Standing on the shoulders of giants

Newton says, "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants". He stands on the shoulders of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and many others. Later many others stood upon Newton’s shoulders and have seen far beyond his wildest imagination. This is the nature of real growth and progress. Unfortunately, when it comes to spirituality (matters of inner growth and well-being), people are often stuck with outdated ideas – clinging to someone or some old books. They blindly believe that the older it is, the more sacred it is*.

Buddha stressed the importance of right views and discouraged any rigid and dogmatic beliefs even if it was about his own teachings as a wrong view. He encouraged his students to understand the teachings, not just blindly believe in them**. He referred to his teachings as a raft to cross the river; once it is crossed over, it is sane to drop the raft and continue. So he discouraged his students from clinging to his teachings.

Buddha might be one of the greatest giants, yet the Pali canon (Buddha's discourses) contains the teachings of many of his students as well. As a Zen saying goes: "Any teacher whose students don't surpass is a failure". Buddha is compassionate enough to carry us on his shoulders. Instead of the poverty mentality, we can stand on the shoulders of all giants. They are all treasures of humanity. But we don’t have to be confined and prisoned by any of them. Let them allow us to stand up and see far and beyond!

CK. Kamaraj

08 December 2020


* Even Confucius who advocated the old, only referred to the timeless eternal truths from the past – as they might be more clearly discernible in antiquity. He did not advocate blindly following or imitating the old, but skillfully adapting it to the present.

** As I tell my students, I often mention Buddha, not because I blindly follow him, but because he is a giant and his name bounds to come up, just like Newton's name bounds to come up when we talk about Physics.