Chogyam Trungpa on Buddha, Information Overload and Being a Universal Expert
My friend Cyndi Elliott posted the quote below from Chögyam Trungpa’s book Crazy Wisdom on her Facebook page this week, calling out the idea of what it means to be a universal expert. It made me stop and think about my own work in the world as well as the work I do with my coaching clients. What does it mean to be a universal expert in today’s world of information overload?
I found the orginial quote on the Shambala website with the following headline:
What if Buddha Doesn’t Know How to Change Snow Tires?
Enlightenment is not purely a matter of collecting information. If a buddha didn’t know how to change his snow tires, for example, a person might begin to have doubts about him, if you have the view of an enlightened being as a learned person, a great scholar. After all, a buddha is supposed to be the omniscient one; how could he be a buddha if he doesn’t know how to change his tires? He or she should be good at everything.
But buddha is not that kind of universal expert, nor a super-professor. Here, the idea of intellectual understanding and sharpening the intellect is not feeding oneself millions of bits of information, making oneself into a walking library. Rather, it is developing sharpness and precision in relating with the nature of reality.
From “Intellect and Working with Negativity” in Crazy Wisdom by Chögyam Trungpa, page 155
Does anyone else share the belief that either their idols or they themselves should be a universal expert, excelling at everything? What an unsettling proposition. I appreciate Trungpa’s assertion that sharpening the intellect is not about feeding oneself millions of bits of information but rather developing precision in relating with the nature of reality.
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What does it mean as a creative entrepreneur, writer, author, expert, coach to approach my life and my work by developing sharpness and precision in relating with the nature of reality?
I am at my personal best when I am connected to self, to intuition, to Spirit. I feel most successful not when I can help my clients with my knowledge and expertise but when I can hold space for them to grow and develop their own sharpness and precision.
I love information! If you are familiar with the Strengthsfinder assessment, my number one strength is INPUT and number three is LEARNER – two strengths that adore the millions of bits of information flooding in. I have had to learn how to let go of my need to be a constant learner from the outside in and to focus, through art, journaling and meditation, on what I can learn from the inside out.
I spent some time tangling last night while watching the Australian Open. Two of my favorite activities: Tennis and Zentangle®. Neither require too much thought. Both allow me to settle in and enjoy the moment. With tennis, I admire the skill and determination, I empathize with the mistakes and frustration and I share the celebration at the end of a hard won match. Players at this level are experts in tennis, that’s it.
® is a meditative form of drawing repetitive patterns. Like tennis or other sports, it also requires focus, practice and slowing down. I love the reminder when I tangle that the slower I go, the more pleased I will be with the outcome. This to me aligns with how I can develop my own sharpness and precision when connecting to self, to others and to the universe as a whole by slowing down, paying attention, and listening.
I don’t want to be a universal expert and honestly, I hope I never have to change a snow tire but I do want to feel connected and engaged with what matters most to me.
How do you develop your connection and insights into the nature of reality as you see it?
Really great post, and I agree with everything you wrote in this post. Sometimes it feels like collecting bits of information is a life-affirming goal, but other times, I realize that I can’t do much with that information other than being good at Trivial Pursuit. I need the reminder sometimes to go deeper, not broader. And I’ve never heard of Zentangle, so I’m definitely checking that out!
Zentangle is super addictive, I have to caution you Doree, but also relaxing and wonderfully creative. Thanks for stopping by, I love your comment that collecting information can be life-affirming at times and I, too, love Trivia for the sake of trivia 🙂
Minette, I like how you explore here the differences between intelligence/knowledge and enlightenment/wisdom. They can overlap or be very different. I’m not sure I have a clear approach to distinguishing between them, but like you, I’m dancing with this all the time.
I love that image of dancing with the tension between the outer and inner, it’s a constant balancing act but one I love diving deeply into and playing with! Thanks for stopping by Chara.
I couldn’t agree more with this idea that we don’t have to be experts at everything. I think there’s a great deal of imbalance when people excel at only one thing (like sports). I’m proud to say I’m an expert at nothing other than living my own life. Sure, I know lots of things, but I also don’t know lots of other things. And that’s okay…in fact, it’s a relief!
Wouldn’t be too boring to know everything about everything? What I like about life is that you discover and learn new things every day. When you are an expert, you are that on a matter and that is what people listen to you for, and you may require the help of other experts to know about other matters. I think that is how the world works, everyone is an expert on a different thing and that is why we admire them.
Exactly my point Amaia – I would not want to know everything and I am so grateful for all the different experts who have helped me along the way!
Inner peace is the opposite to worldly matters as you rightly point out in the example of changing snow tires.
Thanks Francene, it’s such a timely and awesome example for this week with all the snow on the east coast.
Nice share! Interesting post 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Joan – a different post for me but what was on my mind yesterday 🙂
I think our writing will determine how well we are experts. You are clearly an expert in your field. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Dorit! I appreciate that feedback coming from you 🙂
Great post. I agree that no one can be an exert in everything and I would be suspect of someone who made that claim. I have always tried to tell my kids that they just have to find that one thing they excel at and they will be successful.
I’ve never expected any “experts” to know everything. I did smile at the thought of a buddha not knowing how to change a tire. He might not know how to drive a car or make coffee, either! When I was young, very young (I can remember this) I would pretend I was a camera viewfinder. I would look at objects and the world. Sometimes I was a movie camera and I treated life as an unfolding script. Eventually I owned a small Brownie camera (showing my age here) and was able to take pictures for real. When I want to slow down and take notice, I go into “camera mode”, even now.
I did enjoy your post. When I look at myself, I think I tend to gather information from several people and that helps me accomplish things. According to a really good friend of mine, I put too much stock in the knowledge of others and always think I have to hand something off to them to accomplish tasks: i.e. editor, website technician, etc. I must be somewhere in between. 🙂