29. juin, 2017

Do you think that Eastern cultures are, in general, more meditative ... (www.researchgate.net)

Do you think that Eastern cultures are, in general, more meditative, contemplative, and philosophical than current Western cultures?

Do you think possible that Eastern cultures, being more inward looking, do not understand well the extreme activity (hyperactivity) in contemporary Western societies and consequently cannot follow it, and sometimes cannot tolerate it ?


Alain Robert Coulon asked : Do you think that Eastern cultures are, in general, more meditative, contemplative, and philosophical than current Western cultures ? Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/post/Do_you_think_that_eastern_cultures_are_in_general_more_meditative_contemplative_and_philosophical_than_current_western_cultures [accessed Jun 29, 2017].

 
 

 

Assuming "west" to mean "Greco-Roman", and "East" as a connotation of the cultures of the Middle East, Russia right up to Japan; and taking the dichotomy to relate broader to philosophies, then it would be an affirmative, "yes" to the question. As the west represents the logical, and the east, the intuitive. Another interesting glimpse into this dichotomy is afforded by the study of mystical elements in comparative religion. One work I have in mind is Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism. By definition contemplatives dwell on the inner life and the idea  of simply being. The logical, Western emphasis is on ends, and the idea of becoming. Activity and projects function as milestones towards a final goal. So yes there can be a clash of cultures due to a clash in philosophy. Contemplatives focus on detachment and contentment, while the "actives" focus on engagement and achievements. Both are aspects that are vital towards a healthy dialectical existence as a human being. Just like the left and right hemispheres if the brain. Throughout history, individuals coming from opposite sides of the cultural-philosophical divide have yearned for the "greener grass on the opposite side of the fence".

 

All Answers (19)

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    Gyorgy Banhegyi · 129.79 · Medicontur Medical Engineering Ltd.
     
    Thanks for this interesting note. There are certain well-estalished differences between the so-called East and West, e.g. "collective personality" and "ndividual perosonality" or the differences observed by Glasenapp in the religions ("religions of the World law" and "revealed releigions" associated with impersonal and personal gods - although in this respect Western Asia /Near East/ rather belongs to the West). On the other hand the temporal sensitivity of the Chinese (chronology, dinasites, hsitory) is quite different form the of Indians, who are much more interested in the eternal. I still beleive that a more or less objective scheme could and should be developed for the semquantitative comparison of cultures. Probably there are such schemes only I do not know of them. This is not an artistic approache but it closer to my engineering mind.
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      Thanks for your contribution, Gyorgy.
      Today I would like to try to go a little further. As usual I begin by methodology

      1) Not only systems, "isms" are always wrong, but ideas and thoughts as well are only beacons lit to try to see clearer. Thoughts will naturally never be truth, reality. Reality, having many layers, is very complex, never simple. It is impossible to grasp it with the human brain - the brain being only a specific living structure, fruit of evolution, which cannot be objective, as Lorenz explains. I would say ideas are like imaginary numbers, impossible numbers, in mathematics. Love and intuition can do better, go deeper.

      2) I try to go right to the core of things, so that a whole book would be necessary to develop each idea. Moreover, contrasts are necessary, grey thinking is tasteless. Black and white is better than grey , and to add all colors is almost above human abilities.
      In "The sherpa and the white man", sometimes I sum up a whole book, or I give a direction for further researches in two sentences.
      There is much to do and the efforts of many persons of good will are required.
      A new area of researches is opening because now all translations have been done in several very different cultural realms.
      Therefore, the entire panorama of human experiences is just in front of your eyes, for the first time in history : in time and space, historically and geographically, all what mankind did and thought can be reached, studied and synthesized.
      Many detailed analysis has been made, in all fields, but synthesis is lacking.
      Dis-construction has been made to the full, but re-construction is the new necessary step, as far as possible.

      3) It seems that all leaderships have failed : political, ethical, intellectual, religious (in the ordinary sense). Hence, mankind at a whole is now at a very difficult and dramatic juncture.
      Common reactions are : despair, cynicism, "giving up", that is to say laziness, or leaving all consideration of the whole, to focus only on details.

      4) I have to say I am an independent researcher , although I have been a long time a lecturer at the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. My first major was Western philosophy , later Chinese, then Japanese. I stayed and travelled 21 years in Asia and I am now back to the West. I have never been as objective as I am now.
      I did not study comparative anthropology at the start : I was led to it by all my life experiences.
      I love Asia but I have no illusions or exaggerated ideals about it. But it is exactly the same with the civilization I belong to, or belonged to.
      It is very difficult in cultural anthropology not to chose a side, consciously or unconsciously. Since India and Russia are "in the middle", they are very important to me. I feel more comfortable and more balanced there.


      5 ) I am not interested in politics, or more exactly I have no illusions, or definitive choices, or aims, or purposes, in this realm. I am only an observer, a thinker and a philosopher. The global view of the whole planet is the only positive value.
      Hopefully, a new philosophy , or civilization, will appear at some point, perhaps after huge disasters.
      I believe the Orient and Asia, and other old "forgotten" cultures, will have a large role and responsibility during this new stage.

      6) Going back to the question and topic involved, one of my hypothesises is that the West is now, at its turn, but psychologically and philosophically, in the position Asia (and the Orient in general) was, in the middle of the nineteenth century, in the scientific and technological fields.
      The first world war has been the beginning of the decline. One century is a very short time in History. The decadence foreseen by Spengler is increasing, and very difficult to deny.
      One historical proof, or sign, or symbol of it, is that Christianity is sick at the social, institutional, intellectual, philosophical levels, not of course at the individual level, where all remains possible in faith, love, action.
      Conversely, other creeds, other religions are obviously thriving.

      7) It is naturally much more complex than that, but Western civilization has been built on three huge pillars, or temples :
      A) Greek philosophy which has been more and more neglected and which, as a very ancient and basic thought, is closer to Asian thought
      B) Christian philosophy. Yet mission work, "missiology", by and large, has failed to "conquer" the world
      C) what can be called "modern thought", which has been accompanying the fantastic, and very fast, too fast development of sciences and technologies.

      8) "Modern thought", born in the West, is slowly penetrating everywhere, and playing a unifying role to some extent, this is certain.

      However, the power and the universal validity of it, is overemphasized by most observers and commentators in contemporary Western media - and this is day dreaming.
       
       
    • Monica Stevens · 3.65 · Monica Stevens, MES Consulting Services, LLC
       
      I would think that Eastern cultures like China and Japan are more contemplative and philosophical, but so are indigenous people from the Americas (Native Americans and descendents from the Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs). Their ancient religions seem to have in common a contemplative view of life in general. Japanese Haiku poems, are similar to Mexico´s Emperor Nezahualcoyotl´s poetry in their depth and feeling.
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      Dear Monica,

      Many thanks for your answer.

      I agree entirely with you. I know little about indigenous people in America but, while reading Castaneda, I noticed that the ideas and cosmology of the Yaqui Indians (North of Mexico - Sonora desert ) are somewhat similar to Asian thought. For example, the idea of "non activity", very important in Chinese philosophy, which is not at all "non action", but passive activity, or active passivity (passive action and active passion).

      Besides, E. T Hall is saying something close to this about Hopi Indians in "The Hidden Dimension", and elsewhere.
      Whatever can be thought about the nine or ten books written by Castaneda, at the very beginning he was trained as an anthropologist.

      I am not at all disturbed by all that because, in general, the difference between East and West can be seen inside our brains, like "brain maps" so to speak, not, or not only geographically.

      People in either place can feel like in the exact opposite - as if they were born "in the wrong place" - at least for them.
      And this is why they want to travel to the other place they like more, or about which they dream, and study it.

      And it is well documented, but still very foggy, that links existed during the dawn of mankind between Africa, Tanganyika Lake, Eurasia, and America via Alaska, down to Patagonia, Terria del Fuego (or the reverse)
      However,, I have an hypothetical theory that the axis of the world is neither West/Est (more cultural) nor South/ North (more economical, the rich and the poor), but indeed North/East versus South/West.
      This is true at least in Eurasia, for the orientation of mountains on this continent is exactly such : NE/SO. See on that the interesting Memories by Count Kropotkin. He was a member of the Russian geographic society and did field researches on what can be called "orography".

      To what extent the culture and geographic situation for the indigenous people in America can be linked and correlated to this hypothesis, I don't know. At least it is correct for Lapland, and other lands, in the north of Eurasia.

      Generally speaking, my question is more a time problem than a space problem.
      The Greek and the Roman were closer to the Asian - so were the Middle Ages cultures.

      The modern "personalism" is better on one hand, but worst or defective, and deceptive on the other hand.
      Despite a tendency to universality, or universalization. the "principle of individualization" seems to me still very different in the West and in Asia.
      "Private" means "separate", a separation from Others and from the Cosmos and Nature.

      Of course the collective being also dangerous, a kind of balance, or a new equilibrium have to be sought.
      So here the question is becoming a huge and complex historical problem (the future of mankind - our direction to the future) and furthermore, a philosophical problem, or spiritual problem.
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      Monica Stevens · 3.65 · Monica Stevens, MES Consulting Services, LLC
       
      This is a very interesting topic. I will have to consider your theory about NE/SO affecting culture more than Southern vs. Northern cultures. I have always thought that Northern cultures are more creative and more hard working simply because of their harsher weather. When you need to store food all winter, and find a way to insulate your house from extreme cold, you need to be creative,

      Now, the concept of personalism in high'-context societies refers more to the need for personal interaction in all aspects of life (business, family, society, all wrapped into one), than to an individualistic approach to human relations. Personalism is extremely important in certain societies, like the Latin Americans, who incorporate social interaction in their business dealings.

      As you say, the links between African people and those in Tierra del Fuego must have stemmed from the theory of Pangaea (which I happen to believe). The similarities between such faraway cultures are too striking, as are physical characteristics.

      Perhaps all cultures have something in common, even if we all adopt a different approach to values and traditions.
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      Thanks for the exchange of ideas on this wonderful site.

      About weather, climate, I agree entirely, this is always very important.
      And I believe also there was probably a supercontinent : pangaea. Plus other lands, or smaller continents, all lost in the immense sea.

      Thinking about this after reading your message, I realize that logic alone can be useful to prevent mistakes.

      For instance, can we say there was one cradle only for mankind, or several, or hundreds ? Probably there was one, or several ones, a main one, and secondary ones.
      Life and some kind of civilizations could arise separately in several places, but not in too many places. To draw a parallel about researches and discoveries, it has been very often noticed that an invention was "in the air" of the times, and consequently appeared simultaneously in several countries because it was ripe. The French, always so self-centered, are used to say that Henri Poincaré who died in 1912 anticipated Einstein, or could have been an Einstein. However there has been only one Einstein.

      There is a kind of Asian factor which I call X factor and if this Factor X is also present in indigenous people, in the old cultures of the Andes, it is even better. I know by experience it is also present in some parts of Africa. It is an old element, an archaic element in mankind.

      I believe it is indeed present in all of us, in any human being in any culture, but it is hidden, or repressed, or under developed. It is potentially present. I cannot sum up in a few sentences what is written in some chapters, or here and there, in "the Sherpa and the white man" (in free access on my profile in my own clumsy and imperfect translation).

      I say this is a bio-psychological factor. Not of course an anatomical factor, but biology is to be taken in account.
      It is the way the nervous system, the brain waves are used, and able to function. It is a way to restrict the expansion of the body at will. A way not to dilate human flesh, that is to say to control life, to master living power in oneself. It is biological, psychological and ethical at the same time.
      It is also a way not to speak too much, because the power of speech is too precious to be wasted, and because very probably low loquacity is changing the mind, and giving rise to other energies (in archaic times, the power of speech may have been close to sorcery - this being obvious in monosyllabic languages, like Chinese, Thai and others - and consequently used with great care - more researches have to be made on the origin of languages, and the origin of grammars, especially a very fluid and quasi nonexistent grammar like the Chinese one)

      Recently, three persons who know me very well, an university professor, a philosopher, and my own brother and sister, both told me that if I was living in the countryside, not in a big city, the human environment would be quite different. Of course it would be different, but this is for me a subsidiary factor. Saying that, they only show that they do not grasp at all what I am talking about. They did not live a long time in an entirely different culture.
      It is true that the differences between the urban life and the rural life is important ; it has common characteristics in all developed countries ; it may be increasing now a lot in China (and by the way, we can ask why human beings are now concentrating more and more in the same spots, this has to have a philosophical and historical meaning ...).

      My main point is that some cultures are more awake, or more awakened than others - so they have an advantage.
      This is especially true of Asian nations who developed very quickly, due to the fact that the scientific and technological discoveries in sciences and technologies have been done already painstakingly during centuries elsewhere, but also due to their own possibilities and abilities : very old civilizations and their own great gifts.
      Universal brotherhood is our aim, but to be true brothers and sisters, we have to face differences, not to erase them quickly inside a grey universalism. Asian cultures studied Western cultures more than the reverse. Western cultures have now to reciprocate.
      This is the title of conferences made in Paris recently : "Multiculturalism "complicates" universality".
      This seems to mean : things are more complicated than we thought before, and it disturbs our comfortable old ways of thinking ...

      In the same way we have many colors in a rainbow, it is a great chance to have so many different cultures in the world, many worlds inside one world, and instead of being jealous and antagonistic, it would be better to work toward general harmony and general cooperation. This implies openness and study, not closeness and laziness.
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      Assuming "west" to mean "Greco-Roman", and "East" as a connotation of the cultures of the Middle East, Russia right up to Japan; and taking the dichotomy to relate broader to philosophies, then it would be an affirmative, "yes" to the question. As the west represents the logical, and the east, the intuitive. Another interesting glimpse into this dichotomy is afforded by the study of mystical elements in comparative religion. One work I have in mind is Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism. By definition contemplatives dwell on the inner life and the idea  of simply being. The logical, Western emphasis is on ends, and the idea of becoming. Activity and projects function as milestones towards a final goal. So yes there can be a clash of cultures due to a clash in philosophy. Contemplatives focus on detachment and contentment, while the "actives" focus on engagement and achievements. Both are aspects that are vital towards a healthy dialectical existence as a human being. Just like the left and right hemispheres if the brain. Throughout history, individuals coming from opposite sides of the cultural-philosophical divide have yearned for the "greener grass on the opposite side of the fence".

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    Dear H Chris Ransford,

    Thanks for highlighting this book! Will definitely check it out  I have a curiosity/liking for books with titles starting with, " The geography of..." Such as Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss. 

    Best Regards