Greetings and may we all remember what Tiny Tim prayed for at the end of the Christmas Carol, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!”
On this Yuletide Day, we are going to discuss the importance of applying wisdom when you ask questions; for the questions asked provide the building bricks maintaining your current psychofugal structure.
At this point, one might ask, “But, is not the answer to a question more important than the question? For the answer informs us of what to do or not do.”
I would reply, “Yes, Grasshopper, answers have importance and relevance to your progress upon the ancient path. But, if you are heedless, rash and fail to consider the many answers which might fall out from the question, your path to enlightenment will no longer be straight and true, but, littered with paths leading nowhere or worse, back to where you began.”
So to minimize backsliding and dead-ends, it is imperative to understand and differentiate between the primary categories of questions. Most important, you need to learn the difference between ‘the art of generating skillful questions’ and ‘the disease of generating unskillful questions.’ Skillful questioning is a learnable skill and a necessity for successful traversing of the ancient path to self-realization and mastership. Unskillful questioning will keep you immersed in a life of unnecessary suffering and confusion. Only skillful questioning leads to the Kingdom of God Within (or nibbāna if you prefer), the lasting state of true happiness, simple peace, simple joy, pure well-being, and clarity of mind.
The first and simplest category of questions consist of statements about the objective world. Statements which can be verified to be either true or false, correct or incorrect, agreed or disagreed, and yes or no. Such questions fall under the rubric of ‘the law of the excluded middle.’ For instance, “Is Alex taller than Andrew? Is tomorrow Christmas Day? Is this action skillful? . . ?”
A related category of questions concerns objective facts relating to the world (semantic knowledge). For instance, “How many kilometers from Nice to Lourdes? Where was the Buddha born? At this moment, what would be the most skillful action so to maximize my welfare and happiness? . . ?”
A third category of questions is sometimes used so to guide the questioner to a responsive answer. Usually such questions require the original questioner to answer several simpler questions considered necessary to arrive at the final answer. Such questions may be affirmative or even contrafactual. A good example of such questioning was practiced by Socrates.
The fourth major category of questions consists of questions which cannot be answered skillfully for a number of sound reasons. As discussed yesterday, questions arising from subjective opinion and are mutually exclusionary, such as, “Does God exist or does God not exist?” From an intellectual standpoint, a satisfying affirmative answer is impossible as such answers cannot be established by observation of the physical or mental worlds. Subsequently, the question is unskillful and without useful value as to enlightenment.
Even more important, such questions divert our attention from the major task of discovering skillful answers, “What actions must I take so to end my unnecessary suffering? How does unnecessary suffering arise in my life and why? What actions keep me in a state of unnecessary suffering? . . ?”
Buddha refused to answer the fourth category of questions as he realized that the answer would only bewilder and confuse the questioner even more. Rather than waste time, his teachings were pragmatic. He taught how to differentiate skillful from unskillful actions, self observation and self reflection, paying attention to your mind and desires, and the Four Noble Truths. After all, the good arising from knowledge of an intellectual truth is far less than that good arising from extinguishing unnecessary suffering.
This ends the blog for today. I trust it will be useful in your individual journeys. For it is your task to discover who and what you are, keeping what is skillful and jettisoning what is unskillful. It is your path to enlightenment so do not waste it. Beware the Devil’s counter-argument that you have an infinite amount of time for completing the road to enlightenment. For in truth, none have provided hard proof that you have more than one try, and that try is now in this life!