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Document Details :
Title: Marx, Jesus, and Buddha
Subtitle: The Counter-Culture of Sebastian Kappen SJ (1924-1993) against the Background of Indian Liberation Theology
Author(s): ANTONY, Mathew Thekkemuriyil , GODDEERIS, Idesbald
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 43 Issue: 2 Date: 2020
The article discusses the life and work of the South Indian Jesuit Sebastian Kappen (1924-1993) and his position among other progressive theologians in South Asia. Kappen became a prolific writer from the 1970s onwards, possibly being motivated by the Louvain priest and sociologist François Houtart. Initially, he wrote on Marxist themes, such as the Church’s alienation from the poor. In his first English-language book Jesus and Freedom (1977), he put forward the human character of Jesus (instead of the deified Christ). This book brought him into conflict with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but eventually no action was taken against him. In the 1980s, Kappen increasingly wrote about Asian religious traditions, particularly valuing the Buddha’s ideology of a casteless and anthropocentric society and the Bhakti movement’s opposition to the prevalent Brahmanic hierarchical system and ritualistic ceremonies. By the end of his life, Kappen also launched a new concept that would become the culmination of his thoughts: counter-culture. Targeting the culture defined by the ruling classes and/or high castes, it embraced all of the themes Kappen had been working on in the previous decades. All in all, Kappen was much more radical than India’s best-known liberation theologians Samuel Rayan SJ, Madathiparamil Mammen Thomas and Paulose Mar Paulose and was closer to the Sri Lankan theologians Tissa Balasuriya and Aloysius Pieris.