This is the 2nd in this series – Speaking Truth Matters.
Words communicate ideas. Untruth fogs the issues and will at some point result in a variety of suffering or unhappiness.
To navigate life we need a compass that points to knowledge or truth. There are two types of knowledge, mundane knowledge and transcendental knowledge. Unlike mundane knowledge where “truth” changes over time, transcendental knowledge is as true and personally liberating today as it was thousands of years ago. These two types of truth are referred to as relative truth and Absolute Truth and it is important to understand both. There is an ancient verse in the Upanishads which states:
Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality. – Śrī Īśopaniṣad mantra 11
Too often we see the promotion of hedonism as being true and beneficial, whereas its promotion is the opposite of spiritual well-being and long-term happiness.
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, last week we started a little bit of a—what’s going to be a little bit of a series, and calling it Speaking Truth Matters. Actually it’s a really deep subject, and it applies in many different ways. And I think one of the big struggles that society is going through, particularly in the developed world, is a struggle with truth. And so you get these ideas that there can be different truths, “your truth,” “my truth,” and this poses a significant problem for society. But more so it poses a problem for the individual, related to what was the—what we can—to see clarity on my actual purpose for my existence.
So last week, just touching on a couple of things: Words communicate ideas, and if words are unclear or untruthful that makes all the issues very foggy.
And so one of the examples that I used, and it’s something that we’ll get into the principle of it in, maybe next week, or the week after. So, I had mentioned that in one state in the US they were requiring porn sites to implement much stricter standards of age verification, and there was like a massive pushback and a massive freak out in the porn industry. So, just so we understand the size of the problem that we’re talking about (this is just in relation to this particular thing), the biggest group of porn sites, they self-reported that in 2020 (that was three years ago) they were getting 4.5 trillion hits a month: 4.5 trillion hits a month! And when you consider the world’s population is in the very small billions, 4.5 trillion is unbelievable, a month. And that’s going on every month. And the number of visits they’re getting is more than double Facebook and Google combined.
So just last Monday, the children’s commissioner in England released a report that sort of addresses the issue. And the woman stated:
“The behaviour of children as young as eight years old have been affected by them viewing pornography. At the most serious end children were using the language of violent pornography, and it was affecting their behaviours. Children are seeing pornography too young. For most of them it’s by the age of 13, but some are seeing it at eight or nine.”
So, this is like a serious problem, and it’s sort of like unknown as to what the effect is going to be on the broader population over time. And of course, as part of the big pushback from the porn industry (if I can call it an industry) was that they referred to themselves as “companies that are operating in the sexual wellness space” What!?! You can’t be—you’re serious? You’re putting out a massive press release, and saying that you’re representing companies in the “sexual wellness space” when you’ve got so much violence and—I mean the stuff that goes on is mind-boggling. If you look at what are the things most frequently searched, they mostly involve violence of one sort or another.
And so this is like really a big problem, when people begin to use language in order to distort what is truth. So, the understanding from the yogic perspective, or the spiritual perspective, is that there are two categories, fundamentally, of truth. One of them deals with mundane truth or relative truth, and the other deals with transcendental or absolute truth.
So, what’s the difference? Well, unlike mundane truth or mundane knowledge, where you see truth change over time, so if something can be true one day and then another week, years, a month, whatever, later, it alters, and people are embracing something else, this would be categorized as mundane truth, or relative truth. Whereas transcendental knowledge is as true and personally liberating today as it was a thousand years ago. So having this understanding is kind of quite important. And so tonight we’re just touching on briefly the distinction between relative truth and absolute truth.
Relative truth, just for example: the fact that everybody identifies so intensely with their body as being their actual identity, depending upon the gender; depending upon the—well, that’s become a difficult word to use now, depending upon biological sex let’s say; depending upon race; depending upon age; depending upon so many things. People, they intensely identify with this. From a spiritual perspective that is considered a serious misfortune.
While it is true that we do have a physical body, a material body, and it has characteristics, that’s not who we are eternally. Eternally we are spiritual beings. I mean the fact is our body, within one year 98 percent of all the atoms in your body have been changed, but our identity persists. We identify as being the same person experiencing all these different things.
So a transcendentalist is kind of like, “Well, okay, so which one do we go with here? Do we abandon all reference to bodily features as a way of identifying someone, or do we just try to go with the spiritual thing?” We have to be practical and realistic. We do both. And the importance though of embracing a higher transcendental truth is it becomes your compass to navigate your way through this world, through this life.
One of the Upanisads, it’s called the Sri Iso Upanisad, it speaks to this point, the fact that there is a relative truth and there is a transcendental truth. And they say in one verse:
“Only one who can learn the process of nescience…”
So these guys were so politically incorrect it’s unbelievable. They call the idea that clinging to the body, the idea of the body as being the self, as ignorance, as nescience, whereas the understanding of my eternal spiritual being in existence that is full transcendental knowledge. So they say:
“Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.”
So, the reason I’m just raising that is if we are going to go on the spiritual journey it is first and foremost really practical. It’s not impractical. You are not expected to be impractical. And the recognition that, yes while a truth may be temporary and subject to change, we can still refer to it as truth, but relative truth. And our focus, or the underlying thing that’s driving us in life, is this higher absolute or transcendental truth.
The big philosophical battle going on in the world today is the promotion of hedonism. The foundation of hedonism is materialism. And I’ll just explain what I mean. Materialism is the idea that there is no such thing as a spiritual reality, there is nothing that is spiritual. Everything is only material, only the material energy, which is kind of pretty depressing and cynical if we were to embrace that. From that flows then the idea that the actual purpose of life is to fulfill the desires, to stimulate and then try to fulfill the desires of the body and the mind. And this is a formula for unhappiness. It is a formula for unhappiness because it is impossible to attain complete fulfillment and permanent happiness through material experience. But the philosophical idea that has been strongly promoted, which is not true, is this idea.
And of course, people use language to try and influence people about ideas, and in using language there is often a misrepresentation. Just like, I mean I used that example earlier in the porn industry only because it’s so glaring, when you have literally millions, not just a few millions, you are talking about actually hundreds of millions of children that have been seriously hurt, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, in their development and their perspective of what is a healthy relationship, the idea of objectifying a person as simply an object for my gratification. This is the messaging that’s coming through with pornography. And when you have so many children being influenced by it, that the people that are representing these companies can say we’re in the sexual health wellness space is just like, oh my God! That’s just like—Do you guys find that mind-boggling or not, or you think it’s kind of okay? For me it’s just like it’s mind-boggling, because it is so absolutely harmful.
And so in our life, figuring out what is going to be our standard of truth, what are going to be our guiding principles in life, what is it that we are going to adhere to that will actually produce the most wonderful outcome? This is why having this conversation about truth, and in our own life acting, making decisions, acting and speaking on the foundation of truth is like enormously important.
So that’s as far as we’re going tonight. Is this of interest or not really? For me, my personal feeling is it’s of quite critical importance. The fact that people can’t agree on what is truth and what is truthful is incredibly problematic and will have a disastrous effect long term on society.
So I will chant. I’m going to use the Mahamantra, and just a reminder that it is this process that will make it so that we ourselves can actually come to see things with brilliant clarity, where one can actually live a life, no matter what’s going on around you, and walk on the path of truth.
Haribol. Thank you very much.