Who doesn’t like to try their hand at philosophy every once in a while? Not only among those who are interested in spiritual development, but even those who aren’t – so many people like to give their opinions. It would be a very rare person, who in the midst of some philosophical discussion, has never ventured forth with something to the effect of – ‘do you know what I think’.
The spiritualist is interested in philosophy in the hope that it will lead to a higher purpose in life other than mundane self-centered consumption of one kind or another, while a materialist often philosophises to justify their self-centered consumption. As Aldous Huxley once put it, ‘ I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning, consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption.’
Not only self-described philosophers, but ordinary people – we all like to coat our chosen course of life with some ideological or philosophical justification. In an attempt to resolve the inevitable disagreements that arise when these differences of opinion are manifest in practice, the saying that‘we all have our own truth’ has been widely put about. That line may seem at first glance to be a wise one, but it doesn’t stand up very well to any decent scrutiny.
From another angle, let’s consider that one person’s truth is that there is a spiritual soul, and another’s truth is that there is no spiritual soul. Hey! They can’t both be correct! Either there is a soul or there isn’t. And so again, this ‘we all have our own truth’ teaching is proven to be useless.
A related teaching goes something along the lines of ‘Oh well, nobody really knows’. It may well be that a great many people don’t know, but it’s surely a stretch to conclude from this fact, that nobody knows. How do you know that nobody knows? Maybe someone out there does know. Why not? Who has declared that to be an impossibility? You have examined everyone in existence and have thus come to your conclusion? It is not difficult to appreciate that this seemingly wise and humble declaration is actually full of both ignorance and arrogance – the product of an extremely narrow mind. According to Yoga philosophy, admitting that one does not know is a good start on the road to knowledge, but that is just the beginning – it’s not the end. As it is put in the Bhagavad Gita 4/34,
‘Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively…..The self- realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.’
And so before we can gain knowledge, we need to humble ourselves and realize that not only do our mickey mouse opinions not count, but they are actually a negative. They prevent us from coming to the point of real humility and approaching someone who does know. This real humility is the beginning – the take off point from which a person can attain spiritual truth. If we know something, then we know it, and if not, then we should be humble enough to leave it at that and refrain from entering into the opinion giving business, or copping out with the excuse that ‘nobody knows’.
‘Oh! this is not fair’, some people will exclaim in protest. ‘What about my opinion! Can’t I have my opinion’? Sure – if you insist, but don’t be so deluded as to think that your opinion necessarily harmonizes with reality. Reality exists with or without our opinions, and genuine philosophy will lead us to that reality. It will not leave us in the lurch with superficial ‘feel good’ clichés that do not truly help us.