First you need to be able to think critically, to think clearly, to use
reason, logic, common sense, without being misled by your own biases and
You need to be able to systematically follow through your thinking to
see if it works under all kinds of conditions, not just a simple case.
your circle of competence
You need to know what you know, and know what you don’t know.
You also need street smarts.
Some the most genuine communication is hidden below the surface, in how
people say things, and what they’re NOT saying, and their body language.
What people say and what they write are often calculated, with an
agenda. Having an agenda doesn’t necessarily imply a sinister motive.
They don’t formally teach you these skills in school unfortunately. You
either have good parami and instincts that you carry over from your past
life, or you’re sharp enough to learn from the personal examples around
you from people who do possess sharp critical thinking skills.
Follow the money
A more polite way of expressing this principle is, “look for the
incentive.” But I’m more direct. One of the most important life skills
is figuring out who you can trust, are they telling the truth, are they
reliable? Non-arahants and non-ariya especially, no matter how
spiritually developed, are unreliable to some extent, so in the back of
your mind you should always be open to that possibility. And if you’re
not ariya, you don’t really have any assurance that the person you think
is ariya actually is. So always treat everyone, no matter how
ariya-like they behave, as potentially non-ariya, and capable of
deception and agendas. Again, having an agenda, being deceptive, doesn’t
automatically mean they have an evil motive. It just means, they are
capable of being blinded by their own biases, and doing something
unethical because they think the ends justify the means.
what they do and don't say
If you learn how to carefully observe people, their action,
communication, etc, over a long period of time, and understand what’s
their motive, what’s their incentive, what do they have to gain, it goes
a long way to helping you factor in your lie detection system and
ascertaining the reliability of what they say.
Everyone, everything is my teacher
If you’re biased against those younger than you, older than you, more
conceited than you, and refuse to learn from them based on that bias,
it’s your loss. It’s hard to learn lessons even from the best teacher
under the best of circumstances, it would be pretty dumb to limit your
opportunities to learn by being too selective about the teacher. If you
really value truth, learning, you learn from anyone, any animal, any
thing, any situation, like a man dying of thirst licking water from a
puddle. If you have good sense, you better just focus on learning and
seeing truth wherever and whenever you can, not waiting for an ideal
teacher with the perfect polite demeanor who may not even exist. If
Hitler has something insightful or valuable to say, I’m going to absorb
it. Truth and the messenger are two separate things. If you ignore the
truth because of the messenger, it’s cutting off the nose to spite the
Think like a thief
The Thai forest Ajahns, I think this comes from Ajahn Lee, had a real
practical approach. They said you have to think like a thief. No one is
going to hand you the truth and perfect teaching on a silver platter.
You have to use all your wits to discover it, to steal the art for