Sunday, January 3, 2016

Knowing and Doing


There are basically 2 questions you can ask about things :
  • What can I do with this  ?
  • How does this work ? (How is it built)

As far as survival is involved, "What can I do with this" is better than "How does this work?"

You can drive a car without having any idea how it works. However, if you have a mechanical problem in the middle of the desert, it maybe handy to know how to disconnect the thermostat to make sure the fan stays on and keep cooling the engine (trust me on that one, personal experience...)




So again, it is interesting to know both about things, 

  • what you can do with them, and 
  • how they are built and work, 


And this is true for every domain. If someone comes at you and you find a stick, it is a good idea to whack them with that stick, without trying to have the perfect stance and style. You have no need to know exactly how to fight with a stick: just whack them quickly and strongly.  



If later on more people get in the habit of coming at you, it could be a good idea to learn how to use your stick more efficiently. That is what martial arts are about.


Now in Buddhism, we have a number of teachings. They are meant to be USED. If you try to understand them before you practice, you'll be in the situation of a guy who having been shot with a poisoned arrow wants to know everything about who shot it and the kind of material used to make the arrow, the bow and the string before pulling the arrow out of his thigh. Basically the guy would die before he'd know the answers to these questions. 



This story was told by the Buddha 2500 years ago,  and was recorded in the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta.

"It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him."

In the West, we love to understand everything before we act. At times, it is a good idea, but not always. 

Intellectual analysis sometimes delays or even prevents actual experience.

Don't waste your time, Practice...





 

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