Quaker Universalist Conversations

Welcome to Quaker Buddhists!

John Marsh writes:

Welcome to QUF and to Friends! I became a Quaker in the late 60s and shortly thereafter began sitting zazen at the Zen Center on Mount Baldy. This eventually yielded to Theravadan practice with Rodney Smith and to Zen influenced Diamond Heart work with Jeff Collins. But home has always been Friends Meeting. Fox and many of the early Friends were startlingly awake. On the other hand, they didn’t leave a deep contemplative practice tradition, which is what drew me to Buddhism. I don’t think it matters whether you deepen Silence via the insight or non-dual practices or both, what matters is that interior silence and the outward action that follows without effort comes more and more to the fore. Some do this via Christ–I spent one year with the crucifixion as my primary meditation object, which lead me to a much deeper appreciation of holding everything pleasant and unpleasant as “empty” or “of God” in forgiveness. Some do it via other traditions–I know some wonderful Friends for whom Ramana Maharshi is their primary teacher–but all of us remain deeply rooted in the faith and practice of Friends. The Buddha said of the triple gem–the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha–the sangha (spiritual friends) was the most important to deepening awakeness. In essence, that’s why my Meeting is so important to me. The three wisest people I’ve had the good fortune of knowing are Quakers and Meeting has been and remains my faith community. Just I can’t imagine myself (true and otherwise) without Buddhist practice, so I can’t imagine myself w/o Friends and Friends Meeting–deep gratitude for both.

It is my experience that evangelical Friends (and/or those that are focused on Quaker renewal in Christ (as on QuakerQuaker)) are mostly centered at the level of personal stories whereas universalist Friends are more centered in the Silence. This is an old split in Friends between inward Silence and outward action and between doctrine and mysticism–Rufous Jones book on Quaker mysticism is a lovely look at this tension, which is itself the resolution. This should resonate with you as a Buddhist, where dropping below the personal story by opening the hand of thought is a familiar skillful means and leads to right view and right action. Still, we are all on the same path in the end and cannot be anywhere but where we are on this path or even know for certain where we are if truth be told–so deep respect to the various forms that speak to Friends. May each of us grow in the ways of the Lord.

Charlotte Walker writes:

Thank you for this. I have been making use of Buddhist meditation techniques for several years, although I feel too ignorant and imperfect to label myself a Buddhist. I was raised in a very secular, socialist household; while not spiritual, it was deeply ethical, and my parents transmitted to me their belief in social justice and peace, taking me on marches for equality and disarmament as a child.

I started attending my local Quaker Meeting through friends, and have been attending every Sunday for about three months. I am constantly running up against ideas and practices that I was first introduced to in meditation classes or my reading on Buddhism. Last week I went to a workshop for Quakers on deepening the experience of Worship, and was amused to be presented with suggestions such as focusing on the breath as a means of centring down, walking meditation as preparation for Meeting – the workshop was bringing me back round to where I started from!

Right now, I’m not sure I can call myself a Buddhist, or a Quaker, or a Buddhist Quaker. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe learning to live through the uncertainty is part of the process/lesson.

Phil Grove writes:

I’ve functioned as one who practices Buddhism within my liberal Quaker meeting for many years and see no conflict. There is a lot of interest in Buddhism in my Quaker meeting, I would say. As a nontheist Buddhist, I have little difficulty drawing inspiration from the Gospel of Thomas, from Bernadette Roberts and other Christian contemplatives, and from Thomas R. Kelly, to cite a few examples.

Mike L.: writes:


I’ll tell what branch of Buddhism seems ever closer to Quakerism: Pure Land. I belong to a Jodo Shinshu or Shin Buddhist Sangha. I have also attended a Quaker meeting for many years. It a nutshell, both traditions are at their essence preaching the Gospel of Universalism. In Shin all are saved through the compassionate workings of Amida Buddha. I believe readers will easily note the obvious Christian parallel.


I am a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.. I grew up in an unprogrammed meeting community. My meeting didn't emphasize much of theism or theology in regards to the Gospel. Following the advice and teachings of Jesus as presented in the mainstream gospel doesn't necessitate a theistic view, in my view. And for me Quakerism is well developed in modernistic social concerns that are where the Dalai Lama wants to take Buddhists. Buddhism gives me methods towards the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. The vast majority of Quakers anr not aiming for the the ultimate attainment of Buddhahood., but they help lead Buddhists towards a modernistic global responsibility.
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