Yoga is about reaching a conscious state where the ego-self is dissolved and a union with a deeper state of oneness is achieved. This is supposed to lead us to the Truth with the capital “T”. Millions of yogis spend their lives in pursuit of this Truth. Even those who are not yogis spend obsessive amount of time in search of truth with a smaller “t”. We gossip endlessly to find out who is saying what about whom. We fixate on the news to find out what is happening where. Scientists and academics write papers proclaiming new truths in their field. Companies spend millions trying to find out more truths about their customers and products. Religious wars are fought to stake ownership on Truth.
It seems our societies and our lives are shaped by the churning caused by our obsession with truth. So here are four pitfalls to avoid:
1. Do not use truth as a weapon
Ahimsa (non-violence) and Satya (truth/honesty) are two values that are highly regarded in Yoga. However Ahimsa is higher than Satya. This means that if by speaking the truth you are likely to cause harm, then you should stay silent. Under no circumstance must you use truth as a cudgel to beat someone with. Unnecessarily speaking ill of someone behind their back, even if true, is to be avoided. The value of truth and honesty is really meant to be applied to oneself rather than others:
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
2. Do not think of truth as something definitive
The remarkable thing is that two different observers of the same event will usually have widely different accounts of what happened. This is because of the following reasons:
- Our perception is colored by our biases.
- In addition we may have errors in perception.
- And finally our memory may trick us and we may have errors in recalling what we saw.
This means that what we think of as truth is an interpretation that exists in our head. It is just a story we believe in. Others may believe something entirely different to be true.
“There are no facts, only interpretations.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
3. Do not assume that you “know it all”
Humility is a key value when it comes to truth. Even when we become experts in our field and know more than most around us, this is no reason to assume a position of excessive pride. If we maintain a posture of humility, we then find that the more we know, the more we find unknown. Learning and growth never stops and our expertise keeps growing.
“A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” – Albert Einstein
4. Do not lose hope that Truth is unreachable
The Truth that spiritual people, mystics, and Yogis seek is beyond space and time. The lucky few who have glimpsed it find impossible to speak about it. So is Truth unknowable and unreachable? It is easy to get despondent and look for crutches. A rigidly dogmatic view of Religion may be one result. But this is not what Yoga is about. Yoga is about finding the Truth yourself without crutches. Though it may seem difficult, it is possible to make rapid progress in the direction of Truth. A key thing to keep in mind is that no progress, however small, is ever wasted. The journey towards Truth is inevitable, but it can be hastened when we avoid the pitfalls as highlighted in this article and follow the path laid down by realized Yogis past and present.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” – Henry David Thoreau
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Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.