Ultimate Reality in Chinese Religion

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on “Conceptions of the Ultimate”, the manner in which world religions understand the divine. Today’s reflection engages the perspective of Livia Kohn on ultimate reality in Chinese religion.
Kong Fuzi (Confucius)

Kong Fuzi (Confucius)

While finding Kohn’s treatment of the complexities and uniqueness of Chinese religions insightful, I was again struck by the important role of texts in the development and practice of the religions this course has considered. This reflection seeks to note the central role that texts and textual appeals seem to play in Chinese religions, as alluded to throughout Kohn’s essay. The essay begins by noting that ultimate reality is often considered in philosophical, practical, and mythical ways (10), and that through these lenses religious claims about the resolution of the human predicament are made (11). In the Christian tradition at least, philosophical, mythical, and (though to a somewhat lesser extent) practical doctrines and exhortations are almost always recorded and appealed to within the context of a text (at least the ones that are influential in the long-run). This paradigm seems to hold true for Chinese religions as well, with Daoist texts and Confucian sages functioning as the best sources for thinking about Ultimate Reality in the Chinese context (12-13). Kohn also directs us toward considering the problem of language in conceiving of Chinese religions. Not only are there no terms that correlate to the idea of “ultimate reality” (11), but the language that can be used to point towards that idea is confronted by the paradox of Chinese thought, where “If it’s the Dao, you cannot see it; if you can see it, it’s not that Dao” (12). For practioners of Chinese religion, the experience of ridding oneself of passions, emotions, and individual consciousness and seeking to align one’s conscience with the order of the cosmos appears to serve as the path for realization the “Ultimates,” the pluriform ways in which the “unreal, invisible, and intangible” ultimate may be experienced (31). Continue reading

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Images and Darsan

This post is part of our ongoing series of reflections concerning “Conceptions of the Ultimate”, the ways in which various world religions conceive of and interpret the Ultimate Being of the cosmos.

Darsan in HinduismDarsan means “seeing the divine”, and Diana L. Eck’s book bearing the same name, she discusses the Hindu practice of seeing and understanding the divine image in various Hindu contexts. In this reflection, I focus on the nature of the divine image in the Hindu tradition, especially as this concept relates to Christian conceptions of divine nature and representation. Darsan offers numerous insights into the parallels between Hindu and Christian theologies, providing another useful source for thinking about the relationship between Hindu and Christian theologies. Continue reading

Reading Across Traditions | Journal Article

Journal of Comparative TheologyI’m happy to announce the recent publication of my article “Reading Across Traditions: Comparing the Theological Anthropologies of Ramanuja and Augustine of Hippo” in the Journal of Comparative Theology 5, 1. As the editors of JCT write,

The third article, “Reading Across Traditions: Comparing the Theological Anthropologies of Ramanuja and Augustine of Hippo”, by Jacob Prahlow, creatively juxtaposes two theological anthropologies, which, despite separation of time, space, and religious tradition, when read together create a fruitful comparison.

This article may be read online here. Additionally, I’ve linked the journal on the “Publications” page above. I want to offer a big ‘Thank You’ to Dr. Jay Ford of Wake Forest University for his assistance in the preparation of this article.

Book Review: Theology After Vedanta (Clooney)

Theology After VedantaTheology after Vedanta: An Experiment in Comparative Theology offers an important step forward in comparative studies, laying a foundation for a fruitful (re)reading and (re)working of theological conceptions in our pluralistic context. Working from a reading of Advaita Vedanta texts, Francis Clooney provides an experience of “reading together” Vedanta and Catholic theology which directs readers toward an inclusivist reading of traditions external to their own and offers a practical and relevant method for contemporary comparative theology. This review notes the important contributions of Theology after Vedanta, concluding that this work is an important contribution to the methodology of comparative theology, the practice of textual comparison, and the reading of Advaita Vedanta. Continue reading