How pride can corrupt both faith and doubt …
We often equate pride with respect-demanding and self-congratulatory hubris. But it can appear much more subtly when it corrupts our two tools for seeking knowledge: faith and doubt.
Faith is a reasonable human response to the miracle of life. Our very existence rests on the congenial alignment of hundreds of factors that had no naturally necessary reason to be aligned that way — for example, the presence of heat, light, air, water and edible vegetation. Significantly, the Bhagavad-gita states that faith leads to knowledge of ultimate reality (04.39). Unfortunately, when faith becomes corrupted by pride, it degenerates into a dogmatic fanaticism which seeks to denigrate and eradicate all contrary opinions. However, the presumption that all differing opinions are false overlooks two vital truths: the ultimate reality being infinite can’t be known fully by us finite beings, and different aspects of that same reality may be known to different people.
Doubt is a reasonable human response to life’s uncertainties. As the ultimate reality is difficult to know, it’s natural to doubt absolutist truth-claims, especially if they are also exclusivist. Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.26.30) states that doubt is a sign of intelligence; it enables us to evaluate truth-claims judiciously. Unfortunately, when doubt becomes corrupted by pride, it degenerates into a destructive cynicism that rejects all knowledge about ultimate reality. Such cynicism can sentence us to a life of meaninglessness and existential despair. The Bhagavad-gita (04.40) cautions that the cynical find happiness neither in this world nor the next.
How can we prevent such corruption of both faith and doubt? By humbly remembering that no matter how much we know, there’s always much more to know. Recommending such humility, the Gita states that even the enlightened (10.08) keep enlightening each other (10.09).
Pride corrupts faith into dogmatic fanaticism and doubt into destructive cynicism.
Think it over:
- When is doubt reasonable and when does it degenerate?
- When is faith reasonable and when does it degenerate?
- Contemplate how pride may have contaminated your quest for understanding.
04.40: But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.