Ultimacy and existence in the Bhagavad-Gītā and Fourth Gospel: a segment of inquiry in comparative philosophical theology
Author(s)Hydinger, Greylyn Robert
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AbstractReligious diversity largely defines the present religious situation; comparative theology adaptively responds to this situation by comparing influential theological hypotheses from different contexts and developing theological hypotheses from that inquiry. The popularity and sophistication of the Bhagavad-Gītā and Fourth Gospel make these scriptures excellent comparative candidates. This dissertation situates these scriptures, interprets them, compares them, and constructs a philosophical theology from the comparison.
Part I follows J.A.B. van Buitenen, Angelika Malinar, and Emily Hudson by situating the Bhagavad-Gītā in its original epic context, the Mahābhārata, and philosophical context: Sāṅkhya and Vedānta darśanas. It follows Robert Hill and George MacRae by situating “John” against its dual first-century backgrounds: Judaism and Hellenism.
Part II provides an original interpretation of the scriptures. With Śaṅkara, Abhinavagupta, and Hudson, the dissertation interprets the Bhagavad-Gītā as reorienting Arjuna to see the subtlety of karma and dharma and to realize non-duality with Kṛṣṇa/Ātman/Brahman in the devotee’s heart. With Bultmann, Eckhart, Hill, and Neville, the dissertation interprets John as anti-gnostically affirming the cosmos as God’s Logos expression, which elicits love as the appropriate response to the Logos.
Part III compares the scriptures in respect to ultimate reality and human existence, the main comparative categories. Ultimate reality comprises four subcategories: (1) cosmic scope and nature, (2) cosmological metaphysics, (3) ontology, and (4) avatāra/incarnation. Despite notable differences, both scriptures emphasize the non- duality of the cosmos with its indeterminate (nirguṇa/ἀόρατος) ontological ground. Existence comprises four subcategories: obligation, comportment, engagement, and life’s meaning. Realizing nonduality with Brahman, seeing everything as the expression of the Logos, provides ecstatic freedom, and the courage to be.
Part IV develops a philosophical theology from the comparison. Einstein’s relativity theories weigh the probability that the cosmos pulsates or dies. Evolutionary theory shows that consciousness emerges as an adaptation to environments, not environments for consciousness’s pleasure. After distinguishing physical cosmology from cosmological metaphysics, the dissertation dialectically argues that the cosmos is real, but contingent on the ontological one, which is indeterminate (empty/nothing) apart from its shining forth in the cosmological many. Although this theological hypothesis requires greater breadth for stabilization, it remains tentatively viable for today’s religious situation.