A Lancaster University Professor has been commended for his book which brings Indian and Western religious and philosophical ideas together.
The Society for Hindu-Christian Studies announced Professor Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad as the author of the Best Book in Hindu-Christian Studies (2011-2015).
The book, entitled ‘Divine Self, Human Self: The Philosophy of Being in Two Gita Commentaries’(Bloomsbury), focuses on the 2000-year-old Bhagavad-Gita (The Divine Song), a central text in Hindu traditions.
The text has attracted many commentaries which express a range of philosophical-theological positions.
Two of the most significant commentaries are by Śaṅkara (8th Century) and by Rāmānuja (11th Century), influential thinkers who continue to play a large role in Hindu religious thought to this day.
“Their commentaries offer rich resources for alternative Hindu understanding of divine reality, the human self, metaphysical being, the relationship between God and human, and the moral psychology of action and devotion,” says Professor Ram-Prasad.
“The book approaches their commentaries through the study of a range of critical ideas found in the commentaries.”
While reading the Sanskrit commentaries carefully, Professor Ram-Prasad develops reconstructions of each philosophical-theological system, drawing relevant and constructive comparisons with contemporary Christian theology and Western philosophy.
“As such, the book offers a rigorous yet imaginative way of bringing Indian and Western religious and philosophical ideas to engage with each other to illuminate in both our pluralistic and polycentric world,” adds Professor Ram-Prasad.
“My career has been driven by the desire to bring the riches of Indian ‘thought’ to the global debates about the big question of human life, which are normally debated almost entirely in the terms of western culture.”
The book takes some of its ideas from work Professor Ram-Prasad undertook on Hindu-Christian relations with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
“It was a productive experience for me to chair private and public meetings Dr Williams had with various Hindu religious leaders and thinkers during his visits to India,” said Professor Ram-Prasad. “In a way this is the scholarly outcome of a socially complex situation that is Hindu-Christian relations.”
The Society for Hindu-Christian Studies will hold a panel discussion of Professor Ram-Prasad's book at the November 2016 annual meeting in San Antonio, Texaco.
A Society spokesperson said they had been impressed by the way in which the book moved from a deep understanding of contemporary Christian philosophical theology into a genuinely new take on Vedantic debates.
The book was funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council major research grant.