Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #8 – Perception, Contentment, and Fake News

February 24th, 2020

The black snake was still sitting on the last step of the ghāṭa. It hadn’t moved one inch since I initially saw it when descending the stairs for my bath. A little fearful, I stopped suddenly and walked fifty meters to a safer spot. I didn’t have my glasses, so I had to squint intently to see why the snake was seemingly motionless. Oh, it was just a ripped black tire! I had an epiphany.


All problems are perceptual and not actual. I felt threatened by the black snake, but what was my problem? Was it what was actually there or perceptual — what I thought was there?


The best example of a perceptual problem is death. When we lose what we are attached to, we suffer. At death we seemingly lose our very existence. We are, however, eternal. Therefore, death itself is only the illusion of non-existence and, in that sense, not an actual problem.


Every school of spirituality and self-improvement is based on overcoming perceptual or illusory problems. For example, the main focus of the yogic process is to conquer distress and invoke contentment by purifying one’s perception, which is distorted by the static of thoughts born of ego.


Yoga corrects one’s vision by bringing the mind to sattva, which means the true nature of being. The original or corrected nature of the mind, which is like a mirror or lens, is one that is not distorted or dirty. The yogic technique for bringing the mirror of the mind to its functional or true state is called meditation. By concentrating on one thought, the other distorted thoughts are quelled. The lens of the mind thus gradually moves to the platform of sattva, a higher level of perception and contentment, which is the main symptom of sattva.


Similarly, in its own way, modern psychology seeks to help solve one’s mental problems by giving one a higher perspective of them. Traumas, phobias, and anxieties, for example, are distortions of one’s thinking and perception. An expert in psychology may help one to identify irrational patterns of thought that skew one’s perception and cause distress. He or she then helps one to change those patterns of thought hoping to bring one to a higher level of perception and contentment.


The purpose of the law of karma is to elevate our vision by putting us in situations that help us to better understand the world and ourselves. In that way, all schools of thought serve a singular purpose: to enlighten us or to elevate our perception to make us content or happy.


I was inspired to write this Monday Morning Greetings on the relationship between perception and our mental state by reflecting on the ability of the internet to promote fake news, create false narratives, and to influence people to live mostly in a polarized world of hate. When it is used in this way, and it seems to increasingly serve this purpose, it is certainly not in itself pramāṇa, a valid means to help us understand and live in reality. It is surely not the world where the saintly reside. Śrīla Prabhupāda therefore condemned such media strongly:


“To read ordinary literature and books or newspapers [internet][1] is compared to the pleasure place of crows. The crows, they are very much attached to the rejected refuse, garbage.” (Lecture on Bhag. 2.3.17, Los Angeles, July 12, 1969)



[1] There was no internet when this was written, but now the internet serves as the modern source of news in every way.


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