“The More Clearly We See the Reality of the World, the Better Equipped We Are to Deal with the World”
Yet another tool for problem-solving is dedication to the truth. In this connection, the author of The Road Less Traveled writes:
“Superficially, this should be obvious. For truth is reality. That which is false is unreal. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world—the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions, and illusions—the less able we will be to determine our correct courses of action and make wise decisions. Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.”
In reading this there is no need to question whether or not Mr. Peck is a devotee. We need not be confused about his referring to the material world as reality, because inasmuch as we are discussing how to optimize our performance in this world, it is reality. Our philosophy of parinama vada, defines the material world as real. It is the concept of happiness, via sense gratification, that is the illusion. Peck speaks of the psychology that is required to enable us to cope with life successfully—not just cope, but how to get where we want to go. This psychology applies whether it is directed to material or spiritual goals. It especially applies because we do not live a cloistered life. As preachers we are involved with the world. Hence it is necessary for us to be able to process data and routinely update our maps. On the understanding that “utility is the principle” Mr. Peck’s wisdom can be gainfully applied. He also points out that while it should be obvious that we need to be dedicated to the truth by constantly revising our maps of reality, “it is something that most people, to a greater or lesser degree, choose to ignore.”
This is the road less traveled. It is the road of self-examination and dedication to the truth, which calls for us to regularly revise our maps. We avoid this road to reality because it is rough going. It takes effort to produce accurate maps, and then it takes effort to keep updating them as new data keeps coming in. Peck again:
“But many do not want to make this effort. Some stop making it by the end of adolescence. Their maps are small and sketchy, their views of the world narrow and misleading. By the end of middle age most people have given up the effort. They feel certain that their maps are complete and their Weltanschauung is correct (indeed, even sacrosanct), and they are no longer interested in new information. It is as if they are tired. Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, ever enlarging, and refining and redefining their understanding of the world and what is true.”
We had an example, in ISKCON, of this phenomenon, when the controversy on the “jiva issue” came to a head in Mayapur in 1995.
So many could not re-examine what they have always understood from the past in light of new data coming in from Jiva Gosvami’s Sandarbhas. Rather than revamp our old maps they preferred to reframe Jiva’s statements to fit our old maps. This subject matter is explained in the work by the title “In Vaikuntha not Even the Leaves Fall”, which can be found in the “Food for Life” Contents Menu. Peck explains that this need to constantly be open to revising our maps is the biggest problem in map-making:
We are daily bombarded with new information as to the nature of reality. If we are to incorporate this information, we must continually revise our maps, and sometimes when enough new information has accumulated, we must make very major revisions. The process of making revisions, particularly major revisions, is painful, sometimes excruciatingly painful. And herein lies the major source of many of the ills of mankind, and especially ISKCON.
What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn? The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is to ignore the new information.
Often we do not leave it at just ignoring the new data. In the previous chapter we have seen how intolerance, of the discomfort necessary to deal adequately with a problem, is symptomatic of the mode of passion. Being in the mode of passion, makes us lax towards accepting responsibility for problem-solving, but it does not leave us passive, as far as dealing with new data that we do not want to confront:
“We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world, so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality. Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.”
The same operative principle discussed here, the need to constantly sift the data that comes in, is the active principle in the psychological therapeutic model called Transactional Analysis. Again, it is only by giving careful critical scrutiny to a new idea that one should decide to reject or accept it.
Blind emotional reactions, stemming from the mode of ignorance, or threatening admonishments, stemming from the mode of passion, are no substitute for the sober consideration of the mode of goodness.
Rajas and tamas will never give the same result as sattva. Worse, trying to consider new data from the posture of rajas and tamas is a virtual guarantee that one will be misled.