Enlightenment and Empowerment: How the West Sees Them Differently

Updated on July 1, 2017
Source

Trying to apply Western understanding to Eastern thought can be challenging, as in the case for “enlightenment and empowerment.” In the Eastern psyche, enlightenment and empowerment are the cause and effect of a new personal awareness or consciousness. They are considered as two integral parts of one learning process for self-knowledge. In the East, you cannot experience empowerment without first becoming enlightened spiritually, and psychologically, as well. However, in the West, enlightenment and empowerment are oftentimes two distinctly unrelated concepts. Western postsecondary education can be viewed as enlightening because of its emphasis on critical thinking and the sciences. Additionally, Westerners can be empowered by law, literature, media, celebrity, politics or spirituality, oftentimes without enlightenment. It is interesting to see how similar dictionary definitions are in the Eastern and Western versions, yet still be understood so differently. How could the same words have such different meanings?

The West’s Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “enlightenment” as an 18th century European movement that promoted science and reason above tradition and religion.[1] It was the Age of Reason, The Enlightenment, a period which lasted from the late 1650's through the mid-1800's. The East's HinKhoj dictionary for the Hindi language defines “enlightenment” as an “education” resulting in clarity and understanding, without ambiguity.[2] A spiritual quality is also included. A more detailed definition can be taken from the Hindu and Buddhist perspectives. Enlightenment is defined as the beatitude that transcends the cycle of reincarnation; and, is characterized by the extinction of desire and suffering of the individual consciousness.[3] This basically means that personal enlightenment will free you from suffering in this world and the next. This spiritual quality adds a new dimension to the word that the West simply does not comprehend or believe. Therefore, when introducing concepts such as enlightenment for personal development seminars, meditation groups or humanities classes, one must be mindful of the fundamental difference in meaning of enlightenment between the two cultures. Empowerment, on the other hand, does not seem to have such a profound difference in meaning between the East and the West, even though it too has a spiritual dimension.

Interestingly, the word “empowerment” has similar meanings in both the Western and Hindi dictionaries. The Merriam-Webster describes “empowerment” as the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in the controlling one’s life or one’s rights. Legal rights are given or granted by a power of authority.[4] In the HinKhoj, “empowerment” is an act of conferring some form of legality.[5] Empowerment in the Hindi language is also a legal state or status, like in the West. Power is being granted to an individual by an entity or person in power. This form of empowerment is then understood by both the East and the West as an act of making someone powerful. However, power does not always involve legalities. The Eastern difference in empowerment, like enlightenment, also has a spiritual component. That spiritual component, of course is spiritual enlightenment. But, this relates to personal development. And, the authority to bestow such empowerment comes from the enlightenment given by the gods or the mind. In this case, empowerment and enlightenment are so closely connected that it would be self-defeating to try to separate them.

All in all, trying to fit an Eastern concept such as enlightenment-empowerment into Western thought can be tricky without acknowledging the spiritual component. Where enlightenment and empowerment are part of a whole in Eastern culture, they are two distinct concepts in Western culture. Therefore, it would be best to keep in mind the two distinct cultural approaches when introducing the enlightenment-empowerment concept in your meditation, life coaching or humanities classes.


[1] Merriam Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enlightenment

[2] HinKhoj Dictionary, http://dict.hinkhoj.com/enlightenment-meaning-in-hindi.words

[3]HinKhoj Dictionary, http://dict.hinkhoj.com/enlightenment-meaning-in-hindi.words.

[4] Merriam Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empowerment

[5] HinKhoj Dictionary, http://dict.hinkhoj.com/hindi-dictionary.php?word=Empowerment&ie=UTF-8.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)