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David Steindl-Rast
Headshot of David Steindl-Rast in 2004 with beard
Steindl-Rast in 2004
Franz Kuno Steindl-Rast

(1926-07-12) July 12, 1926 (age 96)
OccupationBenedictine monk, author, lecturer
Known forinterfaith dialogue esp. Buddhist-Christian
Notable workGratefulness, the Heart of Prayer

David Steindl-Rast OSB (born July 12, 1926) is an American Catholic Benedictine monk, author, and lecturer. He is committed to interfaith dialogue and has dealt with the interaction between spirituality and science.

Life and career

Steindl-Rast was born and raised in Vienna, Austria, with a traditional Catholic upbringing that instilled in him a trust in life and an experience of mystery. His family and surname derive from their aristocratic seat near the pilgrimage site of Maria Rast in present-day Slovenia.[1] Privations he experienced in youth during the Second World War were magnified by the tensions of him being one-fourth Jewish. He was recruited into the German army but did not see combat.[2] He received his MA degree from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and his PhD in experimental psychology from the University of Vienna (1952). He emigrated with his family to the United States in the same year and became a Benedictine monk in 1953 at Mount Saviour Monastery in Pine City, New York, a newly founded Benedictine community.[2] With permission of his abbot, Damasus Winzen, in 1966 he was officially delegated to pursue Buddhist-Christian dialogue and began to study Zen with masters Haku'un Yasutani, Soen Nakagawa, Shunryu Suzuki, and Eido Tai Shimano.[3]

As a Benedictine monk, he spent time in various monastic communities, including 14 years at the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. He spent half the year as a hermit in a monastery and spent the other half lecturing and giving workshops and retreats. His experience around the world and with the world's various religions convinced him that the human response of gratitude is a part of the religious worldview and is essential to all human life.[2]

He co-founded the Center for Spiritual Studies with Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi teachers in 1968, and since the 1970s has been a member of the cultural historian William Irwin Thompson's Lindisfarne Association. He received the Martin Buber Award for his achievements in building dialog among religious traditions. His writings include Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, The Music of Silence (with Sharon Lebell), Words of Common Sense and Belonging to the Universe (co-authored with Fritjof Capra). In 2000, he co-founded A Network for Grateful Living, an organization dedicated to gratefulness as a transformative influence for individuals and society.[2]

Religion and mysticism

During Link TV's Lunch With Bokara 2005 episode "The Monk and the Rabbi", he stated:

The religions start from mysticism. There is no other way to start a religion. But, I compare this to a volcano that gushes forth ...and then ...the magma flows down the sides of the mountain and cools off. And when it reaches the bottom, it's just rocks. You'd never guess that there was fire in it. So after a couple of hundred years, or two thousand years or more, what was once alive is dead rock. Doctrine becomes doctrinaire. Morals become moralistic. Ritual becomes ritualistic. What do we do with it? We have to push through this crust and go to the fire that's within it.

In that same episode, he expressed his belief in panentheism, where divinity interpenetrates every part of existence and timelessly extends beyond it (as distinct from pantheism).

Selected writings

In addition he has contributed to numerous works, including:

Further reading


  1. ^ Großer, Dirk. "Staunen und Dankbarkeit". Bibliothek David Steindl-Rast OSB. Archived from the original on 2020-04-12. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d "Looking back on the life of Br. Steindl-Rast". National Catholic Reporter. March 7, 2018. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Hallward, Clare; David Steindl-Rast: Essential Writings, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2010, p. 23.