I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to buy my own clothes. When I would go shopping with my mother, well, let’s just say our tastes weren’t entirely compatible. If she were alive today and picking out my clothes, I swear she would still buy the blouses with the peter pan collars. I remember back when I was a teenager and she would present me with yet another blouse with that horrid collar. “Oh mom,” I would groan, “they’re so childish.” “But, Diana,” she would reply, “they’re so pretty.” She thought they were sweet and feminine and I thought they were for six year olds. You could say it was just a matter of taste and leave it at that. But actually, it was a matter of perception. And perception is a powerful thing. So powerful in fact you could say that it is perception that drives not only our lives but also the material world. And the fuel is judgment.
French writer Gustave Flaubert wrote, “There is no truth. There is only perception.” This is an accurate description of what we find when we concern ourselves only with worldly matters. It was perception that was the downfall of Flaubert’s most famous character, Madame Bovary. Emma Bovary perceived her life in a certain way and judged it as dull and empty. Married to a country doctor, she struggled to find romance and excitement through a series of adulterous affairs culminating in a ruinous life and her eventual suicide. Our perceptions become our reality, our truth as it were, but what reality or truth are we really talking about? There can be no certain validation of applied adjectives as truth. How we view our lives and the words we use to describe them is always subjective.
Our perceptions shape who we are, how we appear to others, and how we experience our lives. And those perceptions not only contribute to the judgments we make, but they motivate our action in the world. For example, if hunger could not be perceived we wouldn’t eat, (well, maybe we would anyway but that’s another story). If the cold and wet weren’t judged as bad, we wouldn’t know enough to come in out of the rain. If we perceive ourselves as not having enough, we then make the judgment that we are poor and we try to find a better paying job. The ‘we’ I keep referring to, of course, is our ego, not the Real you or me, which is timeless, indestructible, and completely unaffected by the role our ego (or character) is playing on the world stage with all of its attendant ‘stuff’, i.e. the material objects that decorate its life.
Remember, a basic premise of nonduality as proposed by Eastern traditions is “Reality is an illusion.” The ‘reality’ here refers the so-called ‘physical’ world and, of course, our perceptions of it. The lens through which we view the world is our mental conditioning, a compilation of every thought and experience we have gone through, which molds our perceptions (hence our beliefs) thereby preventing us from knowing the truth.
It is the ego that buys into all the social agreements surrounding how we are supposed to live and the things we are supposed to have, i.e. the big house, the expensive car etc. More perceptions, more judgments, more struggle. These social agreements form our perceptions and therefore our beliefs, but is there any truth to any of it? Think of all the belief systems in the world and the measures some will take to defend them. We use these perceptions and judgments to drive our characters through the play on the world stage. That is their only function. They do not define who we are. So don’t worry about them. Just recognize the material as immaterial and move on.
Truth is the only thing that has meaning. If we are searching for it in the material world we will not be able to find it because truth transcends the material. Poet William Blake said, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear as it is, infinite.” And that’s the truth.