One cannot live without developing opinions about the nature of reality, so every well-defined culture and faith naturally introduces its members to a way of seeing the world. While we can easily name many different worldviews, perhaps the five most important ones are: 1) Chinese, 2) Indian, 3) Muslim, 4) secular humanist, and 5) Christian. These views are usually shared by many nation-states and are civilizational in nature.
Standing Apart: China and India
The classical Chinese view is that the Middle Kingdom, by its dignified, virtuous ways, draws all the nations to itself. Human life is confined to this world. Man should be about the ethical ordering of this life. Careful, even meticulous, attention is paid to scholarship, work, family, customs, and, today, technology and social control that best satisfy man’s earthly lot. Man’s dignity relates to where he and his ancestors are located in the ethical and social order. Generations and dynasties come and go—even imposed Marxist ones—but the ordered way of life remains much the same.
The Indian view, informed by Hinduism, is that man is a spiritual being. He tries to control himself in order to attain spiritual knowledge and union with God through the cycle of death and rebirth. By seeking “liberation” or total self-knowledge, each individual is ultimately subsumed into unity within the cosmos. All beliefs can be absorbed into this system because there are many paths to “salvation.” While India’s caste system of designating one’s place in the social hierarchy has been formally abolished, much of the customary attitudes remain.
Neither in China nor in India, however, does a personal God who transcends the world have a place. India has many names for God who is understood as an abstract supreme “Reality.” China has practically no gods; it has ancestors. Neither of these worldviews actively seeks to convert others, however. Their cultural power rests in their enormous membership.
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