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This study compares contemplation practices in Buddhism and Christianity by investigating some prominent figures: the influential Chinese Chan master Shandao, the acclaimed founder of the Japanese Pure Land School Honen, the "founder" of gentile Christianity St. Paul, and the German reformer Martin Luther.
The title of this paper correlates different religious traditions that do not permit direct comparisons because their teachings, practices, soteriology, metaphysics, as well as their geographical and historical settings are considerably diverse. However, when the two terms of a comparison somehow share a common "third" aspect, the tertium comparationis, a methodologically adequate comparison becomes possible via such a mode of mediation. In order to fulfill the task stated in the title, this study focuses on two tertia comparationis.
The first one is "communication" serving here as a common heuristic term in order to better understand the nature of contemplative practices consisting of various forms of interior and exterior mutual interactions—that is, of mental and bodily, verbal and nonverbal, visual and auditory forms of communication—rather than solely an interior, mental kind of human activity.
The second tertium comparationis consists of a possible result of contemplative practices in Buddhism and Christianity by focusing on their innovative role in both traditions. Whereas the reformatory achievements of most of these religious figures are widely acknowledged, this study attempts to show that the root causes for their groundbreaking innovations are to be found in various kinds of contemplation practice. Through such a comparative investigation, the present study attempts to shed new light on the nature of contemplation as communication process and, at the same time, as an innovative force in Buddhism and Christianity. Thereby the author hopes to foster improved interreligious understanding between both traditions.