The Three Levels of Understanding - Part 1

leo's picture



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There are three level of understanding. In order to fully and permanently understand a truth, in order to trigger a real personal transformation based on that truth, the understanding should penetrate into all the three levels.

While levels 1 & 2 of understanding are commonly mentioned and practiced, level 3 is usually ignored. Consequently, this ignorance yields the so common frustration of knowing and believing in some truth but still not being able to transform our state of mind accordingly.

In this blog entry - part 1 - we shall review the known levels 1 & 2 of understanding. In the next blog entry - part 2 - we shall get acquainted with the level 3 of understanding which by mastering it will yield the requested total transformation.

Level 1 - Intellectual Understanding

Most people if understand, understand in the first level, the level of intellectual understanding, i.e. understanding based on logic and reasoning. This is understanding gained through reading, through listening to words, through debating and arguments.

In terms of the body, this level of understanding is usually associated with the area of the head or more specifically the brain.

It is an important stage but it is not enough. Intellectual understanding does not promote any change in behavior or in the state of mind. We all are familiar with this - we hear the wise words of a sage that says that we are not the body, he even shows us that there is no single fact that supports our false belief that we are the body. We wholeheartedly agree with him. We leave the room and after 5 minutes we find ourselves unconsciously returning to our habitual belief that we are the body.

Level 2 - Mental Realization

Spiritual sages usually preach that intellectual understanding is not enough and in order to really understand we should experience it by ourselves, we should deeply and mentally realize the underlying claim within our reality, in our direct experience, not through hearsay. Only then, they say, it will be a real deep understanding, not just an intellectual game.

In terms of the body, this level of understanding is usually associated with the heart.

If we take the example from above, this means that after we were convinced intellectually that we are not the body, we start observing our body as an object and we see through our direct experience that we have no idea how it really works nor have any control over it, we see the enormous complexity of this instrument. We see through our direct observation that we perceive our body the same way we perceive the world: through our senses. How could we have believed that we were the body? we ask ourselves, astonished.

But, and there is a big but, while this realization had a big impact on us and even triggered sometimes some change in our psyche for a certain period, very soon we return to act the same way we did before according to the same old patterns, we all are familiar with this frustrating fact. The promised mental realization did not bring the promised total and lasting transformation we were hoping it will bring. Our daily unconscious behavior is still more or less the same. Something probably is still missing: this is the place for the third level of understanding which is discussed in part 2.



Annie's picture

Levels of knowledge in Buddhism

In Buddhism they stop in the 2nd level, they also have 3 levels but their 3rd level is actually the 2nd level of this model.

Based on my experience and frustrations, I totally agree with the above levels. Indeed, without covering the 3rd level of the hard coded conditionings, a true transformation is hardly possible. Knowing this, yet we always tend to forget that the conditionings are independent of us and thus get frustrated...

Yet, there are certain magical and healing techniques that can save the effort and wok on the conditioning level and transform past beliefs etc.

Annie | Sun, 05/18/2008 - 20:14
santthosh kumaar's picture

HI, WHY STRUGGLE WITH THREE

HI,
WHY STRUGGLE WITH THREE LEVELS AND CARRY THE DROSS OF NEW CONDITIONING. WHEN THE MIND IS TRAINED TO VIEW THE WORLDVIEW ON BASE OF TRUE SELF[BUDDHA-NATURE] YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ENTER THE EMPTINESS OF BUDDHA. THAT IS EMPTINESS OF EXPERIENCE OF DUALITY. TO THAT EMPTINESS SRI. SANKARA OR GOUDPADA CALLED AS BRAHMAN.
TO DISCOVER AND ASSIMILATE AND AND REALIZE THE NON-DUAL TRUTH[BUDDHA] IN LESSER TIME EFFORT FORMLESS SPIRITUALITY IS THE ONLY ANSWER.

santthosh kumaar | Mon, 06/23/2008 - 13:33
abra's picture

Why struggle?

Why struggle? this "3 levels" method is to my experience the opposite of struggle: it is simple and straightforward to do - I tried it after reading about it here and it works fantastically for me especially because it is so simple and methodological.

Take for example belief: you have a belief and trust in god in the intellectual and mental levels but somehow your daily actions and conditionings demonstrate disbelief (e.g. you find yourself afraid, how can you be afraid if you realy have a belief?) - using this simple system you just observe your disbelief in this conditioning level, that's it! and suddenly this unconcious deep 3rd level merges with the other two levels of understanding and your belief is total.

It is extremely simple and intuitive. Try to read the article again.

I admit I couldn't understand the way you are proposing. I will appreciate if you could explain how exactly to view the world on the basis of true self.

With love.

abra | Mon, 06/23/2008 - 13:59
madan_gautam's picture

Levels of understanding

Yes there are different levels of understandings, but the true spirituality is much beyond all these level of understandings.
The true spirituality is not to reach to any level but to establish in ones inner self and to just in the permanent state of "BEING".
OM

madan_gautam | Wed, 12/31/2008 - 17:46
nathan's picture

preparatory stage

yes, you are right but unfortunately one cannot just abide in being without a preparatory stage of clearing and pacifying the mind from ignorance-based noises and patterns through understanding. And what I think leo tries to convey is that intellectual and mental understandings, in which most of us choose to concentrate, are not enough - we must hit the rock bottom of understanding which is embodied in our automated conditionings.

nathan | Wed, 12/31/2008 - 18:54
madan_gautam's picture

Go on go on...........

Good better best never at rest till your good is better and better is best & best & best......
One has to start from base and reach from one floor to other floor and then to reach on the top.
If some one reaches on the top directly then he/she has to fall a day as he/she has no foundation.
OM

madan_gautam | Thu, 01/01/2009 - 04:27