This might well be at the centre of my progress. I agree with Tan Ajaan that life is learning what is what, and once we know the true nature of things we know how to act appropriately. Knowledge is part of what is what, but we need to be specific about the type of knowledge. I find it easy to accept that learning maths is not part of what is what, but is that true? How do we decide?
There are 3 characteristics, anicca dukkha and anatta.
Maths is important in my life, it earned my income and has paid for my fortunate retirement – apart from inheritance. But has the sine rule got anything to do with enlightenment? Is it an eternal law? In some ways it is. Does it help spiritually? In the sense that it has provided me with the income to study then it is spiritual.
What I thought was easy turns out to be hard.
So what about the knowledge that really concerns me? Knowledge of daily life, what might be termed political knowledge? How important is the knowledge of the 1%? How important is the knowledge of economics such as fiat money? In the recent case with Walter how important is it to know that economic laws do not apply such as the case of the US hedge funds who bought dodgy Argentine investment and then when those investments proved difficult to claim the US government backed them. Free Trade? The hedge fund threatened financial instability in the US so the government has forced the Argentine government to pay up, and therefore not pay their own people. I am guessing this follows on from the financial collapse of early 2000’s and horizontalidad and “The Take”.
How much political learning must I have? And how much spiritual? Is political learning simply attachment to the temporary? I suspect many Buddhist monks in cloisters would say it is attachment but are they right to withdraw from politics when politics causes such suffering? What is compassion but the removal of suffering for all? A better political system would provide the groundwork for the removal of suffering but even pure anarchy would not be a good system if people do not control their desires – 4 Noble Truths.
This was all sparked by Tan Ajaan in the Handbook [p29 of pdf] “We may be sure that once that perfect knowledge has been attained, craving will be completely destroyed by it, because ignorance will cease to be in the very same moment that knowledge arises. Every aspect of Buddhist practice is designed to bring knowledge. Your whole purpose in setting your mind on the way of practice that will penetrate to Buddha-Dhamma is simply to gain knowledge. Only, do let it be right knowledge, knowledge attained through clear insight, not worldly knowledge, partial knowledge, halfway knowledge, which for example clumsily mistakes bad for good, and a source of suffering for a source of happiness. Do try your utmost to look at things in terms of suffering, and so come to know, gradually, step by step. Knowledge so gained will be Buddhist knowledge based on sound Buddhist principles. Studying by this method, even a woodcutter without book learning will be able to penetrate to the essence of Buddhism, while a religious scholar with several degrees, who is completely absorbed in studying the Tipitaka but doesn’t look at things from this point of view, may not penetrate the teaching at all. Those of us who have some intelligence should be capable of investigating and examining things and coming to know their true nature. Each thing we come across we must study, in order to understand clearly its true nature. And we must understand the nature and the source of the suffering which produces, and which sets us alight and scorches us.”
Tan Ajaan appears to warn against worldly knowledge yet says knowledge ought to alleviate suffering; this is so hard.
To know what is what, that is the meaning of life – learning. But what is what? That is the meaning of right knowledge. Is the only right knowledge insight? It is not the words or dogma of the 4NT that matters, it is the right understanding that insight brings. Does this mean that knowing what is what is the understanding that comes from insight and as such other forms of knowledge are a waste of time – just facts – knowledge of daily life, knowledge of the intellect, computer knowledge? At the moment I say yes, what other sensible knowledge is there?
But you can have insight into the knowledge of daily life so is this right knowledge? Having an understandng of the 1% system probably comes from some sort of insight, but how much detailed is required coming from this insight? How much study is needed? Enough to follow your Path. Clearly defined yet vague – good stuff!
Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.