I have spent precisely half of my life in the global East, and the other half living in the West. East and West functioned as schools of learning for me, educating me in unique ways.
I feel like a lucky plant rooted in the soil of the East and watered and nurtured by the West, and the recipient of the best of both worlds.
History is full of records of the past contributions of the East in culture, art, music, architecture, sciences and literature. The physical evidence of some of the East’s rich cultures can still be seen today. The East is the birthplace of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and many more religions.
On the other hand, the West has been the birthplace of many scientific discoveries and innovations that have advanced humanity and led to a better and more prosperous standard of living. Western science has discovered the smallest parts of atoms, mapped the DNA of the human body, and sent spaceships to distant planets looking for signs of life.
If I could describe the relation between East and West simplistically, I would use the metaphor of the heart and brain in the human body. With its deep roots in spirituality, the East functions like the heart, pumping the lifeblood of guidance and values; and the West, with its advancements in science and finance, functions as the brain.
“In these days the East is in need of material progress and the West is in want of a spiritual idea. It would be well for the West to turn to the East for illumination, and to give in exchange its scientific knowledge. There must be this interchange of gifts. The East and the West must unite to give to each other what is lacking. This union will bring about a true civilization, where the spiritual is expressed and carried out in the material.” - Abdu’l-Baha
I do not think I fully understood the implications until our Baha’i community decided to adopt the community of Jaipur in India as its twin sister community and join forces and share experiences.
Soon, we found out that we are lucky in the West to have the financial means, but we lack human resources in our small community. In contrast, our friends in Jaipur have ample human resources, but they struggle with the finances to carry out activities.
Each member of our community feels a sense of pride and accomplishment due to this beautiful involvement and experience, helping with activities such as children’s classes, junior youth activities, and devotional gatherings there. Friends in Jaipur are very grateful for our financial support.
Although humanity is connected by physical means, people’s hearts are very distant from each other. Many walls, such as skin colour, nationality, religion, political views, and language, are hindering the East and the West from getting closer.
Whether from East or West, we all recognize that our world is getting smaller thanks to improvements in communication and transportation. This highlights the need for unified efforts by all countries to share resources for the betterment of the world.
I am not sure that our community’s small attempt to reach out to a community in the East will reduce the weight of the world’s problems. Still, it surely has given us a sense of pride that at least we are working to cooperate with our brothers and sisters on the other side of the planet.
"Badi Shams is a Baha’i and a mystic at heart. His field of interest is economics; he has published "Economics of the Future" and "Economics of the Future Begins Today" and recently written the books "Random Thoughts of a Mystic Economist" and "Towards a New Spiritual Economic System." You can find Badi's website at badishams.net called "Baha'i Inspired Economics" He is retired from the education system
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE: https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking