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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Search for Truth (part four)

Green Truths
Another important measure used to discover what is true or not, is contemporary wisdom. I was living in California where many use strong, politically correct speech, politically correct motivation, as well as environmentally careful words such as green, sustainable living, (and of course, vegetable oil power for cars.)

As compassionate caretakers of a troubled world, we certainly are influenced by both current research and contemporary wisdom that reflects new ideas about new problems. However, looking back on contemporary wisdom attitudes of five, ten or twenty years ago, we might feel surprised or even castigate ourselves for how we used to think. Now it is fashionable to castigate second or third world countries for doing the same things that first worlders themselves did earlier, because they do not have money or technology to do things as green as in California.

I am not saying that green is bad and wrong. The point here is about the criteria used for discovering what is true, which can become quite compelling when it becomes widely accepted contemporary wisdom that is used to decide by consensus what is true and valid. So, as we move in a stream of what others believe, we also follow their correct or incorrect logic, joining a larger community that holds similar values or
“truths.”

Media Truths
Many people establish truth by what they read in newspapers and magazines and watch on the television set. For the intelligent person, it is easy to see hidden agendas and commercial manipulation of media. However,
the contemporary wisdom of political truths use similar methods to cause us to decide what are correct and straightforward realities. Manipulating our emotions, especially fear, colors our ablity to establish what is true and real from what is false and unreal in politics.

Political Truths
Most countries are divided and colored by the self-serving agendas of competitive political parties. I have even heard about people who support the ideals of one political party feeling uncomfortable around people who support another political party, even in social settings. They fear that they might become reversed or influenced to give up what they have already accepted as good, true and valid in their own lives. Someone might question their reasons or values, so they try to avoid group settings where that might happen. It also becomes important to establish truth by accepting other unrelated philosophies because of a strong political affiliation. The unthinkable horrors of wartime abuse of the Jews, gypsies and others were commonly held political views at that time because of loyalty to acceptable political positions.

It could also be that someone with a dogmatic political view feels secure in his or her own beliefs, which includes common values with political views, and they do not want to change. I cannot judge individual motivation, but a truth method based upon contemporary political views changes like the direction of the wind. In addition, we might think our political views only color our political choices in the voting booth, but it does not. It enters into social life, how we make money, who we choose as friends, and many other areas of life.

Propaganda Truth
If we really believed everything in the infusion of agenda based propaganda regarding political truths and realities, we would need to be ready to believe something different at a moments notice from those in charge of our beliefs. This is not quite as difficult here as it is, for example, in China, or in Tibet. People are told what they are expected to think and you must jump when they say jump. Even in the privacy of their own minds, these oppressed people need to hold a rigid pattern so that they do not get into trouble by thinking the wrong thing. In Tibet, if you think the wrong thing, you might accidentally say the wrong thing, and then you might endanger not only yourself, but also your family. It becomes a matter of life and death to be able to think the right things regarding political truths and realities. To be continued…

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Search for Truth (part three)

How you develop strategies in seeking your truth are influenced by criteria already present in your mind that you are able to use as tools for this search. However, if they remain unexamined or you are using faulty premises, you might arrive at some strange ideas about truth and falsity that bear no relationship to reality. Contrary to some pop philosophies, there are actual realities and truths that need to be penetrated in order to evolve. The reason we seek truth is not to have a fancy new way to personalize our life, feel important by creating a new truth or just wanting to be different from everybody else in a faceless world.

Other criteria used for understanding truth are books of wisdom or everyday wisdom sayings. I recently read about Benjamin Franklin and some of the books that he wrote. He also himself collected sayings of his time, about crops and about the nature of people, trust, and other interesting topics gathered into regular almanacs to guide others in everyday life. Aphorisms such as "
A penny saved is a penny earned," and other sayings can range from folk wisdom, common sense reminders, and even things that your grandmother said that are still rolling around in the recesses of your memory waiting to be used. For example, recently someone begged his friend to help him get a cat out of a tree, but the friend refused and said, "How many cat skeletons do you see up in trees?"

Books of wisdom such as the Bible, the Upanishads or the Pali Canon are used by billions as important resources for reading about true things. However, even the holy books can be misunderstood and misused to actually harm others by applying personal agenda such as anger toward others. I heard that at time of the crusades, based upon biblical injunctions, spiritual people would do awful things because felt it was connected to wisdom and the truth of spiritual life and salvation they read about in holy books. On the other hand, we are influenced by others as we observe others behaviors and positive changes because they were reading and thinking about the information they found in books of wisdom such as religious scriptures, this is a traditional method of developing discrimination. As we read sacred books describing reality and new perceptions to train our minds we become refreshed and reminded to our original nature of clarity and openness.

Certainly, we can easily see that there are different kinds of truths for different situations without confusion. For example, you might say "
Eat from the four different food groups in order to stay healthy," or, "Do not eat yellow snow." You might say, "Meditate regularly and correctly for health." These three different kinds of truth relate to different situations still generally regarding health. And so, in different situations, you have diverse valuations that you place upon truth. Skillful actions developed over a great length of time help us understand which truth to apply to which situation.

Another important aspect of learning how to learn about truth is regarding or thinking about what is sacred or holy in order to develop respect for our emerging truth or wisdom seeking new thinking. In the Oriental system, we are very careful to not disrespect higher truth or religion or inner development because these are the systems that we will pass through and be trained in for further development. There are “
titers” of trust, reliance, and respect for guidance that we need to have in our “spiritual blood stream” in order to transcend. In the West, often people will mention Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Geluk tradition, or Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, and then maybe make a joke. Oriental people or long time practitioners could become offended and feel that the criteria that that person is using are no good so be very careful not to make any jokes about holy objects if you wish to have community or spiritual friends now or in the future. We feel that there is an inauspicious energy created and this would be like taking holy objects and rubbing them in the dirt.

In Western educational thinking, some maintain a sincere and careful attitude toward their search for truth, and then turn around and make a cynical joke about it. Perhaps they are not exactly sure that what they are searching for is valid or acceptable, and so they make some kind of rude remark toward what is sacred. The value and understanding of what is sacred and holy and how to maintain a seriousness is difficult for some Western practitioners. A dynamic of self-criticism or cynicism is probably already present in you. Some might want to say something serious and sacred, and then not want to feel that it is so serious that you cannot have fun with it, and so they do both, and mix it all together. This makes a search for truth like a ride on a roller coaster in the way many new practitioners think about holy and sacred objects. To be continued…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Search for Truth (part two)

This series on seeking truth is intended to act as a way for you to meditate on your own methods. The problem continues to be separating influences that are forced on us from those we have discovered ourselves. Then we need to re validate each category to see if the outer or inner influence is valid according to logical standards. However, we do not need to be a scholar to have careful reasoning or to throw away reasoning altogether to free ourselves to think clearly.

There are many voices and influences we have outside ourselves vying for our attention to make us believe according to their perceptions, some of which are valid and some are accepted without question. A saying of the Buddha often quoted about not believing him, only believe what you understand is a misunderstanding by many and is regarding this point. However, we have inner criteria and inner influence that are demanding we serve it before others. Some of these might be trauma, anger, jealousy, competitiveness, or more positive influences such as altruism, love, or karmic propensities.

People often use their emotions as the method for understanding what is true and real, in other words “How do I feel about it.” So we can understand whether something is true or not, how should we view emotional data? Examples of emotional criteria might be for many Tibetans, deciding that anything that is of Chinese manufacture or people who live in China are bad and wrong. In the case of all problems between groups of people, they use that criteria of national origin or what ethnic group or racial group they belong to and color their judgment. Will that create further negativity by emotion in searching for truth by solidifying as fact what is not true?

Now, let us think a bit about the scientific method to determine truth. This is based on empirical evidence and reproducible effects and seems quite straightforward and irrefutable. However, even here you are able to influence the process by your thinking that might have some effect on the outcome. Some researchers actually criticize the scientific method because science uses a protective shield to hide certain faults in the system by stating that it cannot be manipulated because of checks and balances of process. Some see that there are ways to induce agenda into the scientific process to establish or hide results because they are not open what ever come, manipulate statistics, or only research areas that will affirm another agenda. Some agendas might include research money coming from for profit companies, weapons development and more. In the exact same way, the potential for “clear scientific thinking” can be tainted by our own ideas, expectations, and desires to be met without being open to seeing things as they are.

For the basis of our discussion about the search for truth that even becomes more stringent with higher level or more subtle truths, agendas and fear cannot be allowed. Therefore, the very thing which is ingrained into Western society to gain an empirical, scientific, reproducible effect, actually might not be working as well as you want.

We must be aware that many elements of scientific methods of inquiry are present and alive in you and are very strong in your educational system indoctrination. In the West, the scientific approach is one that has become supreme for education, whereas in other places in the world, that process is not very much admired because of its insistence of departure from inner based values. You will hear from time to time Tibetans decrying how bad and wrong Western science is when it is actually the loss of inner values they fear. I was also this way in my just previous life, with a tremendous resistance to science as it is taught in the West.

Another method that you might be using would be common sense, isn't that so? Common sense, by means of whatever logic you have, whether that logic is correct or not, is something that everyone uses. You assume, through common sense, that something is valid and true, however, someone sitting next to you would have another logical activity is based upon his or her views thereby bringing another result. That process that they also call common sense is based more upon their own logic mixed with other factors. Common sense is based upon certain mental capacity abilities, education and levels of logic, and is an important method for you to display and to practice your logic informally, isn't that so?

An interesting point is that common sense is always self-referent to your own knowledge mixed with what others think as well as cultural conditioning. You know, in Nepal, it is only common sense that you slit the throat of a young water buffalo, catch that blood in a bucket, and then splash it onto a deity statue. It is only common sense to keep the smooth running of household luck. To be continued…..

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Search for Truth (part one)

Many people sense that something important is missing, a feeling that there is something they should already know. It seems that there occurs for some an awakening desire to break free from the mental constraints that separate them from what is real. There is something that we want to know and we want to rejoice that we understand and possess the big Truth, so we can share it with others. We might experience a desire to search for personal truth from time to time but give it up as being too complicated. And so there must is something about the search itself that needs to be examined in order for us to have a quality result. Rather than trying to find the truth immediately, let us first explore how we go about our search for truth. You know, this subject can be quite romantic, isn't that so? It has feelings of extreme importance, and feelings of gripping determination, "I will not budge from this spot until I know the truth!"

To begin, we look at the criteria that we might use to establish whether something is true or not. It is very good to think about what parameters quality people such as Socrates might have used, or what some foolish people might be using for standards so we do not emulate them, but the actual question is what criteria are we using.

The criteria used to establish whether something is true or not, can also include what others teach by either example or education. We might use what others are telling us is correct in order to establish whether something else is true or not. This is how we are presented learning opportunities. For example, in school, if your teacher says the world is round, you believe him or her because there is a heightened value of the position your teacher holds. So, you agree with the teacher without questioning as a fact and use that premise so that you can build upon it to learn other things. This is a valuable and classic method for us to learn what is true and what is not true without examining. If we had to examine every statement, we would not finish inquiry to actually learn.

However, to simply accept what others are saying is true can also have unfortunate consequences. For example, what if somebody is gossiping but you admire him or her because they are an expert in, for example, astronomy. They know a good deal about astronomy, and perhaps something about the third party, but you erroneously believe the gossip because they are good at astronomy!

There are also ways to determine if something is true or not by relying on the senses, sight, hearing, touch or taste. However, it is quite well proven that the senses can be deceived, and yet, it is one of the important methods we use to establish truth. Even if something is true in one sense for example, hearing, sensory data may be faulty in another sense such as eyesight and not give you validation and you become confused. This would be like hearing someone calling you but there is no one there.

How we search for truth also includes cultural parameters but these can also literally prevent you from seeing something that is right in front of your eyes due to cultural conditioning. An example is a study done on Inuit people of Alaska before electricity or televisions came to their communities back in the 1970s. I understand they were shown a TV show for the first time, but they could not see anything on the television set. They could see moving shapes, but could not relate it to human figures. This and other studies seem to indicate that there is subtle pressure on members of a culture to create a blind spot to what is obvious in other cultures. Western culture is known for its cultural taboos to not be able to see energy forces that other cultures perceive as real.

This becomes more obvious in inner development as the individual becomes more sensitive in spiritual awareness. The gradual awakening and preparation for enlightenment causes the practitioner to lose confidence in assuming what others say is real and true and begins to rely on inner sources. Since ordinary people are not able to see interior reality, which is the next step in the evolutionary development of becoming, they continue to rely on human agreement of what is truth that acts as blinders to the one that wishes to search for truth. To be continued…