Reviewer: Al Collins, Ph.D., former core faculty, California Institute of Integral Studies.

In 1957, Mircea Elaide wrote that “Western culture will be in danger of a decline into a sterilizing provincialism if it despises or neglects the dialogue with the other cultures.” Tragically it has neglected this dialogue and is reaping the bitter fruit of that failure. Perhaps even more tragically, the great cultures of Asia seem to be abandoning their roots and becoming more “Western.” In Being Different, Rajiv Malhotra confronts these errors from the perspective of the classical culture of India which he holds up to the gaze both of the West and of India herself. At the center of Indian consciousness is a peaceful, integral Self (purusha or atman) that contrasts sharply with the unstable individualism of the West. Where the Western ego must strive eternally to hold itself upright in the winds of history, the Indian Self is the origin and goal of what we call history and India terms the flux of life (samsara). Paradoxically, the unity of the Indian Self allows diversity to flourish in the world, whereas Western “pluralism” strives to impose the provincial one-sidedness that Eliade warned against over sixty years ago. Malhotra reflects the West in the mirror of this Indian Self and finds fragmented egotism, but he does not leave us there. Instead, he generously invites us to relax the Western ego’s death grip, to pass beyond even dialogue (itself a Western mode) and allow ourselves the healing vision (darshan) of India’s great, peaceful Self. Being Different is a brilliantly performative critique of Western individualism inhabited by an Indian consciousness able to dissolve the brittle shell of our self regard and let in the soft monsoon breezes of an Other we sorely need today.

This entry was posted in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.