THEME 2.The Ancient Philosophy of East. Phenomenon of philosophy in Eastern philosophy.
The following is an overview of the Eastern philosophic traditions. Each tradition has a separate article with more detail on sects, schools, etc. (c.f.)
Hinduism is generally considered to be the oldest major world religion still practised today and first among Dharma faiths. Hinduism is characterized by a diverse array of belief systems, practices and scriptures. It has its origin in ancient Vedic culture at least as far back as 3000 BC. It is the third largest religion with approximately 1.05 billion followers worldwide, 96% of whom live in the Indian subcontinent.
Hinduism rests on the spiritual bedrock of the Vedas, hence Veda Dharma, and their mystic issue, the Upanishads, as well as the teachings of many great Hindu gurus through the ages. Many streams of thought flow from the six Vedic/Hindu schools, Bhakti sects and Tantra Agamic schools into the one ocean of Hinduism, the first of the Dharma religions.
What can be said to be common to all Hindus is belief in Dharma, reincarnation, karma, and moksha (liberation) of every soul through a variety of moral, action-based, and meditative yogas. Still more fundamental principles include ahimsa (non-violence), the primacy of the Guru, the Divine Word of Aum and the power of mantras, love of Truth in many manifestations as gods and goddessess, and an understanding that the essential spark of the Divine (Atman/Brahman) is in every human and living being, thus allowing for many spiritual paths leading to the One Unitary Truth.
Confucianism developed around the teachings of Confucius and is based on a set of Chinese classic texts. It was the mainstream ideology in China and the sinosphere since the Han dynasty and may still be a major founder element in Far-East culture. It could be understood as a social ethic and humanist system focusing on human beings and their relationships. Confucianism emphasizes formal rituals in every aspect of life, from quasi-religious ceremonies to strict politeness and deference to one's elders, specifically to one's parents and to the state in the form of the Emperor.
Taoism, whose essence is centered around letting things take their natural course, is the traditional foil of Confucianism. Taoism's central books are the Tao Te Ching, traditionally attributed to Lao Zi (Lao tse), and the Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tse). The core concepts of Taoism are traced far in Chinese History, incorporating elements of mysticism dating back to prehistoric times, linked also with the Book of Changes (I Ching), a divinatory set of 64 geometrical figures describing states and evolutions of the world. Taoism emphasizes Nature, individual freedom, refusal of social bounds, and was a doctrine professed by those who "retreated in mountains". At the end of their lives --or during the night, Confucian officers often behaved as Taoists, writing poetry or trying to "reach immortality". Yet Taoism is also a government doctrine where the ruler's might is ruling through "non-action" (Wuwei).
Legalism advocated a strict interpretation of the law in every respect. Morality was not important; adherence to the letter of the law was paramount. Officials who exceeded expectations were as liable for punishment as were those who underperformed their duties, since both were not adhering exactly to their duties. Legalism was the principal philosophic basis of the Qin Dynasty in China. Confucian scholars were persecuted under Legalist rule.
Buddhism is a system of beliefs based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince later known as the Buddha, or one who is Awake - derived from the Sanskrit 'bud', 'to awaken'. Buddhism is a non-theistic religion, one whose tenets are not especially concerned with the existence or nonexistence of a God or gods. The Buddha himself expressly disavowed any special divine status or inspiration, and said that anyone, anywhere could achieve all the insight that he had. The question of God is largely irrelevant in Buddhism, though some sects (notably Tibetan Buddhism) do venerate a number of gods drawn in from local indigenous belief systems.
The Buddhist soteriology is summed up in the Four Noble Truths:
Dukkha: All worldly life is unsatisfactory, disjointed, containing suffering.
Samudaya: There is a cause of suffering, which is attachment or desire (tanha) rooted in ignorance.
Nirodha: There is an end of suffering, which is Nirvana.
Marga: There is a path that leads out of suffering, known as the Noble Eightfold Path.
However, Buddhist philosophy as such has its foundations more in the doctrines of anatta, which specifies that all is without substantial metaphysical being, pratitya-samutpada, which delineates the Buddhist concept of causality, and Buddhist phenomenological analysis of dharmas, or phenomenological constituents.
Most Buddhist sects believe in karma, a cause-and-effect relationship between all that has been done and all that will be done. Events that occur are held to be the direct result of previous events. One effect of karma is rebirth. At death, the karma from a given life determines the nature of the next life's existence. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist practitioner is to eliminate karma (both good and bad), end the cycle of rebirth and suffering, and attain Nirvana, translated as nothingness or blissful oblivion and characterized as the state of being one with the entire universe.
Zen is a fusion of Mahayana Buddhism with Taoist principles. Bodhidharma was a semilegendary Indian monk who traveled to China in the 5th century. There, at the Shaolin temple, he began the Ch'an school of Buddhism, known in Japan and in the West as Zen Buddhism. Zen philosophy places emphasis on existing in the moment, right now. Zen teaches that the entire universe is one's mind, and if one cannot realize enlightenment in one's own mind now, one cannot ever achieve enlightenment.
Zen practitioners engage in zazen (just sitting) meditation. Several schools of Zen have developed various other techniques for provoking satori, or enlightenment, ranging from whacking acolytes with a stick to shock them into the present moment to koans, Zen riddles designed to force the student to abandon futile attempts to understand the nature of the universe through logic. Entheogens are also used in some Zen sects, especially in the West.
Jainism was founded by Mahavira, a teacher and religious leader who lived around the same time as the Buddha. The word Jaina comes from the title Jina, or victorious one, referring to those who have achieved victory over their own passions. Jainism teaches asceticism - acts of self-discipline, self-deprivation, and self-denial - as the way to enlightenment. The original Jains were among the world' first monks, retreating from ordinary life to devote themselves to fasting and meditation. Some Jaina communities still exist today.
Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan, a sophisticated form of animism that holds that spirits called kami inhabit all things. Worship is at public shrines, or in small shrines constructed in one's home.
The perception of God and the gods
Because of the influence of monotheism and especially the Abrahamic religions, Western philosophies have been faced with the question of the nature of God and His relationship to the universe. This has created a dichotomy among Western philosophies between secular philosophies and religious philosophies which develop within the context of a particular monotheistic religion's dogma regarding the nature of God and the universe.
Eastern philosophies have not been as concerned by questions relating to the nature of a single God as the universe's sole creator and ruler. The distinction between the religious and the secular tends to be much less sharp in Eastern philosophy, and the same philosophical school often contains both religious and philosophical elements. Thus, some people accept the metaphysical tenets of Buddhism without going to a temple and worshipping. Some have worshipped the Taoist deities religiously without bothering to delve into the philosophic underpinnings, while others embrace Taoist philosophy while ignoring the religious aspects.
This arrangement stands in marked contrast to most philosophy of the West, which has traditionally enforced either a completely unified philosophic/religious belief system (e.g. the various sects and associated philosophies of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), or a sharp and total repudiation of religion by philosophy (e.g. Nietzsche, Marx, Voltaire, etc.).
OBLIGATORY READING MATERIALS: 1(p - 45-46)
ADITIONAL READING MATERIALS: Internet
1. Teachings of many great Hindu gurus through the ages.
2. Spiritual bedrock od Taotezen. Book of Changes .