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Between Two Souls: Conversations with Ryokan
Synopses & Reviews
In "Between Two Souls" two monastics, one a 19th century Buddhist, the other a 21st century Roman Catholic Benedictine become a sounding board for one another. The two speakers, of course, have never met. They talk to use across two cultures, two continents, two great spiritual divides. They would seem to be models of what is eternally different, essentially distinct ways of living and thinking and seeing. They would seem doomed to be victims of political — of spiritual — dissimiliarity. But, ironically enough, they emerge as hope to us all that spirituality alone, if nothing else, can save us from the divisions a politicized world attempts to impose.
bIt is voices such as these, souls whose direction is clear and sure, free of stubble and full of light, that help the rest of us find our way through all the distractions of life, all of its illusions, beyond its mirages, around its empty enchantments. . . . Good reading, good thinking, good living is what this book brings to the soul.b
— Joan D. Chittister
from the introduction
"Between Two Souls" presents a lovely, spiritually uplifting conversation in poetry between a gifted modern-day Roman Catholic nun and a nineteenth-century Zen monk. Offering an utterly unique entree into spiritual contemplation, this book pairs inspirational writing from two distinct but mutually enriching faith traditions, revealing the religious joy, wisdom, and all-embracing compassion that transcend temporal, cultural, and theological differences.
Ryō kan (1758-1831) is one of Japanbs most-loved and most-renowned poets. After formal training at the Zen monastery of Entsū -ji, he refused offers to head his own temple and instead lived as a wandering monk in the snowy country around Mt. Kugami. Ryō kan wrote thousands of poems during his travels but never published a collection himself. For two years Mary Lou Kownacki, a Benedictine nun, used Ryō kanbs poetry for devotions. Each morning she would read one of his poems, meditate on it, and then respond with one of her own. "Between Two Souls" is the result of this poetic interplay.
Over the course of these pages, Kownacki and Ryō kanbs separate voices blend and become one, ultimately drawing the reader into their soulful dialogue on the eternal. Like echoes across time, these beautiful poems bring new depth andinsight to truths that mark the meaning of the ages. Along the way they consider the smallest things in life, using them to gently warn us not to miss the bigger truths found in each moment, not to squander our souls.
Complemented with an inspiring introduction by Joan D. Chittister and elegant calligraphy by Eri Takase, this volume provides a lifetime of devotional insights. Listening quietly to these two great souls is sure to enrich your own.
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