It is a great pleasure to present volume 30 of Buddhist-Christian Studies, which contains scholarly articles, conference papers on the subject of authority, book reviews, and details of news and events related to Buddhist-Christian interactions.
This volume marks the end of the third decade of existence of the journal of Buddhist-Christian Studies. Contributions made to this journal by prominent scholars and practitioners of interfaith dialogue have made the journal popular among academics. Within the last three decades, Buddhist-Christian Studies has significantly enhanced interfaith dialogue between Buddhists and Christians.
John Keenan’s contribution in this volume takes up issues expressed previously in this journal by two academics focusing on his book The Meaning of Christ: A Mahāyāna Theology (1989) and adds further critical comments to the continuing debate on the use of Mahāyāna philosophical themes for enunciating a Mahāyāna Christology.
The prominent feature of this particular volume is that the bulk of it is dedicated to the exploration of the nature and meaning of authority in the Buddhist and Christian traditions. The conference papers in this collection, written by a group of competent Asian and Western monastic and lay scholars, examine scriptural, spiritual, political, and institutional authority and areas of crisis in authority in both religious traditions.
The value of these contributions becomes more evident when one reflects upon the theme of authority, which has been of central significance in today’s world. The importance of authority as a theme is not limited to the religious traditions of the world but is also a serious concern for nonreligious, secular thoughts of modern society.
What is fascinating about the teachings of early Buddhism is that they suggest that on some occasions the historical Buddha questioned the very notion of authority that existed in ancient India. On two occasions—in the address to Kālāmas in the Kālāma Sutta (A.I.189) and Bhaddiya Licchavi in the Bhaddiya Sutta (A.II.191–193) of the Aṅguttaranikāya—the historical Buddha condemned a list of ten possible ways of claiming knowledge as unsatisfactory. The list of ten begins with anussava (tradition). Six of them—tradition (anussavena), unbroken succession (paramparāya), hearsay (itikirāya), scripture (piṭakasampadāya), propriety (bhavyarūpatāya), and respect for teacher (samaṇo no garu)—are based on some sort of authority.
In the Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge (1963), K.N. Jayatilleke (1920 –1970) [End Page v] has proposed a proper way of reading the controversial Kālāma Sutta passage by taking into account the remaining teachings of the Buddha:
[I]f we interpret the Kālāma Sutta as saying that one should not accept the statement of anyone on authority nor even seriously consider the views of others in order to test their veracity but rely entirely on one’s own experiences in the quest and discovery of truth, then this would be contradictory to the concept of saddhā [trust] in the Pāli Nikāyas. But if, on the other hand, we interpret the Kālāma Sutta as saying that while we should not accept the statements of anyone as true on the grounds of authority, we should test the consequences of statements in the light of our own knowledge and experience in order to verify whether they are true or false, it would be an attitude which is compatible with saddhā as understood in at least one stratum of Pāli Canonical thought...we have reason to believe that this latter interpretation is the correct one.(p. 391)
Thus some of the early Buddhist discourses such as the Kālāma Sutta questioned the notion of authority prevalent in ancient India. However, as Buddhism developed in Asian societies over the centuries, a variety of notions of authority emerged to meet the structural and organizational needs of Buddhist communities and institutions. As the collection of papers in this volume testifies there are many facets and shades of meaning of authority in Buddhist and Christian societies today. [End Page vi]