Thursday, August 16, 2018

Signs of Inner Growth

As you go through life, it is a fair question to ask yourself if you are becoming any wiser.

Consider a man who is enamored of some sportsman or celebrity in his teens, becomes passionate about a political cause in his twenties, and starts following a self-help practice in his thirties.  As time goes on, he exchanges one self-help practice for another, starts reading Zen Buddhism instead of Stephen Covey and talks of oneness and things "beyond the mind".  A few more years pass, and the man is now disillusioned with the usual self-proclaimed "roshi"s of Zen Buddhism, and becomes more of an adherent of orthodox Buddhism.  After going through a meditation retreat or twenty, the man declares that he has developed discrimination and inner wisdom.

What is a way to test yourself, and to test someone else, for a claim of inner growth and wisdom?  It is an important question.  After all, every day one is bombarded with wisdom by all kinds of wise men.  They claim a superior moral status or insight into the world, and feel entitled to tell you how to live your life.  I need not list some of the popular ones, in India or elsewhere.

Here are ten questions that you can put to yourself, or to such a man:

1. Do you now acknowledge and understand some of your shortcomings and limitations?  What are they?

Do you now know your own desires and fears?

2. Have you become less prone to judging people as good or evil, and more prone to seeing them as complex and contradictory bundles of thoughts and influences?  Do you get less angry at people in your interactions?

If a friend of yours is accused of an embezzlement and dismissed from work, do you blacklist that person from your social circle or do you continue to engage with him, perhaps a bit less than before, and seek to understand him?

3. Do you now have fewer answers to world's problems than before?  While earlier you might have had some quick knee-jerk formulae to solve poverty or crime or corruption, do you now understand the complexity of the problem in a way that makes you hesitant to offer short and simple answers?

Do you engage less in wishful tyranny?  "Can't we just hang all these anti-nationals?"

4. As the years have gone by, have you studied more about the world and about our understanding of it (via interactions, experimentation, scientific journals, history books, reflection)?  Before forming an opinion on a matter, do you now try to study something from various angles?

Are you now more aware of your region's history?  Are you now more informed about a particular lifestyle disease and how to avoid it, not just depending on newspaper columns?

5. Do you now have less or fewer esoteric assumptions about phenomena, and can explain more and more of life and the universe without recourse to faith or mystical notions?

Do you reject, or at least regard as mere useful fictions, notions of heaven and hell, nirvana or reincarnation, divine justice, etc.?

6. Do you have more insight and experience about the various experiences and struggles that humans go through, whether they be feelings of love, or obsession, or joy, or depression, or distress and trauma, or stress, or addiction?  Have you seen both your better angels and your "dark side"?

As an example, have you been through both love and heartbreak?  Have you experienced the terminal illness or death of a loved one?  Have you struggled with a bad habit?

7. Do you now have a better discrimination as to how you make or accept a claim?  Does that better discrimination now result in fewer disappointments at being gullible?

As an example, do you now refuse to believe in levitation or psychic abilities?

8.  Do you now have a better grounding in language, logic, the philosophy of science, the various biases and fallacies?

As an example, do you now understand the notion of "Correlation is not causation."

9. Do you now have less of a desire to argue with everybody to convert them to your point of view, and are you more accepting that people might think differently from you?

10. Can you love and admire people knowing that they are flawed?  And conversely, do you now no longer have a need to consider a particular individual as perfect, god-like, and who can say or do no wrong?

1 comment:

Lubzy said...
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