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Knowledgeable people

KeromeKerome Certainty is the enemy of wonderThe Continent Veteran
edited July 2020 in Buddhism Today

I came across this...

You and I know many people who have memorized books by Nisargadatta, Ramana Maharshi, and by others, and who can recite these books backward and forward. But the first person who bumps into them, they become angry. As soon as they hear they are going to lose their job, they start crying and they get worried. It appears that books are doing them good only when things are going their way. Then they can quote from the books. But as soon as their world tumbles down on them, they throw the books away. And they do not believe a word they read. Until things start improving, then they buy more books. (laughter) Then something happens to them, and they fling the book across the room and say, "This is nonsense!" But then it gets better again, and they go out and buy another book. And it goes on and on like this. I'm probably talking about some of you. When will you grow up?

It's only what you experience that matters to you. It's not what you read. So what if you learn a truth you haven't learned before. So what if you say this teacher expresses it this way, and now I know it from this angle and that angle. I must remind you again. Knowing truth intellectually does abso­lutely nothing for you. You might as well take LSD. Because you only get psyched up. Then again, as soon as something comes your way that you don't like, you become an imbecile, angry, mad, upset. You want to know if you're making progress on the path? When was the last time you got angry? When was the last time that something mattered to you? When was the last time you thought the world was hurting you? When was the last time you became over-elated over something good that happened to you? That shows you you're still in possession of your human faculties. You have not transcended.

You cannot escape in a book. Many people, when they are upset and they don't want to think, will turn on the TV. But people on the spiritual path will open a spiritual book. It's like turning on the TV, except you are memorizing spiritual truths. I won't say that that's not any better than TV. Of course it's better than watching TV. But all the same, you can do that for a thousand years and you hardly make any progress. How do you make progress? By using books for reference only. By practicing the methods I share with you. By practicing Self­ inquiry. By watching as you go through life's experiences and not reacting. Watching yourself become depressed. Watching yourself become angry. Do not deny it, but observe it. And if you observe yourself correctly in that calm way, you can ask yourself, "Who becomes angry? Who is feeling depressed?" And follow it through. Do this over and over and over again, as many times as you have to. One day, the anger will leave you, the depressions will leave you, your thoughts will leave you. And you'll just BE.

Its from the book Silence of the Heart by the Advaita teacher Robert Adams, but it could just as easily apply to any number of students of Buddhism. It is very easy to get caught up in knowledge, to think that by reading you have reached true understanding, but in fact it’s in practice and also in interaction with a teacher that things go deeper, that you get to a lived experience.

It was kind of a reflection on my past five years as a Buddhist heretic when I considered this passage, I have spent a lot of time in books and on websites, looking into the basics of Buddhism and always finding some good nuggets. A teacher and a real life sangha have eluded me, but you can still make significant progress in this way as long as you put into practice what you learn, I wouldn’t blame anyone for following this path. And it does allow you a lot of freedom in choosing teachings to absorb.



  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    In the western study of knowledge (epistemology) they make a distinction between declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge. Something similar to what the passage is talking about, like reading about how to ride a bike and actually knowing how to ride a bike.

    Spiritual knowledge is meant primarily to be procedural. Its benefit lies in knowing how to do the things it says not in it being purely intellectual.

    There's an analogy Mattieu Ricard uses when talking about the Tibetan practice of analytical meditation, where you contemplate on a topic until a bodily feeling arises about it, similar to metta practice, then one switches to a concentration meditation to let it soak in. The analogy he uses is that of a potted plant, intellectual learning is like watering the plant but then tipping the plant over and letting the water spill out before it has a chance to soak in.

    I'll also add that I think declarative knowledge is important if you want to teach others, but procedural knowledge is important if you want to guide others. For example, the Tibetan temple I attended for a while had an ex eastern religions professor teach once a month. He has very versed and interesting on the subjects he would teach, one day a visitor came while she was in town and wanted to ask him for some personal guidance, he just said he's not really that kind of a teacher.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited July 2020

    Knowledgeable people


    Knowledge without experiential understanding, can be liken to one diligently collects heaps of firewood to keep oneself warm on a cold winter's night, but not having the means aka know how to light the fire ....and benefit from its warmth....

    "Have you gota light boy"

  • I am easily confused by what I Know. However 'Don't Know How' is empty of form. My primary teacher (me) I wouldn't trust even if me exists beyond fantasy grabbings ...

    Should we be kind to a self that originates from dependents? Always - kindness is Real.

  • KeromeKerome Certainty is the enemy of wonder The Continent Veteran

    While it is true that knowledgeable people can be a boon for a community, sometimes you will find one who will try to beat you over the head with his knowledge... this must be a succesful strategy because the whole university system is based on it.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    A knowledge that is held as a possession, is at best, compromised, whereas a knowledge that transcends self is at least possible to be selflessly known.
    a knowledge that is limited to the understanding of either the mind or the body alone, remains a knowledge that has not yet been fully digested.

  • When will you grow up?

    Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
    Psalm 131:2

    or in Buddhist terms ...


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