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  • Word and Silence in Buddhist and Christian Traditions
  • Donald Mitchell

The following official statement was written by Buddhist and Christian participants at the end of a very successful encounter at the Asirvanam Benedictine Monastery near Bangalore, India, from July 8 to13, 1998. The conference was organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and was attended by its president, Cardinal Francis Arinze, along with the PCID secretary, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, and Fr. Machado, the PCID official for Asia. The conference proceedings will be published in the PCID journal, Pro Dialogo.

Buddhist participants included Ven. Dr. Yifa from Fokuangshan in Taiwan, Ven. Bhaddarita Panna Dipa from the World Buddhist Meditation Center in Myanmar, Ven. Geshe D. Namgyal from the Drepung Loseling Monastery representing His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Asanga Tilakratne of the Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies in Sri Lanka, Dr. Michio Shinozaki, dean of the Rissho Kosei-Kai Seminary in Japan, and Prof. Yasuaki Nara of Komazawa University in Japan.

Christian participants included Fr. Franco Sottocomola of the Seimeizen Center for Interreligious Dialogue in Japan, Fr. Valence Mendis of the National Seminary in Sri Lanka, Fr. Augustine Okumuru, OCD, of Japan, Prof. Donald W. Mitchell of Purdue University, Sr. Iona Misquitta, OSB, and Sr. Teresita D’Silva, OSB, both of the Shanti Nilayam Abbey in Bangalore, and Prof. Michael Fuss of the Gregorian University in Rome.

Concluding Statement

  1. 1. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue organized its second international colloquium at the Asirvanam Benedictine Monastery in Bangalore, India, from July 8 to 13, 1998. A small number of Buddhists and Christians from India, Tibet/India, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States were invited for a dialogue on the theme of “Word and Silence in Buddhist and Christian Traditions.” This event encounter was in response to a desire expressed at the Pontifical Council’s First Colloquium that was held from July 31 to August 4, 1995, at the Fo Kuang Shan Buddhist Monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. At the end of that first dialogue, the participants expressed the desire to [End Page 187] meet again in a Christian monastery in order to contribute to the deepening of the modern encounter between Buddhism and Christianity.

  2. 2. The agenda of the meeting included four major topics: Buddhist Enlightenment and Christian Revelation, Sacred Texts in the Buddhist and Christian Traditions, Meditation and Contemplation in Buddhism and Christianity, and Anatta/ Sunyata and Kenosis. The papers were presented on these four topics in a way that fostered the dialogue process itself. In this process, all participants shared and explored their views of the place of word and silence in their respective traditions leading to a greater sense of mutual understanding and appreciation. This meeting proceeded by each side expressing what its own traditions believe, teach, and celebrate. The following points indicate some of the areas that were explored in the dialogue.

  3. 3. The authority of the early sacred Buddhist texts was decided during the six great Buddhist Councils called for at different periods of time by the Buddha’s disciples after passing into Parinirvana. Theravada Buddhism accepts only the teachings of the Buddha that were declared authoritative during these councils. This early canon includes the discourses of the Buddha (Sutta), the rules for the monastic order (Vinaya), and the higher philosophical teachings (Abhidhamma). While Mahayana Buddhism accepts this early canon, it also accepts and emphasizes other sacred texts, called Sutras, which they believe were also taught by the Buddha. Within Mahayana there arose another tradition called Vajrayana that accepts the canons of both Theravada and Mahayana and adds a new literature called the Tantras, which present Buddhist esoteric teachings. Common to these traditions are the precepts for living the teachings of the Buddha and the authoritative commentaries of the particular traditions. These sacred texts describe the path that leads to the liberation from suffering and the nature and qualities of that supreme condition.

    In the Catholic tradition of Christianity, it is the teaching authority of the Church that has faithfully received the revealed and inspired texts and has determined their canonicity. The canon of Sacred Scripture consists of two sections: the Old Testament, written in...

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