Confucius Analects – Study: ask, learn, and think
Last week we finished the discussion on the general image of a proper Confucius/Superior Man. This week we start the discussion on the topic of study. Study leads to knowledge. The world “knowledge” in Chinese, consists of two components: Learn (学）and Ask （问）. Learn implies acquiring, while ask includes thinking and inquiring. These 2 components are considered essentials in learning wisdom and truth, and often represent the theme of a student/scholar/teacher in his/her entire lifetime. Study, and its related topics, will be the theme of our discussion in the following few weeks.
2.9 Learn (acquire) and think
The Master said, ‘Learning without thinking is labour lost; thinking without learning is dangerous.’
-> Learning without thinking is like a recording information without knowing what it is, whether it is true or not, and how it can be used, therefore provide no meaning and represent labour lost.
-> Thinking without learning (proper study, research, validation), is dangerous because when we run into questionable and possible negative information and people, thinking alone in them could lead us to confusion and destructive patterns, e.g. following question teachings/practices of a cult. Learning widely and broadly (e.g. the classics of the Confucius/Daoist/Buddhist schools), therefore, could be useful in comparing and validating information presented.
5.1 Learning and asking question.
The Master said, ‘Learn diligently, not ashamed to ask question, even from inferiors (people with lower social rank/status).’
-> No human could be number one in every area, to upgrade ourselves and to understand the world, we need to find teachers who are more advanced than ourselves in respective areas to learn (and think). When need clarification or advice, overcome our laziness, pride, and fear to ask question when needed. This is good student.
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Great masters from Confucius, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions are mostly also well-learnt scholars. This is a Chinese saying in the Daoist tradition: “未有神仙不读书” (no immortal had succeeded without study). This suggests the importance of study in personal and spiritual development.
… but how do we free ourselves from laziness? For surely if we truly wish to ‘study’ there is no room for laziness…
Here, does “study” (读书) refer to studying “books”, a real-life teacher, and/or to self-study?
Study could be with books, physical teachers, or contact higher wisdom within one’s self (e.g. reflection, meditation).
Life, as manifested as a physical/mental being, is limited. Find its meaning, establish your direction, and make good use of it. To over exert can lead to depletion, which is the other extreme of laziness. Laozi suggested transcending the self, and following the universal flow (some call it listening to the heart) in moving and resting. When the self is quiet or transcended, universe leads, and the limited self and its life is taken cared of.