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Chan/Zen Buddhism and Carmelite Spirituality, Interreligious Encounter in Ávila, Spain, July 2020

The Catholic Order of Discalced Carmelites and the International Centre of Teresian and Sanjuanist Studies (Centro Internacional Teresiano-Sanjuanista, CITeS) of Ávila, Spain, in cooperation with the Centre of Buddhist Studies (CBS) at The University of Hong Kong (HKU), have officially announced the “2nd World Encounter of Teresian Mysticism and Interreligious Dialogue. Chan/Zen Buddhism and Carmelite Spirituality: on Love and Compassion.” The conference will be held in the city of Ávila, on 22–26 July, 2020.


This will be the second collaboration between CITeS and CBS. In 2016, CITeS announced its intention to conduct a series of interreligious encounters, placing Carmelite spirituality in dialogue with other religious traditions. The first of these events, the “1st. World Encounter of Teresian Mysticism and Interreligious Dialogue. Theravāda Buddhism and Teresian Mysticism: Meditation and Contemplation, Pathways to Peace,” took place in Ávila from July 27 to 30, 2017 and was also co-organized by CITeS and CBS. The partners in dialogue in this interfaith encounter were the Discalced Carmelites and Theravāda Buddhists. Owing to its great success, CITeS and CBS decided to organize a second forum, in which the conversational partner of the Discalced Carmelites will be the Chan/Zen school of Buddhism, with the proposed theme of the cultivation of love and compassion for a more benevolent society.

The venue will be the architectural marvel of the star-shaped CITeS headquarters with its spacious, light-filed, state-of-the-art facilities. It is located just outside the medieval walled city of Ávila, the hometown of Saint Teresa of Ávila. This Castilian municipality, often called the “Town of Stones and Saints,” was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

Throughout the four days of sharing and dialogue, participants will have ample opportunities for spiritual enrichment as they learn about the two traditions’ beliefs and practices, and explore common affinities and differences in a spirit of togetherness, integrity and mutual respect. The goal is to learn how love and compassion are cultivated in both traditions for a world full of more loving kindness.

Illuminating this congress will be the teachings of Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) and Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591), two of the most influential mystics in the Catholic tradition on the Carmelite side, and—on the Buddhist side—Master Huineng (638-713), the Sixth Patriarch of Chan/Zen Buddhism, considered by many to be its true father.

The CITeS headquarters in Ávila. From
The CITeS headquarters in Ávila. From

This 2nd Congress in Ávila will feature papers and presentations, panel discussions, meditation workshops, chanting ceremonies, to name only a few of the many activities, all conducted in an atmosphere of conviviality and fraternity.

The Chan/Zen Buddhist tradition will be represented by renowned scholars and experienced meditators. Scholars will come from around the globe, including Korea, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in East Asia, and the United States and the United Kingdom in the West. The meditation workshop will be led by a Chan/Zen meditation master from Canada, while monastics from China will perform sutra chanting every morning after the Christian mass.

On the Carmelite side, the professors at the International Center of Teresian and Sanjuanist Studies are known to be amongst the most eminent exponents of Carmelite spirituality, and other reputed Christian scholars and contemplatives will join them as speakers.

The program is structured so as to demonstrate how love and compassion are developed along the two respective spiritual paths. Presentations from both sides on the parallel theme will be followed by panel discussions chaired by a moderator knowledgeable on the subject matter in both traditions.

The full conference program and registration form are available at the following link:

The Congress will be in English and Spanish, with simultaneous interpretation. It will be transmitted in its entirety via the internet, and will also be made available on DVD format. The proceedings from the encounter will be published.

3rd International Award Teresa of Ávila and Inter-religious Dialogue Award

The award ceremony will be held on the third day of the congress to present the “3rd International Teresa of Ávila and Interreligious Dialogue Award.” It was established by CITeS through a private donation to further the spiritual wealth of humanity and to promote authentic interreligious dialogue. This third call’s focus is on comparative studies between Carmelite spirituality and other religious traditions, whose winner will be honored with a first prize of 6000 euros. The four runners-up will each receive 1000 euros. The winning papers will be considered for inclusion in a special commemorative volume.

Information about the 3rd International Award is available at the following link:

On a lighter note, the organizers of the Congress encourage participants to take advantage of their trip by travelling around Ávila. This beautiful World Heritage city, which lies about an hour from Madrid by train, has an exceptional legacy. Ávila’s Old Town still reflects hundreds of years of interaction between Jews, Muslims and Christians. Participants might better appreciate the context of the Congress through a visit to the 2.5 km long medieval walls, or such places as the Saint Teresa Convent and Museum. Ávila is in the vicinity of other regions of Spain, including the historical city of Toledo, which is a short trip from Ávila, as well as other major European cities.

The walls of Ávila. From
The walls of Ávila. From

In our daily lives, news of hate, enmity and violence are always present, but we can go beyond hostility and dislike of others. For this, we need to better understand ourselves and overcome animosity and aggression. These few days in Ávila will be an opportunity to learn how to cultivate love and benevolence. To attain a more compassionate world, love and compassion must first be embedded in our hearts. This event will be widely covered by Buddhistdoor Global and Buddhistdoor en Español.


CITeS: International Centre of Teresian and Sanjuanist Studies
CBS (HKU): The Centre of Buddhist Studies of the University of Hong Kong

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