As It Is blog for the month of May, written By John McDonnell
Belief and Truth
From an early age we are conditioned to believe so many things. These beliefs come to us from many places and can have a lasting impact upon us and how we see the world. We are influenced by our parents, friends, teachers, television, and even our own minds what to believe and accept about this world. But, are these beliefs actual truths?
First let’s look at what the definition of a belief is:
An acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.
Here we see that to believe means to accept something without proof. The problem with this is that we can easily believe in something which is not true at all. For example, many people who come from a Christian tradition, and even those who don’t, may have believed in the existence of Santa Claus at an early age. We accepted this false belief on the authority of our parents, albeit to make Christmas more exciting for us. Later at some point in time we found out the truth, Santa Claus does not actually exist. He is a fantasy of sorts.
If we were to analyse many of our beliefs we may discover the same, that they are false perceptions or concoctions about people and the world around us. A person with anorexia believes themselves to be overweight or fat, when in actuality they are severely underweight.
There is often a difference between what we believe to be true and what is actually true. Having beliefs is not a bad thing, however if they are not based on actual truths then who knows where that might lead us.
Let’s look at the definition of truth:
The quality or state of being true
Here we see that truth is something different entirely to belief.
So how can we know whether something is true or not? We know by knowledge and experience. I used the example of Santa Claus earlier. As children we had the belief that he existed. But later as we got older, knowledge and experience about him and how things actually worked, we came to know that Santa Claus was a figment of someone’s imagination.
Let’s apply this to our beliefs about God. You may believe that God exists or you may not, or you may be unsure about the whole thing. Now ask yourself what are these beliefs based on? Is there any truth to the beliefs that you hold, or have they been influenced by someone else? If you really think about it, most of us have been influenced by one or more people – or we have concocted something of our own. But what is the truth? Does God exist?
We need to put aside our beliefs for a moment and come to the conclusion that we don’t know whether God exists or not. And since we don’t know, is it possible to find out whether He does or doesn’t? It’s not a case that whatever is true for you then He exists or doesn’t. There has to be tangible proof that he exists or not, which will certainly enhance our mere beliefs about Him. In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.7) Krishna says the following:
O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.
Here Krishna is explaining that He is the ultimate truth, and that everything is resting upon Him alone. If we want to know the truth about the existence of God, then we have to look outside our normal everyday world view on the matter, and seek knowledge about Him, which in turn will help one to develop faith in Him. Krishna also offers a process by which we may test His claim. In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.1) Krishna says:
Now hear, O son of Prtha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.