BETHANY, W.Va. – Dr. Holly Hillgardner, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, has authored a new book, titled “Longing and Letting Go: Hindu and Christian Practices of Passionate Non-attachment.”
Slated to be published on December 1, 2016, by Oxford University Press, this book explores and compares the energies of desire and non-attachment in the writings of two women, one a sixteenth-century Hindu named Mirabai, and the other a thirteenth-century Christian named Hadewijch.
“Mirabai’s and Hadewijch’s practices of longing offer clues for a way of living – a lived ethic – that encourages desire for the flourishing of the world, without that passion consuming the world, the other, or the self,” Hillgardner said. “For example, do practices of passionate non-attachment, informed and inspired by those of Hadewijch and Mirabai have implications for the way we relate to each other as gendered beings? What can they offer our efforts to care for the earth? What do these practices offer us as we learn from those whose religions differ from ours?” Questions such as these invite readers to explore longing and letting go as resources for the pursuit of social justice.
According to Hillgardner, Hadewijch’s writings are first viewed through the lens of Mirabai’s viraha-bhakti, or “love-longing” and Mirabai’s songs of viraha-bhakti are also read through the lens of Hadewijch’s concept of “noble unfaith,” which names a particular version of passionate non-attachment.
Though this book moves into themes of theological anthropology, comparative feminist ethics and religiously plural identities, Hillgardner says the book’s themes are autobiographical. “The concrete existential questions – ones I once asked fervently as I nursed a 25-year old husband with terminal cancer and continue to ask today, over 15 years later – paved the way for the unfolding of this book’s comparative theological journey into passionate non-attachment,” Hillgardner said.
Hillgardner received her B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1995, her M.T.S. from the Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University in 2005, and her Ph.D. in Theology and Philosophy with a concentration in Women’s Studies from Drew University in 2013.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.