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Two faces of consciousness: a look at eastern and western perspectives

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Two dominant perspectives on consciousness representing the eastern and the western viewpoints are discussed. In the western scholarly tradition, (a) consciousness is generally equated with the mind; (b) intentionality is regarded as its defining characteristic; and (c) the goal is one of seeking rational understanding of what consciousness/mind is. In the eastern tradition, as represented by the Indian approach to the study of consciousness, (a) consciousness and mind are considered to be different; (b) consciousness as such is believed to be nonintentional while the mind is regarded as intentional; and (c) the goal is one of developing practical methods for transformation of the human condition via realization of consciousness as such. It is suggested that consciousness encompasses two different domains, the transcendental and the phenomenal, and that humans enjoy dual citizenship in them. The eastern and western viewpoints each seems to be directed more toward one domain than the other, resulting in a biased emphasis. Seen as complementary rather than in opposition to each other, the eastern and the western perspectives may give us a more comprehensive understanding of consciousness and its role in our being.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute for Yoga & Consciousness, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.

Publication date: March 1, 1998

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