By Neelam Mehta November 2011 Reality is dynamic, ever-changing; but our interpretation of reality is often jaded, which keeps us looped in repetitive patterns and prevents us from growing says Neelam Mehta Belief. The raw stock of human drama. The only thing a human will ever give up his life for. Be it a terrorist on a death mission or a person who commits suicide out of a sense of shame or dishonour, the cause is inextricably linked to a belief. Without our knowing, belief is our most prized possession. Belief is both the genesis as well as the nemesis of humanity; genesis because it is a belief-system that sets humans apart from other species and one human being from another; nemesis because a belief on being possessed, takes over and becomes the possessing entity. Each one of us carries a unique complex of beliefs and every time there is disagreement with another's beliefs, we feel threatened and invalidated. Sartre summed up this predicament of humanity in his famous line 'Hell is other people'. Beliefs make us lose the freedom of choice; we become positional, stuck, fossilised in time. This is true not only of our bigger belief systems like religious, political, ideological or philosophical but of every single thought and opinion. Our complete belief in the absoluteness and universality of what we believe is at the root of all conflict. In fact, the unquestioned belief that what we believe is the absolute, universal truth is the real problem. It has never occurred to us to question the validity of our beliefs because they appear on our mental horizon as Truths with a capital T. We equate our thoughts or beliefs with knowing. Crumbling beliefs Long years ago, before Copernicus, we believed that the sun revolves around the earth. So steeped were we in that belief that Copernicus nearly got laughed out of the renaissance when he We strangulate knowledge when we straitjacket it into our belief system; it stops breathing and growing. Let us breathe our beliefs suggested otherwise. Now we believe that it is the earth that revolves around the sun � who knows if that belief will also be challenged some day! If there are rumbles of disagreement about how there is irrefutable, conclusive proof that the earth does indeed revolve around the sun, it only goes to prove my point that we are inextricably entwined with what we believe. Einstein's theory of relativity put paid to the very idea of absolute reality. Then Quantum physics put a question mark on the materiality of matter. The Hindu concept of Maya or illusion (nothing is what it appears to be) has been vindicated and endorsed by science. In fact, one of the early stages of the awakening process is the recognition of the delusion that I am at the centre of the universe in sole possession of 'the truth'. It is the realisation that truth is inclusive, not exclusive; that there is my truth and there is your truth and that all truths are valid points of view. Belief v/s knowledge Neelam Mehta is an author, writer, self-growth afficianado, traveller, and mostly a seeker. We tend to confuse 'believing' with 'knowing'. So what is a belief and what is knowledge? The dictionary meaning of belief is a statement, principle, or doctrine that a person or group accepts as true while knowledge is clear awareness or explicit information, of a situation or fact. Going by these meanings, a belief is subjective and personal, but knowledge is objective and factual, it has a closer relationship with reality. In our past paradigm about the shape of the earth is its flatness or roundness a matter of belief or knowledge? Like everything else in the universe, knowledge is subject to the law of evolution. In the past our knowledge based on a body of assumptions, said the earth is flat. Fresh evidence and deductions unfolded and replaced that version of the earth's shape with round. So knowledge is dynamic, ever in flux, it grows, changes, unfolds and gets revealed over time. We can never hit the bull's eye with this moving target. All we can ever have access to, is our current view of reality at any given time. Today, when we know the earth to be round, we operate from that premise just as we operated from the premise of flat back then and wouldn't charter fresh waters for fear of falling off the edge of the earth. The point is that knowledge is tentative something to hold on to till it is either scrapped or replaced by new discoveries, insights, understanding, paradigm shift amongst others. The problem arises when we hold this fluid knowledge tightly in our fists and convert it into a belief. A belief is knowledge fossilised, we strangulate knowledge when we straitjacket it into our belief system; it stops breathing and growing. Knowledge needs to be used like the air we breathe. We take it in, use it and breathe it out. We don't hold it in our lungs forever for fear of annihilation. We breathe it out making room for another breath of fresh air. Let us breathe our beliefs. Let us hold them lightly, tentatively and let us be open to change so we can grow.
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