The Illusion of Definitive Answers

7 Dec


“….the Exalted One looked around over the silent company and said,

‘Well, ye disciples, I summon you to say whether you have any fault to find with me, whether in word or in deed.’

And when a favorite pupil exclaimed, ‘Such faith have I, Lord, that methinks there never was, nor will be, nor is now, any other greater or wiser than the Blessed One.’

The Buddha admonished:

“Of course, Sariputta, you have known all the Buddhas of the past.”

“No, Lord.”

”Well then, you know those of the future?”

“No, Lord.”

“Then at least you know me and have penetrated my mind thoroughly?”

“Not even that, Lord.”

“Then why, Sariputta, are your words so grand and bold?”

(**Note: The book “Buddhism” by Huston Smith has proven to be one of the best things I have picked up to read in quite some time. Everything resonates with me in so many different areas of my life. Admittedly, I am new to the study of Buddhism. But I am formulating my own answers and conclusions based on my perception of the teachings, and so far, have been learning quite a bit about myself. This is my take on the excerpt above.)

In this particular passage, Siddhartha explains to his young student that without fully knowing every Buddha of the past, future, and present, it is impossible to make so bold a statement as “There never was, nor ever will be, nor is now, anyone greater than thee.”

Because, well. Frankly, the claim has no base.

And like anything in life, without understanding your past, knowing your situation completely, or being able to predict the future, it is impossible to make assumptions about the present – especially ones that are so fatalistic or fixed in nature.

I think that very often, we come up with opinions on things without fully understanding them, whether out of excitement, anxiety, fear, or otherwise. The fact of the matter is that we do not know everything, and therefore must not assume that because something appears one way it is the only answer there ever will be.

Science is always changing. What was a supposed “proven” theory at one time has been debunked by nature years down the road. And whatever we think we know about the present world will inevitably change at some point as we broaden our knowledge. So while something may seem to be the answer at the time being, you should never settle on it as the end-all, be-all to everything.

There should always be a hunger for greater understanding.

Maybe at some point you have failed at something in life, and thought, “This is it. This is the end. Nothing will ever change, the situation will never get better, and I am stuck here forever.”

Not only is failure as temporary as you will allow it to be, accepting defeat without knowing what the future holds and without analyzing the situation makes little sense. Perhaps what you perceive as a failure is really not much of a failure at all. The experience could be preparing you for a future event, in which you will inevitably succeed. Will it have been such a failure then?

Think of your circumstances as the “Buddhas” that Siddhartha spoke of to his student. I will say it again: If you cannot fully grasp what has happened in the past, cannot predict the future, and have little idea what is going on presently, you have no grounds to make irrefutable claims.

Alternatively, sometimes events can be so positive that they cloud our vision, and we become somewhat blinded. Like when someone falls in love for the first time, and cannot see the faults in the person that they are with. During this time, that person is the most perfect person in the world. But this skewed perception can often lead to future resentment when imperfection is unavoidably discovered. It would be wise to avoid putting people or circumstances on a pedestal.

Whatever the situation, try to take a step back and think of things more rationally, not letting your adoration or negativity cloud your opinions. When you have learned to think calmly and sensibly, then you will find that people and events are more easily understood, and nothing becomes either the best thing, or the worst thing. Black and white is abolished, and the diversity of color is introduced.

Learn all you can, accept nothing at face value, and question everything.

3 Responses to “The Illusion of Definitive Answers”

  1. Ellie December 7, 2013 at 2:33 am #

    I like the quote in the beginning. Too often we assume that what works for ourselves would work for everyone. But as you say, even with “proven science”, things change when we acquire new information. I think believing in your own common sense is also being tolerant of the believes and common sense of others as well.

  2. smilecalm December 7, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    wonder insight!
    may you breathe
    with full awareness
    that you are breathing.
    a wonderful experience 🙂

  3. viewpacific February 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    Maybe none of us can ever make irrefutable claims? Oops, did I just make a grand and bold statement? 🙂

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