Anyone who embarks on an adventure with eastern thinking cannot help but come across the notion of the ‘Four Defects of the Conditioned Soul’.
- Imperfect Senses (Karanapatava)
- Illusion (Pramada)
- Mistakes (Bhrama)
- Cheating (Vipralipsa)
… and the argument that these defects prevent determination of dependable truth, especially in the matter of the meaning and/or purpose of human life.
But the widely recommended solution – submission to infallible authority of guru-sastra-sadhu* – to my mind does not automatically remove one’s personal limitations from their truth-equation. And while such submission maybe a genuine attempt to solve a problem, I think we deceive ourselves, and potentially others, if we deny the possibility that our understanding continues to be influenced and limited by our conditioning, predispositions, and intellect, etc.
Firstly, the conditioned soul – that person who is so disqualified from knowing the absolute truth – is somehow simultaneously able to identify genuine guru-sastra-sadhu. Worthy of submission to. Out of all the apparent gurus, scriptures and saintly persons in the world – contradicting each other as they generally do – that conditioned soul, in spite of their four defects, has the ability to safely identify worthy guru-sastra-sadhu … amongst all the pretenders. Interesting. OK, some would say that God inspires the genuine seeker from within. But, that being the case, after submission we therefore have still failed to remove our self from our truth-equation … albeit we remain represented by the genuine-ness of our own seeking (which might be a risky unknown – just saying).
Then, even assuming in spite of our conditional defects, we have identified bonafide guru-sastra-sadhu, and even if we then defer to their authority … setting aside our own understandings and opinions to our absolute best endeavour. Can we really remove ourselves from the truth-equation? We may tell ourselves ‘I have no opinion’ – ‘I am simply presenting the version of guru-sastra-sadhu’ – but is this really what is happening? Is it not more likely that we are presenting a personalised appreciation, a partial understanding … and that these continue to be influenced and filtered through our conditioning in very much the same way as our previous thinking was? And if that is the truth of the situation, perhaps that is not a problem if one simply has the confidence to own it? This is my personal subjective appreciation/application/understanding (to which I am entitled) vs This is how it is (you disagree with me, you are disagreeing with God!).
For myself, I willingly celebrate the former, whereas the latter … well it doesn’t leave much room for my personal opinion/understanding and appreciation does it? What’s your opinion?
*guru-sastra-sadhu: guru = spiritual teacher, sastra = scripture, sadhu = saintly person