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ConnieAnnKirk
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Experience vs. Teachers

[ Edited ]
Early on, Siddhartha says that a true seeker must learn through his/her own experience rather than from teachers. He rejects staying with Gautama, saying, "You have found deliverance from death. It has come to you out of your own seeking, on your own path, through thinking, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. It has not come to you through teaching! And such is my thinking, o Exalted One--no one attains deliverance through teaching" (B&N Classics edition, 29). However, later on he learns from Kamala (the courtesan), Kamaswami (the tradesman), Vasudeva (the ferryman), and the river. They each teach him. He might also be said to learn from them through experience.

Is this a contradiction? Why or why not? What is the novel saying about learning from experience vs. teachers?

Message Edited by ConnieK on 01-05-2008 10:10 AM
~ConnieAnnKirk




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Sunltcloud
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers


ConnieK wrote:
Early on, Siddhartha says that a true seeker must learn through his/her own experience rather than from teachers. He rejects staying with Gautama, saying, "You have found deliverance from death. It has come to you out of your own seeking, on your own path, through thinking, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. It has not come to you through teaching! And such is my thinking, o Exalted One--no one attains deliverance through teaching" (B&N Classics edition, 29). However, later on he learns from Kamala (the courtesan), Kamaswami (the tradesman), Vasudeva (the ferryman), and the river. They each teach him. He might also be said to learn from them through experience.

Is this a contradiction? Why or why not? What is the novel saying about learning from experience vs. teachers?

Message Edited by ConnieK on 01-05-2008 10:10 AM




I don’t see a contradiction. Siddhartha learns from both, teachers and experience. He is willing to learn as much as he can from a teacher but that does not mean that he takes the teacher’s word for the ultimate truth and becomes his follower; he takes his own path – walking the walk we call it now. Isn’t that what good teaching is all about, to make the pupil think for himself, try his/her wings? And isn’t much experience based on teachings? When I go on a trip I research the country before I leave. When I learned about Buddhism I listened to a Buddhist and read books about Buddhism.

Of course many experiences are not based on teachings. The taste of a strange-looking fruit I was introduced to after WW II is a good example. A banana? I thought bananas were dried out sweet-tasting chips. Or the feeling one gets being lost in a Moroccan market place for the first time. The brain says, you are not that far from the bus but fear says you are going to be abducted by a wild looking man in white robes. On the other hand, the feeling was not that much different from the one I get while watching “The Pirates of the Caribbean.” Maybe movies teach us more than we think.

I think the next best thing to experience is reading. Our world is too big to allow everybody to have teachers for everything today. But we have books. Books, if well written, come close to experience, especially if we widen our horizon and let new concepts enter. I will never forget the experience of standing in front of a temple in China, lighting incense, turning to bow to all four corners. Sure, I was with a tour group. Sure I had to pay for the incense. Sure I was just one in a big crowd of people. But still, I had read about this ceremony, I had seen pictures, and when I experienced the actual ritual, I felt like jumping into the air and saying, “Yes, I did it.” I doubt that I would have had the courage to let myself be part of this scene had I not read about it in a book some time earlier. Well, had I been a young person I would have; I experienced many firsts when I was young, but older people are usually more cautious/selective about things they want to experience.
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evansj
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers

I think that the book tries to show that even though other people can teach us lessons, insights, and facts, it is our own experience that makes those teachings have any meaning. I am thinking about our school education- we are taught different facts and skills, but in the end it is our experience that gives us all a context and a meaning for what other people have told us. In large part, this is something that happens to Siddhartha as well- his "teachers" give him knowledge and insight that he can integrate into his past experience and his own values and thoughts. Thus, both experience and teachings have a lot of value in life.
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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers

[ Edited ]
Sunltcloud's and evansj's responses have me thinking the question: "How do we define 'experience'?" If I read a book, I am performing an action with my hands turning the pages and my eyes seeing the words and processing their meaning in my mind, then also thinking about them later in my memory and imagination. Aren't I "experiencing" the act of reading? I may also be learning from this experience of reading, even if I am not, as Sunltcloud mentions, actually doing the action that I'm reading about at the time, such as the rituals of a ceremony or visiting a new place.

Is reading learning by experience or learning through teachers (authors?)?

And isn't going to school, sitting in a classroom, a learning "experience" as well? So, when I learn from teachers, am I not also learning by experience?

I know reading about sewing on a button and actually doing it are 2 different ways of learning, but I'm hung up a bit on Siddartha's saying he'd prefer to learn from experience rather than from teachers, as though they are not the same thing, or cannot be. I also remember later in the book it mentions that wisdom cannot be taught, which is true. Is that what Siddartha means?

Hmm. Pondering...

~ConnieK

Message Edited by ConnieK on 01-06-2008 06:04 PM
~ConnieAnnKirk




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LaVitaEBella
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers

Ever read a book and then see the movie....or vice versa...most usually left terribly disappointed at either the movie or in some cases the book...
When we read...we are reading about someone else's experience (the author's)...so when our friend in the other thread talks about bowing to the four corners after he had read about the ceremony in a book...it makes me wonder would his experience have been at another level had he not read about it first(if he had formed his own memory/opinion)...and then if he did come across a paragraph in a book about the ceremony...how sweet his memory of his own experience would be as he read...
I believe there is a huge difference in collecting/planting the seed on your own versus having someone else plant the seed for you...
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ELee
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers


ConnieK wrote:
I may also be learning from this experience of reading, even if I am not, as Sunltcloud mentions, actually doing the action that I'm reading about at the time, such as the rituals of a ceremony or visiting a new place.

Is reading learning by experience or learning through teachers (authors?)?

And isn't going to school, sitting in a classroom, a learning "experience" as well? So, when I learn from teachers, am I not also learning by experience?

I know reading about sewing on a button and actually doing it are 2 different ways of learning, but I'm hung up a bit on Siddartha's saying he'd prefer to learn from experience rather than from teachers, as though they are not the same thing, or cannot be.





You can learn facts from reading, but you cannot gain experience equivalent to the actual "doing" of what it is you are reading about. When you learn things through reading or in a school situation, you can only process it using the available information within your own senses, realm of experience, intelligence, and imagination. Anything outside of this is learned by rote and accepted as "the way it is", hopefully to mean something more once you've gained more life experience and matured. Also, to learn from experience is a more active role for the participant and one that would require thought and decision-making that would probably not be part of structured teaching, as you would be guided by your teacher. I see it as a question of faith; Siddhartha did not want to take someone's "word" on the way to reach Nirvana, he preferred to experience that journey himself.
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kayaklloyd
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers

I think there are things that can be felt and therefore understood, but not taught. I don't mean to get off on a tangent but, I think our entire education system has it wrong. I don't think students are meant to be taught, they are meant to learn. I think forums such as this are absolutely wonderful. This is didactic learning as opposed to being taught on a schedule that is imposed. Part of this issue speaks to personal responsibility. It may be fine to learn from the teacher but sooner or later the student has to take responsibility for his/her own learning. That is the only way you can "see the light". I can read or listen to a teacher talk about a River but the only way to understand the feeling of flowing water or the sound of a waterfall is to experience it firsthand. Siddartha learns to listen to the river and hear things that you would not exp[erience but teachings about the river.
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Sunltcloud
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers

I still feel that teaching and experiencing cannot be separated.

Webster’s definitions:
To teach: to cause to know or understand. To assist in learning how to do something.
Experience: The usually conscious perception or understanding of reality or of an event. Something that one has actually done or lived through.

There are all sorts of teachers:

A middle-aged unhappy woman who had to teach Siddhartha to her students year after year and doesn’t care anymore if they take a lesson home when they finish the book.

A group of young people who sit in a coffee shop and discuss the religions of the world and decide that each one should read a book that dealt with a particular philosophy and a week later they would discuss their findings.

Lamas at the Land of Medicine Buddha

Lama Surya Das and his book “Awakening the Buddha Within”

The rain that pelts my face and makes me think about Siddhartha and the river.

A cheap little bronze Buddha that laughs and pretends to hold up my computer screen.

I was taught by the unhappy teacher when I was fifteen, met with the group when I was 19, spent a week on a retreat at the Land of Medicine Buddha in the past, read the Buddha book a few years ago, walked in the rain earlier in the day, and look at the little bronze Buddha right now. Different emotions are involved with all these moments in my life, they all taught me something and they all influence me when I read Siddhartha NOW. I don’t call this moment a moment during which I am being taught. I call it a moment during which I am experiencing an insight. I look at Siddhartha now with different eyes than I did when I was fifteen and I am closer to understanding what Hesse is writing. This is my path, my experience. Somebody else might bring different teachers to the table because he/she might have gone to India, or spent a month near a river, or learned to meditate, or declares that he/she does not accept Buddhism as a viable alternative to Christianity and therefore does not want to finish reading the book. They might experience different emotions when they read the book.

I think that Siddhartha didn’t object to being taught, he objected to blind acceptance of dogma.
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Sunltcloud
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers


LaVitaEBella wrote:
...so when our friend in the other thread talks about bowing to the four corners after he had read about the ceremony in a book...it makes me wonder would his experience have been at another level had he not read about it first(if he had formed his own memory/opinion)...and then if he did come across a paragraph in a book about the ceremony...how sweet his memory of his own experience would be as he read...
I believe there is a huge difference in collecting/planting the seed on your own versus having someone else plant the seed for you...




I totally agree with you; my experience would have been different. But in my 69 years of living many seeds have been planted for me by others, which does, in my opinion, not exclude them from being valid contributions, as long as I form my own opinion about them. And we all have different habits. Some of my friends go to foreign places without much knowledge of the culture. Some do well, others have bad experiences. I like to prepare myself. An example: Before I flew to Egypt I read many posts on a travel board. That is how I learned about using my right hand only for reaching. The left hand is seen as unclean in traditional Moslem societies. I am left-handed and if you offer me something I will probably accept it with my left hand. I trained myself to use my right hand most of the time during the stay in Cairo. I wandered the streets alone without being afraid because I wore long skirts and long sleeves. I knew that everybody, including the man who insisted on licking the stamp that went on my postcard, wanted baksheesh (a tip) but I had learned beforehand that poverty is widespread and begging is accepted as part of daily life. I could go on with examples of "seeds being planted by others" that made my stay a much different experience than it would have been had I walked blindly into this culture that is so different from mine.

Of course there is much to be said about unexpected adventures. The experience of seeing a fern grow from a crack in the hardened lava flow of a volcano is unforgettable. Counting cow patties on a long distance walk in England was a unique experience. Nobody had prepared me for those moments and I'm sure that they will never leave my memory.
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tgem
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers



Sunltcloud wrote:
I still feel that teaching and experiencing cannot be separated.

Webster’s definitions:
To teach: to cause to know or understand. To assist in learning how to do something.
Experience: The usually conscious perception or understanding of reality or of an event. Something that one has actually done or lived through.

There are all sorts of teachers:

A middle-aged unhappy woman who had to teach Siddhartha to her students year after year and doesn’t care anymore if they take a lesson home when they finish the book.

A group of young people who sit in a coffee shop and discuss the religions of the world and decide that each one should read a book that dealt with a particular philosophy and a week later they would discuss their findings.

Lamas at the Land of Medicine Buddha

Lama Surya Das and his book “Awakening the Buddha Within”

The rain that pelts my face and makes me think about Siddhartha and the river.

A cheap little bronze Buddha that laughs and pretends to hold up my computer screen.

I was taught by the unhappy teacher when I was fifteen, met with the group when I was 19, spent a week on a retreat at the Land of Medicine Buddha in the past, read the Buddha book a few years ago, walked in the rain earlier in the day, and look at the little bronze Buddha right now. Different emotions are involved with all these moments in my life, they all taught me something and they all influence me when I read Siddhartha NOW. I don’t call this moment a moment during which I am being taught. I call it a moment during which I am experiencing an insight. I look at Siddhartha now with different eyes than I did when I was fifteen and I am closer to understanding what Hesse is writing. This is my path, my experience. Somebody else might bring different teachers to the table because he/she might have gone to India, or spent a month near a river, or learned to meditate, or declares that he/she does not accept Buddhism as a viable alternative to Christianity and therefore does not want to finish reading the book. They might experience different emotions when they read the book.

I think that Siddhartha didn’t object to being taught, he objected to blind acceptance of dogma.




Sunltcloud,

Very nice post. I will keep your idea that Siddhartha didn't object to being taught, but objected to blind acceptance of dogma in mind as I continue to read. One wonderful thing about Buddhism is that it encourages questions and accepts doubt. A teacher can teach, and the teaching is an experience for the student - but the teacher can't sit on the cushion for the student, or live the right life for the student. Just a couple examples of the difference between teaching and experience. tgem
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gis4gucci
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers

Hi there, well here's a totally different view. Hopefully on point.
Maybe he was just bored with his first teacher and needed to spread his wings-- so he exclaims he needs nothing from teachers but from experience. He may have personally misinterpreted what change was occurring in himself. Perhaps it's as simple as that?
Heaven knows I've acted in this manner. It's been a long time since I read the book, hopefully I'm making sense. Gina
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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: Experience vs. Teachers

I think this makes sense, Gina, and it is a point not brought out previously. Siddhartha's age should be taken into consideration in the earlier chapters, too, I think. That early pride or, some might say, arrogance, that we "know it all," at just 17 or so! :smileywink:

~ConnieK



gis4gucci wrote:
Hi there, well here's a totally different view. Hopefully on point.
Maybe he was just bored with his first teacher and needed to spread his wings-- so he exclaims he needs nothing from teachers but from experience. He may have personally misinterpreted what change was occurring in himself. Perhaps it's as simple as that?
Heaven knows I've acted in this manner. It's been a long time since I read the book, hopefully I'm making sense. Gina


~ConnieAnnKirk




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