Speculation vs Contemplation

I was browsing the stories on 101 Zen Stories and stumbled on this short gem…

Your Light May Go Out

A student of Tendai, a philosophical school of Buddhism, came to the Zen abode of Gasan as a pupil. When he was departing a few years later, Gasan warned him: “Studying the truth speculatively is useful as a way of collecting preaching material. But remember that unless you meditate constantly you light of truth may go out.”

Simply, the story says to me that speculating, and assuming we know the “way” can be rather harmful. Doing so builds up wrongful views in which we attach our thoughts to without truly pondering the meaning behind our assumptions.

I know, for me, without meditation, things can become very one sided. There are bouts of time that I go without meditation and it hurts my practice. I may read something and think “bing, that’s the right idea, they said it, it’s fact.” I do this without contemplation, but speculating that said person is learned enough to go along with what they say.

With that, it’s off to go sit…



  1. I’ve often thought that being able to teach a subject means that we’re familiar enough with it to “know” the usual issues and questions. Dharma seems just the opposite, meaning the more we think we know, the further away from knowing we actually are.

  2. Really good point Nate. It’s all well and good to read about people’s experiences and relate to them, but at the end of the day it’s like reading a travel guide to a country we’ll never visit and thinking we know the true taste of gelato based on what we’ve eaten in a food court.

    Mmmmm gelato…

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