We have come to a point in history where knowledge has never been as easily accessible as now. Through the Internet’s search engines, all human knowledge is literally available at our fingertips. But at the same time, it has never been more difficult than now to think for ourselves.
We constantly live in an unimaginable noise of information that constantly tries to capture our interest and make us think, feel and react in a certain direction. Already in 2007, according to an article in the New York Times, we were every day flooded by more than 5,000 commercial messages, a figure that has undoubtedly risen significantly since then.
But we are not only reached by advertisements for what we should consume, we are also influenced by a number of different opinion makers, ranging from sports commentators to cultural reviewers and “influencers” on the various social networks telling us what to think. The music we are listening to is suggested by playlists on Spotify, we are much influenced by others depending on which “Internet bubble” we happened to end up in, and in addition we are bombarded by disinformation from Russian and other troll factories.
A special hoard of salespersons is all the politicians who want to dupe us into believing that their solutions is the only way to economic growth, security and a happy society. Even in our spiritual quest, there are truths that we are expected to uncritically swallow. Both the Bible and the Quran claim to represent a divine knowledge which therefore cannot (at least in its foundations) be questioned, and countless are the new age gurus who have pre-packaged solutions to all the world’s human problems.
All this huge mass of information has made us increasingly reactive instead of creative, and in this whole noise it is very few that say “Stop, don’t buy all this! Instead, sit down and listen to your own inner whispering voice what is true and right for you”.
When I was first attracted to Buddhism at a deeper level, one of the decisive factors for me to choose this path was precisely this call to question everything and to critically think for myself. One of Buddhism’s foremost principles is the importance of understanding how everything really is and this is not something presented as ready-made package solutions or dogma that is true just because someone else said it is so.
The Buddha has emphasized the importance of never believing in anything solely because someone else has said so. Instead, he urged his followers to critically test everything he taught in the same way as a goldsmith tests if it really is gold he works with. And only if the doctrine proves to yield the results that it promised, should it be accepted. Through the meditation, we also have an effective tool to put out the noise of impressions and thoughts which is a necessity to find the inner whispering voice that gives us real insight.