FROM times we know, we have been paying for the follies of the West. Look at the record.
The West put god outside man. The East put god within man. The god outside became a punishing god.
The Western image of god was that of a ruler who directed the world from above.
The Eastern image of god was that of a principle inherent in matter which guided man in his evolution.
The West chose to be guided by the revelations of its God. The East put its faith in freedom to choose its path.
The West kept spirit and matter apart. The East saw them as two sides of the same coin.
The Buddha proclaimed the doctrine of Ahimsa. So did Jesus. And yet the Christian church took to violence as its way. In fact, it has been notorious for its barbarity.
Christianity was for ethical life and for succour to the poor. So were Hinduism and Buddhism. But when it came to economic matters, the church gave up ethics. With what result? Men were equal in politics (one vote one man), but unequal in economics. Very strange!
Western civilisation was male dominated, with male values, till recently. Result? Women have been chattels in the West for centuries. In the East women were always respected and they held important positions in society. Eastern women were great scholars and good fighters.
The West had always been for dualism. For example, spirit and matter, god and devil. They were always in conflict, it was believed. Thus, the conflict between god and the devil devastated the world and men. In India, from Vedic times, the trend was for non-dualism, for Advaita.
The West believed that matter was dead, floating about in the void with the force of god. From this point, it was easy for scientists to construct the universe as a huge machine of dead matter, moved by god. This mechanistic view of Newton held on till recently. This faulted view of matter became the basis of classical physics. With what result? God ruled over the world from above by imposing his laws on the universe.
The world paid heavily for this fairy tale view of the universe.
Christianity believed that the earth is an evil place. It wanted men to observe poverty as an ideal. As a result, there was no development in Europe for almost 1500 years. The Hindus divided life into four stages, each stage of equal attraction. This made earth an attractive place.
Descartes created a new conflict – the conflict between mind and body. In the East, the body is seen as a whole.
This fragmentation of the body was applied to men (races, nations) and to medical science. In contrast, the east saw the world as organic, with everything inter-connected. There is no fragmentation here.
With quantum and relativity theorise of Einstein, the old mechanistic view had to be abandoned. It was a matter of great satisfaction to the Hindus that it was their view that prevailed.
The west promoted individualism in economics, collectivism (congregation) in religion and equality (one vote one person) in politics. The Hindus have always been individualists and votaries of freedom of choice.
It is the claim of the West that it has civilised the world, that it improved the way of life. But at what cost? Once Gandhiji told an American: “You claim that you produce a daily newspaper of 120 pages over night. But what is its use if it hasn’t got two columns worth reading and preserving?”
The mechanistic view of the world did great damage to human civilisation. And the industrial revolution promised progress. But are we less selfish, less greedy? JK Galbraith the famous economist used to say that “selfishness will always win against idealism.” And JRD Tata, the doyen of Indian industrialists said that it was greed which was driving the Indian economy.
Today, the West is promoting democracy and globalism. The arguments appear to be sound. The East has no serious objection. But let us wait and see what comes out of them.