Q: My present spiritual advisors perceive Christianity and Buddhism as basically incompatible, principally because of the Buddhist idea of the Void. As a Christian with Buddhist training, I’ve never considered this a problem. Could you elaborate briefly on the compatibility or incompatibility of Christian ideas of the Divine (personal God) and the Buddhist concept of the Void? — J.P., Michigan

A: +Dear J.P., the God space is so vast that different space missions may bring back seemingly contradictory reports. When we speak of God, we should expect such paradoxes as fullness and emptiness. In fact, since all the opposites arise from God and are one in God, we should be suspicious of any God talk that is not paradoxical.

From early on, Christian theology has been aware that whatever we say about God, no matter how true, falls infinitely short of the full truth. (This strand of theology is called Negative or Apophatic Theology.) The emptiness of which Buddhists speak is, paradoxically, also the source of all fullness.

Don’t try to correct your spiritual advisors. Just add in your own mind what is missing. In controversies, as has been observed, most people are correct in what they affirm, but wrong in what they deny.

— Your Brother David


Br. David Steindl-Rast Trust
Q&A
Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.