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  • Writer's picturePranay Ranjan

East and West

Even though I was born in the East – in India – I was still raised in a Western Mindset. I remember growing up hearing and reading ideas of Eastern thought and being unable to make sense of them. As a teenager, and later as a young man, I saw life as a battleground where those that used their brains and worked hard, made money, got glamor and prestige, and enjoyed the fruits of their efforts; those that didn’t stayed poor, helpless, and disrespected. I did not want to belong to the latter category and wished my entire society would move out of it. Much as I

loved contemplation, I used it to think about things that were external to this sense of “me” and did not have any idea or even the possibility of questioning who I believed I was and why.

I hurt seeing the poverty around me and wondered why there was so much difference between the East and the West – why were our roads so bad, our houses so primitive in their technology, our infrastructure so poor? I hurt seeing the corruption in our government and wondered how Western countries became so advanced when something as simple as a telephone line would take years to get hooked up where I lived. I wondered why our population kept increasing seemingly endlessly and why our education just couldn’t get us to a level of awareness that would get the country out of the desperation it seemed to be locked in.

From this perspective, Eastern ideas of meditation, training the mind to detach from its identifications, avoidance of ambition, connection with nature, and living life as a sacred service, appealing as they were, were also difficult for me to pursue. India prided itself in its spiritual heritage. But, with all that wealth of spirituality, we didn’t seem to have much to show for it. Most people still hewed to religious dogma rather than to an enlightened spirituality. The condition of women was deplorable in a very patriarchal society. The systemic blight of the caste system still marred the fabric of social interactions. How could I afford to connect deeper with my inner world, when the external world around me was in a mess?

When I came to the United States, I was very impressed with the technology, the systems, and the infrastructure. The condition of women was far better, and I became conscious of LGBT rights, something I hadn’t even heard of in India. However, soon, I started to feel that something vital was missing. The society struggled with depression. Isolation was increasing in the population. Gun violence was rampant. Corporations kept pushing for endless growth and profit. The culture at work and that among men, in general, did not encourage deep loving friendships or sharing of emotions. Mystery was reduced to something associated with crime novels. Love became synonymous with sexuality and romance. Adventure was associated with conquering unknown forces and events external to a person. Individuals were locked in a race of constant betterment and the fear of being left behind. There was no beauty or grace left in old age or death. The society felt plastic. Something vital was missing.

It was then that I started to understand the trap of constant fear that I had been trapped in. Whether in a poor society or a rich one, I was caught in various manifestations of desperation because there was constant poverty in my inner world. I was using the state of external misery or affluence as an excuse not to go deeper into the inner world. But, the journey into the body and its layers of unconscious fears was exactly what I needed to grow into abundance. I started discovering the deeper meanings of that often used exhortation - to live from the heart. I started seeing how choosing love, in the presence of fear, is a tremendous act of courage and an incredible adventure of consciousness. It is a journey to a deep connection with others, nature, life, and death. Love, grounded and curious, has become the constant guide and the ever-evolving beauty of my life. I couldn't help but think that perhaps the world is not so divided into the Western and the Eastern mindset as it is divided along lines of those that see themselves as separate and isolated from others and from nature, vs. those that understand that the sense of separation is not real. In a sense, what we call the "Western" mindset could as well, and more accurately, be called as the "Prevalent" mindset.

Over the last several hundred years, this prevalent mindset, the "Western Mind" has gained prominence owing to the technological advancements and has "proven" its value to a humankind prioritizing safety, comfort, ease, survival, over everything else. The world has worshipped the external, the yang, to the point of completely trivializing and not considering the inner, the yin, as real or valuable. This yin aspect of life – the unknowable, mysterious, potent, feeling, intuiting, ever-changing, subjective, multidimensional aspect – has been tragically absent from the dialogues and the paradigm of the Western Mind and has brought us to the brink of extinction. The basic assumption that scientism defines what is real and that knowledge is to be gained to continuously exploit the resources of nature has created a world empty of wisdom, sacredness, beauty, and love. We cannot continue to keep ignoring the yin and expect to save ourselves from extinction, for we are killing off the part of us that is the source of all values. Today, there is an urgent call for the Eastern and Western Mind - the inner and the outer - to come together so we can create a world not only where our needs are met but also one that gives us the deeper meaning that we long for, and that makes us whole and connected.

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Lauren Hostetter
Lauren Hostetter
Mar 07

Hi Pranay! I know it's been a while since we last talked, but saw this post in my email inbox today and I'm so glad I read it. I completely agree. Our general disconnection from the natural world is something that has been bothering me lately as well. I started taking a horticulture class this year through my local community college, and it just makes me feel it even more – why do we feel the need to separate ourselves from nature, to somehow be "better" than all of the other creatures that make this world what it is and that allow us to continue living on this planet? We're not better; just different, the way any one living thing…

Pranay Ranjan
Pranay Ranjan
Mar 07
Replying to

Hi Lauren, what a wonderful surprise to hear from you here! 😃You have said it so beautifully. This need to separate ourselves and be "better" than all the other creatures may have been a good survival tool for a while, but it is now killing us, along with everything else. It reminds me of the allegory of the servant who has taken over the house, and is now running the show. I just googled it to see if I could find the story, and found it here. Such a beautiful story - Keep connecting with nature and loving with all your heart!

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