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Buddhism Buddhist-Christian Dialogue
by
Kristin Largen

Introduction

The field of Buddhist-Christian dialogue is relatively new, having its formal genesis in roughly the last half of the 20th century. In the United States, D. T. Suzuki was instrumental in raising awareness of Buddhism among the general public, Zen Buddhism in particular, and the Dalai Lama has become a popular ambassador of Tibetan Buddhism. It is fair to say that these two forms of Buddhism are the most well known in the United States in the early 21st century. Historically much of the literature has been written from a Christian perspective, making comparisons and seeking insights from Buddhism; however, that is changing in the contemporary landscape, as more and more Buddhist voices are entering the conversation. Major themes that are consistently found in the literature are emptiness, mindfulness, meditation, and comparisons between the Buddha and Jesus as well as comparisons of their teachings. One of the interesting components of this particular interreligious dialogue is that it is one of the few places where one regularly sees discussed the concept of religious dual belonging: that is, self-identifying as a “Christian Buddhist” or a “Buddhist Christian.” There continues to be debate about whether and how such an identification is viable. Most though not all of the literature treats Mahayana Buddhist schools, and Zen continues to have a prominent place. In terms of the specific citations listed in this entry, a few qualifiers need to be stated in advance. There are of course many books, both introductory and advanced, that treat Buddhist-Christian dialogue as part of a larger interreligious conversation. Such works include basic textbooks on world religions as well as books that examine specific issues, such as sin, God, anthropology, and so forth, from the perspective of a variety of religious traditions. Not all such references are included here, as there simply are too many to list and they fall outside the parameters set for this entry. This bibliography also does not list the many Asian Christian theologians who are naturally quite influenced by Buddhism in their work but whose writing is better characterized as Asian Christian systematic theology. Finally, this bibliography entry does not list those works written by Buddhist thinkers but clearly geared toward a Christian audience. While such texts may spark a form of interreligious dialogue among their readers, the books themselves present Buddhist philosophy and practice exclusively. Instead, the books and articles in this bibliography explicitly address aspects of dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity. One common format for books in this category is to collect a variety of perspectives, representing a variety of Buddhist traditions, under general themes; those works are listed under Essay Collections. Where possible, however, references have been grouped by Buddhist school or the specific topic under discussion.

General Overviews

The texts in this section offer a general perspective on Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Lai and Brück 2001 is historical, outlining how Buddhist-Christian dialogue has developed in a variety of contexts across the globe. Cobb 1982 is a seminal contribution to the field and makes an excellent argument for the value of Buddhist-Christian dialogue and how one might go forward with such an endeavor.

  • Cobb, John B., Jr. Beyond Dialogue: Toward a Mutual Transformation of Christianity and Buddhism. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982.

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    John B. Cobb Jr. is one of the pioneers in the field of Buddhist-Christian dialogue, and thus this book, while dated, is still an excellent contribution to the field. Cobb puts Buddhism and Christianity in dialogue, specifically around the interpretation of nirvana, seeking to demonstrate how the conversation enriches both.

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  • Lai, Whalen, and Michael von Brück. Christianity and Buddhism: A Multicultural History of Their Dialogue. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001.

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    The value of this book is that it gives an overview of the state of the conversation and the methodologies used in six very different contexts—India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Germany, and the United States—including the particular problems and issues that are emphasized in each.

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Journals

The journal that relates most specifically to this topic is of course Buddhist-Christian Studies, and every article this journal publishes could legitimately find a place in this bibliography. The other journals are more broadly concerned with interreligious dialogue in general but devote a fair amount of space to articles concerned specifically with Buddhism and Christianity. Studies in Interreligious Dialogue, published twice a year, regularly publishes articles on Buddhist-Christian dialogue, but it has as its broader focus both systematic and practical explorations of dialogue among all religious traditions in articles both specifically located and more general. The Journal of Interreligious Dialogue, an online-only journal, was founded in 2009 and intentionally has representation from both religious scholars and religious community leaders. Its articles concern both cutting-edge research issues and practical questions facing laypeople. Religion East and West is published once a year and is concerned with comparative scholarly work not only in Buddhism and Christianity but in a variety of religious traditions. Issue 6 is of particular relevance for this bibliography, as it contains several articles on emptiness and also a series of articles on Catholic-Zen dialogue. Philosophy East and West is a quarterly journal published by the University of Hawaii Press. It too does not focus exclusively on Buddhist-Christian dialogue but regularly publishes articles that treat philosophical aspects of the dialogue. It is primarily of interest to scholars in the relevant philosophical fields.

Śūnyatā

The topic of śūnyatā, or emptiness, is central for most schools of Mahayana Buddhism. Because of its resonance with the Christian concept of kenosis, found specifically in the Christ hymn of Philippians 2, this has been a fruitful area of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. The most prominent name in this area is Masao Abe; even though his work is of the late 20th century, it dominates this category. Included here is Cobb and Ives 1990, in which a variety of religious scholars comment on an essay by Abe on kenosis and śūnyatā and then Abe responds. Ives 1995 continues in this same vein. Fredericks 2004 uses the topic of śūnyatā as a way to enter into the praxis of comparative theology. Tsui 2007, Vélez de Cea 2006, and Cook 2006 discuss comparative possibilities between śūnyatā and analogical concepts in Christianity—kenosis, emptiness, and plērōma (fullness), respectively. Nishitani 1983 is from one of the giants representing the Kyoto school of Buddhist philosophy and contains Nishitani Keiji’s seminal work on the comparison between śūnyatā and nihilism.

  • Cobb, John B., Jr., and Christopher Ives, eds. The Emptying God: A Buddhist-Jewish-Christian Conversation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1990.

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    A classic exposition of Masao Abe’s analysis of kenosis and śūnyatā with a variety of interesting responses by scholars from both the Jewish and the Christian traditions. As a point of reference, the journal Buddhist-Christian Studies 28 (2008) contains a variety of contemporary articles reflecting on Abe’s thought.

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  • Cook, Rob. “Nothing Is Real: Toward a Śūnyatā/Plērōma Dialectic.” Religion East and West 6 (2006): 1–20.

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    This article argues that one does not have to choose between the Christian concept of God’s fullness in Christ (plērōma) and the Buddhist concept of emptiness (śūnyatā). Instead, through a comparative analysis, one sees that they have interesting and fruitful overlapping characteristics.

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  • Fredericks, James L. Buddhists and Christians: Through Comparative Theology to Solidarity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004.

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    Writing as a comparative theologian, Fredericks argues that Christians can learn something about their own tradition through an engagement with Buddhism. As an example he compares the Buddhist concept of emptiness, through the work of Acharya Nāgārjuna, with Thomas Aquinas’s concept of the incomprehensibility of God.

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  • Ives, Christopher, ed. Divine Emptiness and Historical Fullness: A Buddhist-Jewish-Christian Conversation with Masao Abe. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity, 1995.

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    This book mirrors Cobb and Ives 1990 in content and form, beginning with the same essay by Masao Abe on the concepts of kenosis and śūnyatā. Here too it is followed by a variety of responses by Jewish and Christian theologians. The concluding section contains responses to Abe’s essay by Hans Küng and Wolfhart Pannenberg.

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  • Nishitani Keiji. Religion and Nothingness. Translated by Jan van Bragt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

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    This is an important work from one of the foremost representatives of the Kyoto school of Buddhist philosophy. He engages the concept of śūnyatā with Western existential philosophers to demonstrate the positive nature of śūnyatā over and against the negative connotations of nihilism.

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  • Tsui, Teresa Kuo-Yu. “Seeing Christian Kenosis in the Light of Buddhist Sunyata: An Attempt at Inter-faith Hermeneutics.” Asia Journal of Theology 21.2 (2007): 357–370.

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    The author examines the two doctrines of kenosis and śūnyatā, not attempting to prove they are the same but rather to look for some similarities that can enrich practitioners of both Buddhism and Christianity. Through this exploration the author seeks to promote both cross-cultural and cross-religious dialogue.

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  • Vélez de Cea, Abraham. “A New Direction for Comparative Studies of Buddhists and Christians: Evidence from Nāgārjuna and John of the Cross.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 26 (2006): 139–155.

    DOI: 10.1353/bcs.2006.0006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author argues that the future of Buddhist-Christian studies requires a shift in direction to focus more on ethical and spiritually relevant comparisons. In that vein the author offers a specific example of one such comparison: that of the instrumental ethical function of emptiness in Acharya Nāgārjuna and John of the Cross.

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Suffering

Christianity and Buddhism explain and deal with suffering very differently; perhaps this is why many Christians find Buddhist principles and practices so helpful in the face of suffering. Chung 2008 discusses the question of suffering from an academic and philosophical viewpoint. Peerman 2008 is specifically aimed at the layperson and attempts to offer ways one’s own suffering might be mitigated through a better understanding of Buddhism. Ingram and Loy 2005 dialogues about suffering in the respective Buddhist and Christian traditions and suggests practical gains each can learn from the other. Higgins 2001 uses a specific case study to elaborate on how Buddhism can teach Christians something about forgiveness. Farley 1999 engages the question of theodicy, and Ishida 1998 looks specifically at Friedrich Nietzsche and how his personal suffering influenced aspects of his philosophy, which are compared to samsara.

  • Chung, Paul S. Martin Luther and Buddhism: Aesthetics of Suffering. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2008.

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    One example of a Christian systematic theologian who engages a variety of Mahayana Buddhist traditions in dialogue using as a foundation the concept of dukkha, or suffering.

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  • Farley, Wendy. “‘The Pain-Dispelling Draft’: Compassion as a Practical Theodicy.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 26.3 (Fall 1999): 291–302.

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    This article engages the Christian doctrine of theodicy through the lens of similar concepts in Buddhism in order to give a fresh perspective and to better evaluate both the weaknesses and the strengths of classical Christian theodicies.

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  • Higgins, Richard. “Mindful Suffering.” Christian Century 118.29 (24 October 2001): 9–10.

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    This is a very brief reflection on what Christians post-9/11 can learn about forgiveness from Buddhists, looking specifically at Vietnamese Buddhists in Boston whose temple was vandalized three times in one year.

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  • Ingram, Paul O., and David R. Loy. “The Self and Suffering: A Buddhist-Christian Conversation.” Dialog 44.1 (Spring 2005): 98–107.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0012-2033.2005.00245.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Two authors, a Lutheran Christian and a Western convert to Zen Buddhism, dialogue around the question of how Christianity and Buddhism each describe the concept of the self, particularly as it relates to suffering, and what each can learn from the other.

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  • Ishida, Hoyu. “Nietzsche and Samsāra: Suffering and Joy in the Eternal Recurrence.” Pure Land 15 (1998): 122–145.

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    This article focuses on certain aspects of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy where it has been argued that Nietzsche was influenced by Eastern thought. Specifically Nietzsche’s theory of the eternal recurrence and the Buddhist concept of samsara are engaged. From this perspective the author looks at the role Nietzsche’s own suffering played in this aspect of his thought.

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  • Peerman, Gordon. Blessed Relief: What Christians Can Learn from Buddhists about Suffering. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths, 2008.

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    A practical book offering Christians nine specific practices taken from Buddhism that can help assuage personal suffering. Geared toward laypeople.

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Zen Buddhism

Masao Abe dominates this category as well as that of śūnyatā, as he was greatly responsible for interpreting Zen to the West. Even in the early 21st century scholarship continues to critically examine his thought. Abe 1995, Abe 1997, and Abe 1985 are examples of Abe’s own articulation of his understanding of Zen and then his engagement with a variety of Western theologians and philosophers. Another important name here is Thomas Merton. While Merton’s own engagement with Buddhism was more eclectic and can be found in this bibliography entry under Mahayana Buddhism and Spirituality, others who reflect on his work typically take a Zen perspective. Crider 2009 discusses Merton’s appropriation of aspects of Zen meditation and language in the context of contemplation; Pramuk 2008 discusses Merton’s dual interest in the Christian concept of Sophia and Zen Buddhism; and Burton-Christie 2009, on Merton’s experience in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, discusses the relationship between Sophia and Zen. Kraal 2008 offers a more sophisticated philosophical take on Christian-Zen dialogue. Ingram 1997 discusses the ten ox-herding pictures of Zen.

  • Abe, Masao. Zen and Western Thought. Edited by William LaFleur. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985.

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    This is the earliest volume by Masao Abe that prompted the two-part follow-up in Abe 1995 and Abe 1997. In this work Abe first explains Zen and then offers a variety of comparisons between Zen and different Western philosophers, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Alfred North Whitehead, and between Zen and Christianity.

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  • Abe, Masao. Buddhism and Interfaith Dialogue. Edited by Steven Heine. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995.

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    This is the first volume of the follow-up to Zen and Western Thought (Abe 1985). In this text Abe explains his understanding of Zen Buddhism and compares Zen to Aristotle, Plato, and Carl Jung, among others. He also analyzes the role of Zen in Japan, comparing it to Shinto.

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  • Abe, Masao. Zen and Comparative Studies. Edited by Steven Heine. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

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    This is the second volume of the follow-up to Zen and Western Thought (Abe 1985). Here Abe lays out a Buddhist approach to interfaith dialogue and then goes on to engage the theology of Paul Tillich, followed by a section of shorter chapters comparing Buddhism to different contemporary Christian theologies.

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  • Burton-Christie, Douglas. “Place-Making as Contemplative Practice.” Anglican Theological Review 91.3 (Summer 2009): 347–371.

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    This article takes as its starting point Thomas Merton’s experience in December 1968 of standing in front of the great buddhas at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. The author argues that this particular example of Merton’s attention to place can be used to describe how “place-making” in general is a form of contemplative practice.

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  • Crider, Glenn. “Thomas Merton’s Contemplation: Rarefied Emblem of Being Human and Living in Mystery.” Cross Currents 58.4 (Winter 2009): 592–607.

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    This article focuses on Merton’s understanding of contemplation and his use of Zen language to critique Western presuppositions about the self.

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  • Ingram, Paul O. Wrestling with the Ox: A Theology of Religious Experience. New York: Continuum, 1997.

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    The title and the chapters in the book come from the ten ox-herding pictures of the Japanese Zen tradition, which portray the gradual process of self-realization that culminates in enlightenment. Ingram reflects on these pictures, seeking to discover what Christians can learn from Buddhists about the nature of the self and salvation.

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  • Kraal, Anders. “The Status of Logic in Christian–Zen Buddhist Dialogue.” Studies in Interreligious Dialogue 18.2 (2008): 169–183.

    DOI: 10.2143/SID.18.2.2033320Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a philosophical exploration of a Christian-Zen dialogue with a focus on how language is used as it relates to logic.

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  • Pramuk, Christopher. “‘Something Breaks Through a Little’: The Marriage of Zen and Sophia in the Life of Thomas Merton.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 28 (2008): 67–89.

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    This article explores the convergence of Merton’s interests in both Zen and Sophia during the late 1950s, arguing that it was not a coincidence but reflected the epistemological difficulties that preoccupied him during the difficult shifts that were occurring in society in the 1950s.

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Mahayana Buddhism

It is safe to say that the Buddhism most familiar to Christians in the West is Mahayana Buddhism. Merton 1975 and Thurston 2007 concern the work of Thomas Merton. The Asian journal in Merton 1975 is a firsthand account of his impressions of Buddhism as they relate to his Catholic faith, and Thurston 2007 is a collection of reflections by different authors on their understandings of how Buddhism influenced Merton’s own faith beliefs and practices. Cattoi 2008 offers a much more sophisticated engagement with Tibetan Buddhism, specifically around the theme of Christology. Keenan 2004, Keenan 1989, and Keenan 1995 attempt a Mahayana perspective on Christian themes: the Eucharist, Christ, and the Gospel of Mark, respectively. The particular focus of O’Leary 2008 is the heart sutra and its presentation of the doctrine of emptiness. Tenzin Gyatso 1996 is the Dalai Lama’s interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. It includes a variety of works that engage different traditions and schools within Mahayana itself.

  • Cattoi, Thomas. “The Incarnate Logos and the Rūpakāya: Towards a Comparative Theology of Embodiment.” Religion East and West 8 (2008): 109–129.

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    This scholarly essay focuses on the Christology of Máximos the Confessor and the Buddhist speculations of the Tibetan thinker Tsong kha pa. The author examines the places of convergence and difference between these two approaches and concludes with some constructive considerations as to the shape of a contextual Tibetan Christology.

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  • Keenan, John P. The Meaning of Christ: A Mahāyāna Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1989.

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    Keenan begins with an examination of the interpretation of Christ as read in the Old and New Testaments and also in early Greek thought. He then moves to an explication of several schools of Mahayana Buddhism, culminating in what he calls a Mahayana interpretation of Christ and the Trinity.

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  • Keenan, John P. The Gospel of Mark: A Mahāyāna Reading. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1995.

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    This text is sophisticated and meant for the specialist. Here Keenan seeks to utilize a Buddhist philosophical hermeneutic as a lens through which the Gospel of Mark might be read and seen anew. He relies particularly on the work of Acharya Nāgārjuna to shape his reading.

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  • Keenan, John P. “A Mahāyāna Theology of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 24 (2004): 89–100.

    DOI: 10.1353/bcs.2005.0024Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author engages in some interesting dialogical speculations as he attempts to depict how a self-described Mahayana thinker might envision the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

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  • Merton, Thomas. The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton. Edited by Naomi Burton, Patrick Hart, and James Laughlin. New York: New Directions, 1975.

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    This book is a compilation of journal entries from Thomas Merton’s trip to Asia, which ended in his tragic death in Bangkok, Thailand, where he had traveled for a conference. It shows clearly the depth and breadth of Merton’s interest in Buddhism, particularly in Buddhist spirituality.

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  • O’Leary, Joseph S. “Knowing the Heart Sūtra by Heart.” Religion and the Arts 12.1–3 (2008): 356–370.

    DOI: 10.1163/156852908X271132Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author uses the recitation of the heart sutra as a lens for examining the Mahayana doctrine of emptiness. Seen in this way, it is clear that emptiness takes form as a way of life devoted to the liberation of suffering beings. Parallels between this doctrine and the Christian gospel of love for the neighbor are subsequently articulated.

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  • Tenzin Gyatso. The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1996.

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    This book is an invitation to engage in interreligious dialogue, exemplified by short reflections by the Dalai Lama on various important teachings of Jesus, such as the beatitudes. This book also has several helpful glossaries at the back along with a short note on the state of Tibet since 1950.

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  • Thurston, Bonnie Bowman, ed. Merton and Buddhism: Wisdom Publications, Emptiness, and Everyday Mind. Louisville: Fons Vitae, 2007.

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    A variety of contributors offer their perspectives on Thomas Merton’s engagement with a variety of Buddhist traditions. There is one chapter on Merton and Theravada Buddhism, but the rest of the chapters focus on Mahayana schools. It also includes chapters on Merton’s Buddhist-influenced artistic practices.

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The Buddha and Jesus

The comparison between the Buddha and Jesus Christ is a popular one in Buddhist-Christian dialogue. The works cited in this section are primarily for lay readers and offer general introductions to and parallels between the lives of the two religious founders. Thich Nhat Hanh is a popular writer in the genre of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Nhat Hanh 1995 offers a straightforward comparison of the two that does not seek to minimize their important differences. Luz and Michaels 2006 is more focused, as it discusses specific topics around both the figures themselves and their teachings. Buddhists Talk about Jesus, Christians Talk about the Buddha (Gross and Muck 2000) does just what the title promises: it offers a variety of Buddhist perspectives on Jesus with a Christian rejoinder and Christian perspectives on the Buddha with a Buddhist rejoinder. Lefebure 1993 goes beyond the founders themselves and examines the paths of discipleship their followers walk. Drummond 1995 is a comparative analysis of the differences in their teachings on humanity and the world. Panikkar 1989 focuses on silence: the refusal of the Buddha to discuss inessential matters and the silence of God as described by the Christian apophatic tradition. Lopez and Rockefeller 1987 compare Jesus not to the Buddha directly but to various bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition. Phan 2007 looks at prayer, specifically the possibility of Christians praying to the Buddha.

  • Drummond, Richard Henry. A Broader Vision: Perspectives on the Buddha and the Christ. Virginia Beach, VA: Association for Research and Enlightenment, 1995.

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    A straightforward introduction to both figures with some further reflection on their differing teachings on anthropology and cosmology.

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  • Gross, Rita M., and Terry C. Muck, eds. Buddhists Talk about Jesus, Christians Talk about the Buddha. New York: Continuum, 2000.

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    The unique feature of this text is that it offers a variety of Buddhist perspectives reflecting on Jesus and a variety of Christian perspectives reflecting on the Buddha. Each section also contains a response from Christians to the Buddhists and a response from the Buddhists to the Christians. Geared toward a lay audience.

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  • Lefebure, Leo D. The Buddha and the Christ. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1993.

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    Lefebure begins with an introduction to the Buddha and Jesus Christ and then expands on the specific religious paths that their followers walk, focusing on Mahayana Buddhism. The final section compares the engaged Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh and Gustavo Gutiérrez’s theology of liberation.

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  • Lopez, Donald S., and Steven C. Rockefeller, eds. The Christ and the Bodhisattva. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

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    The volume contains the essays that came out of a symposium at Middlebury College in 1984. The Buddhist reflections are not on the Buddha per se but on the various bodhisattva figures found in the different schools of Mahayana Buddhism.

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  • Luz, Ulrich, and Axel Michaels. Encountering Jesus and Buddha: Their Lives and Teachings. Translated by Linda M. Maloney. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006.

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    This book contains seven sections on various topics in Christianity and Buddhism focused primarily on Jesus and the Buddha themselves and also on their preaching and teaching. In each section one author offers an analysis from his perspective, and then the other author offers a response inviting further reflection.

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  • Nhat Hanh, Thich. Living Buddha, Living Christ. New York: Riverhead, 1995.

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    Coming from a Zen perspective, Thich Nhat Hanh compares the two historical figures and the religions they founded, emphasizing what they share while not minimizing their differences. He concludes that one can respect the other while still remaining faithful to one’s own tradition. This text is very accessible and easy to read.

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  • Panikkar, Raimundo. The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1989.

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    Panikkar discusses the apophatic understanding of God in Christianity using the Buddhist concept of nirvana and the Buddha’s refusal to speak on what is inessential. In other words, he uses Buddhist thinking to describe God’s silence, both the silence inherent in God’s being and the divine silence humans experience.

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  • Phan, Peter. C. “Praying to the Buddha.” Commonweal 134.2 (26 January 2007): 10–14.

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    A personal and compelling account of what it might mean for a Christian to pray to the Buddha and how even thinking about such a possibility was made possible by Vatican II.

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Salvation and Liberation

This is a particularly rich category, with a wide variety of comparisons made under the broad headings of salvation and liberation. The works in this section are concerned with a liberating truth—a truth that is “salvific” in the broadest sense and that transforms how one sees oneself as saved, redeemed, and freed. Largen 2009 is intended for a Christian audience and seeks to bring insights from Buddhism into a Christian understanding of salvation. Pieris 1988 and Pieris 1996 both are concerned with the connection between human suffering and the role religion has to play in alleviating that suffering. The theme of suffering and liberation is also taken up in Geffré and Dhavamony 1979, and the authors there also discuss the state of Buddhist-Christian dialogue in a variety of contexts. Thich Nhat Hanh and Berrigan 2001 is written in the form of a dialogue between two great 20th-century peacemakers and discusses how the religion of each has played a role in the authors’ social and political activism. Adams 2008 takes up the question of universal salvation in the specific context of Myanmar, and Gable 2008 compares the liberation perspective of Gustavo Gutiérrez with the engaged Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh with an eye to enriching the congregational life of North American Christians. Jebadu 2007 looks at the practice of ancestral veneration and examines whether and how it might be incorporated into a Christian framework. Bulman 1987 compares the experiences of Tibetan Buddhists and Latin American Christians regarding their practices of liberation.

  • Adams, Daniel J. “Universal Salvation? A Study in Myanmar Christian Theology.” Asia Journal of Theology 22.2 (2008): 219–236.

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    This article looks at the question of salvation from the context of Myanmar, where the population is overwhelmingly Buddhist. The author suggests that one way to answer the question of who is or is not saved, when it comes to non-Christians, is to explore the possibility of being a dual practitioner, that is, either a Christian Buddhist or a Buddhist Christian.

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  • Bulman, Raymond F. “Buddha and Christ: Changing Models in Times of Oppression.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 24.1 (Winter 1987): 53–79.

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    In this article the author compares the religious roots of liberation movements among Tibetan Buddhists and Latin American Christians, examining the way both populations were able to search their traditions and find liberating answers to their situations of suffering and oppression.

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  • Gable, Mike. “Engaged Buddhism Enhances Christian Missiology and Congregations.” Mission Studies 25.1 (2008): 77–102.

    DOI: 10.1163/157338308X293936Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is concerned with liberation-minded dialogue between engaged Buddhism and Christian missiology, particularly how such dialogue might enhance and enrich the lives and faith of Christian congregations in North America. The author discusses the engaged Buddhist perspective of Thich Nhat Hanh and the liberation perspective of Gustavo Gutiérrez.

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  • Geffré, Claude, and Mariasusai Dhavamony, eds. Buddhism and Christianity. New York: Seabury, 1979.

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    This book begins with a section on suffering and liberation from the perspective of Buddhism. The second section treats these themes and other related ones in the context of the dialogue, and the final section offers several helpful chapters contextualizing Buddhist-Christian dialogue in Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, and the United States.

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  • Jebadu, Alexander. “Ancestral Veneration and the Possibility of Its Incorporation into the Christian Faith.” Exchange 36.3 (2007): 246–280.

    DOI: 10.1163/157254307X205757Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This author uses a variety of Vatican documents to support a broad understanding of the Christian concept of the community of saints, in which ancestors can play an important role. From this position the author discusses the practice of ancestral veneration in a wide variety of contexts, including Buddhism.

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  • Largen, Kristin Johnston. What Christians Can Learn from Buddhism: Rethinking Salvation. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.

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    The author offers a general introduction to Buddhism as interpreted through the writings of Acharya Nāgārjuna and explores how a serious consideration of a Buddhist understanding of nirvana might positively transform a Christian understanding of what salvation looks like and what it means to be saved.

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  • Nhat Hahn, Thich, and Daniel Berrigan. The Raft Is Not the Shore: Conversations toward a Buddhist-Christian Awareness. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001.

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    Both authors are deeply involved in peacemaking, having spent the better part of their lives working against political and social oppression. This book records a series of conversations between them on how their religions shape their worldviews and what role religion plays in human life in the world.

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  • Pieris, Aloysius. Love Meets Wisdom: A Christian Experience of Buddhism. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988.

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    In all of his writings Pieris focuses on the link between two central components of the Asian context—poverty and pluralism. Thus in his writing issues of liberation and interreligious dialogue are closely related. In this book Pieris seeks to integrate the liberating knowledge found in Buddhism and the Christian understanding of agape love.

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  • Pieris, Aloysius. Fire and Water: Basic Issues in Asian Buddhism and Christianity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996.

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    This book contains a wide variety of essays on various topics relating to the dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity, always with an eye toward liberation. Pieris begins with a section on feminist thought and follows it with a section on the place of religion in society and one on the relationship between spirituality and liberation.

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Essay Collections

Several edited volumes dealing with Buddhist-Christian dialogue have excellent essays on a wide variety of topics by a diverse collection of authors speaking out of both traditions. These defy simple classification but are particularly valuable to the reader who is interested in reading more broadly in the area rather than focusing on one particular topic. King and Ingram 1999 is a festschrift in honor of Frederick J. Streng and thus treats the themes that dominated his work. Ingram and Streng 1986 contains essays that treat the dialogue generally, but there is also an interesting section that looks at specific questions, such as the nature of evil, the understanding of the self, and approaches to faithful living. The special contribution of Ludwig and Mwakabana 2002 is its accessibility to the layperson and its emphasis on very practical concerns, such as poverty and death and dying. Loy 1996 is a publication from the American Academy of Religion that puts Buddhist-Christian dialogue in conversation with postmodern thought, particularly Jacques Derrida’s description of deconstruction. Chung, et al. 2007 is particularly concerned with Korean minjung theology and has essays on a variety of places in which Asian Christian theology can be helpfully informed by Buddhism. Unno 1989 puts Nishitani’s understanding of emptiness in conversation with Christian theology on a wide variety of issues, including the concept of God. This same format is mimicked in Unno and Heisig 1990, which treats aspects of Hajime’s interpretation of traditional themes in Kyoto Buddhist philosophy.

  • Chung, Paul S., Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, and Kim Kyoung-Jae, eds. Asian Contextual Theology for the Third Millennium: A Theology of Minjung in Fourth-Eye Formation. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2007.

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    Not all of the essays in this volume treat Buddhist-Christian dialogue directly, but several of them do. The others all relate to aspects of the “on the ground” engagement that occurs when Christianity takes seriously the Buddhist context in which it finds itself.

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  • Ingram, Paul O., and Frederick J. Streng, eds. Buddhist-Christian Dialogue: Mutual Renewal and Transformation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

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    The first section in this collection deals with methodological questions in a philosophical way; the third section looks at specific issues in both traditions, such as the problem of evil and the understanding of the self. This text is geared toward an academic audience.

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  • King, Sallie B., and Paul O. Ingram, eds. The Sound of Liberating Truth: Buddhist-Christian Dialogues in Honor of Frederick J. Streng. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1999.

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    These essays are gathered under four main headings, with general introductory and concluding sections: ultimate reality, ecology, social-political liberation, and ultimate transformation. Two authors dialogue in each section, each responding to the essay of the other.

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  • Loy, David R., ed. Healing Deconstruction: Postmodern Thought in Buddhism and Christianity. Atlanta: American Academy of Religion, 1996.

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    The authors in this collection engage various issues of postmodern thought—particularly as it relates to language and symbols—as they interface with aspects of Buddhism and Christianity.

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  • Ludwig, Theodore M., and Hance A. O. Mwakabana, eds. Explorations in Love and Wisdom: Christians and Buddhists in Conversation. Geneva, Switzerland: Lutheran World Federation, 2002.

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    There is a wide range of essays in this collection, most of which are notable for their practical orientation. For example, the third part of the book deals with essays on death and dying and pastoral care to those in crisis. The largest part of the book contains essays on poverty, women’s rights, political abuses, and the need for wholeness.

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  • Unno, Taitetsu, ed. The Religious Philosophy of Nishitani Keiji: Encounter with Emptiness. Nanzan Studies in Religion and Culture. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1989.

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    This volume offers a variety of well-known scholars, such as Masao Abe, Langdon Gilkey, Anne Klein, and Gordon Kaufman, reflecting on various aspects of Nishitani’s thought. After introductory essays on Nishitani’s concept of emptiness, the rest of the essays are collected under five main headings: God, science, ethics, history, and Buddhism.

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  • Unno, Taitetsu, and James W. Heisig, eds. The Religious Philosophy of Tanabe Hajime: The Metanoetic Imperative. Nanzan Studies in Religion and Culture. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1990.

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    This volume follows the earlier text on Nishitani Keiji (Unno 1989) with a similar format. The essays were originally presented at a symposium at Smith College and celebrated the English translation of Hajime’s Philosophy as Metanoetics. The scholars in this volume take up topics such as the role of Shin Buddhism in the West and the role of philosophy in the larger society.

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Spirituality

Many aspects of spirituality are routinely covered in Buddhist-Christian dialogue. This is one area where Christians in particular see clearly the benefits of engaging with and learning from Buddhists. The citations in this section offer a smattering of the different topics covered under this general heading. Mitchell and Wiseman 1997 discusses from the perspectives of both lay practitioners and clergy a wide range of topics, all of which relate to concrete aspects of spiritual practice. Suzuki 2002 compares Zen with the mysticism of Meister Eckhart. Carmody and Carmody 1996 seeks to deepen a Christian spirituality through engagement with Buddhist teachings on meditation, morality, and wisdom. Gordon 2009 connects spirituality with compassionate action in the world. Klenk, et al. 2006 also connects spirituality with one’s life in the world, but here it falls under the concept of “home” and how one’s religious tradition affects the way “home” is understood. Kasimow, et al. 2003 includes not only Christian but also Jewish reflections on how Buddhism can enhance and deepen one’s spirituality. Habito 2004 makes the case that Christians can learn more about God and deepen their own spirituality through the discipline of Zen practice. Knitter 2009 is an autobiographical account of how a deep engagement with Buddhism also deepened the author’s own Christian faith.

  • Carmody, Denise Lardner, and John Tully Carmody. Serene Compassion: A Christian Appreciation of Buddhist Holiness. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    This book is written from a Catholic Christian perspective and evaluates from that perspective (with great appreciation) the three jewels of Buddhism—the Buddha, sangha, and dharma—and the three pillars of meditation, morality, and wisdom. The goal is to see how insights gained from Buddhism can deepen a Christian spirituality.

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  • Gordon, Gus. Solitude and Compassion: The Path to the Heart of the Gospel. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2009.

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    This book is concerned with the authentic practice of one’s faith, a practice that links spirituality with compassionate action in the world on behalf of those who are suffering. The author argues that solidarity with the neighbor is a necessary component to realizing one’s true selfhood.

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  • Habito, Ruben L. F. Living Zen, Loving God. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    Habito makes the bold claim that Zen practice can enhance a Christian’s relationship with God and enable him or her to live more faithfully in the world.

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  • Kasimow, Harold, John P. Keenan, and Linda Keplinger Keenan, eds. Beside Still Waters: Jews, Christians, and the Way of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003.

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    This book includes a variety of Jewish voices (section 1) and Christian voices (section 2) reflecting on aspects of Buddhism that contribute positively to one’s spirituality.

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  • Klenk, Nicole, Gary Bull, and Robert Kozak. “Dwelling in Dialogues: Being-at-Home in Relation to Clutter, Nature, and People.” World Views: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology 10.3 (2006): 404–429.

    DOI: 10.1163/156853506778942103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors look at how the concept of “home” engages the lived spirituality of both Buddhists and Christians and explore the ramifications such engagement has on how one lives in all aspects of what one understands as “home”—both broadly and narrowly defined.

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  • Knitter, Paul F. Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian. Oxford: Oneworld, 2009.

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    In this book Knitter makes the argument that one can become more fully Christian through an ever deepening engagement with Buddhism. It is autobiographical in nature and draws many of its conclusions from Knitter’s own wide experiences.

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  • Mitchell, Donald W., and James A. Wiseman, eds. The Gethsemani Encounter: A Dialogue on the Spiritual Life by Buddhist and Christian Monastics. New York: Continuum, 1997.

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    This book is the fruit of an interfaith gathering of mature practitioners and teachers of spirituality who not only dialogued together but practiced, prayed, and celebrated together as well. Many different schools of Buddhism are represented, both Asian and American.

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  • Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    D. T. Suzuki, more than any other individual, is responsible for introducing Zen Buddhism to the US context. This is a classic Suzuki work, comparing the mysticism of Meister Eckhart to the mysticism of Zen in the particular form Suzuki in which packaged it for Western consumption. Originally published in 1957.

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Methodology

The books under this heading are concerned with the “how” of Buddhist-Christian dialogue and are primarily focused on setting the parameters of the conversation and raising some of the important considerations potential dialogue partners should consider. Yagi and Swidler 1990 is relatively old but still helpful as an introduction. The first section by Leonard Swidler describes the process of dialogue and then introduces Seiichi Yagi’s theology. The second section is Yagi’s own presentation of how Buddhism and Christianity might be fruitfully brought into conversation. King 1962 is one of the few examples that uses Theravada Buddhism in its presentation. Betty 2008 is a short, easily accessible article, which makes it an excellent choice for a novice in the field. Ingram 2009 examines several aspects of Buddhist-Christian dialogue under the categories of conceptual dialogue, dialogue with the natural sciences, socially engaged dialogue, and interior dialogue. Schmidt-Leukel 2006 had its genesis in a symposium held in Scotland leading up to the Dalai Lama’s visit in 2004. In the four-part book, a Buddhist and a Christian each offer a piece on a specific topic and then engage together in their reflections.

  • Betty, Stafford. “What Buddhists and Christians Are Teaching Each Other about God.” Cross Currents 58.1 (Spring 2008): 108–116.

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    A straightforward, general, easily accessible article on some possible points of conversation and comparison between Buddhists and Christians.

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  • Ingram, Paul O. The Process of Buddhist-Christian Dialogue. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009.

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    Ingram follows up his earlier work, in which he engaged science as a third partner in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, with this text, in which he uses Alfred North Whitehead’s process of metaphysics as a method for bringing Buddhism and Christianity into fruitful conversation.

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  • King, Winston L. Buddhism and Christianity: Some Bridges of Understanding. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962.

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    The author draws upon Theravada Buddhist traditions as he elaborates on some general comparisons between Buddhism and Christianity on the themes of God, the self, love, suffering, prayer, and faith.

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  • Schmidt-Leukel, Perry, ed. Buddhism and Christianity in Dialogue: The Gerald Weisfeld Lectures 2004. London: SCM, 2006.

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    This book serves primarily as a general introduction to basic topics of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Each chapter follows the same format, with a section from a Buddhist and then one from a Christian perspective. Each chapter concludes with a joint piece, where each author has the chance to address the points of his or her co-contributor.

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  • Yagi, Seiichi, and Leonard Swidler. A Bridge to Buddhist-Christian Dialogue. New York: Paulist Press, 1990.

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    Swidler translates Yagi’s book from the German and provides some introductory chapters not only to Yagi’s work itself but also to some of the main topics typically covered in Buddhist-Christian dialogue.

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Ethics

Included in this category is a brief representation of the variety of explicitly ethical issues engaged under the umbrella of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. There is a growing body of work in ecotheology that draws on the resources of interreligious dialogue, and Buddhist-Christian dialogue is also used to critique traditional Western assumptions about human rights and justice. The reader is also directed to the special issue of Buddhist-Christian Studies for more articles in this vein. Waldau 2002 is an excellent interreligious engagement with animal rights. Gross and Ruether 2001 is one of the few explicitly Buddhist-Christian treatments of the strengths and weaknesses present in each religious tradition for a feminist agenda. Reilly 2006 uses the Buddhist understanding of compassion as a resource for Christian thinking on justice. Ahern 2006 examines what aspects of each tradition might be mined to undergird an argument for environmental preservation and promotion. Schmidt-Leukel 2006 begins with the Western concept of human rights and seeks to analyze the places where such a concept resonates with Buddhism and where it is contradicted. John B. Cobb Jr. was an early contributor to this field, and in Cobb 2002 he critiques what he calls “neo-liberal economics” from the perspective of both Buddhism and Christianity. Van Oosten 2008 uses the Pali canon to compare a Buddhist doctrine of kamma (karma) with a Christian doctrine of forgiveness, seeking practical ramifications for the Khmer Rouge Genocide Tribunal.

  • Ahern, Annette. “Preservation by ‘Letting Go’: Buddhist Impermanence (Anicca) in Ruether’s Ecotheology.” Ecotheology: Journal of Religion, Nature, and the Environment 11.2 (June 2006): 212–232.

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    This article is shaped by the work of Rosemary Radford Ruether and Rita M. Gross (specifically Gross and Ruether 2001, although Ruether’s earlier writings in Christian ecotheology are also examined) and looks at different symbols in Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism that might be used to promote environmental values and practice.

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  • Cobb, John B., Jr. “A Buddhist-Christian Critique of Neo-Liberal Economics.” Eastern Buddhist 34.2 (2002): 1–15.

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    John B. Cobb Jr. was quite ahead of his time in combining his interest in Buddhist-Christian dialogue with environmental and economic concerns. In this article he addresses a simple question: What is wrong, from a Buddhist or Christian point of view, with the theory of neoliberal economics?

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  • Gross, Rita M., and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Religious Feminism and the Future of the Planet: A Christian-Buddhist Conversation. New York: Continuum, 2001.

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    Both Gross and Ruether have demonstrated their ecological commitments in other texts. In this book they come together to write from their own perspectives and then comment on each others’ reflections. Both authors have a chance to comment on what is liberating and what is problematic in their traditions.

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  • Reilly, Richard. “Compassion as Justice.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 26 (2006): 13–31.

    DOI: 10.1353/bcs.2006.0023Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author considers the relationship between concepts of “justice,” “compassion,” and “love of neighbor.” Using both Christian and Mahayana Buddhist teachings, the author suggests that compassion is actually the basis of all moral value and determines what it means to act justly.

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  • Schmidt-Leukel, Perry. “Buddhism and the Idea of Human Rights: Resonances and Dissonances.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 26 (2006): 33–49.

    DOI: 10.1353/bcs.2006.0024Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author seeks the places of consonance and dissonance between traditional Western assumptions around the idea of human rights and related Buddhist concepts.

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  • Special Issue: Thinking Globally: Buddhist-Christian Theology and Ethics in Honor of David Chappell. Buddhist-Christian Studies 26 (2006).

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    Every article in this volume treats a variety of ethical issues through the lens of Buddhist-Christian dialogue.

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  • Van Oosten, Karel. “Kamma and Forgiveness with Some Thoughts on Cambodia.” Exchange 37.3 (2008): 237–262.

    DOI: 10.1163/157254308X311974Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article offers a scholarly comparison of the Buddhist doctrine of kamma and the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, using examples from the Pali canon. The author concludes with a section on how this study might be relevant for the Khmer Rouge Genocide Tribunal.

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  • Waldau, Paul. The Specter of Speciesism: Buddhist and Christian Views of Animals. American Academy of Religion Academy Series. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    Speciesism refers to the way nonhuman animals have been exploited and mistreated by humans through the centuries. This book examines both the Christian and the Buddhist traditions and argues that both traditions are guilty of speciesism.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/13/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0129

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