Freedom in Faith–1996

                                      Freedom in Faith

 

The version of freedom given by the Bhagavad Gita is based on the idea that true freedom can only come with hard work, sacrifice and prayer.  Learning to be disciplined is one of the most important steps in freeing oneself from the bonds of attachment.  To be disciplined, one must choose understanding over action, for “pitiful are the men drawn by fruits of action”.   “Disciplined by understanding”, one can attain the freedom that is escaping from the cycle of rebirth and “reaching a place beyond decay”.  Understanding as supposed to action is only one of the things that will lead to eternal freedom and must be combined with other ways of acting.

          To make one’s thoughts sure, they must get rid of desire and become indifferent to the urges that everyone else is controlled by.  When someone has given up attraction to pleasure, they can become “a sage whose thought is sure”.  The reason destroying cravings and attachment is so important is because “brooding about sensuous objects makes attachment to them grow; from attachment desire arises, from desire anger is born”.  Therefore, relinquishing attachment not only frees the mind from its worldly bond but also prevent anger and the loss of understanding that comes with it.  An important exercise in freeing oneself from desire is to deprive oneself of food. Approaching the world without desire and with discipline leads to serenity and eventually inner peace, something that seems akin to complete freedom of the mind.

          To become a man of discipline involves self-deprivation and perhaps even more importantly, meditation and devotion to Krishna.  “Perfect joy comes to the man of discipline” because he sees and loves his self and has his mind free of attachment and full of devotion to Krishna.  People are not free because the self is not free and is still attached to objects in the world.  Fortunately there is a method outlined in the Gita that can free the self from the bonds of worldly attachment that cause so much misery and false understanding.

          Jesus chooses man’s complete freedom over his eternal happiness because he values faith over blind obedience.  The Inquisitor, however, believes that men are “like sheep” and has “vanquished freedom and have done so to make men happy”.  The inquisitor makes the argument that the church is giving men what they want and need, something that Jesus denied them when Satan tempted him. Jesus is offered miracle, mystery, and authority by which to command the faith of man but he refuses all three in order to maintain freedom of faith.  Jesus could have fed all the people in the world but then they would have followed him only for the sake of food. He could have shown himself to be the Son of God by falling from a cliff and surviving, but then man would have followed him with blind faith based on a miracle.  He could have also ruled all the kingdoms of earth but would have had to bow to Satan.

          The inquisitor contests that Jesus is only offering salvation to the few and the multitude of weak people will never find salvation in heaven. He claims that people do not understand the freedom being given them and would be much better off with bread or being unified under a leader.  The inquisitor intends to take that which the devil offered Jesus and make the church rule the world and feed the people.  He is doing this because “nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and human society than freedom”.  The inquisitor states that man, in his freedom, is not happy and still desires bread, something to worship, and a ruler.  The church aims to give man all three in return for the worship and power given to the church.

          Jesus and the Gita are similar in that both attachment great importance to the freedom of faith.  The Gita telling one to abstain from food in order to become disciplined is akin to Jesus refusing to feed all the people of the earth in order to make them stronger and free. The inquisitor, on the other hand, is more concerned with the happiness of man on earth, because only a handful will actually gain access to heaven.

         

Subjectivity

I have faith that there is no such thing as objective reality. I think the only reality that exists is the one constructed inside our own heads. The reality I construct is the one I understand and the one that provides the basis for my own bias.

            People seem to feel that mankind has a pretty good idea of how the world works, and that it will work the same when seen from different perspectives. This is a natural conclusion to draw, because human beings view reality in very similar ways. There is a general consensus that the sky is blue, for example. There is a consensus on what defines the color blue. The problem with the “fact” of a blue sky is that color is a concept we invented and blue is an arbitrary measurement of color.

            But surely with all the technology and knowledge of the natural world, one would think we would have found some objective truths.  The problem there is that any technology that exists to measure the world is created and calibrated by us. Scientific measurement can record change, but not the full nature of what is changing.  Take a spectrometer for example, a simple machine that measures color; it can tell when something is blue only because we told it beforehand what blue looks like.

A common part of a definition of faith is the belief in something that can not be proved.  Most people would say they trust their senses because they believe that what is sensed can be proved. I do not believe that sense can be proven to be a reflection of reality.  To prove that, we would have to know exactly how the brain processes the impulses it receives.

The subjective nature of sensory perception is a metaphor for how we think about the world. What is good, bad, true or untrue is really a matter of our own faith in ourselves and a construct of our own individual minds. I believe that everyone views, interprets, and represents reality in a unique way, and presenting a truly objective point of view is impossible. We are also biased and under the influence of an infinite number of impulses. Trying to understand one’s own bias can be helpful is presenting a comprehensive, if not objective, world view.

This idea of a questionable reality seems most evident in memory; we have a strong ability to recall things but also a strong disconnect between the conscious and unconscious.  Without evidence, it is often difficult to distinguish between the memory of a vivid dream and the memory of something that actually happened. The answer to “if a tree falls and no one hears, does it make a sound?” is, not only is there no sound, but if no one remembers it, it doesn’t exist.  This means that the truth we present to others is really something we have created but it is also the only truth there is.