Eastern Philosophy: A Primer

by Bob J. Westhoven - Date: 2010-09-22 - Word Count: 494 Share This!

The Western world has taken a great interest in Eastern philosophy. Whether your interest was sparked by trying to escape the rat race or from watching a "Kung Fu" rerun, there is much to learn from an alternate tradition. While there are many great teachers to learn from, here is a small selection to start your journey.

Sheikh Farid (or Farīduddīn Mas'ūd) was a Sufi poet from Punjab. His writings were so popular in that region that they became an important part of the Sikh religion which developed there later. Below is a mythical conversation from the Sikh Guru Nanak to Baba Farid. Notice that reflecting his master's words enhances both the student and the teacher.

Farid: Separated from God, my body burns like an oven, My bones burn like firewood. To meet the Beloved I would walk until my feet were tired, Then I would walk on my head. [Guru Nanak comments:] You need not burn yourself like an oven, need not inflame your bones. Why torture your poor limbs? Behold the spirit in yourself. Nanak says, I search for my Friend, but my Friend is already with me.

Another great teacher is Kabir, a highly respected Benares (today: Varanasi) spiritualist whose inspiring couplets promoted both Sufi and Bhakti philosophies. He promoted meditation and thought instead of rituals and idol worship. His poems are known for their clever analogies, even daring to use irony or satire to promote moral pacifism and purity. Consider this quote from Kabir where he encourages you to reverse a common metaphor:

A drop melting into the sea, everyone can see. But the sea absorbed into a drop - only a rare one can follow!

Gautama Siddhartha (Buddha) was a spiritual teacher from ancient India on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In Buddhist tradition, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha of our age. "Buddha" means "the enlightened one." Most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE. Meditate on the following thoughts from the Buddha to give you some perspective on learning:

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because many say it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything simply on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is for the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

This is only a beginning point for the many thoughts and philosophies in this world for you to reflect on and to learn from. Open your mind to the teachings of Eastern spiritual leaders and visionaries and you will be rewarded as you compare them to those of the Western world. These teachings are only guidance though - you must do the thinking for yourself.

If you would like to learn more, you can listen to the podcast: A Minute of Mediation or listen to human interest stories and other podcasts on Septic Radio including Living with Suicide.n
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