Bede Griffiths (1906-1993) was an English convert to Catholicism who spent almost half his life as a monk in India. Like many other prominent Christian writers of the twentieth century he was influenced by Indian religions; yet while others primarily sought to compare Christianity to these traditions, Bede Griffiths even implemented notions from Hinduism into his own theology, and desired to express Christian doctrines in the terminology of Vedanta, which is one of the most prominent traditions within Hinduism.
Bede Griffiths’ exposition on Hinduism is part of his theological project, and I will discuss to what degree his exposition on Hinduism is influenced by the development of his theological understanding at large, and how his evaluation of different Hindu traditions changes throughout his work.
Interestingly, of all the different systems of Vedanta, Bede Griffiths was particularly fascinated by the school of Advaita, which is perhaps more dissimilar to conventional Christian theology than any other system of Vedanta. I will explore how his evaluation of Advaita Vedanta and other Hindu traditions is not only based on, but also affected by how he chooses to present Hinduism.
My dissertation will show how Bede Griffiths may serve as an example of interreligious encounter, and how interreligious ecumenism is affected not only by the participants’ outlook, but also by their description of the religious traditions with which they seek to engage. While Bede Griffiths considered his conclusions to be in line with his Catholicism, I will discuss to what extent notions found in his writings are actually representative of the beliefs of Christianity and Hinduism as they are normally understood.
My survey of Bede Griffiths’ writings will show that while he was taken with the idea of interreligious dialogue, his engagement with Hinduism may rather be described as an encounter with Hindu beliefs than with Hindu believers. I will also show that his theology is based on the understanding of a common mystery referred to by all the world religions, a notion which may be at odds with the very premises of Vedanta.