DIALOGUE WITH PEOPLES OF OTHER FAITHS

Subhash Anand[*]

The Synod of Asian Bishops felt that dialogue with peoples of other faiths was an essential aspect of Christian life in Asia. “The actual celebration of the Synod itself confirmed the importance of dialogue as a characteristic mode of the Church’s life in Asia.[1] The call to be a Christian is also a call to enter into dialogue with peoples of other faiths. “Ecumenical dialogue and interreligious dialogue constitute a veritable vocation of the Church.”[2] This is not merely a survival tactic, now that Asian countries are no longer colonies of some powerful Christian state in the West – as some think. The call to dialogue is rooted in a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and Christian.

 

 

A. Dialogue as an Anthropological Imperative

A.1. Humans as Individuals

To be human is to be one among many other humans. Not only is there numeric distinction, there is also the fact that I am either a male or a female. This is not merely a matter of bodily structure, but a different way of being human, of perceiving life, of inter-acting with other humans, of reacting to environment, and even of responding to God. Our humanness is shared in different ways by many individuals. Further, our lives are shaped by our natural habitat and social setup, by our geography and history. This feature of humanity explains the vast diversity of languages and literature, arts and crafts, beliefs and rituals. Since they are all expressions of our common humanness, they are bound to have some basic similarities. These similarities make for a point of meeting; the differences are a source of enrichment.

To be an individual is to be one expression of some particular nature, which unfolds itself in many individuals. The human potential can never be fully exhausted in any one individual. This means however talented I may be, however experienced I may be, I can still learn. To learn I need to approach others.

Dialogue is both a mode of human life and a manifestation of the dia­logical reality of all human life… We belong to history and language; they do not belong to us. If we would belong to them well, we must question them and ourselves through them. Through that ques­tioning we participate in the conver­sation of all humankind, living and dead.[3]

Humans constantly learn from one another. This happens from early childhood. Learning implies a process of listening to others (śravaa), and asking questions. Thus dialogue starts early in life. It provides me the knowledge I need to survive and to grow. This knowledge has been accumulated through years and years of human experience, through many trials and errors. Were I not to listen to others, then my learning would start from zero, and I would learn mighty little. It is by listening to others – though not exclusively – that slowly I learn what my religion is all about.

Learning is not possible without reflection (manana). Reflection enables me to go deeper into what I have learnt. Others may help me not only to acquire data, but also to understand the why and how of that data. The knowledge others have is related to their experience. I need to ask myself: “How can knowledge acquired by them be related to my life? Can I simply accept what they have to say?” This way my learning acquires depth. This process of listening and reflecting happens all the more when I dialogue with peoples of communities other than my own. Since they are much more different from me, I need to listen much more attentively and reflectively. For instance, how do I translate into Hindi: “My uncle has arrived”? Then I realise the limits of English, because in Hindi we have different words available for ‘uncle’, and each specifies the relation that particular person has towards me.[4] I will also begin to understand that in a joint-family framework, we need to have specific words to indicate the particular position different persons have in that family. On the other hand, when I try to translate: “I thank you!” – only three syllables, I will need many more syllables in Hindi. Then I see the riches of English. Hindi does not have the verb ‘to thank’. Many Hindi-speaking people think that the favour they are doing to me is just their duty, and so no thanks are due!

The study of languages brings to my notice another aspect of human pilgrimage: we all have a basic starting point – the need to survive. We also have the same basic potential: our humanity. Hence there are bound to be similarities. The way words are formed, classified and used are similar. Nearly all languages have a time dimension (tenses), a male-female consciousness (gender), etc. Languages make stories possible. Studies on folktales provide us with some surprising information: even though “a folktale is a poetic text that carries some of its cultural contexts within it …” yet we find similar stories “told all over the world.”[5] So often we even come across “an inter­national tale.”[6]

Just as the study of languages reveals some basic similarities, so too the study of other religions draws our attention to the basic questions we all ask:

What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what is sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?[7]

People who ask questions also find answers, more so when their questioning arises from the depths of their hearts.

From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.[8]

Just as the process of studying other languages enables me to see the riches and limits of my language, so too by entering into dialogue with persons of other faith traditions I will see the riches and limits of my religion. If I go deeper, then I may also uncover the reasons for these. This experience can be exhilarating and also humiliating. While I rejoice in my religion, I also become aware that human wisdom is much more than what is handed down by my religious tradition. I become more open to learn, more tolerant in matters of religion.

 

A.2. Humans as Pilgrims

To be human is to be in time and space. I am not yet fully myself, but journeying towards a deeper self-awareness. To be human is to be a pilgrim. Being a person, the more I become aware of myself, the more I become myself. This is true also of others around me. This explains why within the same community, nay even within the same family, there can be individuals, who due to their peculiar journey, come to at times totally different views on life. These differences may appear to be totally opposed to each other, but a closer examination may show that they are really complimentary. However different our pilgrimages may be, they are the expression of a need we all humans have: constantly to go beyond our given situation. Hence we are co-pilgrims, and partners in dialogue.

Being a pilgrim means that even my knowledge shares in my pilgrim character. I need to constantly update myself. This is also true of humanity taken as a whole. The knowledge that is possible for us today was not just available to our ancestors. Hence what my ancestors considered impossible may be possible today. They just could not think of landing on the moon. Nay, for some of them the moon was a deity. What they thought as religious may seem to be irreligious to us. Today many will question the ethical propriety of a bloody sacrifice. What they believed was an act of an angry deity, evoking awe and fear, may in fact be the result of some infection, challenging us to undertake appropriate research.

Our pilgrim character forces us to constantly reflect on our religious beliefs. History shows that many propositions that were once considered sacrosanct because of ‘scriptural backing’, have been abandoned in due time. These beliefs, however, are not my private convictions, but shared by my community. Hence I need to reflect with others. Thus I am not alone in my religious pilgrimage. Sometimes I may be impatient with others, especially peoples of other faith traditions, who do not seem to be aware that they are living in a new age. I am labouring under a false idea. At no point in history are all communities in a qualitatively identical timeframe. A metropolitan city may be ultramodern, while a village fifty miles away from it may reflect a very ‘primitive’ mentality. It was only in the Twentieth Century that the Catholic Church very clearly opened itself to other religions. Many Catholics think that their church is very modern. Some may find it difficult to believe that in the Third Century before Christ there lived in India the great king Aśoka (about 270-230), who was a very ecumenical person. He “urged his subjects to respect not only Buddhist monks, but also brāhmans and ascetics of all sects.”[9] His 12th Rock Edict reads: “Contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi [Aśoka], desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions.”[10]

To be a pilgrim is to journey beyond oneself, beyond the boundaries of time and space.[11] Earlier forms of religion are human efforts to explain and cope with the vagaries of the environment. But there is a deeper dimension to our being. Every human person can make the claim a sage makes in the Atharva-veda: “m[tyor aham brahmacārī” (6.133.3: “I am a brahmacārī unto death”). The word brahmacārī is formed by adding cārī to brahman. The latter is derived from the root bh[ (to make or become big), and so we should not be surpri­sed that the substantive is used both in the masculine and in the neuter, with over twenty different meanings, all indicating something or somebody considered great. Eventually it comes to denote the greatest of the great, God himself.[12] The word cārī is derived from the root car (to walk).[13] Hence a brahmacārī is a person who constantly moves towards the great, and ultimately towards God, who is the Greatest of all. This possibility is inherent in all humans. We are all pilgrims unto the Beyond. We are all co-pilgrims. Journeying together can make our pilgrimage more fruitful.

 

 

B. Dialogue as a Theological Imperative

B.1. God as Love

We Christians believe that we are all children of one and the same Father; that we are all brothers and sisters.

One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. One also is their final goal, God. His providence, His manifestations of goodness, His saving design extend to all men, until that time when the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the glory of God, where the nations will walk in His light.[14]

This one Father, who is very loving, has been guiding all His children towards Himself from the beginning of human history. Hence all peoples have within their religious traditions elements that are not just human creations or insights, but the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Through dialogue we are led to recognize these elements and thank God for them. It is possible some of these beautiful insights may not be present within our tradition. We can then with all humility accept the wisdom of others. This is the third stage of learning (nididhyāsana).[15]

The God we believe in is a mystery of loving dialogue. This is what we mean when we say that God is unity within trinity. The three Persons who constitute the divine mystery are a bond of ineffable love and communion. They are unique, and without surrendering their uniqueness they constitute one single mystery of love. Dialogue is not the levelling down of differences, but celebrating the differences. Differences bring about enrichment. The divine Trinity is thus a model for and an invitation to dialogue. Nay, we cannot be Christians and refrain from dialogue: we believe humans are made in the image of the Triune God. We cannot confine ourselves to our little ghetto. That would be an implicit denial of the Trinity. We can be Christians only by being in a dialogue of love and service.

 

B.2. Love as the Basic Law

Just as God is loving communion, so too we are called to live in loving communion with others. Love demands that we try to know the other. The more we know others the better we can understand them. Religion gives us our deepest identity. Hence when I try to understand the religious belief of the other, I am trying to understand, partly at least, the identity of the other at a very deep level. This in-depth understanding will deepen the bonds of love and affection among us. I have experienced a lot of love and affection from Hindus who have slowly discovered my academic background: that I am a sympathetic student of Hinduism. This discovery was possible through my interaction with them.

Love implies sharing. If I only give, and am not really prepared to receive from the other then I am not respecting the other. I am saying: “You can only receive from me. You have nothing to offer me.” I am asserting my superiority. As I have said, God our one Father has been guiding all His children from the dawn of humanity. He has been drawing them to Himself. He has blessed them with seers and sages, with prophets and mystics. His guidance is embodied in their religious traditions. Hence

The Church respects and esteems these non Christian religions because they are the living expression of the soul of vast groups of people. They carry within them the echo of thousands of years of searching for God, a quest which is incomplete but often made with great sincerity and righteousness of heart. They possess an impressive patrimony of deeply religious texts. They have taught generations of people how to pray.[16]

As a student of Hinduism, more so after watching Hindus actually at prayer, I appreciate better the Christian tradition of Jesus-prayer, so much practiced in the Greco-Russian communities. I too follow this method of repeating the name of the Lord (nāma-japa).[17]

We in Asia find ourselves in the company of peoples of many different faiths. Most of them have a longer history than Christianity. They are vibrantly alive. They shape the lives of millions of people, giving them their most basic identity. It is part of the general culture of an educated Asian to have some knowledge of the beliefs and practices of the peoples with whom he interacts in the course of his day-to-day living. This context is a tremendous opportunity to learn. The more we know what others believe, and why they believe, the more respectful we will be. This has been my personal experience. As a child, and then as a young seminarian I found the Hindu icons very funny. Imagine a pot-bellied deity (Ganesh). Imagine him riding on a rat. Now that I have done some study, I am amazed at the depth of symbolism involved in these icons. No doubt, we can collect information through books, and now through the internet. But there is nothing like listening to people whose lives are shaped by their religion. This act of listening by itself brings us closer to each other.

Ignorance generates suspicion and even disdain. Ignorance can lead to violent communal tensions. Given the reality of communal tensions, inter-religious dialogue is all the more urgent. People who come together for such an experience can also offer their services as mediators when tensions flare up. What is still better is that these people are alert and try to intervene before the trouble can start. Reconciliation demands that we are prepared to give and take. Dialogic mediation can make this easier. The Church, the reflection of the divine Trinity, is meant to be a communion of love, promoting a communion of love wherever she is. Hence inter-religious dialogue is not an option, but an imperative. For a Christian, to be religious is to be inter-religious.

 

 

C. Dialogue as a Christological Imperative

C.1. Jesus dialogues with non-Jews

As disciples of Jesus we need to learn from him. We see him engaged in dialogue with non-Jews. John gives us an account of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman. “To the Jews, the Samaritans were a heretical and schismatic group of spurious worshippers of the God of Israel, who were detested even more than the pagans.”[18] The woman is quite aware of the disdainful attitude of Jews towards her people, and so she does not miss the chance to hit back: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria” (4.9)? Jesus is not put off by her rudeness, but makes that the starting point of a long conversation. They discuss religious topics: real life, true worship, the messiah to come. She wants to hear more and more from Jesus, and eventually she comes to believe in him.

On another occasion Jesus is so taken up by the disposition of a Roman centurion that he exclaims: “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith (pistis, Mt 8.10). He praises the Canaanite woman, who refused to be rebuffed by the harsh words of Jesus. So great was her faith (pistis, Mt 15.28), that Jesus is forced to rethink his position: she deserves more than the crumbs of bread that fall the master’s table.[19] Jesus could appreciate the religious depth in others; nay even accept their superiority to his own people. He was indeed a very broadminded person, a model for inter-religious dialogue.

 

C.2. Jesus as God Incarnate

Our faith in the divinity of Jesus should impel us to dialogue with peoples of other faiths. The New Testament picture of Jesus is shaped by the religious background of the first Christians. They were mostly Jews, and so they used images familiar to them from the Old Testament to spell out what Jesus meant for them: paschal lamb, good shepherd, life-giving vine, lord of the Sabbath, etc. They saw Old Testament rites in their religious celebrations: Baptism as circumcision, Eucharist as paschal meal. Jesus was the new Moses, the new Samuel, the real David, etc. If Jesus is really divine, then no one culture, however great it may be, is adequate to articulate the mystery of Jesus. To claim the contrary would be tantamount to the denial of his divinity.

I enter into dialogue with peoples of other faiths to learn news ways of looking at God, new ways of understanding His presence in our life and history, new ways of responding to Him, new ways of celebrating His love. The Synod of Asian Bishops has “expressed encouragement to theologians in their delicate work of developing an inculturated theology, especially in the area of Christology.”[20] We need to learn from St. Paul.

Evangelizers can take heart from the experience of Saint Paul who engaged in dialogue with the philosophical, cultural and religious values of his listeners (cf. Acts 14:13-17; 17:22-31). Even the Ecumenical Councils of the Church which formulated doctrines binding on the Church had to use the linguistic, philosophical and cultural resources available to them. Thus these resources become a shared possession of the whole Church, capable of expressing her Christological doctrine in an appropriate and universal way. They are part of the heritage of faith which must be appropriated and shared again and again in the encounter with the various cultures.[21]

The Church in Asia has a long way to go before Asians stop seeing Jesus as “a Western rather than an Asian figure.”[22] The New Testament writers gave us Jewish Jesus. Then a Greco-Roman Jesus emerged, more like the Roman emperor, and less like the poor prophet of Nazareth. In the twentieth century some were unfairly accused of making Jesus a Marxist. Now we need a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist Jesus. The more we interpret Jesus using all the wisdom of humanity, the more we will see – even then it will not be much – what a gift the Father has given us in Jesus. In like manner, the Bible will be fully understood only when it is translated and transcultured into all the languages of the world.[23]

C.3. Jesus as the Expectation of the Nations

Jesus is not the result of the sin of our first parents, but God’s plan for us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1.4). He is the first-born of all creation (Col 1.15). All things were made in and for him, and his light has been shining upon the whole of creation from the beginning (Jn 1.3-5). If this is correct, then from the beginning the whole of humanity is moving towards Jesus. All cultures contain elements that point to him, and find fulfilment in him. Through dialogue I discover the presence of Jesus in other peoples much before the Church arrived on the scene. “Other religions constitute a positive challenge for the Church: they stimulate her both to discover and acknowledge the signs of Christ’s presence and of the working of the Spirit, as well as to examine more deeply her own identity and to bear witness to the fullness of Revelation which she has received for the good of all.”[24] We need to recognize “the Spirit’s action in Asian societies, cultures and religions, through which the Father prepares the hearts of Asian peoples for the fullness of life in Christ.”[25]

If Jesus is really the expectation of the nations, then we will fail in our fraternal task were we not to present him to the nations. Not only do their religious traditions contain elements that point to Jesus, but even to come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be human they need to know Jesus. “The question is not whether the Church has something essential to say to the men and women of our time, but how she can say it clearly and convincingly![26] John Paul II himself responds to this question: “From the Christian point of view, interreligious dialogue is more than a way of fostering mutual knowledge and enrichment; it is a part of the Church’s evangelizing mission, an expression of the mission ad gentes.”[27] This, however, should not give the impression that we dialogue to convert others to Jesus. That we leave to the Lord.

If Jesus is really the expectation of the nations, then I am inclined to believe that Jesus is God’s hermeneusis of all religions. I am inclined to believe that Jesus enables me to understand the religions of others better than they themselves do. This sounds to be a tall claim, but I am basing myself on my experience. I have shared with my Hindu friends some of my writings on Hinduism, and they have wondered how I saw what they did not see.[28]

 

C.4. Jesus as God’s Eternal Word

We believe that in the mystery of the Incarnation, the one eternal Word became flesh (Jn 1.14). This Word has shaped not only all things, but He is also the life that is light, shaping the thinking of all people of good will. As Vatican II teaches, from the beginning of humanity, the Father has been inviting all to Himself through “the seeds of the Word.”[29] Hence all religions “reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”[30] Hence the Council urges Christians who wish to be witness of Jesus to “be familiar with their national and religious traditions; let them gladly and reverently lay bare the seeds of the Word which lie hidden among their fellows.”[31] The seeds of the Word are above all to be found in the scriptures of humanity. Hence in our concern for dialogue we need to have a dialogic approach to the Word of God.

The sacred books of other religions are intimately connected with the religious experience of a particular community. Apart from the Vedas, the other books are explicity linked up with persons who had a deep experience of prayer. There are differences in their experience, but all these have a super-human element: an illumination (Buddha), an instruction from an Angel (Mohammad), an instruction from the Lord himself (Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā), or they are hymns composed by teachers believed to be mystics (the gurus in the Sikh tradition).

Secondly these books continue to inspire millions of people who follow these faith traditions. These texts have inspired monastic movements, social reforms, ethical and cultic renewals. They have helped men and women to pray, to experience the Beyond. We find beautiful mystical pieces. We need to keep in mind what John Paul II says: “Every authentic prayer is prompted by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in every human heart.”[32] These Books have inspired artists, sculptors, architects, and musicians. They have done all this not only in the distant past but in our own times also. Thus these texts have stood the test of time. They belong to humanity, and will survive as long as the human race will survive.

This attitude – that other scriptures too are inspired by the Holy Spirit – will help us to understand and appreciate what happened in the formation of the Bible. It may surprise many Christians to know that the Old Testament has used other scriptures and the sacred writings of other faiths to enrich itself. The Genesis account of creation goes back to what is known as the Babylonian Creation Epic (Enuma elis).[33] Speaking about the Genesis account of the deluge one scholar states: “That the biblical account as a whole goes back ultimately to Mesopotamian sources is a fact that is freely acknowledged by most modern scholars.” [34] Even the prayer-book of the people of God borrowed texts from other faith traditions.  To mention just one example, Psalm 29 is “a Yahwistic adaptation of an older Canaanite hymn to the storm god Baal.”[35] The Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament also shows signs of non-Jewish influence.  Proverbs 22:17 to 24:22 is “modelled on the Egyptian Instruction of Amen-em-ope.”[36]

The Old Testament is the result of many centuries and it is not dominated by any one single historical personality.  Hence influence from outside is more likely.  The New Testament was formed within one century and is dominated by the person of Jesus.  All the writings are inspired by this person, his life and teaching.  Yet even in the New Testament we do find the influence of other sacred texts.  There are scholars who are inclined to believe that, though the “logos” of John is inspired by the Old Testament as far as its content, the Greek word itself was chosen “because of the connotation this term had in the Hellenistic world.”[37] In one of his sermons, St. Paul even quotes two Greek writer (Acts 17:28).[38] If in the formation of the Bible, non-Biblical traditions have a role, then will it be too much to say that we cannot understand our Scripture properly without listening to people who are guided by non-Biblical texts. If we listen attentively, we will also be enriched by their holy books.

The study of other scriptures will not only help us to understand our Bible better; it will also prepare us more for dialogue. The “Relatio post disceptionem” of the Asian Synod (no. 16), makes the following statement: “It was suggested that the cause of evangelization and inculturation will be served if a move could be made in our liturgy and prayer of the Church towards the use of non-Christian Scriptures which at times are very inspiring.” One cannot but wonder why this document was marked `sub secreto‘.

 

 

 

D. DIALOGUE AS AN MISSIOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE

D.1. Mission as Communcation

The proclamation of the Good News of Jesus is not easy. To speak to you effectively I need to know your language. Language is not merely a matter of words, but consists of all those cultural forms we use to express ourselves.  “Despite her centuries-long presence and her many apostolic endeavours, the Church in many places was still considered as foreign to Asia, and indeed was often associated in people’s minds with the colonial powers.”[39] Whenever we learn a new language we need to speak to people who speak that language. Language – in its more common meaning – is primarily a matter of speech, a tool of verbal self-communication and dialogue. Religion is also a ‘language’, a self-expression. I need to know the way people think and articulate their thought. There is “the pressing need of the local Churches in Asia to present the mystery of Christ to their peoples according to their cultural patterns and ways of thinking.”[40] Many Hindus address Kresna, whom they consider to be a descent (avatāra) of God, as ‘Gopāla’ (protector of cows). Hence in India, ‘Jesus the good cowherd’ will make more sense than ‘Jesus the good shepherd’.

Dialogue and inculturation are deeply inter-related. Inculturation is “the obligatory path for evangelizers in presenting the Christian faith and making it part of a people’s cultural heritage.”[41] Without this we will still be aliens. “This engagement with cultures has always been part of the Church’s pilgrimage through history. But it has a special urgency today in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural situation of Asia, where Christianity is still too often seen as foreign.”[42] Inculturated theology and catechesis go hand in hand. Hence we need “an evocative pedagogy, using stories, parables and symbols so characteristic of Asian methodology in teaching.” We need to use “images of Jesus which would be intelligible to Asian minds and cultures.”[43]

 

D.2. Mission as Good News

Good News becomes good when it is seen as related to the life of the audience. Otherwise it is only a piece of news. When I read a newspaper, I lookup the ‘catch-match-hatch-dispatch’ column – engagements, marriages, births and deaths. If I find that among those who have been engaged, or married, or parented a child, are some whom I know personally, then I feel happy. Otherwise that list leaves me cold. If the Gospel is to be Good News for people in Asia, then it must be perceived as a response to their deep longings. “The presentation of Jesus Christ could come as the fulfilment of the yearnings expressed in the mythologies and folklore of the Asian peoples.”[44] To arrive at this I may have to rethink my beliefs. Is Jesus the way I understand him really meaningful to Asia? If not, then there is something deeply wrong with my understanding. Thus inter-religious dialogue is bound to be intra-religious dialogue.


[*] Rev. Father Subhash Anand is a Catholic Priest, a prominent Indian philosopher and Professor peritus of Jnanadeep Vidyapeeth University, Pune. One of his books celebrated in terms of dialogue with Hindus is “Major Hindu Festicals (A Christian Appreciation)” (1991).


[1] Ecclesia in Asia, no. 3. All the Vatican documents have been downloaded from the Internet.

[2] Ibid., no. 29.

[3] D. TRACY, Plurality and Ambiguity, San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1987, pp. 28-29.

[4] Camil BULCKE, An English-Hindi Dictionary, 2nd ed., Ranchi: Catholic Press, 1971, p. 783a.

[5] A. K. RAMANUJAN (ed.), Folktales from India, New Delhi: Viking – Penguin India, 1993, p. 332. See also p. 343.

[6] Ibid., p. 337.

[7] Vatican II, Nostra Aetate, no. 1.

[8] Ibid., no. 2.

[9] A. L. BASHAM, “Aśoka”, in Mircea ELIADE (ed.-in-chief), The Encyclopedia of Religion, 16 vols, New York: Smon & Schuster Macmillan, 1995, vol. 1, pp. 466a-69b, here p. 467a.

[11] For a detailed discussion of this idea see Subhash ANAND, “Tīrthayātrā: Life as a Sacred Journey”, Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, 61 (1997), pp. 669-692.

[12] SURYAKANTA, A Practical Vedic Dictionary, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1981, p. 493; APTE, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 1173.

[13] APTE, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, pp. 429, 433.

[14] Nostra Aetate, no. 1.

[15] The Vedānta tradition proposes śrava<a (listening), manana (reflecting), and nididhyāsan (personalizing) as the three stages of learning.

[16] Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 53.

[17] See my “The Prayer of the Name in the Hindu Tradition”, Journal of Dharma, 28 (2003), pp. 439-62.

[18] John L. McKENZIE, Dictionary of the Bible, Bangalore: Asian Trading Corp., 1998, pp. 765b-66b, here p. 765b.

[19] If it is impossible to please God without faith (pistis, Heb 11.6), and if even those who do not accept Jesus can be saved, then it is difficult to understand and accept what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asserts in its declaration Dominus Iesus, issued on 6th August, 2000: “For this reason, the distinction between theological faith and belief in the other religions, must be firmly held” (no. 7).” I am afraid this goes against what Jesus said about the centurian! The real Dominus Jesus would be very uncomfortable with the Roman Dominus Jesus!

[20] Ecclesia in Asia, no. 22.

[21] Ibid., no. 20.

[22] Idem.

[23] By ‘transculturation’ I mean translating a text in such a way that the images in the original text are replaced by corresponding images from another culture. In a Jewish or Muslim context it will be a horrible humiliation looking after pigs (Lk 151.15), but not so in a community that relishes pork, and considers a festal meal incomplete without a pork dish.

[24] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 56.

[25] Ecclesia in Asia, no. 20.

[26] Ibid., no. 29.

[27] Ibid., no. 31.

[28] Reviewing one of my books, Prof. Manohar Rai SARDESAI, remarked: “2e alone could have written such an informative, thought-provoking and enthralling book.” Book-review of Major Hindu Festivals: A Christian Appreciation, Bombay: St. Pauls, 1991, in Renovaçao, 1991, p. 373a. Another comment: “The book compels our attention by its refreshing interpretation.” G. VISWANATHAN, Book-review of Story as Theology: An Intrepretative Study of Five Episodes from the Mahābhārata, New Delhi: Intercultural Pubs., in The Vedanta Kesari, January 1999, p. 38. In a inter-religious meeting held recently (7th All-India Seminar on “Religion And Morality”, organized by Samvada – A Forum For Understanding Religion, Haridwar, Uttrakhand, India, 20, 21, 22 March 2009), I presented a paper on Var<a-Āśrama-Dharma, a very important traditional Hindu concept. I tried to show how this concept, though Hindu in origin, is an expression of a deep insight into our humanness. As such, it can be the foundation of a secular morality. Commenting on it Dr. S. R. Bhatt, Professor of Philosophy (Rtd.), Delhi University, remarked: “The scholarly paper of Prof. Subhash Anand “Vara-āśrama-dharma” is an appreciable attempt to properly understand one of the seminal theories of traditional Indian culture. It is a good exercise in trans-creative interpretation of a theory which had healthy influence on individual and social life of India once upon a time but which was soon distorted and misunderstood resulting in terrible ill-effects. It is written with a positive and constructive mind with a view to restoring its pristine purity and removing the contamination it has suffered from the perverting influences due to travesty of history.”

[29] Ad Gentes, no. 15.

[30] Nostra Aetate, no. 2. My own experience makes me believe that this is an understatement.

[31] Ad Gentes, no. 11.

[32] Redemptoris Missio, no. 29.

[33] See E. A. Speiser, Genesis (The Anchor Bible 1), Garden City (NY): Doubleday & Co., 1964, p. 9.

[34] Ibid., p. 54.

[35] M. Dahood: Psalms I (The Anchor Bible 16), Garden City (NY): Doubleday & Co., 1966, p. 175.

[36] R. B.Y. Scott: Proverbs Ecclesiastes, (The Anchor Bible 18), Garden City (NY): Doubleday & Co., 1965, p. xix.

[37] R. Brown: The Gospel According to John I-XII (The Anchor Bible 29), Garden City (NY): Doubleday & Co. 1966, p. 519.

[38] The two authors quoted are Aratus, a poet, and Cleanthes, a philosopher. Both belong to the third century B.C. See The New Jerusalem Bible, Bombay: St. Pauls, 2002, p. 1829.

[39] Ecclesia in Asia, no. 9.

[40] Ibid., no. 20.

[41] Ibid., no. 21.

[42] Idem.

[43] Ibid., no. 20.

[44] Idem.

 

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