Calling myself a Buddhist, it turns out, was only the beginning. Buddhism was there for me in this dark time, not only as a way of focusing prayer, and certainly not merely as the resource for a hypothetical chaplain. The Buddhist ideas that taught me so much before were still there and a great comfort. And there was more still: I have now begun to practise Buddhism as I see it, on a far deeper level than I ever had before. Continue reading
This is the first time I have featured a guest post on Love of All Wisdom. Jeffery Long, a professor of religion and Asian studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, sent me this response after I had written my own piece on the topic. I disagree with a few of Jeff’s ideas, most notably the free employment of the term “Hindu”, but some disagreement is always to be expected among philosophers and humanists. I thought the piece merited prompt online publication and I found it to be in broad sympathy with the aims of this blog, so I am presenting it to readers here. I haven’t configured the site to allow others to add content, for the moment at least, so the “official” byline currently lists me as the author. But readers should be clear that this is Jeff’s work, not mine, and all credit and copyright belong to him. Enjoy. – Amod Lele
The first thing a respondent to Deepak Sarma’s essay, “White Hindu Converts: Mimicry or Mockery?”, needs to do is acknowledge the essential core of experiential truth and the genuine pain at its heart. Racism against brown-skinned persons is real and pervasive in North America. Being married now for over seventeen years to a Bengali, I cannot help but be aware of it. Sometimes this racism is overt and brutal, as in the case when, shortly after 9/11, a fellow customer at a gas station pointed to my wife and asked aggressively, “Is she from Afghanistan?” At other times it is more subtle, and perhaps even unknown to its perpetrators, such as when my wife speaks in a faculty meeting at the college where we both work only to have her words met with blank stares and confusion, while I later make basically the same comment and am told what a brilliant and insightful observation I have made. Continue reading
As I discussed last week, Ken Wilber’s recent work argues that spirituality must be taken to a new and higher level, one associated with the “orange” and “green” worldviews of modernity and postmodernity. What does such a higher spirituality entail? Wilber points to examples of liberal Christianity like Hans Küng and John Shelby Spong. This is well and good; I’ve drawn a lot from liberal Christianity and I think it offers crucial methodological lessons for the study of Asian traditions. But his enthusiasm for them goes much too far. He claims that “any premodern spirituality that does not come to terms with both modernity and postmodernity has no chance of survival in tomorrow’s world”. (IS p225)
I would have little problem with this claim if by “come to terms” Wilber meant only that they must acknowledge and react to the existence of post/modernity – as fundamentalism does, by mostly reacting against it. But in his explanations it becomes clear he means significantly more: they must embrace and adopt it. In this claim Wilber echoes the title of one of Spong’s works, a work he names approvingly: Why Christianity Must Change Or Die. Continue reading
Advaita Vedānta, al-Hallāj, Eknath, Emmanuel Lévinas, Hugh van Skyhawk, Paul Hacker, Paul J. Griffiths, Paul Williams, Ramprasad Sen, Śāntideva, Swami Vivekānanda, T.R. (Thill) Raghunath, Wilhelm Halbfass
A curious phenomenon in the study of South Asian and especially Buddhist traditions is the number of Catholic scholars named Paul who have approached these traditions – and especially what Skholiast has called their ātmanism – with a critical eye. The two thinkers I have primarily in mind are the late Paul Hacker (whom I discussed last time, and the living Paul Williams. (The thought of Paul J. Griffiths, who moved in his writings from Buddhology to Catholic theology, bears a strong resemblances to these other Pauls, though I have less to say about him today.) That these men are all named Paul can only be a coincidence. That they are all Catholic is less so; for there are striking affinities in the ways that they (in many respects independently of one another) approach South Asian and Buddhist tradition, affinities that are far less coincidental.