Interreligious Affinities

Encounters with the Kyoto School and the Religions of Japan

Jan Van Bragt, ed., by James W. Heisig & Seung Chul Kim

Nanzan Institute for Religion & Culture, 2014/. viii + 372 pages

Also available as an eBook.

For over forty-five years Jan Van Bragt labored as one of the pioneers of interreligious dialogue in Japan, leaving behind him an impressive body of written work, most of it having to do with the intellectual and spiritual encounter between Christianity and Japanese Buddhism. Interreligious Affinities is a selection of his writings focusing on the bridges Van Bragt strived to cast between established traditions, between philosophy and theology, between doctrine and religious reality, and between the mystical and the everyday. Again and again Van Bragt insists that the lived, existential needs of religious believers need to be understood not only in terms of the particular heritage of symbols and teachings to which they are affiliated but also in terms of the wider needs of the human community.

A companion volume of Van Bragt’s Japanese essays is also available.

Jan Van Bragt (1928–2007) was born in the city of Sint-
Antonius-Brecht in Flemish Belgium and entered the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at age eighteen. Six years later, in 1952, he was ordained a priest. Immediately after receiving his doctoral degree in philosophy from the University of Leuven with a thesis on Hegel, he set sail for Japan, landing in December of 1961. After a brief stint as a parish priest, he was accepted as a research student at Kyoto University, where he spent the next six years studying with Takeuchi Yoshinori and Nishitani Keiji.
   In 1976 he became the first acting director of the newly established Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, where he remained until his retirement in 1995. In addition to inaugurating the inter-monastic exchange that brought Buddhist monks and nuns from Japan to European monasteries, Van Bragt was also a key figure in the Japan Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, founded in 1982, and served as its president from 1989 to 1997. In his later years he moved to Kyoto where he continued to write and lecture until ill health brought him to Himeji where he passed away at the age of seventy-nine.

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