Crucified Wisdom: Theological Reflection on Christ and the Bodhisattva

Crucified Wisdom: Theological Reflection on Christ and the Bodhisattva

by S. Mark Heim


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Winner of the Frederick Streng Book Award for Excellence in Buddhist-Christian Studies

This work provides the first systematic discussion of the Bodhisattva path and its importance for constructive Christian theology. Crucified Wisdom examines specific Buddhist traditions, texts, and practices not as phenomena whose existence requires an apologetic justification but as wells of tested wisdom that invite theological insight. With the increasing participation of Christians in Buddhist practice, many are seeking a deeper understanding of the way the teachings of the two traditions might interface. Christ and the Bodhisattva are often compared superficially in Buddhist–Christian discussion. This text combines a rich exposition of the Bodhisattva path, using Śāntideva’s classic work the Bodicaryāvatāra and subsequent Tibetan commentators, with detailed reflection on its implications for Christian faith and practice.

Author S. Mark Heim lays out root tensions constituted by basic Buddhist teachings on the one hand, and Christian teachings on the other, and the ways in which the Bodhisattva or Christ embody and resolve the resulting paradoxes in their respective traditions. An important contribution to the field of comparative theology in general and to the area of Buddhist–Christian studies in particular, Crucified Wisdom proposes that Christian theology can take direct instruction from Mahāyāna Buddhism in two respects: deepening its understanding of our creaturely nature through no-self insights, and revising its vision of divine immanence in dialogue with teachings of emptiness. Heim argues that Christians may affirm the importance of novelty in history, the enduring significance of human persons, and the Trinitarian reality of God, even as they learn to value less familiar, nondual dimensions of Christ’s incarnation, human redemption, and the divine life.

Crucified Wisdom focuses on questions of reconciliation and atonement in Christian theology and explores the varying interpretations of the crucifixion of Jesus in Buddhist–Christian discussion. The Bodhisattva path is central for major contemporary Buddhist voices such as the Dalai Lama and Thích Nhât Hanh, who figure prominently as conversation partners in the text. This work will be of particular value for those interested in “dual belonging” in connection to these traditions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823281237
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 12/04/2018
Series: Comparative Theology: Thinking Across Traditions , #6
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

S. Mark Heim is Samuel Abbot Professor of Theology at Andover Newton Seminary at Yale and a Visiting Professor at Yale Divinity School. He is the author and editor of several books, the most recent of which is Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments ix

Introduction : The Bodhisattva Path and the Christ Path 1
Comparative Theology as Christian Theology • Some Historical Background • Theology of Religious Pluralism • Plan of This Book

I Two Paths
1 Two Problems,
Two Miracles 25
What to Study? • Bridging Gaps • The Miracle of the Bodhisattva • The Miracle of the Great
Exchange • Matchless Wonders

II Perfection of Wisdom and the Bodhisattva
Path in Śāntideva
2 The Bodhisattva Path 59
Undertaking the Way of Enlightenment: Text and Reader • Cultivating Awakening Mind: Starting Where We Are
3 Extreme Wisdom, Groundless Compassion 82
Expanding and Dispelling the Self • Perfection of Wisdom • Back to the Bodhisattva • Being Buddha

III Christian Reflections
4 The Bodhisattva as Aspirant: Creatures and No-Self 127
Creatures and No-Self • The Blessings of Emptiness • Mimetic Self: Too Little or Too Much? • No-Self and the Cross

5 The Bodhisattva as Buddha: Immanence and Emptiness 165
Buddha Nature • Theosis, Divine Energies, and Bare Awareness • Attainment and History • Attainment and Self-Consciousness • Practicing Bare Immanence • Christ and the Bodhisattva

6 How Do Buddhas Help?: Bodhisattva as Benefactor and Christ as Savior 209
Many Faces of Compassion • Three Ways That Bodhisattvas Help • Deity and Benefactor Meditation • Christian Reflections • Benefactor Practices in Christian Perspective • Bodhisattva and Christ I: Diversity and Person-Making • Bodhisattva and Christ II: Why Christ Suffers and Bodhisattvas Don’t

Conclusion : Crucified Wisdom 261

Notes 271

Works Cited 309

Index 321

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