We often have feelings of “I’ve got it!” or ”I already understand!”, what exactly have we understood?

“We read a book today [and think], “This is what Buddha taught. Ah! Got it, I’ve got it!” But do we actually understand it? No! Not at all! Later, we learn more [but only understand] the surface [literal] meaning of the printed text, which may not be the intended meaning from the Buddha. This is crucial to know!

We often say, “Alas, Buddhism talks about emptiness, so you should realize it and let go!” This is absolutely right, as long as you can realize [the true nature of reality]. Once it is realized, you will let go [of self] and once you let go, you will be liberated. [Your reply to this would be,] “Yes, right, right, right! That is exactly right.” Yet, in reality, did you truly realize [the true nature of reality]? Did you really let go? Are you really liberated? [My view] is that, with careful scrutiny, [we may attain knowledge to a certain extent], but we are definitely not at the encompassing stage.” - Master Jih-Chang
Global Lamrim 2, Lecture 0017

What’s your experience of thinking “I’ve got it” or “I’ve already understood”?
Since we feel that we have understood, then what exactly have we understood?
If we have not understood, then does that mean we have not understood anything?

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The first example is: how many rounds have we studied Master’s discourses to date? Sometimes after we listen a few times, we will think: “Yes, I am familiar with Master’s discourse already.” When we come across a certain section, we may feel that: “Ah! I know this paragraph. I’ve read it before!” For me, sometimes when I listen to Master’s discourse and Master uses a story to illustrate a certain point, in my mind I will tell myself I have heard this story before, this is what Master is going to say.”

Another example is, even though the “I have got it” state has not arisen, one may feel one know more than the others. We will compare to someone, thinking: “I think I know more than him.”

There is another example: “I am so familiar with Master’s discourse to such an extent that when I hear the first part of Master’s sentence, I can anticipate the next point he is going to raise.” Maybe we are so familiar with Master’s discourse that we can even memorise it.

So all these will give rise to the feeling that “I’ve got it”. Teacher asked us to examine if we have really understood. Master said that we only understood the literal meanings of the printed text. If we have only understood the literal meaning of the printed text, does that mean we truly understand? Then the next question is, how deep is the level of understanding? Do we agree with Master’s observation? If we have not understood anything at all, are the efforts that we have put in all these years totally wasted?

Teacher then gave us encouragement, by saying that we could have understood to a certain degree, we may not understand 100 percent, we may not have the depth, but even understanding the literal meaning actually can be considered a certain level, a certain degree of understanding. Also, even though we have understood only to a certain degree after learning many rounds, did we find that there are still some areas that we have not understood in this round of study? If so, this actually means that with every round of study, we will develop better and better understanding. If we continue to learn, we will only improve.

So Teacher says that one might have thought that one has understood in the past, but in reality, one now discovered that there are still things that one have not understood. But Teacher gave a very nice, very encouraging analogy: “As one moves forward, each time one will discover a new scenery one have not seen before.” For many of us who have seen many, many beautiful scenery, there are more beautiful scenery ahead for us to discover. These are the things that we continue to discover as we continue learning the Lamrim Chenmo.

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