Preconceived Notions

Most human beings tend to precondition their mind with certain preconceived notions and then apply those notions or beliefs in order to interpret the world. Often, this leads to a person’s vision being colored by their beliefs, such that the person interprets everything he observes while only considering his preconceived notions, and not seeing the world as it is. All objects appear red to a person who wears glasses that are tainted red, or while looking at the objects through a red filter; and similarly, the world appears to agree with one’s preconceived ideas and beliefs when one views it with a vision biased by particular preconceived notions.

For a person who seeks accurate knowledge or truth, and for a person who wishes to sincerely see the world as it is, it may be useful to let go of one’s preconceived notions and ideas. These preconceived beliefs are usually formed during one’s childhood when one is influenced the most by one’s parents, elders and other family members, or by other influential persons (such as priests, sages, philosophers, etc. who actively preach to others). One could try to remove these biases at a later age. However, it may be ideal if a child is encouraged to seek knowledge and truth from a young age. Nonetheless, in order to remove preconceived notions and beliefs, one ought to study what causes these.

Usually, living beings seem to be attracted by that which causes pleasure and that which gives them happiness (and this happiness is usually derived from the sense organs or the mind). Likewise, living beings are repulsed by that which causes them pain and that which gives them misery (and pain is usually inflicted by the means of the sense organs and mind). Often, living beings instinctively develop a fear of that which causes pain. Besides being driven by pleasure and pain, living beings seem to be naturally prone to certain instincts (such as the instinct of eating food and assimilating it, or the instinct of being attracted by the opposite sex and to copulate). These instincts of fear, hunger and lust seem to arise naturally, without being taught. There is also a more subtle instinct which arises in the mind of humans, and which can often be externally observed also (in both humans and other living beings); this is the instinct of accumulation. Humans (as well as animals) instinctively accumulate or collect objects which are considered beneficial to continue their life; besides collecting food and the means for obtaining food, means of obtaining shelter are also collected (such as nests collected by birds, and wood or other construction material collected by humans). Humans are the most explicit and powerful in expressing this instinct of accumulation whereby they first accumulate a secure shelter (a home, which is usually a constructed house) if they do not already have one; then they accumulate clothes and household items (which give them further shelter); and then they tend to go on accumulating other objects (merely for enjoyment, or to satisfy their ego or desires). In the mind, humans constantly experience desires and wants (even if their ordinary needs are satisfied). When the wants of these humans are satisfied, they instinctively become proud or arrogant (even if they do not show this externally); and when their wants are not satisfied, they become angry or hateful (even if the anger is not externally visible). Further, while experiencing the desires or wants themselves, the humans also experience greed and deceit. They deceive themselves and others in the process of justifying their wants. Deceit is also inherently involved in any kind of unnatural manipulation of external things in order to arrange them in such a way to satisfy wants and desires (and perhaps needs also). Often, for no apparent reason, humans seem to express likes and dislikes towards other objects, people or other living beings. These unexplained feelings of love or hatred may be explained by pleasant or unpleasant experiences of the past; or some may believe that they are naturally being attracted by that which is beneficial for them, and that they are naturally being repulsed by that which is harmful for them. Generally, something is considered beneficial if it gives pleasure or fulfills a bodily need (such as hunger, shelter, etc.). Likewise, something is considered harmful if it gives bodily pain, or if it could injure a body organ or cause death. Thus humans (as well as other living beings) are usually biased by four kinds of instincts (fear, hunger, lust and accumulation), by various needs of the body, and also by attraction (to pleasant and beneficial objects) as well as repulsion (to unpleasant and harmful objects).

The phenomenon of attraction or liking may be termed attachment, and living beings are generally inclined to stick to that which they like, and they try to cling on to that which they are attached to (since they may have the preconceived notion that this desirable object gives them happiness). The phenomenon of repulsion or disliking may be termed aversion or hatred, and living beings are generally inclined to avoid occurrences which they are averse to, and they try to avoid any contact with what they hate (since they may have the preconceived notion that these undesirable objects are a cause of misery or pain). Feelings of attachment are generally accompanied by greed and deceit, as well as by lust, and also by two minor emotions of laughter and indulgence (which visibly manifest when living beings experience pleasant or desirable occurrences). Feelings of aversion are generally accompanied by pride and anger, as well as by fear and disgust, and also by two minor emotions of sorrow and boredom or dissatisfaction (which visibly manifest when living beings experience unpleasant or undesirable occurrences, or when they are separated from desirable objects). Various preconceived notions are supported (and nurtured) by attachment and aversion, as well as by the various types of feelings associated with these two phenomena (such as anger, pride, deceit, greed, lust, etc.); these feelings may be called passions or pseudo-passions. Indeed, one is more susceptible to believe what somebody else says if he develops a strong trust in that somebody else; this trust is usually expressed in the form of attachment. Likewise, one often decides to reject the views of another person based on prejudices (due to an aversion to the lifestyle, character, traditions, family, or some other attribute of the other person).

Pride (or an ego) is especially manifest when one obtains a desirable object after a long separation from that desirable object, or after making significant effort to acquire this desirable object; the pride or ego is expressed as an aversion to the undesirable occurrences experienced before acquiring this desirable object. Further, even if one has no aversion to the opposites of a particular desirable object (or if there are no proper opposites of this desirable object), pride about a particular object or situation is merely a means to extol oneself or show oneself as superior to others who do not have this particular object. Furthermore, pride may also be experienced when others seem to be happier than oneself (and when the apparent cause for this is the other’s possession of some material object or means of enjoyment which one does not possess oneself); resultantly, one tries to prove to oneself that he is happy even without having the achievements the other person has attained; thus pride is an expression of aversion to the other object which is not possessed. Pride and honor are often found together. A king and a soldier perhaps both feel such pride; and perhaps the king seeks justifications to prove that he is superior to the soldier while the soldier seeks justifications to prove that he is superior to the king. The king may feel proud that he is leading his country to a battle or he may think that he is superior to the soldiers due to his high rank, his power and his possession of greater material wealth. The soldier may feel proud that he is fighting to defend his country, that he is fighting for his family, etc. or he may think that he is superior since he does more hard work than the king. Such a soldier may further think that wars are won by soldiers and not by kings, etc. This pride or ego may be observed to manifest in four different ways: in considering oneself the cause of certain actions (eg. I have done this, I have caused this, etc.), in considering oneself the enjoyer of certain pleasant experiences (eg. I am enjoying these pleasures, I am wearing these beautiful clothes and jewels, I am talking and laughing with my family, etc.), in considering oneself to be the possessor of external objects (eg. this is my family, this is my son, this is my house, this is my kingdom, etc.), and in considering one’s identity (eg. I am king, I am this beautiful body, I am the father of these children, I am the protector of the people, I am the supporter of peace on this land, etc.). Pride or ego may thus narrow one’s vision to view only a certain part of the world, and not the world as a whole. Indeed, a king views more parts of the world but still views it only from a king’s viewpoint, while a soldier views the world only from a soldier’s viewpoint.

Anger may cloud a person’s mind and may prevent him from seeing the reality of the situation. Often, an angry person is driven to destroy or to take revenge, and does not consider his own harm or benefit while acting under the influence of anger. Similarly, deceit may also cloud a person’s mind and may prevent him from realizing the truth. Further, greed may also prevent a person from accepting the truth. Often, preconceived notions are formed based on how people want the world to be, and not based on how it really is (and this kind of thinking may be called wishful thinking).

When preconceived notions are opposite to the real nature of the world, or when they are not decisive or certain, or when they are not based on a proper justification, these preconceived notions are delusions. Delusions do not allow a person to see the world as it is; hence a sincere seeker of truth ought to abandon delusions. In fact, while ordinary preconceived notions may bias an observer to only view a limited part of reality, delusions may disallow the observer from observing any part of reality. If preconceived notions are like glasses which are tainted red (so that all objects are perceived to be red), then delusions are like magical glasses which make red objects appear blue. If a person is very fond of something or someone else, or if he has a strong liking for that something else, he does not see the faults of that something else, and in fact, sees good qualities in that something else which are absent. Similarly, a person who hates something or someone else, or if he has a strong disliking for that something else, he only sees the faults of that something else, and does not accept good qualities in that something else even if they are proved to be present. Delusions are indeed accompanied (and nurtured) by attachment and aversion.

Preconceived notions in the minds of human beings form the basis of their beliefs and faith. Often, these preconceived notions are guided by delusions, attachment and aversion. However, does this mean that all preconceived notions are harmful? Should a human being have no preconceived notions? Is it necessary to rid oneself of all preconceived notions in order to arrive at the truth? Assume that this is true (i.e. that it is indeed necessary to rid oneself of all preconceived notions to arrive at the truth). Then how does one reach the truth from a state of no preconceived notions? Any answer to this question will itself be a preconceived notion unless there is a directive to only acquire knowledge through direct experience every instant from then on. Does this direct experience mean only perceiving through the sense organs? Or does it also involve the mind? It is questionable whether the mind can be used to perceive without any preconceived notions since a state of mind without any preconceived notions is perhaps equivalent to a state with no thoughts (and hence no possible examination of the world). If direct experience only means perceiving through the sense organs, then how can one be assured of the accuracy of the knowledge acquired through the sense organs? The accuracy cannot be verified through other experiences via the same sense organs (since the accuracy of those other experiences is also under question). If the other experiences are accurate based on yet other experiences, then this is an infinite regression. If the accuracy of the knowledge acquired through the sense organs can be justified by reasoning, then this too requires accepting the use of preconceived notions (in particular the preconceived notion that reason or logic is a valid means of acquiring knowledge). Thus, one cannot proceed to progressively acquire knowledge without using preconceived notions even if one manages to rid oneself of all preconceived notions and starts from zero. If one still insists that preconceived notions must be let go of in order to arrive at the truth, then perhaps the only truth which can be arrived at without the use of any preconceived notions is this: that there is no truth which can be acquired without preconceived notions. Although this shows the futility of getting rid of all preconceived notions, if one further accepts that this is the nature of reality (i.e. that there is no truth whatsoever, or that there is no knowledge, or that there is no certainty), then how can this uncertain nature of reality be known with certainty? If there is no truth, then is it true that there is no truth? If there is no real knowledge, then how is it known that there is no real knowledge? Thus, it is questionable whether a person who rids himself of all preconceived notions will indeed find the truth; for even the belief that every person has preconceived notions is a preconceived notion. The belief that preconceived notions exist in oneself is also a preconceived notion.

So, if it is not necessary to reject preconceived notions, why must they be studied? Since preconceived notions are required for the acquisition of further knowledge, why must any preconceived notions be considered harmful at all? Nonetheless, the existence of harmful preconceived notions can be accepted on the basis of several proofs or justifications. The presence of anger, pride, deceit and greed, which may be called the four passions, implies that there are preconceived notions in the mind which are biased by these passions. Such biased preconceived notions indeed color one’s view of reality. Further, the presence of instincts such as fear, hunger, lust and accumulation also supports the existence of harmful preconceived notions based on these instincts. Indeed, one is very likely to trust one’s mother, father and elders who immensely help to satisfy hunger, to overcome fear, and to accumulate objects of shelter when one is in childhood. One is also likely to trust one’s wife or partner who helps to satisfy the instinct of lust, and who helps with raising a family (which is often viewed as a source of happiness). If the beliefs of such family members are only partial views of reality, or if they are completely opposite to reality, then preconceived notions which develop due to interactions with such family members may be harmful. Besides the four instincts, the presence of delusions, attachment and aversion also clearly explains how preconceived notions operate to taint or limit one’s view of reality. Nonetheless, the presence of the four passions, the presence of the four instincts, as well as the presence of attachment and aversion; even if the presence of all these may be evident through experience, these (i.e. the passions, the instincts, attachment and aversion) are all also preconceived notions. Hence, even if the existence of preconceived notions can be proved by the use of various justifications, the acceptance of these various justifications requires other preconceived notions to be accepted.

Preconceived notions are therefore necessary in order to acquire any knowledge (including the existence of preconceived notions itself). However, the knowledge acquired by them can be considered accurate only if the preconceived notions are not heavily colored by instinct, nor by passion, nor by attachment and aversion. Additionally, the preconceived notions cannot be delusions for the knowledge acquired through them to be correct or accurate. Thus the preconceived notions must not allow a view of reality which is contradictory to the real nature of things, nor must they be indecisive or unclear, nor must they lack proper justifications. Hence, there may be correct and incorrect preconceived notions, and f one starts at zero (without any preconceived notions whatsoever), then there is a chance that he may be guided to the truth if he starts gradually accepting only correct preconceived notions and then building on them by acquiring accurate knowledge. Often, knowledge acquired based on correct preconceived notions can be largely assisted by direct observation or experience, by the use of the sense organs and mind, as well as the use of reason (which includes inductive and deductive logic). By mere chance (or due to past impressions), if one is to acquire the company of parents, elders and other family members who have some correct preconceived notions about the nature of the world, then perhaps it is not necessary to get rid of all preconceived notions.

It is important to have correct preconceived notions in order to acquire accurate knowledge about the nature of the world and reality. For the acquisition of accurate knowledge, it is necessary not to be heavily influenced by instincts, passions, delusions, attachment and aversion. Thus correct preconceived notions are not heavily influenced by instincts, passions, delusions, etc. Some biases may still be present since the correct preconceived notions are preconceived notions after all, but these biases are not so strong that they reduce the accuracy of the knowledge acquired by the preconceived notions. Nonetheless, milder biases may reduce the precision of the knowledge, like 0.333 is an imprecise way of representing one-third (yet it cannot be called inaccurate). Correct preconceived notions are also true justified beliefs. They are true because they do not allow any contradictory view of reality, and they are beliefs because they are decisive or certain (i.e. free from doubt). They are justified because they are supported by proper justifications. However, a skeptic may observe that the justifications that support the correct preconceived notions must in turn be supported by other preconceived notions (which in turn must be supported by further justifications). It is appropriate to accept justifications for correct preconceived notions based on other correct preconceived notions if one accepts that there is no beginning and end to knowledge, which is infinite. Thus, even if a particular preconceived notion is justified based on another preconceived notion, and if this other preconceived notion is also justified based on yet another preconceived notion, and so on infinitely, then there can be an infinite regression of accurate knowledge (if knowledge is infinite).

For a skeptic who doubts whether knowledge can be infinite, assume that the total sum of knowledge is finite (although studies of mathematics reveal an infinitude of numbers). Neglecting the infinitude of numbers observed in mathematics, let us still assume that the total sum of knowledge is finite. Then this can be expressed by a finite number of terms in a set. Add one more term to this set: the term created by combining all the terms of the set. However, since the knowledge contained in this set is complete, then such a term is already part of the set. So adding this additional term is not possible. If adding it were possible, then adding it could not increase the amount of knowledge (since the total amount of knowledge is finite, and hence bounded). Hence, the term created by combining all the terms of the complete set of knowledge must be equivalent to zero, or an empty set (since adding it to the complete set of knowledge does not change the size of the complete set). If this is the case (i.e. if the combination of all the terms of the complete set of knowledge is an empty set), then knowledge is nonexistent (i.e. there is no knowledge at all). If there is no knowledge at all, then how can this be known? In any case, assuming that the term created by combining all the terms of the set cannot be added since it is already part of the set, then it must contain itself since it contains all terms of the complete set of knowledge. Further, since it contains all terms of the complete set of knowledge, its size must be at least as large as the size of the complete set of knowledge. Then there is no space for other finite terms in the complete set of knowledge. Furthermore, if this term contains itself and other terms also, then its size will be greater than its own size (since one would have to add its own size to the sizes of the other terms) unless the size of the other terms is zero (i.e. if it only contains itself and no other terms). In this case, there are no other terms in the term created by combining all the terms of the complete set of knowledge except for this combinatorial term itself, and there are no other terms in the complete set of knowledge except for this combinatorial term. Hence, the complete set of knowledge, if it is finite, only contains one term, which is self-containing. However, in mundane experience, an object can be observed to have multiple facets, and these facets are distinctly observable as separate terms, which shows that the total sum of knowledge is not exclusively unity. Hence, the total sum of knowledge must be infinite, which allows for the possibility of an infinite regression of justifications for a correct preconceived notion.

However, infinite knowledge cannot be directly observed in mundane experience, due to the limitations of a human mind. Thus one must never assume that the knowledge acquired through a limited human mind has successfully captured the complete reality. One must accept that the human mind, due to its limited capacity, has only grasped one partial aspect of reality, like a blind man is only able to touch one part of an elephant’s body. One must accept that his own preconceived notions do bias his view of reality, and also act as filters in his vision. Although some preconceived notions are correct (provided they are not heavily influenced by instincts, passions, attachment and aversion), they are still nonetheless incapable of allowing the observer to observe reality as a whole. Their correctness is thus: they allow the mind to partially grasp reality, but not completely. They allow accurate knowledge to be acquired but they reduce the precision of the knowledge.

Human beings living in mundane experiences indeed have preconceived notions, and their knowledge about the world and reality may substantially increase if these preconceived notions are correct. Nonetheless, is it true that every living being must have some preconceived notions? If there can be a living being who observes the complete reality of the world precisely as it is without filtering anything, then that person may be considered to be free from all preconceived notions. Such a being also necessarily must be free from the biases of the four instincts, the four passions, and all delusions. Such a being must also be free from attachment and aversion. Such a being must have eradicated all preconceived notions at their roots (i.e. he must have eradicated all delusions, all attachment and all aversion) in order to see the world as it is, in its complete reality. In order to achieve such a state, one ought to apply great effort to be free from biases, passions, delusions, attachment, aversion and preconceived notions. Such a being who is free from preconceived notions must eventually attain infinite knowledge (which involves a complete knowledge of any correct preconceived notion along with a complete knowledge of the infinite series of preconceived notions which properly justify this preconceived notion) since his knowledge continuously increases once he obtains a complete view of reality. His knowledge cannot remain stagnant since he had earlier conditioned himself to constantly acquire more real knowledge (while making his efforts that led to freedom from attachment and aversion, and from preconceived notions). In fact, such a knower (i.e. a knower with infinite knowledge) must be able to cognize (or perceive) not just one but all possible correct preconceived notions, which form a subset of all possible real objects. The knowledge of this great knower will at last stagnate when he is able to know and perceive all the real objects of the universe at once, altogether, in all their modes, with all their aspects, with all their attributes, at all times, in all places, with completeness. If any object, or any attribute, or any mode is missed out, then the observation will not be perfect (since something has been filtered out) and the knowledge will keep increasing until it becomes perfect. Thus, for a knower without any preconceived notions, he must eventually attain a state of all-knowing or Omniscience.

If a skeptic believes that the existence of such a perfect knower free from preconceived notions is not possible due to his existence being a preconceived notion, then the skeptic is challenged that his doubt too is a preconceived notion based on his limited view of the world. Only an Omniscient who can see and know all objects at all places at all times can accurately and conclusively comment on the existence or non-existence of anything. Hence, only an Omniscient can clarify with certainty whether an Omniscient exists. Does the skeptic claim to be all-knowing so that his claim about the nonexistence of Omniscience can be conclusively accepted? Thus, even if one considers belief in the existence of Omniscience to be a preconceived notion, then this is a correct preconceived notion.

Now, if the skeptic does accept that preconceived notions exist, but he does not accept that attachment and aversion are among the roots of these preconceived notions, then he is questioned about what the roots of these preconceived notions are. Are they subjective (internal) biases or objective (external) biases, or both, or none? Whether the roots are explainable by any of these or not, what is the justification that supports whatever is claimed about the roots of preconceived notions? Does it not require attachment to the justifications in order to prove that they are correct? Does it not require an aversion to the notions of attachment, etc. in order to claim that attachment and aversion do not exist? Further, does it not require an aversion (to having preconceived notions) in order to claim that preconceived notions are harmful by limiting one’s view of reality? Indeed, attachment and aversion do exist, and they necessarily limit one’s view of reality (by making one focus only on the good qualities or faults of an object which has both good qualities and faults). If one is preconditioned by likes (or attachment) and dislikes (or aversion) to filter his view of the world (thereby making his view incomplete), then these limited views are nothing but preconceived notions.

If another skeptic does not accept the existence of preconceived notions, then is it not the case that his claim about the nonexistence of preconceived notions is also a preconceived notion? If not, then what justification does he offer in order show that there are no preconceived notions? Any proof or justification cannot be valid without the acceptance of some preconceived notions or the other (since a justification is itself based on a preconceived notion). Hence, the nonexistence of preconceived notions cannot itself be justified with validity. If the skeptic is still stubborn that he does not have any preconceived notions (i.e. if he is stubborn that he he has no blind faith or blind belief in anything), then he is challenged that he has strong faith that he does not have faith; he believes that he has no belief; and he seems to be viewing the world with the preconceived notion that he has no preconceived notion. Further, if the skeptic who does not blindly accept anything claims that he only accepts that which is supported by proper evidence, then he is asked: what is the evidence that everything requires evidence in order to be accepted? If the evidence is merely the usefulness or utility of the method of finding truth with the support of evidence, then there is also great usefulness or utility in the method of balancing preconceived notions and evidence (by accepting some preconceived notions with the help of faith and others with the help of reason or evidence). If such a balance between faith and reason is not present, then further evidence will be required to show that the evidence in support of a particular truth is valid (or proper); and even more evidence will be required to support this further evidence; and so on infinitely. One could temporarily accept preconceived notions and then verify whether they are true based on evidence, but this also requires the acceptance of the preconceived notion that some preconceived notions ought to be temporarily accepted. Indeed, to acquire knowledge with the help of evidence, some preconceived notions have to be accepted (such as the beliefs about the criteria of proper evidence, etc.). Thus the seeker who constantly demands evidence really deceives himself while denying the use of any preconceived notions.

There is great utility in accepting correct preconceived notions and then acquiring more knowledge about the nature of reality on the basis of these preconceived notions. Indeed, if one is indecisive about whether certain preconceived notions are correct or incorrect, he may observe what evidence there is in favor of the correctness or incorrectness of the preconceived notions. Then he may decide whether the preconceived notions are correct or not, and he may start to observe the world with these preconceived notions. Nonetheless, the observer must also be cautious and must be aware that even correct preconceived notions are not applicable to reality as a whole (since they limit one’s view to only a part of reality).

It is wise to accept that knowledge and the world are real and knowable, and that preconceived notions do exist. Further, it is wise to accept that preconceived notions, (especially those driven by instincts, passions, attachment, aversion, etc.) can prevent the acquisition of accurate knowledge about the real nature of the world, although some preconceived notions, if they are accurate and based on a real understanding of the world, are not harmful (but beneficial) in the acquisition of truth.

In order to seek the truth, one may start by assuming that the conscious knower exists (as the one who perceives and knows the world and himself), that knowledge itself is real, that truth exists, and that truth can be attained by increasing one’s knowledge. The conscious knower may also be called the soul, or the self. If the skeptic does not accept the existence of a conscious knower, then how does he read this right now? Given that there is no conscious knower, how can even the knowledge of his nonexistence be found? If another skeptic does accept the existence of a conscious knower but does not accept that consciousness is separate from the body, then how does the matter of the body arrange itself to become conscious? If the molecules and electrical impulses in the brain are responsible for consciousness, then why are they present but not functioning in a dead body? If the skeptic does not accept that the conscious soul is responsible for the functioning of the brain while the body is alive, then he may believe that there is some other matter which makes the brain function when the body is alive; but then why has this matter not been measured or found? If this matter is so subtle that the technology of today cannot grasp it, then one can easily consider the existence of the conscious soul as a subtle immaterial substance which today’s technology cannot grasp. Hence the seeker of truth should initially accept his own existence, and his capacity to acquire knowledge.

Especially useful are the habits to be conscious of what one is knowing, to be conscious of how one is knowing, as well as to be conscious of the knower himself while acquiring any kind of knowledge. The knower could accept preconceived notions about the utility of these habits related to knowing. The knower could also build on his own correct preconceived notions through observation (while attempting to keep his observations unbiased by attachment and aversion). He could try to identify delusions and could constantly make an effort to perfect his character while continuously trying to avoid the influences of the instincts, the passions, attachment and aversion. The knower could continue leading his worldly life while trying to unbiasedly observe the real nature of the world while constantly acquiring knowledge. He could also renounce worldly duties and enjoyments while focusing all his time and energy on the acquisition of knowledge and spiritual activities (which help to mitigate the passions, and to weaken attachment and aversion). The knower on his quest for truth could also start by trusting those who have already acquired great knowledge, and by learning from them.

Since knowledge exists and is real, and since the acquisition of correct knowledge is based on correct preconceived notions, there also exist knowers who have acquired great knowledge about reality. The words, advice and teachings of such knowers ought to be respected and taken as accurate or trustworthy. A slight amount of attachment to these advanced knowers is beneficial since it allows the seeker to form preconceived notions about the accuracy of their knowledge (and hence the seeker may quickly acquire great knowledge). Being biased in the right direction (i.e. being biased to be free from all biases), the knower ought to trust the knowledge of others (and he ought to seek partial truth from all sources of knowledge). In order to trust a source of knowledge, if the source is another knower, he must either be an Omniscient, or he must be an advanced knower who has substantially reduced his attachment and aversion. Further, the writings of such advanced knowers, as well as the preserved words of the Omniscients (in scriptural form) may be especially beneficial for a seeker of truth.

Three trustworthy sources of correct knowledge are like lamps to guide seekers of truth who are wandering through the darkness of preconceived notions; these three are the correct God, the correct scripture, and the correct teacher. The correct God is an Omniscient who is free from attachment and aversion, and who gives helpful advice for the benefit of all living beings. The knowledge, advice and words of the correct God are generally preserved in scriptural writings, in the correct scriptures. To identify the correct scriptures, their writings must have some descent from the correct God (i.e. an Omniscient), they must be authored by an advanced knower with considerably weakened attachment and aversion, their writings must not be disprovable by sincere seekers of the truth, their writings must not disagree with direct experience, their writings must be compatible with knowledge acquired for mundane purposes and with knowledge acquired through any mundane experience, they must lay an emphasis on the fundamental nature of reality (or they must outline the correct fundamental preconceived notions required to reach the truth), they must have the tendency to benefit all living beings, and their writings may also correct or disprove false notions, delusions, and incorrect preconceived notions. Indeed, the statements written in the correct scriptures are like flags for the seeker who is sincerely climbing upwards on the mountain of truth. Even if the seeker does not acquire knowledge through direct observation about the topics described in the scriptures, after studying he becomes aware which attributes and signs to look for (like the mountain climber is guided by the flags). As he studies scriptures and advances in knowledge while applying scriptural knowledge to real life, the seeker may later on directly observe phenomena and objects he studied earlier (like the mountain climber comes in contact with the flags he had seen from below). The correct teacher is one who is himself a seeker of truth, who is making effort to acquire knowledge through discipline and through various purifications of conduct (such as subduing passions, and avoiding attachment and aversion). Such a correct teacher must have complete control over the five sense organs and the mind (which are useful tools to acquire accurate knowledge) in order to observe the world as it is. The correct teacher is one who has renounced all worldly occupations and duties since these tend to nurture passions and many biases (such as attachment to pleasant outcomes or success in the fulfillment of duties, and aversion to unpleasant outcomes or failure) while also consuming time and energy (which could otherwise be directed towards increasing knowledge and purifying conduct). Additionally, the correct teacher is one who has renounced all worldly possessions (including external possessions such as houses, land, wealth, clothes, etc. and internal possessions such as delusions, attachment, aversion, passions, etc.) so that they do not color his view of the world (i.e. so that he may observe reality as it is without worrying about any possessions or attachments). The correct teacher is ever-actively pursuing knowledge, meditation and penance. Meditation is a useful practice since it involves directly observing and experiencing reality while also clearing the mind of passions and biases. Penance is directed towards purifying one’s conduct (which especially involves reducing attachment and aversion in various ways) and towards obtaining freedom from ignorance and biases.

One could gain great knowledge by interacting with the correct God, the correct scripture and the correct teacher, and could create a roadmap to directly experience the truth based on the teachings of these three trustworthy sources of knowledge. Taking the fundamental knowledge taught by these three, the seeker could apply this fundamental knowledge with the cognizance of correct preconceived notions while viewing the world. If the seeker of truth insists on directly observing reality for himself, then the fundamental knowledge of these three trustworthy sources of knowledge could be taken as hypotheses in order to verify their accuracy and understand them. Indeed, once they have been sincerely experimented with and verified, the seeker of truth will have a great understanding about reality (and may perhaps be able to teach other seekers as well). In general, the seeker could experiment and verify the basis of each correct preconceived notion for himself; these processes of experiment and verification (if performed without attachment and aversion) are really spiritual practices. Nonetheless, it will be much harder for a seeker if he does not accept the teachings of the correct God, the correct scripture and the correct teacher (since he will not have the benefit of accepting the results of several observations, experiments, verifications and conclusions drawn by many advanced knowers before himself). In any case, if one is still in doubt about who to consider a trustworthy source of knowledge, he is urged to provisionally accept the correct God, the correct scripture and the correct teacher (along with their above outlined attributes), to sincerely follow their guidelines, and to then observe the results. Such a seeker is urged to observe the results of his provisional practice by noticing his increases in knowledge, his calmness, his happiness, and perhaps his disposition when he reincarnates after leaving this body. Devotion to these three trustworthy sources of knowledge (and worshipping them) can also be beneficial, especially if the devotion or worship involves concentrating on the attributes of the correct God, etc. If the devotee aspires to acquire those same attributes of freedom from biases, freedom from attachment and aversion, Omniscience, etc. then he is more likely to make effort towards acquiring these in the future.

If a skeptic questions whether reincarnation exists or not, he is urged to observe the current life, to calmly experience death when it comes, and to then observe where he goes. If the skeptic is unable to fathom the next incarnation, he may claim that he does not recall anything from his previous incarnation, nor have there been proper cases of people recalling their previous incarnations. Indeed, cases where people recall their past incarnations accurately are rare (due to the limited knowledge of mundane beings). One cannot be expected to remember occurrences from previous incarnations if everything that occurred in this incarnation cannot be remembered. One can observe that he rarely remembers all the events that occurred in the previous day. There are rare cases of some people who do accurately remember few occurrences from previous incarnations. The skeptic rarely accepts their recollections as accurate due to a lack of any means to verify what they say. The skeptic is urged to constantly keep observing himself in an unbiased manner and he may have a chance to verify the existence of reincarnation. Often, an advanced knower or an Omniscient can easily describe one’s past and future incarnations.

Suppose the skeptic further questions how infinite knowledge can be acquired by a finite being, or how infinite knowledge can be acquired by a being whose body is built up of a seemingly finite number of particles. Regarding the number of particles, it is questionable whether this is indeed a finite number. Even if the basis of human measurements is an electron or a photon (or a seemingly indivisible particle), there is insufficient evidence that this particle cannot be further divided into smaller particles, which can possibly be further divided, sub-divided, and so on infinitely. Further, the argument about infinitely dividing constituent particles notwithstanding, even if the number of spatial points occupied by the body is finite, it is possible that infinitely many particles of matter can coexist and occupy a single spatial point (like there are infinitely many instants of time in the past, present and future, all of which coexist in a single spatial point). Thus, even if knowledge can be measured by or found in matter, it is possible to have infinite knowledge while remaining in a finite body. Nonetheless, knowledge is really not measurable; nor is it found in matter since matter is unconscious (and hence material objects such as particles, etc. cannot perceive the world). Hence, even if the body were made of finitely many particles of matter, there could still be infinite knowledge since knowledge is found in the soul (the conscious knower).

Only the conscious knower can perceive and know about the world. Preconceived notions, although they may be driven by material causes, are indeed only possessed by conscious knowers. The conscious knower is a single substance which contains in it the potential to know and perceive all the objects in the universe at all places at all times altogether at once. In an earlier argument, when the existence of a finite set of complete knowledge was assumed, it was proved that this had to contain only one term, and that this term had to be self-containing. Indeed, the conscious knower, although it is a single substance, once it is free from all preconceived notions, it knows itself completely, and absorbed in the self forever more, it acquires Omniscience (complete knowledge). Although the skeptic may point out that these are preconceived notions (i.e. the existence of such a knower or conscious self, along with the potential of this self to attain Omniscience), these are correct preconceived notions. Accepting that the knower exists, that it consciously knows, that it can be conscious about its own consciousness while knowing, and that knowledge indeed exists, are all correct preconceived notions which are necessary to acquire more knowledge about reality (and are necessary to reach the truth). Further, the existence of truth and the existence of perfect knowledge (i.e. Omniscience); these are also correct preconceived notions which are beneficial for a seeker of truth. The skeptic may claim that describing a finite set of complete knowledge in order to prove that complete and infinite knowledge can exist in a finite single object is contradictory. However, it must be clarified that the finite set of complete knowledge was not part of any proof but this finite set of complete knowledge was only described as a metaphor to illustrate that Omniscience is a self-contained state of self-absorption (where the knower is perfectly conscious about the real nature of his own consciousness); complete knowledge is possessed in such a state (which is free from all preconceived notions). Indeed, self-contained within the single conscious knower (who is free from attachment and aversion), is the complete infinity of knowledge.

Seven fundamental beliefs which the Omniscients have described as correct preconceived notions are: the existence of the soul (which is the conscious living substance, the knower), the existence of unconscious substances (matter, space, time, the medium of motion and the medium of rest), the inflow of Karmic matter (by virtue of the three vibrations of mind, speech and body), the bondage of Karmic matter (which depends on the kind of vibrations of the mind, speech and body, and on the strength of the four passions), stopping the inflow of Karmic matter (through vows, pure conduct, contemplation, endurance, practicing various virtues, and controlling the mind, speech and body), severing the earlier bound Karmic matter (through various kinds of external and internal penance, including self-study, meditation and detachment from the body), and the existence of liberation (where the soul is completely free from all Karma, and infinitely blissful forevermore).

Particular stress is laid on the knower’s ability to distinguish self from non-self. The knower is encouraged to verify that the body, the sense organs, objects known or enjoyable by the sense organs, the mind, Karma, as well as any other material possessions, are all objects of matter. Knowledge, perception, happiness and will-power are attributes of the soul while touch, taste, smell and color are attributes of matter. Sounds are produced when molecules of matter crash against each other. Seekers are guided by advanced knowers to understand the roots of delusions about self and non-self; these are found in considering the self to be the cause (or doer) of non-self, in considering the self to be the enjoyer (or experiencer) of non-self, in considering the self to be the possessor of non-self (i.e. to experience mine-ness towards any object that is non-self), and in experiencing oneness with non-self (such as oneness with the body).

The knower is encouraged by Omniscients, scriptures and teachers to identify the self correctly, and to be ever-conscious of the self, to be aware of the self while performing any activity, to be always absorbed in the self. Meditation on the self is considered the supreme form of meditation (whereby the concentrator is concentrating and being concentrated on). The nature of liberation is also characterized as complete self-absorption accompanied by infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite happiness and infinite will-power.

Through experience and observation, the knower can verify several claims to be accurate: that meditation on the idol of a naked God in a perfect posture with a serene expression on His face is the most peaceful when compared to meditation on other idols, that a seeker who renounces all worldly occupations and possessions (including clothes) is the most happy (since his mind is free from all worldly worries, including worries to take care of the body), that among 84,00,000 magical chants (Mantras), the Namokar Mantra is the most perfect and supreme (when properly recited), that among all ethical principles, non-violence is the most supreme principle (since properly following it leads to the happiness of one self and others, in the mundane world and in the quest for truth), and that among all kinds of meditation, pure concentration on the self is the most blissful.

I bow down to the correct God, the correct scripture and the correct teacher. If I have hurt the sentiments of any reader in any way please forgive me. I do not wish to hurt anybody nor do I wish to prove myself as correct. I have only tasted a drop of the ocean of truth which I hope to share with others. May all attain peace, and may all find the truth.

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