The East West Cultural Institute is an independent, nonreligious, 501(c)3 educational nonprofit corporation that seeks to increase understanding between the cultures of the ‘West’, i.e. Europe and the Americas, and the ‘East’, i.e. Asia. We seek to accomplish this through two approaches: by focusing on practical endeavors in the modern world and scholarly study of the ancient world.
Based on our extensive experience in the past, EWCI is the process of gradually increasing our public presence with the following goals:
•Create clinics that combine modern integrative medicine with natural healing through the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda. The first of these clinics is the Raju Ayurveda Center which is already under construction, and is described at www.RajuAyurvedaCenter.com.
•Create or support educational centers to teach self-development techniques like yoga, meditation, practical philosophy and healthy living.
•Provide research resources to scientifically study and validate the effects of the self-development techniques and Ayurveda.
•In addition to supporting scholarly research and popular presentations on the topics described below, work is already underway to develop a series of documentaries about some of those subjects, in conjunction with award-winning Producers and Directors associated with some of the top television channels.
Because a complete understanding of these global cultures involves understanding their origins, the East West Cultural Institute also supports research into some of the earliest South Asian civilizations, their interaction with the West, and how these ideas continue to influence modern society. One of these research goals is to trace the beginnings of ideas and practices like Yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, and, arguably, the earliest recorded systematic forms of philosophy and proto-science. Part of this involves the preservation and translation of ancient texts, some of which is already underway. Also central to this process is supporting more research in the areas of archaeology and linguistics. Different publications supported by the Institute covering these topics are already at various stages of development.
Harappans (Indus Valley)
The first of the South Asian civilizations, chronologically, is the Harappan (or Indus Valley) Civilization (c. 3000-1700 BCE) whose ancestors were among the earliest developers of agriculture, and who grew into one of the world’s three earliest great civilizations, along with Egypt and Mesopotamia. These three cultures developed the world’s first international trading economy. They also experienced the world’s first international economic recession, apparently caused, in part, by climate change.
The Harappans were particularly advanced in providing public facilities to their entire population, as opposed to the other civilizations who concentrated their wealth in the hands of just a few Pharaohs, kings, and priests. Some Harappan innovations included public baths, arenas, and even indoor and outdoor city plumbing, almost 1000 years before other cities. There is also no evidence of warfare during their 700 year high period. At the end of the Harappan period, cities disappeared entirely from South Asia for over a thousand years and the reasons are still not completely understood. We hope to sponsor research to better understand this process. The Harappan cities eventually crumbled, were covered by the sands, and one of the largest ancient civilizations in the world was completely forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 1920s. Since there is no agreement on the meaning of Harappan script, we also hope to fund research to do basic analyses that might help lead to a decipherment and a deeper understanding of this mysterious people.
The Vedas and the Indo-Europeans
Another very early South Asian culture that will be further studied is that of the Vedas, which gave rise to Hinduism, and which influenced many other religions. We can trace their entry onto the stage of pre-history as part of the vast spread of the Indo-European peoples, beginning perhaps c. 3500 BCE or even earlier. The Indo-Europeans eventually stretched in an east-west arc from India across Central Asia and Europe all the way to England and Ireland, and north-south from Scandinavia and Russia down to Greece and Turkey. In spite of their wide expanse, they retained remarkable similarities among each another. This family of cultures laid a common foundation for much of the modern world’s law, religion, philosophy and social structure. They also figured prominently in the Bible, having been, at various times, both the conquerors and liberators of the Jewish people.
The Second Urbanization, the Buddha and Classical India
The next period to be studied, in historical order, begins with the re-emergence of city life in South Asia; and it roughly corresponds to both the beginning of the historical era in South Asia and the birth of the Buddha around the fifth century BCE. It is the Classical Era in Indian thought where, for the next 1800 years or so, the earlier teachings like Yoga and Vedanta interacted with newer developments like Buddhism, Greek philosophy and Jainism. This gave rise to one of the most fertile periods of intellectual development in the history of human civilization. The greatest minds of the age sat together and debated about all areas of life including religion, philosophy, science and the social order. Through this process, which spun off numerous different schools of thought, they developed ideas of tremendous sophistication, refined in the forges of lively debates. They often adopted their opponents’ positions, or modified them, and then returned to the fray to repeat the refinement for almost a millennia and a half. The result was a remarkably coherent and systematic worldview, which included new sciences and technologies like foundational work in mathematics and astronomy. These ideas and practices spread across Central Asia, the Middle East and into Europe, eventually contributing to the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. Scholars are only recently coming to appreciate the extent of these influences and more work needs to be done to better understand this process.
The Pre-modern and Modern Eras
Beginning in the 12th century CE, we enter the period of Muslim invasions and, later, the British colonization of the subcontinent. Unlike previous foreign influences within historical times, these new cultures were not based on the polytheistic ideologies that had been in the surrounding region for centuries, and which more or less eventually melded with the native cultures. Instead, Islam and Christianity represented an aggressive monotheism, originating in the distant Semitic Middle East, which sought to remake South Asia in its own image. The result was a dramatic cultural upheaval that permanently changed all of the participants on every side. In the case of the Buddhists, this resulted in their being practically exterminated in India, the country of their origin, by Muslim invaders. Research in these areas is particularly relevant since the legacy of those times still powerfully impacts today’s events, extending far beyond South Asia to reach even the Americas and the Far East.