I had the opportunity to attend Buddhist philosophy classes at the Pema Ts’al monastery where I volunteered. One morning, we discussed the concept of knowledge and how it leads to better choices.
Tenzin, the monk offering the class, explained the seven offerings of Buddhism: water, washing water, flowers, incense, perfume water, light and food. But the most important offering, he said, is the one that comes from inside: knowledge. It makes sense… Physical offerings are limited and time-bound; inner offerings are eternal and limitless.
I remember this proverb: ‘give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’. Knowledge is impactful!
But knowledge must also be offered with no arrogance. ‘Simple words and high thinking’, Tenzin explained. It is only when we show simplicity and humility that a flower can blossom inside of us, and this flower will attract people to us. Surrounded by people who haven’t been forced to follow us but are rather willing participants, we can gain true wisdom and understanding. It is with these two ingredients that we are able to make choices for our life. And THAT is essential.
The two human rights according to Tenzin: (1) to express ourselves (2) with choices. People are often like dead fish in the river… They follow the river because it is what everyone else does (e.g. the ‘normal’ thing is to get married, buy a house and have kids).
The morals behind this Tibetan Buddhist philosophy class: (1) share your knowledge freely, and; (2) don’t be a dead fish in the pond or the river. Make your own choices. Be your own fish and your own river… and just keep swimming!