How Eastern And Western Philosophy Differ
Posted on May 5, 2015 · Posted in Philosophy

Eastern and Western philosophies disagree with each other about the problems of birth, death, karma, reincarnation, good and evil, the nature of the soul, existence of God, free will, spiritual practice and liberation. When Western philosophers discuss these topics they base their theory on their speculation, that is why their conclusion is impersonalistic. Eastern philosophers base their knowledge on the Vedic scriptures which is why their conclusion is personalistic. Even though the thinking process is the legitimate function of the mind, still mental speculation is compared to milk touched by the lips of a poisonous serpent. Because speculation on the supramandane subject is said to be a proud attempt by using God’s given talents. Whereas knowledge based on the Vedic scriptures is compared to pure uncontaminated milk, because the faculties of thinking through scriptural evidence keeps one internally humble and externally sober. There is no place in the Vedic scriptures for imagination, myth or speculation, whereas Western philosophy differs.

For example, Vedic philosophy states that the soul is ever existent, therefore it is immortal. Our present hardships are due to our past misdeeds (karma) and our present actions will be experienced in a future life. The meritorious person reaches heaven and enjoys there for some time and then returns to this world when his merits expire. But if someone embraces the proper spiritual life seriously, then he enters the Kingdom of God or the Spiritual World where suffering ends forever. Whereas Western scholars deny this philosophy and claim the soul was created at one point and exist only for one lifetime on Earth, and after death it is condemned eternally or goes to heaven forever. Therefore Western philosophy dismisses reincarnation. Even though many people are seen crippled, blind, sick or poor from birth, whereas others are born healthy and rich, still western philosophers envision the soul living for only one lifetime and having no karmic reaction.

The Vedic perspective argues that if the soul lives for only one lifetime and there is no reincarnation, then where is the room for Supreme Justice? If the soul is eternally dammed or eternally saved, then where is the meaning to fortunate or unfortunate while alive? Why is one person in a family educated, pious, opulent and happy, whereas another member from the same family becomes impious, ignorant, criminal, poor or deformed? Why…? Western philosophers are unable to answer such basic questions and dismiss them as irrelevant. But Vedic philosophers have answers to every question because their knowledge is based on the perfect authority, Lord Sri Krsna.

Although human intellect is developer in art, science, music, philosophy, physics, psychology, economics, chemistry, and politics as well as many other important fields, still it falls short in attaining perfection of life. One has to adopt a cultural philosophy to attain human perfection. The philosophy which answers the questions of why we are here, why undesired things are imposed upon us, why do we have to die, where will we go after death, who is God, what does He looks like and where does He live, etcetera is called cultural philosophy. In other words realizing our constitutional position and our relationship with God is said to be the perfection of human life. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending propensities are equally found among both animals and human beings. The difference between human beings and animals is that animals are not responsible for their present deeds and cannot understand the science of God, whereas human beings can. Therefore a human being is advised to try to understand the science beyond life. The answer to where he has come from and where he will go after death is called the science beyond life. If one does not do so, then a careful consideration to reform one’s life is recommended. The Vedic scripture states:

ahara nidra bhaya maithunam ca
samanyam etat pasubhir naranam
dharmo hi eko adhika viseso
dharmena hinah pasu hi samana

“The propensity to eat, sleep, mate and defend are equal in animals and human beings. Only one extra thing is rewarded to humans, that is to establish their relationship with God. In other words the only difference between human beings and animals is that human beings can be trained in the science of spirituality, whereas animals cannot. If any human being does not attempt to learn about spiritual life, he is considered to be equal to an animal.”

[Mahamandaleshwar Mahant Krsna Balaram Swami, 26 July 2009]