Learning not to obscure the point

When we take up studies of any kind, we are presented with several sets of problems associated with the act of learning. One big problem is confusion about the nature of the thing we are studying. For instance, when studying meditation or Qi gong, you might not have a very good idea about what the goals of the study are or what to expect and how to practice in such a way that something good happens.
This type of problem is related to theoretical knowledge and it is very important to have some sort of coherent set of understandings of the basic goals and practices of the study before setting out to gain the benefits of it.
If you start out without a clear idea of the basic principle of the study, then it is very easy to imagine that you are meant to do things and obtain results that are either not part of the study or are not relevant to your current level of practice.
This is a really big problem in meditation, since people who meditate are often trying to obtain some sort of special state of consciousness such as enlightenment or mystical communion.
Neither enlightenment or mystical communion are bad things, but they are also pretty vague concepts, so a total beginner in meditation doesn’t have any context by which to understand those ideas or how they are experienced.
This can lead to a lot of navel gazing, or worse yet, superstitious belief.
It is far better to understand what the most basic elements of the art are before aiming at the highest achievements it has to offer.
Hu Haiya said “there was no immortal that didn’t read books,” and that “you should read books, learn what is true and false, and then come back and study meditation,” I think both of these are really important concepts.
High achievement isn’t predicated on jumping to the highest level in one day, it is predicated on having a very high level of understanding of each individual level of the practice. If you master the basics, then you will learn the intermediate level more completely. If you master the intermediate level, you can learn the advanced level faster and so on and so on.
On the other hand, if you start out wanting to meet with angels and Gods, you will probably actually invite a demon in to disturb your mind (superstition and confusion are two of the biggest demons that plague the spiritual community).
So we know that it is important to be clear about what the basic concepts of your art are, but there is another problem.
Many people who themselves have fairly mediocre understandings of meditation try to explain what little they know with various intellectual models of their own. These models really run the gamut all the way from pseudo-science to mysticism, to new age, to misquoting and misinterpreting the classics, to everything in between. Most of these people are simply grappling with their understanding of very subtle and hard to understand principles, and most of them are nice people, but they still pose a threat to new students who are easily influenced and often take up the false ideas of these confused people as their own.
The fact of the matter is that we don’t yet have a completely accurate scientific understanding of how all forms of meditation work, and we certainly don’t have a scientific method of practice which has been shown to produce results better than traditional practices. When people try to explain meditation with concepts such as Quantum Physics, you should be very careful to ask yourself whether that person is even qualified to be talking about Quantum Physics, or meditation?
In one debate between an Atheist and a popular New Age Meditation Guru who claims that Quantum Physics give us direct insight into the existence of God, it was shown quite clearly by a Physicist in the audience that the Guru in question was terribly confused about his own analysis of the field.
Just because someone has an eloquent and right sounding explanation doesn’t mean that what they are teaching is right or even beneficial. Using falsehood to teach meditation is a very ethically dubious issue and we all need to give this serious consideration so we will know what to do when we encounter such people.
Other people might try to use comments from the classics in order to further their own social, spiritual, or political opinions, but again, we need to be very careful to ascertain whether this person really understands the classics or not, and whether what they are saying has any real connection to the eternal truths discussed in those documents, or whether they are just trying to win people over to their side of a debate.
Many people use quotes from Laozi and Zhuangzi to support their Hedonistic sense of Nihilism and “Do what feels good” cultural attitudes, but when we look deeply at what Laozi and Zhuangzi were actually saying, we find that both of these writers were very against unbridled self gratification.
Still yet, some people who look very reputable, such as some popular Daoist scholars often make vast political statements while using Daoist quotes to promote their own world view. If these people really understand the universal aspect of the classics, it is really a pity that they desecrate their sanctity by twisting their meaning around their own biased and often greedy world views.
The really important thing is that we actually try to take the classics at their own value and don’t try to adjust them into meaning what we want them to mean. It is not only valuable but actually very important to compare classical documents against one another, although typically it is better to do it within the control set of using documents from one major school first and then once you have mastered the concepts of that school, comparing them to others. For instance, someone who is interested in Confucianism might compare Confucius with Mencius and then later go on to read the works of the Neo Confucian scholars. After understanding those works,they might compare Confucianism to Daoism and Buddhism, and then finally perhaps compare these topics to ideas that come from outside of the Ancient Chinese philosophical realm. This type of detail oriented and well organized research is the real way to learn about comparative religions, but it takes considerable time and effort and cannot be adapted into a simple little formula where we put things together in a hodgepodge fashion and construct our own unique sets of beliefs. Beliefs are not useful if they are not based on some kind of substantial understanding of the purpose that the belief serves.
Someone who studies Christianity and understands that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the divine Logos of God stands a much better chance of understanding the fundamental reasons why Christianity and the Old Testament are communicated in the form of symbolic legends about how societies were built and destroyed based on the honest or dishonest words and actions of people. Likewise, someone who understands that return to and emergence from primordial chaos is the root concept of Daoism can much more easily come to understand the lessons contained in the 5000 sutras of the Daoist Canon.
Understanding core principles is really the best way to undertake any study and it serves us much better to put in the serious effort to understand them. Even if this is not as romantic as believing that Laozi will come to you on a cloud and take you away to the heavens, it will ultimately have much better and more tangible results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *