west/east culture difference - view of death in religion 26 replies

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Nemmerle Forum Mod

Voice of joy and sunshine

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#11 12 years ago

Taoism doesn't really venture a whole lot of answers, essentially it just says not to worry about death as it's a complementary part of life. [INDENT]"Since life and death are each other's companions, why worry about them? All beings are one." - Chuang Tzu[/INDENT] Ironically many Taoists spend their time looking for secrets of immortality which I think rather misses the point of the whole thing.

Hindu beliefs still have the person existing after breaking free of the circle of life and death, they just exist as a part of something else. Christian beliefs have a person having a final death (eventually) and existing within God's city on earth (or getting thrown into a lake of fire.) The person does not go to nothing, a continuation of their existence after death in one form or another is central to both beliefs.




Emperor Benedictine

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#12 12 years ago

I think it's pretty debatable. The result of breaking free of the cycle of death and rebirth is usually described as some sort of blissful, higher state of being, but to hear it some ways it sounds a lot like a metaphor for simply ceasing to exist. One thing that is clear is that religions like Buddhism explicitly reject the idea that a person can keep their own personality after death, whereas religions like Christianity hold that one can, provided that personality is "worthy" of existance. There are similarities and differences. But then to take any religious symbolism as literal truth, the way I see it, robs it of any meaning it might have, or ever have had. It may be that the afterlife beliefs are not particularly important except in relation to the beliefs regarding people's behaviour on earth.




Roaming East

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#13 12 years ago

Basically, Western culture is more individualistic in outlook with the goal being for a person to accomplish as much as he can as soon as he can. Eastern outlooks have always been more outward then inward. Even the concept of religion follows the same pattern. People vie for heaven not because attaining the purity to go there would enhance the world around them and bring them peace but because the alternative is eternal punishment. Its all a huge scare tactic.




Junk angel

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#14 12 years ago

But the main question is: why? Why did these cultures evolve to be so different in this? As you say individuality - yet this is shown in many facets of life - but when and why did this happen?




Aeroflot

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#15 12 years ago

It's because of Western philosophy--the Greek philosophers.




Chemix2

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#16 12 years ago

Religion, or to use a more general term, spiritualism, believes in something that cannot be destroyed, the soul/ka/spirit/etc. The western religions and the eastern religions have similar goals, simply very different means. Hinduism believes in a series of lives and ascension through a sort of caste system based on one's karma, which is dependent on one's proper fulfillment of their darma (duty). Buddhism is similar to Hinduism except that it believes enlightenment can be achieved in a single life time, but it requires a lot more work in that life time. Taoism and Confucianism don't really deal with the afterlife or many higher level spiritual concepts, in fact they're more philosophies than religions, hence why they are allowed to be freely practiced in China; it doesn't put any authority higher than the government.

Like others have said, the east believes more in the group that the individual, but there is some reason to this; India, China & Japan all were isolated from each other and the rest of the world from a long time. So once each region was established under a primary empire there was little to take control away from the government except rebellions which often simply replaced the government rather than breaking up the provinces or putting them under a new faction's control. Europe was divided into a series scattered manors (land with a village with serfs all under 1 lord who's will would be enforced by knights and occasionally the lord would be controlled by someone higher up in the hierarchy, but other than taxes the manors were pretty independent), so given that the government didn't have as much control as in the East (Japan being the exception under the Samurai system up till the Edo period that attempted to mirror control similar to Chin Empire, but ultimately failed a few hundred years later), or at least in such a widespread way.

Essentially, the West had more individuals vying for power and more people taking and giving control on a regular basis than the East leading to individualism where as control in the East lead to a focus on large scale community systems, or communism for short.




Junk angel

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#17 12 years ago

Now that's interesting.

So after your definition, due to the division of the western nations. Starting with the greek islands, city states or inland tribes, that often warred each other we are more individualistic.

In a way, we became more machiavelistic when one looks at it this way. The western cultures where never complacent with the power they had, and always vied for more. In a way it could explain the view of death. Whereas, with the amount of people in power in the western lands there were so many wishing to somehow keep this very power even after death, in contrast the few centralised power groups in easern countries were never too numerous, nor so quickly changing, that this desire to keep the power eternally never manifested itself in such a magnitude.




Chemix2

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#18 12 years ago

it's not about keeping power, both believe that they go on to exist, whether it be in one form or as a part of a larger whole (think a drop of water into the ocean), it's about being happy as simply a contributer to something larger versus wanting yourself to be something larger. Those in power in the East felt assured of eternal power; the Chinese and Japanese had clear and definite "after lives" whether that meant as a spirit, or an element, or what have you, it's simply that most normal people were concerned with servicing the leaders figure to their ascension as leaders in the beyond, whereas they were content with meager post death existences like becoming helpful spirits.

So in the West the focus was put on the individual, whereas in the East it was focused on the community or a specific person over the community.




Guest

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#19 12 years ago
wraithcat;3852331From what I understand - at least from my 9+ year stay in india, it's actually a sort of ceasing of existence, they truly seek to be freed of life, of sentience if you will.

I couldn’t agree more. I take solace in that as well. What I don’t understand is how anyone would want to live forever. (perhaps personal selfishness?)




Chemix2

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#20 12 years ago

ignoring your poke at religion; eternal life grants unlimited options as to what you could do, see, hear, or think. All of those regrets of things you never said, never had time to do, etc. etc. Whereas entering non-existence is just to be nothing, do nothing, feel nothing, empty oblivion that you won't even be aware of, it's an end, and the human mind cannot comprehend what a true end is, perhaps because nothing ever really ends.