Sunday, April 4, 2010

Endo and Johnston talking on Buddhism and Christianity

A conversation between novelist Shusaku Endo, Jesuit theologian William Johnston). Endo and Johnston talk on Buddhism and Christianity. Endo was a Japanese Catholic, and their conversation reveals how a dialog flourishes, although within specific convictions, and lived belief. A short excerpt below.

Endo: There are vast differences between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism talks about abandoning the self. It talks about getting rid of all attachments and it even claims that love is a form of attachment. We can never say that. Moreover, the Buddhist approach to evil is quite different from ours. Then there is the question of reincarnation versus resurrection. Again, Buddhists claim that the Buddha is working dynamically at the core of our being, and we say that the Holy Spirit is working at the core of our being. Are we saying the same thing or are we saying different things? There are endless questions.

Johnston: Yet I believe that you yourself have the basic answer. When I was in the United States a few years ago I heard a Catholic priest say that the interesting thing about Endo is that he is fascinated with the person of Christ. He is always talking about Christ, struggling with Christ, trying to understand Christ, experiencing the presence of Christ. Now it seems to me that the main thing for a Christian in dialogue with Buddhism is a deep commitment to Christ and the Gospel. If this is present, other problems will solve themselves. Besides, when we come to dialogue, we must distinguish between Christianity as a living faith and Christianity as theology…

Endo's conversation with Johnston, gives a stirring sense of what it means to dialog, and what a dialog may raise in attempting to understand ideas, issues, and notions in religion, as also on other subjects.This, I consider very valuable to existence—the ability to make analogies. For dialog to be meaningful, one has to find differences and be able to understand them, accept them, and be reconciled with the interaction. The distinction that is made between Christianity as a living faith and Christianity as theology is also what maintains the comprehension of the body in togetherness—the kenotic body. One could say the same about a kenotic Buddha body.

In India, Catholicism, and Christianity is often subjected to the notion that it is a patterning of belief on “some” western paradigms. Those days if they existed in any sneering way, have been quite gone with the bread of the firngi. Te firngi gele, te undde kabar zale
ते फिर्र्ण्गी गेले ते उंद्ध्ये काबार झाले (The foreigners [the Portuguese] are gone, (and so) the bread is over (ref. to the quality and kind of bread earlier available in Goa; now to mean time is past and so things have changed).

But embraced and comforting ways of existence do not have to be completely erased either. Let people live or arrive at whatever their destination in their own time. Period. Talking further on the idea of conducting a dialog—my wedding ceremony was conducted in the Indian rites of the Catholic Church, and created a huge anguish in certain people who could not comprehend the reasons, meanings, symbologies and its significance to me as well as to the community. This was and has not a secret, they having know me, my leanings which I have been expressive about in all my ways including what was and not expressed in the vows, and meaningfully—gently, as also on occasion in a pointed and blunt manner. I can understand that in lived, worshipped,cultural spaces one seeks comfort in ones being, with being on being; being in being, and being with being.

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