When one attempts a study of the core concepts of two divergent traditions one has to learn much and also to unlearn much more Dr George praseed IMS succeeds beautifully because his approach is unclouded by his own tradition as he enters empathetically into the spirit of the vedic lore. He takes purusa sukta as his point of departure and shows hoe it is not mythical not merely ritualistic but is in reality an unfolding of the cosmic saga.
Dr praseed show with great perceptiveness haw the two through apparently differently situated conceptually still represent alternative and parallel ways of grasping the same perennial mystery the mystery of creation both are singing albeit in different keys the same melody of the ultimate mystery the mysterium tremedndum. I wish I could have written this book.
In Hinduism, yajña has been at the centre of Vedic thought and practice, epic and Puranic literature. The Upanisads and the Rhagavad Gflt7 add new dimensions to it through their spiritualization and interiorization and raising tapas and bhakti into sacrifice. The concept of sacrifice has been transformed into an ethical, spiritual and political value by Tilak and Gandhi in modern Hinduism. Christianity’s interpretation of the mission of Jesus as a true, non-ritual sacrifice resulted in the gift of salvation to the world. The volume presents a deep understanding of the concept of sacrifice which is a central thought in Hinduism and Christianity. It studies the way the two traditions have related sacrifice to the reality of the whole cosmos including the material universe. The Vedic view is seen as the best example of creation through divine sacrifice, and the Christian Cross as that of redemption through divine sacrifice. The cosmic dynamism of the Eucharistic sacrifice is revealed through a study of four theologians, in this painstaking work sacrifice is examined as a complex universal phenomenon which has many-sided and multifaceted religious connotations. Thus it discovers the complementarity and interconnection between Vedism and Christianity.
The book presents a new approach to study of religions and religious concepts. It would prove useful for scholars of religious studies.
Dr Fr. George Praseed IMS is presently the Rector of the Jnana Bharati Gurukul, IMS Study House, Pitampura, Delhi. He holds a Doctorate in Systematic Theology with specialization in Pastoral Liturgy, from the Institute of Pastoral Liturgy, Abbey of St. Justine, Padua, incorporated into the Faculty of Sacred Theology of the Pontihcal university of St. Anslem,Rome. He was the dean of studies in the Vishwa Jyoti Gurukul, IMS Philosophate, Varanasi and Director of the Jnana Bharati, Regional Theology Centre, Varanasi, an extension centre of Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. Besides presenting several papers in the national and international conferences/ seminars he has contributed articles in the journals of national and international repute.
This is a book I had been dreaming of writing for many years, and never put myself seriously to the task. It is a book that needed to be written. I would have never completed it, certainly not with the competence and wide reading with which Dr Praseed has enriched it. The theme is of importance because, first, the concept of sacrifice is both so important in religious thought and yet so ambiguous, and at the moment in danger of dying by asphyxiation. Both Hinduism and Christianity have lived for centuries with a deep understanding of this theme. Yajna is the very heart of Vedic thought and practice, is pervasive in many parts of the epics, features prominently in many Pauranic stories, and is transformed into an ethical, spiritual and even political value in modern Hinduism, from Tilak to Mahatma Gandhi.
Unlike Hinduism, Christianity had generally not spoken of God’s creative activity as a sacrifice, but has from the beginning interpreted the mission of Jesus not merely in terms of a religious or ethical doctrine which he imparted to his disciples but as a true, though non-ritual sacrifice which resulted in the gift of salvation, or of God’s own Spirit, to the world. Perhaps this is best symbolized in the way St John describes the last moment of Jesus: “Jesus said, ‘It is completed,’ and inclining his head he gave out the Spirit.” The belief that the death of Jesus was not merely the supreme witness of a martyr to the truth he had spoken to the world, but also the moment when the death of a person was transformative for humankind, has been one of the prime, or rather the prime theme of the Christian understanding of the meaning of Jesus through the last twenty centuries.
In the Catholic stream of Christianity the historical sacrifice of Christ on the cross is made present symbolically in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not merely a memorial service of thanksgiving to the Creator for the gift to us of life in Jesus, or to Jesus himself for his generous self-offering on Calvary. It rather makes that peak moment in the history of humanity mystically available to all generations so that the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ can be appropriated by every believer who is thus made a participant and not a mere passive recipient of the mystery of salvation that was enacted on Calvary. Not surprisingly therefore much of this thesis centres on the ritual re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ rather than offering a new study of the theological meaning of the event on Golgotha.
Yet sacrifice has also had its critics not only from outside the fold of religion but also from inside, whenever the stress shifted from the cosmic order to the individual ethical concerns. Buddhism certainly represented one such criticism, and the criticism of the value of the sacrificial mentality and terminology has continued to our days. It is to be welcomed that the author of this research has dared to study the sources of both Hinduism and Christianity and has thrown light on the inner meaning that sacrifice had for both of them. Both seem to see it as the incandescent moment when the divine-human relation is made visibly manifest. In the process the author shows that the two traditions can only enrich themselves by a mutual dialogue wherein each listens to the other.
The book of Dr Praseed does not bear directly on a philosophy or theology of sacrifice in general, but studies concrete sacrificial institutions that use similar concepts and makes them look at one another. More creatively, he shows how the two traditions have related sacrifice to the reality of the whole cosmos, including the material universe. It is this ecological perspective that gives a special value and relevance to this research. For although the ecological concern is at the moment strong in the Christian churches it cannot be said that it is convincingly related to the core understanding of the Christian faith. It seems to remain marginal, a kind of ethical demand at best related lo the Ten Commandments. This thesis could help placing the ecological concern close to the centre of the Christian vision of reality. While reading this book one is reminded of the powerful words of St Paul that “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in the hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8: 19-21).
Dr Praseed is a generous host. At the end of the rich fare provided for us in this book he offers a juicy dessert: he devotes a chapter to comment, somewhat briefly as desserts must be, on the panca-mahayajnas of the medieval tradition, in some way relating them to the devotional Catholic practice of a daily Eucharist. Scholars may question if these practices are related to the Vedic yajnas or the later püjis, and whether yajna and puja are in reality directly connected as the author seems to suggest. And one may or may not see the Eucharist as an intrinsic “daily” offering. But if one does, it is not futile to look at it from the perspective of the panca mahayajnas no less than against the background of the Vedic sacrifice, as it has been done at times so far. Whatever the strength of these tentative bandhutas (the “correlations” so dear to the Vedic philosophy) this serious study may encourage future researchers to do a more thorough study of this area of “sacrificial” life in our country.
It is left for me to congratulate the author for offering to us the fruit of a long research and to let the reader enjoy what comes after the foreword.
Sacrifice has been the subject of study by many scholars, yet there is stifi no satisfactory answer to its relation to the cosmos/universe. What is sacrifice? How is it that the entire religious world is based on sacrifice? How does it relate to our ecological home? These are questions which still need to find satisfactory answers This work is an attempt to understand the complexity of these above- mentioned issues and to bring to light that the overwhelming importance sacrifice has received in almost all the religions has its basis in its close relation to the cosmos/universe.
The Vedic sacrifice is the most global arid paradoxical. It shows a way to answer the problems mentioned above because of its close cosmic dimension. For, in Vedism there is a close relation between God, sacrifice and the cosmos. The universe takes its birth from the divine sacrifice and it remains in existence thanks to sacrifice. This cosmic dimension is often not sufficiently stressed when we speak of the purpose of the Vedic sacrifice. It is too often treated as a means to gain one’s selfish motives. It is time that we recognized the true nature and purpose of yajña.
Coming to the Eucharistic sacrifice, the Christian worship that celebrates the memorial of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it too has a cosmic dimension. However, this dimension of the Eucharist is not given sufficient attention by the Western Church, whereas the Eastern Church sees it as an essential characteristic of its sacramental theology. Therefore, after discussing the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist this work will show the cosmic dimension of the Eucharist through a study of four scholars: Maximus the Confessor (580-662), Vladimir Lossky (1903-58), John D. Zizioulas (also known as loannes Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergam, 1931- ), and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881- 1955).
We find that at the theological level the profound relation between creation and redemption comes to light in the sacrifice. Either in creation or in redemption there is a divine sacrifice in Vedism and in Christianity. If the Vedic view is the best example of creation through divine sacrifice, the cross can be taken as the best example of redemption through divine sacrifice. Yajna and the Eucharist thus put us not only in relation to God but also to the universe, our home. They tell us that we humans and nature are relatives because both of us have a common origin. We depend on each other, we sustain each other.
This study was originally made as a dissertation presented to the Institute of Pastoral Liturgy, Abbey of St. Justine, Padua Incorporated into the Faculty of Sacred Theology of the Pontifical University of St. Anseim, Rome for my Doctorate in theology under my old name George Padinjattukara Varkey.
I am deeply indebted to several persons and institutions who in different ways helped me do my studies in Padua, Italy. First of all my thanks go to Prof. Aldo Natale Terrin, my professor and moderator of the thesis for his help and inspiration. Then my thanks go to Prof. Giuseppe Segalla, the first censor as well as the person who inspired my doctoral research. The publication of this book would not have been made possible but for the help and constant encouragement given by Prof. Giuseppe Segalla. My thanks then go to Rt. Rev. Dr. Alceste Catella, Prof. Giorgio Bonaccorso, Prof. Andrea Grillo, and to all other Professors who taught me and encouraged me in my studies at the Institute of Pastoral Liturgy, Padua. I am indebted to the Mission Office ofthe Padua Diocese for the scholarship, to Rev. Fr. Innocenzo Agostino Negrato OSB, the Abbot of St. Justine’s Abbey, to Fr. Francesco Trolese OSB, the Prior, and to Fr. Filippo Resta OSB, the Director of the Institute, for the hospitality during my studies. I remember with gratitude the families of Mr Vittorio Nizzero — Mrs Ivana Guderzo, late Mr Lucio Bortoli and his wife Mrs Patrizia Bolzonella Don Danilo Povolo and Don. I also remember with gratitude late Mrs Gina Dalsanto in Rizzolo, Don Danilo Povolo and Don Paolo Bicciato, the parishioners of Saints Mary and Zenon, Zugliano and Santa Maria Annunziata, Albignbasego. My thanks then go to Fr. Iswar Prasad IMS, Fr. Mahendra Paul IMS, and all those IMS members who encouraged me to go ahead with my studies. I also remember with gratitude all my teachers, professors, companions, students, friends and well-wishers who helped me and encouraged me in different ways. I express my sincere thanks to Prof. George Gispert-Sauch S.J., Vidyajyoti, Delhi, for writing the foreword of this book and also for the proof-reading and valuable suggestions. I also express my sincere thanks to late Mrs Monica Lang, Vienna, and to Mr N.Y. Tomy, Nay Sadhana, Varanasi, for the proof-reading.
Parts of this book were published earlier. Chapters two and five were first published as thesis abstract and then appeared in two periodicals under my new name George Praseed (2002) and (2006b).
Yaj and the Eucharist — two interesting and fascinating topics of the two major religions of the world — in my opinion, hold the keys to the Vedic and Christian religious concepts which give the possibility of the mutual understanding between the two great religions. I think that an experience of interdependence can be considered a vital element not only in Vedism but also in Eucharistic theology; even though there is a difference to the Eastern sacramental theology, the Western theology has not paid much attention to it. The intuitive approach of the totality vision of Vedism draws our attention to the hidden cosmic dimension of the Eucharist.
This topic enables us first to make a comparison between the Vedic and the Eucharistic sacrifice and second to bring to light the hidden cosmic dimension of the Eucharist. Thirdly, the selection of the topic was motivated by a pastoral concern, i.e. to investigate the relation between sacrifice and the cosmos in the day-to-day life of a Hindu and a Christian. In this we have found that yajña being the quintessence of Vedism, and the Eucharist being the summit and source of the Christian life can be the best topics to understand the actual story of a lived religious experience of a Vedic Hindu and a Christian.
In our research we intend to use the phenomenological, descriptive, and comparative methods, for we find that they are the best methods to study the religious experience of a different religion. By phenomenological method we hold what A.N. Terrin Intends when he writes a particular religious sensibility united to the capacity to recognize wider and wider horizons to the world of religions. I call this capacity and sensibility “phenomenological method” in the study of the religions and I intend it . as the incorporation of the subject within the vests of history to participate in the designs of the religions and thus to contribute to redesigning the co-ordinates of the religions themselves.
We intend to proceed in our research with such sensibility to recognize wider and wider horizons to the religious experience of Vedism and Christianity. In our opinion this approach can help us to understand the religious experience of a different faith and enter into a real religious dialogue without the pretension of being superior. But we do not limit ourselves with this phenomenological method alone. For, we find that no single method is sufficient to bring to light the many elements of the complex religious experience called sacrifice. The complexity of the religious experience calls for the use of different methods. For this reason we use phenomenological, descriptive, and comparative methods in our research. The phenomenological method helps us not only to accept the richness of the religious experience, but also to respect the religious experience of another which cannot be reduced to concepts. And the comparative method helps in our research to put side by side the convergences and the differences which exist between the yajna and the Eucharist. Even though “there is no one-to-one” relation or similarity,2 such comparison can help one to go deep into the religious experience of another and to see the points of meeting and the distances in certain aspects.
For the sake of clarity we divide our work into three parts, and each part connects and completes the other two. The first part is devoted to a general enquiry of sacrifice and to the Vedic vision of sacrifice; the second part deals with the cosmic dynamism of the Eucharistic sacrifice; and the third part is a dialogue between the Vedic sacrifice and the Eucharist on the basis of the cosmic perspectives which emerge from parts one and two.
In the first chapter we will make a short survey on the status quaestionis of the complex notion of sacrifice to illustrate the difficulties on the concept. Sacrifice means different things in different cultures, and it is not easy to reduce it to a single notion. Although the term sacrifice cannot be easily reduced to any single theory acceptable to all the religions of the world, the most pervading character is in its cosmic aspect.
In the second chapter we will show that the Vedic vision of sacrifice and the cosmos are interrelated, and that they form a cosmic metabolism. In our analysis we will see in which way sacrifice is seen as the source of all reality, and as the foundation of everything. Sacrifice is said to maintain the whole cosmos in order and to create the continuity of time. Our attempt will be to bring to light the cosmic function of the Vedic sacrifice.
In the third chapter we will discuss the interiorization of the Vedic sacrifice in the Upaniads and its effect in the emergence of the notion of bhakti in the BC. It is interesting to see how the sacrifice of the Brahmai3as gets subordinated to the notion of knowledge in the Upaniads, and again how it gets subordinated to bhakti in the BC. Sacrifice gets a new appearance in the Upaniads and in the BC but without losing its cosmic character. In the BC the cosmic welfare, the lokasamgraha, becomes the only valid motive for the sacrifice. And it becomes a loving action to a Cod of love.
After clarifying the cosmic function of the Vedic sacrifice, in ±e fourth chapter we will discuss the descending and the ascending dimensions of the Eucharistic sacrifice to bring to light the hidden cosmic dimensions found implicit in it. We will see that this hidden cosmic dimension of the Eucharist has to be sought in the sacramental dimension of the Eucharist. The Eucharist, as the sacrament of the sacrifice of the cross plays a role of mediation between God and creation: this is its cosmic function. However, in this chapter our attempt will be limited to the sacramental character of the Eucharist which forms the basis for the rediscovery of the cosmic aspect.
In the fifth chapter we will discuss in detail the cosmic dynamism of the Eucharist through a brief study of four theologians: Maximus the Confessor, Vladimir Lossky, John D. Zizioulas and Teilhard de Chardin. We will see that the cosmic function of the Eucharist, which is almost neglected by the Western Church, is one of the essential elements of the Eucharistic theology of the Eastern Church. This cosmic dimension of the Eucharist can be understood only against the background of the relation between creation, incarnation and redemption. The unity amongst these elements shows that Christ is the creator and redeemer of the whole cosmos, and not merely of the human race. Christ is the meeting point of God, humans and the cosmos, the centre of space and time.
Chapter six will be dedicated to a dialogue of yajña with the Eucharist to bring to light the convergences and the differences. In this chapter we will put side by side the Vedic and the Christian notions of sacrifice and see the points of convergences and differences. We will show that just as the myth of Purua-Prajapati holds the key to understanding the Vedic vision of sacrifice, so too, the Christ-Event forms the key to understanding the Eucharistic sacrifice. If Vedism stresses the sacrificial creation, Christianity stresses the sacrificial redemption. In both of them there exists a divine sacrifice for the sake of creation redemption.
In the seventh chapter we will bring to light the similarities and the differences between the panca-mahayajnas (the five daily great sacrifices) with the Eucharistic sacrifice. In this chapter we will show that liturgical life should not be separated from the daily life of man. We will show how sacrifice can help man to go beyond one’s limited experience of space and time by opening a wider horizon of divine-human-cosmic relationship. In this chapter we will show that the panca-mahyajnas and the Eucharist are complementary.
Thus, through the phenomenological, descriptive and comparative methods we intend to bring to light on the one hand the relation between the cosmos and sacrifice, and on the other the convergences and the differences between the Vedic and the Eucharistic sacrifice.
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