By: Fr.Michael Amaladoss, S.J
Two of the challenges that theology faces today are the problem of secularization and ecological destruction. An Asian theology of the world can offer a different perspective in these areas. Secularization is the growing dichotomy and distance between the sacred and the secular. This is facilitated by the autonomous growth of science and technology, on the one hand, and the creationist gap between the Creator and the creature. In a mechanistic theory of creation, an autonomously functioning machine does not depend on its maker to explain its functioning.
The Asian religious traditions keep a link between God and the world through the common theme of life and continuing inter-dependence. This view is not pantheistic, as it 1s often alleged, but adual or advaitic. What is wrong is not the world, but our attachment to it. Our salvation/liberation can be achieved only by our life in the world. The development of the world is an integral dimension of the development of the humans. So it has to be positivel valued and promoted.
A positive view of the world – creation – also opposes its exploitation to satisfy selfish consumer needs. The goal of ecology is not only to improve the quality of life. We have to respect the world and live in harmony with it. Creation is for the whole community of the humans, present and future. It has to be used in a spirit of justice and equality. Living in. harmony with creation the humans also live a holistic life in their bodies. Asian methods of sadhana like the yoga celebrate human life in the body. The body is our mediation to creation and to other humans. The Buddha recommended the middle path between consumerism and deprivation.
The dichotomy between the sacred and the secular withdraws the humans from the world and directs them vertically to the Absolute. Life centres round sacraments and rituals, not other humans and the world in which we all live. Jesus’ new commandment was not a repeat of the old commandment to love God above all things. It was rather to love one another as he loved us. It is in the other that we love God as John explains in his letters. Jesus’ criterion of judgement is not how many rituals we have celebrated, but whether we fed the hungry and clothed the naked humans.
All this should lead us to find God in the world. We have to secularize the sacred. Our concern should be life in the world, not the rituals and their ministers. The rituals should be symbolic celebrations of life. Without life they would have no meaning. Life without sacraments can still be meaningful. Sacraments without life will be empty. I am reminded of the Mahayana Buddhist aphorism: Nirvana is Samsara. It is not self-evident, but an object of realization.
From this point of view we may have to revisit our theologies of liberation. Often inspired by Marxist theory they focus on economics and politics and speak a language of revolution, even justifying violence. Life is more than economics and politics. It also includes persons, society, culture and religion. An integral analysis of society must take into account all these elements.
Our goal is to establish a free and just community of equals. Our option for the poor may lead us to dialogue with the non-poor who are often the real change makers. Non-violent dialogue may be a more effective change maker than revolutionary rhetoric. Liberation theologies, operating in a conflictual mode, have no place for forgiveness, reconciliation and community building. They tend to narrow their context to their experience of oppression. The Buddhist notion of inter-being and compassion may help us to develop a more Asian perspective on liberation.