One of the most obvious features of modern life in the West has been a radical questioning of tradition, of everything received from the past. Wisdom distilled from living in previous eras has often seemed irrelevant and out of date, unsuited to modern conditions and problems. Add to all this the floods of information, images, and other stimuli that pour out from radio, television, video, compact discs, computers, the Internet, print and other media, and the result is that our attention is generally dominated by input from the present day.

 The quantity, intensity and novelty of all this helps to make both the past and the future seem distant and even unreal – another world. We speak of a feature of modern culture common to Europe and North America, but these regions are home to numerous people of non-western traditions who also have experienced, though in sometimes different ways, its dissenting impact.

Such, moreover, is the power and reach of global communication, the same information, images and stimuli play upon and interact with very different cultural traditions