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The Intellect...

ShoshinShoshin No one in particularNowhere Special Veteran
edited January 2019 in General Banter

There's no getting away from the fact that one's intellect is helpful for when navigating the Dharma...

However a friend's Dharma teacher once said "Beware of the unhappy Buddhists, they are not really practicing...just being intellectual"

It would seem that if it is over used, it then becomes a burden...(possibly for some their worst nightmare...where they habitually overthink every think ...pun intended)...

I know of people who are whizzes when it comes to discussing the suttas... their knowledge is overwhelming, they can explain things in fine details.... but in their everyday life they continually struggle, they get angry, sad, anxious, depressed... ...Having all this intellectual knowledge/understanding is like collecting heaps of fire wood for the cold winter months, but have no means of lighting it to keep, experiential knowledge/understanding....

I'm no intellectual ( some people tend to run rings around me with words which leave me at a loss... in fact I admire their intellectual understanding of things...I must admit at times I'm even a little jealous ...but I also have compassion for them and their struggle to cope when crises hit it often does ) ...

As time goes on I am beginning to learn how to use my intellect tool to pry open the mind so awareness can go inside to release intuition which is waiting patiently ...However at times the intellect tries ( as it often does) to go beyond the call of duty ie as a useful tool for jimmying open the mind and instead it just can't help itself and also wants to peek inside.....Curiosity killed the cat...

Which brings me to this quote (I think it was from one of Christmas Humphreys books on Zen Buddhism)

"When the intellect ventures into where it does not belong, it becomes lost in it's own confusion !"

The essence of Zen is attempting to understand the meaning of life directly, without being misled by logical thought or language

How often have your thoughts gone round & round in cycles.....and when they finally stop( you drop your thoughts) you have a Eureka Moment (where things fall into place) ....which is beyond words/thoughts....AKA the intellect....

I guess like everything else on the Path...everything in moderation AKA the middle way :)



  • Enlightenment is unreasonable.

    Reason will only take you to the gentle slopes to circle around ...

    “Western society has in the past few decades taken a great step forward, which gives its members a perhaps unparalleled opportunity. This has been due to the final recognition of the way in which people can be (and are) conditioned to believe virtually anything. Although this knowledge existed earlier, it was confined to a few, and was taught to relatively small groups, because it was considered subversive. Once, however, the paradox of change of 'faith' began to disturb Western scientists in the Korean war, they were not long in explaining - even in replicating - the phenomenon. As with so many other discoveries, this one had to wait for its acceptance until there was no other explanation. Hence, work which Western scientists could have done a century or more earlier was delayed.
    Still, better late than never. What remains to be done is that the general public should absorb the facts of mind-manipulation. Failure to do so has resulted in an almost free field for the cults which are a bane of Western existence. In both East and West, the slowness of absorption of these facts has allowed narrow, political, religious and faddish fanaticism to arise, to grow and to spread without the necessary 'immunization'. In illiberal societies it is forbidden to teach these facts. In liberal ones, few people are interested: but only because mind-manipulation is assumed to be something that happens to someone else, and people are selfish in many ways, though charitable in others. Yet the reality is that most people are touched by one or other of an immense range of conditioned beliefs, fixations, even which take the place of truth and are even respected because 'so-and-so is at least sincere.'
    Naturally such mental sets are not to be opposed. Indeed they thrive on opposition. They have to be explained and contained. The foregoing remarks will not 'become the property' of the individual or the group on a single reading. An unfamiliar and previously untaught lesson, especially when it claims careful attention and remembering, will always take time to sink in. This presentation, therefore, forms a part of materials which need to be reviewed at intervals. Doing this should enable one to add a little ability and to receive a minute quality of understanding each time.”

    ― Idries Shah, Knowing How to Know: A Practical Philosophy in the Sufi Tradition

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Very true @Shoshin the intellect can only do so much, who was it who said that ‘the intellectual is less likely to gain enlightenment than a rich man is to pass through the eye of a needle.’ Perhaps it was me :awesome:

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    When it comes to the intellect, my money is on Swami Vivekananda who once wrote, "The mind [he meant intellect] is a good servant and a poor master."

    And, perhaps the free-floating suggestion, "beware the sage."

    None of this is a joke, therefore we might as well laugh.

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    My wife has often said - if it's not funny it's not true. I've never quite gotten my mind around that one, but I'm still working on it.

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    I am the last person who should have anything to say about the perils of intellectual excess in spiritual matters. If anything, I may represent the opposite extreme - out of all my reading, I generally remember only the gist of what was written, and forget the source, the chapter and the verse - hence I can speak of my own practice but can defend nothing and advise no one.

    How has this worked out? At 75 years old, still at least one foot plus a couple of toes in the mud of samsara, so far as I can tell. But intellection is a necessary part of practice, and the trick is to balance it, and to recognize that balance is needed and has to be worked for.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    My wife has often said - if it's not funny it's not true.

    @Fosdick -- I like your wife.

  • However a friend's Dharma teacher once said "Beware of the unhappy Buddhists, they are not really practicing...just being intellectual"

    Dharma makes us happy. Otherwise just theory, not practice.

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