Reviewer: Bhakti Vikas Swami, Vaishnav scholar and ISKCON sannyasi, author of twelve books

All Things Must Pass — so sung George Harrison on a megahit album of the same name. George was consciously echoing Krsna’s words in the Bhagavad-gita, which ring through centuries of proud civilizations that have risen, deemed themselves invincible, and inevitably passed.

What so fascinated George — and thousands of his generation — about Eastern culture and thought has remained an abiding and ever-growing passion in the West. Today literally millions of Westerners, dissatisfied with what they perceive as the parochialism and unnecessary aggressiveness of their own culture, have chosen to adopt diverse manifestations of oriental dharmic traditions, perceiving them as more peaceful, wise, and truly spiritual. The concepts of reincarnation and karma, and the practice of yoga and vegetarianism — all largely or exclusively imported from the East — are now commonplace in the occident.

And internationally, the West’s economic, political, and intellectual hegemony — which arose several centuries ago and until recently seemed invincible — is finally showing signs of passing.

Yet although the distinction between East and West is becoming increasingly blurred (sorry, Kipling), distinctly Western presuppositions and underlying modes of perception and conditioning remain as subtle but powerful influences upon both Western practitioners of dharmic traditions and Eastern people steeped in the myth of inherent Western superiority.

Being Different appears at this cultural crossroads. Without rejecting Western contributions to culture and thought, it pinpoints the dominating, yet often unnoticed or veneered, bias toward Western paradigms. It furthermore challenges those perspectives by interjecting perspectives from the dharma traditions (maintaining that they are at least equally valid) with which to view all aspects of being.

Everything must pass, Krsna teaches, but that which is real will remain (Bhagavad-gita 2.16). In a world clearly in need of a rethink, Being Different challenges the West to stop stereotyping older civilizations as inferior and to examine itself through the lens of a culture that has remained while countless others have fallen. Being Different is so different to any previous work, and so compellingly argued, that it promises to initiate transformational discourse in all areas of intellectual activity.

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