A Swidlerian and Jain prolegomenon to dialogue.
Religious pluralism is a complex sociological phenomenon in the modern world that -- despite its presenting a timely and fertile milieu for understanding our neighbors and ourselves more fully -- arouses fear, suspicion, and intolerance. Dialogue can become an effective precursor to understanding, if it is undertaken with the appropriate attitude. It should not be dialogue on my terms or yours but on our terms by mutual agreement.
Dialogue must not become polemical or dialectical; the former functions on the basis of confrontation and refutation and the latter on the basis of systematic reasoning for the juxtaposition of opposing views in order to find a resolution to conflicts. This resolution itself can become a new thesis, only to be confronted by its antithesis for further debates. If partners in dialogue would recognize that the assertion of every proposition is only a point of view and, thus, incomplete with regard to the knowability of reality in its totality, then dialogue could steer clear of confrontation. Moreover, the false belief that originates from a specific point of view that is erroneously assumed and dogmatically asserted to be the whole truth would no longer be an issue, and dialogue could become conversational with a sincere determination to communicate, tolerate, understand, and grow.
Leonard Swidler, in giving a brief definition of dialogue, states that it is a conversation between two or more individuals with different points of view on a subject. The fundamental goal of dialogue is for partners in dialogue to learn from one another, understand, grow, and change for the better.(1) Patience, courtesy, and the ability to listen attentively with an open mind will be helpful in this process. Swidler makes it clear that dialogue does not mean debate, nor is it intended to force change. Partners in dialogue must be open-minded and sympathetic to one another's points of view, willing to empathize, and even prepared to change voluntarily with dignity if convinced by arguments so to do. This approach is quite different from that of the past, when the ultimate aim of dialogue was intended to defeat our partner because we believed that no one but us had the absolute truth. Such a dogmatic position is brought out in Pope Gregory's condemnation of those who believed that salvation was possible through faiths other than Christianity(2) and in the well-known declaration of Pope Boniface VIII, "extra ecciesiam nulla salus" (outside the church there is no salvation).
There are two issues to be considered here. First, there are different apprehensions, interpretations, and expressions of truth. The ancient text of Hinduism, the Rig Veda declares (I.164.46), "Truth is One, the wise call it by different names"; hence, "Brahman" for the Hindu, "Dharmakaya" for the Buddhists of the Mahayana tradition, "Tao" for the Taoists, "God" for the Christians, and "Allah" for the Muslims. We cannot meaningfully speak about the Christian truth or the Hindu truth, for example. We can, however, make sense by speaking about the Christian or the Hindu apprehension, interpretation, and expression of truth within their respective historical and cultural context. Any religion that makes exclusive and absolute truth-claims about the revelation of God -- and on that basis asserts itself as the only authentic religion -- seeks to do the impossible by putting a limit on the infinite love of God and on God's powers of manifestation. The Hindu mystic, Sri Ramakrishna, explained that the manifestations of God are many and that God can be known through any one of them.(3) The celebrated Muslim poet-mystic, Rumi, wrote in his poem, "The One True Light," that God is the core of existence but that the disagreement among the religions of the world are due to different points of view.(4) From the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the prophet Malachi poses the timely soul-searching questions when he asks, "Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another ...?" (Mal. 2:10 [N.R.S.V]).
Second, there is not only one exclusive way (religion) to liberation from the human condition. To coriservative Christianity religion is christocentric; to Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam, Bhakti Hinduism, and Mahayana Buddhism, religion is theocentric. Whereas the christocentric model excludes all other religions, the theocentric model includes Christianity. The christotheocentric models exclude all nontheistic religions -- for example, Jainism and Theravada Buddhism -- and are thus also exclusivistic. From a phenomenological and functional perspective, it can be deduced that religions are salvificocentric. This should not imply that the religions of the world are the same. Their intent may be the same, but their teachings and approaches vary, each carrying the marks of its historical, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. Hinduism, therefore, has an Indian cultural flavor to it, as does Buddhism, which later took on the cultural garb of Southern and Northern Asia in its Theravadian and Mahayanic expressions, respectively. Islam, proclaimed by the Prophet Muhammad in the sixth century C.E., was shaped by its Arabic language and culture, as were Judaism and Christianity by their Greco-Roman-Hebraic milieu.
The salvificocentric model, however, is more comprehensive and accommodates the whole spectrum of religions as different ways to salvation. For example, Hinduism offers the way of knowledge (jnana marga), the way of devotion (bhakti marga), the way of selfless action (karnia marga); Buddhism, the way of the Eightfold Path (giminipratipat); Islam, the way of submission (mazhab). Salvation is a great mystery, and it is not the monopoly of any specific religion. One recalls the famous words of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, who, in his controversy with St. Ambrose, declared, "It is impossible that so great a mystery should be approached by one road only.(5) Every religion maps out a way to salvation. This point will be further developed below.
Each of these religions believes that its source is the ultimate Truth, though the linguistic term of reference for Truth varies from tradition to tradition. Each religion considers itself to be capable of providing an ultimate refuge from the human condition of evil and suffering. Islam offers refuge to its followers:
Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind,
The King of mankind,
The God of mankind,
From the evil of the sneaking whisperer,
Who whispereth in the hearts of mankind,
Of jinn and of mankind. (Sura 114)
So, too, does Hinduism by the call of the Lord Krishna:
Give up all things of law and turn to me your only refuge, I will deliver
you from all evils; have no care. (Bhagavadgiti 18:66)
In Mahayana Buddhism, the Tathagata declares:
I shall refresh all living beings,
Whose bodies are withering away, who
cling to the triple world,
Who wither away in pain, -- at ease I
will replace them,
And pleasures I will give them and
the final Rest. (Saddharmapundarika V.8)
Finally, in the words of Jesus:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I
will give you rest. (Mt. 11:28)
The response to religious pluralism must not be hierarchialism, which will put us in an archaic, prejudicial, and self-righteous situation to give first place to our own religion and relegate others to a less authentic category with lesser degrees of truth and light. The appropriate response at the threshold of the twenty-first century -- when science and technology have brought us into a global community, and we are becoming more and more aware of our global citizenship -- should be one that would allow me to accept Christianity as my way to ultimate reality and total well-being and, simultaneously, accept the fact that Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Islam are alternative, authentic, and fulfilling ways for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Jews, and Muslims, respectively.
II. The Swidlerian Model of Truth: Epistemological Relationality
There are many who are not ready to be as open-minded and as universal as this for two reasons. First, they operate on the false assumption that, because God revealed Godself to their tradition, the claim to divine revelation by others must be either incomplete or false. It follows from this assumption, as far as some Christians, for example, are concerned, that salvation is possible only through Jesus Christ, for he is the only authentic way. This is the conservative, evangelical, and mainstream Protestant model,(6) which is uncompromisingly exclusive. I do not intend to impute christocentric inflexibility exclusively to the Protestant strand of Christianity, because there are some Christians of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communion who also believe that Jesus Christ is the sine qua non for salvation. In the case of liberal Christians, however, though they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church, they do not make the claim that Christianity is the only way to salvation.
Second, they operate on a classical model of truth that, as Swidler argues, is absolute, static, and exclusive. This is the Aristotelian model of truth, which functions by the method of contradiction and exclusion. It is an either-or/truth-falsehood principle; for example, the assertion of the propositions p and not-p is false, because p could not be true and not-true at the same time and in the same manner. True propositions are established by a process of exclusion; hence, p is p because it can be shown not to be not-p. If we do not want to stifle within the parameters of our own tradition, and if we do not want to be deprived of the wisdom of other traditions, Swidler contends that we must be prepared to make a paradigm shift by deabsolutizing truth and by making a transition from the classical and absolutistic model to the modern model of truth as "deabsolutized, dynamic, and inclusive -- in a word, relational."(7) This nonabsolutistic, epistemological model will steer us clear of the exclusive either-or model toward a creative and fulfilling dialogical path. It is quite interesting that the ancient Jain philosophers of India anticipated Swidler in our modern day through their famous doctrine of nonabsolutization (anekintavada), a Jain doctrine that states that contrary alternatives can be true from different standpoints. More will be said about this below.
Relationality is the common denominator underlying all statements about truth in the Swidlerian model, that is to say "that all expressions or understandings of reality are in some way fundamentally related to the speaker or knower,"(8) with regard to her or his historical and sociological context and intention, perception, degree of comprehension, and ability of expression. Statements about reality, then, are from different points of view, which cannot be accommodated by the exclusivistic, either-or model but lend themselves to the "dialogic or relational model."(9) Swidler believes that to refuse to engage in dialogue is nothing less than a serious act of irresponsibility. The new model of truth compels us to no better response than to seek wholeness and comprehensive meaning through complementarity and dialogue. Paul Knitter has expressed it as follows:
In the new model, truth will no longer be identified by its ability to
exclude or absorb others. Rather, what is true will reveal itself mainly by
its ability to relate to other expressions of truth and to grow through these
relationships -- truth defined not by exclusion but by relation.
The new model reflects what our pluralistic world is discovering: no truth
can stand alone; no truth can be totally unchangeable. Truth, by its very
nature, needs other truth. If it cannot relate, its quality of truth must be
open to question.(10)
Relationality and mutuality are at the very foundation of this new model of truth, and they "point ineluctably to the need for dialogue,"(11) without which, Swidler goes on to argue, ethical conduct will not only be frozen but will ultimately be shattered. The self will remain underdeveloped and will be deprived of its full humanization, while "the perception and expression of reality" will be fundamentally distorted because one point of view absolutizes itself as the one and only true reality.(12) This will be nothing less than a formula for stunted growth and stifling dogmatism. The human search for truth in a global community makes dialogue imperative. The new model of truth negates all forms of dogmatism and fanaticism, and it encourages modesty, if not humility, in upholding different points of view of reality with an open-mindedness to reciprocity and complementarity.
III. The Jain Model of Truth: Epistemological Relationality -- An Ancient Parable for All Seasons
Jainism, which dates back to the sixth century B.C.E., is a nontheistic Indian religion that offers a timely contribution to dialogue through its model of truth, fundamental to which is the theory of anekantavada: nonabsolutization or many-sidedness. Very succinctly, this theory states that reality is complex with infinite sides or aspects, all of which can never be known through either the various categories of thought or sense perception or both. The reason for this is as follows:
Because the qualities are innumerable and their modes are infinite,
stretching from the beginningless past to the endless future, it is not
possible for an ordinary (non-omniscient) person to perceive the existent in
its entirety. At a single moment he can be aware either of the persisting
unity (ekatva) of the substance or the transient multiplicity (anekatva) of
its modes. This complexity of the existent ... finds expression in the Jaina
[Jain] term anekanta, manifold aspects, which purports to fully describe the
Ordinary folk like us can know only one or two aspects of a thing, but each individual soul has the potential to become omniscient and, thus, to comprehend a thing in its totality.(14) In our present existential condition, the best we can do is to know a thing only from certain points of view. In other words, we can only have standpoints; hence, complementarity, not dogmatic assertions of a point of view, should be our approach in any conversation. Any proposition about truth that claims to be a comprehensive statement of the whole truth is nothing more than a distortion of it, and from the Jain perspective it is incomplete and dogmatically exclusive.
The Jain theory of many-sidedness presupposes a manifold number of viewpoints. To exaggerate any one point of view as absolutely true is to be confronted with the dilemma of a partial epistemology/metaphysics. Jainism itself, however, is not totally free from an apparent dogmatism or from a position that seems to be one-sided (ekanta). As Padmanabh Jaini has expressed it, "The authority of the Jaina teachings rests ultimately on the fact that they were preached by an omniscient being; thus they are every bit as unverifiable and dogmatic as those accepted by an orthodox Hindu or Christian."(15) There is a difference, however, for, whereas Jainism, like all other religions, aspires to the ultimate passage from imperfection to perfection, it does not assert its way as exclusively authentic in contrast to the other religious traditions. It avoids this extreme position of exclusion, as well as the other extreme of a compromising accommodation and assimilation. It recognizes that there are certain nonnegotiables in all traditions but contends that these have merits only insofar as they are recognized as standpoints, not asserted as absolutes.
Jainism is fully aware of the fact that history is punctuated by violence arising from the different views that people of different traditions hold. However, the diversity of worldviews does not necessarily mean that there would be violence, for, if there is a model through which people could work toward understanding and tolerance, then nonviolence and peaceful coexistence could be achieved. With this in focus, Jainism meticulously explained its own viewpoint. Furthermore, it made a thorough study of the viewpoints of other systems, then it applied its method of perspectivalism (syadvada) by subjecting its rival systems to rigorous scrutiny without condemning them as false, but only as adhering to a point of view and thus incomplete and incapable of representing reality in its totality. To understand and tolerate, not to assimilate, is the Jain's approach to the quest for peaceful coexistence.
Christopher Key Chapple has expressed it as follows:
The Jaina concern for understanding the traditions of others relative to
their own is quite ancient. Record of it is found in the earliest texts of
the Jaina canon. The Sutrakrta, included in the second section of Jaina
canonical literature, critiques other systems of Indian thought in light of
Jainism, specifically those that seem to advocate fatalism, eternalism, or
vacuity. In the fifth century (C.E.), Siddhasena Divakaras' Sanmatisutra
investigates various viewpoints as being nonvalid when asserted in an
absolutist manner. And in the thirteenth century, Mallisena's Syadvadamanjari
offers a comprehensive critique of non-Jaina philosophical schools and
By reference to selected passages from Mallisena's Syadvadamanjari, Chapple illustrated how the doctrine of syadvada "or perspectival method," as he calls it, functions. Mallisena's text is applied to several non-Jain religious and philosophical positions, indicating that every position is only a point of view. How, for example, can the Vedantin hold the position that the phenomenal world is unreal? This position is carefully considered, then it is criticized on the grounds that, if the phenomenal world is indeed unreal as the Vedantin contends, how is it that the world is seen and comprehended?(17) This is an extreme position based on a point of view. In its condemnation of the Vedantin and others such as the Vaisesika, the Nyaya, the Samkhya, and the Buddhist, Jainism does not contend that their views are absolutely false. It accepts these views as meaningful and valid - but only insofar as they express partial truth and not the whole truth. These views become controversial and "false only when considered to possess an absolute and exclusive validity."(18) To prevent a one-sided metaphysical system and controversy, "the Jainas requisition the service of the doctrine of standpoints, in addition to that of pramanas, for the ascertainment of reality."(19) Steering clear of the Aristotelian either-or/truth-falsehood model and the "fourfold" Upanishadic and Nagarjunian model of the real, Jainism postulates "a sevenfold analysis of reality" that rejects dogmatic and extreme allegiance to any point of view.(20)
Whereas the Western classical model of truth is based on the either-or principle and the law of the contradiction, thus leaving only two possibilities to a given proposition - either true or false, p or not-p - in India this epistemological paradigm was not given such categorical prominence. The Jain philosophical system permits seven possibilities/views (saptabhangi):(21) (1) A given proposition may be affirmed as true. For example, someone who is not accustomed to spicy foods may affirm that this curried chicken is hot (p). (2) From another point of view, however, this same proposition may be contradicted. For example, someone who loves spicy foods may affirm with equal truth and sincerity that this curried chicken is not hot (not-p). (3) It is, therefore, possible to affirm and negate a given proposition as true and false simultaneously; hence, the curried chicken is hot and not-hot (p and not-p in time [t.sup.1]).
(4) What, then, we may ask, is the true nature of the curried chicken? The true nature of it has to be grasped from the various points of view postulated above: hot, not-hot, hot and not-hot (p, not-p, p and not-p). The fourth view indicates that the real nature of a thing is indescribable and thus inexpressible. According to Jainism there are manifold ways in which a thing can be viewed; hence, its true nature will always be beyond our grasp. It follows, therefore, that no proposition can fully affirm the true nature of a thing. There is an apparent paradox here with reference to knowability insofar as one may know a thing and yet not know it. From a certain point of view one may know a single or a few aspects of a thing, but one may not know a thing in its totality. Following from this paradox, the last three of the sevenfold views will appear as follows: (5) hence, hot and indescribable; (6) not-hot and indescribable; (7) hot, not-hot, and indescribable.
In the Western classical paradigm of truth p and not-p will be contradictory and invalid, but in the new paradigm of deabsolutization and epistemological relationality different points of view have a significant place in the elucidation, comprehension, and communication of the real. For centuries the Jain model of truth has stood as a challenge to the West for a paradigm shift, and it has successfully anticipated Swidler and others. Epistemological relationality, not absolutization, characterizes the Jain and Swidlerian position. The corollary of this position is that truth can be approached from different standpoints and under different circumstances; hence, for a speaker to maintain a specific standpoint it does not necessarily follow that she or he must negate others simply because they are not identical to hers or his. Specific aspects or points of view of reality are not an adequate representation of reality in its totality. Different standpoints are only "relative solutions," by means of which we can have some knowledge of the real, but they "do not give us a full and sufficient account of it." In a nutshell, the fundamental epistemological principle of Jainism states "that truth is relative to our standpoints,"(22) hence, nonabsolutistic, as the following Jain parable illustrates.
There was a king who invited five blind men to his courtyard where he had secured an elephant. He asked them to touch the animal and to describe it. Each of the blind men caught hold of a different part of the elephant and, on the basis of his individual perception, went on to describe the whole animal from his standpoint. The first man held on to the trunk of the animal and exclaimed that it was like a huge snake; the second caught the ear and insisted that the animal was like a winnowing fan; the third, the leg and asserted that it resembled the trunk of a tree; the fourth, the tail and said that the animal was like a rope; and the fifth, who passed his hands along the side of the animal, said it was like a wall. There was confusion among those five men as each insisted that his description of the elephant was true; of course, each was making a truth-claim from his particular standpoint. All these points of view are important to the Jain because there is a relative degree of truth in each of them insofar as each has something that directs our attention to the real. Not one of these views, however, can exclude any or all of the others, because none is an absolute and comprehensive statement of what the whole truth is. None is absolutely true or absolutely false. The Jain's approach is to take all these views into consideration for a fuller view of the truth; therefore, complementarity, not exclusion, is the name of the game.
The Swidlerian and Jain model of truth is based on the principle that truth is deabsolutized and conditioned by several factors: by the historical circumstances and sociocultural context in which it is perceived and expressed; by the psychophysiological and intellectual make-up of the knower/speaker with regard to her or his ability to know, interpret, understand, and communicate; by his or her intention to act in accordance with truth as it is perceived and comprehended; and by dialogical encounters. Every proposition of the real, therefore, is a deabsolutization of it and is thus relational.
The Swidlerian and Jain model of truth is characterized by relationality, dialogue, and complementarity. It is an open-minded, empathetic, and pluralistic realism that steers clear of the two extreme positions of dogmatic affirmation and radical negation. First, it steers away from the absolutistic affirmation of dogmatic and exclusivistic Christianity, which fails to see that its interpretation and comprehension of the Bible is only one point of view and also fails to see that its exclusive claim - that there is no salvation outside a personal experience of, and relationship with, Jesus Christ - is only one of the many ways to salvation. The latter is what Knitter calls the ontological and epistemological necessity in the Protestant model for salvation,(23) but this model also coincides with the belief of some Christians in other strands of Christianity. Second, the Swidlerian and Jain model of truth steers clear of the Madhyamika radical and absolute negation of all points of view. The Madhyamika takes a more drastic approach with regard to the knowability of reality through points of view and discursive reasoning. The Madhyamika's dialectic is an unqualified rejection of all points of view, which are considered to be distorted statements about reality. For the Madhyamika, there is no point of view that is not divisive and that does not suffer from an inherent dogmatism that is grounded in language and in the rational process itself.
As a Christian theologian, Swidler has boldly challenged the classical model of truth, pointed the way beyond dogmatic Christian parochialism, and shown that, the more we become aware of peoples and their traditions, the more fully cognizant we must become of the urgency for deabsolutization, dialogue, and complementarity in our search for meaning in our global community. As he puts it, "The search for the truth of the meaning of things must lead to dialogue."(24)
The Swidlerian and Jain epistemological relationality illustrates the fact that every understanding and every expression of reality is in some manner or the other fundamentally related to the knower and the speaker. It is, therefore, understandable that the logical corollary of this is an appeal for modesty in asserting truth-claims, an open-mindedness for complementarity of viewpoints, and a willingness to cooperate and to engage in dialogue.(25) This is the only meaningful route for religion at this point in its history.
IV. The Swidlerian Ground Rules and the Jain Doctrine of Nonviolence for the Dialogical Process
If the creative search for understanding ourselves and our fellow human beings is to Progress, and if religions and their practitioners are to grow and mature in genuine relationships, then dialogue is a fundamental necessity in our pluralistic world. The World Council of Churches and Vatican II, for example, have contributed significantly to the dialogical process as two major arms of Christianity.(26) Interreligious dialogue is a complex issue, and, even though much has been said about it, there are still questions concerning methods of approach and purpose. Swidler's paradigm shift from absolute and nonrelational truth to deabsolutization and relationality is complemented by his ground rules for dialogue; together they comprise an excellent and timely prolegomenon to interreligious dialogue.(27) Swidler emphasizes that these ground rules are not theoretical dictates from on high but are derived from "hard experience."(28) They are essential for creative dialogue, and, if they are not observed, dialogue could be either diminished or destroyed. As these ground rules will show, for Swidler interreligious dialogue is not primarily a discursive exercise but seeks deeper mutual empathy, understanding, and appreciation of each other's beliefs, values, manners, and customs; moreover, it aims at meaningful relationships.
A brief glance at these ground rules will explain how Swidler removes some of the misconceptions of dialogue as either debate, dialectic, or polemics and how he promotes it as an appropriate response to a global community that is essentially pluralistic. In essence the first rule states that the primary goal of dialogue is for partners in dialogue to learn from one another. Second, "dialogue must be a two-sided project"(29) within each community and between communities. Third, every partner in dialogue must approach the dialogical process with complete honesty and sincerity. Fourth, partners in dialogue must not compare their ideals with their partner's practice. Instead, they must compare their ideals with their partner's ideals, and their practice with their partner's practice. Fifth, each partner in dialogue must be able to define her or himself, because an outsider to the Hindu tradition, for example, can only attempt a description of what a Hindu is; only a Hindu, from the inside of her or his tradition, can really define what it means to be a Hindu.
Sixth, partners in dialogue must listen to one another with sympathy and open-mindedness and make every effort to strike points of agreement without losing integrity. Seventh, "Dialogue can take place only between equals, or par cum pari as Vatican II put it."(30) Partners in dialogue must approach dialogue without any feelings of superiority or inferiority. Eight, the only basis on which meaningful and authentic dialogue can take place is on "mutual trust."(31) Ninth, partners in dialogue must stand within their "tradition with integrity and conviction,"(32) but these must be open to constructive self-criticism. Tenth, Swidler states in his tenth rule that a participant in dialogue must try "to experience the partner's religion or ideology from `within.'"(33) To make the passage from an outsider to an insider facilitates empathy, understanding, and the dialogical process.
Chapple contends that a great deal of violence in our world has originated from the disagreement in religious views that people hold. There is, however, good reason to be optimistic, for, if people who hold different worldviews and ideologies can find "a framework" by means of which they could understand and tolerate one another, then violence could very well give way to non-violence.(34) The Jains understand this well; hence, Divakaras's Sanmatisutra and Mallisena's Syadvadamanjari have played an important role in impressing upon people of different schools of thought that, while their positions are not to be condemned, it is important that they be recognized as incomplete insofar as they are points of view of the truth, not the whole truth. Jainism's ethics of tolerance and nonviolence is brought into the logistics of its metaphysics and epistemology, for, as we have already seen, neither the Aristotelian either-or/truth-falsehood paradigm nor the fourfold Upanishadic nor the Nagar-junian model of truth features here but, rather, the sevenfold views, thus decreasing the possibility for dogmatism and increasing the scope for tolerance and nonviolence. The logic of Jainism's epistemology establishes that all propositions are conditional upon the standpoint of a speaker and upon the aspect(s) of the thing she or he is talking about. Jainism makes it clear that nonviolence (ahimsa) applies not only to the physical realm with regard to abstinence from inflicting injury on all life forms but also to the intellectual realm with regard to showing respect and tolerance for the views of others. Quoting from H. R. Kapadia, Chapple wrote:
When this ahimsa is allowed to play its role on an intellectual plane, it
teaches us to examine and respect the opinions of others as they, too, are
some of the angles of vision or pathways to reality which is many-sided and
enable us to realize and practice truth in its entirety. This implies that
ahimsa -- the Jaina attitude of intellectual ahimsa -- is the origin of
anekantavada. In other words, Jaina principle of `respect for life' (ahimsa)
is the origin of `respect for the opinions of others' (anekantavada).(35)
It was not the Jains' intention to force people to become converts. It was more to understand, tolerate, and promote nonviolent and peaceful coexistence. This approach is well stated by Chapple, and it is a solid contribution to the entire dialogical process:
The Jainas are firm in their own belief structure: their cosmology, logic,
and ethics have remained unaltered for nearly three thousand years ...
However, accompanying this certitude is a driving concern to understand the
beliefs of others, not to change themselves or even necessarily to convert
The fundamental principle in Jain ethics, nonviolence (ahimsa), is an excellent complement to Swidler's ground rules for dialogue. Literally, ahimsa means noninjury. Inclusive in this term is tolerance of all life-forms and all points of view as they relate to reality. Ahimsa should not be taken to mean a passive course to inaction. Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, was deeply influenced by the Jain doctrine of ahimsa and is recognized today as the foremost exemplar, by speech and action, of this doctrine, which is not unique to Jainism but is central to Hinduism and Buddhism as well. Gandhi used the term "ahimsa" to mean not only abstinence from injurious thought, speech, and action but also, in a more positive and dynamic manner, to mean involvement in creative thought, speech, and action that will promote tolerance, cooperation, and reconciliation. The practice of ahimsa in this spirit calls for self-sacrifice and the removal of egocentricity. Gandhi did not make a distinction between ahimsa and love but used these terms synonymously. His use of "ahimsa" is reminiscent of the Pauline "agape" (unconditional/reconciling love) and the Mahayanist "mahakaruna" (great compassion).
The common denominator in these three words is sacrificial love, that is, healing or making whole -- reconciling regardless of the diversity of points of view and other factors. To Gandhi, Jesus Christ was the epitome of Satyagraha, that is, an exemplar of God-force or Truth-force in all his actions, because his only weapon was that of reconciling love. The example that Christ set through his suffering and love was, for Gandhi, as he himself expressed it, "a factor in the composition of my undying faith in non-violence."(37) For Gandhi, God was Truth, and, conversely, Truth was God; the way to God was through ahimsa/ love. On this note of nonviolence, love, and reconciliation, it is interesting to recall Swidler's position:
From Jesus Christ, Christians learn that the ultimate meaning of life is to
stand in the center of one's being and turn and reach outward; it is to love,
to reach out beyond oneself to the good, to being, to all that exists.
Primarily for human beings this means other persons, but it also includes all
beings, and ultimately the Source, Sustainer, and Goal of all being...(38)
Complementing the Swidlerian and Jain epistemology is their ethics of love and nonviolence as reconciling agents in a divided world.
V. A Common Platform for Interreligious Dialogue and a Model for the Interreligious Study of Salvation and a Sense of Universality
In this section I shall propose a common basis as a starting point for interreligious dialogue and as a paradigm for the interreligious study of salvation and a sense of universality. Although the primordial experiences of the founders of world religions vary, and although their religions originated and developed in different historical and cultural backgrounds, there are fundamental points that they hold in common. I shall name only two for our purpose. First, they all claim to have had an experience of ultimate reality. Second, from that experience has evolved a way that leads out of the human predicament to an ultimate state of existence wherein is the fullness of existence and ultimate meaning.
There is no religious tradition that will deny that it is an authentic path to salvation that is complete and comprehensive with regard to its diagnosis of the existential malady in the human condition and its prescription for a perfect cure. There are some people, however, even today, who will deny that religions other than their own are authentic paths to salvation. The real problem raises its head when religions begin to compete for absolute authenticity. The argument of any religion, upon any revelatory claim or hermeneutical ingenuity, to support its position that it is the most authentic path to salvation puts the truth-claims of all other religions into question and puts itself in an exclusive and dogmatic dilemma. The ultimate concern of religion is salvation/liberation,(39) and there is no exception to this, not even in the case of Theravada Buddhism.
The salvificocentric model is more comprehensive and accommodates the entire spectrum of religions as historical phenomena. It indicates their common intent within a tri-functional structure, notwithstanding their varied historical and cultural backgrounds and their doctrinal differences. As we cut through to the core of religions, we find that they all have a common goal, salvation; however, the approaches to realize this ultimate goal are as many as there are religions. The use of the terms "salvation" or "liberation" raises three basic questions: (1) salvation from what? (2) salvation to what? and (3) by what means can one make the passage from (1) to (2)? All religions teach that human beings are caught up in an existential predicament that characterizes the human condition (Q); they prescribe a passage (R) from (Q) to a state of ultimate meaning and the fullness of existence (S). This tri-functional structure of religion can be applied as a paradigm for an interreligious study of salvation and as a starting point for interreligious dialogue. It can be diagrammatically illustrated as follows:
Even Theravada Buddhism falls within this tri-functional structure, though it is one of the most unorthodox religions because of its refusal to postulate the existence of God or soul and because of its nonontologization of nirvana. From its perception of the human condition, Buddhism concludes that the existential crisis is suffering, caused by selfish craving and ignorance, which hold human beings in bondage to empirical existence (samsara). Hinduism concludes that human beings are held in bondage to empirical existence and to the sufferings that are concomitant with it because they are under the influence of spiritual ignorance, which leads them into mistaking the selfish ego for the real self (atman). For the Semitic religions the existential crisis is alienation from God because of sin/disobedience exemplified in human beings' deliberate contradiction of the will of God.
We can delineate from these perceptions of the human condition that the selfish ego, the empirical-I, functions as a centrifugal force that pulls human beings away from ultimate reality (their ontic center) and thus from ultimate meaning and the fullness of existence. Religions, however, are cartographical and centripetal in structure and function insofar as they map out a way that leads from the existential crisis to an experience of the ultimate reality. For Buddhism, the way is the Noble Eightfold Path, which promises liberation from suffering/bondage to nirvana; for Hinduism, it is the way of Knowledge that will lead from bondage to liberation in moksha. A cross-cultural, hermeneutical study of such terms as "nirvana," "moksha," "paradise" in Christianity, and "paradise" in Islam will show different meanings, but in the final analysis they all indicate the salvific goal, the summum bonum, as perceived by the various traditions.
While loyalty to one's own religion is understandable, in a pluralistic society neither ethnocentricity nor religiocentricity should dim our vision of the crucial existential facts that we are all in need of deliverance from our predicament and that the human soul longs to fulfill its quest for ultimate meaning and the fullness of existence. Who, then, can answer the question as to which religion is most fulfilling and most authentic? A Christian cannot answer for a Muslim, nor a Buddhist for a Christian, etc. The most authentic answer can come only from a Muslim for Islam, a Christian for Christianity, etc. It can be given only by the practitioners or insiders of a religion, not by outsiders. In our pluralistic world we can no longer afford to think in terms of "we" and "the others" but of "we" and "all of us" as travelers in different rafts (to use the Buddhist metaphor), shaped by the different historical and cultural backgrounds in which they originated.(40) They have the same goal, which is to help transport human beings from, as the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad would say, "the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality" (1.3.28).
The fact of diversity at the threshold of the twenty-first century leaves us with two responses: (1) to look beyond the externals of religion, which display differences, and to probe deeper to discover a common underlying faith of practitioners, which is persistent in its pursuit of meaning and the fullness of existence; and (2) to accept the fact that it is we (all of us) as members of the human race on a single planet who are seeking the Ultimate through diverse beliefs and practices. The "we" and "us" factor is a significant social denominator that will help us appreciate diversity without losing our identity. It will steer us clear of the limited vision of ethnocentricity and religiocentricity to a wider and deeper sense of a human family within a global community -- thus, the necessity for interdependence, interaction, and interrelation through dialogue.
The emphasis, therefore, need not be on polarization because of differences but on complementarity in spite of differences. The major prerequisite for this is a challenge to every religious tradition to liberate itself from the false assumption that it possesses the absolute truth and that its apprehension, interpretation, and expression of it is the only true and authentic one. What is urgently required to usher in complementarity as an antidote to polarization is open communication. Raimon Panikkar has expressed it as follows:
The ideal is communication in order to bridge the gulfs of mutual ignorance
and misunderstandings between different cultures of the world,... but this
does not imply at all that the aim is a uniform unity or a reduction of all
the pluralistic variety of Man into one single religion, system, ideology or
tradition. Pluralism stands between unrelated plurality and a monolithic
Dialogue as communication characterizes the Swidlerian and Jain position, which gives much hope for complementarity and a sense of unity without uniformity, thus leaving religious and cultural identity intact, while providing a way out of bigotry and dogmatic polarization.
The universality of the Swidlerian and Jain approach is based on relationality, mutuality, love/nonviolence, and complementarity. Every proposition about reality is only a statement from a given standpoint; hence, the Swidlerian and Jain approach is one that teaches respect and tolerance, sympathy and intellectual curiosity for other points of view and, by extension, for other traditions. It is not an approach that is seeking inclusiveness by ignoring the conditions and circumstances in which differences between traditions originate; nor is it seeking to exclude any tradition by the superimposition of one point of view as the absolute truth. The Swidlerian and Jain approach steers clear of these two extremes, seeking to learn and to grow through dialogue without any hidden agenda. R. Vachon made a timely and helpful observation on the question of dialogue by pointing out that there are many peoples of the non-Christian traditions who understand the meaning of "dialogue" as being "synonymous with proselytizing, which belittles, despises and destroys their own most cherished traditions." He contended further that even today when non-Christians hear the word "dialogue" used by a Christian they think that "it is simply another strategy to convert them to his [or her] religion."(42) The Swidlerian and Jain approach removes all such fear and suspicion, because there is no hidden agenda.
At this point in our history we have no alternative but to remove the following erroneous claims: (1) that my religion has a monopoly on truth, because of divine favor; hence, the claim to truth by any other religion must be false; (2) that revelation in my tradition is the end and culmination of all revelations; hence, all other claims to revelation before mine must be either false or incomplete, and all claims after mine must be false; (3) that my religion is the only true and authentic path to salvation; hence, all other paths to salvation must be either deficient or false. Neither Judaism nor Christianity nor Islam -- nor any other religion, for that matter -- can afford to take such a position, unless it deliberately wishes to brand itself exclusivistic and remain within the confines of fundamentalism.
To engage in dialogue is to learn, grow, and even change for the better. Dialogue is the most effective means to remove fears and suspicions about our neighbors, to bridge the gap between peoples of different traditions, and to promote genuine and meaningful relationships among peoples within a global community. The Swidlerian and Jain approach provides a challenging prolegomenon to such a timely exercise.
IN MEMORIAM PINCHAS LAPIDE
(November 28, 1922-October 23, 1997)
In October, 1997, the world of interreligious dialogue lost a major figure, and the Journal of Ecumenical Studies lost an Associate Editor, Prof. Pinchas Lapide. The International Scholars' Annual Trialogue (Jewish-Christian-Muslim), of which he was a central participant, will also miss his participation.
Pinchas was born and raised in Vienna and, in the late 1930's, was caught up in the rising flood tide of Antisemitism fomented by Nazism. He was able to escape from a concentration camp in Slovakia and made his way to England and, from there, on to Palestine in 1940. Not many years later he returned to Europe with the Jewish Brigade of the British army, coming up the boot of Italy. One of his adventures along the way occurred when his Military Government unit took over a small village in Italy. This village had, under the heel of Fascism, been without a priest for years, and so the village elders took it upon themselves to instruct the community by reading the Bible together. They assumed that the Jews described in the Bible had disappeared from history 2,000 years earlier, so they were amazed when Lapide's Jewish unit came into the village. They asked him to teach them, thus starting him on the path of Jewish-Christian dialogue.
He later pursued dialogue through the forum of the Israeli diplomatic service and whatever other means presented themselves. Eventually, he returned to Europe to finish a doctorate in Jewish-Christian dialogue in Cologne, Germany, and thereafter he and his co-worker and wife Ruth courageously made Germany their home. They travelled far and wide lecturing and teaching throughout Europe and America, but especially in Germany. Pinchas made himself into an extraordinarily insightful New Testament scholar, whose characteristic trademark was unlocking opaque passages through re-situating them in their original Jewish settings and Semitic language.
Lapide spoke on numberless platforms, both alone and in dialogical sessions. From the latter he produced a dozen dialogue books with the foremost Christian theologians of the latter part of the twentieth century, including Karl Rahner, Hans Kung, and Jurgen Moltmann. Without a doubt, Lapide was the outstanding Jewish champion of dialogue on the European some for the last third of the twentieth century. He will be badly missed, but we all are vastly richer for his wonderful work and presence.
Pinchas, todah v'shalom!
(1) Leonard Swidler, After the Absolute: The Dialogical Future of Religious Reflection (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), p. 3.
(2) Ibid., pp. 3-4.
(3) F.X. Max Muller, Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings (New York: Scribner's sons, 1899), p. 99.
(4) Reynold Nicholson, tr., Rumi: Poet and Mystic (1207-1273) (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1950), p. 166; see also Rumi's "All Religions Are in Substance One and the Same," in his The Masnavi, tr. E. H. Whinfield (London: Octagon Press, 1979), p. 139.
(5) Quoted by Arnold Toynbee in Christianity among the Religions of the World (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1957), p. 112.
(6) See Paul F. Knitter, No other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian attitudes toward the World Religions (New York: Orbis Books, 1990), pp. 75-119.
(7) Swidler, After the Absolute, p. 7; for the "classicist" or "absolutist" view of truth, which is based on the Aristotelian principle of contradiction and exclusion, see ibid., p. 8.
(8) Ibid., p. 8.
(9) Leonard Swidler, "Interreligious and Interideological Dialogue: The Matrix for All Systematic Reflection Today," in Leonard Swidler, ed., Toward a Universal Theoloy of Religion (New York: Orbis Books, 1987), p. 12; see also Paul Knitter, No Other Name, pp. 217-219. The either-or model is reminiscent of the truth-falsehood model, which argues for the validity of Christianity as the only path to salvation and classifies all other religions as inherently lacking in truth and light and thus as false. See, e.g., Karl Barth's position in Owen C. Thomas, ed., Attitudes toward Other Religions. Some Christian Interpretations (New York and London: Harper & Row, 1969), pp. 96-112.
(10) Knitter, No Other Name? p. 219.
(11) Swidler, After the Absolute, p. 21.
John Sahadat (Roman Catholic) has been a Professor of World Religions and Mysticism at the University of Sudbury College in Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada since 1970. He received the Ignatius Loyola Quincentennial Medal for Outstanding Contribution to teaching and administration at the University of Sudbury College in 1991 and the Thorneloe University Mitre Award for Teaching Excellence in 1997. He holds a B.A. in religious studies and Western philosophy from Laurentian University, and M.A. in Indian philosophy and religion from Banaras Hindu University, and a Ph.D. in religious studies (1975) from the University of Lancaster (U.K.). Among his recent publications are "Religious Influences in the Rise of Indian Nationalism," Asian Thought and Society (Sept.-Dec., 1995); "The Indian Contribution to Harmony in Diversity," Indo Caribbean Review (1996); "Devine Revelation and the Status of the Qur'an" Muslim Education quarterly (1996); and "Islamic Education: A Challenge to Conscience," The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (forthcoming). His last J.E.S. article was "The Interreligious Study for Mysticism and a Sense of Universality" (Spring, 1985).
(13) Padmanabh S. Jaini, The Jaina Path of Purification (Delhi, Varanasi, and Patna: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979), p. 91.
(14) From a religious perspective, the Jain assumption is that the soul is endowed with all knowledge, but due to passions, false views, and other impediments it is prevented from manifesting its full measures and is thus confined to the limitations of the empirical world. If the soul is liberated from these impediments, it could realize its omniscience. In this regard Jainism recommends a path of purification and spiritual exercises in preparation for liberation from emotions, passions, attachment to matter, and the clutches of partial truth and dogmatism. For a succinct treatment of this theme, see John M. Koller, The Indian Way (New York: Macmillan, 1982), pp. 116-130.
(15) Jaini, Jaina Path, p. 89.
(16) Christopher Key Chapple, Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions, SUNY Series in Religious Studies (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993), p. 86. This is an excellent book that makes a succinct study of a major theme in the Asian traditions, particularly in Jainism, with reference to its metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.
(17) Ibid., pp. 88-89.
(18) Jaini, Jaina Path, p. 93.
(19) Bimal Krishna Matilal, The Central Philosophy of Jainism (Anekanta-vada), L. D. Series 79 (Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology, 1981), p. 41.
(20) Chapple, Nonviolence, p. 87. See ibid., p. 134, second n. 3: The fourfold explanation of reality according to the Upanishads are: waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and finally the state called "turiya," wherein the individual atman realizes its ontological identity with Brahman. See also the Mandukya Upanishad. Chapple notes that Nagarjuna's analysis "outlines (and rejects) four `corners' of reality: existence, nonexistence, both existence and nonexistence, neither existence nor nonexistence" (Nonviolence, p. 134, second n. 3).
(21) Chapple, Nonviolence, pp. 87-88; see also Jaini, Jaina Path, pp. 94-97; and Wm. Theodore de Bary, Sources of Indian Tradition, vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), pp. 70-72.
(22) [S.] Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, vol. 1 (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1977 [orig., 1923), p. 299.
(23) Paul Knitter, No Other Name? pp. 104-106.
(24) Swidler, After the Absolute, p. 21. The need for complementarity, modesty, and cooperation is one of great urgency in our shrinking world. Yves Congar tells the story of a fifteenth-century Swiss saint, Nicolas de Flue, that illustrates this need. After having fathered eleven children, Nicolas retired to the life of a hermit. Although he was cut off from society, he was still considered to be the spirit of the Swiss Confederation; hence, people from various territories would visit him for his counsel. On one occasion, some of the territories that were on the verge of war sent representatives to him to explain their dispute and get his advice. Making a knot in his waist cord, Nicolas held it up and asked them to untie it. They untied the knot without any difficulty. Nicolas then commented, "That is the way that the difficulties of men must be untangled." However, the representatives responded in protest that their problem was not so simple, to which Nicolas replied, "You would not have been able to undo the cord either, if we had both been pulling against each other" (see Yves Congar, Ecumenism and the Future of the Church [Chicago: The Priory Press, 1975], pp. 52-53).
(25) It is interesting to note Knitter's position on the question of relationality and complementarity. He contends that truth can no longer be upheld on the grounds that it can "exclude or absorb others" (Knitter, No Other Name? p. 219). One expression of truth has the ability to relate in a meaningful way to other expressions of truth and thus grow through relationships. In this approach truth is not defined by exclusion but by relation. This is the only reasonable and meaningful approach in our pluralistic world. Knitter tells us further, following the passage quoted above at n. 10, "Truth, without `other' truth, cannot be unique; it cannot exist. Truth, therefore, `proves itself' not by triumphing over all other truth but by testing its ability to interact with other truths - that is, to teach and be taught by them, to include and be included by them" (ibid.). Whereas religions originate in some unique revelatory event, which becomes the primordial experience of the sage or prophet, the "identity" of a religion is not a completely finished phenomenon with the primordial experience. The identity, uniqueness, and maturity of a religion is a long process of growth through mutuality, relationality, and complementarity in creative dialogue.
(26) See Stanley J. Samartha, Courage for Dialogue (New York: Orbis Books, 1981), pp. 49-62. Samartha gives a concise review of the growing importance of dialogue in the program of the World Council of Churches. See also Nostra aetate and Humanae personae dignitatem, in Austin Flannery, ed., Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Leominster: Fowler Wright Books, 1975), pp. 738-742 and 1002-1014, respectively. In its declaration on the relation of the Roman Catholic Church to non-Christian religions, Nostra aetate states: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines hich, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men" (p. 739). On the question of dialogue with unbelievers, Humanae personae dignitatem declares: "Dialogue ... does not necessarily have an apostolic purpose.... [but] it can happen that dialogue with unbelievers can lead believers not only to a fuller knowledge of human values but also to a better understanding of religious matters.... Thus dialogue, insofar as it relies on mutual relationships between the participants, demands that each party acknowledge the dignity and worth of the other person" (pp. 1002-1003).
(27) In his earlier reflections on dialogue, Swidler published "The Dialogue Decalogue: Ground Rules for Interreligious Dialogue," J.E.S. 20 (Winter, 1983): 1-4. Four years later he went a step further to speak more emphatically in terms of "interreligious and interideological" dialogue, thus expanding the parameters of partners in dialogue beyond the scope of religious traditions to include Marxism and other ideologies that are concerned with the meaning of life and how to live it fully in a pluralistic world; see Swidler, "Interreligious and Interideological Dialogue," especially the sub-section, "Ground Rules for Interreligious, Interideological Dialogue," pp. 13-16. The content of the 1983 and 1987 "Ground Rules" is essentially the same.
(28) Swidler, After the Absolute, p. 42.
(29) Ibid., p. 43 (emphasis in original).
(30) Ibid., p. 44 (emphasis in original). Swidler gives a timely explanation as to who should actually engage in interreligious or interideological dialogue. He is of the firm opinion that dialogue of this nature has a deep communal dimension to it. See his "A Dialogue on Dialogue" in Leonard Swidler, John B. Cobb, Jr., Paul F. Knitter, and Monika K. Hellwig, Death or Dialogue? From the Age of Monologue to the Age of Dialogue (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990), p. 59.
(31) Swidler, After the Absolute, p. 45 (emphasis in original). Raimon Panikkar shares with Swidler this view that "mutual trust" is a primary requirement in effective dialogue. Panikkar stated that mutual trust is a possibility "only when all the cards are on the table, i.e., when neither partner `brackets' his personal beliefs." An aid to mutual trust is proper preparation, Panikkar emphasized that participants in dialogue must prepare themselves by becoming acquainted with the cultural and theological backgrounds of their partners. In this way there can be greater scope for an understanding of the differences in religious beliefs and attitudes, which can create an atmosphere for greater empathy and trust ([Raimon] Panikkar, The Intrareligious Dialogue [New York: Paulist Press, 1978], p. 36). For a concise treatment of religions in light of their cultural and theological backgrounds as a helpful starting point for dialogue, see John Hick, God Has Many Names, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982), pp. 45-59; and idem, God and the Universe of Faiths: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (London: Macmillan Press, 1973), pp. 99-107.
(32) Swidler, After the Absolute, p. 45.
(33) Ibid. (emphasis in original). There are three areas in which dialogue operates as Swidler observes. The first he calls "the practical"; in this area of operation there is collaboration among partners in dialogue to assist humanity. Second is the "depth or `spiritual' dimension"; in this area participants try to make the passage from outsiders to becoming insiders, so as to experience their partner's tradition from the inside. Third is the cognitive where participants "seek understanding and truth" (ibid., pp. 45-46). In addition to these three areas of operation, dialogue also consists of three phases. In the first phase participants rid themselves of false impressions and misinformation about each other, and they make every possible effort to know each other as they really are. In the second phase, participants begin to recognize valuable insights in their partner's tradition and may show interest in wanting to incorporate them into their own. If participants undertake dialogue with determination, and if they are sensitive to a reasonable extent, they may enter the third phase from time to time. This is the phase in which much cooperation and reflection take place. Here partners in dialogue will experience for themselves "that dialogue patiently pursued can become an instrument of new `re-velation,' a further `un-veiling' of reality -- on which [they] must then act" (ibid., p. 46).
(34) Chapple, Nonviolence, p. 86.
(35) Ibid., p. 88, quoting H. R. Kapadia, Introduction to Haribhadra Suri's Anekantajayapataka with His Own Commentary and Municandra Suri's Supercommentary (Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1947), p. cxiv.
(36) Chapple, Nonviolence, p. 91 (my emphasis).
(37) Quoted in Margaret Chattejee, Gandhi's Religious Thought (London: Macmillan Press, 1983), p. 56.
(38) Swidler, "Interreligious and Interideological Dialogue," p. 42 (my emphasis). For Swidler, reaching out in love means more than going beyond oneself to other persons. It "also includes all beings," which compares well to Gandhi's position on the all-encompassing nature of love/nonviolence. In illustration of this, Gandhi once wrote, "One of the lines of the Gujrati poet, Shamal Bhatt, had taught me the principle of winning even the enemy with love, and that teaching had gone deep into me. But I had not deduced the eternal principle of Non-Violence [Love] from it. It did not, for instance, cover all animal life" (M. K. Gandhi, Gita: My Mother [Bombay: Pearl Publications, 1965], p. 60); i.e., as Swidler would say -- all beings -- all that exists. A major principle in the Swidlerian and Gandhian/Jain perception of life is unity through the reconciling powers of love/ahimsa, which is undoubtedly the most effective antidote to divisiveness.
(39) The terms "salvation" and "liberation" are used synonymously to denote the ultimate goal of religion, though "liberation" is more appropriate to Hinduism and Buddhism.
(40) The Buddha referred to his teachings as a "raft" that is intended to transport the faithful across the ocean of ignorance, rebirth, and suffering. In other words, it will deliver the faithful from the human predicament to nirvana. By extension, all religions can be understood in light of this metaphor. As a raft/vehicle-shaped and fashioned by the primordial vision of its founder, by its linguistic/historical/cultural milieu, and by the subsequent development of its creed, code of ethics, and cult -- every religion offers a passage from the human predicament to salvation. See, e.g., Frederick J. Streng, Understanding Religious Man (Belmont, CA: Dickenson Publishing Co., 1969), pp. 13-80; Huston Smith, The World's Religions (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), especially chaps. 2, 3, 6-8; [Raimon] Panikkar, "The Religion of the Future or the Crisis of the Notion of Religion: Human Consciousness," Interculture 23 (April, 1990): 3-21; and idem, "The Invisible Harmony: A Universal Theory of Religion or a Cosmic Confidence in Reality," in Swidler, Toward a Universal Theoloy, pp. 132-136.
(41) Panikkar, Intrareligious Dialogue, p. xxvii.
(42) See Vachon's preface to "Transforming Christian Mission into Dialogue," Interculture 20 (October, 1987): 1.
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|Publication:||Journal of Ecumenical Studies|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1997|
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