APPROACHING FAITH-TRADITIONS IN THE INDIAN CONTEXT

Rev. Dr. Selvam Robertson

APPROACHING FAITH-TRADITIONS IN THE INDIAN CONTEXT

Introduction
            This paper is an attempt to draw insights from the larger arena of scientific study of religions, glimpses from missiology and sketchy significance from the values of secular principles in India; and to evolve relevant models from Jesus to serve God dynamically in the Indian texture towards a sustainable existence based on the struggles of life. The basic assumption is that the struggles of life can be a starting point for different faith-traditions to meaningfully contribute to sustainable life. This is not a random thought but the logical conclusion emerging from the analysis of faith-traditions as applied in this paper.
In this process the expression faith-traditions is used mainly in the place of religions to mean religions and at the same time to allow space for some faith-orientations which are not considered as religions in the usual sense of the term religion. Indian context is used to suggest the plural nature of Indian life, particularly in the realms of religions, and to underline the communal facet of events starting from politics and to emphasis the need for religions to cooperate and if possible to work together towards a sustainable existence. The expressions ‘struggles of life’ and ‘sustainable life/existence’ are used to accommodate any struggle including theological and content to include the entire aspect of life together with humans.
Since the matter of faith-traditions is the core launch pad I shall focus largely on the issues emerging from the scientific study of religions. Since these issues are gaining ground in other aspects of study a graphic reference to two facets -missiology and secularism are made.

1 Insight from the Scientific Study of Religions
            A thorough analysis of the major approaches to the scientific study of religions throw open the following challenges. They are; religion is as old as human history, there is in essence ‘unity of religions’, there is a possibility of ‘free sharing among religions’, superiority claim of religions is untenable, as India houses many living religions a special approach to study faith-traditions is called for, there is need for ‘integration of theology and religion’, and struggles of life can be a relevant paradigm for varying faith traditions to contribute resources-spiritual and others towards a sustainable existence.

1. 1 Religion is as old as Human History
Scientific study of faith-traditions reveals that religion is as old as human history.[1]  It has survived and continued several ages and developments. In the process of growth and development faith-traditions have accommodated newer spiritual insights and human insights depending the context.
Every faith-tradition was intended to enrich and enhance life in its texture, of course, often not without specific interests. So much of human elements have entered in to the original and purposeful revelations. For example in India, religions are used for political gain, and domination. 
Nevertheless the fact that every one follows some form of religion and all the faith-traditions have trodden similar paths needs to be accepted.
In this issue, Christians, particularly theological community, have a responsible role to perform. They have to identify and single out the human-made religiosity and help the people to realize the original revelation and the original relation between God and creation. This, Christians alone, may not be able to do.  They have to even join with others or mobilize the help of all fellow religious seekers. This initiative helps protecting people from the onslaught of personally motivated and communally loaded interpretations of faith-traditions.
As a Christian one has to maintain her/his faith and conviction in the unique revelation of Jesus Christ. At the same time she/he should help his neighbours to realize the uniqueness of his/her own revelation, while calling attention to the necessity of living together amidst differences, for the sake of wider and meaningful engagement.

1.2 Unity of Religions
            Study of religions reveals that there is a basic unity behind the diversity of religions, i.e. “Unity of Religion”.[2]  It is already present in religions but we need to realize it.[3]  Its realization helps bring home the idea that ‘religion was one’ and manifold forms are its existence and application in diverse cultural contexts.
T. Swami Raju puts this fact as “Christians have to continue their search for re-visioning new spiritualities and build up better inter-religious relations. Christians need to express their willingness to accept plurality of faiths and religions.”[4]
It is not jut enough to understand unity of religions and accept plurality for the sake of just tolerating the other. This process should be substantial. In Samartha’s words “Mystery provides the ontological basis for tolerance without which it runs the risk of being uncritical friendliness.”[5]
Swami Vivekananda always held that ‘all religions are branches of the same tree’.[6]  He also said ‘to a man who has realized, all religions are paths that lead to the same goal’[7]  Gandhi’s analysis has been put in a nut-shell as “after long study and experience I have come to the conclusion that: (1) all religions are true, (2) all religions have some error in them, (3) all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism.”[8]
Realizing the unity of religions is not to compromise with our own faith-traditions but to be earnestly committed to one’s own faith-tradition and at the same time acknowledge the spiritual and other significances of other faith-traditions. It is anchoring oneself concretely in his or her faith orientation and use that strength for furthering the spiritual vision of that particular faith tradition, possibly in co-operation with the faith-traditions of others as well. In the words of Swami Vivekananda “it is only by releasing a flood of enlightened religious feeling that society can be cleansed and men and woman made to grow to their spiritual heights”.[9] 
John Hick calls for the recognition of the oneness of humanity and the diversity of revelation.  He says “it is clear that we are being called today to attain a global religious vision which is aware of the unity of all mankind before God and which at the same time makes sense of the diversity of God’s ways within the various streams of human life.”[10] To put it differently, unity of religion and the unity of life behind the diversity of religions need to be accepted and utilized as a relevant paradigm for a sustainable approach.

1. 3 Free Sharing among Religions
Scientific study of religions has helped transcending the religious boundaries and realize the necessity of ‘free sharing among religions’ i.e. interaction among them. Paul F. Knitter highlights the necessity of ‘free sharing among religions’.  In his words “somehow, they must meet each other and relate to each other not in order to obliterate or absorb each other but to learn from and help each other.”[11]
Jesudason Baskar Jeyaraj writes “enabling each religious community to accept other communities and seeing the need to work with them are major challenges today.”[12]  The purpose of facilitating free sharing or interaction among faith-traditions is necessitated by the demand for working together for sustainable existence.
Mahatma Gandhi has suggested as to how different religions should approach each other.  For him “the correct attitude is one of firm adherence to one’s own religion coupled with an equal reverence towards all other religions.  It is not simply a question of tolerating other faiths, but of believing that all faiths lead to the same goal.”[13] Again he maintained that “Let Hindus become better Hindus, Muslims better Muslims and Christians better Christians.”[14] We cannot stop with Gandhi. It is not enough to just have equal reverence for all faith-traditions. It is not enough to be silent so that every one matures in his/her faith-tradition. The reverence and individual spiritual enhancement should ultimately lead to constructive life sustaining initiatives.
This fact is further substantiated by the view that “in a world haunted by fear and torn by strife what is the need of the moment is a spirit of tolerance and understanding, not the mere grudging admission of other religious views but the glad recognition of the variety of the human mind.”[15] Acknowledging the possibility of diversity and its purpose is essential for fruitful co-operation among different faith-traditions.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith highlights the risk of non-cooperation among different faith-traditions. He writes “unless men can learn to understand and to be loyal to each other across religious frontiers, unless we can build a world in which people profoundly of different faiths can live together and work together, then the prospects for our planet’s future are not bright.”[16] This is true and obvious in a situation like ours (Indian). 

1. 4 Superiority Claim Untenable
According to the scientific study of religions ‘all our faiths have some value’ and the superiority claims of religions becomes untenable[17] and suspicious[18] because in one sense every religion was a true religion in its context.[19]  Each religion is a unique response to the ultimate. Samartha writes, “in the last analysis, religions should be recognized as having responded differently to the mystery of the Ultimate.”[20]
Samartha, emphatically and candidly expresses the impossibility of claiming superiority on religious grounds. His consideration is significant to understand other faith-traditions and co-operate with them. His proposal to accept the faith experience of other faith-traditions is expressed in the form of a question as, “why then is it necessary to deny the credibility and the genuineness of the religious anubhava of neighbours of other faiths?”[21]  In another place he argues that “our neighbours too have their answers to the mystery of life and the tragedy of suffering.”[22] In the analysis of Samartha there is no reason to consider other faith traditions as inferior. This is vivid when he says “in terms of spiritual depth, intellectual power, cultural richness, and social solidarity they do not regard themselves in any way inferior to Christians.”[23] 
Samartha also expresses the wishes of people adhering to other faith-tradition as “neighbours of other faiths also ask humbly and sometimes not so humbly: what about our centers and our names?”[24] 
Therefore, there is a necessity to consider newer understanding of religion/God, in the context of many faith-traditions. T. Swami Raju maintains “in our re-visioning of God, we have to reiterate strongly that ‘God is impartial’ in dealing with human beings irrespective of their class, race, nation or religion.”[25]
This perspective and proposal are helpful in the Indian texture as it unambiguously calls for cooperation and not conflict among different faith-traditions. The realistic acceptance of the credibility of other faith-traditions can prompt and lead to the vision of sustainable contributions for which they were originally committed.

1.5 India needs Special Approach
In India religion is defined as a way of life.[26]  And it is never separated from daily life. Thus Indian context requires special approach in studying other faith-traditions, not merely western, as she houses major living religions of the world.[27]
There is also not much distinction between religion and philosophy in India. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan approached religion from the viewpoint of philosophy, contrary to the west.[28]  Philosophy of religion verifies religious data systematically and logically.  It is feared that this approach might become a mere intellectual exercise. [29]
At this juncture, now the nonwestern scholars’ study and reflection of their own religion and others are amply available.[30]  One thing can authentically be said that the present generation of scholars in the field of religions has devoted their life and works for generating, nurturing and strengthening inter-religious relations. They also indicate the danger of communal hatred and the possibility and necessity of taking the plural context seriously.
T. Swami Raju categorically asserts that “no theological education will be of much help, if we do not take into account the religious and communal conflicts that are destroying the very foundations of “integrity in diversity” and “unity in plurality” of our national community and harmonious life among the people of different faiths.”[31]
In the context of political parties exploiting religiously sentimental issues to gain mileage, the new approach needs to take into serious consideration many living religions, plurality of faith-traditions, danger of communalism and the possibility of working together for a sustainable existence. It also needs to ask the serious question that whether we want freedom of religion or the extra-constitutional right to convert others.
1.6 Integration of Theology and Religion
At the initial stage of the founding of the department for the scientific study of religions the main objective was to separate this department from theology. But now things have changed completely. From the point of theology, Indian theology cannot ignore the rich and variety of religious resources. Against the original wishes now there is more possibility for creative integration between theology and the study of religions.[32]  This possibility is promising.[33] The main issue is to theologically consider the insights gained from the study of other faith-traditions.
It is not for mere theological interpretation of other religious principles or concepts. But it is to take the plurality of religion seriously and formulate theologies addressing to the plurality of faith-traditions. Or in other words our theologies cannot miss even a fraction of the fact that there are many faith-traditions and their significance, contribution and willingness to promote sustainable life. Such considerations should find place in our theological language.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith suggested that it is time we shift from the teaching of religion to the study of religion.[34]  That is to avoid teaching religions with a set of agenda or motive and to begin to study and understand other faith-traditions to cooperate with them and work with them towards the possibility of promoting sustainable life.
Still further we also come across the acknowledgment that “religious pluralism has been established today not only as an irreversible historical fact but also as a theological principle.”[35] In approaching other faith-traditions the above concerns can no longer be sidelined.
            T. Swami Raju substantially underlined the necessity of the integration of theology and religion in India as “keeping the changing contexts of our days in mind, we need to reconsider or review or re-vision our Christian theologies afresh making them relevant in our contemporary context, since the concept of God has become one of the major problems in multi-faith relations.”[36]
            Not just God alone, but any concern that becomes the barrier for co-operation and working together. It is not debating theological strengths and weaknesses but looking for ways and means to accept the differences on the one hand and at the same time proceeding further towards the goal.

1.7 Strugglers of Life
All the above mentioned insights form the study of other faith traditions are informative and enlightening. The most significant consideration to approach other-faith traditions is the fact that the data from the study of faith-traditions is suggestive of the possibly enhanced contribution the religions could make if ‘struggle for sustainable life’ is accepted as a common ground to work together. According to Radha Krishnan, in the context of growing threats to life religion has wider and significant role to bring people together and engage them in common concerns.[37] 
In our times studying religion means studying life.[38] The problem of religion would become vastly complicated if it were to be discretely separated from the problem of people because it has neither essence nor existence nor any kind of being whatsoever apart from people.[39]  Hence focus upon “Life” should become key to the understanding of religious phenomena in India.[40] 
S. J. Samartha states the need for cooperation among religions. In his words “it is agreed that the most helpful relationship between persons of different faiths in the world today must be one of co-operation in pursuing common purposes like justice, peace and human rights.”[41] 
In the words of Paul F. Knitter “religions must speak and act together because only so can they make their crucially important contribution to removing the oppression that contaminates our globe.”[42]  He also suggested that, the “world of suffering, which provides the context or Kairos for dialogue, is all around us.”[43]  In another place he says “… peace can and must become a common commitment and a common ground for conversation and action.”[44]  Another insight he provides is that, as the world is facing suffering and want of peace, the world needs salvation i.e. not only in the spiritual sense, but in its comprehensive sense. For this he proposed soterio-centric approach.  But later he said “working for eco-human justice becomes a common context in which we find ourselves using our different religious stories and symbols.”[45]   Therefore he suggested the functioning together of liberation theology and theology of religions.  He writes “their encounter, may be even their marriage, can bear much fruit for the Christian Churches and the world.”[46] This idea has been expounded in his later works.  He said “so people and events in my life have led me, sometimes lured me, to what has become for me the moral obligation to join ‘pluralism and liberation’ or ‘dialogue and global responsibility.”[47] 
Aloysius Pieris proposed a new paradigm for the Asian context for the religions to work together.  It includes three aspects.  In his words “the first is the acknowledgement of a third magisterium, namely, that of the poor; the second is the liberational thrust that defines our theology of religions; and finally, the social location of this theology is the Basic Human Communities (BHC).”[48] S. J. Samartha goes deeper into the aspect of social responsibility of the enlightened and writes “unless the Hindu-Christian quest for truth is related to the ongoing life of the community, to the life of people who are struggling, suffering, and dying in the world today, it will remain isolated.”[49]  These ideas are shared by Paul F. Knitter too.  He writes that “there is today a growing awareness among religious persons that their religious identity must somehow be related to those common experiences of suffering and global threat.”[50]   It is to be appreciated that the concern for the poor, among many other significant concerns, has been the key thrust of almost all the contemporary thinkers. And the solution is to be sought from all faith-orientations.
In participating with the struggles of life in order to achieve“Life Sustaining” vision spirituality is the fundamental source of inspiration. Every individual must be rooted and filled with the Sakti or spirit of that particular faith-tradition to which he/she belonged. It is a long process.
It is called in the Indian tradition as the state of “Jivan Mukta”. This ideal of Jivanmukta is to help others to come over from their own narrow outlook. The Jivanmuktas consider the world as one i.e. Vasudevakudumbam. Coming to this stage is a process. The person who has rooted in a particular spiritual foundation can uphold dharma towards people, creatures, and the cosmos as a whole.
This realization naturally dawns to a Christian because of his/her intensive commitment to the principles of Jesus. Irrespective of the faith-traditions to which one belonged, every one may have to ask a question-as a human being adhering to a particular faith-tradition, what is distinct in me? Or what is distinct about me? A close observation of life of the people of different faith-traditions can help us learn that every human being is striving to live, rather better life. A better life is what every one aspires for. In this stark struggle for life, no individual is better placed because of his/her religious identity. Our endeavor in working for the friendliness of religions is to strengthen life.                                                            
This argument can be substantiated with the feeling of a contemporary, humble religions scholar. He writes “today’s dire need of our country is not demolishing and constructing temples/mosques/shrines to God- “the ultimate reality,” but to reconstruct healthier and better relations between various human communities. It is not imperative of any religion either to prove which “God” or “deity” is true and authoritative, or whose religion is superior or highly valuable, but how to restore “human dignity” and “peaceful relations” in the midst of a diversity of faiths, oppressive structures, inhuman attitudes and how to meet the basic needs of humankind.”[51]  Again he states “the dire need of our country today is not demolishing and constructing temples for “God” in the name of either “religious” or “cultural” nationalism, but rather to help human beings – the “image of God,” in their basic needs of day-to-day life.”[52] The force of the point is clear. But the stand point requires much more inclusive and comprehensive expression.

II Mission
The above discussions from the point of religions are leading to the conclusion that working for religious cooperation is essential in India because such an approach can be beneficial in many ways.
It is indispensable to note that this concern has captured the attention of missiological paradigm as well. The missiologists agree that new reading or rereading of the bible and its dynamic is necessary for newer directions. It may not be a surprise that ecological dimensions are emerging from the great commission (Mark 16:15).  Sam Amirtham points out that “the Gospel will offer God’s grace to transform not only human nature and human history, but also the whole of nature and all of creation.”[53]
Similarly a re-reading or new reading of bible can offer many more useful insights even to facilitate religious cooperation to work towards sustainable existence.
The bold declaration of Russell Chandran is significant here. He writes “there is no mission programme which can be copied for all situations. One has to be sensitive to discern what the Holy Spirit tells us about Christ’s mission in different contexts.”[54]
            Such bold visions are found to be materialized in the modern missiological writings. For example Jesudason Baskar Jeyaraj writes “Missiological education should relate not merely to one sector of the world but to all the segments including the people of other faiths. The people of other faiths are also partners in the missio Die.[55]    
The mission of the church has a substantial role to play in matters of many faith-traditions. Russell Chandran maintained that, “the church’s mission does have a role in relation to the quest for communal harmony and peace and the safeguarding of the secular character of the state in which people of all faiths can live together, enjoying equal rights and without fear of any discrimination.”[56]
Although missiology has accepted the significance of inter-religious co-operation it is the traditional frame of mind and thought that obstruct progress. S. Wesley Ariaraja affirms, “our encounter with religions and cultures over several decades has indeed produced new wine. But we have a missiology that cannot take it. New wine needs new wineskins.”[57] This is what to be considered while approaching other religious traditions in India.
While missiology comes forward with wider facets it is not free from certain challenges. P. S. Jacob writes “the crucial question for missiologists today is whether Christianity can offer a quality of transformation which is not being offered by other religions.”[58]  This challenge can be overcome by the conviction that all faith-traditions have some thing concrete to contribute to inter-religious relations for the sake of pursuing a life sustaining vision.

III Secularism
It is also significant to remember that the secular principle of our nation is in tune with relation between faith-traditions as against the obvious notion of non-religious or irreligious nature of the state. Neera Chandhoke writes, “it is not surprising that secularism in the Indian polity, as a response to our conditions and mode of thought, came to be conceptualized as sarva dharma sambhava, or equality of all religions.”[59] The fact that in the Indian constitution the word secular is used to stress the neutrality of the state in relation to religions is further emphasized as “ironically, it is often forgotten that secularism in India had been devised precisely to negotiate interreligious relationships; to grant the freedom of religious belief; to ensure equality of all the religious groups. And to assure the minorities that their identities would be safe.”[60]
This notion is capturing attention as modern scholars are grouping secularism as a faith, in order, not to miss any valuable contribution towards sustainable existence launched from the launch-pad of struggles of life. While classifying the various religions as Indian religions, foreign religions, folk religions, T. Swami Raju makes reference to “Other Faiths: Apart from these ‘religions,’ there are people who have faith in secular visions, and political ideologies like Gandhism, Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, Naxalism and so on.”[61]
Such an enthralling attitude from the modern scholars have noteworthy purpose. For example S. J. Samartha writes “future of Christianity in India lies in liberal Christians combating Hindu fanaticism and at the same time co-operating with liberal Hindus.”[62]
J. Russell Chandran maintained that “Churches should find ways of co-operating with organizations and agencies working for secularism, democracy and communal harmony.”[63]
The churches and theological educators need to recognize the importance of secular ideology and take special efforts to incorporate those ideals in to ours in the process of obeying to the call of God. We also need to learn to work with such ideologies. This is the demand of the context. This is vivid in the statement that “intolerance has manifested itself in the activities of communal political parties which are clearly antagonistic to the entire spirit of the secular State.”[64]

IV Jesus is Life-Centered
            With the above insights drawn largely from the study of faith-traditions and graphically from Missiology and Secularism we can be sure in our persuasion of theology for the sake of sustainable existence that we need to be always open to the available resources and challenges. In this direction Christians can creatively draw a paradigm form the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to do the will of God. He came to enrich life. He wanted to obliterate all the religious systems and practices which worked against life. To give life to the needy, Jesus broke away many traditional laws. If laws and practices are not in consonant with the necessities of life, they should be avoided. His main fight was against the ‘religions’ which functioned at the cost of life and suffering. He was always of the view that religion is for life and life is not for religion.
Jesus wanted religions and religious practices to be life sustaining and not life destroying.  Whoever, or whichever faith tradition, is involved in fulfilling the will of God was in the company of Jesus.  He said whoever does the will of my father is my brothers and sisters.[65] 
Even if such deeds took place, in an unexpected environment, Jesus appreciated.  He appreciated the faith of the centurion and said even in Israel there was not such faith.[66] J. Russell Chandran writes “through re-reading the Gospels we may also learn from Jesus way of drawing attention to the greatness of the faith of other people such as the Samaritans, the Syrophoenecian woman and the Roman centurion.”[67]
For Jesus the neighbor[68] is one who involves in life saving activity.  That is why, he had to say men would come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.[69] To use the words of Jesudason Baskar Jeyaraj “the Bible does not preach hatred towards the people of other faiths but love and concern for them because they are also created in the image of God   as Christians are created.”[70]   Still further, “we always need to remember as a fact that Jesus Christ never and ever condemned others’ faiths and religions.”[71]
Another important aspect to note is that “Jesus was definitely opposed to proselitization in the sense of conversion from one religion to another religion, when he said, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”[72] [Matthew 23:15]
 Jesus’ concern for the needy is outstanding.  His selection of people for the reward was on the basis of the amount of service they did to the needy.[73]  This is declared in the ‘Nazareth manifesto’.[74]  He wanted that humanity’s relation to the ultimate mystery and to the people around should go hand in hand.  He said love the lord and love your neighbor.[75]
Jesus’ main enemies were people who used religion as mere ceremonial observance, as means of oppression and as means to escape from the responsibilities.[76]  He wanted to restore Sabbath as a source of life for the needy.  He said Sabbath is for man and man is not for Sabbath.[77]  A taunting question he faced was whether to save or destroy life on Sabbath.[78]  He proved in his life that, saving the life of the needy (any) is the chief concern of people who are committed to the ultimate Reality, of course, in manifold forms.
The life sustaining persuasion is based on two main convictions. One is the conviction that, all are committed to the ultimate through diverse channels.  And the other is that commitment demands that life is strengthened in all possible ways to achieve, harmony, peace, Justice and equality for all. S.J. Samartha writes, “for Christians the fight against all that destroys true community, the quest for spiritual resources to under grid all efforts to build community, and the search for the ultimate meaning of truly human existence in community cannot be separated from faith in Jesus Christ.”[79]
Above all faith in Jesus is the key to our theological agenda. As we look to Jesus for inspiration let us try to apply the principles of Jesus as he interpreted them in his life time. This paradigm shall be relevant, in conformity with our faith and it shall be life sustaining.
At the same time as a Christian community, we need to acknowledge a purposeful fact that “every religion wishes to show a path to “realize” reality, and reality is whole. But every person and every religion participates in, enjoys, arrives at, lives in that whole in a limited way. Nobody has a monopoly on the whole, and no one can completely satisfy the human thirst for the infinite and content herself with a part of the whole.”[80] This helps us to construct positive and wider understanding about all the faith-traditions in the process of relating with others and working with others towards a sustainable existence while unshakably committed to the Jesus-paradigm.

Conclusion
At the face of living communal tensions triggered by terrorizing activities, for one or other purpose, as a theological community we have a responsible role to play as we learn from others and educate others for the challenging tasks ahead in a pluralistic context like India.
The specific call for such a responsible role is emerging from the reality of many faith-traditions that are some time conflicting but at the same time dynamic and willing to relate with the other and work with the other towards an all inclusive sustainable goal.
In this process we need to constantly strive to discern the really religious concerns from the other accidental or incidental accumulations for the sake of cooperation and working together towards life sustaining vision and mission. This will be further strengthened if we can recognize the unity of real purpose that underlies all the religions in spite of the obvious differences. Once this recognition is achieved we can move forward in establishing mutual sharing or substantial relationship with other faith-traditions for the sake of committing ourselves to struggle for a sustainable existence.
As we progress in this direction we need to be humble about our own faith affirmations which are ultimate and absolute to us, while accepting the possibility of ultimate and absolute faith affirmations, may be in different forms than ours, in other faith-traditions as well. This bold challenge is indispensable to avoid the destructive utility of the power of religions. This is looking beyond the set proposals to approach other faith-traditions in order to address the currently emerging threats to establishing a sustainable existence.
One of the basic signs of embarking on this hard terrain in accordance with our faith commitment to God which, we inherited from the faith in the life and work of Jesus Christ is to instill these acknowledged challenges in our theological formulations which, of course is the interpretation of our faith relevant to the contextual realities. It is not mere Indian Christian theology, but theology resulting from the realistic existence of many faith-traditions. The culmination principle of this process, at least at our times, is the confluence of religious resources towards hammering a paradigm to address the struggles of life in order to seek and establish a sustainable existence.
Creating and involving (in) such a paradigm has become the trend emerging in the present missiological considerations. Although this consideration is not free from challenges, an open approach free from traditional ones to include the other as well, in our study and application, can lead us further.
            Positively considering the other and cooperating with the other and working together with the other towards sustainable existence is not only a religious affair, it is not only the missiological consideration of Christians. It is also the inherent and implicit expectation of secularism, at least from the point of Indian constitution, in India which cannot be ignored at any level as we work together towards a sustainable existence.
      It is not at all surprising that all the afore maintained appeals are the reality of the life and work of Jesus, which inspire and embolden all of us to advance further in our commitment to serve God purposefully in the given context.
At the end, in our approach to other faith-traditions we should not fail to recognize the basic principles that all are committed to the ultimate through diverse channels and life needs to be strengthened towards sustainable existence. Above all, faith in Jesus is the key to our theological agenda, as we open ourselves to the truth that there are other faith-traditions as well. The relevant method to approach other faith-traditions, in our context, is “Life Sustaining” based on the “Struggles for Life”, which helps crossing the boundaries with purpose and at the same time necessitate safe return and relaxation in one’s own faith-tradition. The kinds of struggle and contents of sustainable life are kept open-ended so as to be always open to the newer possibilities.

Religion and Dialogue


[1] F. Max Muller, Theosophy or Psychological Religion, Collected Works of F. Max Muller,
Asian Educational Service, New Delhi, Reprinted 1978, pp.18-37.
[2] L. W. Grensted, The Psychology of Religion, Oxford University Press, New York, 1952,
p.109.
[3] Gustan Mensching, Structures and Patterns of Religion, Translated by F. Klimkeit and V.
Srinivasa Sarma, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1976, pp.319,320.
[4] T. Swami Raju, “Re-Visioning Theologies: A Multi-Faith Perspective,” The SATHRI Journal
                Vol.2, No.1 (May, 2008), p. 146.
[5] S.J. Samartha, “Commitment and Tolerance in a Pluralist Society”, NCC Review, Vol. CVI,
No. 2, (February 1986), p. 76.
[6] D. S. Sharma, Hinduism Through the Ages (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1967), p.
122.
[7] D. S. Sharma, Hinduism Through the Ages (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1967), p.
136.
[8] Nirmal Minz, Mahatma Gandhi and Hindu – Christian Dialogue (Madras: CLS, 1970), p. 12.
[9] D. S. Sharma, Hinduism Through the Ages (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1967), p.
122.
[10]John Hick ed., The Myth of God Incarnate Seventh Impression (London: SCM Press Ltd.,
1985). p. 180.
[11] Paul F. Knitter, No other Name? op. cit., p. 6.
[12] Jesudason Baskar Jeyaraj, “Nation building with the People of other Faiths: A Need for new
Models of Missiological Education,” Mission TodayVol. X (2008), p. 244.
[13] D. S. Sharma, Hinduism Through the Ages (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1967), pp.
193-134.
[14] Mahatma Gandhi, Fellowship of Faiths and Unity of Religions, ed., by Abdul Majid Khan
(Madras: G.A. Natesan and Co., No. year), p. 20.
[15] Madhukar, “The Role of Religions in Ensuring the Welfare of the People”, Religion and
Soeity, Vol. 42. No. 3 (September 1995), p. 13.
[16] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, “The Christian in a Religiously Plural World”, Christianity and other
Religions, op. cit., p. 95.
[17] S. Radhakrishnan, East and West in Religion, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1933,
p.26.
[18] S. Radhakrishnan, Religion and Society, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1947, p.52.
[19] F. Max Muller, Introduction to the Science of Religions, New Edition, London, 1882, p.190.
[20] S.J. Samartha, The Lordship of Jesus Christ and Religious Pluralism (Madras: The
Christian Literature Society, 1981),  p. 23.
[21] S.J. Samartha, Between Two Cultures (India: Asian Trading Corporation, 1997), p. 151.
[22] S.J. Samartha, The Lordship of Jesus Christ and Religious Pluralism (Madras: The
 Christian Literature Society, 1981), p. 2.
[23] S.J. Samartha, The Lordship of Jesus Christ and Religious Pluralism (Madras: The
Christian Literature Society, 1981), p. 3.
[24] S. J. Samartha, One Christ Many Religions, op. cit., p. 18.
[25] T. Swami Raju, “Re-Visioning Theologies: A Multi-Faith Perspective,” The SATHRI Journal
                Vol.2, No.1 (May, 2008), p. 145.
[26] S. Radhakrishnan, The Hindu of Life, Third Indian Reprint, Blackie & Son Publishers Pvt.
Ltd., Blackie House, Bombay, 1979, p.55.
[27] Eric J. Lott, “The Science of Religion in an Indian Theological Context”, Bangalore
Theological Forum, Vol.XIII, No.4, Oct-Dec., 1985, p.1.
[28] Frank Whaling, “The Study of Religions in a Global Context”, Contemporary Approaches to
the Study of Religion in 2 Volumes, edited by Frank Whaling, Volume I: The Humanities, Mouton  Publishers, Berlin, 1984, p.403.
[29] Eric J. Lott, “Approaching Religious Tradition”, Religious Traditions of India, Indian
Theological Library, 1988, p.29.
[30] Frank Whaling, “The Study of Religions in a Global Context”, Contemporary Approaches to
the Study of Religion in 2 Volumes, edited by Frank Whaling, Volume I: The Humanities, Mouton  Publishers, Berlin, 1984, p.392.
[31] T. Swami Raju, “Re-Visioning Theologies: A Multi-Faith Perspective,” The SATHRI Journal
                Vol.2, No.1 (May, 2008), p. 141.
[32] S. Israel, “An integral approach to the study of Religion: Insights from an Indian Christian
perspective”, Bangalore Theological Forum, Vol.XIX, No.2, April-June, 1987, p.104.
[33] Eric J. Lott, “The Science of Religion in an Indian Theological Context”, Bangalore
Theological Forum, Vol. XVII, No.4, October-December, 1985, p.3.
[34] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, “The Study of Religion and the Study of the Bible”, Journal of the
American Academy of Religion, Vol.XXXIX, No.2, June, 1971, p.131.
[35] Kuncheria Pathil, “Christian Approach to other faiths: A Historical Perspective”, NCC
Review, Vol.          CX, No. 2 (February 1990), p. 67
[36] T. Swami Raju, “Re-Visioning Theologies: A Multi-Faith Perspective,” The SATHRI Journal
                Vol.2, No.1 (May, 2008), p.138.
[37] S. Radhakrishnan, Religion and Society, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1947, p.18.
[38] L. W. Grensted, The Psychology of Religion, Oxford University Press, New York, 1952,
p.15.
[39] J. G. Arapura, Religions as Anxiety and Tranquility, An Essay in Comparative
Phenomenology of the Spirit, Mouton & Co., Netherlands, 1972, p.39.
[40] K. P. Aleaz, Harmony of Religions: The Relevance of Swami Vivekananda, Punthipustak,
Calcutta, 1993, p.52.
[41] S. J. Samartha, Courage for Dialogue: Ecumenical Issues in Inter-religious Relationships
(Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1981), p. 30.
[42] Paul F. Knitter, “Toward a Liberation Theology of Religions”, The Myth of Christian
Uniqueness, op. cit., p. 181
[43]Paul F. Knitter, One Earth Many Religions, Mutlifatith Dialogue and Global Responsibility
(New York: ORBIS, 1996), p. 58.
[44]Ibid., p. 66.
[45] Ibid., p. 113.
[46] Paul F. Knitter, “Religion and Liberation in Defense of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions”,
NCC Review, Vol. CXII, No. 4 (April 1992), p. 229.
[47] Paul F. Knitter, One Earth Many Religions, op. cit., p. 11.
[48]Aloysius Pieris, Fire and Water, Basic Issues in Asian Buddhism and Christianity (New York:
ORBIS Books, 1996), p. 156.
[49] S. J. Samartha, Courage for Dialogue, op. cit., p. 156.
[50] Paul F. Knitter, One Earth Many Religions, op. cit., p. 57.
[51] T. Swami Raju, “Re-Visioning Theologies: A Multi-Faith Perspective,” The SATHRI Journal
                Vol.2, No.1 (May, 2008), p. 138.
[52] T. Swami Raju, “Re-Visioning Theologies: A Multi-Faith Perspective,” The SATHRI Journal
                Vol.2, No.1 (May, 2008), p. 145.
[53] Sam Amirtham, “Gospel to all Creation,” in The Good News of Jesus Christ in the Indian
setting, edited by Dayanandan Francis (Chennai: The Christian Literature Society, 2000), p.60.
[54]J. Russell Chandran, “A Mission Theology for Tomorrow,” in The Good News of Jesus
Christ in the Indian setting, edited by Dayanandan Francis (Chennai: The Christian Literature Society, 2000), p. 107.
[55] Jesudason Baskar Jeyaraj, “Nation building with the People of other Faiths: A Need for
new Models of Missiological Education,” Mission TodayVol. X (2008), p. 235.
[56] J. Russell Chandran, “A Mission Theology for Tomorrow,” in The Good News of Jesus
Christ in the Indian setting, edited by Dayanandan Francis (Chennai: The Christian Literature Society, 2000), p.108.
[57] S. Wesley Ariaraja, “Mission in the Context of Cultures and Religions,” in Mission Paradigm
in the New Millennium, edited by W.S. Milton Jeganathan (Delhi: ISPCK, 2000), P.237.
[58] Plamthodathil S. Jacob, “Hindu and Christian: Conversions and Transformations,” in
                Conversion in a Pluralistic Context: Perspectives and Perceptions,108
[59] Neera Chandhoke, Beyond Secularism, the rights of Religious Minorities (New Delhi:
                Oxford University Press, 1999), 42.
[60] Neera Chandhoke, Beyond Secularism, the rights of Religious Minorities, 47.
[61] T. Swami Raju, “Re-Visioning Theologies: A Multi-Faith Perspective,” The SATHRI Journal
                Vol.2, No.1 (May, 2008), p. 139.
[62] S. J. Samartha, Between Two Cultures, op. cit., p. 160.
[63] J. Russell Chandran, “A Mission Theology for Tomorrow,” in The Good News of Jesus
Christ in the Indian setting, edited by Dayanandan Francis (Chennai: The Christian Literature Society, 2000), p.109
[64] E. C. Bhatty,  “Religious Minorities and the Secular State,” in Religious Freedom, 77.
[65]Mark 3:35.
[66]Luke 7:9.
[67] J. Russell Chandran, “A Mission Theology for Tomorrow,” in The Good News of Jesus
Christ in the Indian setting, edited by Dayanandan Francis (Chennai: The Christian Literature Society, 2000), p.108.
[68]Luke 10:29.
[69]Luke 13:29.
[70] Jesudason Baskar Jeyaraj, “Nation building with the People of other Faiths: A Need for new
Models of Missiological Education,” Mission TodayVol. X (2008), p. 236.
[71] T. Swami Raju, “Re-Visioning Theologies: A Multi-Faith Perspective,” The SATHRI Journal
                Vol.2, No.1 (May, 2008), p. 146
[72]Gnana Robinson, “Life and Mission of the Church,” in The Good News of Jesus Christ in the
Indian setting, edited by Dayanandan Francis (Chennai: The Christian Literature Society, 2000), p.121.
[73]Matthew 25:35.
[74]Luke 4:18-19.
[75]Mark 12:30&31.
[76]Matthew 9:13, 15:6, & Mark 7:11 & Luke 11:42.
[77]Mark 2:27.
[78]Matthew 12:10, & Mark 3:4, & Luke 6:9.
[79]S.J. Samartha, “Dialogue as a Continuing Christian Concern”, Religion and Society, Vol.
XVIII, No.1 (March 1971), p. 22.
[80] Raimon Panikkar, The Fullness of Man. A Christophany , translated by Alfred Dilascia
(Maryknoll: Orbis , 2006), p. 157.

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