15 Truths

I was unleashed on the world after a mere eight years of monastic training, supposedly qualified to teach. Others seemed to have confidence in my knowledge, but I knew perfectly well that something was missing. I had come to my teachers for their insights, not their scholarship, and I had no intention of teaching any other way. Almost another two decades passed before I was ready to speak from experience — from what I knew, not what I thought. The essence was the realization that although you can’t live without beliefs, you can reduce them to a minimum. This is what I came up with: fifteen ‘truths’ that were first spelled out in the epilogue of my memoir The Novice, on page 329.

  1. Questioning the things you believe in most earnestly leads to peace.
  2. True insight comes from personal experience, not from language, scripture, philosophy or higher authority.
  3. The most worthwhile goal in life is to replace self-cherishing with practical empathy and ruthless insight.
  4. Expand beyond the expectations imposed upon you, or assumed by you, and look beyond the daily norm of your life. Be willing to leave behind convenient truths to eventually find what you’re looking for – even if it’s to discover something unpleasant.
  5. We have an instinct for right and wrong but push it aside when it’s inconvenient.
  6. What’s true today isn’t necessarily so tomorrow.
  7. The more deeply we are motivated by emotion the more stubbornly we pass it off as reason.
  8. Denial is at the root of all self-inflicted suffering, and is our principal obstacle.
  9. Ethical codes are likely to produce as much hypocrisy as goodness.
  10. Belief in anything just for the comfort or security it brings is precarious, especially when it demands certainty.
  11. No religious, scientific or academic faithful can be trusted unless it can laugh at itself.
  12. The only way to respect truth is to take it with a pinch of salt.
  13. Life leads nowhere until we consciously take the direction it provides.
  14. The notion that we’re continually bettering ourselves, through either technology or belief, may be the great myth of our time, the bickering of science and religion just another vanity.
  15. The pursuit of truth has more to do with letting go of certainty than finding it.