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Locus Solus: Place, meaning, and community in the life of Brother David Steindl-Rast

Exhibit “Locus Solus: Place, Meaning, and Community in the Life of Brother David Steindl-Rast,” showcases items curated from Steindl-Rast’s recent donation of correspondence, photographs, writings, audio/visual recordings, art, and publications. The Brother David Steindl-Rast Papers join a number of other recent high-profile donations to the Social Change Archive in Special Collections and University Archives, including the records of the New England Yearly Meeting (of Quakers), the Peter Simon Collection and the Bernard Jaffe Papers. Steindl-Rast is one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement. Leaving his monastery in Elmira, New York, in the mid-1960s and receiving rare Vatican support for his bridge-building work between Christianity and Buddhism in 1967, Steindl-Rast became the first Benedictine to learn directly from Buddhist teachers such as Hakuun Yasutami, the founder of the Sanbo Kyodan Zen Buddhist organization; Soto Zen monk Shunayu Suzuki; and Zen Buddhist Master Soen Nakagawa. Through his friend Thomas Merton, a Catholic writer, mystic, Trappist monk, and social activist, Steindl-Rast allied with Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn, to fight for peace. When not in seclusion, Steindl-Rast has served as a teacher of contemplative prayer, the intersection of Zen and Catholicism, and gratefulness as a spiritual practice. Steindl-Rast has developed an influential philosophy which he has disseminated through many books, articles, lectures, and residencies in spiritual centers such as Tassajara Zen Mountain Center—the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia—and the Esalen Institute, a retreat center and intentional community in Big Sur, California. Much of the current popularity of mindfulness and Zen-influenced living and activism owes a debt to his teachings.
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