Is the world objectively neutral?

From twitter:

Paramhansa Yogananda
“Objective conditions are always neutral. It is how you react to them that makes them appear sad or happy.”

Right. Not. I doubt someone who is dying of hunger, because of rising food prices in Africa, feels that objective conditions are neutral. It’s of course true that life is what we make of it, but we start with the ‘objective’ circumstances we live in. Those ‘objective’ circumstances may include running water, electricity, wealthy parents, good education, affordable healthcare – or the lack of any of these. And when running water and adequate food are missing, a person runs out of options. It takes a very special person to be able to live happily in such circumstances.

13 thoughts on “Is the world objectively neutral?”

  1. Epictetus says the same thing in the Greek philosophical tradition. (Katinka, I hope that at least one of your newly acquired intro Western Phil. texts covers Epictetus.) It is not the events themselves, but our ideas about them that shape our emotional reactions. Epictetus was a physically handicapped individual who spent most of his life as a slave. But he maintained that he was happy nonetheless, because he had changed his inner attitudes toward his outer circumstances. Powerful stuff. It is the basis for Rational Emotive Therapy, developed by Albert Ellis in the United States.

    My take: if you consider the Vedanta/yogic concept of vairagya, the whole problem becomes less black-and-white. But, I can certainly appreciate your reaction to the dying-of-hunger example. Anyway, isn’t it this kind of tension between the hard edges of material reality and transcendental yogic doctrine that makes the process so frustrating (and alluring) at times?

    1. Well, my studies don’t officially start till September, and to be honest in my preperations I’m going more for present day philosophers. I guess I’ll have to look up Epictetus (yes, I do have introductory texts that probably include something on his work).

      But yes, I guess this is an eternal paradox. It’s partly about the difference between – ‘what can I ask of myself’ (working to be happy no matter what the circumstances), and ‘what can I expect of others’ (have to be compassionate towards those who are less fortunate than I am).

  2. But million’s of people live in Africa or in world’s other places with lack of basic’s needs… comparatively little one dyeing because their body not tolerate the nature…neutral fact..not?? And it’s fact that for the outer or inner growth… least a body required… from where we start to develop immune system… and other development’s opportunities.

    1. Yes – you got it. I think my basic annoyance with the quoted text is that he puts it in such scientific terms. Objective suggests that we can judge without moral implications, which in the case of hunger and disease is pretty superficial, IMO. There are always moral implications in those cases.

      It’s one thing to conclude that a person can be happy under any kind of circumstances. I do sort of agree: I was amazed at how happy kids in Madras, India looked 15 years ago – while so totally less fortunate in all material things than their Dutch cousins. Yet the Dutch ones seemed to never smile as gaily as the Indian ones did.

      So the material really isn’t everything, but whether one can be objective about it is a totally different question. In objective terms there is a moral responsibility I think.

  3. i am reading JK teachings and attending annual gatherings in India. I came to US to meet my daughter and to visit some places and finally propose to attend JK Annual gathering at Ojai, California during 7th to 14 Aug, 2011 (8days) @ $625

  4. In my understanding he basically states that LIFE is absolutely neutral..A child dying of hunger is just that..You can be sad about it or you can be motivated to do something about it..Both are different emotional responses..which one is “objective”?
    It is only because people do not understand that life IS neutral that situations like that can even occur.

  5. Objective and subjective reflect states of consciousness. I live in my everyday consciousness, I am subjective. If I surrender all that I am, objective consciousness manifests. If that is all, then yes perhaps it is possible to see it as a spiritual autism.

    But, beyond that, is love, pure love. Love too is a state of consciousness.

    Modern day philosophers appear to merely scratch away on the walls of their cells.

    1. Surrender, from what I have understood is a complete act that happens in one, surrender happens only when you start “seeing’. So after that there is no “you”.

      1. Subjectivity or objectivity don’t exist..there is just one state and the rest is illusion..since we all life in illusion it seems that there is another state:..The state of defining..If we see that state as such, the illusion starts dis-appearing..We all life in our own story..which is part of another story, which is part of another..etc.
        “you” is a definition and only exists by definition..There are no boundaries if you pay close attention..All is believe therefor all is choice..

  6. Well put! It’s a pleasure to interact with others who realize our present existence as Maya. Intersecting (subjective) stories is a great metaphor.

    Also, the concept that “you” only exist by definition is super.

    May all you readers of this blog created by Katinka Realize the great truths expressed in the above post by Gilbert!


  7. It is a conundrum. Of course, that’s where things like being “unattached to fortune” come into play. If you can tune into the “divine all” and be unattached to outward circumstances, you can go far. It’s probably very difficult if not impossible to do that if you are in say, a Nazi prison camp–but the question is how well you are able to stay mindful even in the midst of horror. Good blog by the way.

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