Zero and One: Toward a Buddhist-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue

By Lavin, Todd | Bucknell Review, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Zero and One: Toward a Buddhist-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue


Lavin, Todd, Bucknell Review


The task of this essay is to continue the interfaith dialogue between Buddhism and Judaism that was initiated by such noted thinkers as Martin Buber and Masao Abe, among others. Yet, before we begin this task, we must ask two preliminary questions. What is an interfaith dialogue and why engage in an interfaith dialogue? The answers to these questions will lay the framework for the following discussion. Here we will take as our lead the writings of Masao Abe, for he has been at the forefront of this dialogue. Abe argues that any dialogue that seeks to promote mutual understanding between religions may be achieved only by first existentially confronting one's own religion. So long as we remain within the standard ontological and axiological categories of our religious traditions, we will be unable to speak in a language that can be readily understood and appropriated by our interlocutor. We must "demonstrate [our] own deepest authentic spirituality by surpassing the traditional verbal formulations of teaching and practice." To grasp one's own religious perspective from this existential basis, "it is absolutely necessary for all religions to break through the traditional framework of their doctrine and practice and to re-examine themselves most radically in order to grasp the quintessence of their own faiths." (1) Thus, it is from an existential perspective, rather than one that remains limited to doctrinal formulations, that an interfaith dialogue is possible.

This existential confrontation with one's own religion is only part of a successful interfaith dialogue. Not only must we existentially confront our own religion, we must existentially confront the religion of our interlocutor. An interfaith dialogue will be truly adequate and effective, writes Abe, "if both sides of the dialogue try to grasp the other side's spirituality from within, without imposing its own ontological and axiological categories." (2) Such a mutual exposure to each other's religion urges us to view interfaith dialogue as something more than simply promoting mutual understanding, and revisions the dialogue as that which seeks to find a common ground for both religions.

Through such a "dialogue of inclusion," to use an expression of Martin Buber's, each religion can begin to articulate itself from the perspective of the other, and in this way find a common ground for both. This common ground is not one that seeks to avoid or eclipse the differences between faiths, but rather one that makes possible an adequate understanding of these differences, for these will now be seen as ones over a shared concern and subject matter. Thus, an authentic interfaith dialogue is predicated on the basis that we "go beyond 'mutual understanding' and engage in 'mutual transformation'" (3) in which the self-understanding of our own faith is transformed in the light of the other.

Interfaith dialogue thus becomes a "transformative dialogue." (4) From within the Jewish community, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is the most radical example of "total immersion dialogue." What is required, according to Schachter-Shalomi, is an "existential confrontation." Following in Schacter's lead, Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man wrote, "what normally happens to me in this kind of encounter is that through dialogue I learn to see myself through the prism of the other's experiences, and I very much want that to happen." (5)

With this in mind, we may now ask our second preliminary question--why engage in an interfaith dialogue at all? If we have adequately understood the task of interfaith dialogue, then we should be able to grasp its fundamental relevance for faith in general. Unless we seek to confine our faiths in insularity and furthermore risk religious stagnation, we must put our own faith in dialogue with others. The aim of interfaith dialogue is not to erase the differences that separate faiths, but rather to create a productive tension through these differences so that each religion can understand itself anew in the light of the other. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Zero and One: Toward a Buddhist-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.