In the last century there has been a remarkable expansion of studies of Rāmānuja by scholars outside the Śrīvaiṣṇava community. This paper concentrates on the contributions of some Christian scholars. Many of the earlier studies focused on Rāmānuja’s opposition to Śaṇkara’s interpretation of the Vedanta, with Roman Catholic scholars tending to favor Śaṇkara and Protestant scholars Rāmānuja. The Belgian Jesuit Pierre Johanns argued for a Christian reinterpretation of the Vedanta that would merge the truths in the different Hindu schools, giving primary importance to Śaṇkara, but modifying the Hindu teaching through the distinctive Christian doctrine of “creation out of nothing.” Later his fellow Jesuit Richard De Smet reaffirmed the primary value of Śaṇkara’s own genuine teachings for Christian theology. Current studies represented in this issue affirm the positive value for Christian theology of Rāmānuja’s version of the Vedanta. Christian studies continue to expand their treatment of Rāmānuja, examining not just his great commentary on the Vedanta Sutras but also all the other writings that his community ascribes to him. In addition, some scholars are looking at the devotional traditions before and after him, especially the hymns of the Tamil poet-saints, composed before, and the commentaries on those hymns, written in the first centuries after him. Such expansion of Christian interpretation requires greater interpretation among scholars, both Christian and Hindu. Christian learning from another religious position begins with noticing something similar though not the same as that in their own religion. Thus far, in the case of Rāmānuja, there is no agreement as to which similarities are more significant and how they relate to some specific version of Christian theology. There may be instances of partial convergence where it is impossible for a Christian either to affirm or deny the truth of Rāmānuja’s teaching. Here it may be important to recognize what is often considered an aesthetic judgment: appreciation. One example is a later Śrīvaiṣṇava estimate of Rāmānuja himself, that he fulfilled the “prophecy” of the poet-saint Nammalvar, being the one who initiated the end of our age of darkness and the return of the golden age.
Carman, John B.
"Expanding and Refining Christian Interpretations of Rāmānuja,"
Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies:
Vol. 31, Article 9.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.7825/2164-6279.1701