Delusion eclipses enlightenment. Indian seers call it bhranti darshana or false knowledge. This differs from plain dullness or lack of discrimination that in turn leads to avidya which blocks right knowledge of the self.
Modern thinkers link it to unhappiness. For Bertrand Russell misery was “largely due to mistaken views of the world, mistaken ethics and mistaken habits of life”.
Psychologist Albert Ellis also based his rational emotive therapy on the premise that irrational ideas caused people’s misery. His primers said everyone had a capacity for ‘crooked thinking’.
This is remarkably similar to the psycho-dynamic insight of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, which blames vikalpa, viparya and mithya-jnanafor the destructive semantics of the self that Ellis claimed to have uncovered with his ‘correct-your-thinking’ approach.
One simply became well to get out of one’s self-imposed state of unwellness because, as Ellis argued, suffering was caused not so much by external events but by the way we reacted and interpreted them.
This called for what the psychologist called unconditional self acceptance (USA), which translated into “you always accept you no matter what you do.”
The same courtesy was extended to ‘unconditional other acceptance', that is, “nobody is evil, even if they do evil things” and ‘unconditional life acceptance’: “you always accept things, no matter how they are”.
Ellis based his insight on the work of the stoic Epictetus, who was a slave during the reign of the Roman tyrant Nero: “Our thoughts are up to us, and our impulses, desires, and aversions — in short, whatever is our doing. Of things that are outside your control, say they are nothing to you.”
Stoic strategy thus aimed at minimising the vulnerability of the self in a world bristling with random events and accidents.
Stoic principles as adopted by American military advisers during the Vietnam War talked about the prospect of moving beyond grieving, only to keep on fighting and to stare down the Grim Reaper in a death-saturated place.
The Bhagavad Gita echoed something similar on the great battlefield of Kurukshetra: Sri Krishna advises the heroic Arjuna to dispassionately unite his reason to yoga (buddhiyukto) and to rise above both good deeds and bad (ubhe sutkrita-dushkrite) if only to perform his actions with utmost skill (yogah karmasu koushalam).
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