Introduction: Authority in Buddhism and Christianity
Harris, Elizabeth, Buddhist-Christian Studies
This issue of Buddhist-Christian Studies contains the papers (1) presented at the conference of the European Network of Buddhist Christian Studies, held in June 2009 at the Benedictine Archabbey of St. Ottilien near Munich on the theme "Authority in Buddhism and Christianity." (2)
The European Network of Buddhist Christian Studies grew from a conference convened by the Rev. Gerhard Koberlin at the Academy of Mission in Hamburg in 1996, which drew together Christians involved in the academic study of Buddhism. The next conference, held at the Archabbey of St. Ottilien, attracted Buddhist participants also. It was at this point that the current name of the network was adopted. The aims of the network are to promote within Buddhist-Christian relations mutual understanding and dialogue, academic study, and practical cooperation and friendship. The network's main activity is a biennial academic conference on a theme important to the development of Buddhist-Christian relations. Conference themes have included "Buddhist Perceptions of Jesus"; "Christian Perceptions of the Buddha"; "Buddhism, Christianity and Creation"; "Conversion and Religious Identity in Buddhism and Christianity"; and "Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions." (3) Invited presentations on selected aspects of the chosen theme, each of which is addressed by a Buddhist and a Christian, form the core of each conference. The papers from the "Authority" conference follow the same pattern.
The theme of authority was chosen because of its central significance in the contemporary world, not only to religious traditions but also to secular society. When, as the current President of the network, I gave an introduction to the theme of authority in Buddhism and Christianity on the first evening, I began with secular society and the play Waiting for Godot. (4) Written by the English playwright Samuel Beckett, it was first performed in 1955. Many viewers were mystified by it because there was so little action. The play focuses on Vladimir and Estragon, two elderly men, dressed in ragged clothes, who talk together in a nondescript place, close to a tree. They are waiting for Godot, a shadowy figure of hope or authority, with whom they believe they have an appointment. Godot never comes, although a boy comes on stage to say that Godot will definitely come the next day. Behind the conversation lies the threat of punishment: "And they didn't beat you?" Vladimir asks Estragon at the beginning. "Certainly they beat me!" Estragon replies. The agents of this never appear and are never defined.…
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Publication information: Article title: Introduction: Authority in Buddhism and Christianity. Contributors: Harris, Elizabeth - Author. Journal title: Buddhist-Christian Studies. Volume: 30. Publication date: Annual 2010. Page number: 43+. © 2008 University of Hawaii Press. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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