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Explore the meeting of Thomas Merton and Dalai Lama and its lasting impact commemorated at Spaulding University's contemplative garden

"Welcome to the history of the contemplative garden at Spalding University, where the meeting of two spiritual giants, Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama, is commemorated in a beautiful and serene setting. This garden serves as a reminder of the powerful impact of interfaith understanding and cooperation, and the ways in which it can foster deeper connections between individuals, communities, and the world at large. In this page, we will delve into the lives and legacies of these two remarkable men and how their meeting has shaped the way we understand interfaith relationships today."

Thomas Merton

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His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama

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Merton and the Dalai Lama first met in 1968, shortly before Merton's death. The meeting was a historic moment, as it was one of the first encounters between a Catholic monk and a Tibetan Buddhist leader. The two men developed a deep mutual respect and appreciation for each other's spiritual traditions, and Merton's journals and letters reveal the profound impact this meeting had on him.

The Dalai Lama (born 1935) is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and a political figure who has been in exile since 1959. He is considered by many to be a living embodiment of the Bodhisattva of Compassion and is known for his efforts to promote peace, nonviolence, and interreligious understanding.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Catholic monk, writer, and social activist who played a significant role in the American Catholic Church's engagement with the Civil Rights Movement. He was a keen advocate for interfaith dialogue and had a deep interest in Buddhism, which led him to several meetings with the Dalai Lama.

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Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and His Holiness the Dalai Lama met briefly May 20, 2013, at the KFC Yum! Center. The Dalai Lama plans to visit Louisville again in 2017.

Former Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer speaks at the Center For Interfaith Relations, in 2017.

The meeting of Merton and the Dalai Lama had a significant impact on the Catholic Church's engagement with Buddhism and other non-Christian religions. It also served as an inspiration for many people around the world who seek interfaith understanding and cooperation.


An aerial view of the Buddhist Stupa and the Catholic Labyrinth standing together, symbolizing the harmony and unity between different religions.

Spalding University's contemplative garden serves as a tangible representation of the interfaith understanding and cooperation that was fostered by the meeting of Merton and the Dalai Lama. The garden, featuring a traditional Buddhist stupa and a Catholic meditation labyrinth based on the design at Notre Dame Chartres, serves as a place for reflection, meditation, and connection to the deeper spiritual aspects of oneself and the world around. It serves as a space for people of all backgrounds and religions to come together to learn, grow and promote interfaith community relationships. The garden serves as a living legacy of the meeting between Merton and the Dalai Lama and serves as an inspiration for the continued promotion of interfaith understanding and cooperation.

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