There is a missing debate in the world of philosophy, science and religion. Is it better to know the truth and be miserable or live a happy delusion? Let’s assume for this argument that the truth would make you unhappy. It’s easy enough to concoct a situation – your child died in agony, but you’ve been told he’s living well in a foreign country. Perhaps the truth is that life is inherently meaningless – all we get is this one shot and we can’t make any difference because, in the end, humanity is extinct anyway.
Which is preferable: a painful truth or a happy lie?
It seems like truth is a higher value – it just resonates as such. But scientifically, it’s unproven. It’s a valid question and one I have no answer for. Is human happiness a higher value than truth? Of course, this phrasing: know the truth and the truth and the truth shall make you free – does not necessarily conflict with this. The truth may make you free, but freedom may make you miserable. Who knows? Many of the freed ‘house slaves’ starved, where before they were well-fed and pampered compared to the field slaves.
Of course, that has nothing to do with knowledge of truth. It is a legal definition of freedom. But what is freedom? I’m free to live forever legally, but it’s impossible. We can never be really free in an unbounded way. We are constrained by the laws of reality.
According to the Dharma (buddhist teachings) freedom is knowing yourself and reality, knowing truth, much like it says. But precision is a key virtue. There is a difference. Here it is – know the truth and see that you already free. The difference is critical, but subtle. For without a self, there is nothing to be enslaved. And for that matter, nothing to be free. And that is Buddha’s truth of freedom.