Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Many Tongues, Many Buddhisms in a Pluralistic World: A Christian Interpretation at the Interreligious Crossroads

Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Many Tongues, Many Buddhisms in a Pluralistic World: A Christian Interpretation at the Interreligious Crossroads

Article excerpt

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PERRY SCHMIDT-LEUKEL, even if limited to only his English-language publications,1 has done more than anyone else to document the range of Buddhist responses to other religions.2 His own pluralist theology of religions not only accommodates such facets of a pluralistic world but perhaps also motivates his efforts to record and understand them. I would like to suggest an alternative pneumatological approach to the theology of religions that may accomplish much of what the pluralist model achieves but yet bypasses what for some critics remain formidable challenges. Simultaneously, my pneumatological perspective, when focused on the variety of Buddhist views of and engagements with religious others, also invites adjustment in Christian attitudes and approaches to people of other faiths. I begin with Buddhist diversity vis-à-vis religious pluralism, and then-in the longest section of this article-I present my pneumatological response (in dialogue with Schmidt-Leukel), and end with implications for Christian practice in a pluralist world.3

Buddhism and the Religions: A Plurality of Responses

To be clear, the four volumes and over 1,400 pages of Schmidt-Leukel's recent publication (2013) barely begin to catalogue the diversity of Buddhist responses to pluralism. Even essays depicting "six Buddhist attitudes toward other religions" and then explicating five types of Buddhist inclusivisms only introduce the plurality of Buddhist attitudes to, assessments of, and interactions with religious others (Chappell 1990, in brd 4.10-24; Kiblinger 2003, in brd 4.25-45; and see, for example, Kiblinger 2005). In what follows, I selectively highlight some historical-political perspectives and then unfold mostly what might be called Buddhist "exclusivisms" and "inclusivisms" regarding other religions.4 The discussion of course cannot pretend to be exhaustive, but will merely give an overview of some of the major issues at the interreligious crossroads, at least as refracted through my own biases and interests.5

To adopt, at least initially, a more historical approach is to be introduced, from the beginning, to many Buddhist approaches to religious otherness. Obviously, this includes not only the fact that the "tradition" of the Buddha emerged in the pluralistic field of sixth century Vedic and Brahmanic India, but also that a variety of interpretations and understandings can be observed as lodged at the very heart of this primordial sequence of events from its inception so that "other religions" discourse in the early literature include as much intra-Buddhist disputes and contestations as those directed outward to others (Freiberger 2011, in brd 4.46-56)/ Then, if we shift to the next millennium and onto the East Asian space where Buddhism flourished (as opposed to the South Asian land of its origins where it was subsumed if not almost swallowed up by Indic traditions), we find it is better described in terms of waxing and waning according to its integration into or marginalization from the political centers of civilization.7 From this perspective, we can appreciate how the more mature expressions of the tradition feature efforts to integrate religious, philosophical, and cultural aspects of the Chinese context within a predominantly Buddhist framework.8

Yet of course Buddhist dominance has not always persisted, and the periods in which its practitioners have found themselves in threatened situations, for various reasons, have triggered their most vigorous, even "exclusivistic," responses. The four selections focused on Buddhism in Japan highlight some of the precipitating factors. Thus the well-known exclusivism of the Kamakura (1185-1333) monk Nichiren (1222-1282) emerges as "a unifying force and a strategy of legitimation" in the context of the Mongol invasion so that, "In Nichiren's eyes, it had been slander of the Dharma-rejection of the Lotus Sutra-that had brought Japan to the brink of destruction by the Mongols" (Stone 1994, in brd 4. …

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