Making room for the goddess: A theology of Sri in fourteenth-century South India

Speaker: Professor Francis X. Clooney, SJ
Date: May 18, 2007
Time: 16:15

While Vedanta Desika (fourteenth century, South India), as a Srivaisnava Hindu, was a member of a tradition with the greatest respect for the Goddess Sri, in his era there was still lively debate about her precise status in relationship to the supreme deity, Narayana.

In his Srimad Rahasyatrayasara, Desika pushes for a complete acceptance of Sri as the eternal consort of Narayana, an indispensable equal participant in the divine work of enabling human salvation.

Though in many ways a theological conservative and defender of traditional orthodoxy, Desika here shows himself to be radical and innovative in his defense of Sri. Comparison and contrast with debates over the identity of Jesus in early Christian theology and over the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, as co-mediatrix of redemption, clarify Desika’s theological method and contribution to the theology of Sri.

Professor Frank Clooney, SJ, is Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at Harvard. Prof. Clooney is the author of numerous articles and books in the area of Hindu Studies and comparative theology, including Fr. Bouchet’s India: An 18th-Century Jesuit’s Encounter With Hinduism (2005), Divine Mother, Blessed Mother (2005), and Hindu God, Christian God (2001).