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!!
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?
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!!!!
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