Monday, January 24, 2011

Finger Pointing at the Moon

In the Physics Aristotle analyzes motion at length and at one point gets to how in the soul motion pertains to knowledge and understanding. "And the original acquisition of knowledge is not a becoming or an alteration: for the terms 'knowing' and 'understanding' imply that the intellect has reached a state of rest and come to a standstill, and there is no becoming that leads to a state of rest.... for the possession of understanding and knowledge is produced by the soul's settling down out of restlessness natural to it."

Words alone do not suffice to reveal the truth. They can take us to a jumping off point, but the true discovery begins at the boundary of language's ability to express the absolute. The thought processes are pointers but when we turn away from them it is in silence that truth is born, blossoms. I'm led to make a comparison to an old Zen Yoga precept. It has been noted in these pages before that "There is nothing that can be said that can do more for enlightenment than what a finger pointing at the moon can do for seeing the moon." Seeing the moon is not a "becoming or an alteration." It occurs intuitively and if one focuses only on the pointers the moon never appears. Knowledge and understanding stand in the same relation to their pointers, thoughts, words, formulas, rituals, and rites. Many who deal in these mere signs on the path claim a direct pipeline to G_d. They should avoid self righteousness, the smug certainty of ignorance that finds the views of others contemptible.