Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Versions of the Truth

It was night, I sat under a lamp in the Indian outdoors with mosquitoes feasting off every exposed part of my anatomy. Although I was technically in an ashram listening to a lecture nothing stopped the cacophoney of sounds that accompanied an Indian wedding in the background. I heard nothing and for once I did not even feel the winged pests suck the blood out of my body. I sat transfixed and totally intrigued by the lecture I managed to hear above all the other sounds that enveloped the early summer evening and what I learnt that day is something that I have not forgotten till today.

The ancient Jain theory of Anekāntavāda is something that changed me forever. Its very simply I means there are versions of the truth.  That enchanted me and as a lawyer too fascinated me. But as a human it consumed a self-righteous black and white thinking person like me. I never believed in the gray, the possibility of perhaps and maybe’s. There was the truth I believed in and everything else was a lie.

I struggled with the idea of many truths for a long time. Mind you the many truths not in the spiritual sense which I have always prescribed to but the many truths of the smaller trivial day to day things in life. Over a period of time after meditating on the concept night after night I got slower in pointing out when others were not telling the “truth” or not in knowledge of the truth as I knew it. I began to be conscious of the layers and facets of truth and the illusions of perception.

Then one day I had my Eureka moment. It was a random thought on how humans only use a very small capacity of their brains, only 1/9th of our entire capacity! And then there is always the fact that we pre-judge everything and further we never really focus on anything we are always distracted and multi-tasking so not really completely concentrating on any one particular thing. Unfortunately our modern lives dictate that we achieve a multitude of things without really being given the time to perfect anything. Its our way of life we can’t help but function this way as it’s the way our living and working environments have evolved. So as we multi task more and try to do more in a shorter period of time we technically we use much less then the 1/9th of the capacity of our brains.

If all of us use so little of our brains or more appropriately the mental capacity we have and we pre-judge everything and are continually distracted by modern tools that make life easy, a great example being the mobile phone, most of the time our concentration and awareness is definitely affected. So obviously it is very unlikely that we will be able to fully experience anything that happens to us. This leaves us open to experience different things from the same situation, which in turn is a very logical reason why it is likely that different people will experience different versions of the truth.

Further there is even a possibility of different people experiencing different levels of the truth due to their unique attributes be in intellect or spirituality or even something as simple as our cultural and religious conditioning. Age also factors in a great deal when assessing the truth. In society what is deemed as "normal"behaviour or rather socially acceptable behaviour is that which is the mean average or rather what the majority behavioural patters are. Obviously as the accepted behaviours change from generation to generation the ones of the previous generations remain the same and we suffer from what is referred to as a "generation gap" or more commonly family strife!

Life is about so much more then being right because really is there a one right or one truth? The realisation has finally dawned on me that everyone will perceive things differently according to their unique mental, emotional, social and spiritual makeup. It may not always be to my liking that someone else's views differ so much from mine but due to the fact that the every person's brian decodes the information or truth's differently it is highly unlikely that any two people can ever really experience the very same thing or realise the same truth. 

Principles, values, character and ones intellectual, emotional and spiritual make-up tend to bind people together for the very fact that similar people are likely to experience similar truths or experiences thats why we tend to have a lot in common with some people or just manage to co-habit with some people without ever disagreeing with them. The statement, one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter now seems to make so much more sense to me. 

These are the same things that usually contribute to misunderstandings between people that lead to a lot of the world’s troubles. Just imagine if we could all just sit back and appreciate that none of us is really that well versed in the truth as none of us consciously engages a minimal capacity of our brains and all of us are incapable of actually perceiving the truth in its entirety due to this major handicap.

The only thing that makes us all bind together despite these variations and difference is tolerance, love, kindness and a lot of forgiveness without which we would be at continual strife with each other. The world would be full of disagreement, irritation. anger and just an awful ego fuelled place to live in. 

Very recently a someone I know posted the following as her Facebook status: “In every situation, there are always two stories—the story you see and the story God sees” … an appropriate statement to conclude this discussion on the Jain principle of versions of the truth that only a realised soul or a God can see through the illusions we mere mortals assess as the truth.


  1. well written....words that make you think about all situations that one has been through....different situations,,,different truths for different people..

  2. Beautiful...the story we see and the story god sees...truly profound:)