“If you’re invested in security and certainty,
you are on the wrong planet.” 
– Pema Chödrön


Thinking vs. Experiencing – David Lewis

Mar 24, 2024

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Do we trust our thoughts more than the wisdom of our own experience?

In this talk, David Lewis helps us see that our reliance on thinking and studying is one possible obstacle to gaining a true understanding of reality.

He outlines that Sangha can help us gain wisdom in three ways, through:

  1. Direct experience – meditating in silence
  2. Listening to Dharma talks
  3. Discussions with each other

Having polled his audiences for many years, David shares that Westerners tend to prefer talks and discussions over direct experience because we are conditioned to learn by doing, thinking and studying. We gravitate toward thoughts even as we try to quiet our mind. Yet meditation is not about silencing the mind, but developing a different relationship with our thoughts.

He contrasts thinking with abiding in our own experience, quoting Thich Nhat Hahn that ‘understanding does not arise from thinking.’ And while studying and learning the Buddha’s teachings is a satisfying and worthwhile activity, it is not the same as experiencing reality for ourselves in the present moment.

David Lewis has been following the dharma path for 50 years and has a degree in comparative religious studies. He teaches at several Buddhist sanghas around the Bay Area and offers a weekly meditation group for seniors (currently on Zoom) at OpenHouse, a nonprofit serving LGBTQI+ seniors. He’s always happy to return to the Gay Buddhist Fellowship, where he gave his first dharma talk in 2008.