Towards enhanced divine-human-earth relations: a Christian-Buddhist contribution

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Doctoral Dissertation 2014.pdf(1.67 MB)
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Twomey, Margaret P.
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University College Cork
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The central claim of the dissertation is that lesser known and somewhat neglected, yet influential thinkers, within classical religious traditions have something worthwhile to contribute to the kind of ethos we should adopt in the face of the world’s various environmental crises. Moreover an exploration of such perspectives is best done in dialogue, particularly between Eastern and Western thought. I examine this claim primarily through a dialogue between the Christian philosopher John Scottus Eriugena and the Japanese Buddhist philosopher Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi). This dialogue, framed by the triad of divine-human-earth relations, primarily emphasises the oneness of all reality, and it finds expression in Eriugena’s concept of natura or phusis and Kūkai’s central teaching that the phenomenal world is the cosmic Buddha Dainichi. By highlighting this focus, I contribute to the existing academic field of ecology and religion on the subject of holism. However, I go beyond the materialist focus that generally marks such ecological holism within that field, offering instead a more metaphysical approach. This is indicated through my use of the concept of ‘immanental transcendence’ to describe Eriugena’s and Kūkai’s dynamic, numinous and mysterious notion of reality, as well as my exploration of Eriugena’s concept of theophany and Kūkai’s notion of kaji. I further explore how both philosophers highlight the human role in the process of reaching enlightenment—understood as attaining union with the whole. In that regard, I note significant differences in their positions: in particular, I note that Kūkai’s emphasis on bodily practices contrasts with Eriugena’s more conceptual approach. Finally to bolster my claim, I examine some ecologically oriented understandings of contemporary phenomenological approaches found particularly in the work of Jean-Luc Marion and to a lesser extent Merleau-Ponty, arguing that these reflect notions of reality and of the human role similar to those of the medieval philosophers.
Eriugena , Kukai , Japanese Buddhist philosophy , Medieval Christian philosophy , Ecological theology , Gift and givenness , Jean-Luc Marion , Ecology and religion , Environmental philosophy , Ecophenomenology , Transcendence and immanence , Environment
Twomey, M. P. 2014. Towards enhanced divine-human-earth relations: a Christian-Buddhist contribution. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.