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From Darkness to Light

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

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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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Critical Appraisal 277

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277 Critical Appraisal It is very hard to fit and fix certain concepts in a human intellectual framework, for those are beyond human thinking and definitions. For example, how can one define universal concepts such as God, eternity, beauty, truth etc.? We could only narrate what they are like and no definition is applicable to such universal concepts. The concept salvation is one of such that has a universal application. To the question what salvation is, no definite answer can be given for the reason that it is not a concept which is uni-dimensional. According to one explanation, salvation connotes safety, security, and well-being, procured by the agency of a deity, who can overcome the hostile cosmic forces that produce in the individual the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. Within the framework of salvation, the saved participates in the power of the savior by identification with, or adoption by, that savior, who thus is the parent of the saved.1 It can be spoken of as a state of perfection, which is constituted by various factors that ensure one’s safety, security and well-being. The spiritual dimension of salvation, although the religions prioritize it as the ultimate aspect, may only be one aspect of the reality. It can be considered a state of welfare, constituted by various elements. Life appears sometimes as a far cry from the ideal claimed by the religions because what humanity needs is salvation from its present condition. With regard to the meaning of salvation, the world religions...

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