recognise the value of Scripture, the value of worship together, for the Christians especially the Eucharist, and the value of praying together with others in different forms, as well as the value of working together for relieving the suffering and needs of others.
All of these then take on a meaning that they didnít seem to have before. Scripture seems to come alive with a greater revelatory power, and including Scriptures of other traditions. You begin to be able to read the Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita or the Buddhist Sutras with a finer understanding of what theyíre saying. And the Gospels.
Iíve just finished a book on Jesus, itís coming out next month, which reads the Gospels; I try to read the Gospel in the light of the experience of meditation. So I think most people find after a period of time, it may be shorter or longer, depending on the individual, that the other forms of prayer are recharged with meaning and vitality.
We do not know Jesus any more as a historical figure walking along the dusty roads of Palestine 2000 years ago. The records of the Gospel clearly show a historical figure, but they arenít describing that person in the way that a modern journalist would write about him, you know, what he had for breakfast and what his opinions about local politics were or something like that.
These Gospels describe a historical figure in the light of an a-historical world, or an eternal experience which is the experience of the resurrection. So we canít recover an historical experience of Jesus 2000 years ago. Thereís a lot of books coming out today arguing what Jesus was like, and most of them are interesting if youíre interested in Jesus, but theyíre not based on much historical evidence; thereís very little evidence. To read the Gospels is to meet Jesus in this experience of the spirit.
Rachael Kohn: What then happens to the specific teachings of the Gospels, the moralistic teachings, the didactic aspect of the Gospels, and even its message of salvation. That doesnít seem to be at the foreground of Christian meditation which focuses more on the experience of an in-dwelling holy spirit.
Laurence Freeman: Yes, I think that would be true to say. I donít think the moral teaching, or the ethical teaching of the Gospel is irrelevant, but I think maybe we speak too exclusively about the ethical and the moral aspects of Christianity without giving due attention to the mystical. And the mystical, or the inner, interior reality of the Gospel for the Christian is a transforming one.
In other words, when we meditate in Christian faith, and speaking now as a Christian, to meditate in Christian faith is to enter into the reality of Christís in-dwelling presence. That is a transformative experience because it brings us into union with our own self, with our own true self as a healing, integrating, self-realising experience and opens us up to the full mystery ultimately of who Christ is in the spirit.
Now as we experience ourselves changing, the kind of changes we will see in ourselves we will interpret in this ethical way. For example, if people say Why should I meditate, what would I get out of it? Am I going to see visions, am I going to levitate, am I going to be able to predict the winning lottery number? No. And that would be trivial, that wouldnít be a truly spiritual approach to meditation. What we can say on the basis of countless peopleís experience is that you will begin to see the fruits of the spirit as St Paul called it, appearing in your life. And what are they? He says they are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.
Rachael Kohn:: These are virtues that we all wish we had.
Laurence Freeman: These are virtues. Now are these virtues gained by your own will? Well probably not, because I donít know about you, but I donít have a very strong will, Iím not very good at keeping my good intentions. But when we see these virtues appearing in ourselves, what we are seeing is not something we can sort of pat ourselves on the back and say, Well look how good and holy, or strong I am; what we see with a sense of wonder and reverence is Godís life, the mystery. We can never fully explain it, but we sense Godís life manifesting or unfolding in my life and changing me.
Now this takes us to a very important and early Christian idea, which led the early Christian thinkers to describe the reason why Jesus came or Jesus was seen as the Son of God, God became Man so that Man might become God. Now this is a very crucial truth of Christian theology, that the purpose of the human beingís development is to be divinised, to become God, to become like God, to share in Godís reality.
Now this happens here and now, itís not just going to happen at the end of our life. Itís a process of divinisation sharing in the life of God, and becoming God-like is what we are all about. The Dalai Lama describes this, in his own terms, as developing our own innate good heart, and in fact why meditation is so important to the world, whatever religion you belong to, is that the fruits of meditation in your life are pretty much the same whether you are a Buddhist, a Christian, a Jew, or even an Agnostic or whatever, because we ultimately donít enter into this mystery of God because of what we believe, we enter into it because of what we do. And meditation is a very real and deep action on our part, in which we collaborate or we participate in this fundamental purpose of our being.
Now all of that may sound very abstract until from day to day you realise youíre becoming a little more patient, youíre a little less depressed, and you get up in the morning feeling, Ah, what a joyful day it is. You find that you donít fly off the handle so quickly, youíre able to listen to your friends when theyíre in trouble, you become less critical or intolerant of other people. And you notice these things changing in yourself, or maybe if you donít notice it, somebody else will point it out to you.
Now these may seem trivial but they are actually very profound movements within your personality, within your being, that shows that something very important is changing and happening.
Rachael Kohn: Thatís the view of Father Laurence Freeman who believes Christian meditation is the way forward for all kinds of people who feel alienated from the church, but not from the spiritual force that gives it life.
ĎMaranathaí is the Aramaic expression for ĎThe Lord comethí, and here itís the refrain of the hymn performed by another ecumenical movement based in France, which uses music to nourish the inner life. Iím speaking of Taize of course. Here is the hymn, 'Ostende nobis Domine, misericordiam tuam': Show us your mercy, Risen Lord.
HYMN Ė Ubi Caritas
Rachael Kohn: Thatís the community of Taize singing a hymn with the refrain, ĎMaranathaí, The Lord Cometh.
Youíre listening to The Monsignor and the Mantra on The Spirit of Things.
Father Laurence Freeman is head of the World Christian Meditation Community. We return now to our conversation, in which he reflects on the ways in which eastern and western notions of selflessness are at the basis of an ethic of compassion.
Laurence Freeman: All religious traditions have a lot to say about desire. Buddhism, for example, says that desire is the root of suffering. Christianity has a different language about it, but basically it would agree that there is the tendency in human beings out of our egos to desire things and to trample on other people in order to get them, to put ourselves first and to push other people out of the way. This is what we do in the rush hour on the buses or trains, this is what we do when we want to rise up in a corporation or an institution when we become materially ambitious, and we can do the same in our sexual or romantic lives as well. We want something, we go for it, and we push other people out of the way. And the result of that is usually suffering, because even if we get what we want, we canít hang on to it for very long before we start fearing that somebody else may come and take it away from us or it may slip out of our grip. So desire leads constantly to fear and thereís the constant danger that it leads to violence or to different forms of suffering or unhappiness or isolation.
Now all the great religious traditions tell us that we canít find the ultimate happiness we want by getting what we want. Now itís a very simple idea, itís a universal wisdom and universally ignored, and itís a very difficult idea for us to accept. It doesnít make sense to say I can be happy even though I donít get what I want. We think, Iím only going to be happy if I get what I want.
Now itís even more difficult for us to put that wisdom into practice, to discover for ourselves the truth of that great wisdom. The only desire I think that really does lead to what we want is when I desire your happiness more than I desire my own. And if I put that into practice, then I discover that I really am happy, this wonderful and mysterious discovery, and I may only be able to put it into effect for three minutes a day, but those three minutes a day would be three of the happiest minutes of the day.
Now I think meditation has a very profound role in our life in helping us to discover that truth, because when we meditate we are precisely letting go, for the time being anyway, of our desires, and our fears, and our anxieties, and our plans, and our memories, and our guilt. We let go of everything when we meditate; we enter into a stillness, a silence of the Gospel Jesus calls a poverty of spirit, a letting go, very much associated I think with the Buddhist idea of emptiness, and anyway, in this poverty of spirit when we really can let go of all our desiring and our fears, and our fantasies, then we experience joy; joy and a peace that are not associated with the fulfilling of our desires.
Now that experience teaches us something first hand directly, it bring us into contact with this wisdom, and that begins to play out in our lives. Thatís why I think it is important (Iím not saying that anyone has the monopoly on meditation) but it is important I think, and beneficial to approach meditation through one of the great religious traditions, because meditation has often been cut off from those traditions today and is taught sometimes in a very materialistic and egotistical sort of way, you know, meditation will take away your wrinkles, or meditation will improve your memory, or meditation will lower your blood pressure. Those are side effects, maybe, but theyíre very trivial compared to this deeper understanding of lasting peace and lasting happiness.
Rachael Kohn: Now some people actually describe meditation as simple but difficult.
Laurence Freeman: Yes, I think that would be true, simple but not easy. It isnít easy for us to be simple, and yet we crave simplicity. Our lives emotionally and materialistically are extremely complicated. Anyone whoís been to India or South America or Africa, you know, lived in the Third World for any amount of time, is usually struck by paradox. Iíve just come back from India a few weeks ago, and again I was struck by the physical poverty and suffering of the people there, the hardship of their lives. And yet they retain a quality of joy, a human quality and human capacities that seem to have been lost for us in the West with all our affluence and all our sophistication.
So I think we do crave in our Western world today, for a new simplicity both materially and psychologically. And yet, as we know, it isnít easy to untie the knots; itís easy to tie knots, itís not so easy to untie them. But with the help perhaps of a great spiritual tradition, one can look at the complications of oneís life and oneís personality. In a true light, one can see that they can be undone, these knots, and we can recover some fundamental human qualities that weíve lost, and above all, you know, the quality of relationship, the quality of friendship, the quality of valuing the time that we spend with our family or our friends, the human qualities of life. These are the things that I think we recover as we start to untie those knots.
Rachael Kohn:I want to ask you about relationship, because religious traditions have fulfilled many functions, one of them has been to develop community to actually define communities and support them through institutions. I think many people regard meditation and perhaps Christian meditation as a solitary path, as an oasis in the hurly burly of life thatís going along pretty well, itís just a bit too stressed and I need to get some time out, that sort of thing. But to what extent does Christian meditation develop community, and is it even possible?
Laurence Freeman: Well my own teacher, John Main, believed and I think very prophetically really, that meditation creates community, or reveals the communion that we have with other people. And I think that is true, and I think over the last 25 years weíve seen a community which is not a big bureaucracy but a spiritual family, grow up, now extending through about 60 countries, and that has grown up among people who share this work, this inner work of meditation.
Rachael Kohn: Now thatís basically ecumenical, is it not?
Laurence Freeman: Yes, definitely ecumenical. I think meditation is a solitary work. I canít meditate for you and you canít meditate for me, but at the same time when I do meditate, when I do enter into my own solitude, I discover that I am not just an isolated ego in competition with you: I want your job, or you want my job, or I want what youíve got and youíre not going to give it to me. Weíre not in competition, we are actually at the deepest level in relationship, in friendship, and that at the core of your being there is a goodness, a generosity, a kindness, a compassion, just as there is the same core of goodness in my heart.
Now when I meditate, I discover that connectedness and relationship. It may be expressed in very simple ways, it may be very silently expressed. But it does achieve expression, and you see this happening all over the world, I see it in small meditation groups that meet.
Tomorrow Iím going to a prison, actually a womenís prison here in Sydney, where some of our meditators run a meditation group for the prisoners. Iím also going to another prison actually in California in a few weeks. They meet in prisons, they meet in parishes, they meet in peopleís homes, they meet in hospitals, schools, colleges, all sorts of places, places of work; thereís one that meets at the United Nations. Wherever these small groups meet, even if they may be just four or five, or half a dozen people who meet every week, they form little communities and bonds are created that connect these people in a kind of spiritual friendship that is quite unique in our society.
Rachael Kohn: Yes, itís not the same as sort of having a church full or a synagogue full of people singing the same hymns, singing the same prayers, chanting the same prayers, there isnít that sense of common identity that, you know, I may not know you but for this time we are saying the same things, thinking the same things. It seems to me far more mysterious in a sense, the community that is felt amongst the Christian meditators.
Laurence Freeman: It is a mysterious thing. Itís also very ordinary. We have recently in the last couple of years, weíve started something called the School for Teachers in our community, which is happening in many parts of Australia at the moment. This is a gathering of experienced meditators who come together for a school to help them to teach meditation better, so we donít give people certificates and diplomas, but we help them and they help each other to share this teaching, this tradition spiritually with other people in their own way, using their own gifts. And those schools are very remarkable experiences.
At the beginning of the school, everybody shares something of the journey that they have had to that point, what has brought them to this place and moment. And when you hear these stories you realise what a sacred thing a human life is, what a mysterious unfolding of the spirit takes place in every single human life. And when we share that, maybe in very few simple words with each other when we really open up that sense of the sacredness of our own life with other people, community happens. You can no longer look at that person as a stranger or as an alien or as a threat to you, you look upon them as a sister or a brother. And your behaviour of course changes as a result of that.
So weíve seen this also with the Buddhists, not only with Christians, and over the years, the last few years weíve had a very fruitful dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his Buddhist communities, and other Buddhist communities around the world. And thereís no doubt in my mind the fruitfulness of that dialogue was due to the fact that whenever we meet, we meditate together three times a day. And out of that experience of being in meditation together, this is where we really do share what is beyond words, but we share it openly with each other. Out of that experience comes the capacity to listen to each otherís views, to read each otherís Scriptures, to understand each otherís points of view, not necessarily to agree or to solve great theological or philosophical problems, but to see and understand them differently.
Secondly, it gives us the ability to sense the sacred in each otherís traditions. So last year 200 of our Christian meditators were invited by the Dalai Lama to go to India to Bodghgaya, the sacred Buddhist site. We meditated under the bodhi tree with the Dalai Lama. We had three days of very fruitful dialogue there. And it also gives us the capacity to work together, and this is something the United Nations is trying to support at the moment, and something that holds great promise for the world.
It gives us the ability to see that a religious harmony, friendship between the different religious traditions, is a new force; opens up new energies and new insights and new means of bringing healing and reconciliation to the wounds of humanity. And as a small sign of role, a big sign of that really, we are going in a couple of weeks time to Belfast with the Dalai Lama, and the previous John Main seminar presenters, to speak about peace from this position of interreligious friendship and harmony.
Rachael Kohn: Do you feel youíre at a crest of a wave of reformation within Christendom?
Laurence Freeman: Well I look around the church and Christianity in the Western world, itís very different if you go to Asia, but in the Western world, and you see institutions crumbling, you see low morale among the leadership, a lot of confusion among Christians, and thatís pretty depressing, and unfortunately the media tends to emphasise that. And it is, as an institution it is going through a death.
But at the same time I see, and every day I experience, a regeneration, a resurrection in fact of Christian life through these institutions, which isnít yet completed, and itís going to be more painful yet. We may have worse to go through. But when I focused upon that force of regeneration, rediscovery, individual interior conversions taking place, then I see a new church coming into being, more relevant to the 21st century, confident of its own identity, but maybe much more simple, maybe much less egocentric about its institutional strength and its power over people and telling people what to do.
Rachael Kohn: Would it be transdenominational? Would it occur within the Roman Catholic church? Do you see that, or would it be something like a para-church.
Laurence Freeman: Well I believe that you canít have a single world religion, because people are too different. But I do believe you can have a global spirituality, and thatís what we are discovering today. Because human beings are, putting this in a Christian language, there is one God and we are all the children of God. Now I think that applies to Christianity too; I think that Christians have a very rich, diverse historical tradition, I think it would be terrible if everyone became Roman Catholic, or everyone became Baptist or everyone became Anglican, you know. What is absurd and scandalous and stupid is the way these Christian denominations are suspicious of each other, or are hiding behind their own walls.
Rachael Kohn: Absolutely, yes.
Laurence Freeman: Thatís a counter-sign, and even when the leaders of these churches come together, they all say, Yes, this is scandalous, but they donít often do anything about it, because...
Rachael Kohn: Right, because they are attached to their identities and their communities and territories.
Laurence Freeman: Yes. Eventually somebody, eventually the force of change and the force of the spirit I believe is coming up through the grassroots and also through some enlightened leadership which will eventually create a new spirit of Christian unity and hospitality to each otherís churches. I donít think thatís going to mean these churches are going to cease to exist as independent, cultural, philosophical, theological expressions of the Gospel. You may even see more developing.
Rachael Kohn: There always seems to be more and more. Father Laurence, the John Main Seminar is going to be held in Sydney next year. Can you tell us a bit about whatís in store?
Laurence Freeman: Itís a very exciting event for us, partly because weíre going to be here in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time. The John Main Seminar is an annual event, itís been led by the Dalai Lama in the past, by William Johnston the great Jesuit teacher, by Charles Taylor, the great Canadian philosopher. And for the Seminar in 2001, the Seminar will be presented by Rowan Williams, who is one of the most interesting and stimulating Christian thinkers around today.
Heís the Anglican Bishop of Monmouth, Archbishop of Wales. He was Professor of Divinity at Oxford; is now an excellent socially minded and pastorally minded bishop with a very intelligent and a very strong commitment to social questions and peopleís lives; as well as an extremely fine intellect and thinker. And on top of that, a man of great contemplative depth and spirituality, a very rare combination of gifts. And I know him from England, and I invited him to speak to our UK meditators earlier this year and he was extremely well received. So I think it will be a very important moment for anybody who is concerned about spirituality in the modern world. He knows Australia well.
Rachael Kohn: Yes, he was on The Spirit of Things last year talking about prayer of the heart.
Laurence Freeman: Yes, well there you are. And I think he understands and is very attracted to the spiritual quest in Australia today, so he was very keen to come and very delighted we were having the Seminar here. So itís being well organised and thereíll be a retreat after the Seminar for those who want to make the retreat; thereíll be people coming from overseas from different parts of the world community, and those who want to make a pilgrimage to the centre of Australia will be able to do that. So weíre very much looking forward to it, and I think it will be a very important and wonderful event.
Rachael Kohn: Itís been a wonderful event having you on The Spirit of Things.
Laurence Freeman: Thank you, itís been great to be with you.
Rachael Kohn: Father Laurence Freeman is head of the World Christian Meditation Community, and heíll be back in Australia for the annual conference called the John Main Seminar, thatís July 15th to 18th, 2001.
You may have noticed in the news this week that the Federal government is introducing mandatory training for marriage celebrants. Somebody in Canberra might have heard our program on marriage celebrants earlier this year, where we raised that very issue.
Well next week we continue the theme of East meets West. Freud meets the Buddha on a program that looks at Buddhism and psychoanalysis, unlikely partners in the healing arts. Thatís next week on The Spirit of Things, which is produced by me and Geoff Wood with technical production by Roi Huberman.
Readings this week were by Nell Schofield.
So long from me, Rachael Kohn.
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