What does it mean to know something? How do we know what we know?
Should we be content on understanding through books, gurus, and proverbs? Is it through experimentation, observation, or hearsay?
If spiritual attainment is so easy that one can read from a book, why has no one gain enlightenment through it? Surely, it would be the number 1 selling book in the universe.
Perhaps there is something more than merely absorbing information. And that spiritual principles, having transcended forms and language, are understood in a different way.
Most Spiritual Teachings are Common Sense
Have patience. Let go. Learn to be tolerant. Have gratitude. Stay in balance. Be in the present moment. Etc.
Many people will nod to this as it will resonate with them.
While some may keep these teachings, most will forget it and live as though never having known it.
If spiritual principles are so simple, why do we still struggle with it (including myself)?
By now you may realize that knowing is not enough.
Knowing More Than Knowledge
There is more to knowing than understanding with our intellectual brain, than just reading, watching, or listening, than merely reciting and memorizing facts.
Is it not true that all information we absorb are memories of some sort? And that memories are often deleted and distorted?
We take knowledge or information from the external world and interpret it according to our beliefs, attitudes, language, state of mind, bias, world view, etc.
The information we took can be true or false. Even scientific facts once known could be overthrown by new theories, systems and models.
How can we really know whether its true and real? We cannot know as long as we depend on the external world.
All external information can do is form an intelligent opinion on the matter. But opinion is not knowing.
You can read all about kindness and what it means to be kind. But this does not mean that you know kindness.
It is for this same reason which many religious folks can recite the doctrine word-for-word but continues to rage war against themselves and others.
Let’s take another example: Confidence.
How do we come to know confidence? We may read many articles about confidence, find out the body language of confidence, how confident people talks, etc. Then we try to emulate it by what we read or watch.
But does that make us confident?
I assure you that confident people are not thinking about their body language, voice and tone, signs of confidence, or how confident they came across.
Nor do kind people think about how kind they come across, the signs of kindness, levels of kindness, etc.
Rather, they seem to know without knowing. They understand at a deep level and radiate confidence or kindness in respect.
To truly know, they have become the thing in which they know.
The End of Theoretical Knowledge
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; and these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.” – Kalama Sutra
I might also add that one should not readily accept from hearing and reading except when we have realised it within ourselves.
Why should we not be content with theoretical knowledge? To know by that which we call “knowledge”?
Theoretical knowledge is what you know by understanding the concept of it.
For example, we may come to know the concept that there is only the present Now, yet, we may continue to be fearful of the future or stuck in the past.
While having understood the concept, it is not a part of you. It’s only true as a concept – something that is out there. It is not, yet, real since we have not grasp the concept within our hands and impart it inside us.
A blueprint is only a drawing of a building, it is not the building itself. We do not know it, we only know about it. And knowing about it is not the same as knowing.
What constitutes theoretical knowledge? Scientific theories, philosophical arguments, spiritual speculations, and folk superstitions are some of the things we can understand the concept of but can never fulfill us.
Even what you are reading right now may or may not be a theoretical knowledge depending on the insight you receive.
When theoretical knowledge ends, spiritual knowledge begins.
Spiritual knowledge cannot be imparted from man to man. It can only be guided for others to realise it themselves.
Some of you who have read this will resonate with these words immediately. Others will not no matter how it is explained.
For man cannot understand more than he himself is.
It takes more than knowledge to understand spiritual principles.
To understand by words from a book or taught by somebody is like the surface of a well. But how deep the well goes depends on our experience.
Spiritual knowledge cannot be attained through books but found through our own soul.
We must not only grasp the knowledge through the brain but through the heart, knowing intuitively the truth of what we read. To not believe in it but to understand it as if we have lived it.
It is why they called the “path of enlightenment” as self-realisation because you are not really learning something new but remembering the age old wisdom.
Reading can Help but It Is not the Path
Surely, we must start somewhere.
But reading and listening is not the destination. It is not the path. It’s a guidepost – a reminder.
For those who can resonate with certain spiritual truths, they can find it in any book, find it with the highest teachers and with the humblest being, and perhaps in a speck of dirt in nature.
And those who cannot understand it will not find it even if they have with them the greatest book in the world…until the day they realised it themselves.
Once understood the spiritual knowledge, it is forever ingrained in us.
No theory, systems, arguments, opinions, and views can refute it for we have entered the light and seen it for what it truly is.
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