One thread I have picked up in my quest for answers is how we are prone to illusion and falsehood with the mind.
The number of biases and logical fallacies is long; some more common are confirmation bias, survivor bias, special pleading, and arguments from emotion. It’s a wonder we get anything done with such a mind, yet despite all these problems, we have found a way.
Instead of grasping and holding onto truth, we have become better at examining and discovering untruths or falsehoods. By discovering what’s false, we’re one step closer to what is true. It’s what makes scepticism so valuable. Instead of grasping for truth, sometimes it’s better to discover untruths and correct our mistakes.
But a question arises: if our minds are so prone to flawed reasoning, how can we be sure of anything?
The answer lies in the fact that we can examine our minds to discover what those flaws are. Danny Ariely calls it Predictably Irrational. We’re irrational, but we are in knowable ways. With knowledge of biased and flawed reasoning, we can undertake practices that are correct for it. Critical thinking is one example as are methods of science used to diminish bias.
The pursuit of truth, happiness and wisdom is like a corrective lens, spectacles. We can examine our eyes, discover their flaws, and then adopt glasses to correct our vision.
Buddhism can also be seen as a corrective lens. We can discover its habits and behaviours through a continued examination of the mind. We can learn which behaviours lead to suffering and which lead to liberation from suffering. Then cultivate further behaviours that follow the latter path. Some commentators therefore describe Buddhism as a form of psychological practice.
Buddhists see our minds as clouded by illusion; we’re ignorant of why we suffer. Liberation is through knowledge, seeing the illusions, and understand how the mind fools itself.
Buddhism like medicine offers both curative practices to help when you are suffering, and preventive practice to avoid the causes of suffering. Examples include, meditation, pondering Koans, Deity Yoga, Nembutsu chanting, iconography and imagery, and the community or Sangha, depending on which school you follow.
Buddhism is the corrective remedial approach to address and prevent suffering. We can’t escape the mind, but by studying it liberation form suffering can be achieved.