Monday, December 30, 2013

Which Bias To Take

Lord Krishna“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

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Bhagavad-gita, 15.15“I don’t like too much editorializing in my news coverage. Just give me the facts. Don’t have a bias, please. I don’t want your opinion on what happened in Washington. I don’t want to hear why certain politicians are bad. I don’t want to hear your stance on a particular issue. Keep these things to yourself at least during the news portion of your coverage. If I want opinions, I will go to the editorial page. There at least your bias is clear. Then I can judge things accordingly.”

NYT editorial pageThis sentiment is popular enough to warrant a separate section for opinion in newspapers and on news websites. In dissecting the matter further, however, we see that there is no such thing as objective journalism. The concept cannot exist for the mere fact that billions of events take place on a daily basis. Even if the focus is limited to the realm of politics, sports, weather, current events, health and lifestyle, there is too much going on every day to report on. Therefore bias exists in the very choice of the stories themselves.

For instance, today we see a story on a new technological gadget. There are already so many gadgets in the marketplace. The company releasing the gadget obviously wants their product covered in the news. The person reporting on the release will be favorable or unfavorable to it. Depending on their opinion, they will choose to highlight certain features and omit others. The same goes for the latest hot-button issue in the nation’s capital. There is filtering, especially in news segments that are limited by time. The journalist votes as well. They have an idea on how government should act. Therefore they will choose which arguments to present and which ones to mask. Indeed, they may be so steeped in their position that they don’t even cover the other side of the story.

Steve Jobs presenting iPhoneNews is a business after all. Their business is presentation, which is no different than what the salesman does with their business plan or product presentation. If you’re getting a pitch from a salesman, you know they are biased. You know that they want you to invest in their idea. The same holds true for the news, as they often have the action line set up going in. They then choose those stories which fit their action line. “Never let facts get in the way of a good story,” is how the famous saying goes. If the journalist has an agenda to uphold, facts aren’t always helpful.

As there is bias in all presentation, the question then becomes whose bias to choose. Which person has the ideas that are the best to follow? An easy way to judge is to see which bias benefits the most people. The news anchorperson in favor of pushing a certain health product obviously has a limited scope of interest. Their organization may have the manufacturing company as a sponsor, and therefore promoting that particular product helps their bottom line. The self-help guru wants to sell books. The politician wants to get elected and stay in office so that they can distribute the hard-earned money of the tax-payers to citizens who will then vote for them. Even the religious leader has an interest; they want others to join their institution.

Choosing a pathThe saints of the bhakti tradition can also be thrown into the discussion, for they have a bias as well. Their goal is to make everyone happy. That’s easy for any person to say, but how do we test the claim? Well, how is it that one becomes happy? Is it through earning a lot of money? Is it through marrying the person of their dreams? Is it through raising a family? Is it through playing a particular sport on a professional level? Is it through enjoying succulent food dishes and intoxicants?

In studying those who have experienced such things, we see that the achievements themselves don’t bring lasting happiness. The romance quickly fades in a marriage if focus is lacking. The children eventually leave the home. Food and drink cause so much pain, first physically and then mentally. Gambling and sports are in the mode of passion, which leads to a neutral result. The memory of the championship victory is quickly erased when the next season starts. The same goes for the devastating defeat.

Bhagavad-gita, 14.7“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.7)

The saints of the bhakti tradition say that everyone is happiest when serving God. Not that one necessarily has to join a particular institution, becoming a sworn defender to it. Not that one has to always chastise others who are not loving God for their sinful ways. Service to God is known as bhakti-yoga, and it has nine basic implementations. Any or all suffice for bhakti, which is also known as divine love.

The saints of the bhakti tradition say that all varieties of love and affection are derived from the natural desire to love God. In simpler terms, bhakti is at everyone’s core, but in the present circumstances most don’t know it. Therefore they try to love everything else, all the while not knowing that their desire to love stems from their inherent link to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is seen that even the hardest heart can be melted by the pet dog in the home. There is no other reason to get a pet other than to offer love. That same affection is meant for God, and when it is offered to Him the love naturally extends to others, even to so-called enemies.

Six Gosvamis of VrindavanaThe saints of the bhakti tradition do not want money. They believe so much in the happiness that devotional service brings that they dedicate all of their efforts towards getting others to practice it. This sometimes means even giving up everything for others. The famous bhakti saints of the past lived on practically nothing. They voluntarily became homeless, jobless, and penniless in order to strengthen their religious practice and help others in the process.

It’s difficult to be envious of someone who lives underneath a tree and wears torn rags for clothing. It’s hard to have hatred for someone who has not a penny to their name. It’s difficult to find fault with someone who has no desire for money, fame, women, or enjoyment. The heart then completely melts when seeing the dedication these saints show in helping others to find bhakti-yoga.

These saints are biased for sure, and their favor is for the Supreme Lord, who is within everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. Only with bhakti-yoga does that supreme soul become visible, revealing its transcendental features to be contemplated on, remembered, worshiped and served. Only in bhakti-yoga does such a form have accompanying names which can be sung and glorified without end: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Bias in news I don’t like,

Keep your opinions out of my sight.

 

Just describe the events straight,

Your opinion for the editorial page wait.

 

But in truth with bias all to live,

Filtering facts the news they give.

 

Issue then of which bias to take,

Which interest happy all to make?

 

Bhakti saints bias for God maintain,

Know that devotion life’s highest gain.

 

In full humility transcendental light to spread,

For real benefit choose their bias instead.

www.krishnasmercy.org