By: David Xi-Ken Astor, Sensei
I often speak about the pragmatic and existential importance of validating the information we are learning through direct experience. In that way we come to really “know” something, which is about gaining knowledge. Now I would like to expand on that by sharing with you some of my thoughts on journeying through the unknown, and using the skill of questioning. For you see, questioning is an element of the art of practice. If we do not question our experiences as they unfold though the various situations we find ourselves in, there will be very little change in our worldview, and without change we are just treading water. And when that happens in the middle of the ocean, given enough time, we will tire and drown, or the sharks will find us. The same is also true in our practice. Questioning is mental action that when done skillfully will lead to awakened moments. All Buddhist teachers encourage questioning, because without questions, we have no idea where you are in your training and understanding of Buddhist thought and doctrine. Questioning is a sign of an active mind, silence is another form of emptiness. That can be either good, or not, depending on the wisdom of the act of silence. In a training situation, silence is always unexpected.
As we progress along our life’s journey, it’s difficult to avoid encountering some of the perplexing challenges we humans have confronted again and again. Many of these experiences are related to the big questions that have always confounded the human mind for centuries. This was the driving force that propelled Siddhartha on his quest for universal understanding over 2500 years ago. The big questions are still the same as they were for the Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Mills, and all other philosophers both Western and Eastern. These are human questions, no matter what side of the world you stand on.
These big questions our serious ones. Yet, popular cultural views of some want to focus on cracking the enigmas like the Da Vinci code. But thank goodness, we also have others that have devoted their lives in bringing into reality the genetic codes that might lead to finding cures for disease. And what about us? We can work on breaking through our personal identity codes and develop even stronger characters, with integrity, ethics, and social values. We can work on breaking through the barriers of other enigmas of our everyday life. In every moment we work for our own liberation. Continue reading