From Missionaries to Zen Masters: The Society of Jesus and Buddhism
(9,608 words)

Trent Pomplun

Last modified: October 2017

The European encounter with Buddhism dates from Alexander the Great’s eastward expansion in 334 BCE.1 Sporadic contact with the disciples of Siddhārtha Gautama, or Śākyamuni Buddha (c.460–380 BCE), led to the conversion of King Menander I Soter (165–30 BCE), the celebrated immolation of Zarmanochegas (Śramaṇācarya, fl. 22/21 BCE), and the Christianization of the life of the Buddha in the stories of saints Barlaam and Josaphat. Church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria mentioned the Buddha in passing, and the church sponsored no fewer than four missions to Mongolia during the Middle Ages, culminating with the mission of the Franciscan William of Rubruck (c.1220–93) to the court of Mongkë Khan in 1253–54. For the four centuries between 1550 and 1950, however, Europe owed much of its knowledge of Buddhism to the ever-enterprising priests of the Society of Jesus. Buddhism was flourishing in China when the Jesuits arrived in the sixteenth century and practically monopolized the religious life of what is now Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Tibet.2 The Oratorians evangelized Sri Lanka; the Barnabites, Myanmar; and the Dominicans, Cambodia. Missionaries of the Society of Jesus pioneered studies of Buddhism in Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Tibet. Jesuit historians of the twentieth century recovered the work of those missionaries, and by mid-century, scholars of the Society had authored important academic studies of Buddhism. Along the way, Jesuits in Japan pioneered a contemplative approach to inter-religious dialogue, and Jesuit theologians drew inspiration from Buddhist teachings. Scholarship on each of these chapters in the history of the engagement of the Society of Jesus with Buddhism has grown in the last two decades and—in some cases at least—has grown self-critical. It would be impossible to summarize such a long and storied encounter. It suffices for our purposes that Jesuits left records of the Buddhists they evangelized, studied, befriended, and idolized.


Accounts of Buddhism in the Early Society of Jesus

The most important early accounts of Buddhism were written by the great Jesuit missionaries in Japan, especially Nicolò Lancillotto (d.1558), Francis Xavier (1506–52), Cosme de Torres (1510–70), Luís Fróis (1532–97), Baltasar Gago (1515–83), and Alessandro Valignano (1539–1606). Although Francis Xavier is usually thought the first Jesuit to describe Buddhism, his famous account—to which we shall turn presently—made use of two previous reports, one written by the Portuguese trader Jorge Álvarez and a second written by Lancillotto. The source of both was a Japanese man named Anjirō, whom Álvarez brought to India. Lancillotto’s report described three different Buddhist sects—most likely Shingon, Ji-shū, and the Sōtō branch of Zen—wrongly attributing to them a belief in a single creator God, the great light Dainichi, whom (he claims) the Japanese worshipped in the form of a single being with three heads. Lancillotto’s report mentions Buddhist monasteries, learning, penance, and—in what would soon become commonplace accusation among the Jesuits in China and Japan—their “sodomy.”

Xavier expanded Lancillotto’s treatment in his famous letter to Ignatius Loyola on January 12, 1549. Although the chief aim of Xavier’s letter was to inform Ignatius of the spiritual challenges he faced in India, Xavier repeated news he had heard from Anjirō that Japanese Buddhists took their religious law from a land beyond China and Tibet called “Tenjiku.”3 In another letter to the Society of June 22, 1549, Xavier related that Japanese Buddhists had superiors, brothers, sermons, and a distinctive way of meditating.4 Between August and October 1549, however, Xavier befriended one “Ninxit,” that is, Ninshitsu, the fifteenth abbot of the Kukushō-ji Sōtō Zen monastery in Kagoshima. Xavier disputed followers of Shingon Buddhism in late summer 1551 before Prince Yoshitaka in Yamaguchi, learning that Dainichi was in fact the Primordial Buddha Vairocana. (As it so happens, Anjirō had previously been an adherent of Shingon, whose principal Buddha was Vairocana.) Xavier believed the Buddhist doctrine of “emptiness” to be a first principle identical to the Scholastic notion of prime matter. Xavier’s companion Cosme de Torres also participated in an extended disputation with representatives of different Buddhist sects from September 15–23, 1551, highlighting the incompatibility of the Christian notion of creation and Buddhist notions of rebirth.

Xavier’s most famous account, however, is his general letter of January 29, 1552.5 Xavier rightly noted that Buddhism came to Japan by way of China and described the Buddhist canon, which he describes—seemingly in reference to the previous lives of the Buddha recounted in the Jātakamāla—as the writings of “men who performed great penances, for a thousand, two thousand, or even three thousand years, whose names are Xaca [Śākyamuni] and Ameda [Amitābha].” Xavier’s letter, while often lacking in exactitude, marked a great advance in the European knowledge of Buddhism. He mentioned the “nine principal sects” of Japanese Buddhism, by which he appears to mean Tendai, Shingon, Nichiren, the Zen schools of Rinzai and Sōtō, and the Pure Land traditions of Jōdo-shū, Jōdo-Shinshū, Ji-shū, and Yūzū-Nembutsu. He related that none of the nine sects taught a doctrine of the creation of the world or souls ex nihilo, but all (save perhaps Zen) recognized heaven and hell in a confused manner. Xavier noted, for the first time, the five principal prohibitions of Buddhism and obliquely indicated the Prātimokṣa of the Dharmguptaka Vinaya, which has 250 rules for monks and 348 rules for nuns, in his reference to “three hundred and five commandments” adopted by some of the bonzes. The defining feature of Buddhism in Xavier’s eyes was an almost exclusive emphasis upon the Buddha as an intercessor. Whatever their rivalries or doctrinal differences, all nine sects saw in their founder a man who had shown compassion for his followers and performed great penances on their behalf.

Xavier—it must be admitted—was not especially enthusiastic about Buddhism. He denounced the financial deception of the laity by Buddhist monks and—again—their “sodomy.” After having Japanese Christians translate the lives of Śākyamuni and Amitābha, whom Xavier thought might have been men “devoted to philosophy,” he decided the two men to be the invention of demons. Xavier did, however, present several Buddhist objections to Christian teaching with genuine ethnographic sensitivity, noting the “great doubts” held by the people of Yamaguchi about the alleged goodness of a God who had not revealed himself to their ancestors. Xavier’s presentation of Buddhist arguments about theodicy even retain some of the suasive force of the Buddhist originals.  Xavier also depicted Buddhists as being almost wholly unable to answer Christian philosophical arguments—a somewhat dubious claim. In a letter to Ignatius Loyola also written on January 29, 1552, however, Xavier noted the need for “trained scholars, especially good masters to answer the bonzes’ questions and dialecticians to snare them when they contradict themselves.”6 Of course, that Xavier knew Buddhists quite skilled in dialectics is readily apparent in his request. He even repeated it in second letter to Loyola on April 9, 1552.7

Xavier’s letters, which were reprinted several times in Europe, set the tone for much of the discourse about Buddhism in the West. Jesuits often engaged Buddhism, for example, with the categories of Western philosophy. Francisco Cabral (1529–1609), after converting and conversing with a “very learned bonze” in 1571, believed the various forms of Japanese Buddhism he read about could be reduced to the various philosophers’ opinions treated by Aristotle in the first book of the Physics. Despite his willingness to see the Japanese as capable of teaching and practicing philosophy, Cabral had a less optimistic view of their capacities to be good Christians, highlighting the great differences between Japanese and European (or some might say, Portuguese) culture.  Cabral was opposed by Alessandro Valignano, the man many see as the chief architect of the “accommodation” and/or “inculturation” for which the Jesuits would become famous. Valignano believed Buddhism to have originated in Siam, or modern-day Thailand, where the man Xaca [Śākyamuni] taught about Amida [Amitābha], the first principle and final end of all things. Valignano interpreted Buddhism to be both an elite religion, which interpreted the Buddha’s teachings in a pantheistic manner, and a popular religion, in which ordinary people still believed in rewards for the just and punishment of the wicked. This judgment probably represents a misunderstanding of differences between Zen and Pure Land Buddhism. Still, Valignano’s writings had no small influence upon European conceptions of Buddhism. His Historia del principio y progresso de la Compañía de Jesús en las Indias Orientales (1584) served as the basis for the chapter on Japan in the popular Historiarum Indicarum libri XVI (1588) of Giovanni Pietro Maffei (1553–1603), while Valignano’s Catechismus christianae fidei in quo veritas nostrae religionis ostenditur et sectae Japonsenses confutantur (1586) introduced Europeans to the Buddhist doctrine of “two truths” (gon-jitsu) and Buddha-nature (busshō). Valignano’s polemically-charged catechism still interpreted the (admittedly broad) notion of the “Way of heaven” (Chinese, Tiandao; Japanese, tentō or tendō) as a “supreme being” and likened Shinran’s Ikko-shū to the heresy of Martin Luther. Valignano, with the sponsorship of three Japanese daimyōs, also organized the Tenshō Embassy, which sent the Japanese ambassador Mancio Itō (1570–1610) to visit the pope and monarchs of Europe between 1582 and 1590. The notes taken during the journey form the basis of Duarte de Sande’s (1547–99) De missione legatorum Iaponensium ad Romanam Curiam (1590).

Jesuits in China, despite their initial attempts to “inculturate” as Buddhist bonzes when they first arrived in China, did not devote as much critical attention to Buddhism as they did to Confucianism and Daoism. Matteo Ricci’s (1552–1610) True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (天主實義) criticized Buddhist notions of rebirth and vegetarianism as superstition. Basing himself on Valignano’s Catechismus Japonensis, Ricci asserted the need for a rational means to demonstrate God’s existence, attempted to refute Buddhist notions of a first principle, and argued for the immortality of the soul against Buddhist notions of rebirth. He repeated many of the same criticisms in his Della entrata della Compagnia di Gesù e christianità nella China, which is the first presentation of Buddhism in China written for a Western audience. Johann Adam Schall von Bell (1592–1666) discussed proofs for God’s existence and the immortality of the soul in his Origins of the Lord’s Teaching (主教緣起).  Martino Martini (1614–61), the author of the first grammar of Mandarin and the sensationalistic De bello Tartarico historia, combatted Buddhist claims in his Rational Proofs of the Nature of God and the Soul (真主靈性理證), but also described Buddhism in two popular works intended for Europeans, the Novus Atlas Sinensis and the Sinicae historiae decas prima. Diego de Pantoja (1571–1618) and Manuel Dias the Younger (1574–1659) also wrote works that took up the demonstration of God’s existence and the immortality of the soul, the Further Essay on the True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (天主實義續篇) and the Debate on the Question of Generation (代疑論), respectively. The Jesuits’ attempt to translate the Conimbricenses into Chinese—a project that included the Cursory Remarks on the Soul (靈言蠫勺) of Francesco Sambiasi (1582–1649), the Brief Outline of Human Nature (性學觕述) of Giulio Aleni (1582-1649), On the Heavens (寰有詮) and Investigation of Names and Principles (名理探) by Francisco Furtado (1587–1653), and the Western Teaching on Moral Cultivation (修身西學) and Investigation into the Reaches of Space (空際格致) of Alfonso Vagnone (1568–1640)—all touched upon Buddhist notions obliquely. Perhaps the book of greatest importance for the European understanding of Buddhism was the presentation on the teachings of Śākyamuni written by Prospero Intorcetta (1626–96) and included in the Confucius Sinarum philosophus edited by Philippe Couplet (1623–93). Buddhism does not fare especially well in these accounts; rarely, however, was it engaged directly.

Jesuits in Southeast Asia contributed more to the European understanding of Buddhism. Alexandre de Rhodes (1593–1660) included descriptions of Buddhism in his Histoire du royaume de Tunquin (1650), Tunchinensis historiae libri duo (1652), and Divers voyages et missions du P. Alexandre de Rhodes en la Chine et autres royaumes de l’Orient (1653). De Rhodes developed a Roman transliteration for Vietnamese in his Catechismus pro iis, qui volunt suscipere baptismum in octo dies divisus (1651) that is still in use today. The most read book from the Southeast Asian missions was the Voyage de Siam, des pères jésuites, envoyez par le roy aux Indes et à la Chine: Avec leurs observations astronomiques, et leurs remarques de physique, de géographie, d’hydrographie, et d’histoire (1686) of Guy Tachard (1651–1712). Jesuits were the first to engage Tibetan Buddhism as well. Bento de Góis (1562–1607) traveled briefly in Eastern Tibet in 1605/6–1607, but he did not leave detailed accounts of Buddhism or Buddhists. António de Andrade (1580–1634), Francisco de Azevedo (1578–1660), Estêvão Cacella (1585–1630), and João Cabral (1599–1669), however, left accounts of missions in Tsaparang, central Tibet, and Bhutan. Andrade’s Novo descobrimento do Gram Cathayo ou reinos de Tibet (1626) introduced European readers to Tibetan Buddhism. The Jesuits Johann Grueber (1623–80) and Albert d’Orville (1621–62) were the first Western Europeans to visit Lhasa, and Grueber’s account gave rise to the fantastical depiction of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism in Athanasius Kircher’s China illustrata (1665).

Arguably the most extensive scholarly engagement with Buddhism found in the early Society can be found in the four Tibetan works written by Ippolito Desideri (1684–1733), who lived in Tibet between 1716 and 1721. Among the Jesuits of the pre-suppression Society, Desideri stands alone as the single scholar to attempt to engage Buddhism using its own sophisticated dialectic of Madhyamaka philosophy. Desideri’s earliest extant treatise, The Dawn, Sign of the Sun that Dispels Darkness (Tho rangs mun sel shar ba’i brda), which adopted the classic stylistic conventions of The Testimonial Record of Padmasaṃbhava (Padma bka’ thang), might well represent the first European engagement with a text specifically imbued with the ethos of Tantric Buddhism. Desideri’s second, more explicitly Scholastic treatise, the Origin of Sentient Beings and Other Phenomena (Sems can dang chos la sogs pa rnams kyi ’byung khungs), attempted to demonstrate the existence of God and providence as the two necessary preambles of the faith. His magnum opus, the Questions about the Doctrines of Rebirth and Emptiness Offered to the Scholars of Tibet by the European Lama Ippolito (Mgo skar bla ma i po li do zhes bya ba yis phul ba'i bod kyi mkhas pa rnams la skye pa snga ma dang stong pa nyid kyi lta ba'i sgo nes zhu ba) refuted what the Jesuit believed to be the principal Buddhist arguments against the faith, namely, the eternal rebirth of sentient beings and the doctrine of the absolute emptiness (stong pa nyid) of all that is. At 464 pages, the unfinished manuscript was only one-sixth complete. Even Desideri’s small catechism, the Essence of the Christian Religion (Chos lugs kyi snying po), contained short philosophical arguments against Buddhism. Desideri also wrote an account of his travels in Tibet—actually a few different accounts—in Italian in order to publicize the mission and garner favor for his legal battle against the Capuchins for the rights to the mission. As the Jesuit lost his case and was subsequently silenced by his superiors, the first modern scientific study of Tibetan religion, history, and culture languished in the archives along with manuscripts of his Tibetan works.


Buddhism and the Historiography of the Missions

The modern historiography of the Jesuit encounter with Buddhism, like other aspects of the Society’s historiography, begins with the Society’s twenty-fourth general congregation of 1892. The Society, riding the wave of “historical faith” initiated by Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886), began to search out primary sources and publish critical editions concerning every aspect of its history and mission.8 Chief among the early fruits of this renewed interest in historiography, of course, were the Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu and Carlos Sommervogel’s Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus. The Monumenta Historica served as the template for similar sub-series that focused on the missions, especially the Monumenta Missionum Societatis Jesu (1944—) and the Documenta Indica (1948—), and several new journals and monograph series, such as Monumenta Nipponica (1938—). Sommervogel’s bibliography attracted the interest of Jesuit historians of the missions like Cornelius Wessels (1880–1964), Henry Hosten (1873–1935), Georg Schurhammer (1882–1971), and Josef Wicki (1904–93). Much of the pre-suppression Society’s encounter with Buddhism became available to scholars through these historians.

Jesuits were not alone in studying their order. In fact, they were preceded by a variety of archivists, explorers, and secular historians. The English explorer and geographer Clements Markham (1830–1916) announced the discovery of Ippolito Desideri’s account of his Tibetan travels in 1876.9 Carlo Puini (1839–1924), the Italian Orientalist who discovered it, published selections in a series of books and articles over a decade spanning the turn of the century, including one devoted to Desideri’s treatment of Tibetan Buddhism.10 Puini’s articles generated great interest in Desideri’s geographical knowledge. Although the British, engaged in the Great Game, tended to dismiss the Jesuit out of hand, he found praise and some measure of popularity in the work of the explorer Sven Hedin (1865–1952).11 Soon, the Society became interested in Desideri, with Cornelius Wessels announcing the discovery of one of Desideri’s letters and, more important, writing the first general account of Jesuits who had traveled in Tibet.12 In addition to a concluding chapter on Ippolito Desideri, Wessels devoted chapters to the journeys of Bento de Góis, António de Andrade, Francisco de Azevedo, Estêvão Cacella, João Cabral, Johann Grueber, and Albert D’Orville. Wessels published Azevedo’s account of his journey, Grueber’s eulogy, and letters from Cacella, Cabral, and Grueber. Although Wessels emphasized Desideri’s role as an explorer, geographer, and ethnographer, he was the first to describe Ippolito Desideri’s Tibetan texts, even if he could not read them.

Other scholars called attention to Andrade, and the account of his travels in Tibet was republished.13 In this respect, the 1920s and the 1930s saw the gradual discovery and collection of letters concerning the Jesuit missions to Tibet. Henry Hosten published several Jesuit letters relating to the exploration of the Himalayas, culminating in a detailed historical analysis and translations of most of Desideri’s letters.14  Desideri’s account of Tibet was partially translated into English as well, although the long section on Buddhism was severely abridged.15 This early work on the missions to Tibet culminated in the work of several Italian Tibetologists during the 1940s and 1950s. Giuseppe Tucci (1894–1984), a man many might claim to be the greatest Tibetologist of the twentieth century, saw in Desideri the first “modern” Tibetologist.16 Although Tucci did not appear to have studied Desideri’s Tibetan works in detail, he was the first to announce the theological and philosophical importance of the Jesuit’s encounter with Buddhism.17 Two of Tucci’s students made immediate contributions to the study of the Society’s engagement with Buddhism. Giuseppe Toscano (1911–2003), a Xaverite priest who would later publish an edition of Desideri’s Tibetan writings, wrote an important monograph on the Tibetan mission to Tsaparang.18 The early phase of studies on Ippolito Desideri found its conclusion in the work of Luciano Petech (1914–2010), who published a complete critical edition of Desideri’s letters and account in the final three volumes of his collection of documents on Italian missionaries in Tibet and Nepal.19 What is more important, Petech restored the full account of Ippolito Desideri’s treatment of Tibetan religion, the Dalai Lama, and Madhyamika philosophy—all with an analysis of the primary Tibetan texts that served as the basis for Desideri’s manuscripts.

Studies of the Jesuits in Japan followed a parallel track. Here, too, the first modern historical works were written by secular historians, such as Guglielmo Berchet (1833–1913) and Francesco Boncompagni-Ludovisi (1886–1955), who published the documents of the Tenshō Embassy.20 Soon, however, Jesuits provided the dominant impetus, most notably Georg Schurhammer (1882–1971), who began his career with an important monograph on the problem of translating philosophical and theological terms in the mission and a translation of Fróis’s history of Japan.21 Several primary sources for the early Jesuit knowledge of Japanese Buddhism were published in quick succession over the next three decades. In 1938, João do Amaral Abranches Pinto and Okamoto Yoshitomo published the second part of Fróis’s history.22 In the 1940s, Schurhammer and Josef Wicki published a new critical edition of Francis Xavier’s writings, Wicki published Valignano’s Historia del principio y progresso, and Franz Josef Schütte published Valignano’s Il ceremoniale per i missionari del Giappone.23 José Luis Álvarez-Taladriz published a new edition of Valignano’s Sumario de las cosas de Japón and its Adiciones in 1954.24  Schütte published Fróis’s manuscript Tratado em que se contem muito susinta e abreviadamente algumas contadições e diferenças de custumes entre a gente de Europa e esta provincial de Japão, which outlined the differences between European and Japanese customs in a long series of distichs.25 Adelino de Almeida Calado published documents that shed light on the early disputations of Xavier and his companions with Buddhists.26

The publication of these primary sources led to the first comprehensive studies of Xavier and Valignano. The first of these was Schütte’s two-volume study of Valignano’s mission principles for evangelizing Japanese Buddhists.27 Schütte took great pains to distinguish the more positive views of Valignano from the more “pessimistic” ones of Francisco Cabral (1529–1609). In contrast, Schütte provided translations of extracts from Cabral’s correspondence, including several statements about the greed, haughtiness, and insincerity of the Japanese. The grand achievement of this first period of mission studies is Schurhammer’s four-volume life of Francis Xavier, which told the Jesuit’s life through a vast number of primary sources in several languages, all expertly translated and synthesized.28 These grand works were the first to provide detailed and accurate information about the Buddhists that Jesuits encountered and disputed in Japan, and served as the point of departure for much of the inter-religious dialogue between Jesuits and Buddhists in Japan that followed. Of course, research on other missions, while they lagged behind the study of the missions in Tibet and Japan, still made progress. Eduardo Torralba, S.J., laid the groundwork for the later study of Alexandre de Rhodes, and Claude Larre and Pham Dinh Khiem published a new edition of de Rhodes’s Catechism.29

Whereas scholars routinely praise the astounding historical and textual depth of these early studies, they sometimes complain of a certain “hagiographic” tone taken by some authors. In many respects, I think, this is due to the popularity of G. H. Dunne’s Generation of Giants, which introduced several scholars to the field.30 I am less inclined to see this literature as hagiographical. More often than not, its triumphalism concerns the scientific, historical, and progressive sentiments of the Society. Still, much of the early twentieth-century research on Jesuits in the missions—certainly the work done by Jesuits themselves—was driven by concerns in the contemporary missions, especially the re-litigation of the Chinese Rites controversy in the 1930s. Jesuit scholars of the twentieth century praised the “modernity” of the early Jesuits, while decrying the supposedly “medieval” methods of other religious orders, especially the Franciscans. These charges have little if any basis in fact, although they continue to appear in the academic literature. Be that as it may, it would be foolish to deny the scholarly value of these Jesuit missionaries’ work on this account. Séraphin Couvreur (1835–1919), for example, created of the EFEO system of transcribing Chinese promoted by the École français d’Extrême-Orient, which served as the basis for a most French-language Sinological works until being replaced by Pinyin in the late twentieth century. Modern Jesuit missionaries also wrote important works in Buddhist studies. Léon Wieger (1856–1933), who is better known as a scholar of Daoism, published an important translation of texts from the Chinese Tripiṭaka.31 Joseph Masson (1908–98), the Jesuit who coined the term “inculturation,” authored studies on popular religion in the Pāli Buddhist Canon and the Noble Eightfold Path.32 The foremost—and perhaps most prolific—Jesuit author on Buddhism was Heinrich Dumoulin (1905–95). Dumoulin is best known for his comprehensive two-volume history of Zen, although his writings include reflections on the role of Buddhism in the modern world and the encounter between Christianity and Buddhism.33 The theologian Henri de Lubac (1896–1991) was even asked by his superior to write a series of books on Buddhism. De Lubac, laying low after the controversy surrounding his book Surnaturel, did not know any Asian languages, but wholly familiarized himself with the secondary academic literature.34 He saw in Japanese Pure Land Buddhism an anticipation of Christian truths and in Buddhism an ascetic vocation that, had God not revealed himself to the world, would be the only intellectually and spiritually honest response to suffering. In another essay, de Lubac drolly complained about the fascination with Nietzsche, wondering why such an obviously unhealthy soul enthralled so many modern people, when the Buddhist philosophers Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu were obviously superior thinkers.35 In many respects, de Lubac’s books on Buddhism represent the height of the theological engagement with Buddhism before the Second Vatican Council. They stand alongside the historical works of Schurhammer, Schütte, and Dumoulin as monuments to the age.

Jesuits did not merely engage Buddhism intellectually, however. Many became practitioners of Zen Buddhism. Dumoulin, for example, was first encouraged in his study of Buddhism by Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle (1898–1990), a Jesuit professor at Sophia University in Tokyo whom many consider the founder of modern Zen-Catholic dialogue. Sent to Japan as a missionary in 1929, Enomiya-Lassalle became vicar of Hiroshima in 1940 and survived the nuclear bomb dropped by American forces on August 6, 1945. Enomiya-Lassalle studied Zen meditation with Daiun Sogaku Harada (1871–1961), who with Hakuun Yasutani (1885–1973), was one of the principal founders of the Sanbō Kyōdan lineage of Zen Buddhism, a lay movement that drew inspiration from both Rinzai and Sōtō traditions.36 When Harada died in 1961, Enomiya-Lassalle studied under Yamada Kōun (1907–89), a man who played a vital role in introducing Zen to several Western students, not least among them Philip Kapleau (1912–2004).37 Yamada Kōun would shape the Zen teaching of Jesuits such as Thomas Hand (1921–2005),38 Robert Kennedy (b.1933),39AMA Samy (b.1936),40 Niklaus Brantschen (b.1937),41 and Ruben Habito (b.1947).42 To the direct heirs of Yamada Rōshi, we might add the Irish Jesuit William Johnston (1925–2010)43 and the German Jesuit Hans Waldenfels (b.1931).44 Most of these Jesuits wrote in the long shadow of Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (1870–1966), the great popularizer of Zen in America during the twentieth century,45 and his friend Thomas Merton (1915–68), whose reflections served as the template for countless works on Buddhist-Christian Dialogue.46 Many of these Jesuits also attempted to ground the primacy of experience in phenomenological and existentialist categories largely taken from the so-called Kyōto School of Kitarō Nishida (1870–1945), Hajime Tanabe (1885–1962), Keiji Nishitani (1900–90), and Masao Abe (1915–2006).

Not all Jesuit writers on Zen were originally missionaries. Kakichi Kadowaki (1926–2017), a Japanese convert who was baptized by Dumoulin, studied at the Gregoriana under Pedro Arrupe (1907–91) and was a disciple of the Rinzai Rōshi Ōmari Sōgen (1904–94) rather than Yamada Kōun.47 Kadowaki questioned the spiritual authority of many of the greatest thinkers of the Kyōto School and did not hesitate to criticize the Sanbō Kyōdan lineage that had nourished so many other Jesuits. Kadowaki was even perceived to have slighted Yamada Rōshi himself when he denied that Philip Kapleau was an authentic Zen teacher.48 Kadowaki developed the International Zen–Ignatian Training Program, however, which used Zen meditation to deepen one’s experience of the Spiritual Exercises, and assisted Sadami Takayama at the Gregoriana with his comparative study of the conversions of St. Paul and Shinran (1173–1262), the founder of the Jōdo-Shinshū tradition of Buddhism.49


Buddhism and the New Historiography of the Missions

Studies of the missions continued apace during the heady years after the Second Vatican Council. The 1960s saw a general widening of perspectives in studies of the missions. Donald Lach’s Asian in the Making of Europe, while at once a general history of the Europe’s knowledge of Asia, also demonstrated Asia’s often unacknowledged influence on European culture.50 In Lach’s monumental work, the missions (and the Jesuits’ encounter with Buddhism) found their place within much larger intellectual, economic, and political currents. In Japan, Murakami Naojirō and Watanabe Yosuke’s revised translations of the Jesuit relations from Japan appeared, and Ebisawa Arimichi, Doi Tadao, and Ōtsuka Mitsunobu published a collection of Japanese Christian and anti-Christian texts.51 In 1973, Hubert Cieslik published an important article on Cristóvão Ferreira (c.1580–1650), the Jesuit superior in Japan who apostatized under torture and wrote a number of philosophical works in Japanese.52 (There has since been some debate about whether Ferreira’s anti-Christian The Deception Revealed (顕偽録) is authentic.53)  In the United States, George Elison’s ingenious study Deus Destroyed gave many English readers the first real taste of the genuine inter-religious conflicts between Christians and Buddhists in Japan.54 The heart of Elison’s study was the “double apostate” Fabian Fucan (c.1565–1621), a Buddhist-turned-Jesuit-turned-Buddhist-again who authored the Myōtei mondō (1605), a Christian rebuttal of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism, and the Ha Daiusu (1620), an equally-biting satire on Christianity. Jacques Gernet wrote a similar, but more general, study about Chinese responses to Christian missionaries.55  Gernet made much of the Jesuits’ misunderstanding of Buddhism and delighted in quoting Buddhist accusations that Christians stole Buddhist ideas, even if his own presentations of basic Christian theology and Aristotelian philosophy were sloppy. After the pioneering studies of Elison and Gernet, however, more attention was paid to the relationship of converts who wrote criticisms of Buddhism under the direction of the Society. Nicolas Standaert devoted an entire study to Yang Tingyun (1563–1629), whose Tianshi mingbian, which discusses “the apparent similarity, but profound difference, between Christianity and Buddhism,” occasioned harsh rejoinders by the Buddhist monk Xingyuan.56 Erik Zürcher contributed an influential article on Xu Guangqi (1562–1633), who wrote similarly polemical works against Buddhism.57

Scholars also continued to discover new manuscripts. In 1968, Edmond Lamalle (1900–89), the Belgian curator of the Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu discovered some of Desideri’s Tibetan manuscripts, including his Tibetan catechism, misfiled among the Japanese manuscripts. Giuseppe Toscano identified the manuscript and scholars finally had access to all four of Desideri’s Tibetan manuscripts about Buddhism. Toscano (who mistakenly thought there were five different manuscripts) published facsimiles and Italian translations of three of these, and was working on his translation of Desideri’s “fifth” and largest work when he died.58 Toscano also published an important article on Desideri’s use of Aristotle, which remains the only study of its kind.59 In fact, the 1980s and 1990s saw a great revival in interest in the Jesuit missions to Tibet. The American Jesuit Richard Sherburne (1926–2013), a student of the Tibetan master Dezhung Rinpoche (1906–87) introduced many English-speaking students—including the present author—to the study of Ippolito Desideri with an important article in a memorial volume for his teacher Turrell Wylie.60 Nancy Moore Gettelman published an article on the seventeenth-century Jesuit mission to central Tibet in the same collection.61 N. Rauty did important archival research on Desideri’s family;62 Jürgen Aschoff and Hugues Didier revived interest in António Andrade;63 and two articles appeared on the travels of Grueber and D’Orville.64 The Jesuit Robert Goss also wrote an article on Ippolito Desideri’s Scholasticism, being the first to rightly recognize the broader early modern Scholastic contours of his thought.65 Joseph Moran re-booted the study of Valignano for a new generation.66

There was hardly any aspect of the previous historiography on Jesuits and Buddhism that was not continued and developed during these years. Scholarly treatments of the Zen-Catholic dialogue initiated by priests of the Society of Jesus compared the techniques of meditation in the two tradition, especially with regard to the Spiritual Exercises.67 In 1978, Daniel J. O’Hanlon, S.J., raised a few eyebrows by reflecting on the Jesuit attraction to the “macho” elements in Zen culture.68  The Jesuit Raymond Gawronski (1950–2016) gathered the scattered reflections on Buddhism found in the voluminous writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–88) into a compelling synthesis.69 The teachings of Karl Rahner (1904–84), especially on “anonymous Christianity,” served as inspiration for modern Buddhist-Christian dialogue.70 The Sri Lankan Jesuit Aloysius Pieris (b. 1934) called for greater dialogue with Buddhism within the framework of Asian liberation theology. Inspired by Marxist uprisings in Sri Lanka in 1971, Pieris argued that the church cannot respond to poverty in Asia without adopting the “metacosmic” vision of Buddhism.71

Jesuits play a role in several post-modern critiques of the Western knowledge of Buddhism after the manner of Jacques Gernet, such as  Bernard Faure’s Chan Insights and Oversights.72 Urs App has written a similar critique of the Jesuits’ ignorance of Japanese Buddhism.73 Historians of Buddhist studies such as Robert Sharf and Brian Victoria have exposed the pro-imperialist—and sometimes pro-Nazi—sentiments of several Zen masters who taught or inspired Jesuits.74 At the same time, Heinrich Dumoulin, whose two-volume history of Zen Buddhism had been required reading for more than a quarter century, is now criticized for being an Orientalist with an overly romantic reading of Zen Buddhism.75 Such works, in which Jesuit missionaries from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are forced to serve as ciphers for modern political anxieties, arguably find their ablest author in Donald S. Lopez, a Tibetanist who has included Ippolito Desideri in several of his works treating the colonialist implications of the Western study of Buddhism.76 Lopez has recently accused Desideri of “mocking” Tibetans, and—more ominously—of “cultural imperialism.”77

Despite these trends, much twenty-first-century scholarship continues in the grand tradition reaching back to Wessels, Hosten, Schurhammer, and Wicki. Bridging the generations, José Álvarez-Taladriz published Valignano’s Apología en la cual se responde a diversas calumnias que se escribieron contra los padres de la Compañía de Jesús de Japón y de la China (1598) in 1998.78  Nicolas Standaert and Adrian Dudink published new Chinese editions of several Jesuit manuscript from the old missions.79 Although this collection, which includes writings by Matteo Ricci, Giulio Aleni, Diego da Pantoja, and Xu Guangqi, does not concern Buddhism directly, it contains much that is of interest in the Jesuit treatments of Buddhism.  More directly, Thierry Meynard is quietly revolutionizing our knowledge of the Jesuit approach to Buddhism in China with series of articles, most notably pointing out the importance of the presentation of Buddhism in the Confucius Sinarum philosophus (1687) of Prospero Intorcetta (1626–96) and Philippe Couplet (1623–93) for European conceptions of Buddhism.80 On the Jesuits in Japan, Yoshimi Orii has recently summarized recent bibliographical research on Kirishitan-ban, the series of books published by the Jesuit mission press in Japan, focusing on how the sources “manipulated or revised” important sections of their European models, especially when they discussed complex philosophical and theological topics such as predestination and the immortality of the soul.81 Makoto Harris Takao has also expanded the traditional account of Jesuit missions in Japan by introducing readers to La conversione alla santa fede del re di Bungo jiaponese, an oratorio composed in 1703 by Pietro Paolo Laurenti (1675–1751), which enacted the theological disputation between Francis Xavier and Buddhist monks for the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Angelo in Faenza.82 I suppose it should come as no surprise that Valignano continues to fascinate scholars, having recently been treated to a grand conference.83 Marisa di Russo and Pia Assunta Airoldi have also published a comprehensive translation and study of the De missione legatorum Iaponensium ad Romanam Curiam.84

Nor does work in other Jesuit missions slacken. The twenty-first century has seen new work done on Alexandre de Rhodes, Estêvão Cacella, and even Ippolito Desideri’s travelling companion Manoel Freye.85 Studies of Desideri himself have undergone a renaissance, initiated with an important article by Enzo Bargiacchi on the discovery of Desideri’s manuscripts, followed by a monograph and an independent bibliography of works devoted to the Jesuit.86 Of course, no one has done more to revolutionize the study of the Jesuit missions in Tibet as the tandem of Michael Sweet and Leonard Zwilling, who have written definitive studies and translations of both Desideri and de Andrade. The first, which includes a monograph-sized introduction, footnotes aplenty, and translations of several related documents, is quite simply the standard work on Ippolito Desideri and the mission to Tibet.87 It will easily remain the standard unless a hoard of new documents are discovered. The second, a soon-to-be-published monograph and translation on Andrade, contains wonderful translations of the New Discovery of the Great Cathay, the 1625 Relation, the Annual Letter of 1626, and three additional letters.88 Sweet and Zwilling are Tibetanists, and so bring a rare depth of scholarship and sensitivity to the treatment of Buddhism in the accounts of Desideri and Andrade. Unlike Buddhist studies scholars in the tradition of Gernet, who have treated Jesuit missionaries as agents in the grand colonialist enterprise of Western imperialism, Sweet and Zwilling have taken the time to master the necessary scholarship on the history of the Society, the broadly Thomistic basis for its polemics, and the vast underbelly of manuscripts and primary sources related to Desideri and other missionaries.

As of this writing, there are no signs that such studies are slowing in pace or lacking in quality. All this bodes well for continued study of the long, storied engagement between the Society of Jesus and Buddhism.


For more bibliographical information, consult Boston College Jesuit Bibliography: The New Sommervogel Online (NSO).




^ Back to text1. For contrasting accounts of the history of the Western encounter with Buddhism, see Henri de Lubac, S.J., La rencontre du Bouddhisme et de l’occident (Paris: Aubier, 1952), and Donald S. Lopez, Jr., From Stone to Flesh (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

^ Back to text2. Though an Indian religion, Buddhism hardly survived there when the Jesuits arrived. Even Roberto de’ Nobili (1577–1656), an acknowledged master of Sanskrit and Tamil, gave only cursory accounts of Buddhism in his writings, identifying it simply as an “atheism” in contrast to the Vaiṣṇava and Śaiva traditions he encountered in south India. See the comments to this effect in Anand Amaladass, S.J., and Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Preaching Wisdom to the Wise: Three Treatises by Roberto de’ Nobili, S.J., Missionary and Scholar in 17th-Century India (St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2000), 9, 19.

^ Back to text3. Ep 70. Francis Xavier to Father Ignatius of Loyola, in Rome, from Cochin, January 12, 1549. Xavier and Anjirō, even as they spoke in modern-day Kerala, were unaware that Tenjiku (天竺) was the Japanese word for India.

^ Back to text4. Ep. 85. Francis Xavier to the Society in Europe from Malacca, June 22, 1549.

^ Back to text5. Ep 96. Francis Xavier to His Companions in Europe, from Cochin, January 29, 1552.

^ Back to text6. Ep 97. Francis Xavier to Father Ignatius of Loyola in Rome, from Cochin, January 29, 1552.

^ Back to text7. Ep 110. Francis Xavier to Father Ignatius of Loyola in Rome, from Goa, April 9, 1552.

^ Back to text8. The characterization is John W. O’Malley’s. See O’Malley, “The Historiography of the Society of Jesus: Where Does It Stand Today,” in The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts 1540–1773, ed. John W. O’Malley, Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steven J. Harris, and T. Frank Kennedy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 1:3–37, here 14.

^ Back to text9. Clements Markham, “Discovery of Father Desideri’s Journal in Tibet,” Geographical Magazine 3 (1876): 21.

^ Back to text10. Carlo Puini, “Di alcune lettere inedite o ignorate del P. Ippolito Desideri D.C.D.G., missionario nel Tibet,” in Al Professore Giovanni Marinelli nel 25o anniversario delle sue nozze (Florence: M. Ricci, 1895), 5–8.;  “Lhasa secondo la descrizione che ne fa Ippolito Desideri nella Relazione inedita del suo viaggio nel Tibet,” La cultura geografica 6–7 (1899): 71–74; “Il P. Ippolito Desideri e i suoi viaggi nell’India e nel e nel Tibet (1712–1727),” Studi italiani di filologia indo-iranica 3 (1899): i–xxxii; “Il Buddhismo nel Tibet secondo la Relazione inedita del P. Ippolito Desideri,” Studi italiani di filologia indo-iranica 3 (1899): 1–61; “Il matrimonio nel Tibet,” Rivista italiana di sociologia 4, no. 2 (1900): 149–68; “Viaggio nel Tibet del P. Ippolito Desideri,” Rivista geografica italiana 7, no. 10 (1900): 565–82; Il Tibet (geografica, storia, religione, costumi) secondo la relazione del viaggio di Ippolito Desideri 1715–1721 (Rome: Società Geografica Italiana, 1904).

^ Back to text11. Sven Hedin, Trans-Himalaya: Discoveries and Adventures in Tibet, 3 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1909–13); “Early European Knowledge of Tibet,” Geografiska Annaler 1 (1919): 290–339.

^ Back to text12. Cornelius Wessels, S.J. “Lettura inedita del P. Ippolito Desideri S.I. scritta da Agra il 21 agosto 1714 al P. Francesco Piccolomini,” Atti e memorie del Convegno de geografi-orientalisti tenuto in Macerata il 25, 26, 27 settembre 1910 (Macerata: Giorgetti, 1911), 30–39; Early Jesuit Travellers in Central Asia, 1603–1721 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1924).

^ Back to text13. Francisco Maria Esteves Pereira, O descobrimento do Tibet pelo P. António de Andrade da Companhia de Jesus, em 1626: Narrado em duas cartas do mesmo religioso (Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade, 1921). Compare August Hermann Francke, “Die Jesuitenmission von Tsaparang im Lichte der tibetischen Urkunden,” Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 15 (1925): 269–76.

^ Back to text14. Henry Hosten, “A Letter of Father Francisco Godinho, S.J., from Western Tibet,” Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (n.s.), 21 (1925): 49–73; “A Letter of Fr. A. de Andrade, S.J., Tibet, August 29th, 1627,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (n.s.), 21 (1925): 75–91; “The Jesuits at Agra in 1635–1637,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, (1938): 479–501; “Letters and Papers of Fr. Ippolito Desideri, S.J., a Missionary in Tibet (1716–1721),” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1938): 567–767.

^ Back to text15. Filippo Filippi, An Account of Tibet: The Travels of Ippolito Desideri of Pistoia S.J., 1712–1727 (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1937).

^ Back to text16. Giuseppe Tucci, “The Travels of Ippolito Desideri,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1933): 353–58; “L’Italia e l’esplorazione del Tibet,” Asiatica 6 (1938): 435–46; “L’Italia e gli studi tibetani,” Civiltà (1940): 75–84; “Le missioni cattoliche e il Tibet,” in Le missioni cattoliche e la cultura dell'Oriente (Rome: IsMEO, 1943), 224–27.

^ Back to text17. Giuseppe Tucci, A Lhasa e oltre: Diario della spedizione nel Tibet MCMXLVIII (Rome: La Libreria dello Stato, 1952), 5.

^ Back to text18. Giuseppe Toscano, S.X. La prima missione cattolica nel Tibet (Parma: Istituto missioni estere, 1951).

^ Back to text19. Luciano Petech, I missionari italiani nel Tibet e nel Nepal, 7 vols. (Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1954–56).

^ Back to text20. Guglielmo Berchet, Le antiche ambasciate Giapponesi in Italia, Archivio Veneto, toms. XIII and XIV (Venice: Tip. del Commercio di Marco Visentini, 1877); Francesco Boncompagni-Ludovisi, Le prime due ambasciate dei giapponesi a Roma (1585–1615) (Rome: Forzani & Comp., Tipografi del Senato, 1904).

^ Back to text21. Georg Schurhammer, Das kirchliche Sprachproblem in der japanischen Jesuitmission des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts (Tokyo: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens, 1928); Luis Frois, Die Geschichte Japans (1549–1578), trans. G. Schurhammer and E. A. Voretzsche (Leipzig: Asia Minor, 1926).

^ Back to text22. Luis Frois, Segunda Parte da Historia de Japam que trata das couzas, que socedarão nesta V. Provincia da Hera de 1578 por diante, começãdo pela Conversão del Rey de Bungo (1578–1582), ed. João do Amaral Abranches Pinto and Okamoto Yoshitomo (Tokyo: Edição da Sociedade Luso-Japonesa – Nippo Kyōkai, 1938). Cf. Luís Fróis, Le première ambassade du Japon en Europe 1582–1592) / Tratados dos Embaixadores Iapões que forão de Iapão à Roma no anno de 1582, ed. João do Amaral Abranches Pinto, Okamoto Yoshitomo, Henri Bernard, S.J. (Tokyo: Sophia University, 1942).

^ Back to text23. Georgius Schurhammer, S.I., et Iosephus Wicki, S.I., Epistolae S. Francisci Xaverii aliaque eius scripta, 2 vols. (Rome: Monumenta Missionum Societatis Iesu, 1944-45); Valignano, Historia del principio y progresso; Il ceremoniale per i missionari del Giappone, ed. Franz Josef Schütte (Rome: Edizioni di “Storia e Letteratura,” 1946).

^ Back to text24. Alessandro Valignano, Sumario de las cosas de Japón (1583); Adiciones del Sumario de Japón (1592), ed. José Luis Álvarez-Taladriz (Tokyo: Sophia University, 1954).

^ Back to text25. Josef Franz Schütte, Luis Frois, S.J., Kulturgegensätze Europa-Japan (1585) (Tokyo: Sophia University 1955).

^ Back to text26. Adelino de Almeida Calado Livro que trata das cousas da India e do Japão: edição crítica do Códice quinhentista 5/381 da Biblioteca Municipal de Elvas (Coimbra, 1957); Frei João Álvares: Estudo textual e literário-cultural (Coimbra, 1964).

^ Back to text27. Josef Franz Schütte, S.J., Valignanos Missionsgrundsätze für Japan, 2 vols. (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1951–58).

^ Back to text28. Georg Schurhammer, Franz Xaver: Sein Leben und seine Zeit, 4 vols. (Freiburg: Herder, 1955–73). Schurhammer made interesting use of de Torres’s Sumario dos erros, em que os gentios do Japão vivem e de algumas seitas gentílicas, em que principalmente confião (Fondo Gesuitico 1488, 33, ff. 134–37v).

^ Back to text29. Eduardo Torralba, S.I., “La date de naissance du Père de Rhodes: 15 mars 1591, est-elle exacte?,” Bulletin de la Société des etudes indochinoises (n.s.) 35 (1960): 683–89.

^ Back to text30. George H. Dunne, S.J. Generation of Giants (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1962).

^ Back to text31. Léon Wieger, Bouddhisme chinois, 2 vols. (Hien-hien: Mission Catholique, 1910–13).

^ Back to text32. Joseph Masson, La religion populaire dans le canon bouddhique pâli (Louvain: Bureaux du Muséon, 1942); Le bouddhisme: Chemin de libération, approches et recherches (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1975.) For the first use of “inculturation,” see Masson, “L’Église ouverte sur le monde,” Nouvelle revue théologique 84 (1962): 1032–43, here 1038.

^ Back to text33. Heinrich Dumoulin, The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch in the Light of the Mumonkan (New York: First Zen Institute of America, 1953); Christianity Meets Buddhism (Lasalle: Open Court, 1974); Buddhism in the Modern World (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1976); Zen Enlightenment: Origins and Meaning (New York: Weatherhill, 1979); “The Person in Buddhism: Religious and Artistic Aspects,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 11 (1984): 143–67; Zen Buddhism, A History: India and China (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2005); Zen Buddhism, A History: Japan (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2005); I include these last two reprints of the original work that appeared in 1985–86 because they contain sensitive introductions written by John McRae and Victor Sogen Hori, respectively. The original works were followed by Early Chinese Zen Reexamined: A Supplement to Zen Buddhism: A History,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1993 (20): 31–53.

^ Back to text34. Henri de Lubac, Aspects du Bouddhisme (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1951); La rencontre du Bouddhisme et de l’occident (Paris: Aubier, 1952); Aspects du Bouddhisme: Amida (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1955).

^ Back to text35. Henri de Lubac, “The Mystique of Nietzsche,” The Month 989 (1950): 18–37.

^ Back to text36. Enomiya-Lassalle, Zen, Weg zur Erleuchtung (Wien: Herder, 1960), Zen-Buddhismus (Köln: Bachem, 1966); Zen-Meditation für Christen (Weilheim / Oberbayern: O. W. Barth, 1969); Zazen und die Exerzitien des heiligen Ignatius: Einübung in d. wahre Dasein (Köln: Bachem, 1975). On Enomiya-Lassalle, see Ursula Baatz, Hugo M. Enomiya-Lassalle: Ein Leben zwischen den Welten (Zürich: Benzinger, 1998); and Ursula Baatz, “Hugo M. Enomiya-Lassalle: Zen-Enlightenment and Christianity,” in Companion to Jesuit Mysticism, ed. Robert A. Maryks (Leiden: Brill, 2017),  335–57.

^ Back to text37. Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen (New York: Weatherhill, 1965).

^ Back to text38. Thomas G. Hand, Always a Pilgrim: Walking the Zen Christian Path (Burlingame: Mercy Center Meditation Program, 2004); When No Wind Stirs: A Tale of Enlightenment and True Love (Burlingame: Mercy Center Meditation Program, 2006).

^ Back to text39. Robert Kennedy, Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit (New York: Continuum, 1996); Zen Gifts to Christians (New York: Continuum, 2000). On Kennedy, see Bruno Barnhart and Yuese Huang, Purity of Heart and Contemplation: A Monastic Dialogue between Christian and Asian Traditions (New York: Continuum, 2001); Richard Hughes Seager, Buddhism in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).

^ Back to text40. AMA Samy, Zen Heart, Zen Mind: The Teachings of the Zen Master AmaSamy (Chennai: Cre-A, 2002). See Ursula Baatz, Erleuchtung trifft Auferstehung, Zen-Buddhismus und Christentum, eine Orientierung (Stuttgart: Theseus Verlag, 2009), 185–95. In a more critical vein, see Robert H. Sharf, “Sanbokyodan, Zen and the Way of the New Religions,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22 (1995): 417–58.

^ Back to text41. Niklaus Brantschen, Auf dem Weg des Zens: Als Christ Buddhist (München: Kösel, 2002); Weg der Stille (Wien: Herder, 2004); Mehr als alles: Denkanstöße aus Zen und Christentum (München: Kösel, 2012).

^ Back to text42. Ruben Habito, Living Zen, Loving God (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995); Experiencing Buddhism: Ways of Wisdom and Compassion (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005); Healing Breath: Zen for Christians and Buddhists in a Wounded World (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006); Total Liberation: Zen Spirituality and the Social Dimension (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2006); Zen and the Spiritual Exercises (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2013); Be Still: Zen and the Bible (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2017).

^ Back to text43. William Johnston, The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism (New York: Fordham, 1986); Christian Zen: A Way of Meditation (New York: Fordham,1989); The Mirror Mind: Zen-Christian Dialogue (New York: Fordham, 1990).

^ Back to text44. Hans Waldenfels, Absolute Nothingness: Foundations for a Buddhist-Christian Dialogue (New York: Paulist Press, 1980).

^ Back to text45. D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (New York: Macmillan, 1957).

^ Back to text46. Thomas Merton, Mystics and Zen Masters (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1967).

^ Back to text47. Kakichi Kadowaki, Zen and the Bible (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2002); “Ways of Knowing: A Buddhist-Thomist Dialogue,” International Philosophical Quarterly 6 (1966): 574–95; “Introducing Zazen into Christian Spirituality,” Eastern Buddhist (n. s.) 9 (1976): 106–21; “God as the Problem in Dialogue between Zen and Christianity,” in God: The Contemporary Discussion, ed. Frederick Sontag and Darrol Bryant (New York: Rose of Sharon, 1982), 375–86.

^ Back to text48. Kakichi Kadowaki, “Review of James Arraj, God, Zen and the Intuition of Being,” Gregorianum 70 (1989): 811–14.

^ Back to text49. Sadami Takayama, Shinran’s Conversion in Light of Paul’s Conversion (Rome: Gregorian University Press, 2000); “Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Japan,” in Between Past and Future, the Mission of the Catholic Church in Asia: The Contribution of Sophia University (Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2014), 61–72.

^ Back to text50. Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, vol. 1, book 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965).

^ Back to text51. Murakami Naojirō and Watanabe Yosuke, Yasokaishi Nihon tsūshin, 2nd revised edition, 2 vols. (Tokyo: Yūshōdō, 1966); Ebisawa Arimichi, Doi Tadao, and Ōtsuka Mitsunobu, eds., Kirishitan sho, Hai-Ya sho (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1970).

^ Back to text52. Hubert Cieslik, “The Case of Cristóvão Ferreira,” Monumenta Nipponica 29 (1973): 1–54. Cieslik’s academic article had been preceded by Shūsaku Endō’s famous novel Silence (Chinmoku, 1966), which was translated into English by William Johnston, S.J. in 1969. It was made into a full-length feature film directed by Martin Scorsese with the collaboration of James Martin, S.J. in 2016. 

^ Back to text53. Cristóvão Ferreira, La supercherie dévoilée: Une réfutation du catholicisme au Japon au XVIIe siècle, ed. Jacques Proust (Paris: Éditions Chandeigne, 1998). See Henrique Leitão, “Reseña de ‘La supercherie dévoilée: Une réfutation du catholicisme au Japon au XVIIe siècle,’” Bulletin of Portuguese / Japanese Studies 1 (2000): 131–34.

^ Back to text54. George Elison, Deus Destroyed: The Image of Christianity in Early Modern Japan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973).

^ Back to text55. Jacques Gernet, Chine et christianisme (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1982).

^ Back to text56. Nicolas Standaert, Yang Tingyun, Confucian and Christian in Late Ming China: His Life and Thought (Leiden: Brill, 1988), 162–69.

^ Back to text57. Erik Zürcher, “Xu Guangqi and Buddhism,” in Buddhism in China: The Collected Papers of Erik Zürcher, ed. Jonathan Silk (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 567–84.

^ Back to text58. Giuseppe Toscano, Alla scoperta del Tibet: Relazioni dei missionari del sec. XVII (Bologna: E.M.I., 1977); Opere tibetane di Ippolito Desideri, 4 vols. (Rome: IsMEO, 1981–89). The fifth volume remains in manuscript. 

^ Back to text59. Giuseppe Toscano, “Il concetto di śūnyatā nel Desideri,” Orientale Iosephi Tucci memoriae dicata, ed. G. Gnoli and L. Lanciotti (Rome: IsMEO, 1988), 1465–92.

^ Back to text60. Richard Sherburne, “A Christian-Buddhist Dialog Some Notes on Desideri’s Tibetan Manuscripts,” in Reflections on Tibetan Culture: Essays in Memory of Turrell V. Wylie, ed. Lawrence Epstein and Richard. Sherburne (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990), 295–305. Sherburne also made an important contribution to Buddhist studies by translating the Bodhipatha-pradīpa of Atīśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (982–1054), A Lamp for the Path and Commentary (London: Allen & Unwin, 1983). On the three “auspicious Christmas cards” sent by Dezhung Rinpoche to Sherburne, see David P. Jackson, A Saint in Seattle: The Life of the Tibetan Mystic Dezhung Rinpoche (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003), 568–69.

^ Back to text61. Nancy Moore Gettelman, “Karma-Bstan-skyong and the Jesuits,” in Reflections on Tibetan Culture: Essays in Memory of Turrell V. Wylie, ed. Lawrence Epstein and Richard Sherburne (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990), 269–77. Gettelman also translated a part of Desideri’s first Tibetan work into English, but never published it.

^ Back to text62. N. Rauty, “Notizie inedite su Ippolito Desideri e sulla sua famiglia tratte dagli archivi pistoiesi,” Bullettino storico pistoiese 86 (1984): 3–31.

^ Back to text63. Jürgen Aschoff, Tsaparang-Königsstadt in Westtibet: Die vollständigen Berichte des Jesuitenpaters António de Andrade und eine Beschreibung vom heutigen Zustand der Klöster (Munich: MC Verlag, 1989); Hugues Didier, “António de Andrade à l’origine de la tibétophilie européenne,” Portugiesische Forschungen der Gorresgesellschaft 20 (1988): 45–71; Les portugais au Tibet: Les premières relations jésuites (1624–1635) (Paris: Éditions Chandeigne, 1996); Os portugueses no Tibete (Lisbon: Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, 2000).

^ Back to text64. A. Pinsker, S.J., “Mitteilungen des Jesuiten Johann Grueber über Tibet,” in Contributions on Tibetan Language, History, and Culture: Proceedings of the Csomo de Korös Symposium Held at Velm-Vienna, Austria, 13–19 September 1981, ed. Ernst Steinkellner and Helmut Tauscher (Vienna: Arbeitskreis für tibetische und buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 1983), 289–302; Gerhard Strasser, “Tibet im 17. Jahrhundert: Johannes Grueber, S.J., seine Reisebeschreibungen und die Frage ihrer Veröffentlichung” in Daphnis: Zeitschrift für mittlere deutsche Literatur 24 (1995): 375–400.

^ Back to text65. Robert E. Goss, “The First Meeting of Catholic Scholasticism with dGe lugs pa Scholasticism,” in Scholasticism: Cross-cultural and Comparative Perspectives, ed. José Cabezon (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 65–90.

^ Back to text66. Joseph Moran, The Japanese and the Jesuits: Alessandro Valignano in Sixteenth-Century Japan (London: Routledge, 1993).

^ Back to text67. Robert McGown, “Christian Zen-cum-Ignatian Meditation,” Review for Religious 52 (1993): 507–18; Ovey Mohammed, “Yoga, Christian Prayer and Zen,” Review for Religious 53 (1994): 507–23.

^ Back to text68. Daniel J. O’Hanlon, “Zen and the Spiritual Exercises: A Dialogue Between Faiths,” Theological Studies 39 (1978): 737–68.

^ Back to text69. Raymond Gawronski, Word and Silence: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Spiritual Encounter between East and West (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995).

^ Back to text70. Heidi Ann Russell, “Keiji Nishitani and Karl Rahner: Response to Nihility,” Buddhist-Christian Studies 28 (2008): 27–41. Compare Paul G. Crowley, “Encountering the Religious Other: Challenges to Rahner’s Transcendental Project,” Theological Studies 65 (2004): 500–29. Crowley has also edited a collection of essays on this theme that includes reflections on Rahner’s legacy by the Jesuits Francis X. Clooney, George Griener, and Michael McCarthy. Crowley, Rahner beyond Rahner: A Great Theologian Encounters the Pacific Rim (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005).

^ Back to text71. Aloysius Pieris, An Asian Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988); Love Meets Wisdom: A Christian Experience of Buddhism (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988); Fire and Water: Basic Issues in Asian Buddhism and Christianity (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1996); Prophetic Humour in Buddhism and Christianity: Doing Inter-religious Studies in the Reverential Mode (Colombo: Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue, 2005). Pieris has also began to collect his many philosophical studies of Buddhism in Studies in the Philosophy and Literature of Pali Abhidhammika Buddhism (Colombo: Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue, 2005).

^ Back to text72. Bernard Faure, Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

^ Back to text73. Urs App, The Cult of Emptiness: The Western Discovery of Buddhist Thought and the Invention of Oriental Philosophy (Kyoto/Rorschach: University Media, 2012).

^ Back to text74. Robert Sharf, “The Zen of Japanese Nationalism,” History of Religion 33 (1993): 1–43; “Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience,” Numen 42 (1995): 228–83; “The Uses and Abuses of Zen in the Twentieth Century,” in Zen, Reiki, Karate: Japanische Religiosität in Europa (Bunka: Tübinger interkulturelle und linguistische Japanstudien, band 2), Inken Prohl and Hartmut Zinser, eds. (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2002), 143–54; “Whose Zen? Zen Nationalism Revisited,” in Rude Awakenings: Zen, the Kyoto School, and the Question of Nationalism (Nanzan Studies in Religion and Culture), ed. James W. Heisig and John Maraldo (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1995), 40–51; Brian Victoria, Zen at War, 2nd revised edition (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006). This last work was first published in 1997.

^ Back to text75. John McRae, Seeing Through Zen (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

^ Back to text76. Donald S. Lopez, Jr. “Foreigner at the Lama’s Feet,” in Curators of the Buddha: The Study of Buddhism Under Colonialism, ed. Donald S. Lopez Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 251–95; Prisoners of Shangri-la: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). It bears noting that a second revised version of Robert Sharf’s “The Zen of Japanese Nationalism,” appears in Curators of the Buddha, 107–60.

^ Back to text77. Donald S. Lopez, Jr. and Thubten Jinpa, Dispelling the Darkness: A Jesuit’s Quest for the Soul of Tibet (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017).

^ Back to text78. Alessandro Valignano, Apología de la Compañía de Jesús de Japón, ed. José Álvarez-Taladriz (Ōsaka: Eikōdō, 1998).

^ Back to text79. Adrianus Dudink and Nicolas Standaert, eds., Yesu hui Luoma dang an guan Ming Qing Tian zhu jiao wen xian / Chinese Christian Texts from the Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus, 12 vols. (Taibei Shi: Taibei Li shi xue she, 2002).

^ Back to text80. Thierry Meynard, S.J., “The Overlooked Connection between Ricci’s Tianzhu shiyi and Valignano’s Catechismus Japonensis,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 40 (2013): 303-22; “Chinese Buddhism and the Threat of Atheism in Seventeenth-Century Europe,” Buddhist-Christian Studies 31 (2011): 3–23; “Beyond Religious Exclusivism: The Jesuit Attacks against Buddhism and Xu Dashou’s Refutation of 1623,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 4, no. 3 (2017): 415–30.

^ Back to text81. Yoshimi Orii, “The Dispersion of Jesuit Books Printed in Japan: Trends in Bibliographic Research and in Intellectual History,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 2, no. 2 (2015): 189–207.

^ Back to text82. Makoto Harris Takao, “Francis Xavier at the Court of Ōtomo Yoshishige: Representations of Religious Disputation between Jesuits and Buddhists in La conversione alla santa fede del re di Bungo jiaponese (1703),” Journal of Jesuit Studies 3, no. 3 (2016): 451–74.

^ Back to text83. Adolfo Tamburello, M. Antoni, J. Üçerier, Marisa di Russo, eds., Alessandro Valignano, S.I., uomo del Rinascimento: Ponte tra Oriente e Occidente Russo (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2008).

^ Back to text84. Alessandro Valignano, Dialogo sulla missione degli ambasciatori giapponesi all curia romana e sulle cose osservate in Europa e durante tutto il viaggio, basato sul diario degli ambasciatori e tradotto in latino da Duarte de Sande, sacerdote della Compagnia di Gesù, ed. Marisa di Russo, trans. Pia Assunta Airoldi (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2016). This grand study is representative of a wider trend. Compare Derek Massarella, Japanese Travellers in Sixteenth-Century Europe (London: The Hakluyt Society, 2012).

^ Back to text85. Barbara Widenor Maggs, “Science, Mathematics, and Reason: The Missionary Methods of the Jesuit Alexandre de Rhodes in Seventeenth-Century Vietnam,” The Catholic Historical Review 86 (2000): 439–58; Peter Phan, Mission and Catechesis: Alexandre de Rhodes and Inculturation in Seventeenth-Century Vietnam (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006); Luiza Maria Baillie, “Father Estevao Cacella’s Report on Bhutan in 1627,” Journal of Bhutan Studies 1 (2007): 1–35; Michael Sweet, “Desperately Seeking Capuchins: Manoel Freyre’s ‘Report on the Tibets and Their Routes (Tibetorum ac eorum relatio viarum)’ and the Desideri Mission to Tibet,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 2 (2005): 1–33.

^ Back to text86. Enzo Gualtiero Bargiacchi, “La Relazioni di Ippolito Desideri fra storia locale e vicende internazionali,” Storialocale: Quaderni pistoiesi di cultura moderna e contemporanea 2 (2003): 4–103; Ippolito Desideri S.J. alla scoperta del Tibet e del buddhismo (Pistoia: Edizioni Brigata del Leoncino, 2006); Ippolito Desideri S.J.: Opere e bibliografia. Subsidia ad Historiam Societatis Iesu 15 (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2007).

^ Back to text87. Michael Sweet and Leonard Zwilling, eds., Mission to Tibet: The Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Account of Father Ippolito Desideri S.J. (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2010). The present author has also done some related work. Trent Pomplun, Jesuit on the Roof of the World: Ippolito Desideri’s Mission to Tibet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); “Natural Reason and Buddhist Philosophy: The Tibetan Studies of Ippolito Desideri (1684–1733),” History of Religions 50 (2011): 384–419.

^ Back to text88. Michael Sweet and Leonard Zwilling, eds., “More Than the Promised Land”: Letters and Relations from Tibet by the Jesuit Missionary António de Andrade (1580–1634) (Chestnut Hill, MA: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2017).

Cite this page
Trent Pomplun, “From Missionaries to Zen Masters: The Society of Jesus and Buddhism”, in: Jesuit Historiography Online. Consulted online on 22 January 2018 <>
First published online: 2017

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