IIT Kanpur: Is there anything called universal truth or universal beauty?

Acharya Prashant
8 min readJun 12, 2022

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Questioner (Q): If positive and negative, good and bad, beauty and ugliness are all a matter of personal perspective, then can universal positivity, universal goodness, or universal beauty exist? If it is the majority that decides, then is the majority the judge of the deeds to be done by one in a communal setting? Or is it better for an individual to believe in oneself and proceed with his own beliefs?

Acharya Prashant (AP): That which you call a personal perspective obviously belongs to the person, right? And as you have pointed out, the person is a bundle of conditioning; the perspective of the person comes from his illusions. Don’t you see that that which you think of as good for yourself so frequently turns out to be harmful? That which appears beautiful right now probably is merely a shadow of the ugly. But we have a lot of confidence in our beliefs. We say, “I think of something in a particular way, therefore that thing is the way I look at it.”

Now, what is it that you call universal positivity or goodness or beauty? Probably you mean to say that if a lot of people agree, that if they have a shared belief that something is good or beautiful or positive, then that something can be called universally good or beautiful. Not really. If it is our conditioning that leads to our perspectives, if it is our conditioning that leads us to believe in our sets of good and bad, high and low, fair and unfair, profitable and unprofitable, vice and virtue, then what would be good for all human beings would simply be freedom from this conditioning, right?

So, conditioned, the person believes, “This is good, this is bad.” And whether he takes something as good or bad, the fact remains that his choice is coming from his conditioning, and therefore his decisions or his experience or his opinions of good-bad, right-wrong, etc., are all deluded. Think of a drunkard. He says something is very good for him, then he says something is very bad for him — how does it matter? The fact remains that the person behind the assertion — the choice is not quite free to choose — does not quite have the clarity to decide.

Acharya Prashant