Extraordinary chat with Tony George, SJ, yesterday. He is preparing a paper for a Tukaram symposium at Pune University. He has come up with a wonderfully creative approach.
The background is the usual attitude of Hindus. They feel that people like J.E. Abbott, the one who opened Tukaram to the West, are only subserving their Christian missionary goals. They feel Tukaram opens the way to introducing the gospel in India.
Tony takes a different approach. He begins from Cassirer's idea of 'soul-making.' All great literature is involved in soul-making. Tony's thesis is that the reading of Tukaram contributes to soul-making in the Christian. Abbott, for example, is a Protestant; he does not have much to do or say about the feminine aspects of the Christian mystery, because, being a Protestant, he has no place for Mary. Tukaram, instead, speaks of God as mauli, mother. The Protestant Abbott reading Tukaram is led, therefore, to fill a gap in his own religious experience. The paternal and masculine aspect of God is complemented by the maternal and feminine aspect from Tuka. So soul-making continues.
The Hindu, on the other hand, might find in the West and in Christianity a better appreciation of the social aspects. It is strange, Tony pointed out, that Tuka, despite calling God mauli, despised women. He thanks God for not giving him the body of a woman, for example. Here is something that Hinduism might learn from Jesus, who manifests a deep and extraordinary respect for women...
Wonderfully fresh and creative approach, one that I found very respectful, and yet talking about what two traditions might learn from one another.