From the Jacket:
If mysticism is hard to define, what is it then? Or, why have mystics often spoken about what they have realized - notwithstanding the 'unspeakability' of a spiritual experience? And, yet more significantly, how can a meeting point of different religious traditions be discovered at the mystical level? Focusing on these and other related questions, eminent scholars from varying religious traditions here explore the nature of mystical experience in two of the world's major traditions: Hinduism and Christianity.
Neither a comparative study of religious traditions, nor an attempt to develop an overall mystical theology, the book sets out a spiritual dialogue between Saiva and Christian mysticism: a dialogue wherein the participants articulate worldviews of the mystical traditions of Saiva Siddhanta, Kashmir Saivism, Meister Eckhart, Hadewijch, Julian of Norwich, St. Ignatius Loyola, and of the Eastern Christianity. And, without taking any a priori intellectual position, each author here evolves his/her own tradition-specific perspective on mysticism - letting the comparisons, if any, to surface in the dialogue itself.
A spiritual dialogue, like the one this multi-author work embodies, holds a key to an insightful understanding between different people, cultures and faiths - more specially in today's world riven, as it is, by fundamentalist forces and endless religious conflicts.
The book will be a valuable acquisition for the scholars and spiritually interested readers alike.
About the Author:
Bettine Baumer, Austrian by birth, is a widely known Indologist, author and scholar, with a versatility of research concerns: ranging from Kashmir Saivism to Oriyan religious traditions, from silpasastras to Indian temple architecture. Settled at Varanasi, India, since 1967, she is currently Research Director of the Alice Boner Foundation (Varanasi) and Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at Vienna University. And as President, since 1988, of the Abhishiktananda Society, she has been engaged in interreligious dialogue, with focused interest in comparative mysticism.
Besides her German translations of Yoga-sutra, Upanishads and Abhinavagupta, Dr. Baumer has also edited and authored a number of books - which notably include Volumes 1-3 of Kalatattvakosa, Rupa Pratirupa, Vastusutra Upanisad, and Silparatnakosa.
In our times of narrow fundamentalism and religious con-
flicts, a dialogue of religions is not a luxury, but a necessity.
But dialogue in the true - and etymological - sense should
mean a piercing through the logos, transcending the logi-
cal, the verbal, the social and institutional levels in order to
come to a real meeting beyond the infinite differences of re-
ligious expressions. Institutional dialogues do not bring the
followers of different religions closer to each other, unless a
real spiritual meeting takes place. The true meeting-point is
at the mystical level, "in the cave of the heart". If two per-
sons, and more so two spiritual persons, truly meet, they do
not remain the same. A mutual transformation takes place
which does not allow the followers of a particular tradition
to remain exclusivistic, because one realizes that the spiri-
tual reality that one aims at may also be present in another
tradition, though in a different form and language. Therefore
dialogue at the spiritual level is one of the most important
means of bringing about an understanding between different
people, cultures and religions.
One of the etymologies of the word 'mysticism', derived
from the Greek myeo, has also the sense of 'closing a wound
which has been split open', hence healing. "Mystic then
means to restore original unity, which through the embar-
rassing manifoldness of empirical appearances is temporarily
broken or obscured. Our time is in need of a mysticism of
this kind, which can heal the wounds of differences, separa-
tion and alienation of human beings, Man and Nature, Man
and the ultimate Reality, by whatever name we call it.
It is not a modern idea that the closer a person, a group
or a tradition is to the mystical experience, the less do they
feel the differences between the various religious expressions.
Thus the Saiva mystic Utpaladeva of the ninth century ex-
claims, after realizing his oneness with Siva:
Glory to you, O Sarva,
who are the essence of the 'right-handed path',
who are the essence of the 'left-handed path.',
who belong to every tradition
and to no tradition at all.
Glory to you, 0 God,
who can be worshipped in any manner,
in any place,
in whatever form at all.
The mystic is aware of the relativity of any path, and only
such a person has the inner freedom to transcend the limita-
tions of tradition.
In the Christian tradition, thinkers like Ramon Lull, Nico-
las of Cusa and others have foreseen a spiritual dialogue of
different religions, which may be coming true only in our
days. But here the extremes have to be avoided: an indis-
criminate mixing of traditions in a 'spiritual supermarket', a
narrow fundamentalism fearful of losing its self-identity, and
the spiritual indifference created by materialism. No doubt
we have to dive deep in the existing spiritual traditions of
humankind in order to overcome the spiritual crisis of our
times. The saying of the great Catholic theologian Karl Rah-
ner that 'only the mystic will survive' has almost become a
common-place, and one wishes it would become a practical
The present book is the outcome of a spiritual dialogue
between Saivas and Christians, more than a comparative
study of Saiva and Christian mysticism, because any compar-
ison from a one-sided perspective cannot really help to bridge
the gulf between traditions. Such a comparison is not even
able to clarify concepts, because those very concepts are the
outcome of an experience. They can only be communicated
from within a living tradition. Therefore the believers of each
tradition have to speak for themselves, and the comparison
will emerge in a dialogue, not in any a priori intellectual po-
sition. Nopreconceived ideas of either oneness or difference,
abheda or bheda, are guiding the studies of these two tradi-
tions. If there is any presupposition, it is the acknowledgment
of differences as well as an openness for unity. In the words of
Gopinath Kaviraj, one of the greatest authorities on Tantra
and Kashmir Saivism: "There are different ways of approach
to this Supreme Experience and there are infinite shades of
differences among the various ways. The Supreme Experience
is certainly one and the same and yet there is a characteris-
tic quiddity (visesa) in each individual, which has an abiding
spiritual value. We may just think of the difference between
a Ramakrishna and a Ramana Maharshi, or between a Fran-
cis of Assisi and a John of the Cross. These differences attract
us as much as their unity.
Hemendra Nath Chakravarty
Swami Nityananda Giri
Alois M. Haas
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