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Christian readers will readily discern the particularities of my own Christianity . They may not so readily perceive the limitations of the approach to Buddhism involved in this book. Between Theravāda and Mahāyāna, often regarded as the two primary branches of Buddhist tradition, I focus exclusively on the latter. Within the universe of Mahāyāna texts, I focus on Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra. In the interpretation of Śāntideva, I largely follow Tibetan commentators. These commentators belong to the Vajrayāna tradition, which some scholars and practitioners regard as a third primary branch of Buddhism.1 A Buddhist-Christian reflection focused on the Theravāda tradition might draw some sharper contrasts and limit attention to the role of bodhisattvas. But this study aims to engage the full Mahāyāna vision of these figures and to take account of its understanding of Buddha nature. Intherealmofpractice,Ihavehadsomegeneralexperienceofvipassanā and mindfulness meditation. But I have been most strongly influenced by the Tibetan Rimé tradition (specifically, by teachers from both Nyingma and Kargyu lineages). Of particular importance for my thinking has been the teaching of adapted practices from this tradition within the Natural Dharma Fellowship and the Foundation for Active Compassion.2 One of the most notable aspects of that teaching is the way that traditional Tibetan meditations, which involve detailed visualizations of deity figures, have been transposed into forms of “benefactor” meditation, in which students draw upon figures or moments from their own life history as objects of focus. I am deeply grateful for the hospitality and the instruction of the Natural Dharma Fellowship. Its leadership makes clear that they welcome practitioners with identities or commitments that bind them to other PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS x Preface and Acknowledgments religious communities. This made it possible for me to enter fullheartedly into participation in their margha program. My thanks also go to Lama John Makransky, Lama Willa Miller, Liz Monson, Bob Morrison, my margha group, and the staff of the Wonderwell Mountain Refuge. Their teaching and practice were a living commentary on Śāntideva’s bodhicitta . I am only a beginner on the path they embody, a fact that should alert readers that failings in interpretation or understanding are not the fault of any of these teachers. My thanks to John Makransky extend equally into the academic realm, where he has been a cherished colleague and friend in many settings. He was gracious enough to review the manuscript of this work and to share his comments. In the area of Buddhism , specifically of Buddhist-Christian study, Paul Knitter, Ruben Habito, Maria Reis Habito, John Keenan, Robert Jonas, and Mark Unno have each greatly enriched me over past years through their writings, presentations , and personal conversation. I would like to thank the leadership at the Kwan Um Zen Center in Cumberland, Rhode Island, and at the Barre Buddhist Study Center in Barre, Massachusetts, (particularly its resident teacher, Mu Soeng) for the hospitality extended to me and my classes over a number of years. I am grateful to Hiutung Chan, past director of the Tao Fong Shan study center in Hong Kong, for inviting me to lecture and teach there, and for guiding me on visits to Buddhist monasteries in China. Appreciation is also due to the abbot and assistant abbot of the Chanmyay Yeiktha meditation center at Hmawbi, Myanmar, for the hospitality and instruction there. The cover art for this book is “The Risen Christ at Emmaus” by Jyoti Sahi, who is not only an extraordinary artist but an insightful author on topics similar to those treated in this book. I am deeply appreciative for his permission to use the painting here. It is not only thematically apt, but a very happy reminder of our acquaintance in India a good many years ago. My colleagues at Andover Newton Theological School have been a constant support and inspiration in my work. To our librarians, Nancy Lois and Diana Yount, and to our dean, Sarah Drummond, I extend particular gratitude for their personal and institutional support. My colleagues Sze-kar Wan, now of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and Brita Gill-Austern contributed much that informed this book, though their gifts are by no means limited to that content. Sze-kar has taught me much about China and the riches of cross-cultural readings of the Bible. Brita has established connections Preface and Acknowledgments xi between Andover Newton and Christian seminaries and Buddhist centers in Myanmar, which allowed me to travel there...


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