Western versus EasternApproaches/Philosophies of Positive Psychology”Happiness is the key to success” they say, which is utterlytrue because until an individual is happy and satisfied with what he has, hecan never move ahead in life.
PositivePsychology aims to study and improve on that very behavior whereby it enablesindividuals and communities to thrive by analyzing their strengths and virtues.The field of positive psychology at the individual level is about positiveindividual traits — the capacity for love and profession, audacity,interpersonal skill, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future-mindedness,spirituality, high talent, and wisdom. At the group level it is about the civicvirtues and the institutions that move individuals toward better citizenship:responsibility, nurturance, selflessness, civility, moderation, tolerance, andwork ethic. Martin Seligman, known as the ‘Father of Positive Psychology’, saidthat humans were obsessed with studying only the negative aspects of theirlives and paid very little attention to the positive ones. Positive Psychology,on the contrary, works to build the positive qualities within us rather thanrepair the worst things in our lives. He explained that given the obstacles weface daily, we may have underestimated the power of positivity and that of theupbeat experiences.Broadly there are two basic approaches to PositivePsychology namely the Western and Eastern Philosophies.
The WesternPhilosophies mostly revolve around the word “hope”. Hope is the belief thatlife can be better, along with the motivations and efforts to make it so. Morethan wishes, desires, or daydreams, hope taps thinking that leads to meaningfulactions. This was further supported by three influential western traditionsnamely the Athenian, Judeo-Christian and Islamic Views.
The Athenian traditions comprised of the views of bothAristotle and Plato whereby their teachings focused heavily on virtue and humanstrength, in Ancient Greece. Plato provided a list of eleven moral virtues(courage, moderation, generosity, munificence, magnificence, even temper,friendliness, truthfulness, wit, justice and friendship), and Aristotle addedto the same with intellectual virtues and believed that “strength of character,would lead to enduring human excellence”. For this, he proposed that thegovernment should be charged with the development of virtue in a particularsociety through early education and training.The traditions of Judaism and Christianity can be explained throughthe teachings in the Bible whereby in the Old Testament, the virtues of hope,faith and charity are highlighted along with the “Seven Heavenly Virtues” byThomas Aquinas. According to historians, Aquinas lists these virtues asfortitude, justice, temperance, wisdom, faith, hope and charity. Also, othermentions of various gifts and strengths are made through the New Testament.Islam, despite of being a strongly debated topic whether itbelongs to the west or east, incorporates virtues such as gratitude, love,kindness, justice and courage. Also, it comprises of looking out for one’sbrother and to aid the poor as a duty, not a privilege.
However, it states thatsuch actions should be carried out secretly such that the humility of the giveris maintained and the recipient is not embarrassed to accept the present soreceived.On the contrary, the Eastern Philosophies revolve aroundfour traditions namely Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism. TheConfucian teachings emphasize that leadership and education are central tomorality. It deems attainment of virtue as the most important aspect which canbe further identified as jen (humanity), yi (duty to treat others well), li(etiquette and sensitivity for others’ feelings), zhi (wisdom), and xin(truthfulness). The Sage believed that in order to gain enlightenment or tohave a good life, it is essential to swear by these virtues.The Taoist tradition states that followers are required tolive according to the Tao, i.e. the Way which gives direction, movement and isa power that envelops, surrounds and flows through all things.
The creatorbelieves that this way of living can only be understood by experiencing itfirst hand, inclusive of both the good and bad ones. It will bring aboutartlessness and will help practice virtues such as justice, humanity,temperance and propriety.Buddhism is a concept among the Eastern approaches thatrevolves strongly around the importance of “Nirvana”. Nirvana is a state inwhich the individual is freed from desire for anything and is hence free fromall and any sufferings. Buddha explains that suffering is a part of being whichis brought by the human emotion for desire. However, like the otherphilosophies, Buddhism also commemorates the importance of certain virtues thatare love, compassion, joy and equanimity.Unlike the other three philosophies, Hinduism doesn’t haveone particular founder but it emphasizes the relevance of terms such asinterconnectedness and harmony. It states that one most attain ultimateself-knowledge and should strive for ultimate self-betterment that facilitatesdoing good for others and living a satisfactory life to avoid reincarnation.
This view specifically implies that one’s ultimate goal should be to avoidreincarnation and should live a life doing good “karma”.Hence, there are a number of similarities as well asdifferences that can be drawn from the aforementioned two approaches. While thesimilarities include the type of human qualities and experiences that arevalued, the differences explain which of the traits are specifically valued.Broadly, these differences can be separated into three major categories suchthat in the value system, orientation of time and thought process. The westernphilosophies support individualism, future and forward oriented strengths, andbelieve in right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness respectively.
Contrarily,the eastern philosophies assign more weight to collectivism, past experiencesand actions, and that of balance, i.e. more the suffering, more will be thehappiness later respectively.