Last week I read The Spirit of Zen by Alan Watts and one paragraph has stuck with me. It touches on one of the (many) ways religion is viewed differently in the East.
“In the East the effectiveness of a religion is judged by its success in producing a comparatively small number of thoroughly enlightened men, for it is not believed possible fundamentally to alter the lives of vast numbers of people within the span of a thousand years or so. Great social changes are not expected; the religions of the East are more concerned with the enlightenment of some few individuals than of society as a whole, because society is made up of individuals, and will only become enlightened when, after thousands of years, more and more individuals have proved themselves fit for the highest knowledge, until the chosen few have become the whole community.”
Which reminds me of this excerpt from a novel by John Burdett (Bangkok Tattoo).