Volume 25, 2018
Borrowing a Prophetic Voice, Actualizing the Prophetic Dimension: Rita Gross and Engaged Buddhism
Charles R. Strain
“I am taking permission, as a Buddhist,” Rita Gross boldly affirmed, “to use the prophetic voice.” More than any other engaged Buddhist scholar she made this voice an explicit part of her work. This article explores the prophetic voice/dimension within Buddhism by pushing further along the path that Gross has blazed. This involves, first, a return to the classical Hebrew prophets where, arguably, the religious dimension of the prophetic voice is most clearly presented. The second section deconstructs the misogynistic narratives that pervade the prophetic literature and their theology of retributive justice and then offers an argument about what is salvageable in the prophet’s raw speech. The third section examines how Gross applies a prophetic method to the deconstruction of the androcentric views and the patriarchal structures of all schools of Buddhism. The final, fourth, section comes to terms with the religious chords sounding in the prophets’ declamations. It does so by examining three aspects of the prophetic mode of being religious: allegiance to the God of Exodus, the practice of grief, and the practice of hope. In each case it suggests what challenges these modes of being religious present to engaged Buddhists.