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Synthesizing the Vedanta

The Theology of Pierre Johanns S. J.


Sean Doyle

Fr Pierre Johanns is a key figure in the history of Christian intellectual engagement with Hindu philosophy. He was the most articulate figure in a group of Belgian Jesuits in Calcutta who sought to develop the theological project initiated by Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, a convert to Catholicism whose theology conveyed a positive appreciation of aspects of Hindu advaitic philosophy. Johanns began to publish a steady stream of articles in the monthly Light of the East that analysed pertinent features of Vedantic thought from the perspective of his neo-Thomistic presuppositions. Johanns engaged in a thorough explication and analysis of the thinking of the Hindu teachers Sankara, Ramanuja, and Vallabha. He attempted to fashion a creative synthesis of their views, constructing a new, holistic metaphysic from the raw material of their respective philosophical theologies.
This book examines the theological writings of Pierre Johanns by situating him within his historical context, by discussing how Johanns interacted with Vedantic philosophy, and by assessing the success of his project.


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Acknowledgements 9


Acknowledgements This book is the result of my PhD research at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. During my years of postgraduate study, I re- ceived guidance from several distinguished scholars, to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. Dr. Timothy C. Tennent of Gordon-Conwell Seminary sparked my interest in Indian theology and philosophy, and he has been a great source of encouragement ever since. His research on Brahmabnndhab Upndhyny introduced me to this field of study and helped me to recognize its importance. Professor John Brocking- ton, who recently retired from holding a personal chair in Sanskrit at Edinburgh, spent a considerable amount of time reading my chapters and offering invaluable suggestions. His incredible range of knowledge and deep erudition are complemented by his gentle manner and his conscientious concern for his students. Professor David Kerr, who was the head of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the non-Western World in Edinburgh, displayed an unrivalled ability to see the ‘big-picture’ of my project. He helped to sharpen my ability to think theologically and critically about the issues of my thesis research. Dr. Elizabeth Koepping provided helpful instruction in Asian Christian history and theology, reinforcing the recognition of the role of social dynamics in the construction of theology. Paul Dundas skillfully introduced me to the complexities and attractions of Sanskrit. His sheer linguistic brilliance made my study of Sanskrit enjoyable. I had the privilege of having two eminent examiners who spent years involved in theological education in India....

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