by Swami Krishnananda
American Visitor: To bring some of the Eastern mind, or intuition, in. And, I would like to hear what you think about what is important for me to remember when I am trying to teach Americans, Westerners, to think creatively.
SWAMIJI: Where are you teaching – in a college or school?
Visitor: Both. Small children and college – adults and children.
SWAMIJI: What are you teaching?
Visitor: I am actually teaching creative thinking. I teach the bright children, the gifted children.
SWAMIJI: Creative thinking?
SWAMIJI: Is it psychology?
Visitor: Some of it is psychology, but mostly creative thinking means how to be creative in your thinking.
SWAMIJI: But actually, it is a part of psychology only. You mean that you want them to drop their rationality?
Visitor: To fuse it with the intuitive.
SWAMIJI: Yes, you are right – not dropping, but fusing.
Visitor: Yes. Fusing.
SWAMIJI: It is a philosophical subject, almost.
SWAMIJI: It is the meeting of the East and the West in a comprehension of values. In a few minutes I cannot answer your question. It is a huge, world-shaking subject.
Visitor: I know; I know it is huge!
SWAMIJI: Are you studying anything on this subject? Have you got any book?
Visitor: I just finished writing a dissertation and I did research where I asked...
SWAMIJI: What is your dissertation?
Visitor: It is on the creative thinking processes of investors. Over the years I have studied different authors on creative thinking.
SWAMIJI: Now, what is the defect that you find in Western thinking?
Visitor: The defect? The defect is that they do not appreciate or use the intuitive mind. They do not use imagery or visualisation as thinking processes. They do not listen to the source of the universe or the within. Their body is separated from their mind, and their heart, and their emotions.
SWAMIJI: The body is separated from their mind and heart in every Westerner?
Visitor: No, not every Westerner – I hope not! But I am saying that in the elementary schools now...
SWAMIJI: The European way of thinking is, as they usually call it, empiricist.
SWAMIJI: It is based on sensory observation, and on inference based on that perception through the sense organs, believing in nothing that cannot be proved rationally. That is one of the traits of Western thought – believe nothing which cannot be established by rational investigation. And, it is also socially oriented, to a large extent; they think in terms of society, and individuals. The value of the individual and the society of individuals is not given up. In the Eastern side, the emphasis is on the universal principles of life. It is not just empiricist. It is also rational. Its emphasis is on the basic principles of all the values of life, which the East thinks is universal in its nature.
Western thinking deduces the universality of a thing by observation of particular instances. If many horses are there, there is a general universal principle called horseness, etc. The Universal does not exist by itself, according to Western thinking. It exists as a corollary followed from the observation of many particulars. In the East, the Universal precedes the particular, whereas in the West, the particular precedes the Universal. Here is the great difference between Western thinking and Eastern thinking. The fact is that the Universal is not derived from observation of particulars; the Universal can exist even without there being particulars.
We are going deep into philosophical realms, and I am not thinking of speaking too much to you on this subject. I can only suggest to you to read certain things where people have attempted to bring harmony between two types of thinking. I was wondering if you have been studying any book of this kind, where a blend has been effected between Eastern and Western thought.
Visitor: No, I have not.
SWAMIJI: You have not seen anywhere any such attempt?
Visitor: Somewhat, I can think of one educator in California. Her name is Barbara Clark. She attempts to weld the rational with the more intuitive, Eastern thinking.
SWAMIJI: Eastern thinking is not irrational.
Visitor: No, no! It is rational, plus intuitive.
SWAMIJI: Yes, it is based on intuitive perception.
SWAMIJI: Rationality cannot contradict intuitive perception, though its validity is accepted. Have you read any book on Eastern philosophy?
Visitor: What specifically? Educational, no.
SWAMIJI: What we are discussing is not an educational matter. It is something philosophical. Have you come in contact with any treatise on this subject?
Visitor: No, not specifically.
SWAMIJI: In order to know what it is that we are trying to know, we have to know what this universe is made of. You are living in a world, isn't it?
SWAMIJI: What is the stuff of this world? What is it made of? If you look at it from a larger dimension – the universe itself – what is the structure of the universe, which determines the structure of everything that is in the universe – you and I included? Everything that is in the universe is determined in every way by the structure of the wholeness to which all the particulars belong. So, first of all, you must know what this world is. What is this universe? Here is the beginning of philosophy.
There are umpteen answers to this question. The world is totally external to the individual, according to well-known Western thinking. The world is not touching you; it is external to you, so you are treating it as an object. You are the subject of the perception of an object, which is the world. So, you can handle it without affecting yourself, or your having anything to do with the world outside. The subject has nothing to contribute to the nature of the object. This is the modern scientific approach. The world of science considers the objects of the world as totally independent of the observer. Here, in India, in Eastern thought, the position is quite different. The world is not standing outside, because you are a part of the world, how then will you study the world? Are you studying your own self? You just think over the consequences of this kind of thinking. Are you concluding that the world is so totally outside you that it does not touch you at all? I think it cannot be said that it is like that.
Visitor: It is a big mistake.
SWAMIJI: The world influences you in a tremendous manner, and the influence must be understood – what kind of influence it is. There are two kinds of influence: mechanical and organic. An organic influence is something like the influence of the whole body on the limbs of the body. The mechanical is like a machine; the parts of the machine influence the structure of the machine. Likewise, you must consider how you are influencing the world. What is the relationship between you and the world? This subject comes to what you call epistemology, in philosophical circles. You are going into deep waters if you go on thinking like this.
You conclude finally that inasmuch as you cannot stand outside the world, you are the world. It will come to that. If you are the world, how will you handle the world? It must be handled in the manner in which you handle yourself. Now, I should not speak to you more. I should introduce you to some study, and you will see what a tremendous difference it makes in thinking. The study of the world would mean the study of yourself only. "Know thyself and be free," is the Oracle of Delphi.
Visitor: I am going there, after India.
SWAMIJI: I will see you tomorrow again. Hari Om.