I've just gotten back from attending an inter-faith conference at St. John's Abbey, a Benedictine Abbey in Minnesota. Monks from various Buddhist schools and Catholic orders met to discuss the role of celibacy in religious life. I must say I enjoyed it very much and learnt a lot.
Two things I picked up that I'd like to note briefly;
1. Although the metaphysics of the two systems are almost as different as could be, the experience of contemplatives is very similar. My feeling is that we are all straining to find words to express the inexpressible. As the Buddha put it, the Third Noble Truth (the Unconditioned, the Absolute) can be experienced (or penetrated, patisamvedhi) but cannot be understood.
2. I had thought previously that the biggest doctrinal differences between Buddhism and Christianity revolved around the Transcendent (God vs. the Unconditioned) but it seems that the real practical differences concern the attitude toward the Conditioned (or in Christian terms, the Created.) In Buddhism, the world is samsara, something that is suffering and delusion. In Christianity, the world is sacred, if flawed after the fall. This has repercussions on attitudes towards the body, sexuality and celibacy as well.
But most important, it was good to meet all the brothers from various traditions and places. Monasticism may seem like an anachronism, but like I always say, in times like these if you're not an anachronism you're part of the problem.
Press Release for the Monks in the West 2006 conference (click on the link at the bottom)
Home Page of St. John's Abbey.