Eastern philosophy refers very broadly to the various philosophies of Asia, including Indian philosophy, Chinese philosophy, Persian philosophy, Japanese philosophy, and Korean philosophy. The term can also sometimes include Babylonian philosophy and Arabic philosophy, though these may also be considered Western philosophies.
The ancient Egyptian religion, embodied in Egyptian mythology, is a succession of beliefs held by the people of Egypt, as early as predynastic times and all the way until the coming of Christianity and Islam in the Græco-Roman and Arab eras. These were conducted by Egyptian priests or magicians. Every animal portrayed and worshipped in ancient Egyptian art, writing and religion is indigenous to Africa, all the way from the predynastic until the Graeco-Roman eras, over 3000 years. The Dromedary, domesticated first in Arabia, first appears in Egypt (and North Africa) beginning in the 2nd millennium BC. The temple was a sacred place where only priests and priestesses were allowed. On special occasions people were allowed into the temple courtyard.
The origins of Babylonian philosophy can be traced back to the wisdom of early Mesopotamia, which embodied certain philosophies of life, particularly ethics, in the forms of dialectic, dialogs, epic poetry, folklore, hymns, lyrics, prose, and proverbs. The reasoning and rationality of the Babylonians developed beyond empirical observation.
It is possible that Babylonian philosophy had an influence on Greek philosophy, and later Hellenistic philosophy. The Babylonian text Dialog of Pessimism contains similarities to the agonistic thought of the sophists, the Heraclitean doctrine of contrasts, and the dialogs of Plato, as well as a precursor to the maieutic Socratic method of Socrates and Plato. The Milesian philosopher Thales is also known to have studied philosophy in Mesopotamia.
Hinduism rests on the spiritual bedrock of the Vedas, hence Veda Dharma, and their mystic issue, the Upanishads, as well as the teachings of many great Hindu gurus through the ages. Many streams of thought flow from the six Vedic/Hindu schools, Bhakti sects and Tantra Agamic schools into the one ocean of Hinduism, the first of the Dharma religions. Also, the sacred book Bhagavad Gita is one of the most revered texts among Hindus.
What can be said to be common to all Hindus is belief in Dharma, reincarnation, karma, and moksha (liberation) of every soul through a variety of moral, action-based, and meditative yogas. Still more fundamental principles include ahimsa (non-violence), the primacy of the Guru, the Divine Word of Aum and the power of mantras, love of Truth in many manifestations as gods and goddesses, and an understanding that the essential spark of the Divine (Atman/Brahman) is in every human and living being, thus allowing for many spiritual paths leading to the One Unitary Truth.
Buddhism is a system of beliefs based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, a Nepali prince later known as the Buddha, or one who is Awake - derived from the Sanskrit 'bud', 'to awaken'. Buddhism is a non-theistic religion, one whose tenets are not especially concerned with the existence or non-existence of a God or gods. The Buddha himself expressly disavowed any special divine status or inspiration, and said that anyone, anywhere could achieve all the insight that he had. The question of God is largely irrelevant in Buddhism, though some sects (notably Tibetan Buddhism) do venerate a number of gods drawn in from local indigenous belief systems.
The Buddhist soteriology is summed up in the Four Noble Truths:
However, Buddhist philosophy as such has its foundations more in the doctrines of:
Most Buddhist sects believe in karma, a cause-and-effect relationship between all that has been done and all that will be done. Events that occur are held to be the direct result of previous events. One effect of karma is rebirth. At death, the karma from a given life determines the nature of the next life's existence. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist practitioner is to eliminate karma (both good and bad), end the cycle of rebirth and suffering, and attain Nirvana, usually translated as awakening or enlightenment.
Chan (Chinese) or Zen (Japanese) is a fusion of the Dhyana school of Mahayana Buddhism with Taoist principles. Bodhidharma was a semi-legendary Indian monk who traveled to China in the 5th century. There, at the Shaolin Temple, he began the Ch'an school of Buddhism, known in Japan and in the West as Zen Buddhism. Zen philosophy places emphasis on existing in the moment, right now. Zen teaches that the entire universe is a manifestation of mind, and encourages the practitioner to confirm this for themselves through direct insight satori. Zen schools have been historically divided between those which encourage the pursuit of enlightenment as a sudden event (Rinzai), or as a fruit of "gradual cultivation" (Soto).
Zen practitioners engage in zazen (sitting) meditation, as other schools do, but Zen is noted for shikantaza (just sitting) as opposed to following the breath or mantra use. The Rinzai school is noteworthy for the use of koans, riddles designed to force the student to abandon futile attempts to understand the nature of the universe through logic.
See also sikhnet.com
The rise of Islam led to the emergence of various philosophical schools of thought. Amongst them Sufism established esoteric philosophy, Mu'tazili (partly influenced by Hellenistic philosophy) reconstructed rationalism, while Ash'ari cast significant impact on the non-reliability of reason and reshaped logical and rational interpretation of God, justice, destiny and the universe.
Early Islamic philosophy was influenced by Judaism, Christianity, Greek philosophy, Hellenistic philosophy, Persian philosophy, and Indian philosophy, and in turn, Islamic philosophy had a strong influence on Jewish philosophy, Christian philosophy, Western philosophy, Persian philosophy, and Indian philosophy, hence many consider Islamic philosophy to be both an Eastern philosophy and a Western philosophy.
Al-Mu'tazilah (المعتزلة) or Mu'tazilite is a popular theological school of philosophy during early Islam. They called themselves Ahl al-'Adl wa al-Tawhid ("People of Justice and Monotheism"). They were the first who advocated free will and expanded rationalism in Islamic society, and developed Kalam based on dialectic. They ascended dramatically during 8th and 9th century due to the support of intellectuals and elites. Later in the 13th century, they lost official support in favour of the rising Ash'ari school. Most of their valuable works were destroyed during the Crusades and Mongol invasion.
One of the most influential Muslim philosophers in the West was Averroes (Ibn Rushd), founder of the Averroism school of philosophy, and who is regarded as a founding father of secular thought in Western Europe.
Other influential Muslim philosophers include al-Jahiz, a pioneer of evolutionary thought and natural selection; Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen), a pioneer of phenomenology and the philosophy of science and a critic of Aristotelian natural philosophy and Aristotle's concept of place (topos); Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, a critic of Aristotelian natural philosophy; Avicenna, a critic of Aristotelian logic; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, a critic of Aristotelian logic and a pioneer of inductive logic; and Ibn Khaldun, considered the father of the philosophy of history and sociology and a pioneer of social philosophy.
Sufism (تصوف taṣawwuf) is a school of esoteric philosophy in Islam, which is based on the pursuit of spiritual truth as a definite goal to attain. In order to attain this supreme truth, Sufism has marked Lataif-e-Sitta (the six subtleties), Nafs, Qalb, Sirr, Ruh (spirit), Khafi and Akhfa. Apart from conventional religious practices, they also perform Muraqaba (meditation), Dhikr (Zikr or recitation), Chillakashi (asceticism) and Sama (esoteric music and dance).
Despite this, Maoism has remained a popular ideology for various Communist revolutionary groups around the world, notably the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Sendero Luminoso in Peru, and an ongoing (as of early 2005) Maoist insurrection in Nepal.
Zoroastrianism may also be known as Mazdayasna ("Worship of Wisdom") by some of its followers after the Zoroastrian name of God, Ahura Mazda ("Divine Wisdom"). A modern Persian form is Behdin ("Good Religion/Law," see below for the role of daena Law). Zoroastrians may refer to themselves as Zartoshti ("Zoroastrians"), Mazdayasni ("Wisdom-Worshippers") and Behdini ("Followers of the Good Religion"), and Zarathustrian.
For example, Indian and Western schools of thought, with their robust mind-body conceptual dualism, share consequent tendencies to subjective idealism or dualism. Formally, they share the rudiments of Western "folk psychology": a sentential psychology and semantics, for example, belief and (propositional) knowledge, subject-predicate grammar (and subject-object metaphysics) truth and falsity, and inference. These concepts underwrote the emergence (or perhaps spread) of logic in Greece and India (In contrast to pre-Buddhist China). Other noticeable similarities include structural features of related concepts of time, space, objecthood and causation—all concepts hard to isolate within ancient Chinese conceptual space.
Eastern philosophies have not been as concerned by questions relating to the nature of a single God as the universe's sole creator and ruler. The distinction between the religious and the secular tends to be much less sharp in Eastern philosophy, and the same philosophical school often contains both religious and philosophical elements. Thus, some people accept the metaphysical tenets of Buddhism without going to a temple and worshipping. Some have worshipped the Taoist deities religiously without bothering to delve into the philosophic underpinnings, while others embrace Taoist philosophy while ignoring the religious aspects. On the other hand, the followers of Hare Krishna sect in western countries give more emphasis to meditation and yoga and tend to ignore other traditional Hindu rituals.
This arrangement stands in marked contrast to most philosophy of the West, which has traditionally enforced either a completely unified philosophic/religious belief system (for example, the various sects and associated philosophies of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), or a sharp and total repudiation of religion by philosophy (for example, Nietzsche, Marx, Voltaire, etc.).
Eastern philosophic traditions generally tend to be less concerned with the existence or non-existence of God or gods. Although some Eastern traditions have supernatural spiritual beings and even powerful gods, these are generally not seen as separate from the universe, but rather as a part of the universe, just as Greek and Roman supernatural beings. Conversely, most Eastern religions teach that ordinary actions can affect the supernatural realm.
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was very interested in Taoism. His system of dialectics is sometimes interpreted as a formalization of Taoist principles, but it also has similarities to the dialectical method used by Socrates as described by Plato.
Hegel's rival Arthur Schopenhauer developed a philosophy that was essentially a synthesis of Hinduism with Western thought. He anticipated that the Upanishads (primary Hindu scriptures) would have a much greater influence in the West than they have had. However, Schopenhauer was working with heavily flawed early translations (and sometimes second-degree translations), and many feel that he may not necessarily have accurately grasped the Eastern philosophies which interested him.
Recent attempts to incorporate Western philosophy into Eastern thought include the Kyoto School of philosophers, who combined the phenomenology of Husserl with the insights of Zen Buddhism. Watsuji Tetsurô, a 20th century Japanese philosopher attempted to combine the works of Søren Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger with Eastern philosophies. Some have claimed that there is also a definite eastern element within Heidegger's philosophy. For the most part this is not made explicit within Heidegger's philosophy, apart from in the dialogue between a Japanese and inquirer. Heidegger did spend time attempting to translate the Tao Te Ching into German, working with his Chinese student Paul Hsaio. It has also been claimed that much of Heidegger's later philosophy, particularly the sacredness of Being, bears a distinct similarity to Taoist ideas. It may even be that Heidegger's philosophy might be read ultimately as an attempt to 'turn eastwards' in response to the crisis in Western civilisation. This however is only an interpretation. There are clear parallels between Heidegger and the work of Kyoto School.
The 20th century Hindu guru Sri Aurobindo was influenced by German Idealism and his Integral yoga is regarded as a synthesis of Eastern and Western thought. The German phenomenologist Jean Gebser's writings on the history of consciousness referred to a new planetary consciousness that would bridge this gap. Followers of these two authors are often grouped together under the term Integral thought.
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung's idea of synchronicity moves towards an Oriental view of causality, as he states in the foreword to Richard Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching (Book of Changes). He explains that this Chinese view of the world is based not on science as the west knows it, but on chance.