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The Far East, Literary Theory

The Far East, Literary Theory

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Published by Zavier Mainyu

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Published by: Zavier Mainyu on Oct 08, 2011
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 The literature of the ancient Eastern civilizations represents a stark contrastto the belief systems of the old Middle Eastern and Egyptian kingdoms. Bythe 5th century BCE, a renaissance of similar spiritual ideas aroseindependently throughout India and China (this is also the dawn of the greatphilosophers of ancient Greece). The major philosophies of this time includeHinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Taken together, theyrepresent some of the most influential ideas that have inspired roughly half of all civilized humanity throughout our planet’s history. The study of Easternliterature helps us to place Western literature into its proper perspective.
 An Introduction to Eastern Philosophies
Western vs. Eastern Thinking
Prof. Stephen Hagin
Symbolic Connections in WL 
12th edition
Kennesaw State University
Issue Western Eastern
nature of the beliefs
historical; linear; learn from past, cyclical; transcends history  act toward future here and now
dualistic and extroverted unitive and introspective
single life; eternal life karma; reincarnation
everything is created by God; endless cycle: all will be destroyed by God create, preserve, destroy
nature of God
God = creator, father, ruler, judge God = love, consciousness,everything 
means toward God
faith mystical experience
congregational; weekly ritualistic, meditative, daily
road to God
one path leads to God all paths lead to God
knowledge comes from
God, prophets, scripture, gurus, life experience“Word” (
communication with God
through reading, holy men through renunciation of theself 
clear, simple, rational subtle, complex, paradoxical
path to sainthood
good works, scriptural study self-discipline, contemplation
problems caused by
disobedience to God immaturity and ignorance
living force that opposes God God is all; God is good;therefore, all is good
taints the soul taints the mind (soul is good)
penalty for sin
Judgment Day reincarnation (up or down)(eternal heaven/damnation)
physical punishment karmic suffering 
 An Introduction to
Eastern Philosophies
Prof. Stephen Hagin
Symbolic Connections in WL 
12th edition
Kennesaw State University
Eastern thinking differs from Western thinking in many ways, and our ability to comprehendthese concepts will enhance our understanding of the semester’s material. Although thefirst two units focused on mythology, this unit will delve more into philosophy. In general,Eastern literature explores human relationships with the world, the earth, and universe.How humans comprehend their environment and prioritize its tendencies depends on which philosophy they follow. Western thinkers need to look at the world through a different lensif they are going to be able to appreciate the lessons in the Eastern readings. Be patient, andyou will catch on as we read the stories.Westerners tend to think in straight lines, but Easterners think more in circles. Forinstance, consider the following schematic:
This is the type of thinking that is linear, direct, and goal-oriented. What matters most is achieving the goal (B) from your starting point (A). Eastern philosophies tend to circle, drift, and spiral — almost never a straight line. Imagine the flight of a butterfly hopping fromflower to flower. It does not fly in straight lines, but rather loops, pivots, twists, and turns.A butterfly’s path is erratic, confusing, and fluid, rather than the more direct flight of an arrow. To an Eastern thinker, the goal (point B) is not the most important part of theprocess — the
is. This is what Gilgamesh had to learn — he thought that his goal(immortality) was attainable, but after he realized that it was not, he then settled for whathe learned through his experiences. So do we, and we can understand this better bystudying the East.Another example appears in competition. To us Westerners, winning is everything. Weremember who
the Super Bowl, but we have greater difficulty recalling the loser. I haveseen U.S. Olympic athletes cry at receiving a 
medal. In the East, however, it is notimportant whether or not you win or lose, but
how you play the game
. We will see manymore examples of this throughout this unit, so watch for this theme.
If you recall, in the beginning of the semester, I drew two pictures on the board: a straightline and a circle. I addressed how the Western philosophies typically look at life in straightlines, and the East tends to look at the circles. But philosophy is obviously morecomplicated than that. If everything comes in dual forms, then we need both types of lines inthe world. Two principal Chinese philosophies actually oppose each other: Taoism andConfucianism. While both adhere to many of the same ideals, Taoism is a more fluid and

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