Do We Need the Wisdom of the East ?

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

  1. Myles Registered Senior Member

    One frequently hears talk of the Wisdom of the East. The Western Intellectual Tradition makes no mention of wisdom.
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  3. kmguru Staff Member

    YES. To act sincerely with the insincere is dangerous.
    Source: (Taoist) (sowhatifit'sdark)

    Wisdom does not come from the books. It is when your brain coverts raw data to Wisdom.

    Data ->Information ->Knowledge ->Wisdom.

    There is plenty of data in Eastern Philosophy to be have to dig for it.
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  5. kmguru Staff Member

    Does that mean, if you follow the Western Intellectual Tradition, you will never be wise?

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  7. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    What do you regard as "wise"?

  8. Myles Registered Senior Member

    No. It means you will use reason and empirical knowledge as opposed to catch-all sayings, aphorisms and the like. This approach will not guarantee wisdom but at least it helps one to avoid self-delusion which is so prevalent elsewhere. It is not available to everyone East or West. I will leave you to guess why this is so.
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Spidergoat was more succinct, but anyway:
    Spinoza's philosophy was influenced by Eastern "Wisdom", as is much else in the Western Intellectual Tradition.
    You seem to be arguing against the value of wisdom itself, actually. Consider: the catch phrases and aphorisms you find inferior to scientific knowledge were not inventions of a moment's thought, easily reinvented whenever needed, and that a great many human decisions have been and always will be made lacking the complete and relevant information evidence-based reason requires. The discouragement of revenge, for example - that's a hard bit of wisdom to come up with off the cuff, each time it is needed. Nor will science and evidence-based reasoning help in the pinch. Likewise the spiritual value of cleanliness, and gratitude for such things as housework and one's daily bread.

    The kinds of dificulties inherent in avoiding limitation by definition, another. The illusion of agency in moral beliefs. The illusion that one is somehow disconnected from a material world and a cultural worldview.
    Gandhi recounted hearing his local Hindu religious leader reading from the Koran in Hindu church services, as a source of religious understanding more or less equivalent to Hindu sacred texts. He claimed those kinds of experiences founded his later political doings.

    Do you recognize a kind of wisdom not common among Western religious leaders, in providing that experience to Gandhi ?

    Certainly wisdom is the same everywhere, and is available to all of us. But as it happens certain wisdoms seem to have been most clearly explicated in the East, and thus Eastern sources come to be valuable to the West for certain insights. We are short wisdom, not rationality, in allowing our janitors and lawn mowers to become underpaid and poorly treated relative to their eimployers. The wisdoms of cleanliness and gratitude are Eastern contributions to the Western Intellectual Tradition. Do you value them ?
  10. Myles Registered Senior Member


    I agree with what you say about the treatment of workers but I would point out that a lot of goods are the product of sweated labour in India and China. Greed is universal. In this regard there is no more wisdom in the East than in the West. Greed is universal . I take it you know that the caste system is alive and well in many parts of rural India, supportd by the notion of reincarnation. Not much wisdom there.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2007
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Few are wise, east or west.

    The question was not what we can learn from the foolishness of the East, however widespread there, but what we can learn characteristically from the Wisdom of the East that is different from what we can learn characteristically from the Western Intellectual Tradition (not a universal possession of Westerners, btw).
  12. Myles Registered Senior Member

    I am aware of that but have still not had a convincing explanation
  13. Myles Registered Senior Member

    This is going nowhere for any of us, so I suggest we agree to differ and draw a line under it.

    Thanks for your responses

  14. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    What I have gotten from 'the Wisdom of the East' has been primarily from some portions of it that have insisted on gesturing beyond language and also on presenting skepticism about languages ability to encapsulate experience. I am sure I could go digging around in Western Philosophy and find people saying similar things. But the insistence in the form of presentation of some Eastern Philosophers on, right now as one reads, pressuring the reader to move off from language and into experience seems at the very least unique in degree from Western Philosophers.

    I find Western philosophers very much in love with words. Their texts insist on the efficacy and rightness of the words and seem to imply that if we take on these words in this order we have a deeper understanding of the world or ourselves, etc. All well and good. But the Eastern emphasis on moving the reader/listener away from the words and repeatedly demanding that this be done or nothing can be learned seems also well and good and not in the same way.

    To read some of these philosophers is to undergo a process that is different and has different consequences, especially if one not only notices and experiences the meta-linguistic events stirred up by the texts but if one goes on and actually meditates as well.

    This process has offered me more insight about the processes of my own cognition, feelings, meta-cognition, and what sets me off on certain lines of reasoning, concern, worry, depression, confusion, etc., than most Western Philosophers/psychologists have managed to despite the latter addressing the same issues. If I think primarily of psychologists I have found Eastern practice/philosophy wonderfully complementary to their insights. In facts some of the stodgiest researchers amongst Western Psychologists - for example Cognitive Behavioral ones - now incorporate meditation and meditation like practices (ATT, SAR) in their treatment of clients.

    There are conclusions drawn by some Eastern Philosophers about 'what is really going on' that I do not agree with. At the same time I respect very much the creative way texts 'over there' move one away from language and into experience - often with a pleasurable Aha experience, rather than the far less impression making deductively reasoned arguments endemic to the West.

    I don't see Eastern Wisdom as better but different in some cases and I have greatly appreciated those differences.
  15. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    I think the level of abstraction in trying to determine if some universal Western 'we' are missing anything is very odd.

    Wisdom is not like a hat that we can ask the size of and determine if it suits us without trying it on.

    Let's hold this idea up in the light and see if it is
    1) of use to 'us'
    2) not already there somehow in Western texts.


    Clearly people in need or out of curiosity in the West have gone to the East, or to Eastern teachers, or to Eastern texts and found a way of gaining knowledge about themselves and the world that 1) they found useful and 2) they did not find before or after in parallel Western 'situations'.

    Perhaps the style of wisdom presentation was different and it suited their learning styles - though form is clearly a part of wisdom so I am not sure if saying it is 'merely' form and 'the same ideas' are really also in the West and did not come there from the East is meaningful.

    Perhaps the Eastern methods actually led them to experiences and ideas that were unique and could not be reached - or only reached by swimming against the current - in Western contexts.

    I am not sure it matters unless there is some sort of competitive issue involved.

    Since actually having certain experiences helps one gauge the usefulness of certain ideas it seems odd and time wasting to think one can judge the usefulness of ideas without those experiences.

    Perhaps a graduate program at a, yes, Western university, in anthropology might add a little humility to how well one can make accurate guesses about such things.

    One thing The Western Intellectual Tradition has finally gotten round to is understanding is that the motives for saving and Westernizing
    heathens (even those heathen members of our own society)
    were almost never the motivations that were claimed.

    Those religious who come to save my soul are not doing any such thing.
    Those scienfitically inclined who come to save my soul (or my mind in this case) are doing no such thing.

    One can only hope for their sake that a period of introspection would show this to them.

    But holding one's breath is not recommended.
  16. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    You said you have a basic grasp of "Eastern religions" and have some respect for Theravada. In that case, I fail to see why you posted this thread, or why you are saying the above.
    As if "Eastern religion" would be about blindly accepting those "catch-all sayings, aphorisms and the like".

    Those "catch-all sayings, aphorisms and the like" are there for an individual to test them, to realize them for themselves, not merely to blindly repeat them.
    Many of these "catch-all sayings, aphorisms and the like" can be tested and realized by an individual, whereas the same could hardly be said for "Western Philosophy".
  17. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Do you love anyone else more than yourself?
  18. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Exactly. Yet the "traditional" "Western" model of understanding is not like that.
    The "traditional" "Western" model of understanding is not about realizing things for oneself.
    The "traditional" "Western" model of understanding is more about intellectually being in line with a particular philosophy, hence all that focus on "reason".
  19. Myles Registered Senior Member

    Last edited: Dec 29, 2007
  20. Myles Registered Senior Member

    Despite your Eastern wisdom you are incapable of understanding that one can love onself at the same time as considering and emphathizing with the needs of others. You are just selfish but no doubt you can quote an Eastern sage to support your attitude.

    Koan: What is the sound of one person dying as long as it's not me ?
  21. kmguru Staff Member

    Looks like you are hung up on re-incarnation. As if the entire Western philosophy is based on the red light district of Amsterdam

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    ...But as you said, this will go no where. ...

  22. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    I asked: Do you love anyone else more than yourself?
  23. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    I suppose we have both said it in different ways, but the emphasis in the Eastern Wisdom I've encountered is toward experiencing. Go away from these words into experience. Then come back and then go away again.

    I can't think of one Western Philosopher who encourages his (for the most part 'his') readers to engage in some sort of activity in conjunction with reading his work. That there might be an experiential component to learning!? And a primarily non-verbal one at that.

    You know I actually came across the phrase 'detached mindfulness' in a dense, flat, anal - but useful - article on Cognitive treatments of anxiety. Some of the most recent methods for treating suffering and stress in the West have incorporated or refound techniques that were present for a couple of thousand years in the East.

    I realized I had one more problem with this thread.

    Wisdom is knowledge that helps one live more in the way one wants.

    Satisfaction with the Wisdom one has is not compatible with recognizing - interesting to take apart that word - the value of new or other wisdom. I mean if you are satisfied, why RE cognize. Humans find wisdom out of experience or when their need makes them reach out to knowledge that might help them.

    To try to determine if there is wisdom in something vast and ungainly like
    many different cultures' amassed literature and philosophy
    while really having no interest
    and feeling no need
    is Quixotic or disingenous.

    Toss in certainty in advance that there is nothing useful - in the abstract, mind you, since this bears mentioning - to be found there and we have conditions that are not condusive to learning 'Wisdom.'

    Toss in the lack of interest in actually trying out the complementary practices and
    it strikes me as a joke.

    It is not the same situation where the Master responds 'Mu.' I cannot say that the answer 'Mu'
    to the question
    Is there any Wisdom I am missing in Eastern ideas, religion and philosophy?
    would have the same meaning as the 'Mu' in the Zen story I know.

    But shit, it seems appropriate.

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