The Dean and Chapter of York Minster is defending the practice of Buddhism in Minster buildings as details of Buddhist ceremonies in yet another of England’s most beautiful and historic cathedrals emerged.
York Minster said the Zen Sangha was a group that meets for meditation and to explore common ground between Zen Buddhism and the Christian faith.
Commenting on concerns arising from emergence of the details at Pentecost, the Dean of York, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, said: “The Zen Sangha group has been granted the use of a meeting space in the Old Palace – the Minster’s Library located in Dean’s Park – for the last two years. They do not and have never met in the cathedral.
“The Zen group is not a religious order of any kind and the Chapter of York would not give permission for any such religious order to be set up at York Minster. The meetings aim to offer an opportunity for Christians and others to come together to learn about and explore Zen meditation practices and the congruence of Zen with Christian faith.”
At the same time it was revealed that only in March, eight monks from Tashi Lhunpo Buddhist monastery in South India spent three days at Durham Cathedral and made a sand mandala in the north transept.
A mandala is a traditional tantric design, using coloured sand to represent the palace of a Buddha.
After the mandala was made, the cathedral offered opportunities for anyone aged five or over to take part in workshops with the monks, exploring monastic art and culture and learning some Tibetan language. At the end, the monks said a prayer of blessing for the work they had done and swept away the sand to the centre of the table in a ceremony representing the impermanence of all things, and the quality of non-attachment.
Church of England clergyman Peter Ould, an influential evangelical, told Christian Today: “The use of mandalas by Buddhists is not just as a work of art but as an act of worship.
“A mandala is an icon of the Buddhist view of the spiritual makeup of the universe and its creation is accompanied by a liturgy that is the antithesis of Christian cosmology.
“The idea that a Cathedral should allow and encourage others to participate in a three-day act of worship that explicitly denies basic Christian truths displays either great theological naivety or, more seriously, a mendacious willingness to undermine the Gospel.”