True or False

As children we all have enjoyed the game ” Truth OR Dare?”. What always intrigued me, in that game, was the underlying assumption that speaking the truth was something fraught with risk, full of tension and…to be avoided as far as possible!!!! Why has Truth acquired this persona? Am sure Goddess Veritas is not amused by the way we look at truth today!!

St Augustine had roared “Truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. It will defend itself”.  But even here you will notice the imagery is negative…as though speaking the truth is a problem. Literally it begets the question: Can you handle the Truth? Myth has it that the goddess of Truth Veritas hid at the bottom of a sacred well as she was so elusive!!

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All this is a far cry from the shining demeanor that Truth is clothed in romantically, and in literature. Common opinion projects that nothing can be purer than truth and truth can stand on it’s own, despite any opposition.  When Thomas asked Jesus’ We do not know where you are going? How can we know the way? Jesus replies ” Via et veritas et vita I am the way, and the truth, and the life : no one comes to the Father except through me”  (John 14:6). Truth is ascribed much power in the Good Book (John 8:32) : ” Then you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free”.  Goethe affirms ” Wisdom is found only in Truth“.

Why then in today’s time has Truth  lost it’s shining glory? Is it because your truth and my truth may not be the same? In this age of duality and plurality have we lost the path? Has Truth suffered in the vedantic debates of Dvaitism and Advaitism? Buddha was clear when he affirmed that “3 things cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the Truth” But if you just look around and follow the strident arguments taking place around you, you are tempted to ask the question: What is Truth? Who “owns” it? can anyone speak the truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Why are there so many cases in the courts where both parties feel equally strongly that the Truth is on their side; and on their side alone? Did the lower courts not interpret and understand Truth in delivering their judgement? If they did: why are so many appeal Courts overturning the lower courts’ pronouncements: which in turn are challenged upto the Full Bench in a Supreme Court? and even there, there are dissenting judgments and opinions amongst the Full Bench!!! so who is right? who knows the truth?

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Says Swami Vivekananda, “Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true”.  Is this making life simpler or more difficult? I had read somewhere every great truth is a truth, whose exact opposite is also a truth!!!! So where does that leave simple folks like us who are trying to find a golden path through life’s complex questions? Oscar Wilde cautions “Truth is rarely pure and never simple”. Begging to differ from Saint John ( 8:32 quoted above) I would say that the Truth will set you free; but it will first piss you off!!!

For evidence I will parade all the arguments I have been a part of, where both parties, albeit speaking in stark contradiction, believed that Truth is on their side. On a wider scale, look at the Holy Wars, debates between Shias and Sunnis, Netaji Bose’s action agenda v/s Gandhi’s nonviolence; Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in modern times Israel and the Arab world, Netscape with it’s open source and Microsoft’s competitive dominance or the latest debates between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. Every area of human endeavor gives examples of opposite “armies”  righteously believing Truth is on their side. And in today’s daily Kurushetra, we miss an expert, a chatbot Krishna who can interpret and guide us on the way forward.

The dilemma of modern living is that were  Krishna to appear, his second act would be to disappear!! … and leave you to figure a way out of the conundrum, yourself! If you find the Buddha on the road, KILL HIM!!! We will do well to heed Alfred Whitefield’s advice ” There are no whole truths: All truths are half truths”. To which I will add my word of caution: & you may have got the WRONG HALF!!!!

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Don’t get me wrong. Like you, I am also brought up on the dictum: Truth is a truth even if no one believes it; a lie, is a lie, even if everyone believes it. Truth is like a surgery: yes it hurts; but it cures. Truth is visceral. It is there. Dogen said it so well “If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” Better to be hurt with the truth rater than be comforted with a lie. My team members were always told to tell me the bad news first. No mollycoddling or sugar coating. Say it like it is. Tell me all and let me make sense of how badly we are mauled and how we will recover our position. Better to fight with eyes open knowing your sword is broken rather than getting surprises in action. Truth has a way of catching up with you. So like the Scout motto: Be prepared!!

I will end with a deep personal insight of the iconic Marilyn Monroe. She said” I am selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes. I am out of control and, at times, hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”. Instead of Marilyn, it might as well be Truth telling us this. Yes, Truth is hard to handle! Truth pushes you no end!! Beats you blue. And leaves you gasping!!! Yet I deserve the best. And, despite all the discomfort, I vote for Truth. Always.

Let Truth alone  prevail : vikas

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12 Replies to “True or False”

  1. Excellent article eloquently bringing out the facets of truth, raising more questions…. I think humans sub-consciously want the truth all the time however bitter it maybe. Yet, we often hear ourselves say-“Is it really TRUE?”
    I think truth is objective in the sense when it is supported by logic/empirical evidence/science etc and is true for all people/cultures/ times. (eg. physical truths) And it is subjective when it is true for the person/s making the judgement based on his/her perceptions even though it may not be true for others. (eg. mental and spiritual truths). My twisting the truth so that someone doesnt get hurt (and its not harmful) is something that all of us have done at some point in our life.
    I also believe “People can’t change the Truth but the Truth can change People”!

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    1. Ramesh
      yes history and mythology abound with the white lies and the liberties taken with truth to tide over a particular situation. And I think this will continue to be so.We humans are destined to find the true path only after a lot detours and difficulties. And yet all this also benefits by refining our thoughts and actions.
      vikas

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    2. Deepa People cant change the truth but truth can change people.
      Truer words were never spoken.All life then becomes a journey towards the ultimate truth As we move fw to complete and adjust both our means as well as our goals/end state some individual perspective and “sin’ will enter the rarefied atmosphere of complete purity and transparency.We should be ready and willing. And co-operate with the inevitable. Am sure you will agree

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  2. Very well written, as always… 🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼
    And as always, your writing raises more questions than answers, like any good article should… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

    Almost everyone, everywhere, in every era has been brought up with the notion that truth is the way of life, even when it may be difficult; while non-truth, even if tempting or beneficial in short-term, will come back and haunt you. (If not in this life, then the next one; if not in this world, then the next ones.)
    We learn this notion from our parents, teachers, elders; and in turn pass it on to our children, students, juniors, and all those who we knowingly/unknowingly influence.
    It’s a wonderful practice and makes the world a good place overall. (Most people, irrespective of their origins and circumstances, are “good” people.)

    However this upbringing somewhere also ingrains the notion of an “absolute truth”, and we tend to see truth in black and white. (The grays being all forms of ‘half-truths’, ‘controlled truths’, ‘alternative facts’ and the like. Not saying that they are all bad all the time.)

    What if truth covers the whole spectrum, and each colour were ‘true’ in its own way?
    Similar to the Swami Vivekananda thought quoted earlier, “The Prophet” Kahlil Gibran says:
    “Say not, ‘I have found the truth’, but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’
    Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul.’ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path.’
    For the soul walks upon all paths.
    The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
    The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.”

    The “absolute truth”, if it exists, would be as elusive as the goddess Veritas; and as all-encompassing yet intangible as the soul itself.
    Although abstract, the soul manifests itself in the form of life. To cherish life is thus, to cherish the soul itself.
    A similar counterpart for cherishing the truth would be doing/saying the “right thing”.
    While one may never know the absolute truth, or be faced with multiple equally true versions; in most circumstances, we intuitively “know” what the right thing is.

    A doctor looking into the eyes of a dying patient and saying that he’s going to be alright; an injured soldier freezing on the border writing to his parents that he’s doing fine; a recently widowed mother telling her young daughter that her father is out of town for work; well, all of these may be far from the truth, but more purer, more sincere “non-truths” were never spoken.

    To sum it up, (even if it sounds cheesy), I’d say there’s only one truth:
    “There is no ‘one’ truth.”

    As always, thanks for sharing…
    🙏🏼 🙏🏼 🙏🏼

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    1. Ameya
      Am glad if more questions are raised as truly we all carry some peices of the jigsaw puzzle and cannot or should not stake a claim to the whole truth or the complete picture.In this light I have found your interjections truly insightful and adding great value to the original article.A la the anecdote about James Whistler and Oscar Wilde ( one of the rare times when Oscar Wilde was at a loss for words) : when I I read your comments: I always end up feeling: “i wish I had said that” and then recollect Whistler’s reply ” You will Oscar you will”. So do not be surprised if in other places I verbatim speak your words as they truly capture the core of the debate.
      In fact from my friends who shy away from the net but send me comments on phone I gather that people quite enjoy your comments and like the way the debate gets extended in your comments. Thanks a ton for that dear brother. If truth ( there is the word again) be told : you are gathering a fan following in your own right.
      so keep commenting; keep challenging; keep value adding: vikas

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  3. Truth speaking may be physically fraught with risk ,but mentally it will be peaceful. Truth and false are always relative to each
    Truth may not be right always in the larger interest. Example,
    In Mahabharath , Dharmaraju lied in great war to defend Dharma over adharma.

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  4. Neelu agree that Truth will out. Also agree that different people require different doses.
    But I cant agree with your categorical ending that without truth there cannot be communication progress or healing. Have seen too many lies and too many lives to be so definitive about it.
    While there are stark whites and blacks I have seen and lived many shades of grey in between to give them a total go by.
    However as Mao said: Let thousand flowers bloom. Differing opinions make life so much more interesting. So I respect your “truth”
    Take care & lots of love
    vikas

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  5. Truth, like love, cannot stay hidden. As they say “truth will out”. For the more it stays inside, the more it eats away at the conscience.

    Instead of debating whether to speak truth or not, it’s better to focus our energy on how to dish it out. Different circumstances(or people) require different doses. In some cases, it can be conveyed indirectly or tactfully. In others, it needs to be hammered home.

    Without truth, there can be no communication, no progress and no healing.

    Liked by 1 person

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