There is a place for tradition. There is a place for authenticity.
On one side, there is tradition. On the other, there is authenticity. During several moments in our lives, they form relatively opposite poles within the framework of our minds and cause confusion in taking key decisions.
Tradition is inculcated and strengthened on the base of reliance of our minds on memory. Knowledge and behavior that is passed down to us through generations using our reliance on memory is tradition. What forms tradition can be different from region to region; race to race. Traditions create cultures; sets of human beings that follow similar beliefs, customs and behaviors. Traditions create a comfort zone of existence for its community; encouraging certain behaviors and discouraging others. Not just behavior, tradition passes along subtler aspects of preferences, values, traits and even deep-rooted concepts such as motives. In a way, one can safely say that tradition is the cause of much of human life and its behaviors today. What we do, we do by rote – by accessing our memories and simply playing out what our previous generations have done in similar situations.
Authenticity is a different paradigm from tradition in terms of the parts of the brain and mind that are accessed to express it. While tradition relies on memory, authenticity relies on being in the moment. Authenticity would tell you that it is unfair to treat people differently based on their differing traditions (ex: unfair for places of worship to treat people differently based on their backgrounds). Authenticity would implore you to treat your domestic help with respect and compassion. Authenticity would remove barriers to your expression to create an environment of freedom in you. Authenticity would make you perform acts of compassion, kindness and love that encompass humanity.
Tradition and Authenticity have useful roles in our lives vis-à-vis our societies and our own individual development. They have specific places where they can be called to use.
Knowledge of tradition, cultures and customs allow us to live in relative harmony with the world around us. However, tradition can also be overpowering and restrictive. The more traditional we are, the greater the chance of us repeating what our parents; and their parents, experienced. When we are faced with challenging situations, we often unconsciously take the route that our previous generations took; we end up in the same situation as they did. Tradition is a powerful system of network for our minds and our minds tend to take easier predefined routes. We land in places that are already familiar and repeat the sufferings of the past.
The more authentic we are, the greater our chances of experiencing peace and ease. Authenticity would require greater present-moment processing while relying much lesser on memory. To be authentic requires tremendous mind training and deep introspection. With consistent meditation (insight meditation or vipassana), authenticity starts showing up in our lives more often. As the mind learns to be calm and observant of itself and the world around it, you develop the capacity to clearly separate what you have learnt from traditional knowledge from what you have learnt authentically through your own experience.
When you take decisions from the place of tradition, you experience a feeling of being in a safety net and its associated burdens. When you take decisions from the place of authenticity, you experience freedom and unburdening.