Thomas Merton OCSO (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968) was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. On May 26, 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name “Father Louis”. He was a member of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky, living there from 1941 to his death.
Merton wrote more than 50 books in a period of 27 years, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton’s most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948). His account of his spiritual journey inspired scores of World War II veterans, students, and teenagers to explore offerings of monasteries across the US. It is among National Review‘s list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century.
Merton became a keen proponent of interfaith understanding, exploring Eastern religions through his study of mystic practice. He is particularly known for having pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama; Japanese writer D. T. Suzuki; Thai Buddhist monk Buddhadasa, and Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He traveled extensively in the course of meeting with them and attending international conferences on religion. In addition, he wrote books on Zen Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, and how Christianity related to them. This was highly unusual at the time in the United States, particularly within the religious orders. (Source)