3 Failures of The Bowl


I am not a buddhist. But I have many friends that are. That makes me close to the buddhist world. I am attracted by wisdom regardless the form in which it is delivered, or the place of provenience. And one can find a lot of wisdom in the buddhist world. In one of their famous books – Lam Rim Chen Mo – I found the answer to a question that kept me awake a lot of times – why sometimes the transfer of knowledge works and other times fails. Tsong Kha-Pa, the author of the book above, name it “The three faults of the vessel”. I prefer “failure” because “fault” may have impersonal implications. I wanted to stress the active engagement of the subject in the process of transfer.

He says that in the act of transfering the knowledge, the disciple is like a bowl that will be filled with wisdom. In this process three errors may occur:

1. One can keep the bowl upside-down. It is the case of complete rejection – master pours the knowledge, disciple receives nothing. This approach works only on disciple’s ego. Complete waste of time.

2. The bowl is in the right position but it is not empty. Sometimes it is full other times it is not. When there is no place inside, the new stuff flows beside. When there is enough space, what there is already inside mixes with the new knowledge and changes it’s meaning. This is one of the reasons why it’s harder to train adults than children.

3. The bowl is in the right position, it is empty, but it is cracked. This is one of the most dangerous situations, because it is less evident than the two ones above. The disciple it is able to receive the knowledge, the meaning is not changed. Unfortunately the good stuff dissapears little by little, puzzling everybody. The solution is to check carefully the bowl and discover the crack. It could be related to the past, the present or the future. To a weak spirit, or to a defficit of energy. The past can trigger long term programs, the present, emotional responses, and the future can project fantasies. A weak spirit cannot maintain the boundaries of the being, and defficit of energy makes one unable to finish a work in progress.

Paying attention to all these helps a lot on our way of sending and receiving knowledge.

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