The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

H.H. Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama
 Thomas Merton

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Thomas Merton met in November 1968 in Dharamsala, India where the Dalai Lama was living in exile.

His Holiness and Thomas Merton had three lengthy meetings during the eight days Merton was staying with the exiled Tibetans. After their final meeting Merton wrote:

It was a warm and cordial discussion and at the end I felt we had become very good friends ... I feel a great respect and fondness for him as a person and believe, too, that there is a real spiritual bond between us. (1)

The feeling was undoubtedly mutual. In his autobiography, Freedom in Exile, the Dalai Lama described Merton's visit as one of his "happiest memories of this time" and said that it was Thomas Merton who "introduced [him] to the real meaning of the word 'Christian'." (2) Later, in an interview, when asked the three most influential people in his life His Holiness replied his Dharma teacher, Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Thomas Merton. (3)

Again and again over the years in his public teachings the Dalia Lama has held up Thomas Merton as a model for interfaith dialog and world peace.

At the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1996 the Dalai Lama said:

I always consider myself as one of [Thomas Merton's] Buddhist brothers. So … I always remember him, and I always admire his activities and his life-style. Since my meeting with him … I really follow some of his examples … So for the rest of my life, the impact of meeting him will remain until my last breath. I really want to state that I make this commitment, and this will remain until my last breath. (4)

Hidden Wholeness Exhibit

A Hidden WHoleness:
The Zen Photography of Thomas Merton

An Exhibit of 35 Photographs by Thomas Merton

McGrath Art Gallery, Bellarmine University
May 7th - June 2nd, 2013
Open Daily

Thomas Merton is best known today for his spiritual writings on contemplation and his own personal spiritual journey that led him to study Eastern religions, especially Zen Buddhism.

Merton was also a visual artist of considerable talent exploring drawing and calligraphy and, as reflected in this exhibition, photography.

It is unclear exactly when Merton took up the camera. On October 10, 1961, Merton recorded in his journal his impressions of using a camera:

A completely miraculous achievement of forms. Marvelous, silent, vast spaces around the old buildings. Cold, pure light, and some grand trees … How the blankside of a frame house can be so completely beautiful I cannot imagine.

This very beginning of using the camera to isolate images, small things normally gone unnoticed, carried on through the brief history of Merton’s practice of photography and parallels Zen teaching in allowing the mind to embrace the unnoticed beauty in the world of mundane objects and the passing of light, shadow and textures through the course of a day. Deba P. Patnaik's writes:

In photography, he felt free, open and quiet – nothing to debate or discourse, nothing to argue or explain; only animated by imagination, silence, and connectedness with what he visually experienced. It served him as a mode of attuning "to the other music that is beyond the words."

Merton's photographs express the Zen perception of our immediate world as ever changing, impermanent, but with a unity of all things.

We are what we are. We are light and dark, substance and shadow, speak the images. We are matter and memory. We are pictures; we are mirrors. We are full; we are empty.

Remember the three Doors:
the door without wish
the door without sign
the door of emptiness.
And say: Amen. Say: Shantih.

Essays about the Exhibit:

Thomas Merton: Photographer by Paul M. Pearson
Through A Glass Purely by Deba P. Patnaik
"One Aesthetic Illumination:" Merton and Buddhism by Bonnie B. Thurston

Thomas Merton by Randy Browning

THomas Merton and the Dalai LAMA
Special Exhibit

Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University
April 29th - June 2nd, 2013
Open Monday - Friday, 8 am - 5 pm

The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University, the official repository of Thomas Merton's literary estate, will be hosting a special exhibit of artifacts relating to Thomas Merton's historic November 1968 meeting with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Included on exhibit for the first time ever, by special permission of his Trustees, will be Thomas Merton's hand written personal journal in which he recorded his meetings with the Dalai Lama.

In his literary estate Thomas Merton instructed his Trustees that his personal journals were not to be published until an official biography had been published and at least twenty-five years had elapsed since his death. In accordance with Merton's wishes his personal journals were published between 1995-1998 in seven volumes. However, as Merton's personal journals were published in their entirety, the decision was made to continue to restrict access to the handwritten original journals to ensure their preservation. So this will be a unique and limited opportunity for visitors to the Thomas Merton Center to see Merton personal journal from 1968.

Also on exhibit will be other artifacts relating to Merton's meetings with the Dalai Lama along with artifacts from the final months of Merton's life, including notebooks, photographs, correspondence and other items from the Merton Center archives. 

engaging Compassion

His Holiness
the 14th Dalai Lama

Louisville’s Tibetan Buddhist Center, the Drepung Gomang Institute, and the City of Louisville will host His Holiness the Dalai Lama May 19-21, 2013.

The three-day event, called “Engaging Compassion”, will begin on Sunday, May 19 at the YUM! Center when the Dalai Lama will present a public talk to an expected crowd of 16,000.

On Monday, May 20, at the Yum! Center the Dalai Lama will give a two-part public Buddhist teaching in the morning and afternoon.

On Tuesday, May 21, His Holiness will address middle and high school students at the Kentucky Center for the Arts

A Hidden Wholeness
The Zen Photography
of Thomas Merton

McGrath Art Gallery,
Bellarmine University

May 7th - June 2nd, 2013

Further information...

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama
Special Exhibit

Thomas Merton Center,
Bellarmine University

April 29th - June 2nd, 2013

Further information...

Links of Interest

Visiting the Merton Center

Dalai Lama Louisville Website

The Drepung Gomang Institute

Drepung Gomang Monastery

Dalai Lama - Official Website

Festival of Faiths

Center for Interfaith Relations