Wisdom finds truth
We are all interested in knowing the truth since the knowledge of truth is quite valuable for us. All knowledge of science, philosophy, history, geography, psychology etc., is the attempt to find the truth. We also know that being truthful is important for happiness and success in life. Humanity has progressed rapidly in the last couple of centuries mainly because it has been able to discard the popular myths and discover the laws of nature to deeply understand the reality using scientific investigations. The Indian sages had discovered the power of truth several thousand years ago. The Indian emperor Asoka inscribed the message ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (Truth alone triumphs) on his Sarnath Lion Capital. This message was found to be so important for India that the Government of India adopted it as the national emblem.
It is, however, not easy to discover the truth when there are so many myths and fallacies created by some human beings that are believed by a large number of people as truth. It is not easy to convince such people of inconvenient truths as they are rather comfortable with the convenient fallacies. Truth is often bitter and many people choose to remain happy with their false knowledge. The Irish scholar George Bernard Shaw warned people about the perils of false knowledge, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”
Let’s now understand what truth is. Truth is defined as the body of real things, events, and facts. It tells us what is actual and real. However, it is not easy to know the reality or actuality without great effort and before due investigation. Truth simply exists and it is not created for a purpose. Lie on the other hand is always created for some purpose, often, for the benefit of the creator. Salesmen may lie to sell their products while politicians may lie to get votes. Unfortunately, false information presented as truth has become so common in the modern world that people are not willing to accept the truth even when it is right before them. The American poet T.S. Eliot lamented, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
Lies are beautiful in appearance while truth is bitter in reality. In the modern time, the electronic and print media often rely on half-truths or lies to increase their TRPs as people are more interested in listening to the sweet lies presented as truth rather than interested in knowing bitter truth. It is no wonder then that lies travel fast in the world. Mark Twain summed up this bitter truth as, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
However, lies get exposed, sooner or later. Once a lie is exposed, the people or the organisations propagating the lie lose their credibility. Once you lose your credibility, it is virtually impossible to regain it. Who can forget the wise words of American evangelist Billy Graham, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost”. It is for this reason that many clever and cunning people instead of telling an outright lie, present the half-truth which can’t be proven false due to some content of the truth. However, such a half-truth is as harmful to the humanity as untruth.
It is, therefore, important for us to know the truth and differentiate it from untruth. However, the person who speaks the truth faces the wrath of the people who trust the myths and fallacies. More than five centuries ago, when Galileo gave the ‘heliocentric’ theory of the universe and told the world that the Earth revolves around the Sun, it infuriated the clergies who believed in the ‘geocentric’ theory of the universe of Bible that placed Earth in the centre of Universe. Galileo was punished for having an opinion contrary to the Holy Book and sentenced to lifetime house arrest and the publication of any of his works was forbidden. The Church in its attempt to suppress the truth seems to have forgotten the message of Christ Jesus, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. However, truth can never be concealed for long. When Galileo was taken to prison he muttered the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves”. And today the whole world knows the truth that Earth revolves around Sun and not otherwise. Gautam Buddha also gave a similar message to humanity, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
It is, however, not easy to discover the truth which is usually buried deep in the heap of untruth. It needs wisdom to separate truth from untruth. A wise man has to conduct numerous experiments and analysis to know the truth. He is willing to accept the truth irrespective of whether it suits him or not. The desire of Mahatma Gandhi to know the truth led him to keep experimenting in his life and suffer all types of pains in the process. He aptly titled his autobiography ‘My Experiments with Truth’. Albert Einstein was not far when he stated, “The only source of knowledge is experience”.
Wisdom is the quality of possessing experience, knowledge, and good judgement. A wise man has not only knowledge, but the ability to use his knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgments. Therefore, he is able to demonstrate to the world the power of truth so that people can discard their old beliefs. For example, Gandhi used the age old principle of nonviolence to unite Indians in their fight against the British rule and give India its due freedom.
Most people acquire knowledge from external sources and they believe them without testing them in the real world. They treat information on face value as knowledge and believe it as truth. They rarely take the pain to experience the knowledge and verify its truth. Since they tend to believe easily, they are also befooled frequently.
Wise people always test the veracity of anything that is believed to be true. If the information is found to be right, they accept it, else they discard it. Gradually, they are able to live with the truth and become free from the untruth. They keep discovering truth throughout their life because discovery of truth is their passion and love. They know so much and yet they consider themselves ignorant because they know that what they know is far less than what they don’t know. Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers of the world, said so wisely, “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us”.
Let us not become the repository of information, but be wise to find truth because only truth can lead us to happiness, freedom and success.