The dictionary definition of “knowing” is having or reflecting knowledge, information, or intelligence. There is a fundamental difference between “knowing” something and “knowing about” something. “Knowing about” is another term for belief. “Knowing” is a term exclusively for direct experience, which means an absence of doubt or fear. I believe it is this “knowing about”, that often prevents us from further analysis and direct experience, because doubt is the constant companion of beliefs.
Buddha offers you some great advice, and you can see that his conclusion is devoid of the word “believe”. He says when it agrees with reason – that is, when you know it to be true based on your own observation and experience – and it is beneficial to one and all, then and only then, live by it. Buddha’s age old wisdom reflected above, suggests that you make it your knowing!
The key word in the passage is “believe”. In fact, the key phrase is “Do not believe”. Everything you carry around with you that you call a belief has become largely your own because of the experiences and testimonies of other people. And if it comes to you from a source outside of yourself, regardless of how persuasive the conditioning process might be, and of how many people just like you have worked to convince you of the truth of these beliefs, the fact that it is someone else’s truth means that you receive it with some question marks or doubts.
Despite any doubts you may be feeling inside, you often adopt these beliefs and make them crutches in your life, while you hobble through your days looking for a way out of the traps that have been carefully set by generations of believers before you. As I stated before, your fear becomes that constant companion of your beliefs.
Just because you have heard it, and it is a long-surviving tradition, and it is recorded over the centuries, and the world’s greatest teachers have endorsed it, those are still not reasons to accept a belief. My advice would be to treat the beliefs of others as nothing more than discursive opinion, rather find out for yourself through direct experience, that is, make it your knowing!
If I were to attempt to convince you about the taste of a delectable fish, you would perhaps listen but still have your doubts. Were I to show you pictures of this fish, and have hundreds of people come to testify about the veracity of my statements, you might become more convinced. But the modicum of doubt would still remain because you hadn’t tasted it. You might accept the truth of its deliciousness from me; but until your taste buds experience the fish, your truth is only a belief based on my truth, on my experience. And so it is also with all the well-meaning members of our society, and our ancestors before them.
Buddha does not speak of rejection, only of being grown up and mature enough to make up your own mind and live by your knowing, rather than through the experiences and testimony of others. You cannot learn anything through the efforts of others. The world’s greatest teachers can teach you absolutely nothing unless you are willing to apply what they have to offer based on your knowing, as so aptly stated by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Wishing is not enough, we must do.”
When knowing confronts a belief, the knowing will always triumph. When I think of the parables of Jesus Christ as a great healer, I can’t conjure any doubt. When Christ approached a leper he wouldn’t say, “we haven’t been having a great deal of success with leprosy lately, but if you follow my advice you’ll have a thirty percent chance of survival over the next five years”. You can see all the doubt that is present in such a stance. Rather, he would say from an absolute state of knowing, “You are healed”. This is the same state of conscious contact with knowing from which St. Francis of Assisi performed his healing miracles as well. In fact, all miracles come from shifting out of doubt and into knowing, therefore abandon all doubt and know. “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”, as so poetically stated by Aristotle.
Remember, “Do not believe it”, as Buddha instructs, rather than using the term “belief”, try shifting to the word “knowing”. When you have the direct experience of tasting the fish, you then have a knowing. That is, you have conscious contact and can determine your truth based on your experience. You know how to swim or ride a bicycle not because you have a belief, but because you have had the direct experience. – Passages from “Wisdom of the Ages” – Dr Wayne Dyer
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