Yesterday I had the opportunity to be present at the interesting lecture from Willigis Jäger, a well-known German Benedictine monk and a Zen master. Influenced by both Christian mysticism and Eastern Zen traditions, Jäger represents a modern and transconfessional spirituality, yet he also goes far beyond the traditional concepts of religion. His vision of an integral spirituality combines the treasures of religious expression from the East with the wisdom of the Western tradition, while also including the latest insights from the world of science.
Willigis Jäger has his roots in the mystical-contemplative tradition of Western Christianity. He sought to deepen religious experience and submitted to a 12-year Zen training, among other places at a Buddhist monastery in Kamakura/Japan. In 1981 he was authorized as a Zen teacher and took the name Ko-un Roshi. He moved back to Germany and began teaching Zen at the Munsterschwarzach Abbey, drawing as many as 150 people a day.
In February 2002 he was ordered by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (currently Pope Benedict XVI) to cease all public activities. Jäger kept quiet for a little while, but soon he was speaking and writing again. In 2003 Liguori Press published his book Search for the Meaning of Life: Essays and Reflections on the Mystical Experience, and in 2006 Liguori published Mysticism for Modern Times: Conversations with Willigis Jager.
In Jäger’s books, and also in his other publications you can find valuable references to the spiritual practice of mysticism with a focus on sitting, breathing, and keeping silent. He says that the aim of Christian prayer is transcendental contemplation in which the practitioner enters a deeper level of consciousness. This requires emptying the mind, which is achieved by focusing on the breathing and repeating a mantra.
Jäger believes that the universe is evolving and that man has reached a major milestone in evolution, entering an era in which his consciousness will be transformed. He believes that all religions point to the same God and promotes interfaith dialogue as the key to unifying mankind. He also links up mystic experiences of the world with modern natural sciences. In his opinion natural sciences validate mystical spirituality. He quotes the American Nobel prize winner Gary Zukav who wrote: `Don’t be surprised if in the 21st century lectures on meditation appear in university catalogues for physics.’
Willigis Jäger is one of the great mystics and spiritual teachers of our time. In the courses and lectures he holds throughout the world, he directs people towards pathways of deep spiritual experience. The core of such deep spiritual experience holds the power of renewal for us not just as individuals, but also for the renewal of humanity and for all aspects of society.