From top: The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan; Myozan Kodo Kilroy, a Ireland-based Soto Zen Buddhist priest
Further to the discouragement of mindfulness and zen by the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan….
The Bishop has discouraged the practices of yoga and mindfulness, as they “are not of Christian origin” and are “not suitable for our parish school setting”.
He intimates that mindfulness, one of many ancient spiritual practices that originated in the Buddhist tradition, is in fact “mindlessness”, and he quotes Pope Francis, from a 2015 homily:
“You can take a million courses in spirituality. A million courses in yoga, Zen and all these things, but all of this will never be able to give you freedom”.
In his letter, the bishop displays an amazing ignorance of the yogic and Zen traditions, while he attempts to exert his ecclesiastical power over the schools, the teachers and the young pupils of Waterford.
That he feels he has the right to do this in the Ireland of 2019 reminds us that it is long since past the time when religion should be taken out of our schools, and that church influence be removed from the diverse and plural contexts of our nation’s classrooms.
Pope Francis and Bishop Cullinan conflate yoga, mindfulness and Zen, separate and ancient spiritual paths, all rich and beautiful traditions. In rolling them all together, they display a profound ignorance of their complexities and differences.
And contrary to their assertions, these spiritual paths potentially lead to the kind of freedom that cannot be accommodated by a blinkered, hierarchical view of reality.
Thankfully, there are many practising Christians who know better; and who are also aware of the rich meditative and contemplative teachings of their own tradition.
In the classrooms of Waterford, there are doubtlessly Buddhist and Hindu children. If this has crossed the bishop’s mind I do not know. If it has, his letter is disrespectful of their religious traditions.
The diverse and plural Ireland that we live in urgently needs an education system that is fit for purpose: one not dominated by one religious tradition, and where senior clerics cannot publicly disparage other faith traditions. – Yours, etc,
Oh, it’s om.
Rev Myozan Kodo Kilroy
Teacher and Founder,
Zen Buddhism Ireland,
Bishop Cullinane, Yoga and Zen (irish Times Letters)
Previously: Let us Scrap Physics