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Quote of the Week: Thomas Merton

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Thomas Merton and HH the Dalai Lama

Every once in a while I like to shake things up and include quotes from buddhas, not necessarily “capital B Buddhists.” Trappist monk Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968) falls into that category. Like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Merton was also a contemporary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, and made great contributions to Christian-Buddhist dialogue.

This quote comes from Merton’s book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1968), and seems especially relevant in today’s wired world.

The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence….

The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.


If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.

About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.

9 responses »

  1. Merton is one of my favorite “wise ones.” Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Quote of the Week: Thomas Merton « The Jizo Chronicles --

  3. I just returned for sesshin with my teacher, John Tarrant. We rented the Angela Center in Santa Rosa, what used to be an Ursaline convent. I was rummaging around in the library–how bad can I be on retreat– and came across “The Seven Story Mountain.” I will finish it this week. Very inspiring. Yes, and if Buddhist with a small ‘b” so much the better. I think that he started to carve a path through western spirituality might soak in meditation practice.

  4. It has been a long time since I’ve read Thomas Merton. I appreciate this profound reminder of his wisdom which resonates for me this morning: consider the violence of frenzied activity…

  5. Love it – the quote and that photo (always brings a smile to my face). Thank you for that.

  6. Pingback: The Great Buddhist Blog Swap, Part 3: Guest Blogger Maia Duerr Schools Us in Micro Peacework « Rev. Danny Fisher

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  9. Pingback: _ dharmalog » The innate violence of modern life

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