Hindu-Christian dialogue and the blurred boundaries of religious identity

Coles, L. (2013) Hindu-Christian dialogue and the blurred boundaries of religious identity. Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.


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Abhishiktananda described himself as a “Hindu-Christian monk”, and spent much of his life blurring the religious boundaries between being Hindu and being Christian. There are many others like him who have claimed or been assigned religious identities which might seem paradoxical. In contemporary theological speak, they can be seen as having a ‘double religious identity’; that is, they are believed to be engaging with both simultaneously. Indeed a ‘theology of double religious identity’ tends to attribute this to cultural norms, family ties, syncretism or even a consumerist approach, and has explored it mostly through Buddhist-Christian examples. Whilst a few references have been made to ‘Hindu-Christian identity’, this thesis has chosen to widen the demographic and draw on a set of case studies solely located within the interfaith sphere of Hindu-Christian dialogue (These include Robert de Nobili, Abhishiktananda and Brahmabandhab Upadhyay). By exploring it outside of the Buddhist-Christian paradigm, this thesis hopes to aid a better theological understanding of double religious identity, by examining both how and why such identities occur.

The shift into Hindu-Christian dialogue uncovers further reasons as to why double religious identity might arise, which includes aesthetics, politics, theology and inculturation. Inculturation is a means of mission and dialogue which involves suitably adapting another religious culture to ground the Church in a different context. This use of religious symbolism has led, at times, to perceptions of its practitioners as both Hindu and Christian. Indeed, this thesis concludes that perception plays a large role in the designation and understanding of people’s double religious identities. It hopes that this research will aid further interest in the interactions between religious identities, particularly within Hindu-Christian dialogue. By taking a broader approach to what constitutes and influences a person’s religious identity, such identities as ‘Hindu-Christian’ can be better understood.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Figure 8, p. 178 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Used by permission.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity > BR0115 Christianity in relation to special subjects > BR0127 Relation of Christianity to other religious and philosophical systems > BR0128 Special, A-Z > BR0128.H5 Hinduism
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religious Studies
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2013 10:32
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 17:08
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/12446

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00