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A Report on the Philosophy EncounterEastWest.pdf

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    A Report on the Philosophy Encounter: East-WestAuthor(s): Ramakant SinariSource: Philosophy East and West,  Vol. 35, No. 2 (Apr., 1985), pp. 195-199Published by: University of Hawai'i PressStable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1399050Accessed: 08-09-2018 15:34 UTC   JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a widerange of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity andfacilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available athttps://about.jstor.org/terms University of Hawai'i Press  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extendaccess to Philosophy East and West  This content downloaded from 129.2.19.102 on Sat, 08 Sep 2018 15:34:55 UTCAll use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms   Comment and Discussion A Report on the philosophy encounter: East-West There are intellectual concerns which cut across the whole variety of languages, disciplines, nationalities, and cultures. The universality of these concerns is due  to the fact that they are intertwined with the very phenomenon of our existence in  the world, with our living in the world as humans, with our basic disposition to choose a future. The differences in the spatio-temporal locations of men have not much influenced the quality of inquiries they have made about the meaning of  their life, about the srcin of their consciousness, the beginning and the ultimate  nature of the universe, about what they should do for attaining self-fulfillment and perfection. There are no magical solutions to problems arising out of our desire for self- development. Our age is known for its complexity. Today we have journeyed too far from the times when our forefathers could propitiate spirits and leave their  welfare in their hands. And yet in a sense we have reached a stage when we cannot  but envy our forefathers for the sublime simplicity of their lives, the attuned relation they experienced vis-a-vis their own selves, their fellowmen, and their  environment.  There is a certain kind of arrogance reflected by modern man in his behavior  toward nature-it is the arrogance of his having analyzed and fragmented her  successfully, having objectified her and known her scientifically, having tamed her to his desires through the application of technology. The story of today's scientific-technological-industrial man is the story of one  who has let his analytic-intellectual self override his synthetic-emotional self.  What is to be recognized is that there is an essential unity, an amalgam, a Gestalt in the whole process of the universe, and if one is perceptive and profound one  sees it in one's own existential experience, one's being-in-the-world, and one's  experience of self-identity.  Men's unity-organic, psychic, and spiritual-with his own self and with the  universe, as he operates like a whole amidst wholes, is similar to that of an individual letter or picture with the entire expanse within a hologram. The  universe is fundamentally a plenum, Nothing filled with Being, so to say, a totality  in which every neat constituent is connected with every other in a manner that would utterly confound our logico-mathematical way of comprehension. At no stage therefore can we speak of a single part of the universe as rigid and self-  sufficient, absolute and fully self-governing.  The part-and-the-whole relationship in its preeminently physical, biological, psychological, and ontological dimensions was the theme of discussions in a six-  day seminar (called Philosophy Encounter: East-West) organized recently in  Bombay by Max Mueller Bhavan and the National Centre for the Performing  Arts. The cosponsors of the seminar were the Alliance Franqaise and the British  Council.  Views expressed by most of the speakers at the encounter were focused o This content downloaded from 129.2.19.102 on Sat, 08 Sep 2018 15:34:55 UTCAll use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms   196 Sinari  some of the perennial questions: What can we make out of the biological world in which we live? What is man? How was man given the cosmic process? Did the famous cosmological Big Bang hold him ity? What can we make out of ourselves-our thought, self-consc  psyche, our birth and death, our language and symbolism, our cogit we the property, or an epiphenomenon if you like, of the complicat yet-fully-mapped physical-chemical-biological network? Or are we i  sense irreducible to this network? Are we dead and gone when t pronounces us so, or do we still survive in some incognito space-  which we are not able to encompass in our knowledge? What do the consciousness, or its fluctuations, alterations, trips, suggest? Are th  consciousness and the known world ontologically one reality, a h  as it were, exhibiting a twofold operation?  It is well known that while most Western thinkers (the old Greek p  Neoplatonists, Scholastics, and the Romanticists being noticeable this) have been committed to the positivist-analytic-mechanistic sta which any given whole is regarded as fully translatable into parts, t  Indian thinkers-Hindus, Buddhists, and Jainas-upheld a metaphysical-  synthetic-holistic procedure for comprehending the real. The entire encounter reverted again and again to the Eastern way of seeing reality (Being, Brahman, Tao) immortalized by Indian metaphysics, religions, mysticism, and art.  The physicists at the encounter, Paul Davies, Elizabeth Rauscher, H. Reit-  boeck, and Jean Charon, argued in favor of the most revolutionary ideas about  the structure of the universe and about man's place in it triggered off in the  present century by quantum mechanics. We are no more able to speak of the  universe as being objectively there or as analyzable into the srcinal, sta-  tic, material particles governed by known laws, they emphasized. There is no doubt that what has been happening in physics since the beginning of this century, first as a result of the most exciting discoveries by men like  Einstein, Heisenberg, Neils Bohr, Louis De Broglie, Schrodinger, and Paul  Dirac, and then because of the coming of quantum mechanics, has bestowed a  new meaning on the ontological perceptions of the ancient Eastern thinkers. The dtman-Brahman identity celebrated in the Vedas and the Upanisads, the holistic  interpretation of the entire cosmic process presented by Krishna to Arjuna in the  BhagavadgTtd, the doctrine that the spatio-temporal world is maya or illusion set  by Sankara's nondualism, and the seminal sunya, or zero-experience charac-  terized by Nagarjuna as the source of the variegated drama of all existence, can  now be seen to contain the Easterners' direct and intuitive reach to the ultimate  truth. If the new physics, with its revolutionary quantum mechanics, is correct in stating that the universe is finally a mesh of electromagnetic waves or vibrations,  no part of which can be isolated from the whole and attributed a reality status,  then the conventionally practiced method of analysis and fragmentation for  explaining the universe becomes miserably inadequate. Such an analysis is likely This content downloaded from 129.2.19.102 on Sat, 08 Sep 2018 15:34:55 UTCAll use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms   197  to give us, on the other hand, a naive picture of what is fundamental in our world-  experience. The encounterists, Alex Comfort, Wilhelm Halbfass, Stanislav Grof, Satwant  Pasricha, and Walter Frank, looked at the entire part-and-the-whole question  from a point of view that blended the disciplines of biology, medicine, psycho-  analysis, neuropsychology, parapsychology, and philosophy. While examining  the various dimensions of the process of the universe (in fact this process itself can be said to have invented the mechanism of its own knowledge through the activity of human consciousness), they freely lauded the ontological and spiritual probes of the ancient Indian savants.  The most compelling feature of the dialogue, even when several speakers'  disciplines were visibly remote from philosophy and did not permit flights from empirical and experimental data, was that it was still philosophical and critical. In fact, philosophical reflection was at the center of all the deliberations. This is  partly because the participants had been chosen (the organizers must be con-  gratulated for their sagacity in doing this) such that they had the spontaneous  drive to look penetratingly at the assumptions of their own disciplines and  readily accept the challenges. A high degree of thirst for wisdom about what is  going on inside and outside man's skin, as it were, was conspicuous in the  encounter. Dr. Georg Lechner and Mr. Jamshed Bhabha, the chairpersons of the  encounter, themselves reflected this thirst while frequently throwing in key  remarks and engineering the discussions.  Philosophers at the encounter were noticed to come forth with statements that  there are multiple possibilities in interpreting the universe (science being one of  such possibilities) because, according to them, in the man-and-the-universe  hologram the human mind permits various levels of operation or horizons, from ordinary sensations to supermental intuitions.  E. Scheibe criticized the analytic school of philosophy, which he said is the  direct descendant of the Newtonian paradigm. Ashok Gangadean argued that  there should be a program of developing one universal grammar which could  reflect the basic structures shared by the whole of humanity as such. Jose  Cabezon, a Tibetan Buddhist monk of Cuban descent, wanted the encounterists  to realize that there was a discipline, namely, the science of meditation, and  that it is through meditation that one comes to see that the truth described by  natural sciences is arbitrary if it is not harmonized with the truth discovered  through intuitive experience as in Buddhism. With the speeches of J. L. Mehta, Amaury de Riencourt, J. L. Vieillard-Baron, and Freny Mehta, the encounter moved toward the thesis that the West must appreciate the East and to some extent emulate its spirituality. These speakers portrayed, in a language charged with universalism and humanism, the ground  for what could perhaps be called the thought-intuition, reason-spirit, induction-deduction, psyche-self, or immanence-transcendence concord.  Indeed, the tenor of their papers was that in this concord the experience of Being This content downloaded from 129.2.19.102 on Sat, 08 Sep 2018 15:34:55 UTCAll use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms   198 Sinari  or the Whole Self must figure as the foundation and that to this exten possesses a message, running through its history, that to everybody sal  ultimately a vision (drsti) of symphony, through a flash of which it daw  entire psyche that particulars in the world are merely flakes or through which Being operates. It is the seeing of Being therefore tha  make one's thinking and acting holographic. Two speakers, A. Ranganathan and Susantha Goonatilake, diverged core subject of the encounter and somewhat surprised the particip  former reasoned in favor of the aesthetic contents in some of the theories in new  physics, and the latter highlighted the social-historical-cultural context deter- mining and shaping the srcin and growth of scientific theories. Klaus M. Meyer-Abich and Sigmund Kvaloy brought ecology into the orbit of  discussions and asserted ardently that it is impossible to conceive of a hologram if  we do not map out the ideal relationship of man to nature. The essence of the  reasoning of these thinkers was that the West has somehow put man in a state of authority over Nature, assigned to him the position of so great a superiority that  it has become his habit to display total arrogance toward her.  One could notice that the most recurrent idea in the key statements at the  encounter was that somehow the language of science and the language of  metaphysics, mysticism, and meditation must be left open and receptive toward  one another. Unless both these languages are made to operate like ladders for  reaching the same ontological truth, there would not be a complete and cohesive realization in us of the part-and-the-whole amalgam.  The need for one universal, all-encompassing language was succinctly in-  dicated by Agehananda Bharati. He insisted that it should be our task to find a  language which would bridge two heterogeneous tempers-the physicist's and  the metaphysician's. Such a language, he said, cannot srcinate merely from a  physicist's determination to use the metaphysician's terminology and vice versa. As a matter of fact gatherings and dialogues like the encounter were helpful, he asserted, in determining the limitations of free linguistic transplantations. In the interpersonal verbal exchanges among the thinking people in our time  nothing is more relevant than the endeavor on the part of each one of us to enter into the cultural space of the other. We are born and shaped in a world divided by  ideologies, religions, value assumptions, syntaxes, grammars, languages, and what have you. Underneath this diversity, however, science and philosophy  figure as human quests which have imposed on themselves minimum operational constraint. This is surely because the awareness from which they have emerged and through which they are invigorated is open-minded, largely corrective, and  fastidious.  The encounter was a forum where explorations of scientists and philosophers  concerning some of the cardinal problems related to man, his knowledge of  himself, and his knowledge of the universe were tested for their experience  content. The representatives of the West had their own pre-perceptions and those This content downloaded from 129.2.19.102 on Sat, 08 Sep 2018 15:34:55 UTCAll use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

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Feb 11, 2019
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