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From Darkness to Light

The Concept of Salvation in the Perspectives of Thomas Aquinas and Śankara


Santosh Thomas Karingadayil

The question on salvation with its multifarious dimensions had always been a significant subject-matter of discussion from time immemorial. All the religious traditions attempt to formulate appropriate answers to the questions related to this, one of the most crucial issues in theological reflections. Still the concept remains wide open for further research. It is St. Paul who said that, «For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.» (1 Cor. 13:13) Salvation, as St. Paul conceives it, is a face to face vision of God in perfect knowledge merited through the person of Christ and through the gratuitous gift of grace. It is a passage from ignorance to truth, from darkness to light and from death to immortality (Br. Upa. I. iii. 27). From Darkness to Light aims at an enhanced understanding of the concept of salvation, comparing the theological and soteriological positions of Thomas Aquinas and Śankara. The author has made an admirable attempt in Comparative Theology, deciphering and clarifying all related concepts of salvation in both the thinkers.


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PART I: From Bondage to Salvation 7


7 PART I: From Bondage to Salvation The word ‘bondage’ has a universal application. A person can be spiritually, physically, psychologically, mentally or even politically bound. The spiritual dimension of the term bondage has been one of the major concerns of all religions. In Christian theology the term bondage is better expressed by the concept of sin. Many of the religious leaders and thinkers ended up at the fact that it is ultimately sin and its after-effects that make human life bound and miserable. To free oneself from sin is to free oneself from bondage. It is in this context of seeking a way for being freed from the consequences of sin that the different religions and theologians refer to the concept of ‘salvation’. And in this first part of our study, we devote two chapters to discuss, in detail, the concept of salvation from the points of view of two thinkers. The whole study concentrates itself on the teachings of Aquinas and Śaïkara, for among the many great teachers of Advaita Vedanta’s venerable tradition, Śaïkara is the one most familiar to Christian theologians and contemplatives seeking to grasp the meaning and significance of Hindu teaching on non-duality for Christian theology and spirituality.1 In the first chapter an attempt is made to explain the concept as it is developed in the thought pattern of Thomas Aquinas, the great scholastic theologian of the Middle Ages. The second chapter discusses at length the concept salvation in the philosophy of Śa...

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