The M. Darrol Bryant Series
M. Darrol Bryant is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo.
"Why am I writing these stories? They are a scattered account, and I sometimes find myself smiling at what I have written. The stories occasionally seem more like fiction than memoir, more what I wanted things to be than what they actually were. In his Confessions, Augustine says wise things about memory. Wittgenstein called Augustine’s Confessions “the most serious book ever written.” He was mostly thinking of what Augustine had to say about language and memory. We know how curious, how faulty, how elusive, memory can be. At least I find it so, and I am aware of that in writing these memories. I do know that what I write is mine. And it is given as a testimony."
– M. Darrol Bryant in Crossing Borders.
In his own words, Dr. Bryant writes:
I was raised on the prairies of North Dakota on the edge of the Turtle Mountains and the Canadian border. The First Nations thought they looked like a herd of turtles moving across the prairie. I attended college at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where I discovered the world of philosophy and religion. Then I studied at Harvard Divinity School with Christians from all streams of Christianity and scholars of Islam and Hinduism. This experience broadened my understanding of Christianity and awakened my interest in world religions.
In 1967, I went to Canada to teach and I've been there ever since. In the summer of 1968, I participated in the Poor People's Campaign in Washington D.C., Dr. Martin Luther King's last project. In 1969-70, I worked for the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland, organizing the World Encounter of Lutheran Youth (WELY). This project took me to every country in Latin America except Paraguay and the Guyanas. I encountered Latin American liberation theology that championed social transformation as the heart of Christianity. It was a transformative year for me.
I then returned to Canada to finish my doctoral studies at the Institute of Christian Thought at St. Michael's in the University of Toronto. I was the first Protestant to earn a doctorate from this Catholic institution. In 1973, I became a professor of Religion and Culture at Renison University College in the University of Waterloo. I remained there until my retirement in 2007. Then Renison allowed me to establish a Centre for Dialogue and Spirituality in the World Religions. Its aim is public education in the dialogue of religions.
In the 1980s, I traveled to India on sabbatical with my family, including our 4 children. When they asked me what we were going to do, I said we are going to hang out in the different religious traditions of India! And we did. We stayed for two months in a Muslim University in New Delhi and had our meals with the family of Dr. Ali, the Director of the Indian Institute of Islamic Studies. We visited Sikh Gurdwaras, Hindu Centres, especially in Vrindaban, the heartland of Krishna/Radha devotion, and in Madras, in Tibetan Buddhist centres in Dharamsala, where HH the Dali Lama resides, and with Indian Christians in Kerala who trace their beginnings back to the Apostle Thomas. We were welcomed into all these communities. That sabbatical changed my approach to the many sacred pathways of humankind. Since then, I have visited India more than 25 times and have taken groups of students to India for a semester to encounter the Living Religious Traditions of India.
I have been fortunate to travel widely, spending time in Buddhist monasteries in Japan, Korea, and India; visiting mosques in Turkey, Israel, Europe, and the U.S. and Canada; participating in Hindu temples and festivals, including the Kumbha Mela, the world's largest gathering of human beings. Invited to the Kumbha Mela as a guest of Shrivatsa Goswami of Vrindaban, I joined 14-15 million pilgrims in 1989, 20 million in 2001, and 30 million in 2013.
It is now more than 55 years since I first awoke to the world of philosophy and theology. I still find it endlessly fascinating.