East–West dichotomy

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Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet ~ Rudyard Kipling

In sociology, the East–West dichotomy is the perceived difference between the Eastern world and Western world. Cultural rather than geographical in division, the boundaries of East and West are not fixed, but vary according to the criteria adopted by individuals using the term.


  • "The West inclines to exclusivism, the East to syncretism. The view that salvation is only possible within the visible Church – a view expressly rejected by the Catholic Church – has been sustained by missionaries and eminent theologians even today; such blindness for the spiritual riches of the East, for its mystical depth and intuition of the transparence of the cosmos to higher Realities, such blindness always implies a blindness for some basic aspects of Christianity itself. The East is tempted by the opposite extreme, syncretism; it consists in wrongly equating biblical values with Eastern religious categories. Such universalism is undoubtedly more tolerant, less violent than Western Exclusivism, but equally blind to the specific inner visage of Christianity and other biblical spiritualities."
    • Jacques-Albert Cuttat, quoted from Ram Swarup, "Liberal" Christianity (Manthan, Volume 4. No. 3 (May 1982)) in Goel, S. R. (1988). Catholic ashrams: Adopting and adapting Hindu dharma. Also in Ram Swarup: Hinduism vis-a-vis Christianity and Islam.
  • Simply because scientific thought realized a spectacular breakthrough in the West, people speak of "rational Western" and "non-rational Eastern", as if great strides in scientific thought (even in material sciences) had not been made in India and China, as if the sobre scientific approach was not far more developed in Eastern spiritual methods, and as if the dominant religion of the West were not intrinsically irrational in its basic assumptions.
    • K. Elst, The Saffron Swastika: The Notion of "Hindu Fascism" (2010), p. 861
  • Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
    Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;

    But there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth,
    When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!
  • Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown,
    For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
    And the end of the fight is a tombstone white, with the name of the late deceased,
    And the epitaph drear: "A fool lies here who tried to hustle the East."
  • Whoever has done or willed too much, let him drink from this deep cup a long draught of life and youth … Everything is narrow in the West—Greece is small and I stifle; Judea is dry and I pant. Let me look a toward lofty Asia, the profound East for a little while. There lies my great poem. [The Ramayana] as vast as the Indian Ocean, blessed, gilded with the sun, the book of divine harmony wherein is no dissonance. A serene peace reigns there, and in the midst of conflict an infinite sweetness, a boundless fraternity, which spreads over all living things, an ocean without bottom or bound, of love, of pity, of clemency.
    • Jules Michelet, quoted in Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
  • Characteristic of the Semitic religions are features such as a historically attested teacher or prophet, a sacred book, a geographically identifiable location for its beginnings, an ecclesiastical infrastructure and the conversion of large numbers of people to the religion-all characteristics which are largely irrelevant to the various manifestations of Hinduism until recent times. Thus instead of emphasizing the fact that the religious experience of Indian civilization and of religious sects which are bunched together under the label of ‘Hindu’ are distinctively different from that of the Semitic, attempts are being made to find parallels with the Semitic religions as if these parallels are necessary to the future of Hinduism. (…)
    • Romila Thapar quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743, quoting Romila Thapar
  • The dharmic traditions do not transmit knowledge, values and experience by cultivating a collective and absolute historical identity in the Judeo-Christian sense. Instead, the aspirant is free to start afresh and tap into his potential for discovering the ultimate reality in the here and now. .... The Abrahamic traditions tend to focus outward; the dharmic ones, inward. The difference between observing historical mandates and discovering the structures of consciousness is stark. ... The history-centric worldview results in synthetic unity, not integral unity.
    • Malhotra, R., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2018). Being different: An Indian challenge to western universalism.
  • ...that the gods determined that the place where a man who makes a sacrifice is to be found is the east. Such a man, the text says directly, is in the east, but verse 4 says that in the west is a miser who lets nothing come of it and a rich man who gives no gifts. ... "In the west are the ill-wishers whose horses are badly harnessed; in the east are those who are here for giving, who give a variety of gifts," i.e. the misers who have given bad horses are to be in the extreme west, the region of the sunset, thus of darkness and therefore of raksas, while the generous are to be in the east, the region of the sunrise, thus in the eternal light, which is what 10, 107,2 says. So 7,6,3 is to be translated quite literally: "He (Agni), the Eastern One, has made those who do not make sacrifices into Westerners," i.e. he, the bright one, has plunged them into deep darkness.
    • About the meaning of the East and the West in the Veda. Richard Pischel, Karl F. Geldner - Vedische Studien Vol. 1 -Verlag von W. Kohlhammer (1889) p 302-3
  • India seen as a mirror image of the West appears otherworldly, fatalistic, non-egalitarian. It is as though we would be less ourselves, less this-worldly, masterful, egalitarian and individualistic if Indians were less what they are.
    • Rudolph, L., and S. Rudolph. The Modernity of Tradition: Political Developmentsin India. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1967. quoted from Malhotra, R., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2018). Being different: An Indian challenge to western universalism.
  • And East and West, without a breath,
    Mixt their dim lights, like life and death,
    To broaden into boundless day.
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