- The Frederick J. Streng Book Award:An Interview with Paul Ingram and Sallie King
Sallie King and Paul Ingram have been named winners of the 2003 Frederick J. Streng Book Award for their edited collection The Sound of Liberating Truth: Buddhist-Christian Dialogues in Honor of Frederick J. Streng (Curzon, 1999). Sallie King is professor of philosophy and religion at James Madison University in Harrisonburg,Virginia. Paul Ingram is professor of religion at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma,Washington. Both are past presidents of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies. There is some irony that they have won this award named after Fred Streng, one of the founders of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, for a volume that is a essentially a festschrift honoring the work of Fred Streng. Following is an edited interview with both of the winners.
Buddhist-Christian Studies: What made each of you want to put together this collection of essays?
Paul Ingram: Before I met Fred at the first "East-West Religions in Encounter" meeting organized by David Chappell in 1980 in Hawai'i, I was well acquainted with his work in history of religions. Fred by this time was recognized as one of the most important scholars in the field, and I deeply admired his work, particularly his book on Nagarjuna. As it turns out, he had read some of my work on Pure Land Buddhism and was as interested in meeting me as I was in meeting him. We became friends and colleagues. Because of our mutual interest in interreligious dialogue in general and in Buddhism in particular, he suggested that we should co-edit a volume of selected papers from the 1980 conference. This volume, Buddhist-Christian Dialogue: Mutual Renewal and Transformation, was subsequentlypublishedby the Universityof Hawai'i Press in 1986 and is still in print.
Sallie King: I had long admired Fred's book on Nagarjuna, which uniquely and powerfullyopenedup the religiousmeaningof Nagarjuna'swork.I later metFred through the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies and discovered that this admirable scholar was also a most admirable human being. We had lengthy, in-depth conversations when our paths crossed at various conferences. After Fred died, David Chappell, who had become the president of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, suggested to Paul and me that we edit a volume of this kind in honor of Fred. Neither Paul nor I hesitated. For my part, I felt such a loss when Fred died that I was very happy [End Page 313] and honored to have this opportunity to make a gesture of respect and gratitude toFred.
Besides his obvious scholarly achievements, what were Fred Streng's other gifts?
PI: Fred was always generous in his support of colleagues. Many of us in the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies are where we are professionally because of Fred's celebration of our work in all its diversity. He was one of the founding members of the Society, and he worked long and hard to make it a place for not only scholarly Buddhist-Christian encounter, but also a venue for nonspecialists to engage in Buddhist-Christian dialogue. All of us have been creatively transformed by Fred's work. After Fred's death in 1993, David Chappell invited Sallie and me to co-edit a volume of essays to honor Fred's memory and celebrate his work. We did so gladly and without reservation.
SK: Fred was a very balanced person who had seriously engaged with all the important areas of human life. He was profoundly spiritual, seriously concerned about social issues, unfailingly kind and generous to others. Though he was at the top of his field, he remained straightforward and natural and always met even far-junior scholars as equals; he could not have been more encouraging and supportive. His spirituality, his scholarship, his engagement with social issues and his caring for others were all interdependent, mutually constructive of who he was and of his various projects.
Were assignments for the book difficult to make?
PI: The most difficult problem was selecting who to invite. Sallie and I identified five themes in Fred's scholarship, and we needed...