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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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Conclusion 333


Conclusion This book has described and evaluated several components of Johanns’ theological project of synthesizing the Vednnta. Johann had a complex and rich intellectual life which was the result of his distinctive academic training and religious formation. His role as an expositor of Indian philosophy, as a neo-Thomist synthesist, and as a fulfillment theologian has been addressed; his identity as an Orien- talist, a Jesuit humanist, and a follower of the approach of Upndhyny has been noted. Johanns self-consciously developed a theological project, informed by the figures and movements which influenced him most, which he believed would be beneficial to the Church of Christ and to Vednntic philosophy. This project is the lasting legacy for which Johanns is remembered. A survey of six key contributions of Johanns with respect to Christian engagement with Hinduism is now provided, in order to highlight the most important features of Johanns’ ideals and activities that have emerged from the preceding analysis of his project. Summary of Key Contributions of Johanns The necessity of Christian interaction with the Vednnta Johanns was committed to the deep exploration of the Vednnta, submitting its philosophical and practical teachings to theological inquiry from a Christian perspective. O.V. Jathanna, of United Theo- logical College, writes: Johanns, by common consent, is regarded as the most systematic and creative Roman Catholic missionary thinker among those who, in the first part of the 334 twentieth century, made an attempt to interpret the meaning of Jesus Christ and of Christianity in relation to the...

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