HOW UNBIASED OR INNOCENT CAN WE BECOME?

Is the world an obstacle course to cross and reach God? Is the purpose of our life or existence only to be with God or finally reach Him? Why is it that God can be obtained by the abnegation or denial of all human feelings, desires and wants? In our scriptures and even in ordinary conversation our baser feelings are described as being “animalistic“. But, who made those animals? Who made us? We tend to feel that whenever we do or think something ‘good’, God is controlling us. Then who is controlling us when we do or think ‘evil’ things? Who decides what is ‘good’ or ‘evil’? Who gives us any knowledge or consciousness? Is it God or does knowledge and consciousnessexist in the world like internet; a huge highway?Lets first examine the concept of consciousness. Consciousness is not an absolute term. Indeed, I have already established that there is no Absolute Virtue in this world (Read ‘Absolute Virtue’) and all virtues, qualities, good or bad, and hence beliefs and knowledge are in relation to others. Consciousness too is defined as ‘the relationship between our mind and the rest of the world with which we interact’. Thus, even though consciousness is awareness, it is subjective. And how do we know about consciousness? It is, we are at pains to say, something intrinsic, something intuitive. Something like our perception of God; an idea that emerged from nowhere but we intuitively know it is the right idea.

Consciousness: a relationship between us and the world (pic courtesy: zazenlife.com)
This then brings us to ‘Intuition‘. Intuition is known as the opposite of reason. And what is reason? It is the ability that we have ascribed to ourselves to think logically or to make sense of the facts presented to us. In other words, being reasonable is the same as being rational. Intuition on the other hand is the ability to have or use knowledge without reasoning. The origin of the word is Latin ‘intueri’ which means ‘to look inside’. Lets say you weigh factors in your mind and then decide on a course of action, your selection is dependent upon reason. However, if without weighing the facts in mind you, some inner voice or gut feeling tells you what you should do, you do so intuitively. Many people have won great fortunes or warriors won great battles by following their intuitions rather than reasoning. Intuitionis also called Guardian Angel. It is not clear at whose behest your inner voice or Guardian Angel speaks to you.

Intuition: seeing it with the inner eye (pic courtesy: mindpowermasters.blogspot.com)

Lets subject Intuition to scrutiny, reasoning or logic. Is it really the opposite of rational and hence irrational or unreasonable or illogical? Then, how is it that even consciousness is what is intuitively known to us? What about post-event analysis or reasoning? For example, if an intuition can save you from an accident, what is irrational or illogical about it? Is it that if with your current sensory and extra-sensory knowledge leads you to disaster, then only it is fruit of a rational thought. Else, it is to be explained with the phrase ‘nothing succeeds like success’ or with the derisive ‘the b____r is just lucky’. About a century ago, in 1921, Carl Jung defined intuition as ‘perception by the unconscious’. Jung said that a person in whom intuition was dominant, an ‘intuitive type’, acted not on the basis of rational judgment but on sheer intensity of perception.

Last year, I wrote an article ‘Being Nonsensical May Be Far Sighted’. In this I had argued that since we compare our knowledge with what has been in the past, we limit our future knowledge. Therefore, the world’s knowledge grows only incrementally. Anybody who takes a leap of knowledge far beyond our current or past thinking is called non-sensical since we are limited by our senses. I also wrote that we live in ‘The Virtual World’ since even seeing is not believing and also, things do exist in the cosmos that are beyond our senses and hence, simply because we can’t see, touch, hear, taste and smell them are no grounds for their non-existence.

Okay, lets see what I have established so far in this article; it is that all consciousness, awareness, knowledge, rational, reasoning and logical approach is after all an attempt to compare the current knowledge with other current or previous knowledge so as to make sense of the facts presented to us. However, when we ‘intuitively‘ arrive at a conclusion, even if it turns out to be more right for us than reasoning, it is still the product of an irrational thinking or simply a ‘perception born out of unconscious’.

Intuition, therefore, may be defined as understanding or knowing without conscious recourse to thought, observation or reason. There is a great deal of mysticism or supernaturalism associated with it since we appear to be responding to cues, hints or suggestions given to us by our gut-feeling or without any previous knowledge. However, what if knowledge or awareness or consciousness about this previous knowledge is beyond the ambit of our senses? It would still then be historical data stored in the depths of our mind or hanging in the air, which comes to surface only when we are faced with a particular situation.

Sounds incredible? Well, it is not really so. We already have something called reflex action that makes a child instinctively take its hand away from fire or sharp object without having experienced it before during its short life of say three months. It is because generations of knowledge are imprinted in its nervous system through its parents, grandparents etc. Similarly, could this be that an intuition is nothing but generational knowledge imprinted in our system somewhere and it is designed to surface when it does? In that case, it is still comparing current knowledge with previous knowledge or simply experience. Have we experienced such a thing before? If yes, then how does the current experience compare with the previous one?

Therefore, experience is considered the very essence of consciousness; it is a subjective feeling, something intrinsic with each one of us. We are therefore conscious that there cannot be someone or something devoid of consciousness and still be called human.

Lets return to the original question: ‘who, therefore, gives us the consciousness, knowledge, awareness, and even intuition and reflex action, gut feeling or inner voice?’ Is there something beyond consciousness that drives us? Whenever we subject anything to our senses, we invariably compare it with a template we have in our mind of an earlier experience or history either directly through our memory or through intuition. Hence, we can never be innocent or unbiased since consciousness, knowledge, awareness, intuition etc all are relative and subjective. There is no absolute objectivity.

At this stage, lets have a look at what exactly is Bias? How many times have you come across the expression, “Saala shakal se hi badmaash lagta hai” (He simply looks like a rogue). Have lets give it a thought as to what exactly is contained in this statement? It is a template in our mind about what we think a rogue should look like. Have we got enough personal experience of rogues to form this template; or is it some one’s historic data, or description that has got us swayed?

Bias is, therefore, the tendency to have a one-sided perspective in comparison to other equally valid choices. It is a selfish point of view; something similar to a lover’s devotion towards his beloved. It is more emotional than reasoning. The fact is (this is my bias speaking) that everyone of us has a philosophy of convenience and we invariably look for reasons to prove this theory or philosophy right.

A very good way to explain Bias by nirmukta.com

A bias can be cognitive if you take decisions based on cognitive skills rather than through evidence. We take shortcuts to arrive at decisions based on emotional and social factors rather than by seeking the proof of a particular statement, event or person.The term cognition comes from the Latin verb congnosco (con ‘with’ + gnōscō ‘know’), which itself is derived from the Ancient Greek verb gnόsko “γνώσκω” meaning ‘learning’. Hence cognition means: ‘to conceptualize’ or ‘to recognize’. If our mind, through emotional or social process of cognition has decided, even before hearing the evidence, that a certain person is bad influence; we cut out all reasoning and arguments against our decision. That’s Bias without our even stopping to think and analyse. Many a times we are not even aware that our mind does this to us; since, believe it or not, it is auto-programmed to do it without any inputs or help from us.

Take a mother’s love for her child; she gets immune to hearing anything that spoils her impression that she has the most beautiful child on earth.

With the kind of pre-knowledge that we are programmed to have, even before we are born, it is not possible for us to be ever unbiased or innocent. Every thought with us, whether conscious or intuitive, is based on historical knowledge (it may be immediate history or of thousands of years back) and hence, when we tell someone to clear his or her mind of all ideas and then make a decision, we are as far from the truth as we can get. Bias, with each one of us, is present in some manner or the other, in some degree or the other. All thinking is Bias in its larger sense. None of us can ever be totally innocent since all knowledge actually corrupts the mind and keeps the mind from reacting to a new situation or idea based on its own merit and not on historic data in our mind or elsewhere. Also, one can never be completely innovative; for, if one did, it would simply be non-sensical or beyond the scope of senses.

How then can we ever regain innocence? Indeed, this sentence unknowingly suggests that we had innocence at one time and lost it by our own actions, thoughts or inactions. Actually that itself is a myth. Anyway, lets at least examine the chances of our ever becoming unbiased or innocent.

The holy book that I look for guidance is the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Guruji has described something called haume (Self or Ego) that gets into every thinking of ours and we are never free from it. According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, if we can be rid of haume, we would be close to param aatma (Spreme Soul) or God.

Sounds very simple, is it? Get rid of haume and we are next to God. To help us examine it, we have to decide whether we have the Free Will to think or do things independently or some force somewhere guides us all the time?

Historically, there has been considerable debate with scholars and spiritual leaders about whether we have Free Will or not. It is a somewhat divided house. Is a person, of sane mind (whatever that means), to be morally responsible for his/her thoughts or actions or is what one does or doesn’t do already determined by a higher force; something that the Sri Guru Granth Sahib calls Kirt (writ already for you for a particular life or determined in advance)? Already, in most courts, a person’s guilt is held to be minimised or even held as zero if he or she was not sane or in a position to decide by himself or herself; for example, a small child suffocating her father through sheer ignorance will be held in the courts as innocent because a child is not expected to know what he/she is doing; and certainly not have mens rea (a guilty mind or an intention to commit wrong). However, if we carry forward this argument further, and come to the collective conclusion that no man or woman can ever be totally free to take a decision or commit a deed, what does it make of our collective reasoning to punish such a man? “For heavens sake, a forty year old can’t be as innocent as a child”?

Lets study the concept of  Free Will a little more. Free Will is our ability to make choices free from all constraints. What stands in the way of Free Will is metaphysical determinism and what favours is the concept of metaphysical libertarianism.

Determinism broadly means that some form of determinism or pre-set conduct or behaviour is true, and hence there is nothing like Free Will. This takes four major forms: Casual, Logical, Theological and Biological. Lets just take one of these to understand what it is. Logical determinism is the notion that all propositions, whether about the past, present or future, are either true or false. The problem of free will, in this context, is the problem of how choices can be free, given that what one does in the future is already determined as true or false in the present.

In Hinduism, the various schools of thought do not agree with one another on whether we have Free Will or not. Here is Swami Vivekananda about it; one of Hinduism’s thinking and modern saints: “Therefore we see at once that there cannot be any such thing as free-will; the very words are a contradiction, because will is what we know, and everything that we know is within our universe, and everything within our universe is moulded by conditions of time, space and causality. … To acquire freedom we have to get beyond the limitations of this universe; it cannot be found here.”

I found this in Wikipedia: However, the preceding quote has often been misinterpreted as Vivekananda implying that everything is predetermined. What Vivekananda actually meant by lack of free will was that the will was not “free” because it was heavily influenced by the law of cause and effect—”The will is not free, it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect, but there is something behind the will which is free.” Vivekananda never said things were absolutely determined and placed emphasis on the power of conscious choice to alter one’s past karma: “It is the coward and the fool who says this is his fate. But it is the strong man who stands up and says I will make my own fate.”

So, finally, we have come to the end of this long discourse; which is that we can never be unbiased or innocent. However, there is a Consciousness far beyond the western or common notion of consciousness as given above. If, in some way, we are able to arouse this consciousness, we can get over what is pre-determined for us.

Until then, we can be more unbiased or innocent than someone; and at the same time be less unbiased or innocent than someone else. Also, we cannot be absolutely unbiased or innocent. As Eugene O’ Neill wrote, “No man’s guilt is not yours; nor is any man’s innocence a thing apart.”

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which I believe, in large parts, is based on the Vedas (the holiest of Hindu scriptures), has this to say about it: “Man jeete jag jeet(Conquer the mind to conquer the universe).

Easier said than done, since, you can’t free the Mind of Bias (borne out of haume) even for a second.

© 2012 – 2013, Sunbyanyname. All rights reserved.

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8 Comments

    1. Thank you so much. Amongst all my passions, metaphysics has always been one. I like to delve into the layers of my mind to ask why, what, how, where and I don’t stop until I get some answer

  1. Sri Guru Granth Sahib? Are you a practicing Sikh? I’ve never studied it before. Do you have any passages to suggest as powerful starting points?

    1. I am a Sikh married to a Catholic. I read Sri Guru Granth Sahib everyday. My uncle Dr RK Janmeja Singh, also known as Meji Singh, in the USA, is a leading light of All Faiths Movement. He is the only surviving sibling of my dad. His book ‘A Sikh’s Paradigm for Universal Peace’ is available on Amazon. You may like to read the first few pages of SGGS on http://www.sikhnet.com. I think that would be a good beginning.

  2. Ok, this is so unlike the usual blogposts I read. Dense, logical, thoughtful. I need to read and re-read again with a printout and then I will respond back with the thoughtfulness that this post deserves!

  3. Superb. The Intution , Bias and Freewill all have explained so well and made very easy to understand. A great n complete discourse which render indepth understanding .