East vs. West

I saved a quote from a book I read. It was something to the effect of Eastern religions being alien to Western temperament. But I’ll be darned if I can remember which book the quote came from. Anyway, after reading an old issue of PanGaia, which focused on the “Wisdom of the East” (#31 Spring 2003), I began to wonder if there isn’t something to this idea. By incorporating Eastern thought and practice into the religious life of a Western person, are we just making spirituality more confusing? Admittedly, there is something to be said for the practices of meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. But can similar practices not be found in Western religions? I wonder if Christian, Greek, or Jewish mystics did not meditation, even if they did not call it such. Mindfulness is surely something that all spiritual people practice, or should practices at least.

So, what about purely Eastern spiritual practices like Buddhism? There are many Western people who follow Buddhist teachings. They seem to have integrated those teachings into their lives well, if one believes various stories and articles. But are not the ideals of Buddhism antithesis to Western ideals? To the Buddhist, life is suffering. One is expected to become without desire in order to come out of this suffering. Western societies are based on desire. We are expected to live better then our parents, buy the newest model of whatever our particular toy is, and enjoy it. Would one not become confused when living with Buddhist ideals within a Western society?

And what about Wicca? Is it a purely Western religion, or does it encompass Eastern ideas? Does it help us to function as good little capitalists, like society demands, or does it help us to function in spite of this demand? I wish I knew.