When we say that we understand something, what does it mean? We may understand that 2 + 2 equals 4 for instance, but what about statements that are less precise? Such statements or assertions tend to impress upon us with their earnestness… so that a speaker might sound quite convincing with his delivery and rhetoric. What then is the process by which we, the listener, find agreement (or not) with what he says?
– My understanding of karma is…
– I think there exists great evil in the church…
– Politics is a disservice to humanity because…
What these statements are really saying is that you are just part way to full understanding, that you are converging in on the underlying truth. Basically you just have a little way more to go… only the last pieces of the puzzle remain. So in other words, there is actually no understanding demonstrated in these assertions. You are aligning yourself with these ideas, giving them a body and a voice. Therefore the correct meaning of the term understanding is to ‘stand under’ the authority that a statement or idea is asserting. You are submitting to it; you are not seeing truth.
Therefore you can either understand something or you can SEE something. The two are mutually exclusive. You cannot nearly see… you cannot see 90%. You cannot even try to see. You either see or you do not see. You can at least see that you do not see. You can see that you are only following an explanation, which is understanding (submitting) not seeing.
Complete knowledge of something entails the who, what, where and when… followed by the how and why. Understanding stops short of the how and why; we mistake understanding (the explanation, the what) for all-encompassing seeing. Knowledge thereby becomes repetitive, we categorize it and keep it for future reference. To see must include the why and the how. Eg. how does karma work and why does it exist? Until you see that you cannot know what karma is… you can only submit to it, understand it. Seeing is radically different to understanding, and therefore it cannot be understood.
The schooling system has for a long time twisted our learning and cognitive processes, it has encouraged us to lie (even to ourselves) in order to succeed… first at school, and then in society. There is no seeing… there is only understanding, submission. There can only be seeing. We have at every moment the opportunity to see the web of deceit upon which culture, both external and internal, is built. It flirts behind the most earnest brows of every academic researcher… and buries itself inside the reference books of every college professor.
We do not learn; and what we call learning is only a process of recollection.
We learn certain words by their context… in their relation to other words. We learn phrases and sentences, and we interpret their nuances… like we do with the verb to understand. Meanings are created, or tacitly agreed upon, that lose any reference to what can actually be seen. The abstractions are then able to impress upon us… to pull the wool over our eyes. We talk ‘knowingly’ of undefined terms such as will power, creativity, and imagination… without making a distinction between their concepts and what/how/why they actually are. Such knowledge is imitation, and imitation is the basis of understanding, but not seeing. It is glamour, and there can be no true understanding (ie. seeing) of something that is based on abstraction. One can only see the deceit upon which understanding really works, and when one does see this one will effortlessly stop indulging in it.
While there is a need for sharing of information, every positive assertion that conveys an opinion or world view will seek to convince the listener. Our response is to immediately put up a resistance, a barrier in which to quarantine the message… where we can decode it into more familiar images that we can work with. These images are an interpretation that we then judge either for or against. The original impression enters via the senses and the mind… this is feeling. The final output is a distorted version of this, called emotion. Feeling goes in; emotion goes out. The difference between the two is the net response of the human instrument.
Now that we can see how we are actually incapable of truly understanding what is being impressed upon us, why are we even bothering to interpret it for appraisal? If we do not put up a resistance to what goes in then we will not be conditioned by it… the resistance itself is the conditioning process. The message is like an intruder that ironically requires our resistance to embed itself, to program and influence the host. And therefore if we do not resist it, there is nowhere for it to settle. So when someone tells us a lie, or even a truth, can we simply receive it without judgment, and just see it in its original form? Without resistance there are no longer two opposing sides clashing in the middle. This is the sound of the proverbial one-handed clap. The question is, can resistance, which is thought, come to an end?
Wisdom is natural, spontaneous; it comes only when one meets life openly and without any barrier. To meet life openly man must free himself of all knowledge; he must not seek an explanation of suffering, for when he seeks such an explanation he is being caught by fear.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti