As a Buddhism student at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, one of my favorite topics of study was the Two Truths Doctrine.
The precise interpretation differs between different schools of Buddhism, but the general idea is one that applies very nicely to investing commentary as well.
In simple terms, the first truth is conventional truth or “smvrti.” Smvrti describes the subjective experience of being that is gleaned through our senses, thoughts, and emotions. The second truth is the ultimate truth known as paramartha. Paramartha describes the inherent emptiness of the phenomena we can experience through our senses, thoughts and emotions.
I love Ram Tzu’s teaching about this second truth:
“The Truth cannot be known
In the way you think of knowledge
It does not make sense
It functions in a realm
Closed to the mind
The first utterance about Truth
Is the first step
Down the path of deceit
In fact –
These very words are
But another turd
On the dung heap
Of what passes for Truth”
Most investment commentary I read is like those turds on the proverbial dung heap. What passes for truth in the mainstream financial media can only ever be an inaccurate and incomplete picture of reality. They tell us stories that serve only the teller of the tale, and they claim knowledge of the ultimate truth – a truth they can’t possibly grasp.