Theology After Vedanta

An Experiment in Comparative Theology

By Francis X. Clooney, SJ

Subjects: Asian Religion And Philosophy
Series: SUNY series, Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions
Paperback : 9780791413661, 265 pages, February 1993
Hardcover : 9780791413654, 265 pages, March 1993

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



Chapter One:

Comparative Theology and the Practice of Advaita Vedanta

I. The Elements of the Experiment

II Comparative Theology

1. Calling Comparison "Theological"

2. Calling Theology "Comparative"

3. Comparative Theology in Relation to Other Disciplines

III. Comparative Theology as Practical Knowledge

IV. Advaita, Text and Commentary

1. A Brief Overview of the Advaita as a Commentarial Tradition

2. Advaita as Text: The Flourishing of a Commentarial Tradition

3. Advaita as Uttara Mimamsa: The Purva Mimamsa Paradigm

V. Practical Implications

1. Retrieving the Advaita "Text"

2. From the Study of Sankara to the Study of the Text

3. From Truth outside the Text to Truth after the Text

4. From Reader as Observer to Reader as Participant

Chapter Two:

The Texture of the Advaita Vedanta Text

I. The Texture of the Advaita Text

II. The Rough Texture of the Upanisads

III. The Organization of Upanisadic Knowledge in the UMS

1. Sutra

2. Adhikarana

a. Badarayana's Statement of the Problem regarding Taittiriya 2. 1-6a

b. Sankara's Two Interpretations of Taittiriya 2. 1-6a

c. The Later Commentarial Contribution to the Interpretation of Taittiriya 2. 1-6a

d. Is There a World outside the Text? The Case of World- Renunciation (UMS III. 4.18-20)

3. Weaving the Text Together: Samgati and Pada

a. Samgati: the Connections within a Pada

b. Textured Reasoning (nyaya)

c. Two Strategies of Coherent Practice

i. Coordination (upasamhara) in UMS III. 3

ii. Harmonization (samanvaya) in UMS I. 1

4. Adhyaya and the Organization of the Whole

IV. The Contextualization of Meaning through Engaged Reading

Chapter Three:

The Truth of Advaita Vedanta

I. The Problem of Truth in the Text

II. Strategies of Textual Truth

1. Denying to Brahman its Qualities (nirgunatva)

2. Paradoxes in the Text (mahavakyas)

III. Truth after the Text: The True Meaning of the Upanisads and the World of Advaita

1. UMS III. 3.11-13: Can We Assume that Brahman is Always Bliss?

2. UMS I. 1.5-11: The Upanisads Do Have a Right Meaning

3. UMS I. 1.2: Inference within the Margins of the Upanisads

4. UMS IV. 3.14 and the Systematization of Advaita

IV. Defending Brahman: The Fragmentation of the Other in the Text

1. UMS II. 1.4-11: The Relative Reasonableness of the Advaita Position

2. Arguing the Advaita Position: UMS II. 2.1-10

a. The Structure of UMS II. 2

b. The Refutation of Samkhya in UMS II. 2.1-10 and the Scriptural Reasoning of Advaita

V. Truth, Text and Reader

VI. A Concluding Note on Advaita and Intertextual Truth

Chapter Four:

Advaita Vedanta and Its Readers

I. The Tension between the Text and Its Truth

II. Timeless Truth, Timely Reading: The Truth in Reading

1. The Simplicity and Temporal Complexity of Liberative Knowledge

2. Two Analogies: Music and Yoga

III. Becoming a Reader

1. The Desire to Know Brahman and the Desire to Read

2. Authorizing the Reader: The Prerequisites of Knowledge

IV. The Constraints on Liberation and the Cessation of Reading in UMS III. 4: Description as Prescription

1. Expectations about the Person Who Will Renounce

2. The Ritual Background to Renunciation

3. Prescribing Renunciation

V. Advaita Elitism and the Possibility of the Unauthorized Reader: Finding a Loophole

Chapter Five:

Theology after Advaita Vedanta:

The Text, The Truth, and The Theologian

I. The Practice of Comparative Theology

II. The Composition of the Text for Comparative Theology: Reading the Summa Theologiae and the Uttara Mimamsa Sutras Together

1. Rereading Summa Theologiae I. 13. 4 after UMS III. 3.11-13

a. Setting the Comparison

b. Finding Similarities

c. Finding Differences

d. Some Strategiesfor the Practice of Reading Amalananda and Aquinas Together

i. Coordination (upasamhara): Rulesfor Using Texts Together

ii. Superimposition (adhyasa): The Superimposition of One Text on Another

iii. The Comparative Conversation

iv. The Comparative Tension: Metaphor, Epiphor and Diaphor

v. Collage: Visualizing the Margins of Comparison

2. Are There Incomparable Texts? The Example of ST III. 46. 3

3. The Fruits of Recomposing the Theological Text: Retrieving the Bible and the Commentaries on the Summa Theologiae

a. Retrieving the Citation of the Bible

b. Retrieving the Reading of Commentaries: Cardinal Cajetan on ST I. 13. 4

III. The Truth of Comparative Theology

1. The Patient Deferral of Issues of Truth

2. Truth and the Conflict of Truths in Light of the Textuality of Doctrine

3. The Truth of the Theology of Religions

4. The Truth about God

IV. The Education of the Comparative Theologian .

1. Texts as Teachers

2. The Education of the Comparativist: Competence, Motivation and Limits

3. The Comparativist as Educator

V. Finishing the Experiment


Selected Bibliography


Francis X. Clooney, S. J., is Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at Harvard Divinity School. His many books include Seeing through Texts, also published by SUNY Press.


"In two respects this is a truly original book. First, it elaborates the fundamental truth that people and communities live from the word of scripture, not from doctrines to which scriptures tend to be reduced. Second, this book refuses to take a higher view in theories applied to scriptures. Second, this book refuses to take a higher view in the History of Religions by passing superficially attractive judgments on either Christianity or Hinduism. It does not take sides with either dogmatism or liberalism, and its impartiality is modest. The author does not attack any side; he appreciates, compares, and then seeks such theological illumination as the process of appreciation and comparison warrants.

"The message addressed to Catholic theologians deserves careful attention. My hunch is that history-of-religions scholars, some of whom are former Christians with chips on their shoulders, can learn a lot about just what kind of commitment is necessary to take non-Christian religious traditions seriously.

"I think Clooney's approach holds real promise for interreligious dialogue because it operates from within the setting of an encounter between strange and seemingly incompatible worlds. It refuses to adopt for its point of departure, an imperious general theory about the possible significance that any religion could have. This is an exercise in theological neighborliness, not summitry. " — Frans Jozef van Beeck, S. J., John Cardinal Cody Professor of Catholic Theology, Loyola University

"The most important aspect is the recognition and the demonstration that 'Vedanta' as a conceptual scheme cannot be comprehended without knowledge of the presuppositions, postulates, and epistemological instruments of Purva Mimamsa. No one, to my knowledge, ever argued this out properly before Clooney. " — Sheldon Pollock, George V. Bobrinskoy Professor of Sanskrit and Indic Studies, and Chair of the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago