How does Eastern Thought differ?

Discussion in 'Eastern Religions and Philosophies' started by iBrian, May 13, 2004.

  1. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    It's been mentioned before that Eastern Thought and Western thought differ quite remarkably. Thus concepts integral to Eastern thought have a hard time of being properly represented in translations into Western languages such as English.

    However, what are the actual core differences, and how fundamental are they? And if they are so prevalent, how are Westerners able to approach the Eastern texts with any real sense of understanding?
     
  2. samabudhi

    samabudhi New Member

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    Just a quick thought.
    Whereas we divide the universe's constituents into 'exists' and 'does not exist', the Ancient Indians thought of the universe as 'motion' and 'that in which motion can take place.'

    When I heard this I gave it some thought, but was so bowled over at the possibilities I encountered, that I quickly buried the subject in my 'things to think over' list.

    The western notion explains the 3 dimensions, but not time, whereas the Indian one incorporates time as well.
     
  3. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,


    thank you for a good topic, Brian.

    this thread:
    http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=560

    highlites some differences in the world views.

    Alan Watts described three basic philosophical ideas of nature. The western mechanical view of nature which stems from ancient Greek science as well as from the Bible in which God made a man out of clay and breathed the breath of life into him. Viewpoints that everything in nature was "made", as man was made of clay. So we in the west generally have a mechanical view toward nature, that all things in nature are "made" of something other than itself and that each has a function or reason for being. Our very language is rooted in this viewpoint. What is quite interesting is that western mans' scientific quest to find out exactly what everything is made of has led us to some amazing discoveries, which seem to point towards what many people in various parts of the world have known for thousands of years.

    The second philosophical viewpoint toward nature is that of the Hindu tradition, where nature is a drama. Brahman (The Supreme Being) is basically bored, the principle being that if you had full control over everything it would be a lot of fun for a while but you would soon become extremely tired, lonely and bored, you would know absolutely everything that was going to happen... there would be no surprises, no fun. So, for fun, Brahman cycles through periods of time (Kalpas), one of which he falls into a deep sleep and dreams. In these dreams he is playing the parts of all things in nature, including you and I. He does this to live in the myriad of unknowns and surprises, thoroughly convinced that everything is real (not his dream). So this viewpoint takes the stance that everything is Brahman playing out a drama. Brahman is playing out all the parts, wearing all the masks. Nothing is to be taken seriously, because it is all just a play, a drama put on by Brahman. This is a circular cycle that goes on and on and on, never ending.

    The third viewpoint of nature is from the Chinese, who use the word Li, to describe nature as organic pattern, translated as the markings in jade, the grain in wood, and the fiber in muscle. All of it is just infinitely beautiful, flowing in all sorts of complicated patterns. There is an order to it, but you cannot put your finger on it. It simply cannot be measured or put into words or symbols. When you look at a cloud, it is not a cube, nor is it circular. It has no specific order to it that we can describe and yet it is perfect. Look at a tree, a mountain, or the foam on water when it hits the shoreline, even the stars; all amazingly beautiful, in all kinds of wild and crazy patterns. All of it has an order to it that we simply cannot measure or describe. This is Li - organic pattern.

    the interested reader can find more information on Alan Watts here:
    http://www.alanwatts.com/essential_aw1.html
     
  4. Zazen

    Zazen New Member

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    i dont like alan watt, might just be his damn accent that gets me though

    amitabha
     
  5. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    :)

    hehe... i'm rather fond of the fellow myself... i find his lecture style to be quite engaging.. then again... i enjoy British humor :)

    oh.. Brian... as an aside... consider the irony of your posting alias vis a vie the Buddhist section ;)

    it's actually quite clever... in a British sort of way :)
     
  6. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Thanks for the heads up - though I'm afraid I'm not very conversant with Buddhist humour. :)
     
  7. Pathless

    Pathless Fiercely Interdependent

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    I'm not so sure that the Hindu tradition encourages people not to take life seriously. For example, when Krishna reveals Himself and the true nature of reality to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, he is applying a balm to Arjuna's guilty conscience about going to battle against his family, but I don't think that he's encouraging him to take the battle less seriously. For Arjuna, the revelation that he is a character expression of the supreme consciousness playing a part tailor-made for him in the cosmic drama absolves him of any wrong-doing, yet Krishna urges him to fight earnestly in the battle, since to not do so would be to forgo the role that he has been created to play, creating more suffering for himself and also others.

    My understanding is of course limited, but how I understand Lila is that it is only not to be taken seriously, as Vaj has said, on the cosmic or ultimate level. As individual beings, we still have to live earnestly and make serious attempts. Sometimes, people may, for whatever reason, have glimpses into super-consciousness and see things as they truly are--pure, unharmed and unharmable, stainless, perfect--but it is very difficult for a human being to live their life maintaining this sort of perception. If a person were able to, then it would be as Vaj hinted at--caught up in the brilliant staging and choreography, drunk as it were on the divine perfection and cosmic hilarity of it all, he or she would be unable to fulfill his or her own important role in the drama.

    I also am under the impression that the cycle can come to an end for the individual , if not for Brahma Itself. Much as for the Buddhist the goal is merging with Nirvana, so for the "Hindu" practitioner the goal is transcending individual existence and merging with Brahma. So, human life is a very serious business of right action and intention, with the goal of burning one's karmic bonds so that one can return to Brahma. Of course, I think I see Vaj's point: you can burn all your karmic bonds and return to Brahma, but after a while when Brahma gets bored again, he's just going to go ahead and dream you up a new existence! :D If it's any consolation, though, by that time, "you" will be ready for some more existence since, being merged in Brahma, "you" will also be bored stiff. :eek: :confused: :D ;)

    Anyhow, I think Alan Watts is great. His book The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are does an excellent job of explaining the Hindu concept of Vedanta, which is very similar to what we are discussing here as far as the Brahma Lila thing.
     

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