The East says that the body is illusory, it is only an appearance, a shadow; it has no reality. The West says that consciousness is a byproduct – it does not exist in itself, it is an appearance. When the body dies nothing remains, the body is all, and the consciousness that you feel is just the combination of all the elements of the body.
For example, if you take all the parts of your car separately, or all the parts of your watch separately, do you think something like a soul will be released out of the watch? Who was running the watch? It was just because of the combination of the parts in a certain way that the watch was running, the car was running, that all machines are working; it is a byproduct. Put all the parts together again and the watch will start ticking. The soul has not gone anywhere, there has been no soul in the first place.
As far as I am concerned, I see that the fundamental reason is to somehow choose one and decide that the other is illusory, so that you can be at peace, so that there is no need to fight, torture, and be in constant fear of being defeated. Why have the East and the West chosen differently? That also has to be understood.
The Eastern mind, in search of a unitary being, tried to find out: what exactly is this inner consciousness that the Eastern mystics, saints and sages have been talking about, and calling the body illusory? To us the body seems to be real, and consciousness is just a word. But because all the saints in the East were insisting that this word consciousness is your reality, the East has tried to find out what this reality is before deciding in favor of the body. The natural tendency will be to decide in favor of the body, because the body is there, already appearing real – consciousness you have to search for, you have to go into an inner pilgrimage.
The East, because of people like Gautam Buddha and Mahavira, could not deny that these people were sincere. Their sincerity was so clear, their presence was so impressive, their words were so authoritative – it was impossible to deny. No argument was enough, because these people were their own argument, their own validity. And they were so peaceful and so joyful, so relaxed, so fearless. They had everything that every human being desires – and in a way they had nothing. Certainly they had found a source within themselves, a treasure. And you cannot just deny it without giving enough time to the search. Unless you find that there is no consciousness, you cannot deny it. We had people so fragrant… We could not see their roses, but the fragrance was so much that the East tried to look inside, and found that the soul is far more real. The body is just an appearance.