There is a long path for a person to develop from ignorance to insight. This path is called education. Education is a life-long learning process and takes many forms. It does not have to be formal like going to school or reading a book. Some people learn faster than others. Some are able to learn all by themselves without a teacher. How we educate ourselves through life gives us a unique experience that defines how we think and who we are.
Why do we have to learn? We learn because the world around us is changing and we must adapt. What and how we learn vary from one person to another. Basically, learning is achieved through three stages: accumulation of knowledge, application of knowledge, and development of insight or mastery, leading ultimately to enlightenment or self-realization. The first two stages are relatively straightforward. The third stage is what sets us apart as unique individuals with particular ways of thinking, perspective, and behavior.
What do I mean by insight? It’s a higher, deeper and broader level of understanding that enables a person to connect many things together and sees his place in the world. It means one or more steps beyond the mere accumulation and application of knowledge. Insight cannot be taught, but is developed by the individual. The following examples illustrate:
You may copy all the recipes of the world and make dishes by closely following each and every instruction. This only makes you a mechanical chef. A master chef creates his own recipes according to his unique educational experience and endless experimentation with different mixes of food and cooking methods. The result enables the chef and other people to attain a higher level of food enjoyment.
You can learn music theory and play a few instruments. This can make you a mechanical player so far. A master musician is able to portray his emotions or visions in the music he plays, thereby delivering a higher level of enjoyment for himself and the audience.
Insight does not mean accumulating the most knowledge. Up to a certain level you will be able to develop your own insight. Many people spend too much time just accumulating knowledge like a hoarder. You have to create your own path by striking out on your own through experimentation. A common example is learning how to play the stock market. Teaching people how to get rich quick is a big industry. They merely fill your head with all kinds of statistical tools and theories. But they cannot make you an insightful player. You have to immerse in the market yourself, get burned and get rewarded along the way before you learn the practical lessons to achieve insight.
Some critical issues they never make you think about are: Is the stock market a real market of fair competition? How much controlling power do the big players have? How does the market favor the big players? When millions of dollars are changing hands every minute, is it fertile ground for corruption and manipulation? In short, the big guys buy and play while you buy and pray. How effective are the tools that you’ve learned when the market behaves this way?
So how can you cultivate insight? Retaining something in your head is just the start. You have to practice, think, query, and experiment with the things you’ve learned over a period of time. Someday, you will find that everything suddenly comes together to give you a deeper and broader meaning. This is when you have a first taste of insight. It’s a very rewarding personal experience but it requires time to achieve. So start doing it now.