Feb 9 – The Knowing – Doing Gap

Today’s senryu: The Knowing – Doing Gap

I know what to do

but have not done it just yet.

Do I really know?

I’m listening to Bhikkhu Bodhi‘s audio book The Noble Eightfold Path – The Way to the End of Suffering (c) 1984. Here are a couple of early passages:

“It would be pointless to pose the question which of the two aspects of the Dhamma has greater value, the doctrine or the path. But if we did risk the pointless by asking that question, the answer would have to be the path. The path claims primacy because it is precisely this that brings the teaching to life. The path translates the Dhamma from a collection of abstract formulas into a continually unfolding disclosure of truth. It gives an outlet from the problem of suffering with which the teaching starts. And it makes the teaching’s goal, liberation from suffering, accessible to us in our own experience, where alone it takes on authentic meaning.

To follow the Noble Eightfold Path is a matter of practice rather than intellectual knowledge, but to apply the path correctly it has to be properly understood. In fact, right understanding of the path is itself a part of the practice. It is a facet of right view, the first path factor, the forerunner and guide for the rest of the path. Thus, though initial enthusiasm might suggest that the task of intellectual comprehension may be shelved as a bothersome distraction, mature consideration reveals it to be quite essential to ultimate success in the practice.

The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for
suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received.”

So, does the path need to include suffering to be truly educational?


From another perspective, I’m fond of the book The Knowing-Doing Gap by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton (c) 2000 where the authors explain knowing comes from doing and teaching others how … in a world of conceptual frameworks, fancy graphics presentations, and, in general, lots of words, there is much too little appreciation for the power, and indeed the necessity, of not just talking and thinking but of doing – and this includes explaining and teaching – as a way of knowing.”

The book goes on to quote a senior executive who says, “Where we go from an awareness state to a real knowledge is where we have problems. We are aware of it but we don’t have the knowledge because we’ve never had to teach it or implement it. And I see that’s a huge gap.” p. 248-249

Can we ever truly know without actually doing something with that knowledge?

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