I belong to an ace (asexual) group on Facebook.

One member posted: “I wish someone would figure out what causes asexuality, already!” I commented, “Why do you want to know?”

Questions are important. An inquisitive mind is a growing mind; certainty stunts growth. But there is such a thing as a stupid question, or really, deluded curiosity. The Buddha refused to answer certain questions like: Is the universe finite or infinite? Is it eternal or ephemeral? Does God exist or not? Does personality exist or not? Does anything really exist or is this all an illusion? Is nibbana eternal life? The consciousness survive death?

He didn’t answer those questions because 1) They’re besides the point, the point being to alleviate suffering 2) All answers to them would be speculative and not directly known through the senses, and 3) They stem from wrong-mindedness.

I’m a demi ace, but if whether we learn they why behind that or not doesn’t change anything. And since that information doesn’t change anything, if I feel like I need it in order to be satisfied, then that means I’m tangled up in craving, which means I’m already suffering. And since I’m suffering, then I’m going to cause suffering.

I used to be in love with indiscriminate curiosity. I questioned everything. Why is the sky blue? Why do we like music? Why am I alive? What’s my purpose? What’s our purpose? It got me nowhere. It’s a good idea to be mindful of a question’s intent, to ask ourselves, “Why do I want to know? What will knowing do? Will it help me benefit myself or the world in some way? Will it help alleviate suffering?”

Often times, mundane knowledge just serves as a tool for social dominance, and attracting a mate. The more someone knows, the more intelligent they seem. Intelligence is a desirable trait. Of course, knowing things isn’t really intelligence. Intelligence is find ways to apply that information, or to spot patterns in it.

Even though a lot of Buddhists are book-smart, the books say that that isn’t what’s important. Wisdom is knowledge that’s been tested and applied. Knowledge acquired for the sake of filling some kind of void in ourselves, or to lord over others is baggage, not wisdom. It’s like seaweed that builds up and eventually plugs your engine.

It’s still nice to learn things, but it’s skillful to be aware of the reasons behind it. Learning can be pleasant in itself, for no other reason than it feels good to learn. Other times, learning helps us solve problems. But any other compulsion behind the desire to know things is most likely unskillful and causes, at best, unnecessary clutter.

 

 

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