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Essays in the History of Religions by Joachim Wach

Joachim Wach was born in 1898 in Chemnitz, Saxony and died in 1955. Wach insisted there was a definite distinction between the history of religion and the philosophy of religion. He felt an inquiry into the difference must be carried out by employing the religo-scientific method (Religionswissenschaft). Published by Macmillan Publishing Company, 866 third Avenue, New York, NY 10022, in 1988. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

Radhakrishnan and the Comparative Study of Religion

The comparative study of religions has never been merely an academic concern for the great Hindu scholar to whose philosophy this volume is dedicated. He has been existentially interested in such studies since the days of his youth. In "My Search for Truth," the moving autobiographical sketch which he contributed to a volume entitled Religion in Transition (1937), he reports how the challenge by Christian critics of Hinduism, his own faith, impelled him at the time of his student-days at Madras to "make a study of Hinduism and find out what is living and what is dead in it."1 Again and again in writings, he has traced historically phases of development in Western (Greek and Christian) and Indian (Brahmanic, Hindu and Buddhist) religious thought, and has analyzed in systematic fashion basic notions in Hinduism and Christianity.2 Moreover, he has devoted at least one part of one of his books3 to "Comparative Religion." Here he recapitulates briefly the growth of this science, discusses some of the current objections, shows its value, characterizes the spirit in which such study must be undertaken, and finally points up some problems which it must face. Here are some of the convictions to which the comparative study of religions has led the distinguished Hindu thinker: "It increases our confidence in the universality of God and our respect for the human race. It induces in us not an attitude of mere tolerance which implies conscious superiority, not patronizing pity, nor condescending charity, but genuine respect and appreciation."4

"The different religions have now come together, and if they are not to continue in a state of conflict or competition, they must develop a spirit of comprehension which will break down prejudice and misunderstanding and bind them together as varied expressions of a single truth."5 Finally, by investigating parallels and analogies, such study "broadens our vision."6 In addition to psychological and historical inquiries it poses the philosophical problem of value and validity. "How far can the facts gathered by Comparative Religion be accepted as expressing the reality of an unseen ground?"7

This sketch of the nature and the task of a comparative study of religions proves that Professor Radhakrishnan (a) is familiar with the expressions of the age-old quest for a definition of the relation of the different great religions of the world with each other and with the development of the sciences (history) of religion, such as was conceived in the 19th century by Max Mueller and his successors; (b) that he has contributed to our increase of knowledge of several of the great world faiths and their relations with each other; (c) that his studies have convinced him that all religions have developed in a peculiar ethnic, sociological, cultural, and intellectual environment; (d) that he is aware of resemblances and differences in their expressions; (e) that he regards them as "tentative adjustments, more or less satisfactory, to the same spiritual reality, after which the human spirit feels and by which, in some manner, it is acted upon;"8 (f) that none of them ought to be regarded as "absolute," a conviction which Professor Radhakrishnan shares with E. Troeltsch;9 (g) that understanding any form of religion requires sympathy and empathy.

The work of the Indian philosopher shows a preoccupation with two of the world religions: Brahmanism and Christianity. Buddhism comes next in his attention and appreciation. There are fewer references to Islam; which is surprising in view of the importance of this religion for the history of India.10 He rarely refers to what is known as the tribal national religion and the "primitive" cults. The reasons for this preference are partly to be sought in his own personal development (Hindu home, Christian instruction), partly in his primary interest in the intellectual expression of religious experience or, in other words, the philosophical bent of his nature, and, last but not least, in his often voiced conviction that we have to "get behind and beneath all outward churches and religions, and worship the nameless who is above every name."11 Though he finds this attitude in all parts of the world, especially in the mystics, we are led to believe that Brahmanism, in addition to being the thinker’s physical and intellectual home, represents to him very possibly the highest forms of the eternal religious quest of man.

The student of the history of religions will have to ask: Does he do full or adequate justice to both, Brahmanism and Christianity? This question cannot be answered here, inasmuch as it would have to be discussed at length and with considerable documentation. There can be no doubt of the profound insight into the nature and history of Brahmanism and the intimate acquaintance with the religious, literary and political manifestations of the spirit of India to which Radhakrishnan’s oeuvre testifies. It is significant, however, that it is the earlier, the Brahmanic phase of Hindu religion, that it is the classical Vedanta, on which he concentrates his attention and which commands his affection and loyalty. It is Sankara’s rather than Ramanuja’s version of the Vedanta to which he adheres and it is the Brahmanic phase rather than the medieval form of Hinduism which represents for him "the" religion of India. It is actually a double option which determines Professor Radhakrishnan’s explicit and implicit evaluation of religion: his preference for the apprehension of ultimate reality as proclaimed by the seers and sages of India and, within this tradition, his preference for the teachings of the Upanisads in the peculiar interpretation of the Advaita school. The philosopher, Western or Eastern, may well agree with this second emphasis; but the scholar interested in the comparative study of religions may well ask if certain other manifestations of Hinduism should not be more fully included when we attempt to discuss the essence of the religion of India. Especially Occidentals seem all too prone to identify the latter with the metaphysics of the Vedanta without doing justice to the characteristic spirit of devotion to which the earlier and later mediaeval documents of Hinduism testify. The work of such scholars as Pope, Grierson, R. Otto, Schomerus and others is not widely enough known. The result is the one-sidedness in the presentation and appraisal of the religion of India which we find in so many publications of Western scholars and amateurs. Few of them betray any familiarity with the work of Bhandarkar, the great pathfinder in the exploration of Visnuism, Sivaism and the minor cults, or of his modern successors.

Let us return once more to the autobiographical sketch in which Radhakrishnan outlines the growth of his interest in the two great religious traditions with which he has been confronted all his life, the Indian and the Christian. It is regrettable that until recently this meant the Indian and the Western. If we recall the identification of Christianity and the West in the minds of Occidentals and --hence -- in the minds of the peoples of the East throughout the Victorian age and into the 20th century, we shall better understand the critical attitude towards Christianity which Professor Radhakrishnan’s writings betray. Or rather, we shall appreciate even more highly the untiring efforts on the part of this great Hindu scholar to do justice to Christianity. From the days of his youth he had met with a form of Christian apologetic which could be nothing if not ineffective and which could only have adverse effects upon him, because it was uninformed and proceeded from unexamined presuppositions. Not that the conviction on the part of Christians that Christ, rightly understood, is "the light of the world" would have had to be offensive; but the claim that Hinduism, whatever its form, was all darkness and that Christianity, whatever its expression, is all light. The advocates of this latter doctrine all too frequently were prone to forget how woefully deficient, how necessarily limited by their own background, their understanding and interpretation of the kerygma of Christ was, how compromised by colonialism, provincialism, and conventionalism. Not that the truly Christian spirit and the splendid achievements of many selfless workers for the cause of Christ in India and elsewhere could be denied by anyone; but many Westerners conceived of the meeting between Christian and Hindu as entirely a one way traffic, which consisted in condescendingly presenting for total acceptance a parcel in which the gospel was wrapped in sheets often not as clean as could be desired. All this one has to bear in mind if the reaction which many highly educated Indians have been exhibiting to efforts of this kind is to be understood and properly assessed. There is a notable trace of bitterness in a great number of references to Christianity in Radhakrishnan’s writings. Here he speaks as the apologist of Hinduism, that is, of Hinduism as he interprets it, of a reconstructed Hinduism, or better, of the ideal of Hinduism.

I am not sure that he always applies the same procedure -- carefully distinguishing between the empirical and the ideal -- when he discusses what is to him the great religion of the West. Granted that there are valid reasons for the criticism which he voices in the section on Christian Missions and Indian faiths. However, I find little evidence that he considers the Christian faith seriously as a live option for India. To reject unwarranted attempts as "Westernization" or, for that matter, any imposition of "foreign" notions is one thing; however, the only alternative to such attempts is not necessarily the somewhat relativistic idea of sharing. "The different religious men of the East and the West are to share their visions and insights, hopes and fears, plans and purposes." True, this is desirable; but in which spirit, and why not in the Spirit of Christ? The West does not possess a monopoly on Him. Before Him there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor Indian. The God of justice and love of whom he testified is either truly our -- and that is for all of us "our" -- creator and redeemer or not the true God at all. There is a profounder difference than Radhakrishnan seems to be willing to admit between tribally or nationally bound Brahmanic Hinduism and the constitutionally universal message of Christ. But this is not the difference of the faith of one part of the world as over against that of another.12 There is no reason why Indian Christians should not teach any number of Western Christians a deeper insight into the kergyma of the Christ who judges all.

Or is Radhakrishnan merely objecting to the methods by which Christianity so often has sought converts? It could seem so; because he does not level as harsh a criticism against Buddhism, another universal faith, as he does against Christianity. After all, to find the truth in Christ and in his teachings need not prevent anyone from studying with profit and admiring the thought of the great Indian sages. In fact, whoever expects important contributions from Indian Christianity to Christian theology and philosophy will have every reason to familiarize himself with those sages’ search for truth.

However, it is not necessarily in the realm of intellectual endeavor -- monumental though Hindu contributions in this field may be -- certainly not merely in this realm, that one would seek and find unexpected treasures. Religion is above all devotion, and the intensity and fervor of the devotional life of India’s saints must put many lukewarm Western Christians to shame. Here we feel that much that is admirable can be found in Medieval Hinduism alongside of other things which are gross and perhaps even repellent.

The sincere and relentless effort to understand the religion of peoples different from our own is certainly highly desirable. Radhakrishnan himself is an eminent example of such endeavor. Yet we do not feel that it is all said with the simple formula: let us share. The problem of validity and of truth has to be faced, as the author of East and West in Religion himself reminds us. We agree with him: "revelation is a universal gift, not a parochial possession."13 But we cannot follow him when he continues: "with regard to religions, the question is not of truth or falsehood but life or death."14 It is right to say that "every living religion has its part in the spiritual education of the race,"15 but these parts are not necessarily equal. We feel that William Temple, who was a believer in universal revelation, made an admirable distinction in saying, "all therefore is alike revelation; but not all is equally revelatory of the divine character."16 In great fairness Radhakrishnan distinguishes between the early forms and later developments of both, Christianity and the religions of India. He contrasts the "pure and simple teachings of Jesus’, with the developments which Christianity has undergone in the West.17 In his analysis of the role of intellectualism, scholasticism, social solidarity, and activism, and of their historic causes, there is much truth. Yet some of the more recent investigations in the field of New Testament exegesis and theology do not quite confirm the picture he draws of the "religion of Jesus." It is doubtful if we have a right to say that "he founded no organization, but enjoined only private prayer."18 There is no reference here to the passion and crucifixion, the central events in the life of Jesus, the supreme tests of his teaching. Of these, which for the Christian are of paramount importance as the incomparable instances of divine love and suffering, it cannot be said that they, as "the characteristics of intuitive realization, nondogmatic toleration, insistence on non-aggressive virtues and universalist ethics, mark Jesus out as a typical Eastern seer."19 The Christian is convinced that Jesus was something else and something more than that. For the Christian the cardinal question remains: What do you think of Christ?20 Hence this Christian will not be satisfied with the prospect of a time when "faith in God and love of man will be the only requisites for mutual fellowship and service." For the Christian who deserves the name, belief in Christ and in his spirit is not something which is added to other basic beliefs and which can, therefore, be omitted; rather, it is the one central affirmation by which alone all others receive their meaning. It should be said in all fairness that a majority of Christians themselves do not see this vital point too clearly. In his chapter, "The Meeting of Religions," in Eastern Religions and Western Thought, Radhakrishnan remarks that "the man of faith, whether he is Hindu or Buddhist, Muslim or Christian, has certainty," but he adds: "yet there is a difference between the pairs."21 Faith, he says, for the Hindu does not mean dogmatism, implying that for the Christian it does.22 But a Christian would have no difficulty in subscribing to the statement that "it is not historically true that in the knowledge of truth there is of necessity great intolerance."23 He would agree with the Indian thinker that "religion is a matter of personal realisation"; although Radhakrishnan seems to consider this as a typically Hindu attitude,24 and would most certainly hold that "one’s religiousness is to be measured not by one’s theological affirmations but by the degree to which one brings forth the fruit of the spirit."25 However, it is difficult to follow the author of Eastern Religions and Western Thought in his protest against the "view of Christ as ‘the only begotten son of God’ " who "could not brook any rival near the throne."26 Should Christ, too, then, be regarded -- by Christians -- as merely one "symbol" among others? It does by no means follow that to accept Christ for what he claimed to be must lead to intolerance and to the persecution of others. Certainly, "no doctrine becomes sounder, no truth truer, because it takes the aid of force. "27

It is in the concluding paragraphs of his chapter on "The Meeting of Religions" that Radhakrishnan invites Christians to cease propagating their faith. He rightly objects to Karl Barth’s denial of universal revelation. It is not in defense of Barthian theology, therefore, or because we believe that "only one religion provides divine revelation and others have nothing of it,"28 or because we regard the Christian religion as unique,29 that we hold that ours cannot be the way which this Indian scholar suggests. He cites with approval the example of the Syrian Christians in India -- as well as the Hindus, who are "opposed to proselytism."30 However, to surrender all attempts of inviting and winning others to the cause of Christ, would actually be to deny him. This is not to advocate "religious imperialism. " Responsible religious leadership -- such as the recent meetings of the International Missionary Council, to which Radhakrishnan himself refers,31 represent -- is well aware that there are pressing tasks which require the wholehearted cooperation of the faithful of all religions. Surely,

if we do not bring together in love those who sincerely believe in God and seek to do his will, if we persist in killing each other theologically, we shall only weaken men’s faith in God. If the great religions continue to waste their energies in a fratricidal war instead of looking upon themselves as friendly partners in the supreme task of nourishing the spiritual life of mankind, the swift advance of secular humanism and moral materialism is assured.32

There is much more mutual contact, exploration, exchange, and understanding necessary among the sincere followers of all faiths than is now in evidence. We must, indeed, all recognize the insufficiency of our interpretation of the meaning of faith within our own religious community. This has already been pointed out above. But a Christian would not be contributing his best, if he would not make manifest, in word and in deed, upon what spiritual food he feeds, where he has found the springs of hope, of joy, and of strength. Surely, he should expect the Hindu, the Buddhist, and the Moslem to do likewise. In this area grave errors and many sad mistakes of the past will have to be undone. It is when each believer opens himself completely that he witnesses most honestly. There is no more reason why an Easterner should not accept Christ as readily and as naturally as a Westerner. Christ, the Buddha, Muhammad -- we are beginning to understand this better today than did the nineteenth century -- are universal options. It is wrong for a Hindu to say that these names stand for provincialism. The interpretation of their teaching or the failure to act in conformity with that teaching may often be provincial. It is wrong for a Westerner to say: because my forbears were Christians, I had better be one also. No less a theologian than Søren Kierkegaard has pointed out how difficult it is for a Christian, that is to say, for one brought up in and hence "accustomed" to Christianity, to become a Christian. Modern determinism assumes many subtle forms: one is cultural determinism. Many anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists -- even philosophers -- regard religion merely as an expression or a function of civilization. That means that I confess a religion because it happens to be the prevailing one in the culture or society to which I happen to belong. Should we not respect a Westerner who, out of conviction, turns Buddhist or Moslem higher than a soi-disant "Christian"? And is not, therefore, the mutual understanding and hence communion of Arab, Hindu, Chinese, and Western Christians profounder than that based merely on mutual "toleration"? It would be difficult to prove to a Ceylonese or to an African Christian that he is wrong if he hopes, prays, and works for the acceptance of Christ by all men.

Radhakrishnan has devoted a chapter to Hindu thought and Christian doctrine in his book on The Heart of Hindusthan (1932). There he points out that he finds the same fundamentals emphasized in all religions, namely "that God is; that man stands in some relation to God; and that intercourse of some kind is possible between God and man who has in him the desire to be in harmony with God."33 It is not difficult to agree with this statement, even if one considers it possible to go beyond the three points in the enumeration of "universals" in religion.34 But for the reasons stated above, objections must be raised to the explanation -- or at least to the phrasing of it -- Dr. Radhakrishnan gives for the differences among "the living progressive religions of the world." They relate, according to him, to "accents and emphases, which are traceable to social environment and historic circumstances." This formulation sounds highly relativistic and evades altogether the problem of truth. More specifically, however, it has to be said that the Hindu philosopher does not quite do justice to the difference which exists between the Indian concept of Avatars and the Christian notion of the "Son of God." The view that "Jesus is an avatar,"35 which has recently been elaborated by Radhakrishnan’s fellow countryman, Swami Akhilananda, in his book, The Hindu View of Christ, implies the denial that "He had a special relation to God, which it is not possible for others to acquire," and cannot, therefore, be accepted by those who see in Christ the supreme manifestation of the Divine love; which does not exclude other manifestations but supersedes them. If the life and passion of Jesus Christ reveals as much of the nature and purpose of God as Christians believe it does, it is inadmissible to grant that as much of that nature and purpose is made known in any of the various "incarnations" of Visnu, Rama, Krsna, et al. Even the most pronouncedly Johannine understanding of the life and work of Christ and of the destiny of man, for whom he died, would not permit us to say that "the resources of God which were available to him are open to us, and if we struggle and strive even as he did, we will develop the God in us."36 Radhakrishnan thinks that it is "a pious delusion" to think that "none else than Jesus attained this consciousness of spiritual oneness with God." I wonder why anyone should call himself a "Christian," if he does not hold this "uniqueness" to be true. It does not follow that, if the light of God blazed forth in such unique splendor in Jesus -- as Radhakrishnan puts it very beautifully -- we should not object if the followers, "say, of Confucius and of Buddha, set up similar claims for their heroes." Actually, the followers of Confucius have never made such a claim. And as concerns the founder of Buddhism, we feel that at this point a real decision between Christ and the Buddha is demanded, not just a simple addition. The issues which make such a decision necessary, implying quite fundamental differences as they do, cannot be discussed here.37

Our distinguished Hindu philosopher rightly states that "God has never said his last word on any subject; he has always more things to tell than we now can hear (John 16, 12)." But this does not mean that we are not called upon to respond to God’s previous invitation which he extended to all men when He became incarnate in Christ or that we should not see everything that came before, has come since, and will come, in the light of this His, until now -- we cannot say more, but also certainly not anything less -- supreme revelation. This view, it might be reaffirmed again, does not exclude the recognition of deep spiritual insight won by and of revelatory grace granted to Christian and non-Christian seers, prophets, and saints. Rather, it demands such an interpretation. We whole-heartedly agree with William Temple: "Only if God is revealed in the rising of the sun in the sky, can He be revealed in the rising of a son of man from the dead; only if He is revealed in the history of Syrians and Philistines" -- and we add: in the history of the Indians -- "can He be revealed in the history of Israel."38 But that is by no means the same as Radhakrishnan’s assertion: "Hinduism believes that every guru is a Saviour, in as much as he quickens in his disciples the life of God and develops the seed of the spirit capable of fructifying in them. Any one who helps us to a complete harmonisation of the finite will of man with the perfect will of God has the power to save us."39 The present writer has found great inspiration, much truth, wisdom, and beauty, fervent witness to the numinous character of ultimate reality in the great Hindu writings through the ages, and hopes to learn still more from them; but he cannot agree with Radhakrishnan’s conclusion that "Jesus’ own testimony, philosophical truth and religious experience alike demand that He should be brought in line with the other great saints of God, who has not left himself without a witness in any clime or age."40 True enough; but "neither is there salvation in any other name: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4, 12) It may be the case, as this great Hindu thinker intimates, that for some time now a "more critical attitude towards the divinity of Jesus" has been developing among Christian theologians of the West, "who are tending to emphasize more and more his [Jesus’] humanity.’’41 However, tendencies in modern Western theology stand in need of evaluation. The mentioned trend has not remained unopposed and, if we are not mistaken, is of late being reversed quite decidedly. Theologians are only a part, and very possibly not the major part, of the Church -- and by that we do not mean the ecclesiastical, denominational, and sectarian institutions, but the Great Church of which it was said by its master that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. This Christian Church, which started with the confession: Jesus Christ is Lord, will abide by this confession, lest it betray its true foundation. It does not have to subscribe to any of the "classical" theories of the Atonement; but Radhakrishnan’s suggestion that it should forget about the notion that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself"42 it cannot possibly heed. Nor will it be ready to admit that "the sacrifice of Christ has no significance for man as a propitiation for sin."43

Some will protest that statements such as these are "dogmatic." However, such characterization would be correct only if these formalizations had no experiential roots. Here they are introduced as the expression of a living experience. "A man’s religion," Radhakrishnan rightly observes, "must be his own and not simply accepted on trust or imposed by authority."44 It is readily granted that otherwise, if they were merely the results of mechanical indoctrination, they would possess little or no validity. What kind of validity do they possess except that of being a witness to some subjective experience which might be contradicted and, as some would say, invalidated by expressions of different or even contrary "convictions"? The criterion cannot be the strength or power of the belief. It rather appears to be the degree to which, in and through the experiences to which these statements point, there is effected an actual deepening and widening of spiritual insight into the nature of ultimate reality, of human existence and of the destiny of man. The possibilities which such experiences entail are potentially open to everyone. There is nothing esoteric or exclusive about them. Those who believe in a genuine democracy of the spirit will not be afraid of or adverse to contests from which no "competition" will be excluded and where the true will prevail.

We come to the crux of the matter when we confront the Hindu scholar’s statement with regard to the Indian branch of this Church in which he expects to "combine the best elements of Hinduism with the good points of Christianity."45 An evaluation of the implications of this statement will lead both to an affirmative and a negative conclusion. Neither Hinduism nor Christianity, as we have intimated before, will or ought to remain as it is. We are one with the Indian thinker in stressing the necessity of theological and philosophical "rethinking" (to use W. E. Hocking’s term) in the universal search for truth. But a combination in the sense of mere addition, even in the sense of a synthesis of the Hindu and Christian religions, seems unfeasable. We have elsewhere46 indicated why, from our point of view, the concept of a "world faith" on a syncretistic basis is not a live option. The crux of the matter, in a very real sense of the word, is indicated by the question: What do you think of Christ? Ever since Jesus’ life and work has revealed to man the great two alternative possibilities, it has been impossible to bypass this question. But there are no monopolies for West or East, Jew or Greek, for high or low, for rich or poor, as far as the interpretation of the implications of the supreme act of God’s redeeming love are concerned. At this point all, wherever found and whoever they may be, are called upon to respond and to contribute their deepest feeling, their profoundest thought, and their most concentrated efforts in action to testify that they are truly redeemed.

We have indicated in an earlier part of this paper that we thoroughly agree with Radhakrishnan in the unqualified rejection of any use of compulsion in spiritual matters. It indicates a lack of confidence in the power of truth, if directly or indirectly force is applied in the service of a religious cause. If we speak of the "great invitation" to accept Christ as one’s master, we are not advocating any "coge intrare." The only means open to us are an effective example and the winsome word. It is understandable that, in view of vast and grievous mistakes in the past, considerable apprehension exists in the souls and minds of non-Christians -- in the West and in the East -- lest they be subjected to reprisals, discriminations, and persecutions for not "conforming." Christians must feel a deep sense of shame that many of the peoples of the East have begun to feel secure only after they have won their political independence. But it might also mean that to accept Christ has again become a test or a risk rather than an insurance or a matter of material and social advantage. Moreover, the difference of the situation in the East and in the West is now not much more than one of degree, inasmuch as it takes courage in the Occident too to want really to be a Christian. To guard against any possible misunderstanding I want to reiterate my insistence that our considerations pertain to the realm of the spiritual quest for truth. They are in no way meant to endorse any form of coercion.

The author does not wish to conclude this brief discussion of some points in the writings of Radhakrishnan which seem to him of a controversial nature without adding some remarks of a different character. It may seem picayune to pick out sentences, formulations, or passages in books of a scholar or thinker whose total work is of such imposing character and which testifies to so noble and profound a spirit in its author as that of Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. The present writer owes much to the beautifully written studies, in philosophy and religion, of the most outstanding living Indian thinker, one whose guiding star throughout has been the quest for truth. By virtue of these commitments he is entitled to expect a similar approach on the part of anyone who becomes his attentive reader. How lengthy would this essay have become, if it would have listed the theses, negative and positive, with which the writer is in profound agreement, such, for example, as the role which Radhakrishnan assigns to religious experience, and his criticism of scepticism, radical materialism, environmentalism, and behaviourism! He is also in full accord with the definition: "Religion is, in essence, experience of or living contact with ultimate reality."47 This author is aware of the mighty advance which Radhakrishnan’s studies in the history of thought represent over the provincial outlook of so many Western and Eastern presentations of the development and the various types of philosophy and religion. He is conscious of the magnificent way in which Radhakrishnan upholds the ideals of justice, of order, and of freedom. There could be no more impressive attempt to combine love for one’s country with the desire sympathetically to understand the genuine aspirations and achievements of other nations and civilizations. What remarkable insight and appreciation are revealed in some of his portraits of outstanding leaders in the intellectual and spiritual world of men! No aspect of civilization is overlooked in his studies in Eastern and Western life, past and present.

It would be a rewarding task, though one for which this essay has no place, to attempt to trace and assess the influences which various movements and trends in the Western intellectual world have had upon Radhakrishnan’s thinking through the years. Some such influences are detectable in the ideas with which this paper has been concerned: his notion of the nature, the task, and the significance of the comparative study of religions. The frequency with which the distinguished thinker himself refers to this subject seems to indicate that it is one to which he attaches considerable importance. There is, moreover, a great and lively interest in these problems today. That may justify our choice of topic and the insistence upon some considerations with regard to which a weighty question remained in the mind of at least one reader of Radhakrishnan’s books.



1. My Search for Truth (1937, in Religion in Transition; sep. offprint, 1948), 19.

2. E.g., Eastern Religions and Western Thought (1939).

3. East and West in Religion (1933), Lecture I.

4. Ibid., 32.

5. Eastern Religions and Western Thought, 306.

6. East and West in Religion, 36.

7. Ibid., 36.

8. Ibid., 19.

9. Die Absolutheit des Christentums.

10. But cf. the chapter on "Islam and Indian Thought" in The Heart of Hindusthan (1936), 65ff.

11. The Religion We Need (1928), 24.

12. Christianity is, after all, an "Eastern’’ religion. Cf. East and West in Religion, 46.

13. East and West in Religion, 38.

14. Idem.

15. Idem.

16. Nature, Man and God, 315.

17. East and West in Religion, 47, 57ff.

18. Ibid., 58.

19. Idem.

20. Cf. the chapter "Christendom I" in Eastern Religions and Western Thought, esp. 163ff., 176, for Dr. Radhakrishnan’s answer.

21. Eastern Religions and Western Thought, 314.

22. Ibid., cf. 316f., 324.

23. Ibid., 314.

24. Ibid., 316f., but cf. 319.

25. Ibid., 320.

26. Ibid., 324.

27. Ibid., 326.

28. Ibid., 343

29. Ibid., 344

30. Ibid., 345ff.

31. Ibid., 345.

32. Ibid., 347.

33. The Heart of Hindusthan, 88.

34. Wach, J., Types of Religious Experience, Chap. II.

35. The Heart of Hindusthan, 101.

36. Ibid., 102.

37. In his book, Types of Religious Experience, Christian and Non-Christian (1951), the author of this paper has attempted an analysis of the differences between the Christian and the Mahayana-Buddhist faith. Cf. Chap. VI.

38. Nature, Man and God, 97.

39. The Heart of Hindusthan, 103f.

40. Ibid., 165.

41. Ibid., 104.

42. Ibid., 109.

43. Ibid., 109, 121.

44. The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy (1920), 287.

45. Ibid., 122.

46. "The Place of the History of Religions in the Study of Theology," Journal of Religion, XXVII (1947), 157ff.; cf. also Types of Religious Experience, Chap. I.

47. The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy, 275.

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