Christ at the centre - Discovering the cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths.
Therefore we have to say that no one is outside the Christian revelation, in the sense that Christ died for all men without exception, and the grace of Christ, through the cross, is offered in some way to every human being from the beginning to the end of time. Therefore there is no one who is outside this dispensation, this covenant of grace. Although there was a shift in emphasis in his final years, we can affirm that the revelation of God in Christ, which is absolute, final, and irrevocable, inspired the theological thinking of Griffiths throughout his life.
Even at the end of his life he continued to affirm the historicity of incarnation and its effect on the created reality of the world. The Hindu world view and its understanding of Ultimate Being lacks a sense of time and history. He points out that reason without imagination creates a desert, without and within; it becomes the sword of destruction. Reason void of imagination brings death wherever it goes, dividing man from nature, the individual from the society, woman from man, and man and woman from God.
Rather, it is something that is essential for an integrated human life. The early Bible stories of the creation, the fall, and the promise of Saviour belong to the cosmic myth. Later stories, such as those about Noah, are legendary. When Griffiths uses the term legendary, he does not mean that there is nothing historical about them.
They are stories based on historical figures. Then comes the time of the Prophets. According to Griffiths the Hebrew understanding of God became more perfect and moral ambivalence was removed as the prophets grew in their understanding of the nature of God as a God of absolute holiness and justice who demands holiness from his people. Bede Griffiths sees the movement from a mythological to an historical understanding of the world as one of great significance.
Because God acts in the history of his people, if orphans, widows, and the poor are rejected, God is rejected. This conception of history leads to a completely different conception of time.
Time is linear, moving towards an end, the eschaton. The God of history involves himself in the history of his people in order to lead them to their final bliss. This understanding of God as the God of history breaks through the whole idea of samsara , the wheel of time, as found in Hinduism. Time is not something from which humans have to escape; it is a means to salvation. Griffiths concludes,.
Christ at the centre - Discovering the cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths Quotes
Our actual human life, our deeds from day to day belong to an eternal order, and reveal the direction in which the world is moving. All things are under the providence of God and are leading to a final fulfillment. With the coming of Christ we encounter this finality. The Purusha of Hinduism. Ultimate Reality, the Brahman, is the most basic concept of Hinduism. Brahman is the name of Ultimate Reality when manifested in the whole of creation; Atman is the name when manifested in the human being. There is one more name for this Ultimate Reality: purusha.
Purusha will be one of the key words in an Indian Christian theology. He believes that this Hindu concept is close to the concept of logos the Word in Christianity. The cosmic purusha of Hinduism is understood as the historical person of Jesus Christ. The Perfect or the Universal Man of Islam. Griffiths also finds a term in Islam that functions in much the same way as purusha does. Islam does not permit anyone to be associated with Allah.
All the schools of Islam would regard it as supreme blasphemy to equate any being with Allah. The mystical tradition in Islam is known as Sufism. It seems to have developed a century or two after the life time of Mohammed. Ibn al Arabi, a twelfth-century mystic, is regarded as the supreme authority on Sufism. Griffiths considers him one of the great philosophers of the world, equal in stature to Sankara in Vedanta and Nagarjuna in Mahayana Buddhism. According to Griffiths, in Sufism too there is the basic principle of oneness of being.
Ibn al Arabi calls the human being the isthmus between God and creation. He the perfect man is the one in whom the Divine sees himself and through whom the universe sees the divine. He is the eye of the universe, as the Sufists put it. God sees himself reflected in this universal Man and the universal Man enables the whole creation to reflect God. In this way he is the mediator between God and the universe.
So again we have the figure of the mediator and it is particularly interesting that in a doctrine which was so far from having any link between God and the world, the mystical side of Islam introduced the concept of the perfect Man. In my view this is an extremely important point where Christianity can relate with Islam.
The doctrine is not of course the same in these two great faiths but it is very similar in many ways. The Tathagata of Buddhism. Griffiths states that the concept of tathagata is explicitly found in Mahayana Buddhism and is implicit in Hinayana Buddhism. Hinayana Buddhism emphasizes the teaching of the Buddha, the dharma , the law that leads to nirvana, rather than the person of the Buddha himself. The Buddha not only preached the final goal toward which all the human beings should strive, but also showed a practical way, the Noble Eightfold Path, to attain nirvana.
The Mahayana school of Buddhism, which evolved later, developed theories about the person of the Buddha—a clear deviation from the Hinayana school, which emphasized the teaching of the Buddha. These theories about the person of the Buddha are in line with the understanding of the ultimate Reality as total emptiness, sunya.
Sunyata is both immanent and transcendent. The Mahayana school  believes that sunyata , the transcendent reality, contains the void and the whole cosmos within it. Griffiths writes,. The Buddha was the one who discovered this reality. Because of this he became known as the tathagata. Because of this, Buddha is seen as the mediator between the infinite, transcendent and the phenomenal world. He opens the phenomenal world to the void and he reveals the void in the phenomenal world.
In this way he is the one who makes the world known and therefore is the Buddha, the enlightened one. But the point of the Biblical narrative is that Noah is the father of humankind and that the covenant God made with him symbolizes the covenant with all humankind. What is interesting for us is to see how Ibn al Arabi interprets this concept and how Griffiths relates it to Jesus Christ.
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He compares the Hinayana school to the Synoptic Gospels, because the Synoptic Gospels give more to the Kingdom of God than to the person of Jesus; Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God and sees himself as its prophet. It is true that the Kingdom is present within him, but in the Synoptic Gospels, his teaching is primarily about the Kingdom rather than about himself. See A New Vision of Reality , pp.
Griffiths maintains that it would be wrong to hold that early Buddhism had no understanding of the Buddha and that such understanding was a later invention. For him the status or the person of Buddha was implicit in early Buddhism, Hinayana, and became explicit in its later development, Mahayana. He is a well-known professor of systematic theology and author of 22 books in Tamil, English, and German. He recently edited and published a voluminous work on the history of Christianity in India, Tamilnadu, and the Madurai Archdiocese Tamil titled Palestine to Pandiya Kingdon.
As chief editor of Nam Vazhvu, the Tamil Catholic weekly, he took the magazine to greater heights. He has contributed several scientific articles to national and Inter-national periodicals. He is a visiting professor at several theological Institutes, an orator, and has also produced some Tamil popular music albums. Abhishiktananda Centre for Interreligious Dialogue.
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Objectifs et vision. Advisory Board Conseil consultatif. Index , Jan-June Index , July-Dec Index , Jan-June, Index , July - Dec Index , Jan - June Pope Francis on Interreligious Dialogue Archive. Printer-friendly Version. This is the way of indifferentism. The other reaction seeks to reconcile all the paths to the divine, either by some kind of fusion of their component beliefs, or, more commonly, by way of recourse to a supposed higher commonality, the path of mysticism.
This is a mysticism that, though accessible from all the traditions, claims to supersede all dogmas. This is the way of syncretism. It should be noted that these two ways are not necessarily mutually exclusive. These are dangers that the Christian Church has always faced. And given the variety of cultural contacts that the Church has experienced over the centuries, it has in general remained surprisingly faithful and resilient. But over the past several decades the tenacity of the Christian Church has been weakened.
The case for indifferentism has been given a recent boost by such serious theological works as The Myth Of Christian Uniqueness , a collection of essays edited by John Hick and Paul F. Knitter and published in , and the recent works of Hans Ming, among others Global Responsibility Similarly, the final draft of Fr. The monastic life remained central for Dom Bede, as it has been for many Christian pilgrims to the Orient.
In , in order to stabilize its situation and insure its future health, Saccidananda Ashram was received into the Camaldolensian Congregation of the Benedictine Order. Thus, in the final stage of his life, Dom Bede was able to reintegrate his visions for India with his original vocation to the monastic life. But for those who have retained some religious sensibilities, the more likely danger is the temptation to sacrifice the uniqueness of Christ on foreign altars for the sake of a mystical syncretism. It might be argued that the great world religions specifically Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam in their various manifestations have shown themselves impervious to the approach of the Gospel, responding to its message either by intransigence or by a relativizing syncretism.
There is no doubt some truth to this claim, but to accept it completely is to deny the power of grace and to renounce the fundamental Christian obligation of mission. I offer the following signs which, though neither exhaustive nor by themselves conclusive, are to some degree suggestive of the receptivity of the East to the Gospel:.
When [the Jesuit] was getting up to leave, thanking the Black-Hat Lama for having received him so graciously, his host suddenly looked up at him and said, Will you bless me in the name of the Lord Christ? Nowhere was this more clearly seen than in modern presentations of the person of Muhammad. At point after point the figure was subtly Christianized until the desert ruler of Arabia became much more like the Carpenter of Nazareth than earlier students would ever have supposed to be possible….
The deep, though not always enlightened interest of Muslims in the story of Jesus Christ can hardly fail to lead to better understanding between Muslim and Christian. Adam, a Persian by birth, was apparently fluent in many of the languages of central Asia and so was called upon to make translations into Chinese even by Manichaeans and Buddhists. In , Adam was approached by the famous Indian Buddhist missionary Prajna to undertake translations of some Buddhist sutras.
In the same Buddhist monastery with the Indian missionary there were living and studying at the time two equally famous figures in the history of Japanese Buddhism. Few have so powerfully influenced the whole course of Buddhism in Japan.
Who can resist the temptation, therefore, to speculate on how much a chance association of these men, through Prajna, with the cooperative Nestorian scholar Adam, might possibly have seeded Christian ideas into the variations of northern Buddhist belief as it developed in Japan? Others have similarly theorized that, for example, Madhya , founder of the Dvaita philosophy, one of the three principal schools of Vedanta in Hinduism, which recognizes a duality between God and the world unique in Vedanta, may have been influenced by the Syrian Christianity of southwestern India, or even more speculatively that the earliest portrayals of Avalikitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion in Mahayana Buddhism, may have been influenced by the image or idea of Christ crucified.
Be that as it may, we can hope that these signs are evidence that some of the seeds sown in the East over the last hundred years or perhaps over the last years or more have taken root in the rich ground of the praeparatio evangelica of the world religions and may now be ready to sprout. If the seeds of the Christian faith are not resown and cultivated at this meeting then we are missing a great evangelical opportunity, perhaps one prepared for centuries.
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William M. Klimon has studied history at the University of Pennsylvania and at Cornell University.
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At the time this article was published, he was on the staff of the Milton S. The U. A Crisis of Curiositas. Crisis Magazine is a project of Sophia Institute Press. Crisis Magazine. Subscribe Daily Weekly. By William M. Klimon William M. More on Crisis The U.