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10.4: Study Questions on Similarities and Differences

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    On first reading, these excerpts from the Milindapanha and Anselm's Proslogion present two very different religious expressions, giving voice to what may seem to be unrelated, if not contradictory, religious beliefs. It is a challenge to find what features the two examples share in common. Spend some time comparing the accounts. Focus more on the process of thinking represented than on the specific thoughts, more on the inquiry and reasoning involved than on the explicit results. Keep in mind the danger of generalizing from these specific forms of theologyo to all such forms in either tradition. Be mindful as well of how much may be involved implicitly in the actual practice of these specific forms of theologizingo that may be going unsaid in the excerpts. Consider the following questions.

    1. What similarities do you find? (Consider, for example, how each appeals to reason and to the reader's interest in moving from intellectual puzzlement to understanding; how each cultivates the movement to a deeper intellectual understanding as itself a drawing near to the religious objective of at-onement with ultimate realityo; how ultimate realityo for each lies beyond ordinary, explicit modes of thought; how argumentation in each aims at provoking a shift in perspective and leap of intuitive insight to comprehend matters that transcend mundane frames of reference; etc.).
    2. Assuming that both of these practices exemplify the same generic way of being religious in two distinct religious traditions, what if anything do the similarities identified in answer to the first question indicate that is essential to that way of being religious (which the framework identifies as the way of reasoned inquiry)?
      1. What do these two practices have in common regarding their respective means of approach to ultimate realityo?
      2. What characteristic existential problems are each concerned with and seeking to address? What do the accounts presume to be motivating their respective readers?
      3. Is there anything that indicates the characteristic way each interprets its broader tradition's scripture and symbol system in a manner distinct from other traditional ways of taking them? What sorts of features of ultimate realityo does each specifically highlight? That is, what kind of "face" does each envision ultimate realityo to have?
      4. What sorts of social structures (social organization, group activity, roles and responsibilities, etc.) do these excerpts each imply or presuppose for its way of being religious? (This question may be harder to answer in connection with these excerpts than with others.)
      5. What specific virtues in the practice of its form of religious life (i.e., the kind of religious intellectual inquiry it embodies) does each appear to commend, whether explicitly or implicitly, and what specific vices in that practice does each appear to condemn? (Be careful here to distinguish criticisms each may apparently offer of the religious practices of others from critical expectations set for its own followers.) That is, what ideal(s) of practice does each uphold? And what sorts of things would fall short of those ideals?
    3. What differences do you find? (Consider, for example, the distinct conceptions of ultimate realityo in each; the readiness of the one to speak of ultimate realityo as a being and the unreadiness of the other to do so; the passionate desire for an intimate, personal rapport with ultimate realityo in the one and a relatively dispassionate, pragmatic interest in comprehending things for the sake of release from the treadmill of mundane life in the other; the acknowledgement in the one of divine grace in bestowing insight and understanding and the apparent absence of anything comparable in the other; etc.).
    4. To what extent do there seem to be incompatibilities or contradictions between statements made in the two excerpts? Are these contradictions substantial or might they be apparent only?9
    5. What among the differences identified in questions 3 and 4 seems to be due to what makes the one Buddhist (or specifically Theravada Buddhist) and the other Christian (or specifically Western Augustinian Christian)? (Again beware, here, of concluding that these practices represent all instances of the way of reasoned inquiry in their respective traditions.)

    This page titled 10.4: Study Questions on Similarities and Differences is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dale Cannon (Independent) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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