Christian Long

Devdutt Pattanaik: East vs. West — the Myths that Mystify

In TED Talks on May 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Extra credit reflection by GABRIELLA B.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Devdutt Pattanaik: East vs. West — the Myths that Mystify

I absolutely fell in love with this engaging speaker. He manages to share with great eloquence and just the right amount of detail a peek into the Indian belief system. It is touching and funny and understandable. He relates abstract constructs such as the meaning and relevance of a life well spent to the understandable myths and legends we westerners can all understand.

Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus, all great men, world movers and shakers, living extraordinary lives, through their stories Pattanaik creates contrast to help us understand Indian myths, of life and death and rebirth. Because unlike western beliefs systems in which you have one chance to live a noteworthy life, Indians believe you live an infinite number of lives. Therefore how you spend ‘this’ life is insignificant in the long run.

Nothing lasts forever.

To this end he shares how people, businesses, institutions both eastern and western incorporate their code of beliefs into their lives.

In the western world everything is clear cut, systematic, all leading to a predetermined outcome. You are born. You attend school. You attend college. You get a job. Or you are born. You live a good life. You enter heaven.

However Indians don’t believe in one heaven. They believe in many versions of paradise, thus their business models are not linear and institutional but flexible and fluid. They are comfortable with things like contextual thinking, fuzzy logic, with everything relative…sort of.

In his work he tries to balance the exasperation western business men and women often face when dealing with Indian business philosophy. We with our binary systems and absolute truth don’t deal well with mostly… you can’t standardize mostly.

Pattanaik tries to help us see that your way is not absolute truth just as their way is not therefore illogical superstition. To live in today’s world of clashing cultures and ideas you have to accept that your truth is subjective.


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