Guest Author - Cara Newman
Eastern philosophy has had tremendous migration into the Western culture. Its effects can be easily observed in many daily practices of our lives such as the exercise of yoga as well as the discipline of meditation.
We often hear that meditation can greatly benefit the state of our mind. Now even some medical doctors have suggested meditation as a part of wellness maintenance programs prescribed for their patients. We are now encouraged to “empty our mind” and achieve a peaceful life.
Interestingly enough, the physical application of yoga is seen all over the West. From books to DVDs, group classes to retreats, yoga is practiced by many. It is now offered in most fitness clubs, and can be found in all major cities. Western society is no stranger to this ancient practice from the East.
Why has the growth of Eastern philosophy continued to flourish in the West? Many would argue that it is a complicated issue and cannot be narrowed down to a single cause.
In the last fifty years, due to the Chinese occupancy of Tibet (as well as resulting in Dalai Lama’s fleeting to India in 1959), Buddhism has not only planted the seeds but also blossomed in the garden of the West. Earlier western writers such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Alan Watts have all contributed in popularizing Eastern philosophy significantly.
In addition to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism are two other major branches of Eastern philosophy that have migrated into the western world. Hindus believe in the Dharma (duties and ethics), Karma, in additions to the libration of the soul through continuous inner work. The large immigration from India as well as increased travel of westerners have both opened up Hinduism to the world.
With respect to Sufism, the beliefs of this mystical tradition gently seep into western psyche through many beautiful Sufi writings. Many modern writers such as the popular self-help author, Barbara DeAngelis, have known to commonly refer to Sufi writings in their work.
The western world has openly embraced many essences of the Eastern philosophy without great effort, and even reincarnation has become such an ordinary belief that many of us acknowledge it to be our personal spiritual truth. Eastern philosophy continues to gain popularity in the West, adding to our pop culture as we have seen in major movies and popular TV shows. For example, the motion picture “Gandhi” which received eight Academy Awards including Best Picture allowed us to see into the life of this amazing leader whose life set a great example of the non-violent Hindu philosophy.
Whether or not we accept the practice or the beliefs behind Eastern philosophy into our personal lives, the opportunity to examine different belief systems other than our traditional western thinking has encouraged us to explore!
Exploration is a vital pat of the human condition, and we not only become critical thinkers, but perhaps someday we all will find our personal truth about the world.