12 Sep 2004

Sanity. Does It Matter?

Posted by Oblivion in General | 9:56pm


There's a famous joke about how does one make a philosopher silent. All one has to say, for whatever the philosopher says, to do so is - "That's what YOU think!" True! Interestingly, everything can be brushed off as a 'matter of opinion' - be it Bush's policies to 'eliminate' all traces of terrorism from the face of the planet to the most profound truths uttered by the Buddha. For, none of these is an empirical statement and so no data can be collected to refute either. In such a situation, no discussion would succeed. Taking advantage of this, some would take it too far - "Hey, if everything is going to vanish one day, what is the place of sanity? Live as you like to, and everything is right. Killing, plundering, meditating, writing, discovering truth, etc - everything is just a matter of choice and none is superior. For, eventually, everything tends to move toward death."

Well, I realise it is useless to argue where there is no common ground. I'd like to ask such people one thing - given a choice between a poison bottle and coke, what would they choose? They will obviously choose the latter. Now, I ask - why? why not the former, if your living or dying doesn't matter at all? Why do you choose to live than die? An extreme chap would say - "Ok, I will choose poison bottle" - just for the sake of argument. He doesn't actually mean it. How do I know? Because, if his attitude were such, he would not choose to drive carefully on road. But he drives carefully. They also choose to be in good health rather than ill.

These chaps do not realise that their attitude is just a learned behavior - that helps them 'challenge' all argument. In real life, they always choose to live than die.

Now, coming back - sanity is in choosing the beneficial rather than the harmful. Generally, in a broad sense, 'good' is in choosing the beneficial and 'bad' is in choosing the harmful. And, 'happiness' constitues in 'good'. It is not out of any condition, but just out of realisation. A sane person would choose the beneficial rather than the harmful. Now, since everyone is choosing the beneficial than the harmful - for example, good health, safe driving, etc - is everyone sane? No, because the reference for sanity isn't complete yet.

Since the rational person realises that it's better to choose the beneficial rather than the harmful, he believes it's better for people to be happy rather than otherwise. So, his focus is the 'greatest common good'. Always. He is not 'cultivating' this habit or outlook out of a fear of punishment for being inconsiderate after death. He is least bothered about that. He just believes that good is better than bad (good and bad, as we  defined earlier) and that 'greatest common good' is the most beneficial thing to choose. So, he is concerned that people should be happy rather than sad. All people desire happiness, as a matter of fact, but the difference is in whether one is desiring the happiness of others for his own happiness or without any thoughts about his own happiness. This is what differentiates between ordinary mortals who desire happiness of their kith and kin at the exclusion of, or indifference to, the rest, and the compassionate Buddha who believes it'd be good if all people are happy. Buddha is not bothered about an end or what happens eventually. The 'present' is all important.

Still, the paradox is open - Bush or even Hitler would assert that he is also desiring the 'greatest common good'. Buddha also does. Now, who is correct? The determining factor here is - the degree of attachment to the idea of 'greatest common good' (GCG henceforth). The likes of Bush and Hitler impose their ideas on the rest. They would say - "What I am saying is the absolute truth and so you must follow it, whether you like it or not." Their desire, thus, is actually the gratification upon imposing their idea on the people, and not about the GCG. Buddha would say - "I believe this is the way to happiness, and you are welcome to test it for yourself and follow." He is least bothered if anybody agrees or disagrees, because he realises that 'imposing' is in contradiction with GCG. If people agree and follow it, fine. If anyone is willing to become his disciple, he would welcome him. But he would not have anything against those who disagree and live the way they have been. His detachment is akin to a professor's with a multiplication table. 2x2 is 4, whether the other person accepts or not. Clarity dissolves attachment. And truth can be perceived only with clarity.



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