- Frederick J. Streng Book Award:An Interview with Harold Kasimow, John Keenan, and Linda Keenan
The recipient of the Frederick J. Streng Book of the Year Award for 2004 is Beside Still Waters: Jews, Christians, and the Way of the Buddha, edited by Harold Kasimow, John P. Keenan, and Linda Klepinger Keenan. This book provides the reader with a combination of reflection on the creatively transformative power of interreligious dialogue and documentation of that creative transformation in the lives of committed Jews and Christians in dialogue with Buddhism. The bulk of this book consists of candid, autobiographical essays by seven Jewish and Christian scholars in the form of personal testimony, which, taken as a whole, presents an extended argument for the value of interfaith dialogue in general and Buddhist-Christian-Jewish dialogue in particular. The final section of the book consists of four essays written from sociological, Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist perspectives by authors who have read the primary essays and reflect on interreligious dialogue more broadly in light of their own particular experience and research.
Those who read Beside Still Waters as seekers will find themselves in the company of fellow pilgrims on the Way who offer their particular life stories filled with focused insight and theological sophistication. The strength of this collection of essays is that it robustly displays Jewish and Christian encounter with Buddhism as a new direction that contemporary Buddhist-Christian dialogue as practiced within the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies would do well to emulate.
Buddhist-Christian Studies asked the editors a few questions.
Buddhist-Christian Studies: Why did you write Beside Still Waters?
John Keenan: Because Harold and I wanted to write a book together. Each of us is much involved in our own tradition as well as in the study and practice of Buddhism, and we wanted to show that this kind of encounter with another religious tradition does not mutate one's own identity. For this reason, we wanted contributors to speak out of their personal experience rather than to address the philosophical and doctrinal issues that are engendered by such interfaith encounters—although these issues should of course be addressed elsewhere.
Harold Kasimow: Perhaps the following Hassidic tale best answers this question: "Rabbi Eizik, son of Rabbi Yekel, travels to Prague in search of treasure. He ultimately discovers, after meeting with a Christian, that the treasure is in fact buried [End Page 205] at his family's home back in Krakow. Thus it is a Christian who helps Rabbi Eizik to find the treasure in Judaism, to perceive more profoundly the depth and uniqueness of the Jewish tradition." This has been my own experience and is the reason why I was interested in writing this book together with people with whom I have a very strong karmic connection.
Was it difficult to solicit and edit the contributors' essays?
Linda Keenan: Not at all. With only one exception, everyone we contacted agreed to write an essay for the book. In one or two instances, we pushed for something more personal than was first submitted, and we were very pleased with the final collection.
How did the three of you work together?
HK: I often spoke to Linda over the phone, and John could speak to her in person, and Linda did all the work.
LK: Harold and John conceived the idea and contacted potential contributors. The three of us consulted a great deal over the telephone and by e-mail. And Harold kept us on task at each stage of the book and has been its greatest promoter.
JK: The above is accurate, but the book was written by the contributors.
Is there anything you would have done differently if you could do it over? Any contributors you missed this time for one reason or another that you would recruit for a new edition?
LK: We would not change what we did, but there are certainly many more Jews and Christians who could make excellent contributions to a new edition of the book. In fact, the most difficult thing was knowing so many people—including, among others, most of the membership of the...