Beyond Compare

Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God

Francis X. Clooney
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Compare
    Book Description:

    Beyond Compare is a remarkable work that offers a commentary on spiritual learning for the twenty-first century rooted in two classic texts from the Hindu and Christian traditions: the Essence of the Three Auspicious Mysteries by Sri Vedanta Desika and Treatise on the Love of God by St. Francis de Sales. In his commentary, Clooney achieves multiple goalsùthe book is a contribution to Christian spiritual theology, highlighting for today the beautiful insights into love by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1623), Doctor of the Church. At the same time it points out how even in our world of many religious paths, we can recover and deepen the ancient tradition of loving surrender into God's hands by opening ourselves to the wisdom of India and one of Hindu India's most famous traditions of loving God, explained to us by the south Indian Hindu theologian Sri Vedanta Desika (1268-1369). Clooney goes further, offering a comparative study of these classic works in which he self-consciously writes about the process of reading the two works and the impact this approach has on the reader. The good advice found through this deep engagement with these texts offers a deeper insight into how we can most fruitfully and spiritually think about religious pluralism in the 21st century, remaining open in heart and mind while loyal still to our own tradition. Not merely a book about loving surrender to God, Beyond Compare offers us the opportunity to advance along that path ourselves, learning from the wisdom of St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Desika, meditating on their two paths together, deepening our own love and willingness to surrender in love to God.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-650-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Chapter 1 Two Spiritual Classics and the Possibilities They Present
    (pp. 1-31)

    When I wrote these words in 1996 near the end of Seeing through Texts, I was enchanted by the one hundred songs of the medieval Hindu devotional classic Tiruvāymoḻi, which I had been studying for more than a decade. I was deeply touched by Śaṭakōpaṉ’s intense devotion, the literary and spiritual worlds he so vividly evoked, his bold act of taking refuge (prapatti) with his Lord Nārāyaṇa and the Goddess Śrī, a moment of loving surrender commonly seen as enacted with this verse:

    “I cannot be away even for a moment,”

    says the Lady of the flower who dwells on...

  5. Chapter 2 Thinking, Writing, Reading: Finding a Path to Loving Surrender
    (pp. 32-82)

    The Essence and the Treatise deal with mysteries central to the Śrīvaiṣṇava and Catholic faiths, respectively. Both are classics of spiritual theology, erudite discourses that skillfully place the call to loving surrender before receptive readers, and in a way that provides new images and more intense affective states to the reader. In this way, the texts make at least imaginable a real transformation of life in the act of loving surrender. They are written to engage and win over those among the faithful who choose to read with attention and piety and who are open to spiritual transformation. All of...

  6. Chapter 3 Awakening: Reading and Learning on the Way to God
    (pp. 83-141)

    In chapter 2, I explored the role and limits of reasoning according to Deśika and de Sales, and how they dealt with the unreliability of our ideas and questions and the words in which they took form. Both were convinced of the deficiency of reasoning that has not benefited from the discipline of tradition, and yet too they were hopeful that properly educated discourse, grounded in tradition and purified of mistaken notions and bad habits, could in practice play a productive, transformative spiritual role. Putting reason back where it belongs is necessarily also a return of language to its grounding...

  7. Chapter 4 Loving Surrender: Insight, Drama, and Ecstasy
    (pp. 142-188)

    Everything up to now has been preparatory for the subject matter taken up in this chapter, for here we finally encounter the major theme of each text: loving surrender as abandonment into the hands of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and as acknowledging one’s helplessness and taking refuge at the feet of the divine couple, Nārāyaṇa with Śrī. In light of the preceding chapters’ reflections on Deśika’s and de Sales’ conception of their reasoning and writing (chapter 2) and several key strategies of that writing (chapter 3), we can now examine how they present the rationale, value, and...

  8. Chapter 5 As We Become Ourselves: On the Ethics of Loving Surrender and of Persistence in Reading
    (pp. 189-212)

    After their intense reflections on loving surrender, Deśika and de Sales see before them the task of ethics or, more specifically, the need for a profile of the lives of religious persons who live in fidelity to the ideal of loving surrender.¹ Much of Essence chapters 13–19 is about the new moral and spiritual practice of the person who has taken refuge; much of Treatise books 10–12 focuses on how love undergirds, integrates, and infuses all the virtues of the person who has loved with the same abandon as Jesus. And we also can ask: If the believer,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 213-248)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-254)
  11. Index
    (pp. 255-271)