Do We Need the Wisdom of the East ?

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

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The scientific method arises from the Wisdom of the West.

    Meditation, personal cleanliness, gratitude, the recognition of the limitations of definition and label, organization by center out instead of top down, etc,

    arise from the Wisdom of the East.

    I mentioned a couple of specific things - brushing teeth, preaching sermons from the sacred texts of other religions - that one might recognize as marks of approaches both new and valuable in the West.

    But one of the major hurdles between the Wisdom of the East and its valuable (partial) adoption by the West is the difficulty of recognizing it or discerning applications.

    We had an example earlier on this forum, in a thread about the lack of people skills in scientific lab managers. A little Eastern wisdom applied to the situation highlights a couple of features not easily visible to Western approaches - such as the oddity of "promoting" the best scientists to management positions, and paying managers more than top researchers.

    As Lao Tzu put it: when the wisest do something, people say "we did it ourselves". A Westerner tends to overlook the contribution of that kind of wisdom, but that does not reduce its potential value in Western life.
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  3. Myles Registered Senior Member

    I have heard it the other way round. Why is the best draughtsman not head of the drawing office ? Because he lacks people skills.

    I take your point. Managers are paid more because of the hierarchical nature of business. There is a case to be made for paying some individuals more than their managers but it would be very difficult to implement. It's a question of considering the entire workforce such that everyone accepts the new setup. What would Lao Tzu have done ?
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  5. Frud11 Banned Banned

    Do you think, apart from all the nonsense, that the Bible contains some wisdom? Or does any scriptural reference or text?
    Just curious. Personally I think there is a fair bit. In the Biblical OT part, there's plenty of doctrine, and rules (prescriptions) for how to live and worship (something Islam seems to have borrowed).
    But the OT has a lot of more general stuff, and examples of what faith means, etc. The NT, and Jesus teachings, are a lot like Buddha's ideas, methinks.
    All rubbish?

    P.S. Do you think Western values are skewed towards materialism and self-aggrandisement at other's expense (like the promotion of scientists example)?
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  7. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    "We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to
    count, without which no worthwhile scientific
    discovery could have been made. "

    ~ Albert Einstein

  8. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    " It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by ten symbols, each receiving a value of position as well as an absolute value, a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit. But its very simplicity, the great ease which it has lent to all computations, puts our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions, and we shall appreciate the grandeur of this achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Appollonius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity."

    Pierre Simon de Laplace, French mathematician, philosopher, and astronomer,

    "After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense".

    W. Heisenberg (German Physicist, 1901-1976)

  9. Myles Registered Senior Member

    No need to repeat yourself. I know.
  10. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member


    Opening Post = thought = potential contract
    Just as you can get entangled with a thought, you can get entangled in an OP and ‘sign on to’, as it were, a contract of sorts.
    What were some of the assumptions of the contract here:

    1) Paraphrase:
    Assumption: interpretations of ‘Eastern Wisdom’ would be put on the table
    paraphrases of ‘Western Intellectual Wisdom’
    would be placed adjacent to these to cancel them out
    not unlike a game of cards

    Is matching paraphrases a good measure of similarity and truth? (especially given certain uses of language more in EW than in WW)

    2) Intention
    Assumption: Intentions do not affect the process for the one inquiring or the ones responding.
    I think simply thinking about how

    Exploratory interest

    As alternative motivating factors for the OP change the dialogue and the contract immensely.

    The current OP, as more fully delineated by later posts, seems motivated by a more missionary conversion scheme. However ironic this may at first seem, disbelief in God is hardly enough of a transformation to guarantee the rooting out of cultural tendencies to convert.

    A look at the history of conversion relationships shows that those to be converted are not taken seriously and the converters, certain of their sacred truths, will not notice, be up front about, allow themselves to be confused by or curious about
    points and ideas they had not considered.

    They see the end point of the discussion – conversion or the revealing of the barbaric/irrational nature of the failed convert - and everything else in between is simply mechanics.

    IOW: The assumption that coming to convert (shame?)
    will lead to a balanced dialogue
    is a poor assumption

    Shaming and converting are overlapping processes – you need to convert one to being ashamed. You need to shame someone to convert them.

    3) Onus
    Assumption: The onus, as proposed in the OP and first few following, is on those who find unique value in ‘Eastern Wisdom’.
    The undercurrent thesis that any value in EW is simply a small subset of Western Wisdom (at best) does not need to be proven. It is innocent until proven guilty.

    (note the implicit ‘meditation has (some extremely limited) value BECAUSE science has validated it’ as a subset of number 3)

    4) The Open Mind
    Assumption: Having an OPEN MIND is
    allowing strings of words to enter one’s consciousness where they are ‘tested’ and this is
    1) a real test
    2) in fact an open state since the words, phrases and sentences did in fact pass through consciousness

    As if the unconscious mind did not make a mockery of such tests.
    As if there were not other ways of ‘being open’ that are of great necessity in all learning.

    I found it interesting to contemplate how things can go awry right from that first thought that I engage with.

    I feel like first moments are very important.
    That I could, for example,
    Ignore the intention of someone
    Ignore the assumptions of the interaction
    Respond as if the contract is OK. Not challenge the contract.
    Once I have responded without challenging the contract
    Even if I do not explicitly state approval of or acceptance of the contract
    I find myself conforming to it.

    Or I have found myself doing that in the past.
  11. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Wonderful insights as usual, Sowhatifit'sdark.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Regarding the passage I quoted - Yes, I have noticed myself doing this as well. In communication, it is so easy to slip into someone else's ways. A rather frequent means to avoid this is to per default think of all people as stupid or evil. But what to do when one doesn't have such a default position?
    To think per default that all people are good and kind leads to slipping into their ways as well. But neutrality seems to be impossible. If one were really neutral, why communicate at all?
  12. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member


    My first reaction to these questions was one of horror. By that I know they were good questions. My second reaction was that I think I have some sense of the direction to a 'method', though nothing approaching an answer.

    I had several jobs in my 'career' that involved rather deep and complicated interactions with people often over long periods of time. Some of these interactions led to pretty unpleasant dynamics in which my naivtee, 'openness', false assumptions and so on played a role in deepening the impact of what happened later and probably opened the door for much of it also.

    Later I had some jobs where I had vastly more contacts with people, but in very limited ways - time, emotional depth, etc. In these later jobs I started to notice the ways in which I was sticking my jaw out and saying punch me, to the cues I was ignoring that this or that individual was pissed off that day, had an ax to grind, was looking for trouble, was probably never a very nice person, was manipulative, etc. I got better and better not at reading body language but at noticing the ways in which I had always being reacting to body language - or 'vibe' I should say since I do not know exactly what I was reacting to - but suppressing these reactions. Little warning signals I would shut out of consciousness so that I could maintain my self-image of being a great guy or loving or whatever. I started taking these seriously and my taking these reactions seriously led to me being a little more distant, less personal. In fact in the beginning I would literally make sure there was a little more physical distance between me and some of the ones who rang my warning bells.

    I didn't assume that my reactions were correct. I did not decide that they were bad people - even if they did end up dumping some garbage on my head - but I noticed that my reactions were actually very accurate and they got more accurate as I accepted them. When someone approached and the bell rang in my hind brain, I often found that they did blurt out something angry or demand I take responsibility for something that was not my responsibility to mention a couple of possibilities. Sometimes the unpleasantness was more subtle. And I should add that generally it was all fairly mild unpleasantness.

    It felt better when these things happened now in my new system. I was braced or not too open or not available - for manipulation, for example. I learned to be open less often and even to be less open to 'neutral' vibe people.

    So my 'system' changed from baseline open
    to flexible dependent on their vibe
    and with a baseline that was less open.

    The pretty rare occasions when someone came in who I felt like being really open with actually were more pleasurable and appreciated by me. I really appreciated those people with a twinkle in their spirit who could play or be kind or compassionate or warmth came off them in not dependent on behavior ways.

    This is all still a work in progress. Disclaimer of fallibility and continued need for tweaking and fussing with this 'system' we all have.
  13. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Are you familiar with -the now self-help classic- When I say no, I feel guilty. How to cope using the skills of Systematic Assertive Therapy by Manuel J. Smith?

    It lists ten often held positions -and even if not held and believed, certainly acted like- that make things so bad in interpersonal communication.

    Here's the list from that book:

    I keep reading this list and thinking about it, wondering why on earth I buy into it. Especially no. 10 - that is a real sucker!

    Also, witnessing some people's words and actions, I wonder whether they have studied books on manipulation and how not to be manipulative - because they so aptly use everything those books say not to use.
  14. Myles Registered Senior Member

    You realizie that the "wisdom" in that book has a flip side. How about, if you wish to believe the earth is flat ,do so and don't let anyone tell you otherwise

    As to no. 10, do you ever wonder why people are rational ?

    I'll give you no. 11: Only talk to people who agree with what you say and you can spend the rest of your life knowing you are never wrong.
  15. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    I've never read the book. Nice list. Apropos Eastern Wisdom and our earlier discussion of warm vs. cool approaches what I have appreciated with the cool approaches more recently is they give me space to notice the processes my warm approaches 'felt' more on the intuitive side.

    For example
    entanglement with thoughts or certain individuals
    rapidly made assumptions about what must be, what is, what will be

    and, in context with this thread,
    what is happening in a dynamic

    Before I had overarching reactions and managed to clear a lot of things like those you listed - which were helpful to chew on and I will print it out - out of my skull, but had trouble with things like

    what is communicated through tone
    the implied messages that are left out or are communicated via absence
    (I can't stress enough how important that second one has been)

    I could crassly think of meditation (and Eastern Insights) and Cognitive psychology as being a wedge where before I just had a crack of consciousness
    or as 'providing a wider vantage'

    The wonderful thing is the way work in the 'warm' approaches has set me up to be very receptive to what the cool approaches allow me to notice.

    I should also like to add one to that list

    11. You must entertain seriously and be rational with every viewpoint or individual (regardless of what they are doing openly or covertly).

    No. The ignore function - literal or metaphorical - is appropriate in certain cases.

    Thanks for that list!
  16. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Yes, indirectness tends to be a terrible thing.

    I am the other way around: The 'cool' approaches made me comfortable enough to use the 'warm' approaches.

    What do you think - why do we do that? How come we expect ourselves to give others such limitless credence? What is behind this, what is driving it?

    A powerful reason I can think of for this is the desire to be (seen as) a "good person", which further indicates that underlying all this is a basic existential insecurity that one is trying to mend by getting everyone's approval.

    And I'm glad you found the list helpful!
  17. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    Yes, I agree.
    I wonder if maybe there is something deeper or at least different at root (also).


    That's me. The space in which it can feel bad if something forces its way in or if it is 'in' and acts like a bull, I may feel like the china shop.

    If I decide, now, to 'not let something in' even in the shallow (or seemingly shallow) 'open mind' way I criticized above, perhaps I feel echoes of other times in the past when I did let something in and it did not feel good.

    Best case scenario: I say 'no' to someone, or a specific idea, and hold it 'outside'. I am not hospitable. I turn the potential guest away or do not invite them in. And they go away. They don't even attempt to shame me or guilt trip me. They make no parting jab at entanglement. Still, all those times before then, before I had the nerve, self-concern to keep something outside, suddenly are present.

    I could have said "no" then too. Or in any case, if when I was a little child - since they have a very hard time saying 'no' and shouldn't really in certain situations because of the worse possible consequences - I let ideas and individuals 'in', I am now, on a felt level, aware that I can choose to not let them stay in any longer.

    Not only is the pain of 'when I let them in' present, but the anxiety around throwing them or inviting them out.

    And grief about the time these ideas or people were 'in', at the very least, is brought to the fore.

    (I reread the list and realized that I have often said 'No' but on other 'levels' felt this was the wrong thing to do, so they got in anyway. I think more people have done this then they realize. For example all the people who think because they can rationally take apart the overt and covert messages of advertising, they have control over the influence those rapid images have on their sense of self.)
  18. Gustav Banned Banned

    clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, psychiatrist
    if not, you most certainly have the requisite skills
    you discerned shit about me in a few weeks most could not in years

  19. Gustav Banned Banned

    but then again, the shit is staring at you, right in the face, how could one not know?

    /flips coin over ensuing bafflement
  20. Gustav Banned Banned

    all dumbfucksci can muster is...troll

    /spits this day, dumbfucksci does not even know the definition of the word so blithely tossed around with abandon

  21. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    Glad to hear it. For those few weeks I could not connect. Then when the issue was made central, I connected. I 'could have' earlier, at any time, I think, since I simply focused and made the effort - me the one tossing around the word 'facile' elsewhere.

    Though I must say poetry reading writing was much more of an aid than psychology. Dream/poem being very similar is my flipped coin.
  22. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    Sadly the internet draws the facile part of my mind in terms of tactics.
    In strategy the rest is present.
    Hermeneutics saved for the printed word.


    And to vaguely tie this to the thread. Western philosophic literature has tendencies towards imagining words as things, dangling in space, where they can be seen and their intrinsic qualities can be acknowledged and noticed.

    Philosophy as ceramic ware: truth the liquid in the Well Wrought Urn.

    Eastern Philosophic literature certainly has texts like this. But it also has a greater tendency to provide tests that do not fall into

    Here the texts are written as instigators, consciously written to conjure something not 'in' them. The text 'knows' it has no value without a reader.

    Now of course every 'Western' writer knows this also, but then why......?

    and the writing that contains.

    But none of this is to say that there is anything wrong with texts that are seen as containers.

    Pitfalls to both. Or perhaps pitfalls with one and limits with the other.

    Texts that mix styles, which I contend yours do, tend to require a post reading construction phase.

    We are presented with ideas, feelings, facts, gestures toward
    in parallel.

    These different lines - as in lines of poetry - can be 'put together' in a variety of ways.

    I can take the idea in sentence one to be a metaphor for the seemingly distinct metaphor in line three. The outburst in line two could relate to the pain of not having made this connection before or to the foolishness of not making this connection or as a reaction to the intent of the person responded to and so on.

    I can create hierarchies between Gustav's lines, partial hierachies, etc.

    Posts that are like kits but where not just one model airplane can be built but a variety.

    'Eastern Wisdom Texts' tend, in my readings, to have less of a construction phase. They try to take the brain out of ruts directly into experience that is rutless, whole, unmarred and hopefully less painful at some meta level.

    I find a reluctance to inspire a bunch of building, however creative, especially in language.

    So Gustav the organism, not the guy who sits down with the intention to write this or that, is not as concerned to impel the reader out into 'raw' experience and would be happy to set off contruction and chains of (even) logical investigation and probing, but at the same time does not present containers.

    Pound is certainly an organism who did similar things in his writing - and unfortunately wandered into some horrible non-literary constructions in addition to presenting us with an interesting direction (again) in poetry.

    Gregory Bateson's metalogues come to mind also. (sorry no links) These were hypothetical conversations with his daughter printed as dialogues - where the conversation itself comes up as an issue, hence metalogues. Bateson, I would say, did see these as containers, but, due to the unresolved nature of them, or their 'dialogic' nature, I found them to be more raising issues and opening areas for investigation, rather than containers.

    And then their is Bahktin's reading of Dostoyevsky's novels as not being simple containers for mono-truths but ever contructing processes where different characters are fully valid and 'right' as they speak. Text in tension.

    As some 'Western' examples that seem to me blend non-container, container aspects.

    And then, sure, a lot of poets making the mind more flexible at the very least and knowing that their work is incomplete without the reader. It is not a container, clearly.

    Cannot find good quotes from Pound to illustrate paralells to Gustav's writing but

    an overused example shows juxtaposition emphasized - though the title does create hierarchy. In the Cantos he might shift to some history, descriptions of shoe-making, some science, without directly explaining the connections. I don't love the Cantos, but I appreciate how Pound tried to create a new poetic tradition not controlled by Shakespeare's skills. I think he failed but he opened doors to others who did not and who weren't so afraid of Shakespeare.

    Deleuze and Guattari urging use to have minds like Rhizomes. Or were they? But Rhizomes running under the earth and here and there sending up (thoughts, individuals, expressions) stems. The 'individual' is really a vast underground network though it seems like these disparate selves are sprouting on the surface - Rhizomes are not like plant from seed in one spot kind of guys.

    Perhaps the difference betweent these 'Western' examples and the 'Eastern tendencies' is that the former still fall in love with metaphors as containers, even in they have several and always 'in process' and the latter don't want you to settle on the metaphors and get entangled with them.

    I personally prefer some entanglements (to others) = Neither celibate nor casual am I.

    I am not true then to Madhyamaka philosophy but to the one I love, yes, entangledment has occured and I am glad.

    quotes taken from
    How Zen principles uphold the environmental ideal of nature as an end in itself
    by S P James

    as far as the Internal Relations and Buddhism stuff.
    An article that is DECIDEDLY intended to be a container as most articles are.
    So a container about what cannot be contained.
    I am not sure it was noticed by the author.
  23. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Yes - hence the title of the book: when I say no, I feel guilty.

    The fact that even after one has said 'no', one delves on the issue reveals that there is a feeling of guilt or similar discomfort present; attempts to justify that 'no' even after it was said reveal that the 'no' wasn't so clear as one made it out to be.

    I wonder how much of the guilt (and other feelings of discomfort related to it) we feel is genuine. I am inclined to think that guilt is tends to be one of the things we simply pick up, learn; so everytime we feel guilty, it is not necessarily genuine guilt.

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