East vs West: philosophical differences — The Eastern philosophical view of the Divine is radically different from the Western view as found in traditional Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
One major difference is that the Western view sees God as the supreme technocrat, and the world as an artifact – something that is “made”. Even Western atheists continue to cling to this notion they get from their own cultural worldview, they’ve merely substituted a Creator God for a fully-automatic universe that is self-made. But the idea is the same – the universe is viewed as an artifact that is made.
But the Eastern idea is radically different. It does not view the universe as something that is “made”. Rather, it is something that is being “acted out”.
The Eastern metaphysical view of the “Godhead” is radically different also. It does not view “God” as something that is separate from a created world that is “not Him”. Rather, there is no fundamental difference between the two. What we perceive as a “world” and everything in it – every human being, every animal, every plant, every star, every object, every rock – everything is viewed as a “role” that the One Being is acting out.
What the One Being is doing is taking on countless forms, or roles, or characters in the drama, in order to experience the drama from that particular perspective.
Many Westerners may be surprised to discover that the millions of gods in Hinduism, for example, are actually viewed ultimately as the same One Being in millions of different disguises, or masks, or costumes. Brahman is defined as simply “everything that exists”.
The One Being could be said to be playing a game of hide and seek with itself – hiding its true nature from Itself in order to fully experience life from each particular perspective and make it seem absolutely real.
Why would the One Being do this? Basically because it’s interesting, fascinating, fun, and anything but boring. After all, what would you do if you were God? Things would surely get boring after awhile. So you decide to play a game and pretend you’re not God. What a fascinating experience, and an endless number of dramas can be created.
Not only that, but everyone and everything knows on a deeper level that this is what is going on. You’ve just hidden this truth from yourself so as not to spoil the game.
Listen to the brilliant Alan Watts talk about these basic differences between Eastern and Western philosophy in his lecture titled “Am I Free or Just a Puppet?“.