Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Finding Balance in the Study of Eastern and Western Philosophy

Eastern and Western philosophy quote from the book on a desert background.
The first of many gems I found in this book, even though it wasn’t what I expected.

“Underlying all Western modes of analysis is a very strong rationalistic tendency – an assumption that everything can be accounted for.”

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

I can’t be the only one that is thinking that the study of Eastern and Western Philosophy may be a way to bring the chaos of modern civilization into balance. If each of us could spend time considering ways to live more peacefully, the mood of even social media may change for the better.

When I read the quote above, I imagined a bean-counter sitting at his desk picking apart a human consciousness. This is related to this. That is caused by that. Hmm… You can see the animation play out, can’t you?

Some would read this and think, “Yeah, those dumb Western thinkers! Always thinking they can reason their way out of everything, control the outcomes. Not everything has a rational explanation!”

And not everything can, or should be, controlled.

Modern thinking has supposedly thrown out superstitious and spiritual “woo-woo” reasons for what happens in the physical world. In my opinion, it seems we’ve simply replaced it with something far more dangerous, the worship of the state. Voting seems to give government supernatural abilities that are unlimited in scope. We need not worry, think, or reason for ourselves because every few years we vote for someone else to do that for us.

But that’s not what this book is about, or what I came to talk about. It’s just what leaked through my brain as I thought about the quote.

There’s a lot of good that has come from that bend toward rational accountability in Western thought. Christian teaching tells us that God gave us the earth to take care of.

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 

Matthew 6:26

Taking the reins of life on earth is a big job for humanity. It’s a huge responsibility. The forces of life on earth are great. What if we could control and guide them? What could we accomplish if we drove them instead of rode them?

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible…enter chaos, right? That’s where Eastern thought, and Buddhism specifically, is helping me personally. Could it help all of humanity, like in a balance way, two halves of a whole finally coming together in the modern era?

I think so. Reading this book has only confirmed some of my suspicions about Eastern and Western philosophy and now I want to know more. My Western culture has taught me ambition, responsibility, and reasoning. Can Eastern culture teach me acceptance and peace about the chaos outside?

I’ve been curious about Buddhism and Eastern thought for years and I think it’s about time I spent some serious study in it. I’m still looking for good sources, so if you know of any you’ve had experience with, let me know in the comments.

You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it back in December, New Read: The Art of Happiness

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

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2 Comments

  1. Recommend a very accessible book on what the Buddhists call the perfections – parami ways to cross life’s floods Ajahn Sucitto

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