Brother David Steindl-Rast is an 86-year-old Benedictine monk who many consider the successor to Thomas Merton at the intersection of Christianity and Buddhism. Together with Merton, Brother David helped launch a renewal of religious life. From 1970 on, he became a leading figure in the House of Prayer movement, which affected some 200,000 members of religious orders in the United States and Canada.
More than that, Brother David has developed a “common sense spirituality” that touches the heart of all the great spiritual traditions. He is an apostle of the spirit of gratefulness, described on his remarkable website. He says his favorite name for God is “Surprise,” because “Surprise” is the only name that does not limit the Nameless One.
Brother David’s books include Belonging to the Universe (winner of the 1992 American Book Award), a dialogue on new paradigm thinking in science and theology with physicist, Fritjof Capra. His dialogue with Buddhists produced The Ground We Share: Buddhist and Christian Practice, co-authored with Robert Aitken Roshi. His most recent books are The Music of Silence, co-written with Sharon Lebell, and Words of Common Sense.
In these interviews with Michael Lerner, which took place over a span of six months, Brother David talks about his life and work, the people and experiences that made him who he is, and his philosophy of living life with gratitude.
David Steindl-Rast was born July 12, 1926, in Vienna, Austria, where he studied art, anthropology, and psychology, receiving an MA from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and a PhD from the University of Vienna. In 1952 he followed his family who had emigrated to the United States. In 1953 he joined a newly founded Benedictine community in Elmira, NY, Mount Saviour Monastery, of which he is now a senior member.
After twelve years of monastic training and studies in philosophy and theology, Brother David was sent by his abbot to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, for which he received Vatican approval in 1967. His Zen teachers were Hakkuun Yasutani Roshi, Soen Nakagawa Roshi, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and Eido Shimano Roshi. He co-founded the Center for Spiritual Studies in 1968 and received the 1975 Martin Buber Award for his achievements in building bridges between religious traditions. At present, Brother David serves a worldwide Network for Grateful Living, through www.gratefulness.org, an interactive website with several thousand participants daily from more than 240 countries.