Comparisons

I am reading William Johnston’s Mystical Theology and Keiji Nishitani’s Religion and Nothingness. Johnston’s is a good survey, clear, concise and just the sort of book I could have done with when I was teaching. He has the knack of summarising brilliantly. Nishitani is a revelation. It is one of those books which gives a new insight into questions which have always been there and which you thought you understood. Reading Nishitani you realise that you were only skating on the surface.

Concerning W. Johnston’s Mystical Theology – I feel that he is avoiding coming to the point. On p.182 he says that the emptiness and nothingness of St. John of the Cross is not the same as the emptiness and nothingness of Zen. This is precisely what exercises me. If the underlying reality is One then surely, whatever tradition one comes from, there must come a time when the cultural wrappings, the labels and names we attach to ideas and experiences, are discarded. 

Johnston is annoying when he keeps talking from within the tradition he is writing about. I wish he would take a more objective approach. What the Christian tradition calls sin covers anything from murder to the human condition. Original sin is seen as evil. It is simply the human condition – contingency, powerlessness and scarcity. This is an area that needs much more thinking. I feel the Buddhist way of looking at all this is a much more healthy one.

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