...The most influential contact Thomas Merton made was with the Buddhist teacher, Chatral Rinpoche, a monk who had spent more than thirty years in the solitary contemplation that was Merton's only real home in this world.
It was Chatral Rinpoche who identified Merton as a pratyekabhudda, and with whom Merton would take a variant of the Boddhisatva's vows, in which he dedicated himself to do all he could to reach enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, in this lifetime or the next.
Merton was already far along that path, as the following entry written in his journal several months before he set out to Asia demonstrates:
"I am the utter poverty of God," he wrote.
"I am His emptiness, littleness, nothingness, lostness.
"When this is understood, my life in His freedom,
the self-emptying God of me, is the fullness of grace.
Love for all, hatred of none, is the fruit and manifestation
of love of God, peace and satisfaction."
Chatral Rinpoche identified Merton as an independently enlightened being. In doing so, they highlight the Buddhist acceptance of ultimate teachings, irrespective of what religious or spiritual tradition in which they arise.
The Buddha consistently said that his path was not the only path to enlightenment, and that every being must find his own path. His teachings, he noted, were meant only to be guides, and he encouraged all to investigate for him or herself the truth of what he said, rather than merely taking his word for it."