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Comparing FaithfullyInsights for Systematic Theological Reflection$
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Michelle Voss Roberts

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780823274666

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823274666.001.0001

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Longing and Letting Go

Longing and Letting Go

Lessons in Being Human from Hadewijch and Mirabai

(p.149) 7 Longing and Letting Go
Comparing Faithfully

Holly Hillgardner

Fordham University Press

Holly Hillgardner develops a relational notion of the desiring self by reading the thirteenth-century Christian beguine Hadewijch in light of the sixteenth-century Vaisnava poet-saint Mirabai. Christian mysticism has often been read as moments of blissful union interspersed with long periods of painful absence, with union celebrated as the goal of the spiritual life. Mirabai, however, interprets this mystical ebb and flow through the category of virahabhakti, defined as a bodily, all-pervading “love-longing.” Read in light of Mirabai’s viraha bhakti, Hadewijch’s descriptions of separation and union can be seen as integrated by the concept of love-longing. Viraha bhakti thus provides a schema to celebrate and cultivate such longing, not as a means to an end, but as an end itself. A conscious and sustained lingering in the middle spaces of longing opens Mirabai and Hadewijch to possibilities for mutual, non-possessive relationships with the other, divine and otherwise—a passionate non-attachment.

Keywords:   beguine, desire, Hadewijch, longing, Mirabai, mysticism, passionate non-attachment, relationality, theological anthropology, viraha bhakti

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