East and West

T. D. Suzuki once contrasted East and West using a poem of Tennyson and a poem of Basho on the poet’s reaction to a flower. In Basho, the wonder and astonishment at the flower’s beauty and simplicity is a moment of enlightenment and revelation. In Tennyson, the poet wants to yank the flower from the crannied wall in order to scrutinize it and derive its secrets. As Suzuki notes, the Western world kills the flower in order to understand it. The Eastern poet want to become that living flower and in so doing understand the oneness of all things.

Today the typical Asian scientist, merchant, or politician is likely to think like a Westerner, Eastern culture being overthrown by the West in the past century and a half. Conversely, Eastern ideas have come to the West, but far more modestly and appealing quietly to our ethical and aesthetic sensibilities. It is not a matter of who will “win” but what is our own true nature.