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Being Different: About the Book
3) Integral unity vs. synthetic unity: Since the time of Aristotle, the West has assumed an atomic partitioning of reality into distinct and unrelated parts. The Judeo-Christian worldview is based on separate essences for God, the world and/ human souls. Additionally, there is an unbridgeable gap between Greek reason and religious revelation. The result has been a forced unity of separate entities, and such a unity always feels threatened to disintegrate and remains synthetic at best. In dharmic cosmology all things emerge from a unified whole. In Hinduism this integral unity is the very nature of Brahman; in Buddhism there is no ultimate essence like Brahman, but the principle of impermanence and co-dependence provides unity. Dharma and science are enmeshed as part of the same exploration. Every aspect of reality mirrors and relates to every other aspect in a web of interdependency.
4) The nature of chaos and uncertainty: The West privileges order in its aesthetics, ethics, religions, society and politics, and manifests a deep-rooted fear of chaos, uncertainty and complexity. The dharmic worldview see chaos as a creative catalyst built into the cosmos to balance out order that could become stultifying., and hence it adopts a more relaxed attitude towards it
5) Translatability vs. Sanskrit: Unlike Western languages, in Sanskrit the fundamental sounds have an existential link to the experience of the object they represent. This makes Sanskrit a key resource for personal and cultural development. It also implies that the process of translation and digestion into Western schemas is unavoidably reductive.
6) Western universalism challenged: In the "grand narrative" of the West, whether secular or religious, it is the agent or driver of historical unfolding and sets the template for all nations and peoples. This book challenges this self-serving universalism. It contrasts this with dharma's non-linear approach to the past and multiple future trajectories.
The very openness that makes dharma appealing, however, often makes it vulnerable to invasion, appropriation and erosion by a more aggressive and externally ambitious civilization. The book uses the metaphor of digestion to point to the destructive effects of what is usually white-washed as assimilation, globalization or postmodern deconstruction of difference. For complex reasons, which are analyzed at length, the dharmic traditions have been a particular target of digestion into the West, and Being Different challenges the uncritical acceptance of this process by both Westerners and Indians.