Buddhist-Christian Studies 21.1 (2001) vi-vii
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In Memoriam: Winston L. King
Winston L. King was ninety-three when he died on February 15, 2000, at his home in Madison, Wisconsin. Diagnosed with cancer over a year ago, he continued many of his usual activities--reading widely, maintaining a voluminous correspondence, visiting with friends, and walking daily. Winston was one of those remarkable scholar-teachers of an older generation who never ceased to develop new intellectual and research interests. With degrees from Asbury College (A.B., 1929), Andover Newton Theological Seminary (1936), and Harvard (S.T.M., 1938; Ph.D., 1940), his career included pastorates in New England (1930-1943, 1945-1949), Dean of the Chapel and professor of Grinnell College (1949-1963), professor of the history of religions atVanderbilt University (1964-1973), and after his retirement fromVanderbilt, an appointment as professor of philosophy at Colorado State University.
Winston's two-year appointment with the Ford Foundation as the advisor to the International Institute for Buddhistic Studies in Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar), from 1958 to 1960 proved to be a major turning point in his life and established his reputation as a significant interpreter of Theravada Buddhism in Southeast [End Page vi] Asia. Three important monographs resulted from Winston's stay in Burma: Buddhism and Christianity: Some Bridges of Understanding (1963), In the Hope of Nibbana: An Essay on Theravada Buddhist Ethics(1964), andAThousand Lives Away(1964). The last volume was the most widely regarded of the three, but each was at the forefront of later developments in the fields of Buddhist-Christian studies, Buddhist ethics, and modern studies in Southeast Buddhism.
Winston was already well grounded in a broad comparative study of religion, as demonstrated by his Introduction to Religion(Harper,1954), before his sojourn in Burma. In the first chapter of that textbook, he set forth an understanding of religion as "unity-in-diversity and diversity-in-unity" that informed his sensibilities as a historian of religions--especially Buddhism--throughout his life. He saw being a person of faith as an advantage rather than a disadvantage in the study of religion, anticipating his subsequent work in Buddhist-Christian studies.Winston believed that the adherent of a particular faith is better able "to penetrate to the centrally important features of another religion" that might be opaque to the "nonreligionist." His analogical observation, "Being in love he will know how to understand something of another's being in the same situation" grew out of the deep mutual devotion between Winston and Jocelyn, his beloved wife of more than sixty-six years.
Winston's special interest in Japanese Buddhism began to take shape in the latter part of his career with a Fulbright Lecturership in Kyoto in 1965-1966. Subsequently, he was to return to Japan to continue his study of Buddhism and Japanese language at sixty years of age. Several articles and two major monographs followed: Death Was His Koan: The Samurai-Zen of Suzuki Shosan(1986) and Zen and the Way of the Sword (1993).
Throughout his career, Winston maintained a strong interest in the practice of faith, giving both personal and scholarly attention to Buddhist meditation in particular. While he was in Burma, he spent ten days at the International Meditation Center founded by U Ba Khin. An account of his experience appeared in the Journal of Religion (1961). In Buddhism and Christianity, he compared Christian prayer and Buddhist meditation; later he was to compare Theravada and Zen meditational methods and goals (History of Religions, 1970) and explore the yogic methodological background to Buddhist insight meditation (Theravada Meditation: The Buddhist Transformation ofYoga, 1980).
Winston's empathetic approach to religious understanding, his scholarly breadth and productivity, and his humane, personal integrity set a standard to be emulated by those who follow him. We celebrate his life and his scholarship.
Donald K. Swearer