Bottom Content goes here.
Wikipedia content requires these links.....
Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
In the West, the term Eastern philosophy refers very broadly to the various
philosophical systems of East Asia. The development of the major Eastern
philosophical traditions occurred primarily in India, China, and Japan.
Most Western universities focus almost exclusively on Western philosophical
traditions and ideas in their philosophy departments and courses. When one
uses the unqualified term "philosophy" in a Western academic context,
Eastern philosophies are generally overlooked; consequently, the term
"Eastern philosophy" came into use.
Differences from Western Philosophy
Arguments Against the "Eastern Philosophy" Designation
Some have argued that the distinction between Eastern and Western
philosophies is arbitrary and purely geographic, that this artificial
distinction does not take into account the tremendous amount of interaction
between Eastern and Western thought, and that the distinction is more
misleading than enlightening.
Arguments For the "Eastern Philosophy" Designation
Others have argued that there are a number of general differences between
Eastern philosophies and Western philosophies. They feel that some broad
distinctions may be drawn, with the goal of helping a Westerner unfamiliar
with Eastern philosophic traditions to understand the general patterns of
differences (with the understanding that these are sweeping generalization,
and there are numerous exceptions on both sides.)
Proponents of this view point out that there has been relatively little
study of Eastern philosophic traditions in Western academic settings as
compared to Western traditions, and that synergies within each sphere are
far more common than synergies between Eastern and Western philosophies.
Awareness of Eastern philosophies in the West has largely been relegated to
the World Religions departments of Western universities, or to New Age
nonacademic works, though there are several notable exceptions. The
University of Hawaii, for example, offers many courses in Eastern philosophy.
The Perception of God and the gods
Because of the influence of monotheism and especially the Abrahamic
religions, Western philosophies have been faced with the question of the
nature of God and His relationship to the universe. This has created a
dichotomy among Western philosophies between secular philosophies and
religious philosophies which develop within the context of a particular
monotheistic religion's dogma regarding the nature of God and the universe.
Eastern philosophies developed in a polytheistic setting, and have not been
as concerned by questions relating to the nature of a single God as the
universe's sole creator and ruler. The distinction between the religious and
the secular tends to be much less sharp in Eastern philosophy, and the same
philosophical school often contains both religious and philosophical
elements. Thus, some people accept the metaphysical tenets of Buddhism
without going to a temple and worshipping. Some have worshipped the Taoist
deities religiously without bothering to delve into the philosophic
underpinnings, while others embrace Taoist philosophy while ignoring the
This arrangement stands in marked contrast to most philosophy of the West,
which has traditionally enforced either a completely unified
philosophic/religious belief system (e.g. the various sects and associated
philosophies of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), or a sharp and total
repudiation of religion by philosophy (e.g. Nietzsche, Marx, Voltaire, etc.)
The distinction between religion and philosophy is not so important in the East.
Gods' relationship with the Universe
Another common thread that often differentiates Eastern philosophy from
Western is the belief regarding the relationship between God or the gods and
the universe. Western philosophies typically either disavow the existence of
God, or else hold that God or the gods are something separate and distinct
from the universe. This comes from the influence of the Abrahamic religions,
which teach that this universe was created by a single all-powerful God who
existed before and separately from this universe. The true nature of this
God is incomprehensible to us, His creations.
Eastern philosophic traditions generally tend to be less concerned with the
existence or non-existence of gods. Although some Eastern traditions have
supernatural spiritual beings and even powerful gods, these are generally
not seen as separate from the universe, but rather as a part of the universe.
The Role and Nature of the Individual
It has been argued that in most Western philosophies, the same can be said
of the individual: Western philosophies generally assume as a given that the
individual is something different from the universe, and Western
philosophies attempt to describe and categorize the universe from a
detached, objective viewpoint. Eastern philosophies, on the other hand,
typically hold that people are an intrinsic and inseparable part of the
universe, and that attempts to discuss the universe from an objective
viewpoint as though the individual speaking was something separate and
detached from the whole are inherently absurd.
An overview of the major Eastern philosophic traditions. Each tradition has
a separate article with more detail on sects, schools, etc. (c.f.)
Taoism originated in China. Taoism's central book, the Dao de jing appeared
in approximately 600 BCE. The beliefs themselves are much more ancient,
incorporating elements of mysticism dating back to prehistoric times. The
Dao de jing was written by Lao Zi (Wade-Giles, Lao tse), a minor Chinese
court official who became tired of the petty intrigues of court life, and
set off to live as a hermit in the desert. Taoism teaches "action through
inaction" (wu wei), that one should effect changes subtly and without
disrupting the natural flow of the universe, rather than by attempting to
force change. Another central idea is the dualism of the universe, the
belief that all aspects of everything are diametrically opposed into
divisions of light and dark, male and female, yin and yang, etc. One half is
no better than the other, and indeed, neither can exist without the other,
since each contains a small amount of the other. Ultimately, both are the
same thing, tao, which means the way ahead.
Some time after the publication of the Dao de jing and another work by
Zhuang zi (Wade-Giles, Chuang tse), Taoism developed its religious aspect,
especially among the Chinese peasantry. Lao Zi and other famous personas
were elevated to deity status among followers, and complex religious rituals
involving alchemy, magic spells and symbology began to be practiced.
Confucianism is the traditional foil to Taoism, developed by Confucius in
the 6th through 5th centuries BCE, shortly after the Dao de jing was
written. Whereas Taoism takes a holistic and empirical approach to the
universe, Confucianism attempts to create a complex interdependent and
well-defined system of ethics and morals. Confucianism emphasizes formal
rituals in every aspect of life, from quasi-religious ceremonies to strict
politeness and deference to one's elders, specifically to one's parents and
to the state in the form of the Emperor.
Legalism advocated a strict interpretation of the law in every respect.
Morality was not important; adherence to the letter of the law was
paramount. Officials who exceeded expectations were as liable for punishment
as were those who underperformed their duties, since both were not adhering
exactly to their duties. Legalism was the principal philosophic basis of the
Qin Dynasty in China. Confucian scholars were persecuted under Legalist rule.
Buddhism is a system of beliefs based on the teachings of Siddhartha
Gautama, an Indian prince later known as the Buddha, or one who is Awake.
Buddhism is fairly unique as a traditional non-theistic religion, one whose
tenets are not especially concerned with the existence or nonexistence of
God. Buddha himself expressly disavowed any special divine status or
inspiration, and said that anyone, anywhere could spiritually achieve all
that he had. The question of God is largely irrelevant in Buddhism, though
some sects (notably Tibetan Buddhism) do worship a number of gods drawn in
from local indigenous belief systems, and hold that these gods are merely
different aspects of the universal whole.
Buddhism is based on the Four Noble Truths. All life is held to be suffering
derived from desire, and that suffering can be eliminated through awareness.
Awareness is heightened through the practice of meditation.
Most Buddhist sects believe in karma, a cause-and-effect relationship
between all that has been done and all that will be done. Events that occur
are held to be the direct result of previous events. One effect of karma is
rebirth. At death, the karma from a given life determines the nature of the
next life's existence. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist practitioner is to
eliminate karma (both good and bad), end the cycle of rebirth and suffering,
and attain Nirvana, translated as nothingness or blissful oblivion and
characterized as the state of being one with the entire universe.
Zen is a fusion of Mahayana Buddhism with Taoist principles. Bodhidharma was
a semilegendary Indian monk who traveled to China in the fifth century CE.
There, at the Shaolin temple, he began the Ch'an school of Buddhism, known
in Japan and in the West as Zen Buddhism. Zen philosophy places emphasis on
existing in the moment, right now. Zen teaches that the entire universe is
one's mind, and if one cannot realize enlightenment in one's own mind now,
one cannot ever achieve enlightenment.
Zen practitioners engage in zazen (just sitting) meditation. Several schools
of Zen have developed various other techniques for provoking satori, or
enlightenment, ranging from whacking acolytes with a stick to shock them
into the present moment to koans, Zen riddles designed to force the student
to abandon futile attempts to understand the nature of the universe through logic.
Hinduism is a belief system prevalent in India. (c.f.)
Maoism is a Communist philosophy based on the teachings of 20th century
Communist Party of China revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. It is based
partially on earlier theories by Marx and Lenin, but rejects the urban
proletariat and Leninist emphasis on heavy industrialization in favor of a
revolution supported by the peasantry, and a decentralized agrarian economy
based on many collectivly worked farms.
Many people believe that the implementation of Maoism in China led to
widespread famine, with millions of people starving to death. Chinese
Communist leader Deng Xiaoping instituted non-Maoist reforms which
eventually enabled the country to recover.
Despite this, Maoism has remained a popular ideology for various Communist
revolutionary groups around the world, notably the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia,
Sendero Luminoso in Peru, and an ongoing (as of early 2003) Maoist
insurrection in Nepal.
Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan, a sophisticated form of animism
that holds that spirits called kami inhabit all things. Worship is at public
shrines, or in small shrines constructed in one's home.