On the eve of Christmas Eve, I returned to my favorite retreat, the most beautiful place in the world, New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur.
I’ve been here countless times, spent some serious times in silence and had my heart blown open in an irreparable and magnificent way every time I come.
This time, I’m with Bhante Sujatha my Buddhist Monk friend. We arrive in time for the noon service and the chapel is filled with holy chanting.. the Benedictine monks are preparing for their Christmas service and Mass.
We go explore my old room and the views and walk around the 900 acres that are clinging to the side of the mountain in Big Sur overlooking the Pacific.
The views are literally mind blowing.
Within moments, 2 of the Benedictine monks come walking down to greet us… I have been here no less than 20 times and stayed for 10 days at a stretch with no interactions. Turns out being here with a Buddhist monk in his saffron robes has it’s privlidges….
“The life of a Camaldolese monk centers on the seeking of Jesus Christ through the ancient but ever new monastic heritage of Saint Benedict as enriched by Saint Romuald. This life radiates outward in various rhythms, involving him in solitude and community, silence and fraternal encounter, prayer and work, study and recreation. He is dedicated to the love and praise of God in the bond of fraternal charity.”
We got a rare and intimate tour of the private “monks only” monastic residences, the gardens, several prayer rooms and even a private chant by our two hosts in their accoustically perfect holy space.
I was hesitant to take any pictures but I took this one because I was so moved watching these three men who’ve dedicated their lives essentially to the same thing, adding more love to the world.
Bhante loved these guys and was so grateful for their warmth. They explained they study Buddhism extensively because “the teachings are without any conflict to the teachings of Jesus”.
As we pulled away, Bhante said : “those monks, they are Buddhists. If you live by the essential teachings of Jesus, you are already a Buddhist…. or whatever you want to call yourself. I wonder if we will be alive when the labels no longer matter?”
“Lose self to gain nirvana and escape from suffering.” ~ Buddha
“Lose self to gain Christ and entrance into heaven, where there will be no suffering.” ~ Jesus
“Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘Look, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will get there first. If they say, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will get there first. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the children of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, then you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty” (emphasis added).” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
More essays from New Camaldoli and Big Sur: