Doing and Being

Dr. Charles Tart


Dr. Charles T. Tart, Mindfulness, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,

Lecture 4, Part 4 of 18 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

What else happened?

Student: I don’t want to be too much in my head, but what came up for me while you were talking was the difference between knowledge and being. For me, the words are kind of with knowledge, and then being is sort of the essence of the experience. I don’t know if that resonates with anyone.

CTT: Yes. I can say I’m experiencing a terrible pain in my foot, but I don’t feel the pain. That’s just words. But if the pain was actually there, it would be a lot deeper.

Student: I wanted to talk about being. I thought that was really interesting. I wanted to know what everyone thought about the reading at some point.

CTT: Yeah. I think it’s natural to move to the assigned readings for today, so sure. Just remember we’re going to be sensing, looking, and listening as much as possible, keeping track of those arms and legs and the sounds and the sights while we talk. So what would you like us to think about – ask about – being?

Student: [ Comment hard to transcribe…] I just wanted to know how that sap effect won. Like what the reading talked about, the difference knowledge is it’s one component, and how ___ ____ ___ ____. I think in my process, that’s really important right now to me. You know? So ___ ___ ____ ____ ______.

CTT: Have you ever known any college professors who talked a fantastic game, but were total jerks in real life? Not that there are any at ITP, you understand, but in other institutions? 😉

We don’t have to limit that to college professors, but that’s an example of people who are highly selected and have all the right words and concepts, but if you look at how they actually react to life, they can be total jerks. They don’t know nothin’, even though they have good words for it. That’s one meaning of the difference between knowledge and being, or at least verbal knowledge and being.

Anyone else contribute to that?

Student: Yeah. I remember something I read years ago – I think it was by the Dalai Lama – and I think it was in that book that he spoke about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Somebody could have all the knowledge in the world, but wisdom is when you begin to apply it in your life. So it’s kind of like you need a six-year-old kid to be wise, most likely because they’ve figured out how to apply what they’ve learned. A lot of adults aren’t very congruent. They know things, but they’re not being those things. I saw it as kind of the same thing with knowledge and wisdom.

CTT: Did I give the example from Living the Mindful Life of the woman who spoke about ending war at the Dalai Lama’s talk? I’ve written too much. I’m losing track.

Student: It was a feminist.

CTT: Yes. Right. Four people spoke after the Dalai Lama had talked about how if you want peace outside, in the world, you need it inside. And you know, it really amazed me, because intellectually I agreed with everything she said, yet I kept getting more and more pissed at her. I thought it was me until my wife turned to me and said, “Boy, she pisses me off.”


And I began to realize, “Oh – it’s not my weird internal processes, I’m not an unreconstructed sexist. There’s something going on here.” She’s illustrating the Dalai Lama’s concern that if we don’t have peace inside, our efforts to create peace outside will be sabotaged. We don’t usually make this distinction between being and stuff, but it’s important.

Student: So a lot of the time, people talk about being as kind of an opposite of doing, and I’ve a perspective that often people do because they want to become something. They’re focusing on what they want to be, so they’re really wanting. So doing is a process of wanting in order to become; whereas if you instead focus on already having what you want, then you will perhaps, by being, have an impact that blows out doing.

CTT: That’s a useful way of thinking about it, yes.

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