David Carradine and Thomas Merton…

David Carradine.jpgBoth were well-known Westerners associated with Eastern spiritual traditions, both died accidentally in their rooms in Bangkok. That, it appears from news reports, is where the similarity ends, sadly:

BANGKOK, June 5 — Thai police officers investigating the death of David Carradine, the American actor who made his name in the “Kung Fu” television series in the 1970s, say he most likely died of asphyxiation, possibly when an autoerotic sex game went wrong.


Merton died in Bangkok on December 10, 1968 after touching a poorly grounded electric fan while stepping out of his bath.

The appeal of the East is, in fact, a fascinating mix of sexual and spiritual allures–of indulgence of the flesh and a transcendence of the the material world.

Thomas Merton.jpgThink of Graham Greene’s love of opium dens and prostitutes, all the while crafting brilliantly Catholic novels. Or the giddy fixation on the Kama Sutra or geisha life and the equally popular infatuation with the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism. From sensuality to Shangri-La. Maybe the appeal is that they are not as distant in Eastern culture as they are in the West? But Westerners rarely seem able to be able to manage the integration, if that’s what the aim should be.

Or maybe East and West do not meet? Then again, I suppose a similar confluence/dichotomy in violence and spirituality could be noted, as in the martial arts that Carradine became famous for.


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posted June 5, 2009 at 1:18 pm

…without Christ, a life is empty…. just left a yard sale where a person had a copy of Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha…. it is a most dangerous book,…. thank God I’m saved… I know the Truth, and Righteousness…. I too could have been jaded to death in some brilliance… but not for the Christ.

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posted June 5, 2009 at 2:34 pm

There are many tenets that are similiar between Buddhism and Christianity. Letting go of one’s Self or ego, releasing yourself from the yoke of earthly entrapments to name a few. That being said as many people here might already know most sects of Buddhism don’t “worship” Buddha as everyone is a Buddha. They’ve just not realized it. Their practice is to bring about a self awakening.
I must respectfully disagree that Hesse’s novel which is a fictitious account(though closely following the original) of Siddhartha Gautama’s life is a “most dangerous” book. It is simply just a story. Misunderstandings of Eastern thought always culminate in considering it evil and heretical. Especially in Zen buddhism you will find that there really is nothing incompatable between the teachings of Zen and Christianity, meditating in front of a statue of Buddha is equivalent to praying in front of the statue of a Saint. To capture the true essence of Buddhism esoecially the Zen variety.
I suggest any work by D.T Suzuki a man whom Merton held in high regard as he said: “Though perhaps less universally known than such figures as Einstein or Gandhi (who became symbols of our time) Daisetz Suzuki was no less remarkable a man than these. And though his work may not have had such resounding and public effect, he contributed no little to the spiritual and intellectual revolution of our time”.
All good things come from Christ, but it is up to each individual to seek His centrality in them.
Simply becaue something is foreign doesn’t make it evil…

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Your Name

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:47 pm

As a teenager, I enjoyed his work in the TV series Kung Fu. Mr. Carradine played the role well, and it was a series that opened a door to Eastern culture and thought.
The West has long been duplicitous about sex, and it is probably the repressive morality of Christianity that lies at the heart of that duplicity. It is only recently that words such as “penis” or “breast” or (goodness sakes!) “vagina” can be spoken in public. A generation or two ago those words would be censored or perhaps even be grounds for being arrested.
It is a sad end to Mr. Carradine’s life. I doubt the East will revile him for his manner of death. The West? Well, we shall see what happens there….

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posted June 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm

I’m one of those ‘Buddhist lite’ followers that found Catholicism through Thomas Merton’s writings. I practiced Buddhism for about 3 years after I left my Baptist upbringing and thoroughly enjoyed the meditation and focus on slowing down and focusing on the here and now. What I found eventually was I needed to locate something bigger than myself. I needed to believe in God, whether due to my religious upbringing or to feel the divine in my daily life; I needed more than a belief of balancing the scales and working on enlightenment. I craved grace and God’s presence in my life. Fortunately, I was introduced to Merton’s writings and they touched me in way that led me to seeking out the Divine in my daily living. I told the priest before I started the RCIA process that I could continue to look inside myself, but eventually realized that there wasn’t anything there! ?
I wish that Merton’s life had not ended so suddenly. I believe he could have continued to be the voice that would have bridged the gap between Christians in the West and the religions in the East. Without regard to sex or casual fleshly desires; he pushed to understand the basic practices that drive Christians to grace and overcoming our selfish personas and material addictions through a meditative understanding of God’s love.
A favorite Merton quote: ‘Zen people slow down and give a great deal of time doing what they need to do. That’s what we have to learn to do when it comes to prayer. We have to give it time…the great thing in prayer is not to pray, but to go directly to God.’

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posted June 6, 2009 at 10:41 am

Over the next 8 years will Obama do a speech about the “western”
encounter with the “east” as just did with the world of the
“middle east”? Perhaps the debt of western materialism will
come fully due to the new leader of the “east” – China.

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posted June 6, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Carradine was an actor, and not a bad one, apparently, since he fooled a lot of people into thinking that he was a martial arts figure. In fact, he had no standing in the martial arts world whatsoever. He had earned no black belts, won no tournaments, never studied for years with any known masters.

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posted June 7, 2009 at 10:56 am

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posted June 8, 2009 at 9:06 am

East and West are two sides of the same coin. Both are invariably influenced by the other. Two sides, one world.

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posted June 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm

It was a tragic scene regardless of the religious beliefs, or if it was or was not an accident?
I think the family and many fans will mourn his passing especially with no closure as of yet? They are still investigating, why he was found alone? And if there was fowl play? Also the media posted his photo dead? And the family is suing all media that showed those photos? How heartless the media is in many cases of sensationalism?

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posted June 8, 2009 at 9:03 pm

I am so sad , this brilliant actor died this way . I came here as a result of a search link in and google search engines to find out any new news ; as I sense it’s kind of fishy that his hands were tied over his head , and they say he was in good spirits .
God , knows what happened , exactly however , to both Fr. Merton , and
David C. , so the truth is known .
I wonder if anyone here knows if David C. was involved in the struggle of the Tibetan people for human dignity and equal rights . Is it possible that he was killed , not by some secret martial arts society , as NY Post reports their lawyer suggest , but by Chinese agents seeking to kill of Tibet supporters , for power reasons ?
Is this unlikely , and I am in just denial somehow ? I know that is a possibility , but so many things seem fishy to me ; why would the police come out with suggestions and even leaked photos ; if they were not wishing to shape public thinking , BEFORE the autopsy report and lab results were even done ?
Anyhow ; I thought someone might here know if he was involved in that , as Richard Gere is or was , and what the risks of that was .
Maybe , I am abit distrusting of modern secular powers at times , having read how stalin got rid of trotsky in mexico , and having seen stuff like that in films and docu’s how people are silenced for political reasons , illegally . I am not even convinced the gentle but
outspoken and forthright Merton , was not also murdered by some power group , for some ego-tistical reasons . Life is often , regarded as cheap , by those in power in some places in Asia . Just look at their neigbors in Burma , and the house- illegal/unethical- arrest of their political opponent .
I did not know that about Graham Greene , if I understood you correctly , that he had an interest in opium dens and prostitutes . I think of a poem by Basho , where he writes how the same moonlight shines on the faces and hair of some local prostitutes , and he sees there , nonetheless , poetic beauty there , in God’s creation , despite how society looks down on them . It also makes me think of the Magdalene , Mary , forgiven by God ; Christ , Himself .

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Brad O'Neill

posted July 8, 2009 at 3:36 am

To Compare a true religious philosopher with a guy who played a religious philosopher on TV Is kind of a stretch. It would be akin to comparing Audie Murphy with Jean Claude Van Dam.

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posted July 8, 2011 at 10:36 am


You are beautiful…


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