Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Krishna Mohan Banerjea (1813-1885)

  • Dialogues on Hindu Philosophy (1861, 1903)
  • The Aryan Witness (1875)
  • The Relation of Christianity and Hinduism (1897)

  • Philip, T.V. Krishna Mohan Banerjea: Christian Apologist. Confessing the Faith in India, no. 15. Bangalore: CISRS; Madras: CLS, 1982.

[References from G. Gispert-Sauch, Review of Paul Inje, A Two-Dimensional Approach: Christ's Sacrifice in the Letter to the Hebrews and Sacrifice in Gandhian Thought, Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection 77/2 (2013) 155-157.]

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Person, varna, samsara, and so on

From Peter Gonsalves, part of an email to me, 24 Feb 2013:
Ivo, congrats again!
Reading your article took me back to those JDV days.
I remember faintly De Smet's reinterpretation of avidya...which was interesting although it did not concur with the dominant Hindu thinking at that time.
I feel De Smet scholars may need to explore if Hindu sects have co-opted a quasi Thomistic notion of 'person'. And if these sects do exist, it would be interesting to know how they may have 'resolved' the varna and samsara dilemmas while holding on to such a concept.
Without this check, De Smet's research will continue to remain a parallel interpretation that has no basis in the real, lived Hinduism - a bit like Gandhi's rejection of untouchability on the basis of his vishishistadvaita that accommodated a non-hierarchical, non-discriminatory interpretation of the varnas that, unfortunately, has few takers even today.
Until then, the fundamentals of Christian personhood will remain a thorn in the side of Hindu orthodoxy.

From me back:
de smet and person: we're just beginning! but yes, your openings are great.
nb: 'person' is fundamentally Christian, not Thomist.
Thomas offered a great definition.
Ratzinger offers a critique of both Augustine and Thomas, saying they are not 'relational enough' in the application of person to human beings. they reserve relation to God, sort of. (see my article in the Veliath festschrift).

could you say something more about "resolving the varna and samsara dilemmas while holding on to the concept of person"?

for DS, interestingly, hierarchy also means a type of relatedness that is absent in the modern western atomic individualist notion of person... so for him, surprisingly, varna is positive. how to transmute that - or how to face that today -is one of the thorny questions, not so much for the orthodox hindu as for anyone with a subaltern sensitivity.

Mahadevan for one had no problem accepting DS' thesis way back in 1974.

and so on.

From PG again:

By the dilemma I mean: how would those Hindu sects (if they do exist) who accept the 'christian' concept of person (as sharing the inalienable right to dignity and equality with all others) sustain at the same time the existence of caste hierarchy that is intrinsically linked to karmic effects of actions from previous births.

(I once had an interesting conversation with an auto rickshaw driver who very casually explained that it wasn't his duty to help the poor just as it wasn't right of him to envy the rich. People were where they were on the ladder of life with the duty to do their best on their own rung, because they merited God's reward/punishment on the basis of how each one behaved in their previous life.)

So how would Hindu groups (not individual philosophers, but leaders of contemporary hindu revivalism) who are open to the Christian concept of person reconcile such thinking with traditionally accepted Hindu understanding of man: where 'being human' does not carry a single definition of 'personhood' but is ontologically differentiated on the basis of a karmic hierarchy...that even includes the possibility of reduction to sub-human forms.

My reply:

thanks for expanding.
ds in an aside says that rebirth remains a major problem re the acceptance of the personhood of the human being...
as for caste, it is an evil but not one that regards the ontological constitution of the human being. though even that would need to be rethought, in the light of the fact that meaning is part of human being.

Brahman = God? De Nobili and De Smet

Sangkeun Kim. Strange Names of God: The Missionary Translation of the Divine Name and the Chinese Responses to Matteo Ricci's "Shangti" in Late Ming China, 1583-1644. Peter Lang, 2004. ISBN 0820471305, 9780820471303.

Sangkeun Kim is Assistant Professor of Missiology and History of Religions at Yonsei University, Korea

Synopsis. One of the most precarious and daunting tasks for sixteenth-century European missionaries in the cross-cultural mission frontiers was translating the name of "God" (Deus) into the local language. When the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) introduced the Chinese term Shangti as the semantic equivalent of Deus, he made one of the most innovative cross-cultural missionary translations. Ricci's employment of Shangti was neither a simple rewording of a Chinese term nor the use of a loan-word, but was indeed a risk-taking "identification" of the Christian God with the Confucian Most-High, Shangti. Strange Names of God investigates the historical progress of the semantic configuration of Shangti as the divine name of the Christian God in China by focusing on Chinese intellectuals' reaction to the strangely translated Chinese name of God.

See passing reference to De Smet at 114n181: according to De Smet, De Nobili considered Brahman (Brahma) as an adequate equivalent to the Christian term God. Kim cites De Smet's "Robert de Nobili and Vedanta."