The Master had no use at all for scholarly discourses. He called them "pearls of wisdom."

"But if they are pearls, why do you scorn them?" said the disciples.

"Have you ever known pearls to grow when planted in a field?" was the reply.

(alleged source: Anthony deMello)

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by TheDamian (Vicar) on Apr 18, 2003 at 05:01 UTC
    "Have you ever known pearls to grow when planted in a field?" was the reply.
    "Have you ever known wheat to grow when planted in an oyster?" countered Con Wei. Then he struck the Master four times with his staff, chanting: "Read. The. Farming. Manual."

    At this, the Master was enlightened.

      Thank you. This really made my day. "Read. The. Farming. Manual." has now entered the lexicon as a valid translation of RTFM.

      By the way, I think I hurt myself rolling around on the floor laughing. Where do I send the doctors bill? ;-)


      <Elian> And I do take a kind of perverse pleasure in having an OO assembly language...
Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by BrowserUk (Patriarch) on Apr 17, 2003 at 02:21 UTC

    There are as many ways to learn as there are reasons for doing so.

    To teach a man any skill, empower him to learn by imparting the desire to know.

    Then enable that desire, by gifting him the confidence to make mistakes.

    Examine what is said, not who speaks.
    1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible
    3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    Arthur C. Clarke.
Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by Enlil (Parson) on Apr 17, 2003 at 00:35 UTC
Re: Philosophical Perly Queues - On techne
by Heidegger (Hermit) on Apr 17, 2003 at 05:59 UTC

    A continuation of not so sucsessful start of going into philosophy of technology ...

    The term techne, from which we derive 'technology' in ancient Greek denoted the unique ability of a member of a community make things to benefit the collective, such as effective shelters. A skilled person's techne was his identity within a community: "the house-builder," "the potter." By Plato's time the term came to denote standardization, in other words, the ability to measure and to discern excellence in made things. Techne became divorced from the technites, the maker of things. It came to mean a pulling-apart instead of a putting-together. In this way, our understanding of technology, which was once holistic, came to be fragmented and pulled-apart.

      On an interesting aside, techne is probably most accurately translated as “craft” and also means “art” and “profession”. There are no different words for these terms in Greek. Even though some other words are used for “profession”, it is only techne which refers to the profession as the whole of knowledge and skills required by a specific job.

      What’s noteworthy is how therefore in ancient Greek, someone’s job is also his art, and vice versa.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by jryan (Vicar) on Apr 16, 2003 at 23:12 UTC

    I'm afraid I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. Are you saying that we should abolish the meditations section of this site? Or, by homonynistic reference, that we should we shouldn't use Perl as it will deaden our minds as programmers? I disagree with each of these interpretations.

    Or was there something else that you were trying to imply?

      I'm not trying to say anything at all. I simply thought it was an interesting quote. If anything, the saying points out the power and limitations of analogies. Even if we refer to seeds of wisdom, however, the same problem arises with infertile minds.

      Teach a man to plant seeds, and the world is his oyster. Or something.
      -- Matt

      Show me a man who covets pearls, and I'll show you a man who can't farm worth a damn. Or something.

      Show me a man who understands a pearl, and I'll show you a man who eats onions for breakfast. Or something.

      Show me a man who can grow oysters from seeds and I'll show you some more orthogonal analogies.

        Before I checked your homepage (and discovered that your first name is Matt), I thought that this was a dig at Matt - of Matt's Scripts. I'm glad it's not, but I did smile. :)

        Perl programming and scheduling in the corporate world, as explained by dragonchild:
        "Uhh ... that'll take me three weeks, broken down as follows: 1 day for coding, the rest for meetings to explain why I only need 1 day for coding."
Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by Anonymous Monk on Apr 18, 2003 at 15:20 UTC

    The above quote looks like it is from Zen Buddhism. One of the main tenants of a major branch of Zen Buddhism is that scholarship and intellectual activity are dead ends, to be literally beaten out of the would-be student, frequently multiple times per day. Once the student is appropriately cowed, they are then sent begging around, where they hopefully meet a random normal person who will say something perfectly ordinary that makes the student understand the point of this treatment. Thus enlightened, the student becomes a master, thanks his original master, and sets about beating a new generation of students.

    Yes, this is a caricature of one portion of Southern Buddhism. For a far fuller picture, read this but do not miss the various references to beatings delivered in various stories.

    Still, is this is the path to wisdom that you wish to follow?

      Still, is this is the path to wisdom that you wish to follow?
      The goal of beating the student is to put him or her in touch with the Now, the Immediate (i.e. un-mediated), the Actual.

      Ironically, the "Have you ever known a pearl to grow when planted in a field?" metaphor is itself trying to achieve this same goal. But it is fatally flawed. It attempts to have the student accept a precept that requires the student not to accept precepts.

      However, unlike the classic Zen koan, this paradox is not an honest one. It will not lock the student's thought processes, and thereby clear the mind to perceive "What Is". Instead it insinuates itself into their thought processes and leads them astray. "Yes, I have finally stopped accepting the wisdon of others!" they think, using the Master's thoughts instead of their own. Instead of one step forward, they have taken a step backwards. Rather than transcending the tyranny on philosophy, they have added the burden of another's philosophy on top of their own!

      This is the origin of the advice: "If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him!" Buddha has nothing to teach you. You just have to open your eyes and see What Is. But Buddha can't even teach you *that*. The very act of labelling it "What Is" is an abstraction that gets in the way of your seeing it.

      So Con Wei must rebut the Master, without emulating the Master. In typical Zen fashion, the way he does this is by...emulating the Master.

      By highlighting the limitations of the metaphor with an ironic counterfactual metaphor, Con Wei attempts to puncture the facade of "Wisdom", demonstrating that the metaphor is *only* a metaphor -- merely another layer of intellectualization being placed between the student and enlightenment.

      By striking the Master, Con Wei seeks to shift him from preception to perception.

      By admonishing him to Do rather than Say (i.e. RTFM rather the WTFM), Con Wei urges him to experience rather than abstract.

      And, of course, by expressing these ideas as a humorous pseudo-Zen story, Con Wei is merely showing off.


        Your clever dissertation on cleverness clouding perception is nicely underscored by your disserting on the wrong quote. Intentional?

        And the immediate actual truth which I do not need to be beaten to understand is that I prefer not being beaten. This is an example of "learning".

      Thanks for providing the link.

      In the context of the traditional focus on the soul, the self, the mentalism, and the doctrine of Karma and rebirth characteristic of the other Indian religions, Buddhism taught Four Noble Truths:

      1. Life is suffering.

      2. Suffering comes from desire.

      3. Suffering can be ended by ending desire.

      4. The eightfold path is the way to eliminate desire.

      I always thought, without really knowing, that Bhudism was about reaching beyond the mundane necessities of our everyday lives in search of a higher meaning, which I now see is a naive, but essentially accurate distilation of the primary notion. I also thought that the "higher meaning" was knowledge of onesself, or of others or both, or the motivations of same. And by some weird manipulation, I had translated that into a homespun philosophy that can be summarised by: "It is enough to know, there is no need to demonstrate that you know". From reading the above, I realise that I was way off-base.

      As a philosophy for life, this reminds me of the old joke about the guy who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and is proscribed from engaging in drinking (alcohol or those with stimulants), smoking, sex, spicy foods, films, TV, loud music, arguments, and any other pastime that may cause his heart rate to increase.

      "Will it make me live longer", he asks?

      "No", replies the doctor, "...but it will sure as hell seem like it!".

      It seems to me that once enlightenment is achieved, the only distraction left will be to look back fondly at the days of ones youth when one was still able to feel passionate about, even if it was only the desire that the master would stop beating on you.

Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by castaway (Parson) on Apr 18, 2003 at 16:37 UTC
        and just to make sure it doesn't get reaped, it was intentional


Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by Anonymous Monk on Apr 18, 2003 at 16:57 UTC
    I have a lot of thoughts on the deeper meaning in this.

    Pearls before swine - they will only trample them. Wisdom is best kept hidden from the mass populace as they will mistreat it, abuse it, twist it, and ignore it. This is not to say you should not preach the Pearls of Perl - it means choose your audience wisely and be frugal.

    Another thought is that the master has no use for scholarly discourses because they are too far advanced for the pupil to understand. It turns into cargo cult programming. "How do I do X" asked the pupil, "Simply by doing Y" replied the master. The student never groks the deeper meaning of Y and this is a complete waste of the master's time. For inevitably, tomorrow he will be asked how to do F. The student does not grow from the wisdom the master has passed him.

    The final thought I have is another Zen quote: "Seek not the masters, seek what the masters sought". It basically boils down to passing out wisdom without substance yields complacency. The student is happy to have learned all the master can teach and stays at the same level of programming.

    Teaching is the only altruistic profession left.

      Wisdom is best kept hidden from the mass populace as they will mistreat it, abuse it, twist it, and ignore it.

      A foul philosophy. Elitist pigs never do these things!??

      Lay your wisdom before the masses. By the responses it evokes you may find

      1. you're just a bozo like everyone else
      2. the disciples or acolytes that are ready to learn
      3. others who are enlightened too (see also item 1)
      4. the world is not ready for such wisdom - move to another plane of existence asap
      5. something else
      You just dumped your tidbits of wisdom here for any random passerby to find. This was a good thing. You don't need to tell people they are too stupid to learn from you. Just start teaching and you'll scare them away real quick!

      the master has no use for scholarly discourses because they are too far advanced for the pupil to understand. It turns into cargo cult programming.

      Implying that a zen master would disapprove of cargo cult programming. This seems very wrong. Zen doesn't seem to elevate rational reason and understanding to such a height. Zen teaching would seem to have you cargo cult at times intending that your actions become you, that in doing good you learn the nature and details and essence of good. Note that no one complains of cargo cult programming when the code is unequivocally good.

      Does beauty and elegance in code come from reason or from other faculties?

      Teaching is the only altruistic profession left.


      Teaching is not especially altruistic. Certainly protectors, healers, feeders, and housers are all just as altruistic as teachers: hoteliers, restauranteurs, police and nurses.

      Age is a number maintained through life that we and others may celebrate our very existence at least once a year.

        While I hear what you are saying, and what the AM you are responding to is saying, I have to say my "personal opinion" puts me more inline with the AM, and I'll state why..

        Note: I'm going to attempt to keep this relativly concrete as opposed to the quasi spiritual/religious thread this has appeared to become, while addressing what I think needs to be said.

        First off as to the pearls before swine. His premise is they won't grok it, and will continue to come back (give a man a fish vs teach a man to fish, yada yada), your position is throw it out there cause you're never sure who will see it and benefit. From personal experience it is a *drain* on multiple levels attempting to convey an idea to someone who simply doesn't have a solid foundation in said realm. It can also lead to someone's harm (on different levels in different situations) to attempt to use said knowledge without said base..

        Case in point: There is an app being developed by a group. The members of this group know how to code in a particular language, and in a particular application. They have been hired as developers, and claim to be such. They then decided that the OS they were developing on didn't know how to manage it's own network stack, and that they were going to "grandfather" along code from a previous developer to handle their network communication. Problem was they don't grok it. So when something was going to go out the socket, they had an array as a buffer. The array was hardcoded at 2048 char elements. Sure no biggie. Instead of checking to see what was in the buffer to be sent the code looked along the lines of
        for ( i = 0; i <= ARRAY_END; i++ ) { if (array[i] != NULL) to_send[i] = array[i]; else to_send[i] = 0; }
        pearls before swine.. Every single transmition out of that box was 2048 null padded bytes in size, even if only say 10 bytes needed to be sent. Every single one. They couldnt figure out why the app at the far end was complaining about the packets it was receiving. They couldnt figure out why the VPN was timing out. They also have missed quite a few deadlines due to the fact that they think they grasp the problem at hand without realizing the basic onion structure of technology, especially in a networked environment. I had to provide code for them to simply be able to run commands on a remote system. Not complex things but simple things ala ping, nslookup. There lack of knowledge hurts many many people in different ways within just my organization. This is a quasi perfect example of simply not allowing the swine to become lemmings without realizing it.

        Within this situation, (forgive the assumption on my part) I am the master ( better is I am a senior student.. ). I look at the acolytes and wonder why they think they are enlightened. So I passivly drop phrases, or initiate direct conversations to see the depth and breadth of their domain, and simply find them lacking, or thoroughly convinced of their "enlightenment". I shake my head and move on. Until they open their eyes, review the situation, and realize they don't grok it, anything they attempt to code up is simply going to flop. Plain simple fact. Now there is another "master" I deal with on a regular basis. I look at the problem, the other master looks at the problem, and we look at each other. Rattle off module names, 1, 2, 3, say "one hundred lines", I counter "probably, maybe 75, or some whizbang in 130". We nod. and that is that.

        In an ideal world this situation would be an exception, but its not. Its the common occurance. I think in another couple of years I will be comfortable calling myself a programmer and developer. While right now I can perform some small pieces of each of those domains, Im simply not good enough to feel comfortable giving myself those labels. To tie this last paragraph in with the thread, I have been expelled from the monastary and am presently begging on my own. There are things I very well may have learned at my "master"s feet, or through his words and actions, but it would have taken too long, and I would have been fundamentally flawed as an individual if I always had a crutch to lean on. There are a depth to things I simply could *not* appreciate without pulling them apart myself. If I were to attempt to transmit what I know, and what I know I don't know yet, I could ruin alot of peoples projects..

        Case in point: $class = $in || ref($in);

        Yeah its right.. but why? when? where? If you shrug don't use it. How many modules will break for no apparent reason due to that one singular line?

        pearls before swine

        At this point I will avoid the other topics as I have rambled.. Feel free to message me at some point and we can talk at depth about this. Also note I never once in this situation attempted to go below generalities. Any of the things I said above can systematically be proven false at the individual level. Which just reinforces the point in my mind.

        MMMMM... Chocolaty Perl Goodness.....

      What a load of elitist, pretentious shit. You suck at teaching so you must be smarter than "the mass populace." Well, I beg to differ. If you can't teach it to "the mass populace", you obviously don't know it that well.

      Kind of reminds me about this guy in university, always went around quoting the art of war, and other such useless texts in reference to his "advanced software engineering endeavours." Always went around telling people they were using the wrong tools, or taking the wrong approach. Guess what? He couldn't program worth a damn (don't think he got beyond "Hello, World"), couldn't ever explain his position on anything, and ultimately flunked out. See how far it got him?

      Teaching is the only altruistic profession left

      Yeah, all teachers are great, all lawyers and politicians are scum, riight. Maybe it's time you stopped watching TV and took a step out into the real world. You'll find there are so many exceptions to each rule, there aren't really any rules. Enjoy.