Wayne Teasdale’s spiritual career began as a Trappist monk at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Massachusetts. After 10 years under the direction of Abott Thomas Keating, founder of the centering prayer movement, Teasdale received an invitation that changed the direction of his spiritual journey. He was invited to study in India at the Benedictine ashram of Bede Griffiths. Griffiths was a proponent of dialog between the Hindu and Catholic religions and had incorporated much of Hindu spiritual practices into his Christian mysticism. Teasdale learned much from Griffiths and underwent a ritual of sanyassa in which one renounces the world, though through this understanding of spirituality renunciation meant a selfless embrace of the world in religious faith.
Inter-religious dialogue became a central passion in Teasdale’s work. He especially felt drawn to Buddhism and developing a mutually beneficial learning between the contemplative traditions of Buddhism and Christianity. He said, “I am convinced that Christianity and Buddhism together have a unique opportunity and responsibility to enter into a sustained dialogue on all matters. If the two traditions work together on resolving critical issues facing the planet, and if they commit themselves to an open-ended dialogue process in which mutual influence on each other occurs in the areas of belief or view, prayer, and social engagement, they will make an enormously precious contribution towards the communication of a new consciousness all around the world.”
Teasdale developed a relationship with the Dalai Lama, and together they served on the board of trustees for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. They helped convene the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions at which 8,000 people attended in Chicago. Teasdale also was co-director for the Synthesis Dialogues, a forum that the Dalai Lama moderated which brought together people from many spiritual traditions and professional disciplines to explore together ways to expand human awareness.
As Teasdale engaged in these relationships especially crossing to connect with Hindu and Buddhist traditions, he developed an understanding he termed “interspirituality.” By that he referred to a perspective in which one saw a degree of commonality in the world’s religions which could be approached through mystical experience. He was a part of the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, a network of Catholic Benedictine and Trappist monks and nuns who sought to engage the monastic and contemplative traditions of other religions for mutual learning. Representing the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, Teasdale worked with Thomas Keating, the Dalai Lama and others to produce the Universal Declaration on Nonviolence, built upon the ideals Gandhi established in his teaching on Satyagraha.
In his renunciation of the world for his own sake, he gave himself to the world, engaging in many social issues. Inspired by his relationship with the Dalai Lama he became a leader in the Interfaith Call for Freedom of Worship and Human Rights in Tibet. For Teasdale interfaith relationships enabled him to go deeper into the Spirit of God and at the same time to go deeper into the struggles in the world.