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Eastern World View - Moti Lal Pandit

The purpose of this paper is not so much to discuss the plurality of views that are constitutive of the East as much as it is to find out the essence of the Eastern worldview. Although pluralistic worldviews are not absent from the Eastern philosophic science, there is however a predominant view that overrides all other views, and this view is termed as being of the nature of non-dualism (advaya, advaita). It is the non-dualism of the Upanishads and of the Prajnaparamita texts that really has held the imagination of both the Hindu and Buddhist thinkers. In this paper it will be our endeavour to locate the essential aspects that are constitutive of Eastern monism.

The fundamental thesis upon which the entire superstructure of non-dualism is built is this: The self (atman) of each individual corresponds to the Universal Being (brahman). This a priori axiom finds its best in one of the Upanishadic aphorisms, which runs like this: That Thou Art (tat tvam asi). This formula or axiom, when translated into simple language, means that the self of each individual is non-different from the Cosmic Self. It is upon this understanding that Tantrism later on would affirm the correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm. It is this monistic view of reality which will be responsible in determining the specific type of Hindu and Buddhist, particularly the Mahayanic one, anthropology. The focus of this anthropology will not be man as an embodied existent, a being who is located within history, but a being who is transcendent to all that that is phenomenal. This approach would ultimately result in the divinization of man in terms of which one finds himself to be identical with brahman or with buddhahood. The effort is not to restore the lost humanity to man, but it is to abrogate it.

This non-dualistic interpretation concerning the nature of reality would have its own consequences. The major consequence of this view would be that human existence as it is unacceptable. There has to be another mode of existence that would not only be radically different from the one which we at present have, but would have nothing in common with life in the world that is known to us. The way of escape from the thralldom of embodied existence for the Upanishadic thinkers would lie in the radical opposition to materiality. Whatever is of the nature of materiality, or is associated with matter, is bound to undergo suffering on account of the impermanent nature of matter. So the effort is to return to a non-material mode of existence that is assumed to be free from the conditions of materiality. This new mode of existence is available only by submerging into the universal. The real salvation of man lies in his disappearance into the universal called brahman. Insofar as phenomenal diversity or particularity is concerned, it has to be viewed as being constructed, and that which is constructed does not possess any reality in itself. Whatever reality it may have, is an imputed one. By abrogating the reality of the many, the Upanishads thereby endeavoured at restoring the reality of the One alone. The many may have a functional epistemological value or reality, but as reals they are destitute of reality.