Monday, February 21, 2005

The east vs. the west

One of the things that has sort of jumped out at me in my comparitive religion class is that one of the big differences between eastern religions (e.g. Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism) and western religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is that the eastern ones deny the obvious and the western ones affirm the obvious. I'm speaking in generalities here. I realize there are exceptions.

Several eastern religions think our major problem is ignorance. We're all deluded somehow, and we need to reach enlightenment. Englightenment always turns out to be the realization that reality is quite different than it appears. The external world is an illusion, the distinction between self and others is an illusion, time is an illusion, and even logic is an illusion.

The eastern religion mind-set seems self-refuting to me. There are certain things that seem obvious to us. There's a real tangible world out there, we are not all the same person, time is real, and logic is real. If we're all deluded about these things, then our cognative faculties aren't working right. And if our cognative faculties aren't working right, then we're in no position to say whether these things are real or not. If we're in no position to say whether these things are real or not, then we can't say that ordinary experience is delusion and a denial of our ordinary experiences is "englightenment" rather than vice versa.

If we can trust our cognative faculties, then "englightenment" is just another word for "self-delusion." Think about it. Think about the things eastern folks have to go through to help them deny the obvious. Some of them spend all day contemplating the sound of one hand clapping and other such nonsense. Almost all of them meditate in order to escape reality. It's just mental gymnastics. The techniques for meditation often sound a lot like self-hypnosis. The crazy things they do in their strained efforts to escape what seems obvious to all of us is just self-delusion. They're just brainwashing themselves. All they ever succeed in doing is temporarily escaping reality in some altered state of consciousness while meditating. Once they're done, they have to come back and join us all again in the real world.


At 2/22/2005 2:09 PM , Blogger Kelly said...

Good post. I respect the Eastern religious thought that there is much going on outside of our scope that we don't understand. However, their refusal to recognize that what's going on in our scope is reality, even though a small part of reality, is detrimental to their philosophy.

At 2/25/2005 4:37 PM , Blogger Safiyyah said...

I found your post incredibly funny for some reason. Especially the last few paragraphs. I agree with you on the 'reality is an illusion' argument, although I think I would be less harsh on my analysis of the eastern religions.

At 3/01/2005 2:01 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Safiyyah, I guess some of my emotion came out in that post. I'll tell you why I seemed to be a little harsh. My philosphy teacher is a Buddhist, and he had the gall to get up in front of the class and inform everybody that Christianity is an irrational religion, and Buddhism is a rational religion. I found that highly ironic in light of the fact that every semester I've had him, he and I have gotten into a debate about logic--me, a Christian, defending it, and he, a Buddhist, arguing against it. I'm perfectly okay with him thinking Christianity is irrational or that Buddhism is irrational, especially if he can defend those assertions. But what gets my goat is the fact that he just makes these bald assertions in a class full of students who really don't know any better, and semester after semester, I see him converting these people to his way of thinking. Professors have an incredible amount of influence over how their students think.


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