Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #12 – Are You Bivaxual?

March 22nd, 2021

I love branding and coining new words. This one’s about vaccination. I’ve discovered that some people are pro-vaccination, some militantly anti-vax, and some could go either way—a stance I call “bivaxual.” Because I have some position of authority as a teacher, people are asking my opinion. I guess I see myself as bivaxual. I see whether or not to take the vaccines in terms of risk analysis—whether the greater risk is in taking or not taking it—and therefore a decision based on age and health, and perhaps practicality—like whether it will be required for work, service, or travel. I see it, therefore, as a decision best left to the individual and his or her family. If someone asks my personal opinion according to their situation, however, I may give it. But meditating on this issue for the last week in relation to whether or not I should get myself vaccinated has brought other issues that I think in many ways rest at the core of the debate.

 

When I began to consider the vaccine for my personal health and to discuss the matter with various people, it became apparent how polarized people’s views of the world are, and that healthy public discourse is dying, even in spiritual movements. I see mostly fundamentalism and orthodoxy, which manifests as people hearing only the view with which they already agree and dismissing opposing views by attacking the authors of references cited in opposition to their opinion. When I brought forth information that I wanted to better understand to some anti-vax people, it was dismissed as the ideas of sheep following the mainstream media. When I brought legitimate questions about the authority of big pharma and the NIAID[1] to some pro-vaxers, it was dismissed as coming from right-wing conspiracists. Of course, there were those on both sides who welcomed the dialogue and helped me hone my conceptions, but that was rarer than I expected. The courage to enter discussions to test one’s own viewpoint with the sole objective of honing the truth, which is the emblem of first-class discourse, seems no longer the standard. This was not always the case.

 

There is an Indian philosophy called Nyāya, the school of logic, where a standard for quality discourse was promoted. That standard was called vāda, where those with a particular conviction are encouraged to put forth their best arguments, not to seek victory over other ideas, but to do so with detachment and aimed only at discovering the truth.

 

Unfortunately, the debate I see going on today in practically all spheres—and certainly in this life-and-death matter of vaccination—is not a search for truth, but a focus on justifying one’s own strongly held beliefs, which are often based on one’s attachments. Discussion has therefore degraded to the two lower standards of public discourse that the school of Nyāya sought to discourage: jalpa, seeking victory even by resorting to fallacies and distortions; and vitaṇḍā, or the attempt to simply destroy one’s opposition without even bothering to offer a reasonable alternative. Perhaps we have become even worse, since these days we too often refuse to engage in discourse with those who oppose us and instead justify censoring others’ views.

 

Whom can we trust? How can we make educated decisions? That’s a problem. It seems the authority of all institutions for information and knowledge, from the government (including its medical establishment) to academia to the media, have been proven to be compromised. I can only share what I do. I listen to all sides of any issue with an open mind, clear my consciousness as much possible through meditation, and pray to Krishna to reveal His will for me beyond my personal attachments.

 

What is my decision?  I will keep that personal. But, I can say that in coming to a decision I am happy that I was bivaxual, for, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”―John Stuart Mill

 


[1] National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases

 

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