Brother David Steindl-Rast
Brother David Steindl-Rast has been a practicing Benedictine monk for over half a century and was one of the first Vatican-sanctioned delegates to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue. He is a recipient of the Martin Buber Award for his outstanding role in building bridges between religious traditions, and serves as a senior member of the Mount Savior Monastery in Elmira, New York.
Born in Austria in 1926, Br. David came of age during the Nazi occupation. Years later, he would write of the brutality of this experience as compelling him to contemplate, "the existential situation designed to hide, to disguise, and to camouflage our confrontation with death."
In his twenties, Br. David studied art, anthropology, and psychology and received a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. In 1952, with the vague hope of becoming rich, he immigrated to the United States but found his trajectory irrevocably altered when a friend gave him a copy of The Rule of Saint Benedict. Glimpsing his first clear sign of a life-path, he was referred to a newly established Benedictine community, where he remains to this day.
In 1958-59, Br. David was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Cornell University where he became the first Roman Catholic to hold the Thorpe Lectureship. Mentored and introduced to the beauty of Eastern wisdom teachings by Thomas Merton, Br. David recognized a spiritual brother in a young Japanese Zen monk, and through their profound friendship realized the path of monasticism as his own way of being fully human. Commissioned by his abbot to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, Br. David studied with several prominent Zen teachers, including Shunyru Suzuki Roshi.
Together with Thomas Merton, Br. David ignited a renewal of religious life. In the 1970's, he was a leading figure in The House of Prayer Movement, which affected more than 200,000 members of religious orders across the United States and Canada. For decades, he divided his time between hermitage and rigorous lecture tours on five continents. His audiences have ranged from starving students in Africa to Harvard faculty, from Sufi retreatants to German intellectuals, from New Age communes to Naval Cadets, and from Green Berets to participants at international peace conferences.
Fervently committed to what he calls "mysticism in action," Br. David has been an outspoken advocate for social justice, environmental issues, and international peace. He has written and contributed to well over thirty books, and with famed physicist Fritjof Capra, co-authored Belonging to the Universe, recipient of the prestigious American Book Award. His affinity with the Buddhist tradition produced The Ground We Share: Buddhist and Christian Practice, co-authored with Robert Aitken Roshi.
Presently, Brother David offers a resource to put the principle of gratitude into practice through Gratefulness.org, an interactive website where visitors from over two hundred countries have an opportunity to light a virtual candle in an exercise of mindfulness, serenity, and solidarity. "It is the integral practice of grateful living," says Brother David, "that unites Christianity, Buddhism, and all the religious traditions."