Meetings of East & West

The Notebooks of Paul Brunton volume 10
The Orient: Its Legacy to the West
by Paul Brunton
Adventure / Spirituality


5.75 x 8.5, softcover
(hardcover is available)
272 pages

List price : $14.95
Regular online price : $11.96
(You save $2.99)


A sympathetic and often fascinating view of contemporary and traditional customs, arts, architecture, philosophies, and spiritual leaders of the Orient. Often reading like a colorful travelogue, it has sections on India, China, Angkor Wat, Ceylon, Japan, Egypt, Tibet, and other Himalayan countries. The book emphasizes that East and West can (and must) learn from and teach one another as we stumble toward global community. Includes notes on great teachers and schools of thought.

Table of Contents

Category Fifteen: THE ORIENT

          General interest
          Value of Eastern thought
          Modern opportunities
          Western arrogance
          Romantic glamour
          Western assimilation of Eastern thought
          Differences between East and West
          Decline of traditional East
          Reciprocal West-East impact
          Parallels between East and West
          Universality of truth
          East-West synthesis
   2. INDIA
          Images of environment, culture, history
          Spiritual condition of modern India
          India's change and modernization
          General and comparative
          Buddha, Buddhism
          Vedanta, Hinduism
          Ramana Maharshi
          Ananda Mayee
          Ramakrishna, Vivekananda
          Other Indian teachers and schools
          Himalayan region
          General notes on China
          Confucius, Confucianism, neo-Confucianism
          Ch'an Buddhism
          Angkor Wat
          Islamic cultures
          Mount Athos
          Christianity and the East


Review highlights

“. . . a veritable treasure-trove of philosophic-spiritual wisdom.” —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“. . . sensible and compelling.  His work can stand beside that of such East-West bridges as Merton, Huxley, Suzuki, Watts, and Radhakrishnan.  It should appeal to anyone concerned personally and academically with issues of spirituality.” —Choice

“Vigorous, clear-minded and independent . . . a synthesis of Eastern mysticism and Western rationality. . . A rich volume.” —Library Journal

“. . . a great gift to us Westerners who are seeking the spiritual.” Charles T. Tart

“A person of rare intelligence. . . thoroughly alive, and whole in the most significant, 'holy' sense of the word.” —Yoga Journal

For reviews of the complete Notebooks series, click here. 

Editors Introduction

The Orient has three distinct elements. Chapter one consists primarily of inspiring reflections on the value of Eastern thought in general, differences and parallels between Eastern and Western cultures, and how changes in both hemispheres are pointing toward the birth of a new and necessarily creative world-culture that will integrate the best values of ancient and modern, mystical and scientific cultures worldwide.

Turning next to specific elements within Oriental culture, the book reflects one major editorial decision. The entries in this section of The Notebooks can be approached in a variety of ways. The two most obvious alternatives involve choosing between a structure that reflects primarily geographic distinctions and one that reflects religious or ideological ones. We could, for example, have gathered together all the notes on Buddhism in one place. Instead, we distributed them to the various countries with which they are associated. This geographical structure seems more in keeping with the "travel book'' style of P.B.'s earlier writings. It also delivers a more direct view into the world-traveling, adventurous side of P.B. than the more academic ideological structure was able to give. Consequently, chapters two through five explore traditional elements and contemporary conditions in a variety of Oriental cultures.

The final chapter, which we have called "Related Entries,'' posed something of a problem in light of P.B.'s title for this category (The Orient) and the printed edition's working subtitle (Its Legacy to the West). P.B. had sprinkled these interesting entries throughout his primarily Asiatic notes, and clearly he had some intention to use them in relation to that material. Had he woven together the various themes and ideas in this volume, he would undoubtedly have found a better way to integrate them into this section than we have done. Rather than to take great liberties with where to place them, however, we have simply acknowledged that they are related and have gathered them together.

Editorial conventions here are the same as stated in the introductions to Perspectives and The Quest. Likewise, (P) at the end of a para indicates that it also appears in Perspectives, the introductory volume to this series.



The medieval European monk with his tonsured head and dark brown gown is the parallel of the Indian ascetic with his long hair and reddish-yellow robe.

The ancient mysticism of India is co-operant with the mysticism of medieval Europe in forwarding these same truths.

We in the West have our own prophets who can match with the East for amiable foolishness. In both hemispheres the prophets are usually linked up with a tale of marvels.

It is quite inaccurate to talk of the ascetic-minded East as against the sensual-minded West. In the matter of sexual passion, let me say bluntly that the inhabitants of Egypt, of Arabia, of Persia, of India, and of China do not lag one whit behind the inhabitants of any European or American land I have known. How else explain the forty million population rise in India alone from census to census?

The would-be holy man who squats on a piece of rug in his forest hut is not so remote as it may seem from his modern counterpart who sits on a foam-rubber-filled cushion in his contemporary-styled apartment.

The sword suspended by a hair over Damocles' head at a banquet in ancient Syracuse was intended to demonstrate and symbolize how precarious was the happiness of those seated there. Prince Gautama was carefully sheltered by his parents from the sights of human suffering. So when, in his twenties, he saw for the first time a sick man, a dead man, and a decrepit old man, he was filled with horror and renounced the world of royal luxury to become a monk. Unhappy and searching for peace of mind, he wandered through Northern India. From Syracuse to Benares is a long distance, but we see that from Greek speculation on the value of human existence to Indian reflection upon it is quite a short one.

The Existentialist attitude existed in the West before the war but did not get any acceptance until the horrors of war made men think of the darker side of human existence. Long before Sartre, it could be found in the writings of the Dane Kierkegaard, the German Heidegger, and the Frenchman de Senancourt. But longer still before these men put it forward, Gautama the Buddha did the same. And, whereas Sartre distorted and exaggerated his facts, Gautama dealt with them in a juster and more positive manner. And the condition of nothingness to which Sartre aspired was metaphysically different from the Buddha's Nirvana.

Lao Tzu's teaching, like Socrates', rejects authority; but Confucius', like Plato's, reveres it. Each attitude has its correctness, depending upon historical or local circumstances; but for most individuals an equilibrium between them seems best.

From chapter 2: INDIA

Ramana Maharshi was one of those few men who make their appearance on this earth from time to time and who are unique, themselves alone - not copies of anyone else - and who contribute something to the world's spiritual welfare that no one else has contributed in quite the same way.

For much of each day the Maharshi was an unspectacular person. But when the pentecostal light touched his mind and radiated from his eyes, he became not merely a different, but a superior being. There was something almost supernatural about this change. It was plain for anyone to see that he was animated by some power, being, or presence other than his usual self. Yet it did not last and could not last. The light departed again, and he himself fell back into ordinariness.

Sri Ramana Maharshi is certainly more than a mystic and well worthy of being honoured as a sage. He knows the Real.

There are few men of whom one may write with assured conviction that their integrity was unchallengeable and their truthfulness absolute, but Ramana Maharshi was unquestionably one of them.

Ramana Maharshi: Sometimes one felt in the presence of a visitor from another planet, at other times with a being of another species.

The white loincloth which Ramana Maharshi usually wore served him for most of the year, except during the cooler nights of the mild South Indian winter, when he added a shawl. He had few other possessions. I remember a fountain pen, the old-fashioned liquid ink filling-with-a-glass-syringe type. With this he did his writing. There was also a hollowed-out coconut shell or gourd painted black, in which he carried water for ablutions. He had little more and did not seem to want anything else. The most impressive physical feature about him was the strange look that came over his eyes during meditation, and he usually meditated with open eyes. If they looked directly at you, the power behind them seemed quite penetrative; but most often they seemed to be looking into space, somewhat aside from you, but very fixed, indrawn and abstracted, and yet aware.

When Ramana Maharshi was displeased with anyone, he kept his eyes averted and looked to one side of or away from that person. It was as though he did not want, even by accident, let alone purposely, to meet his glance and give him darshan.

When he went into these meditative abstractions, the expression in his eyes and even face changed markedly. The eyes shone strangely, mystically, and testified, so far as any bodily organ could, to awareness of the Reality behind this world-dream.

Gazing upon this man whose viewless eyes are gazing upon infinity, I thought of Aristotle's daring advice, "Let us live as if we were immortal." Here was someone who had never heard of Aristotle, but who was following this counsel to the last letter.