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Buddhist-Christian Studies.1.1 (2001) 129-130

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Book Review

The Sound of Liberating Truth: Buddhist-Christian Dialogues in Honor of Frederick J. Streng

The Sound of Liberating Truth: Buddhist-Christian Dialogues in Honor of Frederick J. Streng.Edited by Sallie B. King and Paul O.Ingram. Surrey: Curzon Press, 1999.

Fred Streng was a close friend of mine. We were born the same year, 1933, and shared many interests. The last time I saw him was in 1992, in Boston.We both took part in the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies' fourth Buddhist-Christian Dialogue Conference, we both also delivered sermons at Boston University's chapel, and both of us gave commemorative addresses at a memorial service for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was in exile at the time, fleeing from the oppression of the Thai National Peacekeeping Council, which had staged a coup d'etat the year before. Fred offered sincere concern for my well-being and safety, and he encouraged me, when it was most needed, to complete my work on socially engaged Buddhism. Not long after that, I received the tragic news that Fred had died of cancer at age sixty.

I've always admired Fred Streng's positive disposition. His metta karuna,.oving and compassionate way, deeply shone through him. And his religious views, though different from mine, were always captivating. Fred was a Christian, yet his attitude and works greatly benefited a Theravada Buddhist like me. I especially learned from his Emptiness: AStudy in Religious Meaning.1974) and the textbook series, "Understanding Religious Life," that he edited.We are in need of different ways of perceiving and understanding reality, ways in which the brain and mind/heart are able to unite as one. In his summary of Dr. Streng's thinking, Paul Ingram summarizes his commitment to interreligious dialogue as a path in itself:

[H]e was convinced that religious knowledge and authentic living at their deepest level are dependent upon seeking out alternative forms of religious experience, comparing them, and entering into dialogue with them. Interreligious dialogue, he believed, may involve (1) a mystical sense of unity underlying the diversity of humanity's ways of being religious, (2) the perception that the religious ways of humanity are alternative or complementary means of ultimate transformation, (3) a focus on enriching one's personal faith and participation in one's own religious tradition, or (4) a combination of all three of [End Page 129] the above. Fred also developed these themes further in an essay entitled "Selfhood without Selfishness: Buddhist and Christian Approaches to Authentic Living" (pp. xiv-xv).

Reading The Sound of Liberating Truth,.he new collection of writings in Frederick Streng's honor edited by Sallie King and Paul Ingram, evokes fond memories of this kayanamittata(spiritual friend). The book's title is not just appealing and meaningful, it was the "life koan" that Fred grappled with during his final years: what is the sound of liberating truth? Religions can be more harmful and corrupting than even Marx thought. But the highest intention of religions remains unsurpassed--the ultimate transformation from selfishness to selflessness. In a genuine way, this book is a vehicle for helping us realize this noble outcome.

I am truly impressed by the wide range of ideas I have picked up reading this volume. In addition to the important contributions by the book's two editors, there are thought-provoking articles by David Chappell and Winston King on "Interreligious Dialogue," by Bonnie Thurston and Paula Cooey on "Nature and Ecology," by Sallie King and John Keenan on "Social and Political Issues of Liberation," and by Tom Kasulis and Ruben Habito on "Ultimate Transformation or Liberation." In each of these, there are challenging dialogues and good responses, too. The Buddhist and Christian epilogues by Taitetsu Unno and John Cobb, respectively, crown all the other dialogues in depth and thoughtfulness.

This volume is a well-deserved tribute to Frederick J. Streng, whose memory will be with his many friends--Buddhists, Christians, and so many others...


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