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Abandon Learning


Legion
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“Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow.” -Lao Tzu

 

It seems to me after many years of trying to learn about various things that I now have a better grasp of what Lao Tzu was saying here. When I first read this quote, it seemed anathema to me. Much of what I’ll say here may seem obvious to many of you, but I just wanted to express my thoughts about this somewhere. And I welcome any comments. Maybe I’ll learn something.

 

I believe learning often entails trial and error, oftentimes many trials and many errors. I think it’s very much like evolution that way. Learning is a personal evolution. And as such, it is a path which is often strewn with pain and death. In addition, I think learning often entails bringing my own confusion into my conscious awareness. When I’m not learning I can remain blissfully unaware of my own confusion and ignorance. I may even be able to maintain the illusion that I understand more than I actually do.

 

So I tend to agree with Lao Tzu about this these days. Ah! But the fruits of learning, which are genuine understandings, still seem to me to be worth the sorrow.

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Ignorance is bliss! That's also why so many people stay in religion :). There does come a time though when one shouldn't worry about things too much though, and that's without the extreme's of total ignorance or a seemingly ruthless quest for knowledge.

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“Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow.” -Lao Tzu

 

It seems to me after many years of trying to learn about various things that I now have a better grasp of what Lao Tzu was saying here. When I first read this quote, it seemed anathema to me. Much of what I’ll say here may seem obvious to many of you, but I just wanted to express my thoughts about this somewhere. And I welcome any comments. Maybe I’ll learn something.

 

I believe learning often entails trial and error, oftentimes many trials and many errors. I think it’s very much like evolution that way. Learning is a personal evolution. And as such, it is a path which is often strewn with pain and death. In addition, I think learning often entails bringing my own confusion into my conscious awareness. When I’m not learning I can remain blissfully unaware of my own confusion and ignorance. I may even be able to maintain the illusion that I understand more than I actually do.

 

So I tend to agree with Lao Tzu about this these days. Ah! But the fruits of learning, which are genuine understandings, still seem to me to be worth the sorrow.

The actual meaning may be different from what the words are saying. Sorrow is part of life, and I think that much of it just happens - death of relatives, disease, financial woes, and a host of things out of our control.

 

I think of it as like the first part of the following sentence:

 

"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for."

 

Or, “Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow, " but then life won't be worth living.

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Many of life's lessons are painful.

 

If you phrase that thought more in the way Yoda might say it, it seems deep and spiritual.

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Thanks for the replies Quid and Shyone.

 

There does come a time though when one shouldn't worry about things too much though, and that's without the extreme's of total ignorance or a seemingly ruthless quest for knowledge.

I agree that life is best when I find balance in it. I think there is a time for wisdom and a time for folly.

 

I think of it as like the first part of the following sentence:

 

"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for."

I think this is a nice saying. As I was reading through your responses a reminder of my Christian days made itself apparent to me.

 

“The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.” - Ecclesiastes 7:4

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Many of life's lessons are painful.

 

If you phrase that thought more in the way Yoda might say it, it seems deep and spiritual.

:grin:

 

“Mmm, learning you desire? Then suffer you must.”

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Maybe Lao Tzu meant dropping conceptual thought, duality.

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Personally, I think Lao Tzu was a con artist. Though I may be slightly biased.

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I can't agree with the statement Legion. Learning may be a cause of sorrow but almost anything we encounter in life can be, and often is, a source of sorrow. This statement is too broad and sweeping.

 

Everything depends on the viewpoint, the attitude and the approach you take.

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I can't agree with the statement Legion.

Fair enough Deva. I'm not sure that I agree with it completely myself. Afterall I think we can learn a lot while being playful.

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Hell, that's what I do every day I come and chat with you silly bastards.

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Personally, I think Lao Tzu was a con artist. Though I may be slightly biased.

 

Sounds like the post-modernists (in general).

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Thanks for the replies Quid and Shyone.

 

As I was reading through your responses a reminder of my Christian days made itself apparent to me.

 

“The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.” - Ecclesiastes 7:4

Woah! That's some passage! Taken by itself it is not an encouragement to be a fool (as other passages suggest we should try to be) but rather an observation. I would have liked to have met the author of Ecclesiastes. We wouldn't have agreed on much, but I like his style.

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“The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.” - Ecclesiastes 7:4

 

 

How'd I miss that one all those years??? (oh, ya same way I missed a lot of stuff).

 

As to the OP, I think there is still some truth to that statement - it's too general to apply to everything, but things do tend to be easier with a more simplistic (ie un-learned) view in many areas of life.

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I know ignorance is bliss, but personally, I would rather be depressed and feel enlightened.

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Maybe Lao Tzu meant dropping conceptual thought, duality.

I often have problems with assertions of non-duality. I have fairly well convinced myself, for instance, that the subjective/objective duality is real.

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"The path is frought with thorns and bees, and wicked things that chase me back to where it was safe, a more innocent time, a time when it all made sense because I was but a child, ignorant of that which is outside of innocence, devoid of ill wiil and even wrongdoing, except for the incident with the neighbour's cat."

 

 

Franko

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"The path is frought with thorns and bees, and wicked things that chase me back to where it was safe, a more innocent time, a time when it all made sense because I was but a child, ignorant of that which is outside of innocence, devoid of ill wiil and even wrongdoing, except for the incident with the neighbour's cat."

:grin: Thank you Franko. That made me smile.

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“Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow.” -Lao Tzu

 

It might be helpful to read this in context:

http://www.wussu.com/laotzu/laotzu20.html

 

 

 

I have experienced times when I can drop a lot of my preconceptions, "learning", and thoughts of what "should" be happening and experience -- mostly -- just what's going on now. It can be very freeing, and ironically seems to be a learning experience on its own (IMO, at least for me it was/is).

 

On the other hand, yes, I do really value learning and wouldn't give that up, either. There's a saying in Paganism: "Are you willing to suffer to learn?" and for years I've been answering wholeheartedly Yes. But in between the learning, I have found it helpful to sometimes just let go of it all, too.

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I don't know if this is what Laozi meant, but after reading this I tried to get rid of the idea of learning. I'm sitting here practicing clarinet as I surf the Internet, and it was refreshing to drop the idea "I am studying / must study" and just play.

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I don't know if this is what Laozi meant, but after reading this I tried to get rid of the idea of learning. I'm sitting here practicing clarinet as I surf the Internet, and it was refreshing to drop the idea "I am studying / must study" and just play.

I am pleased that at least one person derived something beneficial from it Astreja.

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Personally, I think Lao Tzu was a con artist. Though I may be slightly biased.

 

Sounds like the post-modernists (in general).

I suppose I should clarify. I don't really think Lao Tzu was a con artist, I just think he had the same problem as most eastern philosophers in that he enjoyed speaking in circles and filling an entire page to say what could be stated in a single sentence. Which can be fun on occasion, granted, but I've simply found I prefer the plain speech approach to philosophy exhibited by Socrates and Aristotle.

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I just think he had the same problem as most eastern philosophers in that he enjoyed speaking in circles and filling an entire page to say what could be stated in a single sentence.

Dude, that's what makes it seem so spiritual and mystical to us Westerners. Throw in a reference to a lotus blossom and you got me!

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... I prefer the plain speech approach to philosophy exhibited by Socrates and Aristotle.

I have a new found appreciation for Aristotle. I wish I had been exposed to his four categories of causation at an earlier age.

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