In Search of Wisdom: Can We Clean Minds?

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“The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.“ – John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian-American Economist

In my last article “In Search of Wisdom: Where Does Corruption Live?”, I had concluded that “Corruption lives in Power.” Among the feedbacks I received, one reader asserted that the corruption does not live in power but rather lives in mind. He wrote that both corruption and power are the creation of our minds and, therefore, “Cleaning of mind is the one and only way to remove (corruption).” I consider this to be a flawed opinion but to many readers it must “sound right” because I have heard this opinion time and again from many well-meaning friends over the years. Spiritual friends are especially keen on projecting every failing or triumph of a human to the mind and forget to recognize other planes of projection. I am writing this article to dispel this confusion and to assert that the true value of an endeavor is in “being right” and not in “sounding right.”

Before delving into this issue, let me first express my due respect to all people who believe that corruption lives in the mind and take the noble cause of cleaning the mind. Let me also agree with those who say: the mind is the creator of corruption; it would be wonderful if every country was filled with enlightened people; and we must strive to clean our minds from being corrupt. However, let me extend this debate by stating that a creator can create his creation but the created may not reside in the creator. A house many be the creation of the mind and body of many technical people but it is not necessary for it to reside in the minds and bodies of the creators. Because a human is human for having a mind, all creations of humans could be safely attributed to their minds. But the mind debate remains largely fruitless because the challenge faced by us as human is that we must go further and develop various knowledge, disciplines, and systems that are useful and practical. When someone asks, “What operation is required to get the sum of two numbers?,” one can safely say, “mental operation”. However, that does not make this answer as desirable as saying “addition”. The first answer only sounds right and makes us feel good but does not take us anywhere in advancing knowledge.

Seeing everything to reside in mind is problematic in many fronts. I can point a few as examples. Firstly, this thinking is too simplistic. For example, George W. Bush ordered that American troops be deployed in Iraq and it is said that more than a million Iraqis lost their lives since 2003 with no apparent involvement in making weapons of mass destruction. Should we then clean the mind of Bush, CIA officials, politicians, American troops, American people, Iraqi people, or whose? And, if we should, how would we go about doing that? This dilemma forces us to find our solution on something architecturally structured than the simple “mind”.

Secondly, I believe in the separation of state and religion. In my view, the business of mind-cleaning falls in the domain of religion and spirituality. Therefore, a state should not attempt to “clean up minds”, thereby inviting trouble experienced by humans time and again in the history. When Hindus cleaned up Buddhist minds, Muslim cleaned up Hindu’s, and Christians cleaned up American Indian’s, there always have been troubles in the world. The only time the business of mind-cleaning has worked well is when it is done by an individual for the purpose of self-actualization.

Thirdly, I have come to believe that every mind is fallible. And, would it be possible for any mind – with perhaps rare exceptions in the likes of Buddha – to be infallible? Likely not! I believe that Siddhartha became Buddha after renouncing his power and I doubt if Buddha would not have turned back to Siddhartha if he had ever re-assumed the power. Even religious books like Manu Smriti and Mahabharata attest to this fallibility of Man. That is the reason my article went into mathematical logic to help find a practicable solution. I thought that a country should not wait for a godly-leader for its problems of corruption to be solved. A country must rely on practical, implementable, and logically fool-proof systems of governance, or else it will be in a paradise of fools waiting for minds of its citizens to be cleaned up.

Fourthly, a state employs hundreds of thousands of people, and the endeavor of stumping out corruption in it becomes complicated. A state is infinitely more prone to being corrupt due to the action of some people unless checks and balances are built in. Further, a state cannot afford to be in control of a single mind. Consequently, the realm of corruption turns out to be bigger than the corruption that exists in a singular mind. Yet, my view is that although every pearl harvested from a sea may have internal flaws, it may still be possible to make an elegant necklace and wear it. We should not have to wait until all the pearls come out to be free of impurities. In fact, a pearl in itself is a byproduct of impurity. And, what should encourage us is that many corrupt government employees of developing countries abandon corruption when they migrate to industrialized countries. It is not that their minds are suddenly purified but rather it is that their new system has checks and balances. And we have plenty of examples to notice that the “clean minds” of the industrialized countries turning corrupt over time when they land in the “lands of corruption”. This indicates that corruption lives in power and not exactly in mind.

Lastly, when we have not even done a decent job of educating the minds, we should not dream much on cleaning them up. In the post 1990 Nepal, the children of the rich and the poor can not even attend the same school and get the same education. We are categorizing people into superiors and inferiors by birth and are epitomizing selfishness. Is it a path to cleanliness or to pollution? Is it a path to harmony and progress or to discord and degeneration? I see it as a path to an undesirable destiny. A mind can never discover harmony till it learns to respect all things living and dead around it.

I would, therefore, like to conclude that no human mind is clean, or free of blemish, although I would revere if there are any. Despite the undeniable role of human mind in all actions of humans, no discipline other than religion and spirituality should be developed on an assumption that we may someday cleanup human mind. Anyway, a mind that is free of blemish would not take up the power in the first place in fear of being contaminated. At the same time there are too many nice things we enjoy that are the byproduct of the fallible mind of humans. Therefore, let us not be overly emotional about mind but be thoughtful and pragmatic in building systems that are practical, self-cleaning, and humane.

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