Do you think for yourself or do you go along with the masses?
What would be it be like to really follow your own head and heart, and reach your own conclusions about life and how it should be lived?
Today, one of the challenges the world faces is the rule of dogma.
I don’t just mean religious dogma, but also entrenched ways within society and also the corporate world about the “right” way of doing things. Often, the given way is seen as the only way for things to be -and therein lies the problem.
“Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from.” – Wikipedia
Whatever happened to free thinking?
The news channels constantly pump down our throats their biased interpretation of “news”. For example, have you noticed how good, positive news and feel good stories are usually added on at the end of news programmes, almost as a nuisance and an inconvenience?
At the same time, we are daily bombarded constantly by the media, brainwashing us about the latest must have gadgets and gizmos.
One of my ongoing gripes about the media is how a whole horde of weather reporters, and especially here in the UK, influence a whole nation’s mood by describing the weather forecast as “miserable” when the forecast is for rain or low temperatures. Since when did our planet’s weather system start suffering from negative emotions?
How dare weather reporters dictate to us how we should feel!
Remember that the weather is just weather.
Ok, end of my rant:-)
Though the internet has made the world more open and connected, at the same time the tyrants of dogma have also increased their noise and their reach.
What about your inherited culture and religious upbringing?
Just because you were brought up in a certain religion or culture, it doesn’t mean you have to go along with everything.
“Celebrate the culture you were born in, but don’t live your entire life by it” – Sadguru Vasudev
I was born into a family of Indian origin and was brought up as a Hindu.
Though I am proud of my cultural heritage and the values imbibed into me by my Hindu upbringing, it doesn’t mean I agree with many of Hinduism’s taboos, rituals and outdated rules.
There are many things I could rant about, but maybe I should simply save that for a future post :-).
Suffice to say that if I followed spiritual teachings which advocate that the world is going to end in say 2 years’ time, that would kind of take away my joy today!
So over the years, I have chosen the bits that still resonate with me and have reached my own set of spiritual (not religious) guidelines which I endeavour to live by.
How can you rise above the dogma and think for yourself?
Here’s how you can get clear about your own viewpoints:-
1. Make Time to Think and Reflect on the World
Surprisingly easy to do if you take time out to think and reflect about the world as you see it. Spend time in nature, go for long walks and just be.
Reflect on which beliefs still resonate with you and which ones you are ready to let go.
2. Read Widely
Become as well read as you can. If you read newspapers, then get a broader view by also reading other paper and not just your usual one. Learn to decipher the various political stances taken by different papers and see just how biased a lot of media reporting is.
Don’t limit your reading to just current news – also read about history and theological issues. Reflect and see what really resonates with you.
3. Follow the News from Around the World
Watch the news on television and online from around the world and not just your local and national stations.
You will be surprised and shocked just how widely disparate the same story is interpreted depending on the vested interests and the political stance of the broadcaster.
Watch investigative documentaries from respected channels to get the real core of what’s going on around the world today.
4. Surf the Net (within reason)
If like more and more people nowadays you read your news online then with a few clicks you can easily read widely diverse reports about the same story. And you can also watch videos almost instanteously after a story breaks.
The internet is great for expanding your knowledge and getting deeper insights, but word of caution – limit your surfing and don’t become an information junkie!
5. Meet Lots of Different People and Debate World Issues
To get deeper insights about the world, there is nothing better than meeting a diverse set of people face to face and engaging in conversation and debate.
Find out just what makes a person from another country, culture and religion tick. At the end of the day, you may even discover that we are all the same.
We all have the same aspirations, hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children. Reminds me of the song by the Police released at the height of the cold war – The Russians love their children too
Remember, people make the world go around.
6. Travel More to Diverse Countries
Take the opportunity to see the world and experience a different culture from the norm.
With the ease of air travel nowadays, the world is becoming a smaller place and this is also helping to break down stereotypical viewpoints of other cultures and religions.
Yet not many westerners actually travel that much – I read somewhere that most Americans don’t have a passport, and this probably applies to some other nations too.
At the same time, hugely increased air travel would compound our global warming challenges, so perhaps we should go easy on our international travel. Lets stick to the online world:-)
7. Join the Blogosphere Conversation
A great way of joining the dialogue and getting rid of dogma is to join the blogosphere.
There are countless top blogs where you can learn about our changing world and you can add your own viewpoint.
Why not create your own blog and also add your comments to other worthy blogs. Add to the conversation and the debate.
Help yourself and others see through the dogmas that currently hold our world back.
Break the Rules – Be a Maverick, Become a Top Dog
It’s time for you to become a top dog and a leader
“Without leaders, there are no followers. You are a leader. The world needs you” – Seth Godin
Ultimately, the world needs you to be your own person. Throw out the rule book, do something different, make waves.
The worlds needs more top dogs than ever before, not dogma.
Stop dreaming, become a top dog, shape up and go change the world in your vision.
Good post, Arvind. Got me thinking about a few things:
– Can dogma be right? How do we avoid becoming fashionable nonconformists who disagree simply to be different?
– When we join the blogosphere conversation, how do we avoid also joining the echo chamber, where people repeat each other without putting any real thought into the discussion?
– How open-minded are we towards viewpoints that are different from our own? I mean, it’s easy to -say- we’re open-minded, but do we really give full consideration to ideas that make us angry or disgusted? Politics is a great example of this. How do we avoid becoming dogmatic in our own beliefs?
Jeffrey, you always seem to add your valued comments literally minutes after the post has gone up. How do you do it?!
You have brought up some great points, worthy of replying in detail.I have numbered my replies 1,2 and 3 in line with your 3 questions above.
1. – Can dogma be right? How do we avoid becoming fashionable nonconformists who disagree simply to be different?
I have met such people who disagree simply to be different. Quite often, though at times annoying, they have added to the debate and brought me greater insights. So it’s sometimes good to be provocative and to play the devil’s advocate.
As for whether or not dogma is right, it really depends on which side of the fence you stand. Ultimately only you can decide for yourself. One gauge could be whether you are pitting yourself against the world or not. Or just check into your own intuition and see what feels right.
Sometimes logic and common intelligence goes out of the window when dogma is so strong. Examples are the scientists like Galileo who were ridiculed for stating that the world was round and the earth was not the centre of the universe.
2. – When we join the blogosphere conversation, how do we avoid also joining the echo chamber, where people repeat each other without putting any real thought into the discussion?
Yes, this is a real challenge where bloggers add little real value with their comments. So I would suggest that we should only add comments where we develop the conversation further and enrich the discussion.
At the same time, sometimes a blogger does simply need his guests to affirm his viewpoint.
By all means lets discuss and debate but lets also make it sensible, friendly and constructive.
3. – How open-minded are we towards viewpoints that are different from our own? I mean, it’s easy to -say- we’re open-minded, but do we really give full consideration to ideas that make us angry or disgusted? Politics is a great example of this. How do we avoid becoming dogmatic in our own beliefs?
It is indeed very easy to get entrenched in our own dogma! For instance, I have written above in my post about how over the years I had chosen the bits I liked about the religion (Hinduism) that I was born into and kind of discarded many bits that didn’t resonate with me.
So how can I be sure I am not now being dogmatic myself? The difference is that though I live my life by my own viewpoints, I am not basing my whole life around them and I am not going around preaching my dogma.
(Or maybe I am via my blog!)
I think the key is to understand the viewpoints of others as being just as valid as your own – you don’t necessarily have to agree with others or accept their viewpoint but be willing to accept their entitlement to have differing viewpoints to yours.
So be genuinely open minded to other people’s ideas of the world – and maybe you may even change your own stance. Actually “stance” is probably the wrong word to use in this context as it implies being entrenched, which has tones of being dogmatic.
In summary I would say accept other viewpoints, respect them and be open to changing your thoughts.
Thanks Jeffrey for your pertinent questions. Now that’s what I call adding value and taking the conversation to a new level!
PS Jeffrey, congratulations also for eliciting the longest ever reply from me in response to a comment on my blog:-)
This topic is powerful. I feel if we choose to follow some of our traditional enculturation, that can be freedom. But if we follow blindly, another story altogether. Individuality to me equates with freedom – and I believe it is one of the most powerful forces next to water, food, and sex.
Clearly, there is an inherent urge – and a strong one – in humans to be free to think and believe as we choose. People die for this every day!
I try to recognize that there are some beliefs and thoughts that I hold out of habit, rather than through self-examination. Since I don’t adhere to a particular religion or political party, I feel like I’m quite open about life. Then I notice myself tenaciously holding onto a position and think…oh my, there it is…I’m being dogmatic. No,not me!
Growing is great, though.
I like your recommendations. Traveling never fails to open my eyes further. And watching the news in other countries is downright mind-boggling, as you say!
Gee, life sure is good!
Lauren, yes life sure is good!
It seems that we constantly need to be on the alert so that our viewpoints don’t become entrenched and we don’t become “dogmatic” in our own eyes.
Live and let live seems to be the order of the day – as long as our own individual freedom is not curtailed, which is thankfully the case for us most of the time in the West. It does make you wonder though how people cope with other countries where dogma is is prevalent.
I sure miss you around GSTC. We have lost so many writers, readers and commenters.
Anyway, as usual, I really liked this post. And, I’ve always seemed to follow all of these except for meeting and traveling which I would love to do. I meet when I can, but traveling takes a bit of money. I also notice that as I age that my “dogma” changes because I am open to contemplating other points of view. I like the blogosphere becaue it is one way that I get to find out more about different cultures, thinking and other view points.
Welcome back here CC. I hope you are doing well on the health front:-)
As for Go! Smell The Coffee, it felt like the right time to move on and focus on other projects and especially on my own blog. That way I get to spread my own message and find my voice again.
I am glad you are stil lactive in the blogosphere – it is a fabulous thing that will bring more people together and create greater awareness of each other, ultimately getting rid of insidious dogmas.
In medias res!! 🙂
Media is dogma, universities are dogma, science is dogma, everything can be dogma!
The heart of my life philosophy is exploring! To be explorer of the world and life! Don’t close your self in the box, we don’t need to feel save, that’s only illusion! More diversity -the better! That’s the only way we can feel abundance of this universe and life!
Bravo, Arvind! 🙂
Maja, what a refreshing approach to life!
Everything can indeed be dogma – it is up to us to be open to more diversity and opportunities. Bravo to more abundance!
I also take comfort in knowing that no matter what dogma I or anyone else falls into that the truth shall remain what it is. Even if I never have a way to fully discern it without bias I trust that what is simply is, and that is good. I have to remind myself of this before I get caught up in being upset about the many harmful mindsets and dogmas of this world.
Justin, that’s an excellent insight – the truth will indeed prevail, no matter how tainted it gets by various dogmas.
Of course the challenge arises when any one party claims its “truth” is THE truth. The only way around this is to accept what other people believe in, and believe yourself what feels right to you.
Brilliant post, Arvind. Really enjoyed reading that and have sent it to many others. Good to see like minded people out there 🙂
Thanks Cali for your kind words and for spreading the message.
I am glad I am not the only one who thinks like this!
Yes, I have read some chilling accounts regarding cultures where the most basic freedoms are lacking. While I recognize the limitations in our system, I am exceedingly grateful for the freedoms we have.
Lauren, yes some cultures are very different from ours. We can only be grateful for what freedoms we have – and perhaps help others where possible and of course when appropriate.
I like the way you have introduced this topic of dogma … I think you find, as I am finding, that the more we connect with our own source of wisdom the more we are able to easily weed out dogma and other non-truths.
And on a lighter note … I had to laugh at your weather report comments. When I first moved to New Zealand I noticed the weather commentators would often say it was going to be a “fine” day. Being from California, I thought that meant the sun would be shining and the skies would be blue. I finally came to realise that ‘fine’ meant it wasn’t going to rain!! 🙂 Your comment made me realise that the Kiwis have a positive spin on the weather!
Thanks for another great post, Arvind.
All the best
Lisa, thanks for your kind words.
Funny how the word “fine” when used in a weather context means so many different things. The Kiwis have a great way of looking at the weather – I must say here in the UK, our weather is almost an institution with everyone contstantly talking about it. Oops, there I go again!
More importantly, as you say the more we connect with our inherent inner wisdom, the most more we can weed out the dross and the dogma.
The egoic mind always find something to cling to. When we can be unmoored from even our most cherished beliefs, that is liberation. One of my favorite quotations is Seng T’san’s “Do not seek Truth; only cease to cherish opinion.”
Great post. Thanks!
Thanks Kaushik for sharing that wonderful quote:-
“Do not seek Truth; only cease to cherish opinion.”
We are all taught to seek the truth, but get entrenched in our own opinions and believe that to be the truth. Many a war has been started as a result.
Now if only Bush and Blair had not been of the opinion that Sadam Hussain had weapons of mass disctruction…
Arvind – wonderful post. The world needs free thinkers like you. It is so easy to get trapped in the conventions of the world and lose track of what you really believe. I know that for a long time i struggled to define my position in the world and my beliefs. I like your advice about blogging and writing it all down, then exploring the other ideas out there. I think that we have to stay open minded as we take positions. The Dalai Lama is a great example – he removes age old Buddhist doctrine if it is shown to be false by modern knowledge and science. Incredible lack of dogmatism. Thank you so much,
Phil, thanks for sharing your insights about the Dalai Lama – it helps to be pragmatic when faced with overwhelming odds.
I do find it strange that many religions and belief systems still hold on to their age old ethos whereas science has shown their beliefs to be just middle-aged superstition and worse.
Let’s be openminded in our quest for our truth – but at the same time, be honest and flexible enough to let go of our outdated beliefs and viewpoints, when logic and intelligence dictates otherwise.
Wow, Arvind, that was a passionate post!
I agree with you about the media dictating how we should feel and think. This is the reason why I do not watch TV (I watch only sports events or interesting movies) and I get all my news online where I can pick my own sources of information that do not dictate any opinion.
You are definitely a good example of what a free speaking person with a strong opinion can be.
I think that living in different cultures, traveling and accepting more than one vision of any news or rules is the best way to create your own opinion and tp break free from the old and boring traditions, habits and dogmas.
Anastasiya, yes it was a passionate post – and I meant every word of it!
Well, almost every word, apart from the bit about going to the gym in the doggy image at the bottom of the post:-)
Excellent idea not to watch TV – I got rid of my TV set over 2 years ago and friends are still puzzled how I cope with life!
The hardest bit was actually convincing the TV license people that I didn’t have a TV anymore. As you may know, here in the UK people with TV sets have to pay an annual fee for the privilege – this is what funds the BBC.
I too get my news online from selective sources – and ironically a lot from the BBC website, which I believe to be one of the most comprehensive and possibly also the least biased – check out more here http://www.BBC.co.uk
As for being free-thinking, it is a matter of giving yourself timeout to reflect on your own viewppints and realising that there is more than one way of looking at the world. Your viewpoint is just your opinion and others are entitled to theirs – the challenge, as I have said above, is to prevent your viewpoint being hijacked by dogma and less free-thinking people.
Arvind, another inspirational post, thank you. Your seven pointers on becoming clearer about our own inner voice are excellent. I also liked your gripe about weather reporting. Yes, weather is just weather, and it is amazing how our response changes when we accept weather for what it is, without judgement. Weather is one of the intelligent ways our wonderful planet self-regulates and self-adjusts in a continual effort to maintain conditions that sustain life on Earth. Life includes you and me, and we can simply and deeply be grateful for this natural support.
As you so eloquently expressed, dogma results when thinking and beliefs are imposed from the outside – on to us by others, and when we impose our thinking and beliefs on others. Yet I also think that dogma is very comfortable for a great many people because it eliminates the need for personal viewpoint or any type of inner self work. Dogma offers a framework that becomes an easy way out of truly engaging with with your own life.
I agree with one of your key insights about being “genuinely open-minded.” Becoming genuine is itself one way to recognize what is dogma or what is dogmatic, especially within oneself.
Thank you again – Catrien Ross.
Catrien, good to meet yet another person who agrees with my stance over weather reporting.
I hadn’t actually considered that some people may welcome dogma as it eliminates the need for developing a personal viewpoint or any type of inner self work. In other words, they no longer have to think for themselves.
That way of being seems rather alien to me, but I can see how for many people dogma offers an easy way out. This also explains why many religious teachers and charismatic leaders have been able to control and manipulate large groups of people.
And yes time for us to be genuinely open-minded. I know I am personally quite set in many ways and it is time for me to reflect more deeply and distinguish between what’s dogmatic within myself.