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In the Company of Friends

Exploring Faith and Understanding with Buddhists and Christians

John Ross Carter

Publication Year: 2012

Buddhist-Christian reflection that uses friendship as a model for interreligious understanding. In this work of Buddhist-Christian reflection, John Ross Carter explores two basic aspects of human religiousness: faith and the activity of understanding. Carter’s perspective is unique, putting people and their experiences at the center of inquiry into religiousness. His model and method grows out of friendship, challenging the so-called objective approach to the study of religion that privileges patterns, concepts, and abstraction.Carter considers the traditions he knows best, the Protestant Christianity he was born into and the Theravada and Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land) traditions of the Sri Lankan and Japanese friends among whom he has lived, studied, and worked. His rich, wide-ranging accounts of religious experience include discussions of transcendence, reason, sam|vega, shinjin, the inconceivable, and whether lives oriented toward faith will survive in a global context with increased pressures for individualism and secularism. Ultimately, Carter proposes that the endeavor of interreligious understanding is itself a religious quest.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xxi

Matthew’s biography of Jesus in the New Testament recounts an exchange between Jesus and his disciples: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of...

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pp. xxiii-xxv

This book, like most things in our lives, could not have appeared without the contributions of others. Over the years, and in previously published volumes, I have indicated many persons who have worked with me in our joint efforts to understand the subject of humankind’s religiousness and of our own religious orientations. Among them...

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Introductory Note

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pp. xxvii-xxxii

This volume offers neither a survey of the Buddhist tradition nor a synopsis of Christian systematic theology. It is a collection of a series of reflections that attempts to explore two fundamental dimensions of human religiousness: faith and the activity of understanding. We begin with theoretical issues involved in one’s quest for religious...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxxiii

I: The Quest for Religious Understanding with Theravāda, Jōdo Shinshū Buddhists, and Christians

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Chapter 1: On Understanding Religious Men and Women

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pp. 3-12

When I first shared the words that follow in this chapter, some years ago, I began by saying, “I am honored to be here to speak to you today,” indicating both the context—a speaker addressing an audience—and an attitude on the part of the speaker, now the writer. The invitation to speak at Otani University, Kyoto, Japan, took the...

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Chapter 2: Truth and History in Interreligious Understanding: A Preliminary Inquiry

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pp. 13-21

Any particular day is a day humankind has never before witnessed. A conference of engaged persons, Buddhists and Christians, representing primarily two universities, Chikushi Jogakuen of Dazaifu, Japan, and Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles, in September 2001, was an event that had never occurred before in the history...

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Chapter 3: Interreligious Understanding as a Religious Quest

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pp. 23-34

“I understand” are welcomed words whenever one hears them from another. The phrase does not necessarily indicate an agreement between or among persons. When spoken in good faith the phrase suggests an ability on the part of the speaker to find coherence in information provided that relates to one’s life experience and to...

II: The Dynamics of Faith and Beyond: Personally and in an Ever-Expanding Community

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Chapter 4: Saṃvega and the Incipient Phase of Faith

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pp. 37-43

One of the most engaging dimensions of human self-understanding that becomes available to the student of humankind’s religiousness is a continuing process of watching unfold the depth and the complexities of what is involved in being human religiously, or of becoming fully, authentically human. One comes to understand...

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Chapter 5: Shinjin More than “Faith”?

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pp. 45-61

Shinjin is attractive, or at least some of us fi nd this notion of the goal of human life to be eminently worth pursuing, or at least seriously pondering. I am not sure that I fully understand why. Perhaps it is part of our human “makeup,” part of what it means to be human, that men and women are so constituted that when we “hit upon” a notion...

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Chapter 6: Celebrating Our Faith

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pp. 63-72

It is difficult to translate this title into Japanese for Jōdo Shinshū or Shin Buddhists. This fact substantiates to a considerable degree the point that I have been making. We need to think more about what we mean when we use the English word faith. When I first suggested this title for a lecture that I was asked to give at Ryukoku University...

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Chapter 7: Colloquia in Faith

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pp. 73-82

Leading representatives of the major religious traditions have been talking about dialogue for half a century or more. We have come a long way, indeed, from the days of public debates, from a time of studying another religious tradition in order for some to know its strengths, contributing to a sense of respect for it, in order for others to know...

III: Converging Affirmations from Different Perspectives

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Chapter 8: “Relying Upon” or “Taking Refuge” as a Genuinely Human Activity

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pp. 85-98

Religious people, in the course of our human history, have participated in community, that is, they have established cohesive social organizations based on shared commitments to one another, to one’s parents and to one’s children, as well as to the parents and children of others. Religious people live in space and time that are undergirded...

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Chapter 9: Love and Compassion as Given

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pp. 99-108

In attempting to understand religious men and women we see the remarkable variety in the modes of expressing the quality of faith. Religious traditions differ, of course, but persons who participate in these traditions demonstrate discernibly similar patterns of faith and response. We know an awareness of refuge is one response. Another...

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Chapter 10: Toward an Understanding of What Is Inconceivable

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pp. 109-121

In our continuing attempt to understand the religious life of men and women who have found life more abundant in their becoming Buddhist, we see that, like all human endeavors, this enterprise, too, has had a history. There was a time when attempting to understand religious life as we are attempting was not even considered. Then...

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Chapter 11: The Arising of Salvific Realization as Buddhists and Christians Have Affirmed

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pp. 123-133

We have moved beyond a matter of merely translating one Japanese word into one English word to find that a Japanese word carried with it a cluster of associated religious apperceptions that function in the religious life of Jōdo Shinshū Buddhists in a manner similar to the way another concept and satellite connotations function...

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Chapter 12: Relationality in Religious Awareness

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pp. 135-159

Relationality is at the heart of what it means to be genuinely human. It is a quality in which one participates when one is not cut off from the past—an open past—or from others or from meaning or, for some, even from hope. Central in this relationality is response, particularly, as we have indicated, response to transcendence which...

IV: Building from Our Past into Our Common Future

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Chapter 13: From Controversy to Understanding: More than a Century of Progress

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pp. 163-173

The process whereby persons, at the depths of their religiousness, seek to understand other persons, also at the depths of their religiousness, is not an inevitable process in human history. It is under way today, happily one can report. In chapter 1 we drew attention to a Baptist speaking openly about matters of faith among Japanese...

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Chapter 14: Religion and the Imperatives for Development

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pp. 175-180

The situation in which persons are living today in Sri Lanka is one of change. Change, of course, is built into the historical process and into the lives of persons. However, persons in Sri Lanka are met by a rapidity of change that, through its apparently relentlessly increasing pace, might tend to push one toward...

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Chapter 15: Getting First Things First: Some Reflections on a Response by Venerable Ananda Maitreya

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pp. 181-185

For many years Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya has been held in high regard among Buddhists and Western students of the Buddhist heritage. One of his writings, a chapter entitled “Buddhism in Theravāda Countries,” appeared in a book widely used for a time in American colleges and universities.1 Western students have also seen this outstanding...

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Chapter 16: Translational Theology: An Expression of the Faith of Christians in a Religiously Plural World

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pp. 187-197

In the course of one’s study, one’s thinking on some issues changes. This particular study, over the years, is no unusual case to prove the exception. For example, when a draft of this chapter was first developed I used the phrase, “Christian Faith,” in the title, and, indeed, so it stood when the chapter was first published1 in a section...

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Chapter 17: Buddhists and Baptists: In Conversation into Our Common Future

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pp. 199-213

Surely, one might say, the title of this chapter is awry! What in the world, or beyond the world, have Buddhists to do with Baptists, and vice versa? Has it not been the case that Baptists have sought to convert Buddhists, and this for well over a century, and that Buddhists have been somewhat less than kind to Baptists by asserting that they...

V: The Challenge of Our Future

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Chapter 18: Will There Be Faith on Earth?

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pp. 217-224

Mutual understanding of religious persons—Theravāda and Jōdo Shinshū Buddhists, Christians, and others—is a pressing requirement for our times, of course. There are numerous crises in our world today: wars, bloody skirmishes, terrorism, more than fifty million political and economic refugees, the AIDS epidemic...


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pp. 225-285

A Bibliographic Note on the Context of Origin and Subsequent Versions of the Chapters in this Volume

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pp. 287-289


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pp. 291-303


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pp. 305-314

E-ISBN-13: 9781438442815
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438442792

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Christianity and other religions -- Buddhism.
  • Buddhism -- Relations -- Christianity.
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