Human insufficiency in shinran and Kierkegaard

Asian Philosophy 6 (2):117 – 127 (1996)
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Abstract: Shinran (1173-1263), the founder of the Jōdoshinshū of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, and Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the Danish father of Christian existentialism, belong to very different eras, cultures, and religious traditions. Yet there are striking similarities between their religious philosophies, especially in how both offer theistic views emphasising faith and grace that see the person as radically insufficient to attain complete self-transformation. Both claim that the human person is so radically insufficient that no one can attain Buddhist enlightenment or Christian salvation through his or her own power, but only through divine power. I will argue against some commentators that although the Deity accepts and transforms this insufficiency, even the power of the Deity does not eradicate human insufficiency in this life for the person of faith. I will also argue that Shinran and Kierkegaard differ significantly about the role of human freedom in faith, and that this difference expresses the central difference between Mahāyāna Buddhism and Christianity regarding the relationship between the person and the Deity.



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Joel R. Smith
Skidmore College

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