© The New Yorker Collection 2008. Frank Cotham from cartoonbank.com.All rights reserved.

Century Marks

Choosing Hell: Walpola Piyananda, a Sri Lankan who was ordained a Buddhist monk at age 12, studied at Northwestern University and lived on the campus of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He says he was treated respectfully by most seminarians except for one, who told him, in front of other students, that as a Buddhist he would land in hell. Piyananda replied that he believed his challenger would go to heaven, but that his “noisy theological disputes” would create a racket that would disturb Piyananda’s meditation if he were there too. Piyananda said that “he would voluntarily choose hell, where he might compassionately serve suffering souls.” The proselytizing stopped (Gustave Niebuhr, Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America, Viking).


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