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Thread: Thoughts on the value of doubt

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Eastern WA
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    Thoughts on the value of doubt


    Just a moment ago I was thinking about doubt, something I had until recently considered a longtime enemy and nuisance. It has been by far the most persistent and effective obstacle on my search for Truth; though I yearned to connect with something larger than myself, I am a very intellectually-oriented person. Every time I would begin to feel comfortable with a specific framework of belief, I would over-think it into a mockery of itself.

    Eventually my weary self was finally able to come to rest in the profound wisdom
    of Sanātana Dharma. However, the doubt never fully left me. This astonished me for a long time; there were so many experiences that were profound enough to make the idea of a lack of faith comical. So why did it continue to come back?

    My attitude has recently changed in a drastic and liberating way: I need the doubt. When questions arise, this prompts me to search for answers. Doubt forces me to take a step back and look at what I'm doing, and why. As relieved as I was to feel at home, the point never was to "sit and relax." Quite the opposite, in fact!

    Rather than fall into an uninspired routine, the gift of dount allows one to consciously examine why they believe what they do, rather than take it for granted. When looked at this way, doubt has been a cherished and unfailing source of renewal and a powerful impetus for study, both of the timeless wisdom of the Eternal Dharma and of the Self.

    I would love to hear any thoughts any of you might have on the matter. What role does doubt play, if any, in your beliefs? I'm especially curious about what contrast there might be between those born into Hinduism and those who are called to it later in life.

  2. #2
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    August 2012
    Indiana, USA
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    Re: Thoughts on the value of doubt

    Namaste Parvana,

    I too, have an appreciation for healthy levels of doubt. While many see it as distrust of God, I consider it my duty to God, the universe and myself to fully understand, and appreciate what I believe rather than take in what is presented to me right from the get go. Afterall, If I believed everything everyone told me, I'd be one of the most misguided people on the planet. My stance has always been that those who do not ever so much as wonder about the reasons behind their beliefs run a higher risk of doing terrible things in order to defend them. "Blind faith" in this way is very destructive.

    Now, there may arise some things that I never stop doubting. Depending on what that thing is, I either decide whether I am comfortable "not knowing" or if I need to focus my attention on it and really dig for answers. I also acknowledge that maybe I am not mentally ready to understand certain concepts yet, but if that is the case, I pray fr enlightenment and patience. I also keep it at the back of my mind and make sure I don't start talking about things I don't understand to others looking for similar answers.

    One of the things I appreciate about other Hindus that I have met is that many of them are very comfortable "not knowing" the answers to certain theological questions. They don't rush to create illogical answers for the sake of having an answer.

    Taken too far, doubt can make one miserable. It's different for everyone but I think everyone has a point at which the doubt overwhelms the appreciation or sense of understanting of whatever faith/philosophy they are exploring. If that is the case, there's no point in persueing it any longer at this point. You may come back to it later after a few more years of study or experience, but there's no need to try and stuff a square peg into a round hole. Let it go, but continue your search - with time and experience understanding unfolds and doubts can gradually fall away. Maybe not all - because in religion certainty is a very personal and often times fleeting thing, but you will find a faith/philosophy that rings true in moat of the ways that are most important to you.

    Wow. That was long. Sorry for the rant. In short - doubt can be very useful. =)

    "God will not have his work made manifest by cowards."
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. #3
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    November 2010
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    Re: Thoughts on the value of doubt


    Doubt is considered a cause and precursor of knowledge in some cases. To that extent, doubt is valuable. That is, if a person were never in doubt about anything, there would be no motivation for him to gain knowledge.

    The standard example provided for this is that in twilight, a doubt may arise in a person whether the object seen in the distance is a tree stump or a man. It is on further investigating the situation/gathering additional knowledge etc, that this doubt turns into knowledge of the form "That is a man" or "That is a tree stump", etc.

    On the other hand, in certain instances, "moksha" or "nirvana" is defined as a state of affairs where the mind is at complete peace with itself and with everything else. This is represented in Indian philosophy in terms of the following iconic imagery:

    Shiva in bliss:

    The Buddha in nibbana:

    There is no trace of doubt whatsoever in the faces of Shiva or Buddha.

    Complete peace is also a state of being when no doubt exists about anything whatsoever.

    Hari OM!

  4. #4
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    April 2013
    Michigan, USA
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    Re: Thoughts on the value of doubt

    Namaste, Parvana.

    The Tragical History of Western Epistemology’s Modern Hubris in Twenty Minutes, Regarding Doubt:

    At the inception of the modern era of philosophy, the genius Rene Descartes penned his famous Meditations, the first book of which was titled, “De iis quae in dubium revocare possunt,” or, “Regarding things that can be called into doubt.” Included in this summoning was no less than the entire foundation of human thought. The fundamental precepts of rational cognition were reduced to complete uncertainty. His solution was to devise a system of knowing, based on incontestable assertions. For example, his famous credo is “Cogito ergo sum,” or, “I think, therefore, I am.” Even one scarcely trained in argumentation immediately sees the fallacious nature of this conclusion, namely, that it is stated at the outset of the argument, being contained in the premises. Thus, we have a principio principii, or petition at the outset, the infamous fallacy of “begging the question.”

    Viz., He states that he exists when he says “I think.” He then concludes that he exists. The reasoning is commonly referred to as “circular.”

    Centuries later, Descartes has left us with what has been coined the “strong criterion” for knowledge, or, classically stated, justified, true belief. On the strong model, justification for a belief must be infallible in order for the proposition, which expresses the epistemic state of believing, to be eligible for syntactic predication with the term “knowledge.” Of course, the belief must also be able to be expressed as a proposition, which assumes that its content admits of kind and degree. The other latent assumption is that whatever “real” content to which a belief corresponds is something that can be dealt with by means of propositional structures and analytic manipulation.

    With the strong criterion, thinkers can’t afford themselves enough material in order to make their precious predictions about things that don’t exist or haven’t happened. Hence, they have assumed the “weak criterion,” which states that a belief’s justification need only be reasonable in order to qualify it for structural predication with propositional knowledge.

    Viz., I need only be reasonable sure that I am looking at the North Star in order to say that I know “I am looking at the north Star” (assuming it is true and I believe it).

    Now the theorists have much more room to play their polemics against nature, citing axioms, norms, methods of induction, and arbitrary conclusions and principles, e.g., conservatism, internal and external consistency, scope, and the principle of parsimony, or Occam’s Razor. “Data” is the word of the hour. It’s odd how such an overbearing apparatus fills itself with such meaningless airs.

    But these methods have been so successful at bringing progress, we say. We look with our eyes to our machines, drugs, and weapons. And we laud those with no vision because they are successful at forcing others to stare. All the while, we become more convinced that doubt is the way. It will prop us over mountains, as long as we bear their weight.

    And they are dreadful, saying: Doubt your soul. Doubt the Gods. Doubt the value of song and story. Doubt that love is divine and unconditional.

    Why not take a break from this burden and wander into the gentle valleys below, even if they are in fog? I hear it rises from the warm springs there.

    The Greek mathematician Archimedes said, “Give me a lever large enough and a place on which to stand, and I will move the world.” But we cannot move the world; it moves us. Contrary to Protagoras’s decree, man is not the measure of all things. But all things are the measure of man, if he can leave behind his doubt.

    Doubt can never know the mind of God.
    "Be the change you wish to see in other people." ~Gandhi

  5. #5
    Join Date
    February 2008
    Green Hill in KY USA
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    Re: Thoughts on the value of doubt

    Doubt is the Source Fire with which the Steel of our Belief is forged.

    Placing your Sword back into the Flame...over and over again...hardens it against the hardships of this realm.

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