Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ambiguity in Faith

Predominantly one tends to be preoccupied with thoughts relevant to the demands of the immediate present. This immediate present does not give too much time for your mind to speculate as you need to do what is necessary ‘now’. Needless to say, there have been several books written on the need to give ultimate importance to the immediate present. If you venture to open a bank account in a relatively new bank you would not find yourself raising metaphysical questions. You would worry about questions pertaining to the immediate present. This is because the immediate present needs you to engage with the situation you find yourself in without compromising on your attention. It would be wrong to conclude that metaphysical questions are absurd as when there is little to do there is a lot of room for speculation. You ponder, reflect and raise questions when you are marooned in time. It is similar to being marooned in an island.

One question that I have had recourse to raise is regarding the nature of belief and faith in God. It is a rather difficult question, I have found and to answer without any trace of ambiguity is even more difficult. This, for some reason or the other is unpalatable for many. The confusion in question has a lot to do with the lack of understanding of the word ‘agnosticism’ which is not quite the same as ‘atheism’. You tend to lose grip of the significance of this difference as you may find it to be, nothing but splitting hair. The word ‘agnosticism’ has its relevance when it comes to the subject of how much a human being can know about the nature of the universe. In simple words, if I am not all knowing how can I be certain of my beliefs, especially the metaphysical ones such as the validity of the existence of God. 

There is however, one way of avoiding the well of absolute skepticism and that is the immediate present which you cannot deny. In fact even this is trivial and does not get you far in understanding the nature of your faith as you have only solved one problem effectively, which is not really of a philosophical nature. It may interest you to know that there is an extension possible and that is the concept and reality of ‘evolution’. If you are not sure about whether or not God exists, you may want to wait till you gain more knowledge, wisdom and experience. You then look at intuition and extrasensory perception a bit more seriously. You also start developing an appreciation of wonder and insights which are ahead of the curve of common logic. This position may be termed as ‘evolutionary mysticism’ which by no means is vague and is in harmony with your reasoning and state of mind. There is then less justification for jumping to conclusions without having sufficient data even when it seems more comforting to make a black and white decision. It is this ambiguity in faith that one tends to fill up with words. These words do not reveal exactly the nature of one’s metaphysical position. There is dynamism about the state of mind which indicates the mental process of evolution where answers are not quite as clear cut as we would have liked them to be.  I for one find ample grounds for respecting ambiguity in faith as it is ‘evolutionary mysticism’ in disguise.      


Cheenu Srinivasan said...

There are a number of areas you have touched upon.
The Vedantic view is that there is no God but for you and knowing the true Self (Atma) comes from a deeper reflection on the purpose of life and the basic question of Who am I? Consciousness is God is a view that makes sense to me.

That the past is gone and the future is unknown leaves us to just the 'now'. It is a fact of life that thoughts come and go like vehicles on a highway and we are safe as long as we steer our thought as to where we want to get to. There is no reason why one cannot fill a bank form while the thought on life and creation hum in the background.

Unknown said...

Thanks a lot for your comments. I appreciate it. You describe speculation about the past and future as unavoidable thoughts with no definite reality. The present is what you wish to rely on as that cannot be denied. Steering one's thought to the choice one makes gives one's life a novel and unique meaning.

Unknown said...

Dear Ajay,
I have been following your views with great interest. As per our Hindu philosophy, 'education', 'learning' or 'vidya' means only such learning that leads to realizing oneself. All the other kind of learning, skill and knowledge is termed as 'Avidya'. But one life is never enough to imbibe this 'vidya'. Hence our peers advice to keep on practising spirituality, read books that lead to learning and keep oneself in the company of virtuous and away from vile. Remember what Audi Sankara said:
Sath sangatve nissangathvam....

Unknown said...

Thanks, Sathya for your studied interest and stimulating comments. Why do you say that one life time is not enough to imbibe 'vidya'? In fact, I think what is referred to as avidya cannot be mastered in one life time. One can gain a particular skill and be relatively a master in that skill. There are those who dabble in everything but do not master any specific skill. On the other hand 'vidya' invovles a great degree of introspection which is triggered by experience on many occasions. 'Vidya' involves not just consious cognition but the activation of the subtle mind. Yes, it is difficult because if one pursues this route one absorbs experiences like a sponge. This could hinder mastery of worldly knowledge/'avidya'. The reason being the experience overwhelms the individual and one's attention span to the external world is reduced. This in itself is not necessarily wrong, but it is a matter of choice. If one chooses to pursue meditative knowledge then the external world becomes a distraction. In order to avoid short circuiting both 'Vidya' and 'Avidya' a choice needs to be made. I then think, if one is clear that the external world does not hold any attraction, then one can pursue meditative reflection and achieve in experience 'wisdom', if not knowledge, in one life time. It is possible given the premises that we have chosen.
- Ajay