What is the truth of who I am? Do I know myself at all? Can I accept all the parts of my nature or are there areas which are beyond my comprehension? What is truth?
I show something to another person, looking for a reaction. The other person is confused, does not react but criticises me for not being clear about what it is. I get angry and storm out of the room. What is happening here? Who is doing what? Is there a truth about the situation?
In Buddhist thought there can be seen two truths; Conventional Truth and Ultimate Truth. These are bound up with that elusive Buddhist concept of Emptiness.
Conventional Truth assess the physical reality of a situation or an object. In the case of the event above there is a physical reality of the existence of the two people, the relationship between the two people and the specific situation. That would seem to be fairly simple.
But it becomes necessary to add in the expectations of the two people, the emotional patterns of the two people as well as the energy of their interaction at the time of the event. Now it starts to become more complicated.
The Buddhist concept of Emptiness says that nothing in this event exists in its own right. There is no sense in which we can talk about each person being an independent reality. They both exist in relation to the other and in relation to all the other factors. In themselves they are empty because any meaning you attach to them can only be in relation to the other and to all the factors of the event.
So any sense of Conventional Truth can only be from a personal, biased, standpoint. So it can be seen as a truth at all.
Ultimate Truth is the sense that nothing is actually there at all. There is no independent truth. Ultimate Truth is Universal. There is no way you can view this situation that is true, that is without meaning attached, because there is nothing there.
On an intellectual level I can grasp what is being said here, but on an emotional level, I find it hard.
I know what happened, just as the other person knows what happened. To each person there is a truth behind that knowing. I also know that it is unlikely that the two truths will be the same. If a third person had been there to observe the situation they would have had a different truth again.
I know from my own experience that there is a fierce reality to my truth. I know what happened and would probably find it difficult to accept what either of the other two people saw as truth. This conundrum plagues the police in investigating crimes. This causes cycles of vengeance and wars because people are willing to stand up for their truth, they are willing to fight to the death for it.
I have come to accept that my truth is a personal truth not an ultimate truth. there is no ultimate truth. Nothing can be independently verified because the observer changes the phenomenon. This is not to be confused with the observer effect in Quantum Mechanics but has more to do with the simple effects of cultural interpretation and the fact that any shift in a situation effects people’s interpretation of it—the Hawthorne Effect.
So there is truth and there is no truth. What I have to take on board is that what ever I think is just my interpretation, my reality. To stand up for it, or even die for it, I need to test it against the truths of others.
This can be extremely messy and can not ultimately be carried out with a deep understanding of people, culture, emotions and many other factors.
- To what extent do you hold to your truth in a situation?
- How much do you look at the other person’s truth?
- Do you believe in truth at all?