“We do understand the texts, however, our actual understanding of the meaning is at a secular level. Thus, with this limited understanding, the available application is limited accordingly. Our understanding [of the true nature of reality], from the worldly view, [some understanding] does take place [and our understanding] is a little better than those who have never heard of this expression or those who have not been [made aware of] this expression at all.” - Master Jih-Chang
Global Lamrim 2, Lecture 0019
BW Monastery 吉祥宝聚寺 — Lecture No. 0019
Master stated that if we understood the text at a secular level," It is only a little better than those who never heard of it." Why is that?
Understanding at secular level means not really understanding in depth, so only just a little better than those who never heard of it before. If wish to be much better then have to learn more in depth from a dharma teacher.
Understanding the text at a secular level may mean that we only know what the words mean and ultimately that may mean we have not grasp the true meaning behind the words. So we are merely a little better then those who have not heard the teachings cause we have at least had the chance to hear the teaching, but this does not mean that we will be able to apply the teaching appropriately.
The textual meaning that we understood at a secular level may not necessarily be what the Buddha actually meant it to be. [For example, can we see exactly what does the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra/Prajnaparamita convey?] - Please note this is added in by Julie, please remove if not applicable.
Another point is that, if some of these mental states that the Buddha is trying to describe is very subtle, then just by reading the textual meaning, we will not be able to detect it. Because we actually need to look inwards into our minds in order to really understand what the text actually means. Actually we cannot detect a lot of these subtle mental states without the guidance of the virtuous teacher.
But understanding the text at a secular level is going to plant the seed to understanding the actual meaning intended by the Buddha, it is still better than not even hearing it at all.