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Eastern and Western metaphysics are often believed to be disparate if not opposing. In today's West we have a Christian religion steeped in ritual, where if you attend Mass regularly, receive the "body of Christ," genuflect, confess your sins, and perhaps donate to the coffers, you are absolved of sin and after bodily death guaranteed a place in heaven for eternity. While the East is generally associated with a pantheon of Gods (Hinduism has its Avatars who include Krishna, Rama and Buddha), self-abnegation, and in more strenuous forms denial of a personal God altogether. Some Buddhists believe there is no such thing as the individual soul. For how can the indivisible whole that God is said to be have parts?

But if you really analyze things you find that these conflicting philosophies are really not all that dissimilar. The ancient Greeks typify Western thought, and what did Plato in his Dialogues have Socrates say? That humans seek happiness, defined as being loved, and not just for a limited amount of time, but for all eternity. This is very much the same to the Eastern notion of the divine essence, which is said to be satchitananda, or infinite existence (sat), infinite consciousness (chit), and infinite bliss (ananda).

And this makes sense. For anything which exists cannot be made of nothing, so that what exists now has always existed, and what is never born will never die. Therefore existence itself is eternal. And it is formless, since form is made of parts and subject to dissolution, and the only boundless entity must be spiritual in nature, since anything having a body, any discrete entity, is bound by a shell or skin or covering and therefore limited, or not infinite. And what is limitless spirit if not consciousness. We see it every night in our dreams, as on the blank canvass of our awareness appear myriad shapes and adventures which when the night is through dissolve back into our mind.

And now about bliss. Anything that is eternal and limitless and therefore One, cannot be anything but blissful, since all pain and suffering and sadness come from separation, or the illusion of separation. We fear and we suffer in response to something, we fight against an antagonist, we overcome obstacles. But if the eternal is everything, then there is nothing to suffer, no one against whom to fight - except maybe loneliness, which perhaps may explain why at the beginning of it all the One (God, Brahman, Allah, etc.) said, "I am One, let me become Many."

Because in life's dance you need a partner, to act your part you need other characters, and to love and be loved, as the ancient Greeks believed lay our ticket to bliss, you need someone or something as the object of your affection,  and the beloved is the vehicle by which each individual can express her eternal nature, which is bliss - and perhaps get some (bliss, love) in return.

So East and West are not so different as we are sometimes led to believe.


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