Do We Need the Wisdom of the East ?

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by Myles, Dec 26, 2007.

  1. Myles Registered Senior Member


    I honestly don't understand your point. In what sense are happiness and truth mutually exclusive ? How does a lack of respect for happiness manifest itself ? Are things different in the East ?
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  3. Myles Registered Senior Member


    What is reality ?
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  5. Myles Registered Senior Member


    Where are all these Eastern rational people to be found ?

    India is following in our consumer footsteps, Japan got there before us and China is well on the way.

    If you look at Eastern beliefs and practices they are anything but rational.

    Hindus have numerous gods, sacred cows, ritual cleansing in the Ganges, not to mention their caste system, which still exists in many parts of India

    The Japanese follow Shinto more than Zen Buddhism, and are even more acquisitive than we are. As for Zen, well I regard that in the same light as any other such practice. I don't doubt that it brings happiness, peace of mind or whatever to its practitioners but it ultimately based on superstition. I imagine Christians of all denominations would make similar claims.

    The Tibetans spin prayer wheels, practise prostration and their form of Buddhism is "tainted" with BO (if that is how it's spelled )

    Sri Lanka, as you know, is Buddhist ,but that country has been in a state of turmoil for years. Having said that, I believe the Theravada is the form of Buddhism closest to what the Buddha taught. It's the one I most respect.

    So when I look East I see superstition allied to consumerism.And everyone is looking for guarantees; what other purpose have these religious practices ?

    Where is the wisdom to be found ?
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2007
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  7. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Enlightenment isn't a superstitious concept.

    There is also no shortage of superstitious concepts originating in Asia, their religions are not so monolithic as you might expect. Their societies do not necessarily reflect the subtleties of Buddhism or Taoism. These emphasize personal insight and mental development, and don't so much dictate the morals of society.

    You may not necessarily need this sort of teaching, it's not for everyone. There isn't the same aspect of evangelism as there is in western religions. Take it or leave it. It doesn't claim to be rational. I don't think it can be. There is no logical progression from ideas to enlightenment. It is something so new that there is no point of reference. The best a teacher can do is lead you up to where you can jump off. For the most part it will not help society, it's not the hope for the future that people seek (or are taught to seek).
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2007
  8. Myles Registered Senior Member

    I never said they were monolithic. No society reflects the values of , dare I say, the intellectuals in its midst; hence the dificculty of making progress. But I still want to know what wisdom the East has to offer that would be of some value in our science-based society.

    Buddhism is a superstition insofar as it talks of things for which there is no evidence, reincarnation, for example. From what I know of Taoism, it seems to be offering a way of being at one with everything. I have no quarrel with that because Spinoza said something of the kind, if I understand the situation correctly.

    So I am still not clear what Eastern wisdom has to offer to the West. I think its a question of cultural differences reflecting environments. In my view, the best we can say is that they have their ways and we have ours. I prefer ours because Western science and philosophy are grounded in reason.
  9. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    They are not mutually exclusive. Science is a very clever way of finding things out. Buddhism is also good for finding things out about your own brain. It doesn't depend on belief in reincarnation, although wether this is true or not depends on your interpretation. As a philosophical idea, it has merit. We are the product of ideas we inherited, and only secondarily a product of genetics. When we transcend the programming of culture to realize a new form of thinking, we have broken the circle. Your form will then be unique, never to be incarnated again.

    It's not clear there is anything in eastern wisdom you would call valuable, but perhaps that is due to your perspective. It has certainly taken hold in the west since the 70's. It's seems to accompany a value system that is less about acumulating wealth or power, and more about living in harmony with nature.
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The spiritual/practical value of personal cleanliness - wiping your ass, brushing your teeth, bathing regularly, etc. - would be one.

    I can recommend the version transliterated by Ursula K LeGuin.

    Of what value is any wisdom ?
  11. Myles Registered Senior Member


    What does it mean to say I am finding out about my brain ? Are you dissatisfied with neuroscience, for example ?

    We are certainly the product of our genes and our environment. I don't think there is common agreement as to which has the greater influence because of the difficulty of teasing them apart. But that is as true of the East as of the West, so I'm not sure it changes anything that affects our discussion.

    It has taken hold in the West as you say, but I still question its value. Millions of people still believe in astrology despite its having been debunked many times.

    I have never had anything against the hippies, the flower people ,the Hare Krishna devotees and such groups but I cannot see that they contribute anything to the sum total of human knowledge. Where is the wisdom I have been asking about ? The spread of such movements can be explained, at least in part, by the spiritual vacuum caused by the decline in Christianity. I feel that imported belief systems will go the same way.

    I applaud people who reject consumerism; I have done so myself but without the need to meditate, chant or understand koans. It's a question of one's values.

    As to the idea of a unique form never to be incarnated again, what evidence supports this notion ?

    Ps. You say it's not rational whereas Greenberg would have me believe that Easterners are " more" rational. There are no degrees of rationalism; either one is rational or irrational
  12. Myles Registered Senior Member

    This thread is about whether Easten wisdom has anything to offer us. I don't see that wiping my ass quite fits the bill, if what you say is true, When did we import it? I know the Romans were into personal hygiene.

    If wisdom is of no value, and you may be right, what's the point of bothering about Eastern wisdom. I assume you are questioning the value of wisdom.

    I believe wisdom of some kind arises from our attempts to understand what the hell we are doing here ,and the universe in which we find ourselves It's value can onle be that with which we imbue it. But in the pursuit of such knowledge using reason many good things have happened along the way. Medicine is one example that comes to mind.
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Imagine life without even the means of wiping your ass except on special occasions, bathing likewise, and brushing teeth basically never, and the gain from contact with Eastern wisdom may come into focus.

    The spiritual and practical values of cleanliness were not widespread in Europe until after seatrade contact with the East - where even the seaport whores bathed.

    The connection of wisdom with ordinary caretaking of life and responsibility fits in there somewhere, as well. What did you expect wisdom to look like ?

    Another one: the value of meditation and regular mild exercise. I know at least two men who have been offered the choice of meditation, dangerous drugs, or great risk of death, in treating high blood pressure. They both chose meditation, and it worked for both of them.
  14. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Yes, the 'wisdom' of the east is not an 'intellectual' tradition.

    Spiritual enlightenment cannot be attained with intellectualism.
  15. Enmos Valued Senior Member

    We need wisdom of the self.. wow lol :scratchin:
  16. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    I am not dissatisfied with other methods of learning about the brain. However, they are limited in scope. Self-experimentation is the beginning of learning about the limits of the mind. Only after observation can we begin to make hypothesis. Eastern traditions allow one to explore hitherto unknown aspects of consciousness. I admit the benefits are vague and personal, and the value to society is questionable. It's a way to be spiritual without the literalism of western thought, or the deities of Middle Eastern thought.
  17. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    With an outlook like yours -that religion is superstition- you are not going to see much wisdom in "Eastern" religions, nor in most other worldviews.
  18. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    We underestimate suffering.

    For one, Smallpox isn't banished. They still have some samples of it in labs.
    For two, the process of developing medications requires a lot of research, resources and equipment, a lot of testing -and failings-, and produces pollution.
    To say nothing of the fact that the widespread use of antibiotics produced new strains of resistant bacteria. TB is on the rise again.

    Nowaydays, it is. But it wasn't always so.

    I do not care a straw for the "total picture". When my health is at stake, I don't care if the treatment is prescribed to me is 95% effective. If it fails, it fails on me and it matters not to me if it worked on millions of other people.

    This is what we tell ourselves, yes.

    I didn't say that.

    I do not think such comparisons are meaningful.

    One of the first things I have learned when introduced both to Christianity, as well as Western Philosophy was that my happiness does not matter. That it is a trifle, something for the stupid.

    Read some Sartre, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche.

    In being flimsy about it. When people say "Life's a bitch and then you die" or "Everything is relative".
    In acting as if "anything will do".

    One thing I have learned from the "East" is to have respect for happiness.
  19. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    As I believe one of the other posters pointed out 'Eastern' ideas have influenced the Western Intellectual Tradition so this may partially explain why you do not find new options or ideas of interest for you there.

    But as to the specific question 'Are you missing something?" Perhaps there is nothing for you personally in the Wisdom of the East. This could be because you are not open to the way the ideas are presented. Or willing to try the practices that are seen as essential complements to the ideas by at least some philosophers in the East. It could be that you are fairly set in your ways or were when you came in contact with these ideas. It could be that whatever was of use to you, as an individual, already reached you via Western thinkers.

    It could be that different ideas that are 'useful' - which I suppose would mean 'useful to someone' - suit certain people and not others.

    Essentially a taste issue but perhaps on a more important level than is usually meant by 'a matter of taste'.

    But it seems like the thread could end up with people coming and presenting ideas they consider important or useful
    and you 'showing' them that they are not useful to you.

    I am sure you will be successful at not being enticed, if that is your goal.
  20. Myles Registered Senior Member

    In one of my posts I commented on the therapeutic value of meditation. I do not dispute it. Biofeedback can also be used to treat high blood pressure but is obviously not nearly as readily available. I believe meditation has an intrinsic value but I regard spending one's life attempting to reach enlightenment as a self-centered activity which does little for the community. I feel the same about monks and nuns who indulge in such practices in the West, as opposed to those who work in hospitals, for example.

    As far as wisdom is concerned I was asking what the East has to offer that is not available in the Western Intellectual Tradition, which is essentially a question of philosophy.

    As you know, Western philosophy spawned science but I unaware that Eastern philosophy has done anything of the kind. It seems to be based on life-denying beliefs.

    I do not believe in telling others what to believe or how to live. I have enough problems sorting myself out. So I am not critical of Eastern practices, per se, but I am interested in whether we can learn anything from them.

    As far as ass-wiping is concerned, I do not dispute what you say. I seem to remember that George III had someone do it for him after he had been " at stool"
  21. Myles Registered Senior Member


    Well if you have learned something about consciousness you are ahead of the field. In the West, scientists are not even sure what it means to talk about it. We do not not what sort of questions need to be asked nor what form a satisfactory answer would take. If you read Susan Greenfield and Patricia Churchland, you will get an insight into the difficulties.

    I am not denying that there may be personal benefits for those who indulge in the practices you mention but I do question whether anything that is universally applicable can be discovered.

    It sems clear that we are coming at it from different directions, so it's probably best to agree to differ
  22. Myles Registered Senior Member

    To each his own. I am not prepared to abandon reason.
  23. Myles Registered Senior Member


    I understand your point. You are right that I am not interested in taking up any sort of religious practices. I am interested in ideas and will not reject anything just for the sake of it. But I started this thread on the basis of whether the wisdom of the East had anything to offer that was not available in the Western Intellectual Tradition. Perhaps I asked a foolish question

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